I knew her as the sultry voice blowing up my phone for late night chats about Proust and Hemingway interspersed between the best phone sex I never knew I could have.
We’d never met.
Until the day she walked into my office, her cherry lips wrapped around a candy apple sucker and an all too familiar voice that said, “They said you wanted to see me, Principal Hawthorne?”
The last block of the day is taking for-ev-er, so I ask for a hall pass and make my way around the school, loitering at every drinking fountain and bulletin board. The teacher’s probably wondering where the hell I am, but I’m not afraid to tell him I got my period. That usually shuts them up.
Rounding the corner by the front office, I’m making a beeline for drinking fountain number six when the door swings open and out walks Kerouac.
Or rather, Principal Hawthorne.
We both stop so as not to bump into each other, though he’d be so lucky.
I saw the way he looked at me in his office this morning, the way his body responded to my voice. I knew the instant he started talking that it was him, though it took all the strength I had to ignore his chiseled jaw, dimpled chin, thick, dark hair, and hooded, honey-brown eyes.
Principals are supposed to be old with gray hair, glasses, and dad bods.
They’re not supposed to look like fucking supermodels.
Our eyes lock, and I smirk. To think, all those times I was talking to this.
This is what was on the other end. That stock photo doesn’t even hold a candle to the striking Adonis standing before me. No wonder he doesn’t want to commit. For a man like that, the world is one giant, all-you-can-eat buffet of beautiful women.
“Excuse me,” he says, stepping out of my way like a gentleman.
God, that voice. That gentle, low rasp of a voice. I about creamed my pants when he did the overhead announcements earlier. Almost had to excuse myself from class so I could finish the job in an empty bathroom stall.
It doesn’t help that all anyone can talk about lately is how fucking hot the new principal is. I overheard a group of senior girls earlier making a wager to see who could sleep with him before they went off to college. The winner was to get a thousand bucks.
Ha. Stupid girls.
If they only knew who they were dealing with.
But I’m no better than they are. I know the man that lies beyond the carefully crafted exterior, behind those dark, hooded eyes and that confident stride. The man on the inside is a million times sexier than any of them could begin to imagine.
“You’re excused.” I make my way to the fountain, press the button, and lower my mouth to the jet stream of fresh water. His stare is heavy, weighted, and I’d give anything to know what he thinks when he looks at me.
The halls are empty and quiet. It’s just the two of us.
Across the way a male teacher drones on about World War I and the Lusitania, and when I glance into the classroom, I spot Bree sitting in the front row, gnawing on the tip of her pen as her eyes wander in our direction.
I move out of her line of sight. Ford follows.
“I’d like to talk to you sometime,” he says. “About—”
I rise, turning to him. “About what? Nothing happened.”
He squints, studying me. He must think I’m planning to blackmail him, but he’d be mistaken. While his rejection stung at the time, I’m over it and I’ve got bigger fish to fry—specifically a bottom-feeder by the name of Bree.
“I tried to reach out to you after we last spoke,” he says, keeping his voice down. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. Couldn’t find you on the app.”
“I deleted it.”
His lips press, and he nods. All those long phone calls and messaging sessions this summer, and the man can’t find more than a handful of things to say to me now. He must still be in shock. I can’t say that I blame him. He’d have a hell of a lot more to lose than I would. The stakes are higher for him. I might be legal and an adult, but there isn’t a single red-blooded soul in this entire school district who’d be okay with a principal striking up a sexual relationship with one of his students.
On paper, it would seem atrocious. Scandalous. Disgusting.
But it doesn’t keep me from wishing we could’ve made it work, as insane as that is.
“You know, we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other around here, so let’s do ourselves a favor and get the fuck over what happened,” I say, arms folded as I maintain my icy demeanor. My ego may be bruised, my heart may be longing for him, but I’ll be damned if I run away with my tail tucked like some rejected schoolgirl. “If you’re going to look at me like that every time you see me—”
“I’m sorry.” He won’t stop staring. “I just … I can’t believe it’s you.”
“Believe it.” I begin to walk backwards, distancing myself from him.
He may have closed the door a few weeks ago, but I’m the one who locked it.
Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.
About the Book:
There hasn’t been a woman who’s held Colby Ryan’s heart for long, not since his teenage love went awry twelve years ago. Now, all of a sudden, Dakota Jennings, his longtime family friend and trusted wrangler on the Circle R ranch, is catching his eye. For Dakota’s sake, Colby won’t ever give in to the temptation she poses.
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Meet the Author:
Charlene Sands is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and historical romance. She has been honored with the National Readers Choice Award, the Booksellers Best Award, The Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award and Romantic Times Magazine’s Best Harlequin Desire Award of 2014. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she spends time with her four “princesses”, enjoys sunny Pacific beaches and yummy chocolate mocha cappuccinos! Sign up for her newsletter for fun and exclusive prizes at http://www.charlenesands.com and on FB and Twitter!
Shelter for Sophie
Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 8
Release Date August 15, 2017
She’s shy, he’s stoic…not the hardest personality traits to overcome, but Sophie Carson and Roman “Chief” Proudfit have their work cut out for them.
Sophie has a crush on the silent-but-studly firefighter next door. She’s been pining away silently while secretly helping the hardworking man by mowing his lawn—which he thinks is being done by her nonexistent husband and/or boyfriend. He’s definitely not big on neighborly chitchat, but with her stutter, that suits Sophie just fine. But now a misunderstanding at a bar has put him even further out of her reach.
Roman’s difficult upbringing on an Indian reservation is a sore spot, so when he thinks Sophie is taking advantage of poor people for medical trials at her workplace, he lets her know exactly what he thinks. But when he discovers he misunderstood, he’s man enough to admit it…and also that he should have opened his eyes to his beautiful, sensitive neighbor sooner.
As the couple gets closer, each helping the other overcome lifelong pains, for the first time in years, Roman has something to live for other than his job. And, as he discovers when Sophie puts herself in danger, something even bigger to lose…
** Shelter for Sophie is the 8th book in the Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.
About the Author:
New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Texas where she lives, but this all-American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, and Indiana. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.
She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.
Toying with Her
by Prescott Lane
Release Date: August 17th
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Toying with Her, an all-new standalone from Prescott Lane is coming August 17th!!!
No one said finding love was easy, but when you invented the world’s best selling vibrator, it’s near impossible. Yep, that’s right. That little toy hidden in your bedside table is my brain child. It’s aptly named Woman on Top. And you know what they say . . . it’s lonely at the top.
So I’m headed home to my Southern roots. It’s supposed to be an extended Summer vacation — nothing more. But Rorke Weston has other plans for me. Plans that not only involve me being on top, but also underneath him.
It’s been said you never forget your first. For me, that’s definitely true. No night has ever lived up to the one I spent with Rorke.
He’s turned into quite a man. Tan from the Southern sun, and stubborn as the day is long. And there’s nothing sweeter than the swipe of his tongue.
Rorke wants his chance. The one we never had. But that was a long time ago. When I still believed in Prince Charming and Happily Ever Afters. Even ten years later, I feel a pull. And it’s not simply Rorke yanking down my panties.
Do second chances really happen? Or is my heart simply toying with me?
Hammering the nail with one hard pound, I mutter, “Friends?”
That should be a cuss word, especially coming out of her full, pink lips. I toss the hammer aside, scanning the mostly-converted barn. Yep, I live in a barn. Well, not any barn. The barn where Sterling and I lost our virginity. I know just the spot. It’s the spot where my bed is now.
I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, I didn’t even really think about it until she showed up in town the other day. I came home, walked in, and realized I’ve designed this place around her. Crazy, but true. That woman has burned herself into the deepest parts of my soul. Deeper than even I realized. She was my first, a memory. I thought it was over. I thought we’d only ever get that one night. She had her life, and I had mine. I didn’t see this coming.
This old barn sits on the edge of my parents’ property. It sucks to be almost thirty and still living on my parents’ land. Technically, I’m not living at home, but sometimes it feels like it. Unfortunately, buying my own house on my teaching salary isn’t in the cards, so a few years ago, I started converting one of the old barns.
Every nail, every piece of wood in here has been touched by me. And it’s almost done. It’s wide open, designed that way mostly because it’s less work than putting up a bunch of walls. The only room with any privacy is the bathroom. I left the distressed rafters from the ceiling exposed and just refinished them. The original sliding barn doors have been replaced with new ones. Almost one whole wall houses my personal library. The only thing left to finish is the kitchen. The upper cabinets are in, but my only appliances are a refrigerator and microwave. So any real meals I eat come from the main house — my parents’ house. My plan is to use part of my summer vacation to finish it up.
I look over at the bed. My subconscious must have taken over with that decision. Sterling is etched into the fiber of this place. Maybe that’s the reason I haven’t ever brought a woman to see this place before? Who knows? The subconscious is a tricky bitch.
But the memories of that day and night are so vivid. It’s all flooding back now that she’s back.
I remember a buddy of mine had rushed me home my freshman year of college, making the two-and-a-half-hour drive from New Orleans in just under two. But I was too late. I wasn’t here when Levi took his last breath. Those few days are a blur. Everything is a blur until the moment I stood up at his funeral to speak; her green eyes were the only thing I saw, her whimpers the only ones I heard. I hadn’t expected her to be there. I hadn’t expected her to fly home from college to say goodbye to my brother, but she had. And I didn’t expect her to find me at my parents’ house after the funeral. I swear, there were hundreds of people there, and it was the loneliest day of my life. I had to get out of there and started walking. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but when I need to think, I tend to walk. That day, Sterling was by my side. We didn’t talk, roaming around the fields until we ended up at this old barn. It was the place that Levi and I escaped to. As little kids, we’d used it as a fort, a clubhouse. Later, it held our bikes and four wheelers.
I remember being embarrassed bringing Sterling inside. It was old and filled with our junk. The only place to even sit was an old, beat up sofa. We made good use of it, though.
I’ve never been as unprepared for something as I was that day. Unprepared to put my brother in the ground, unprepared to lose my virginity, unprepared to let her walk away.
I chuckle remembering exactly how unprepared I was when our naked bodies first touched. My brain thought “condom.” But I didn’t have one. My dick promised it’d pull out. But I had no idea the kind of willpower that would take. I swear to God, I had every intention of pulling out.
I thought for sure that she’d kill me, and quickly launched into the lamest apology in the history of the universe. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. I was never so thankful for anything in my whole life as when she kissed me to shut me up, whispering she was on the pill.
Some might think it’s a dick move to be banging a girl the day you bury your twin brother. But it wasn’t like that at all. It wasn’t cheap. I didn’t think of it as a one-night stand, even though technically it was. It’s impossible to explain. It was us clinging onto life, onto each other. Emily Brontë wrote, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” And after that night, our souls have been forever linked.
Every single second of that night is burned into my mind, my heart, my skin.
After that night, we stayed in touch for a long time — email, phone calls. But we were thousands of miles apart. And our paths never crossed again. If I was at home on break, she wasn’t. It just seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. She is the one that got away. We never got our chance.
Now she’s back, and she thinks we can be friends? I spent my entire childhood and teenage years being “friends” with her.
She wants to be friends? That’s fine. I’ll be her friend. But I’ll be damned if that’s all I am.
About the Author:
Prescott Lane is the Amazon best-selling author of Stripped Raw. She’s got seven other books under her belt including: First Position, Perfectly Broken, Quiet Angel, Wrapped in Lace, Layers of Her, The Reason for Me, and The Sex Bucket List.
She is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and holds a degree in sociology and a MSW from Tulane University. She married her college sweetheart, and they currently live in New Orleans with their two children and two crazy dogs. Prescott started writing at the age of five, and sold her first story about a talking turtle to her father for a quarter. She later turned to writing romance novels because there aren’t enough happily ever afters in real life.
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Game On Askole
Coletti Warlords #7
by Gail Koger
reeling from shock, but she’s a Jones and isn’t about to let a galactic war stop her from hunting down her mate. Can the two of them find their way back into each other’s arms?
time for romance. What’s a hot-blooded Coletti warlord to do?
Coletti Warlords Book #4
course, only an idiot doesn’t fear a very angry Coletti warlord. But, I am very good at what I do. Bad news is, so is Zarek.