Monthly Archives: May 2017

BLOG TOUR ~ Harlequin’s Deception (The Naked Truth Series) by Candi Fox

Harlequin’s Deception

The Naked Truth Series

By Candi Fox

 

Candi will be awarding 1 $10 Amazon GC, 2 Eooks of Harlequin’s Deception and 1 Print Copy of Harlequin’s Deception to randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.

BLURB: 

Ten years ago, the world as we know it changed. The shift is what it became known as. Overnight, paranormal beings came out of the proverbial closet. Something in reality had shifted. Those who had no idea they were paranormal were awakened to a new reality. Ten years in and Harlowe Lake Kelly, Harley to her friends, is back in her small Oklahoma town, widowed and striking out in a new career, namely, a successful magic agency. Her uncanny abilities at using potions, spells, and other means at solving supernatural crimes, thrust her into a partnership with local law enforcement. Things would be great if it wasn’t for the three sexy, but deadly, men who stand at all corners of her new life. Lucien, the ancient, alluring Vampire who has made it clear he wants more than Harley’s luscious curves. Cowboy, who wants to possess her in every way imaginable, and Aiden. The newcomer who has strict orders from his Vampire boss… but she senses has his own agenda. But in a world where things and beings are never what they seem, life isn’t promised and love comes with many strings. So what’s a girl to do to untangle those strings?

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About the Author: 

Candi Fox, co-host of the wildly popular radio show Candi and Company with over 900 thousand listeners began her venture in the paranormal at the tender age of two, when she witnessed her first apparition. From that moment on the paranormal seemed to follow her. No matter where she moved, the house she lived in the house next door, or the house down the street always seemed to be haunted. 

She often wondered if she drew the spirits to her. Little did she know that she was indeed a magnet of sorts. It wasn’t until she was in her late twenties that she found people who could not only explain her gifts, but would also help her hone them. Armed with this new knowledge she began to openly explore hauntings and other paranormal phenomena.


Growing up in Indiana lent her the opportunity to explore many famous haunted places including the Hannah House, which was once part of the Underground Railroad. A little over two years ago she moved to Tulsa, OK and has began to explore the haunted landscape in a new state.


Candi lives with her husband, and furry children in Tulsa. She is passionate about the occult, saving and rehabilitating horses, horseback riding, magic, all things mystical and has her Reiki Mastery.


She uses her own paranormal experiences as well as her own life traumas to write from a grounded and realistic perspective about subjects that are hard to talk about and even harder to feel for yourself.


Social Links:

Facebook | Amazon | Website | Facebook Author Page | Blog | Twitter | Instagram


 

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ The Way Back Home by Carmen Jenner

 
 

 

 
 
Title: The Way Back Home
Author: Carmen Jenner

Genre: Military Romance
Release Date: May 29, 2017
 
 

 

Blurb

 

August Cotton shouldn’t be here. When a tragic accident calls him home to Magnolia Springs, this returned Veteran adds his parents to the list of things he’s lost in recent years, right along with his IED detection dog and his left leg. As the sole guardian of his four-year-old sister, August must rely on his Marine training in raising a tiny hellion who’s as stubborn as he is. But the Corps could never prepare him for this. Nor could they prepare him for Olivia Anders, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to get her way.
 
As owner of Paws for Cause, Olivia is no stranger to the broken men and women who return home from war. She’s no stranger to broken dogs either. In fact, she’s made it her mission to pair the two and enrich both of their lives, but pairing ornery and aloof August Cotton will take some work.
The last thing August wants is some pushy southern woman occupying his parents’ bed and breakfast and forcing him to open up about the hell he narrowly escaped, but that’s exactly what Olivia intends.
 
They complete one another, and yet they can’t stand to be in the same room.
 
Can Olivia make this hardened Marine feel again and finally show his heart the way back home?

 

*** Intended for a mature 18+ audience only. This book may contain triggers for some readers.

 


 
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AMAZON:  US / UK / CA / AU

Free in Kindle Unlimited



 

Excerpt

 
“You know, if you want to see me naked and sweaty, all you have to do is ask, darlin’.”
“I do not . . . I wasn’t . . .” My words are stolen from me as he stalks forward with a maddening smirk on his face. “What are you doing?”
“Getting tired of waiting for you to be okay with this.”
“August, we talked about boundaries.” I press my hand to his chest because he’s too close, and I can’t think straight with the heady scent of his sweat and sandalwood soap distracting me. It wasn’t my intention to run my hand over that sweat, to feel the hard-won muscle beneath, but here I am, petting him as if he’s my favorite kitty.
“No. You talked about boundaries. I told you I was gonna fight, and I ain’t above fightin’ dirty.”
“How dirty?” I breathe.
August’s lips curl up into a smile. “So dirty.”
Both hands snake around my waist and he lifts me onto the counter, wedging his hips between my thighs. He hooks a finger in the sash and unties my robe as if he were opening a gift made just for him. I wrap my legs around his hips to pull him closer, and that’s all the admission he needs. He threads a hand through my hair and pulls my neck back to expose the tender flesh to his mouth. I close my eyes and whisper his name as my whole body turns to flame, starved for the oxygen that only his touch can bring. His hot mouth trails down my neck, his hands cup my breasts, squeezing, kneading, and I slide a hand between us, into the waistband of his shorts. I take his hard length in my hand, stroking him from base to tip. August grunts as he pushes my negligee out of the way with frenzied hands. His fingers find me bare and exposed with no panties.
“So fucking’ dirty,” he groans, wetting his lips.



Author Bio
 

Carmen Jenner is a thirty-something, USA Today and international bestselling author.

Her dark romance, KICK (Savage Saints MC #1), won Best Dark Romance Read in the Reader’s Choice Awards at RWDU, 2015.

A tattoo enthusiast, hardcore makeup addict and zombie fangirl, Carmen lives on the sunny North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, where she spends her time indoors wrangling her two wildling children, a dog named Pikelet, and her very own man-child.

A romantic at heart, Carmen strives to give her characters the HEA they deserve, but not before ruining their lives completely first … because what’s a happily ever after without a little torture?

PUBLISHED TITLES TO DATE:

Welcome to Sugartown (Sugartown Series #1) 

 
Author Links
 

 

RELEASE BLITZ ~ Crave Me by Stacey Lynn

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Crave Me
by Stacey Lynn


Publication Date: May 29th, 2017
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis:

Chloe

I know I shouldn’t covet my sister’s ex-boyfriend.

She may have wanted nothing to do with his BDSM lifestyle, but I’m a born submissive. And the only place I want to be is under Simon’s command.

But he won’t go near me. Not with the memory of her so close.

That leaves me no choice. If he won’t touch me when he knows who I am, I’ll have to come to him in disguise.

He’s worth the risk. I’m meant to be his. Now I just have to prove it to him.

Simon

Being a Dominant cost me my first love, but I can’t deny who I am. I won’t. Control and power are everything, and the way I keep mine is by playing only with experienced subs. No exceptions.

Until I met her.

She wore a mask, but I knew the moment our lips touched she was meant to belong to me. Young, new to the world of BDSM—I knew training her would be a risk.

I didn’t know it would destroy me.


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About the Author

Stacey Lynn currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and four children. When she’s not conquering mountains of laundry and fighting a war against dust bunnies and cracker crumbs, you can find her playing with her children, curled up on the couch with a good book, or on the boat with her family enjoying Minnesota’s beautiful, yet too short, summer.

She lives off her daily pot of coffee, can only write with a bowlful of Skittles nearby, and has been in love with romance novels since before she could drive herself to the library.

If you would like to know more about Stacey Lynn, follow her here:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/staceylynnbooks
Twitter: @staceylynnbooks
Website: http://www.staceylynnbooks.com
Stay up to date on Stacey’s latest news! Subscribe to her Newsletter today



RELEASE BOOST ~ Goaltending by Jami Davenport

GOALTENDING_ReleaseBlitzBANNER

Hot Single Dad ALERT!
Grab Goaltending by Jami Davenport now!


Keep reading for an excerpt!

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WANTED: Single dad needs nanny–In more ways than one.

Martin “Brick” Bricker is living the good life. He’s playing the sport he loves, has all the women he can handle, and parties like a rock star. At twenty-six, he has no interest in slowing down or taking anything seriously–except hockey, of course.

Then a knock at his door changes everything.Suddenly he’s the single father to a five-year-old daughter he didn’t know he had, and he’s trading his playboy ways for Barbies.

Amelia Stacey struggles to make ends meet and juggles her day-care job with a full load of college classes. When she’s offered a temporary, two-week nanny position making more money than she imagines, she jumps at the chance. Before she knows it, she’s in over her head, not just with her five-year-old charge but with the girl’s hot single father.

Brick always goes after what he wants, and he wants Amelia. Only responsible Amelia doesn’t want anything to do with the party boy. Struggling with fatherhood and his unexplainable attraction to his nanny, Brick has to figure out where his daughter and Amelia fit into his life.If they fit at all.

But one thing’s for sure: Brick can’t block this shot straight to his heart.





EXCERPT:

Chapter 1—In the Net

Martin “Brick” Bricker was one lucky bastard. He had it all. Good looks, ripped body, more money than he could spend, and more women than he could handle.

It was good to be him. Really, really good.

Being named sexiest male athlete last week by the Hot Hockey Hunks website was icing on his already rich, gooey cake. And he loved that cake, indulging every chance he got.

Who could blame him? He was young, attractive, and virile. He loved all females, tall and slender, short and curvy, and anything in between. And women loved him.

But Brick’s good fortune didn’t stop there. He was the starting goalie on one of the NHL’s hottest young teams. The Seattle Sockeyes were touted as Stanley Cup contenders by the preseason predictors, whoever the hell those people were. Brick wanted the Cup so badly he imagined the deafening roar of the crowd as the final buzzer rang, the weight of the Cup in his hands as he skated victoriously around the arena, and its sweet metallic taste as he drank champagne from it. He might only be in his fourth year, but he coveted the Cup as much as a guy who’d been in the league for fifteen years and had never won it. He sure as hell didn’t want to be that guy. He wanted to win it while he was young—and keep winning it.

With a weary sigh, Brick stretched and rolled out of bed. He squinted at the clock—two in the fucking afternoon.

Damn.

He’d had a wild night last night and had staggered home well after the sun had come up. He’d been gifted with incredible stamina and a hardy constitution that required little sleep but for some reason last night’s activities had hit him harder than usual.

After taking care of business in the bathroom, he walked naked into the kitchen of his large Lake Union condo. He hated clothes, partially because of his propensity to overheat and partially because he enjoyed the shock value. Brick sweltered in warm rooms. They reminded him too much of how hot his stepmother—correct that, father’s second wife—chose to keep their house. The place suffocated him. He’d always preferred the chilly temps of his mom’s cabin in the woods.

Putting a Tully’s K-Cup in his Keurig, he waited for his mug to fill. Taking a sip, he carried it to the wall of windows and stared down at the water below. Houseboats rocked gently on Lake Union, and he had to smile. Ever since he’d seen Sleepless in Seattle, one of his mother’s favorite movies, he’d sworn if he ever moved to Seattle he’d own one of those houseboats. His Realtor had been toiling for months to find the right one. So far, no luck, but Brick was a patient man.

For now, he had to be content with his condo and the privacy it afforded his current lifestyle. He kept his place at arctic temps and never invited women over. He preferred an impersonal hotel room from which he could escape in the early hours, as he’d done this morning. He practically had a room on retainer in the luxury boutique hotel five minutes down the street. He was certainly on a first-name basis with everyone who worked there.

Brick rubbed his eyes, wishing he hadn’t caved to his teammates’ insistence he party with them, but he’d never been one to turn down a chance to raise hell. Staying home was never an option. Brick had a reputation to maintain, and he needed his people, probably more than they needed him. After all, if he wasn’t fun-loving, beer-guzzling Brick, people wouldn’t like him. Even worse, he might have to spend time alone with only himself for company, and he probably wouldn’t like what he found. Better to be the shallow party boy everyone loved than the introspective, serious guy everyone avoided.

The doorbell rang, rescuing Brick from a rare and unwelcome moment of personal reflection. He frowned. He wasn’t expecting anyone, and he didn’t encourage uninvited guests. None of his hookups had a clue where he lived, and his teammates rarely visited because of the frigid temps, except Rush. His teammate was from Russia and didn’t notice how chilly Brick kept his condo.

This person couldn’t be his buddy, though. Rush would still be passed out after a night of partying. He needed eight to ten hours of sleep, unlike Brick’s three- to four-hour requirement.

Perplexed, Brick took two steps toward the door and paused. Usually, he had no qualms opening the door bare-ass naked, but some sixth sense stopped him this time.

“Just a minute,” he shouted, and strolled to the master bedroom. He dug around for a pair of sweats and a T-shirt.

Walking back to the entryway, he looked in the peephole and saw nothing. His condo door opened to the outside, rather than into a hallway with a secure entry. That’d never bothered him before. He could handle himself in a fight. Yet something felt off. Those same instincts that alerted him where the puck was when he couldn’t see it clanged warnings in his head.

With his hand on the doorknob, he hesitated. Frowning, he glanced around for a weapon. An umbrella leaned against the wall. He grabbed it, then yanked open the door.

Staring into the rainy Seattle afternoon, he saw nothing until he looked down.

A little girl with long dark hair and huge brown eyes like an anime character rested her tiny hands on her hips and stared boldly up at him. He stared back, then glanced around for the mother. Tensing, he expected a gang of home invaders to emerge from the dreariness and force their way into his house. He saw nothing, except an old Toyota barreling out of the private parking area and down the street.

What the fuck?

“Are you lost?” he asked the little girl.

She shook her head, still staring, as if she expected something from him. “Are you Mr. Brick?”

“Yeah,” he said uneasily.

“Daddy!” She launched herself at him, displaying incredible strength for one so small. He staggered back against the wall as she grabbed on to his leg and hugged him tightly. Brick managed to regain his balance and extricated his leg from her tight grip. Placing his hands on her thin shoulders, he held her at arm’s length.

Daddy? A shot of fear stronger than the hundred-proof vodka he’d indulged in last night burned down his throat.

“Where’s your mother?” His uneasy feeling dialed up higher.

“In heaven.” The little girl’s expression flipped from happiness to sadness faster than the flick of a light switch. She picked up a raggedy doll and hugged it to her.

Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Uh, okay. I’m sorry to hear that. Where do you live?”

She craned her head around him and looked into his house. “With you.”

He felt as though he’d been dropped into the twilight zone. “With me?” he croaked.

“Yes, with you.” She nodded with absolute certainty.

“Uh, I don’t know who put you up to this, but I don’t have any kids.” This had to be a scam to get money out of him. Or one of his teammates had concocted an elaborate joke. Once again, he looked for an adult skulking near the stairs.

“Yes, you do.” She narrowed her eyes and studied him, scowling as if she’d found him lacking. She held out an envelope. It was smudged and wrinkled as if it’d been clutched in her hands for a long time. He stared at it, not wanting to take it and feeling as if the bottom was about to drop out of his charmed life.

She shoved it toward him, and Brick accepted it with a shaking hand. He ripped open the envelope and pulled out a coffee-stained piece of paper.

Mr. Bricker,

I’m dying of cancer, and my granddaughter is all I have left. Her mother has gone to heaven, and that’s on you. I only have a short while left to live. By the time you get this, I’ll be dead. I don’t want Macy in foster care. I have asked a friend to deliver her to your house upon my death.

She is your daughter, and she deserves to have all the things you can afford to give her. Please take care of her and love her. You owe us that.

Sincerely,

Sue

He scowled. This had to be a scam. “How old are you?”

“Five.”

He did the math quickly in his head. He’d been playing on a major junior team in Vancouver, his hometown around the time she’d been conceived, and he hadn’t lacked female companionship.

He thought back six years but couldn’t recall anyone who stood out, not that his lack of memory meant anything. He couldn’t recall the names of the women he slept with last night, either. And he’d spent a lot of his late teens and early twenties in a drunken haze on non-game nights.

He read the letter again, stumbling over the sentence her mother has gone to heaven, and that’s on you. On him? Why would this stranger’s death be on him? Had she been some crazy stalker fan who’d committed suicide? Surely he’d have heard about it. At the least, his agent would’ve told him.

Her accusation probably meant nothing. He was reading too much into it.

He ran his hand through his close-cropped hair and blew out a sigh. He needed to call his attorney and his agent immediately. They’d know what to do.

In the meantime, what the fuck did he do? He didn’t want a kid. They were okay, and he got along fine with them at signings and shit like that, but he wasn’t father material. Thank God, she probably wasn’t his.

Though he had to admit, there was a resemblance, which made his blood run cold. Really cold. She looked like pictures he’d seen of his sister at that age. And those eyes… Damn, those huge eyes could melt the most strongly barricaded heart.

“Uh, why don’t you come in while we straighten this out?”

She nodded and tried to lug a battered suitcase as large as her inside. Brick took it, and she ran ahead of him, dragging the doll by one arm.

She stopped and surveyed the living room. Frowning, she hugged herself and shivered. “You can’t afford heat, either?” she asked.

“Huh?”

“My granna couldn’t afford heat so it was always cold in her house, too.”

“I, uh, can afford heat.” He was at a loss for words.

“I’m cold.” Her lower lip puffed out in an unmistakable pout. She was a demanding little thing.

“I’ll fix that.” Brick hurried to the thermostat before she could do something scarier than shit, like throw a tantrum or, heaven help him, cry. He raised the temp from fifty-five to seventy and also turned on the gas fireplace.

“Thank you.” She sounded so adult, as if she’d lived ten lifetimes in five years. Brick didn’t form connections with people, not real ones, but something about her tugged at a deeply hidden vulnerability he hadn’t known he had.

Walking to the massive stone fireplace on one wall, she sat on the hearth as it flared to life. Brick wiped his brow, overheating already.

“What’s your last name, honey?” he asked, hopeful this could all be cleared up with a few phone calls.

“Bricker, like yours.”

“What about your granna? What was her name?”

“Granna.”

Sighing, he reached for his cell. “Wait right here. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Are you going to send me away?”

He froze in midstride. “I—uh—uh—” There went that tug again, harder this time, even a little painful.

“Granna said you would take care of me, but I didn’t believe her. No one wanted me but Granna and Mommy. Now they’re both gone.”

This was getting worse and worse. Brick didn’t need this complication in his footloose-and-fancy-free life. But he couldn’t send the child to foster care. He’d never been in foster care himself, but he’d had friends who were, and he wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone.

“I’ll be right back.”

She gazed up at him, clutching her doll to her chest. Tears filled her luminous eyes, and one dribbled down her cheek.

The tug turned into a hard yank.

Oh, crap.

Before he did something stupid, he hurried to the bedroom, dialing his phone as he walked. His agent shared his time between Seattle, where he had a huge number of clients, and sunny California. Just so happened he was in Seattle right now.

“Al,” he said before Al could get one word in.

“Ah, Brick, my man. What’s up?”

“I have a fucking problem.”

“You always have fucking problems. What psycho woman did you piss off now?”

“I wish it were that simple.”

Al started laughing as if he were looking forward to Brick’s pain.

“Get your ass over here. I need you.”

Brick didn’t wait for an answer and hung up. He sank onto the edge of his bed and buried his head in his hands, suddenly feeling much older than his twenty-six years.

* * * *

When Brick returned to his living room, Macy was running around his kitchen island, arms outstretched as she unraveled a roll of paper towels while making barking sounds. She skittered around him, yapping like the obnoxious poodle his aunt Hazel once had. The sound grated on his nerves, which were already frayed.

“Stop.”

She didn’t stop, only raised her voice until the barking neared ear-splitting decibels. He prayed Al showed up soon and rescued him from this particular hell.

The doorbell rang, and he bolted, tripping over the paper towels wrapped around his legs. Macy was one step ahead of him. Right before his eyes she transformed from a one-child wrecking crew to a sweet little princess with a cherubic smile.

She yanked open the door. “Hi,” she shouted in her piercing little-girl voice. “I’m Macy. Do you want to have a tea party with me and Daddy and Simone?” She raised the doll upward in one hand.

Al’s eyebrows shot all the way to his hairline. A slow, devious smirk spread across the bastard’s face. “Daddy?”

“I, uh, uh.”

Al laughed and knelt in front of the little girl. “Hey, honey, I’m Al. I’d love to play with you and Simone, but your daddy and I have a few things to discuss. Do you think you could sit over there like a good little girl and watch TV for a few minutes?”

“Okay.” She skipped to the couch. “How do you turn it on?”

Brick let out a sigh and flipped on his eighty-inch UHD flat screen. He scrolled through the channels until he found a children’s station, then quickly retreated to the relative safety of the kitchen.

“You gotta help me.”

Al grinned a toothy, wholly unsympathetic grin. “You think? I’m your agent, not your babysitter.”

Brick glared at him. “She’s not my child.”

“She thinks she is.” Al was entirely too amused.

“I need your help. I’m desperate. I can’t have a kid here.”

Al chuckled and glanced at Macy, who was singing along to the TV. “Care to explain what’s going on? You were childless when I talked to you yesterday.”

Brick filled him in, ignoring the bastard’s growing amusement. “Here’s the note.”

Al looked it over with a shrewd agent’s eye. “Interesting. Any idea who the mother might be?”

“You’re shitting me, right?” Brick growled, forcing himself to keep his frustration at bay and his voice low.

“It might be an important part of the puzzle.”

“Can’t you find out where she came from? I pay you to clean up my messes.”

“Not enough.” Al threw back his head and laughed.

“This isn’t funny. You gotta help me.” Brick’s gaze was drawn to the little girl sitting on his couch singing to her doll. His gut clenched, and he swiped at his sweaty brow.

“Okay, I’ll get my PI friend on this. Find out any existing relatives. See if I can get a picture of the mother. We’ll run a DNA test, but that’ll take time.” Al switched into troubleshooting agent mode, even though his mouth still twitched with amusement.

“I don’t have time. The regular season is under way. I have a road trip in two days, and I can’t have a kid living here.”

“It’s not like she’s a stray cat you can dump off at an animal shelter.” Al pointed out the obvious and drew a well-deserved scowl from Brick. “And most likely she is yours. She looks like you.”

Brick scowled all the more. “I always wear a condom.”

“Condoms fail.”

“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.” Brick groaned and dropped his ass onto a dining room chair. He searched his memory, trying to recall any condom malfunctions. Yeah, there had been a few incidents during bouts of rambunctious sex, but he couldn’t begin to remember those women’s faces.

Al sat across from him. “Let’s see what the DNA test says. If she’s not yours, we’ll call Child Protective Services.”

“And if she’s mine?”

His agent’s smirk was downright annoying. “Then welcome to the world of the single dad.”

“What the fuck do I do with her in the meantime?” Brick scrubbed his hands over his face. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He lived a charmed life. Everything always went his way.

“For starters, clean up your language.” Al snorted and leaned back in his chair.

“I can’t take care of a kid. I have a life. I play hockey. I’m gone half the season.”

“Real-world problems, my man. Real-world problems.”

“You’re not helping any.”

“Since when do my duties involve family matters? Be lucky you only have one—so far.”

Brick shuddered. “Don’t say that.”

Al snickered and winked. “Good luck. I’ll call your attorney, make sure housing this child is legal and all.” He stood and headed for the door.

Brick leaped to his feet and followed him. “You can’t leave me like this.”

Al waved at the little girl, completely engrossed in some kid’s show. “Bye, Macy.”

She waved back. “Bye, Uncle Al.”

“Uncle Al?” This kid was making way too many presumptions.

“I like the sound of that.” Al opened the door. “You’d better get cracking. You have a road trip in two days.”

“Where am I going to find a nanny in two days?” Brick groaned. He’d always avoided responsibility outside the rink, and an instant child was way too much responsibility.

“I noticed a day care a few blocks down the street. Ask them.” With those parting words, Al left Brick to fend for himself.

Glancing at the child, Brick considered his options. She smiled at him, and he swallowed around an odd lump. He managed a smile back.

He could dial his mother. She’d know what to do. She’d probably travel from Vancouver tomorrow and take this kid off his hands. His stepfather, Rick, wouldn’t mind. He loved kids. If only his mother had married him while Brick had still been living at home, maybe his teen years wouldn’t have sucked so much.

Brick slunk into the kitchen so Macy couldn’t hear him. “Mom?”

“Hi, honey, how are you?”

“I’m not so good.”

“Oh God, Marty, what did you do now?”

“I didn’t do anything. Not exactly.” He hedged, trying to come up with a way to break this to his mother. He decided on honesty and ran through the entire story. When he finished, silenced reigned.

“Mom?”

“I’m a grandmother?”

He couldn’t tell if she was pleased or pissed. “I’m not sure. We need to do a DNA test.”

“Who leaves a child on a stranger’s doorstep and disappears?” His mother sounded indignant.

“I don’t know. That’s the least of my worries. I need help. I have a road trip coming up. Could you come to Seattle tomorrow and get her?”

Another long silence.

“Mom?” He wasn’t feeling too good about his odds right now.

She blew out a long-suffering sigh only his mother could produce. “It pains me to say this, but no.”

“What?” Surely he hadn’t heard her correctly.

“You heard me, young man. Did you forget Rick and I are leaving in a few hours for a month and a half in Europe?”

“Uh, yeah.” He hated to admit he’d forgotten. He’d been so focused on his surprise, he’d spaced on their trip.

She sighed. “You’re not the only person in this world with plans, Marty.” As if he hadn’t heard that before.

“I know.”

“I agree. With your schedule and not having a wife or steady girlfriend, it’d be next to impossible to raise a young child. Let me discuss this with Rick, and we’ll see what we can do when we get back, assuming she’s yours. This problem is your responsibility for now.” Leave it to his mother to be pragmatic about the situation.

“But—”

“I have to go now. I’ll call you in a few days and see how you’re doing. I can’t wait to see my granddaughter when we get back.” The phone went dead.

Brick felt a tug on his sweats.

“I’m hungry.” The little girl looked up at him with the biggest, most innocent cocker spaniel eyes, and who could resist a cocker spaniel? His hardened heart cracked a little, and he shored it up with mental duct tape. He wouldn’t fall prey to this child. She couldn’t stay with him.

He tried another number. His sister would help. All he had to do was text her a picture, and she’d fall in love, as she did with every stray animal.

Nona answered. “Hey, Brick, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“How’s my favorite sister?”

“I’m your only sister. What’s up?”

“Just called to see how you were.”

“No, you didn’t.”

He was guilty as charged of calling his sister only when he needed something. Brick pulled out all the stops. “Ah, Nona, seriously. What’s wrong with me wanting to have a conversation with my sister?”

“Nothing’s wrong with it other than you never call me just to talk, so fess up, Marty.”

Brick groaned. “Okay, I admit it. I need your help. Desperately.”

“Oh, really.” He could hear her devious wheels turning as she calculated what he might possibly be calling for and how she could use it to her advantage in their friendly, ongoing sibling rivalry.

“Yeah, really,” he said gloomily.

“Daddy, can I have some milk?” The little urchin stared up at him with pleading eyes.

“Daddy? Did I hear that right?” His sister’s voice came through loud and clear, as did the restrained laughter. “Is that your problem?”

“Yeah, found her on my doorstep this afternoon.”

“Are you kidding?”

Brick made his way to the refrigerator and poured Macy a glass of milk. She thanked him and returned to her TV. Certain she was occupied, he relayed the story to his sister, who was dying of laughter by the time he’d finished. Why people found his predicament so hilariously funny was beyond him.

“And what do you expect me to do?”

“Come and get her. I have a road trip in two days.”

“Oh, no, you don’t. You’re the one who can’t keep it in your pants. Welcome to adulthood, baby brother. I’m in graduate school. I don’t have time for a child. And Mom’s leaving on her trip.”

“I know,” he answered grumpily.

Nona erupted with more laughter. The women in his family had no appreciation for the dilemma he was in. “You could always call Dad and Liz. You know how touchy-feely our beloved stepmother is.”

Brick shuddered. He knew all right. The woman could melt a hole in an ice rink with one glare. As desperate as he was, he’d never subject a child—any child—to that cold, calculating bitch.

“Never mind. I’ll deal with this myself.” He sighed and disconnected the phone, his sister’s laughter still ringing in his ears.

Macy yawned, and Brick realized with a guilty start she’d probably had a long, tiring day, even though it was early evening.

“Time for bed.”

“I don’t want to go to bed.” She screwed her face up into a nasty scowl worthy of Ice, the Sockeyes’ surly defenseman.

“Sorry, but you need some rest.” He was so not cut out for this parenting shit. He could leave her to her own devices. He was tired, even if she wasn’t. He must be getting old. Partying all night never used to wear him out, but last night’s binge had taken a toll.

“No.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stuck out her little chin. Her belligerence wore on his patience.

“Please, Macy, it’s been a long day for both of us.”

They stared each other down, but she was out of her league. He could stare down the best of them.

Finally, she looked away and stuck out her lower lip, which quivered. “Okay.”

Brick didn’t give her a chance to change her mind. He grabbed the suitcase and led her to the guest room. He showed her the adjoining bathroom.

She stood near the bed and rubbed her eyes. Her attitude had dissipated, leaving a scared little girl so alone in the cold, cruel world.

Brick stood in the doorway, praying she didn’t cry. “Do you need help getting ready for bed?”

She shoved her knuckles in her mouth and shook her head.

“Okay, well then, good night.” Drawn by emotions he couldn’t begin to explain, Brick crossed the room, knelt down, and gave her a hug. Her little arms went stiffly around his neck. He blinked several times, finding his eyesight a little blurry.

Sitting back on his haunches, he held her shoulders. “It’ll all be okay. I promise.”

She sniffed and nodded, gazing at him with disbelieving brown eyes. Not liking how close to the surface his own feelings were, he rose to his feet.

“Good night.” Her little voice wavered, and Brick got the hell out of there. He turned down the heat, stripped off his clothes, and crawled into bed. He sank into the welcoming mattress and closed his eyes. Only sleep didn’t come.

He was an asshole. A big asshole. Instead of comforting this scared child who’d been abandoned on his doorstep, he’d run like a coward. Sure, he’d hugged her, but he could’ve done more.

Brick stared into the darkness for God knew how long. Finally, he got out of bed, threw on a robe, and walked down the hall to the guest bedroom. He listened at the door and heard nothing. Cracking it open, he peeked inside. Macy lay under the covers, her doll clutched tightly to her. Her eyes were shut.

He walked closer and stared down at the cherubic face. She was a pretty little thing and would be a beauty by her teens, requiring her father to sit on the front porch with a shotgun to scare off the boys. He shuddered at the thought, not because he’d pictured himself hefting that gun, but because he knew what teenage boys were capable of.

He reached down and brushed a stray lock of hair from her cheek. Tenderness welled up in his chest, leaving him momentarily incapacitated. When she’d thrown her arms around him and called him Daddy, he’d lost his sanity for a split second and almost wished it were true. But it wasn’t, and he wasn’t fit to be any child’s father.

Brick backed away, fighting a surprising paternal urge to care for and protect this child.

What the fuck was wrong with him?


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About the Author:

USA Today Bestselling Author Jami Davenport writes sexy contemporary and sports romances, including her two new indie endeavors: the Game On in Seattle Series and the Madrona Island Series. Jami’s new releases consistently rank in the top fifty on the sports romance and sports genre lists on Amazon, and she has hit the Amazon top hundred authors list in both contemporary romance and genre fiction multiple times. Jami ranked Number Seven on Kobo’s Top Ten Most Completed Authors, an honor bestowed on the year’s “most engaging” authors based on an average page completion rate by their readers.

Jami lives on a small farm near Puget Sound with her Green Beret-turned-plumber husband, a Newfoundland cross with a tennis ball fetish, a prince disguised as an orange tabby cat, and an opinionated Hanoverian mare.

Jami works in IT for her day job and is a former high school business teacher. She’s a lifetime Seahawks and Mariners fan and is waiting for the day professional hockey comes to Seattle. An avid boater, Jami has spent countless hours in the San Juan Islands, a common setting in her books. In her opinion, it’s the most beautiful place on earth.

Connect with Jami!

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CHAPTER REVEAL ~ A Fighting Chance by Annie Stone

 

 
 
 
 
 
Coming June 5th
 
 
 
When Mackenzie meets Carter, it’s love at first sight. They have a blissful year together before trouble arrives. In the form of Carter’s two teenage sons.

When Hunter and Carey decide they want to live with their father in California, Mackenzie knows right away that she’s in for a tough time. And she couldn’t be more right.

The two boys show her on a daily basis that she’s not good enough for their dad. In fact, they make it quite clear their lives would be better without her. But could it be that Hunter has quite a different motive for hating her?
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
ONE

Mackenzie

I first met Carter on a Friday. I was standing talking to someone when he came in, and it was like every atom in the room was immediately drawn in his direction. The oxygen, the people, even the flowers turned their heads to look at him. His presence was so powerful I couldn’t help stepping a little closer. When his eyes met mine, an electric shock went through my body. I was literally glowing, and in that fraction of a second, I imagined what it would be like to be his woman. And then…
Nothing.
His eyes moved on to the next object, not even acknowledging my presence, leaving me absolutely crushed. I wasn’t worth a second look. Swallowing hard, I watched him walk over to Brittany, who had been in charge of interior design at his new company headquarters. I’d had nothing to do with the project—I was just here to support my best friend on what was going be a big evening for her.
And I had never felt as much contempt for anybody as I felt for her in that particular moment. Even though I loved her to pieces.
Carter Tilman, head of Tilman Finance Group, had occupied the number-one spot on our girls’ talk agendas the past few weeks. God, was he handsome, Brittany had told me so many times I’d started rolling my eyes at her. But now I saw him in the flesh. He was blond and blue-eyed, about six-foot-two and, from what I could see under his suit, well built. The perfect combination of sleek and edgy, he immediately made me imagine him being a somewhat less-than-perfect gentleman in private quarters.
But there he was, talking to Brittany! Not even giving me a second of his attention.
I kept watching him, inconspicuously following him around, trying to be near him. But not once did I manage to capture his attention. It made me feel small and insignificant. In his world, I didn’t even exist.
Just before midnight, Brittany signaled to me that she was done. With a slight sense of regret, I left. After all, there was no reason for me to stay. It would just make me sad.
Outside, I said goodbye to Brittany and her colleagues before walking over to my car. I was just about to open the door when somebody behind me said, “I was hoping to be introduced to you.”
Every molecule of my body strained toward him, but I didn’t want to make a complete fool of myself, so I made a point of turning around slowly. “Really?” I asked, feigning disinterest.
He came closer, nodding. “You’re stunning. I just have to kiss you.”
And kiss me, he did. Our first kiss, which led to many others. Our first encounter, which turned into hundreds. Two lives fused into one.

Which leads me to the here and now, almost one year later.
“Are you excited?” he asks.
I nod, kneading my fingers. “Oh boy, am I excited,” I say in a strangled voice.
He laughs, quietly stroking my cheek. “Just don’t show any fear. They’re like predators. They can sense it.”
“Please tell me you’re joking!”
“I’m sure they’ll like you.”
“They” are his sons. Hunter and Carey. Ages seventeen and fifteen. I haven’t met them before because they live with their mother in Miami. But they’re coming to spend the summer with their dad in San Diego. And here I am. I can’t escape the inevitable, even though it scares the living daylights out of me. Seriously, I’ve never been this nervous, not even during finals week in college.
“Relax, sweetheart,” Carter says, reaching for my hand. He runs his fingers across my knuckles soothingly.
I look at him, trying to smile. It isn’t usually difficult, but today I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m meeting his sons. His teenage sons. I’m not even that much older than them… I’m twenty-five, and Carter is forty-three. Our age difference has never been a problem before, and people say age is just a number, but, come on—this just seems like a recipe for disaster.
“Here they are,” he says, pointing. Two tall boys who look a lot like Carter—and totally different at the same time—are walking across the baggage claim toward us.
Carey, the younger one, must be nearly six feet tall. He’s blond and blue-eyed like his dad. But while his father has a distinctly manly look about him, Carey brims with the beauty and energy of youth. His skin is spotless, which I take as a personal affront, because I still get zits in my mid-twenties.
Hunter is already taller than his father. He has close-cropped brown hair and brown eyes. His cheeks and chin are speckled with stubble, and for such a young man, he has a very masculine aura. The girls must be all over him. It’s true what they say. The apple does not fall far from the tree.
They’re both trying to appear cool, but I can tell they’re happy to see their dad. They each give him an affectionate hug, and he hugs them back happily. Carter has always seemed like a sexy bachelor to me, but seeing him with his sons is kind of cute.
“Okay, boys,” he says, putting his arm around me. “This is Mackenzie. Sweetie, meet Hunter and Carey.”
The boys’ bright faces darken, letting me know I don’t stand a chance. I stretch out my hand, and they do shake it, but they squeeze so hard I have to put effort into not screaming. “Nice to meet you,” I say, trying to sound cheerful.
Carter seems satisfied, at least. “Let’s go home. Mackenzie and I thought it’d be fun to have a barbecue.”
Carey turns his cold blue eyes away from me, defrosting them for his father. “Actually, we’re meeting up with some friends tonight, Dad.”
“Oh, well, why don’t we have dinner, then you can go?” Carter suggests cheerfully.
The boys seem mollified as their dad takes Carey’s bag and puts an arm around his shoulders, Hunter on his other side. They’re the perfect trio.
“Are you coming, sweetie?” Carter calls over his shoulder.
I follow them out of the airport, the lowly fourth wheel.
Back at the car, Hunter gets in front like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Carter looks irritated for a second but doesn’t say anything. Instead, he holds the back door open for me, and I silently climb into his Mercedes SUV.
Once behind the wheel, Carter is all cheer again. “What are your plans for the summer?” he asks.
“Friends, beach, babes,” Carey says automatically.
Hunter laughs. “In that order?”
Carey shrugs. “It’s not exactly a secret you go through all three of them like candy. Especially that last one.”
Carter throws his oldest a look. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was respect, but that’s impossible, right? Could a father be proud of his seventeen-year-old son’s sexual exploits? No. There must be something else behind that look.
Hunter turns around to grin at his brother. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, virgin.”
“TMI, thank you very much,” Carter says, and he actually sounds amused.
Hunter slouches down in his seat. “I thought you’d put those condoms there on purpose so we couldn’t help but find them.”
“Don’t corrupt your brother,” Carter laughs. “There’s still hope for him.”
“Did you hear that?” Hunter says. “You’re the good, normal, boring brother.”
“No, I’m not!” Carey leans forward to punch Hunter’s shoulder.
Hunter dodges it, laughing.
For some reason, I feel like I shouldn’t be here. They’re acting like I’m not here, anyway.
“Hey, boys, no punching,” Carter throws in. “Words are your weapons! You know the rules.”
“Hunter’s too stupid to use language as a weapon,” Carey grumbles.
“Stupid?” Carter repeats. “Was that report card a fake then?”
Hunter grins. “No need for that, Dad. Unlike Carey, I’ve got brains and looks.”
“Yeah, and your looks are shit!” Carey teases.
His brother turns around, looks straight at me, and then says to his brother, “I guess you want to spend the evening with Dad then…”
There’s a meaningful silence.
Carey looks at me for a second as well and then makes a cut-throat gesture with his hand, as if to threaten me, “They’re my friends, too.”
Hunter grins like a predator. “Be a good boy then.”
Carey snorts but doesn’t say anything.
I’m relieved when we get to the house—our house. Even though I know the toughest part is still ahead. Because the boys don’t know I’ve moved in with their dad. What on earth are they going to say when we tell them? It’s clear by now that they don’t hold back. And I don’t want those word-weapons trained on me…
Walking up the driveway, I look at the house like I always do. It’s huge, built for a large, happy family, and once again, I feel like an intruder. This is where they all used to live as a family. And now Carter lives here with a new woman. Me.
As soon as the boys get inside, they quietly claim the space around them. The house seems smaller with three big men in it.
“I’ll go fire up the grill, sweetie,” Carter says when I enter the kitchen.
I nod, and he gives me a hug, kissing me on the top of my head. Carey gives me a look so hostile I have to close my eyes, fighting back tears. I don’t want to show them how much they affect me.
As soon as Carter leaves, Carey steps in front of me. “Are you after our money?”
I give him an irritated look. “Excuse me?”
“Dad’s got a lot of dough. Is that what you’re after? Why else would you be with a guy twice your age?”
I’m speechless. Hunter nonchalantly leans against the fridge, not saying anything, but there’s something terrifying about the way he’s standing there all calm, his arms crossed in front of his chest. My eyes move from one brother to the other, and my mouth goes dry.
“Sweetie, can you bring out the steaks?” Carter calls from outside.
I swallow and glance at Hunter blocking the fridge. When I take one step toward him, he doesn’t budge. “Would you mind…”
He puts on his predator’s smile. “Would I mind what?”
“Moving over.”
He smiles down at me. “Say please.”
I want to tell him to fuck off but remind myself that he’s seventeen—and testing me. I can’t say to him what I would say to a twenty-five-year-old asshole in this situation. Pulling myself together, I give him my best unflinching look. “Would you please move over?”
He steps aside. “There you go, doll.”
Doll?
Do not react, I tell myself. Just ignore it. “My name is Mackenzie. Or Mac.” I silently curse myself. Great job! Now he knows it bothers me, so he’s never going to stop calling me that.
Flustered, I get the steaks from the fridge and take them outside.
Carter smiles at me. “Hey.” He pulls me closer for a kiss. “Is everything okay?”
I nod. “Yup. Just weird.”
He gives me a loving smile. “I know you guys are all going to get along great. I love having my three favorite people here with me.”
I snuggle up to him until he frees himself to put the meat on the grill.
“Hunt?” he calls inside. “Can you set the table out here, please?”
As the boys come out onto the porch with plates and cutlery, I go back to the kitchen to grab the sides I made earlier.
“You haven’t answered my question,” someone says behind me, and I flinch so hard I drop the bowl in my hands. My potato salad lands on the floor, and glass shards from the bowl fly through the air. One of them hits my shin, and I stare at the red drop trickling down my leg.
“Are you okay, sweetie?” Carter calls, rushing inside, alerted by the almighty crash I just made.
“Yeah.” I nod a little too fast. “Just dropped a bowl. Sorry.”
“No problem,” he says. He comes over, picks me up, and sets me down on the kitchen island before diligently picking up the shards and throwing the rest of the bowl in the trash.
As he begins to wipe the floor up, my manners kick in. “Hey, let me do that,” I say, starting to slide off the counter.
“Don’t worry, I’ll do it.” He smiles at me, and a knot in my heart dissolves. Carter. He loves me. I love him. That’s what I need to remember.
When he’s finished, he gets out a Band-Aid and carefully places it over the little cut on my leg. “There you go. All set. I hope Hunter didn’t burn the meat.”
“I heard that,” a voice calls from outside. “Like I’d make a mistake doing something as manly as grilling meat.”
Carter laughs and kisses me before we take the remaining sides outside. Once we’re all sitting at the table, Carter looks at both boys. “Weren’t you two talking about going to football camp this summer?”
“It doesn’t start for three weeks,” Carey reminds him. “And we’ll only be gone a week.”
“What positions do you play?” I ask, just to be part of the conversation. Truth be told, I already know Hunter plays wide receiver and Carey’s a second-string quarterback, which they proceed to politely tell me. In fact, as long as their dad’s around, they’re polite and reasonably friendly. They’re not going out of their way to make me comfortable, but it’s at least possible to talk to them. However, when Carter takes a call and disappears into the house, things change quickly.
“Answer my goddamn question,” Carey snarls.
Hunter just grins and leans back, crossing his arms in front of his chest again. In a few years, he’ll be a real giant. He’s already tall, and even though his muscles are pretty impressive for a teenager, I’m sure he’ll bulk up some more.
Realizing I’m on my own, I look back at Carey. “You can stop asking. Because it’s none of your business.”
He pulls a face. “So you are a gold digger then.”
I gather up all my courage. It’s difficult to remember I’m a confident woman with Hunter staring at me like I’m some insect he’s about to crush. He somehow manages to appear both cocky and laid-back at the same time—a skill most men do not attain in this lifetime. “I-I don’t want to argue with you,” I say, trying to keep my voice from wavering. “I want to get to know you both, and get along. I’m not here to cause trouble. I love your dad.”
“News flash, doll,” Carey says. “Just because you spread your legs for our dad doesn’t mean you can wrap us around your finger. Dad’s brought home a lot of women over the past three years. They all had one thing in common. You want to know what it is?”
I shake my head, but I didn’t really think that was going to stop him.
“They’re not here anymore.”
Like I said, I didn’t want to know. “Please don’t talk to me like that.”
“Like what?” Carey asks innocently.
“Condescendingly.”
“Hmm,” he says, like he’s mulling it over. “To be honest, I think I’m being pleasant.” He looks at Hunter like he’s waiting for instructions, but Hunter obviously doesn’t care to interfere.
And I don’t know how to react. What am I supposed to say? “I’ll tell your father”? That’s a sure-fire way of ruining whatever chance I might still have at building a relationship with them. Or should I tell them—again—that I don’t want them talking to me like that? Only to have them ridicule me again… Maybe I should get up and leave. But then they’ll think they can do whatever they want with me.
Fortunately, Carter returns then, but he’s wearing a frown. “That was your mom,” he tells the boys. “She wanted to know where you are.”
Their expressions change immediately. Carey suddenly looks guilty, while Hunter’s face hardens.
“She said she had no idea where you were,” Carter says, his voice stern. “She was worried.”
Carey looks at the floor, but Hunter snorts disbelievingly.
“Hunter,” Carter says, frustrated, running a hand through his hair. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
Hunter looks him directly in the eye. “We want to move back to San Diego.”
Carter looks stunned. “Excuse me?” he finally grinds out.
“You want me to say it again?” Hunter says.
Carter snorts. “Why?”
Hunter rolls his eyes. “You know Mom.”
“Yeah, what about her?”
Hunter runs a hand through his short hair. “She’s a mean drunk. And she brings home all kinds of men. It’s like living in a goddamn brothel.”
I swallow. I’d thought they couldn’t stand me because they loved their mom so much. But that’s apparently not it. They may have been treating me like dirt just a few seconds ago, but I can feel their pain now. No child should have to worry about whether a parent actually cares about them. I know that best of all.
Carter runs a hand over his face. “Hunter…”
“Come on, Dad! I know what you’re going to say. But we can’t stay there with Mom.”
Carter nods slowly. “Actually, you don’t know what I’m going to say.” He looks over at me quickly. “Mackenzie moved in with me a few weeks ago. So, this is her home now, too. If you two want to move back in, you have to get along with her, too.”
Carey gives his dad an exasperated look. “She moved in with you?”
“You have a problem with that?” Carter asks, and for the first time, he sounds slightly snappy.
“No,” his youngest mumbles.
“Hunter?”
“Anything’s better than staying in Miami,” he says.
Carter nods. “Mac?”
I give him a surprised look. “Yeah?”
“It’s your home, too. Are you okay with them moving in?” he asks.
“They’re your sons,” I say, even though I have to swallow before I finish my thought. “They’ll always be welcome here.” Deep inside, I thought it would be tough to spend ten weeks with them. But having them move in with us? It’s a whole different story. While Hunter’s about to start his last year of high school—and then he’ll be off to college or somewhere else—Carey would be with us for at least another three years.
Can I do this? It very well could be three years of hell lying ahead of me.
But, at this point, I’ll just have to wait and see.
Carter puts a hand on my shoulder and looks over at Hunter again. “If I let you move in here, I expect you to behave better than you did in Miami.”
Hunter and Carey both nod. “Promise,” they say in unison.
Carter snorts. Obviously, he doesn’t believe it. “Okay, we’ll still have to see. I’ll call your mom and let her know about your decision.”
“Awesome.” Hunter gets up. “Now, we’re out of here.”
“Be back at midnight,” Carter says.
“Dad, seriously?” Carey asks in the tone of a complete brat.
“You’re fifteen,” Carter responds.
“Hunter isn’t.”
“So Hunter can bring you back here at midnight and stay out another hour.”
“That’s totally unfair!” Carey whines.
Carter gives him a firm look. “What did you just say about good behavior?”
Carey gives him a sly smile. “You said better, not good.”
I struggle to keep a neutral face, because inside, I’m secretly applauding Carey. Carter though isn’t so impressed.
“Midnight,” he says.
“Can we take the car?” Hunter asks.
Carter nods. “Keys are on the table.”
They’re gone within a second.
“Rascals,” Carter says, sitting back down with me. He puts a hand on my leg. “Thank you, sweetie.”
“It’s your house, and they’re your sons. Of course they can move in with us.”
“It’s our house,” he corrects me gently.
I shrug. “Still.”
He runs a hand through his hair. “It’ll be different.”
“Sure.”
He looks at me. “What’s wrong?”
I’m kneading my fingers, and he zooms in on them. He knows I do this when I’m nervous, so there’s no point lying to him now. “They don’t like me,” I admit.
Carter nods slowly. “Give them some time. They’ve never seen me with another woman. Only with their mom. But it’ll be okay.” I realize then that he has no idea his sons actually know about every woman he’s ever dated.
“So, I guess they don’t have a great relationship with their mom?” I say, trying not to sound like I’m prodding.
Carter shakes his head. “Not anymore. They always did before. But then she cheated on me, and I left. She started drinking, and… I guess sometimes they still hold me responsible for it.”
I take his hand. “But it’s not your fault.”
He smiles wistfully. “I know. I couldn’t stay with her. But I’m sorry my boys got hurt.”
“You’re a great dad. They love and respect you.”
He nods. “They’ve always been my number-one priority.”
“Why did they stay with their mom?”
“It’s what they wanted. Lauren was not in a good place after the divorce, and Hunter always feels like he has to take care of people. Save them. He didn’t want to leave her alone, and Carey always does what Hunter does. I’m just glad he’s somewhat of a good role model.”
A faint smile flits across my lips. “So what trouble did they get into in Miami?”
Carter smiles. “Oh, man, they messed up a few times. Nothing serious, though. Hunter got in a few fights with his coach and had plenty of detention. And they were at a few parties that were broken up by the police. Carey was caught drunk once. I’d say it’s all pretty normal for their age. Judging by what my friends say, it could be much worse. Some kids are really out there. Hunter might be a bit of a hothead, but he’s sensible enough to make sure Carey’s always safe.”
“What if they don’t accept me?” I ask.
He strokes my hand. “It’ll be fine, sweetie. Don’t give up.”
I nod, even though I know I’m in for a rough ride.
 

 

 
 
I’m a contemporary romance writer, who likes her men tattooed, her women independent and her coffee strong.

My stories are all about love, but some are of the romantic kind, some of the sad kind and others of the very steamy kind. So if you can stand drama, foul language and sex, you came to the right place.

Love, Annie
  
 
Author Links
 
 


RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ Under Her Skin by Aria Cole

 

 
 
 
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Sienna Taylor walked into Mad Ink looking for a temporary escape. Instead, she found River Madden, the gorgeously talented and impossibly moody owner of the shop. One look in her big, dark eyes makes him desperate to possess her, his need to mark her untouched skin a primal distraction.

One touch of his needle sends electricity rocketing between them, and by the time he’s finished leaving his brand on her, he’s doing the unthinkable and offering her a job—and possibly losing his sense of sanity.

Finding forever is the last thing on River’s mind, but one taste of her sweet innocence has him consumed with claiming her.
She’s too innocent, too sweet, too untouchable, and far too good for him. But she has a darkness that claws at her, a crack fracturing her heart that only makes him crave her more.

Warning: From the moment his tattoo gun touches her skin, River is utterly obsessed with his girl.
If over-the-top, insta-love goodness with a moody, tattooed alpha is your cup of steam, look no further!
River has a talent for pushing all the right buttons. 😉
 


ONE

River
“So, my hands are in her hair, and I’m fucking close, man. I don’t know what I did to the bitch to make her pull the teeth out, but no shit, I think I almost lost my dick last night.”
The sound of a feminine someone clearing her voice turned both of our heads. Jericho shot up, hand outstretched and that weird half smile he only did for chicks he wanted to bang curling his face.
The guy was a fucking whore, and if I had to live through another one of his one-night stands rehashed, I’d throw my fist through his teeth. I’d already thought about breaking a finger, but fucker needed them if he was going to permanently lay artwork on someone’s body, and the guy had talent.
I’d hired him when he got to page three of his portfolio—a portrait of a someone’s grandpa in a war uniform inked on the client’s bicep. The fucking most beautiful tattoo I’d ever seen in my life, and I knew I had to have Jericho in my shop.
Just a goddamn shame I had to put up with him every day.
“She’s a sweet one.” Jericho turned and winked. “And she’s looking for you. Told her I had more talented fingers, but she wasn’t buying it.”
I arched an eyebrow, irritation pulsing through my gut before I stood, plastering on a blank face for my new client.
I lived for tattooing and creating art. What I didn’t love was dealing with customers. Constantly. It was hard being an artist and not being able to control exactly how you would create on a canvas, since the canvas tended to belong to another human.
I’d learned to put on a reserved face over the years—I wasn’t one of those guys who chatted your goddamned ear off. I didn’t give two fucks about your life story or why this tattoo finally meant so much. In fact, half the struggle I’d had in the two years since I’d opened Aspen Ink was tuning out the dimwits so I could focus long enough to give them what they came for—a permanent piece of art on their skin.
Jericho and Dev busted my balls about my shitty chairside personality in the beginning, but it turns out customers don’t give a shit about manners when you leave them with something they can’t get anywhere else on their arm. I had plenty of repeat customers and was usually booked out months in advance. As a result, most of the clients I already knew, so the fact that I didn’t recognize the name on my schedule today had been a little odd, though not unheard of.
I pulled out a set of clean tools, giving a last glance over my sterile work area before heading to the front counter.
A small little thing, with golden blond hair cascading down to a tiny nipped-in waist, was waiting for me at the front desk. I frowned.
“Hi, I’m River Madden.” I came around the counter, touching her elbow.
She spun, that silky mass of waves brushing across my forearm and sending zaps of fire through my skin.
“I’m Sienna.” Indigo blue eyes nailed mine.
I shifted on my feet, throat already dry before I hooked a finger over my shoulder. “Follow me.”
Red lips pursed for a second, eyes narrowing before she nodded swiftly.
I gnashed down on my teeth, figuring I knew exactly what I was in for with this one. “Let me guess, cute little elephant tattoo on your ankle?”
I held a hand out, gesturing for her to sit in my tattoo chair.
“Not quite.” She plopped down, eyes connecting with mine again.
Fuck, what was it about those eyes? Like she couldn’t keep herself from looking at me, staring into my soul or some shit. Weird as fuck and I hated every minute of it.
“Quote under your tit? That what the girls are getting these days, right?”
“I’m not a girl.” She crossed her arms. She certainly wasn’t. She might be small, but that fire burning in those ocean irises told me she wouldn’t hesitate to give a man hell. Fuck, why did that kinda make me smile?
“Well, safe to assume this is your first tattoo?” My eyes landed on her short denim cutoffs then crawled up her body to the long sleeves that covered her arms. This girl was A-1 vanilla, no doubt about it. I was good at reading people, and this one was just too sweet to have seen anything resembling a hard life.
“You know what they say about people who assume, right?” Her grin crooked to the side. “You make an ass—” she rolled up one sleeve, revealing dark slashes of purple and black ink “—out of mostly…you.”
“Impressive.” I moved closer. “I pegged you for a virgin.” I felt a shiver race through her when I cupped her arm in my palm, inspecting the work. “Where’d you go for this?”
“A few towns over. Got it a few months ago.” She pulled up her other sleeve, inked vines wrapping up her forearms to her elbow. “And this was my first, the day I turned eighteen.”
“Fair to say I am an ass, then.” I was unable to help the small smile pulling at my lips. “So, what’s the plan for today?”
She pulled the hem of her shirt above her head, luscious flesh revealed to my greedy fucking eyes.
Christ, she was beautiful. Creamy, soft, unmarred flesh. My vision swam with thoughts of inking her body, watching her squirm under my hands, sinking balls deep into the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen…
“I want to cover this.” She pulled her shirt up past her ribs, a thick white slash, about two inches long, covering her side.
The rough pads of my fingers dragged across the raised flesh, and a soft sigh pushed past her lips before our eyes met again. “What you got in mind for it?”
“A heart,” she said simply. “Shattered.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard this request, but something about the way she put those two words together sliced me open. I was wrong about her. This girl had darkness behind her pretty blue eyes.
“Got a picture?”
“Do you one better.” She slipped a folded scrap of paper from the back pocket of her shorts. “I want this.”
I unfolded the sheet, surprised to find a bloodied red heart inked faintly with the outlines of a skull. “This is pretty badass.”
“I thought so too.” She shrugged, smiling proudly before lying back on my chair. She stretched her arms above her head, the shirt riding up higher and revealing a hint of neon green bra against her creamy skin.
“Hate to ask, but I need to see an ID.”
She arched one sassy eyebrow before her lips curled up. “Does that mean you don’t think I look eighteen?”
The way she said it made my cock fucking pound behind my zipper. Whatever in the hell had brought this woman into my studio today, I owed a huge debt of gratitude. I’d been inking people in this very chair for over two years now and never gave any fucks about my canvas. Until her. Until now.
I frowned, confused by the way she sucked me in, before I grunted. “I’ll get this sketched for you. Need to see an ID when I get back.”
I shot out of the chair and stalked to the light station as far away from her as I could get.
I didn’t have time for a saucy little girl running through my shop, making my dick hard, and causing me to think all kinds of nasty thoughts. Like what it would be like to bend her over my table. Or fuck her in the piercing room.
Shit. Did she have any piercings?
I’d be a fucking dead man if she did.
Just the idea of little metal barbells piercing her nipples had a ripple of pain coursing through my balls.
I hunched over the drawing table, adjusting my cock, as I started the outline for her tattoo. I caught glimpses of her watching me work, her eyes crawling around my shop and over me as I took my time designing her tattoo.
She didn’t flip through her phone once, which surprised the fuck out of me because girls her age had it fucking glued to their palm.
That shit wasn’t good for your mind, and if I didn’t have to own a cell to stay in touch for the sake of my business, I wouldn’t own one. Worst goddamn invention on the planet, that little mini-computer sitting in everyone’s pocket.
“That looks incredible.” She breathed against my neck.
Fuck. She was too close for comfort.
“Wait, what if we add a few stitches across the crack? Just black slashes, like someone did a rushed job fixing it.”
I frowned as I thought, imagining the final piece in my head before coming around to the idea. “I think that would highlight the skeleton shaded into the background. Good call.” I added a few random stitches to the center of the heart, across the skull of the skeleton.
“I love it,” she whispered, her palms sliding down my forearms and squeezing tightly.
Her touch was like razor blades against my skin.
I wasn’t sure if I loved it or wanted to wrench my arm away.
It’d been so fucking long since I’d let anyone touch me like this. And now this girl was not only all up in my personal space, but in my head too.
“Great. Lie down on the table, and we’ll get you prepped.” I tried to keep my voice clipped and to the point, my only focus on being professional despite the raging hard dick tenting my pants.
I helped her up onto the table, avoiding the gorgeous view of her ass as she turned around. Her shorts were so fucking short I was sure I could catch a glimpse of her pussy if I looked hard enough. Why the fuck was she out in public wearing that shit? Didn’t she know what disgusting men like me thought of her?
“Got that ID?” I grinned down at her.
“Here you go, Daddy-o.” She flipped me her driver’s license, confirming she was of age. Nineteen. So, barely.
“Looks good.”
“Told you it would,” she sassed back. Goose bumps rippled across her skin when I applied the cool sanitizer to her rib cage. Then I placed the stencil I’d drawn into place, the crack in the heart matching the jagged edges of the scar slashed permanently into her flesh.
I had a mind to trace my tongue along the rough edges, listening to her shudder and come around me as I milked all the pleasure from her body.
I slipped my fingers along the edges of the transfer paper, making sure the ink outline deposited onto her skin. She shuddered when my fingertip drifted across her wrist.
Fuck, she was so sensitive.
I had visions of her spread out beneath me, my hands in her hair, my tongue licking up her silky skin. The thought of burying my head between her legs had blood rushing through my cock.
What the hell was that scent? And sweet fucking lord, did she taste that good too?
No. Better.
Probably better.
I shifted in my chair, and her eyes averted to me before the shadow of her eyelashes fell onto her cheeks. The air vacated my lungs, blood raging through my veins and making my heart pound a tattoo against my ribs. My cock throbbed, aching to push inside her, fuck her until she was breathless and begging.
Christ, what the hell was wrong with me?
Jericho had given me hell about living like a damn monk, but I’d never reacted to a woman this way. But this wasn’t just any woman; this was Sienna fucking Taylor, too young, too innocent, too good. Way too good.
“It’s bigger than I thought it would be.” She spoke up, and I nearly choked.
“Excuse me?”
Her eyes flickered up to me, a smirk turning up those succulent lips. “The tattoo, it’s big.”
“Ah, right.” I cleared my throat, peeling off the transfer paper and focusing on her eyes for the first time since she’d sat down. “I don’t think I could make it much smaller. You’d start to lose detail on the skeleton.”
“Oh, I like it. I just didn’t envision it that big, but I’m ready. I want it.” Her big, round eyes peered up at me, sweet, untouched. Heartbreakingly fucking beautiful.
I turned, opening the black ink and placing it at the table beside me. “Think you can handle the pain? This is gonna take me a while.”
Her eyes sparkled. “Bet I can handle more than you think.”
Jesus.
Who was this girl?
 


 

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Aria Cole is a thirty-something housewife who once felt bad for reading dirty books late at night, until she decided to write her own. Possessive alpha men and the sassy heroines who love them are common, along with a healthy dose of irresistible insta-love and happily ever afters so sweet your teeth may ache.
 
Aria’s new release BLACK is the first in her modern fairy tale series. For a safe, off-the-charts HOT, and always HEA story that doesn’t take a lifetime to read, get lost in an Aria Cole book!
 
Follow Aria on Amazon for new release updates, or stalk her on Facebook and Twitter to see which daring book boyfriend she’s writing next!
 
Author Links
 

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RELEASE BOOST ~ Screw You by Kasey Millstead

 

 

Title: Screw You
 Author: Kasey Millstead


Genre: New Adult Romance 
 Release Date: May 20, 2017

 

Blurb
 
I, Emma Black, am a nerd.  A social outcast.  The senior who has avoided the cafeteria for the past two years, ever since I got yogurt dumped on my head.
 
When the popular girls initiate a plan to humiliate me, I find I’m also naïve. Gullible.
 
But, I’m also smart in ways they can’t imagine.
 
It doesn’t take me long to discover that revenge is a dish best served with a smoking hot guy and pretty little crown.
 
One finger. Two words.
Screw you.
 
 

 

 
 
 


Purchase Links
 
99c for a VERY limited time
 
AMAZON: US / UK / CAAU
 
 


 

 
 


Excerpt
 
“How many drinks have you had?” Dane asks, grinning.
“Umm…”  I count on my fingers, trying to recall.
“Maybe four?  Or, like, five?”  I shrug.
He takes a sip of the rum and Coke I made him, before bringing his eyes to mine.  “I really a sorry, Emma.  I feel like
shit about the whole thing.”
“Shit happens,” I say nonchalantly, not letting on how much the whole scenario humiliated me.
“Assholes cause it,” he agrees.
I giggle.  “You’re funny!  How is it you can be funny and hot?  You can’t be both.  You have to choose one or the other,” I announce bossily, but jokingly.  Kinda. 
“I guess I’ll choose funny then.  Looks fade, after all.”
Gah!  You’re smart, too?  This is so unfair!”
He leans toward me, his soft puffs of breath skating over my face.  “You know, you’re funny and smart and so fucking beautiful, Emma.  But you’re also humble and kind, and sweet enough to give a guy like me a toothache.”
“Oh, my god,” I whisper. 
He leans in further and then his fingers hold my chin, keeping me in place, as his lips sweep across mine.  I open up for him and his tongue invades my mouth.  Soft, sweet, slow.  He tastes like peppermint breath mints with a hint of spicy rum.  I kiss him back with an intensity I didn’t know I possessed.
 


Author Bio

 Kasey Millstead is a wife and mother of four children. She lives in a picturesque location in country New South Wales, Australia.

Kasey is the author of the #1 bestselling Down Under Cowboy series. She is also the author of The Steele Investigations series, Fighting to Stay and Illicit Desire.

When she is not busy writing, racing around after her children and husband or trying to avoid doing housework, she enjoys nothing more than curling up with a good book and getting lost in the world of Happy Ever After.

 

 
 
 
Author Links
 

 

Giveaway

 

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ Completely Captivated by A.D. Justice

     

Meet Aaron & Christa in Completely Captivated

by AD Justice!


NOW AVAILABLE!

iBooks: https://tinyurl.com/m2tt4tc

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/m9nfmoc

Nook: https://tinyurl.com/mvummo8

LIVE ON AMAZON MAY 25TH!

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2qi2NpB

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2qMVidC

 

Blurb

Aaron Rivers

Christa was the exact opposite of every woman who’d shared my bed for a night.

All I could think about was getting to know her intimately. She completely captivated me.

Then, as usual, I screwed up everything.

My life. Her life. Our love.

Now her old crush is back in town, and he set his sights on Christa. But she’s mine. I’ll be damned if he gets her.

I will win her back before he wins her over.

 

Christa Lanes

Aaron breezed into my coffee shop and right into my heart.

He was gorgeous, confident, and sexy.

Out of all the women who threw themselves at him, he wanted me.

Against my better judgment, I took a chance.

Then he took our new life away.

When I was at my darkest, my lifelong friend Jared pulled me through, only to tell me he wants to take Aaron’s place.

But can I give my heart to Jared when Aaron already stole it?

 




Excerpt

The moonlight shone directly through her bedroom window, casting its silvery light across her naked body. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears that she quickly blinked back. My hands reached out to her and cupped her face to kiss her deeply. I tasted the faint sweetness of alcohol. With my intensity increased, I poured every bit of my love into the kiss, willing her to feel it and take her fill of it. I gently pushed on her shoulders, silently instructing her to sit, and then I helped her move up to the head of the bed.

I started at her feet, kissing, licking, sucking, and nipping my way up and down each leg. I took my time loving her, worshiping her entire body, and pouring my whole heart into her. Then I worked my way back up her leg, stopping momentarily at her core to meet her gaze. My chest clenched at her expression. It was a mixture of the worst pain, the purest bliss, and the deepest love I’d ever seen. That expression would haunt me—later. I’d berate myself for causing her so much pain and confusion, but for as long as she’d let me stay, my sole focus was to make her feel better.

I dipped my head and sucked her clit into my mouth. She gasped and grasped my hair in her fingers. Intermittently, I sucked on it lightly then gently ran my tongue over, under, and around it repeatedly. I moved slowly at first, savoring her natural flavor and every sound of approval she made. The intensity inside her was building to massive levels. She was so close but not quite there yet—but she would be there many times before I was done.

“I fucking love how you taste. And the sounds you make. The way your tiny fists pull my hair just before you come. Your breathy voice when you scream my name.” Her body melted under my touch, my words only adding to her need for more.

I increased the suction on her clit then scraped my teeth across it. Her hips bucked upward involuntarily. Her grip on my hair increased, slightly tugging on it and pulling me closer to her at the same time. Her hungry moans were sexy enough to push me over the edge before she even touched me, but I retrained my focus on her pleasure.

I wrapped my arms under and around her legs and pulled her core to my mouth, and I hungrily lapped her up. After a quick dart of my tongue in and out of her pussy before rolling it inside her, she almost sat straight up from the intensity. When she fell back against the pillows, I continued assaulting all her senses. My hot, wet tongue found her nub once again before my lips closed around it and my finger thrust into her waiting entrance.

As I pushed it in, her moans became louder and her grip became tighter. I deliberately moved my finger in and out of her at a leisurely pace. The need to see her almost matched my need to have her, so I raised my eyes to watch her. Her neck was arched back, her eyes welded shut, and her mouth was agape, with her sexy moans involuntarily escaping at my ministrations. With an added second finger filling and stretching her, I increased the pressure and crooked them to catch the spot that sent her over the edge.

“Aaron,” she screamed, and it was the sweetest music.

I pressed on until she rode the last wave of her orgasm and soaked my hand. When I pulled my fingers out of her, she opened her eyes in time to see me put them in my mouth and lick her essence off them. Her lips parted and her eyes widened. The pulse in her neck jumped in time with her pounding heart. She tried to pull me to her, but I gently nudged her back down, silently shaking my head side to side.

Her responding grumble made me smile against her skin as I continued licking, nipping, and sucking my way up her stomach and ribs until I reached her breasts. The stubble of my unshaven jaw rubbed against her soft skin, leaving light red abrasions like they were my own personal branding iron. My possessive side appreciated the fact that her skin held my mark. She was mine, after all, and I was determined to win her back. When I reached her breasts, I took one into my mouth, sucking and biting on her nipple while my hand kneaded her other breast. My thumb and middle finger closed around the taut peak of her nipple, and I continued my double assault on her. Her fingers gripped my shoulders and back, her nails dug into my skin in response to the powerful sensations.

“Aaron,” she panted.

I raised my head to meet her eyes, yet I was afraid to speak the words that were on the tip of my tongue. Afraid the words would break the spell, and she’d tell me to leave. That she’d realize this wasn’t just a dream she’d later wake up from and instantly regret her middle-of-the-night phone call.

“Aaron, if you don’t take me now, I will leave and find someone else who will!”

Her words struck a chord in the hidden chasms of my mind. I knew her declaration was part bluff and all frustration, but that very thought had tormented me countless times every night. The thought spurred me to speak my mind, my response leaving no room for discussion or argument.

“The. Hell. You. Will. You are mine, Christa. For better or for worse. Till death do us part. And it’ll be over my dead fucking body that any other man touches you–or it’ll be his fucking death.” I meant every word of it.

Her eyes widened in surprise, studying my face and partly losing the glazed look of desire. I sensed my fear was about to come true—she was on the verge of realizing our rendezvous was a huge mistake and making me leave. So I decided to finish what she asked me to start. I aligned the head of my cock at the entrance of her wet core then slowly pushed into her, giving her body time to adjust to my size.

Once I’d pushed in to the hilt, burying myself fully inside her, I curled my hips and thrust slightly harder into her. I straightened my arms and looked directly into her eyes, holding hers captive. The glazed look returned to her eyes, and her hands moved to my chest, gripping, holding, and stroking me as I thrust into her harder and harder.

When she closed her eyes, I immediately issued an order. “Open your eyes and look at me. See me, Christa. You were made for me and only me. You are like a finely tuned violin, custom-made to be played only by my hands. Your body wraps around and fits me perfectly. I know every sound you make, when your breathing changes, and only I can give you what your body craves. I am the only man who can answer its call. You. Belong. To. Me. And I belong to you.” I kept my voice low and let it flow across the air between us. Her inner walls quivered and squeezed me as her body shuddered at my words.

I pulled her legs up, wrapped my arms behind her knees, and increased the angle and depth of my penetration. Christa grasped at the sheets, writhing beneath me in sheer ecstasy. Harder and harder, I thrust into her over and over until her orgasm completely took her over the edge. When she screamed out my name again, I felt her tightness squeezing around me, holding me inside her and milking me for everything I have. I gladly gave it to her, emptying myself deep inside her and groaning with complete satisfaction as I said, “You have all of me.”



Meet the Author

A.D. Justice is the USA Today best selling author of the Steele Security Series (Wicked Games, Wicked Ties, Wicked Nights, Wicked Intentions), the Crazy Series (Crazy Maybe, Crazy Baby), the Dominic Powers series (Her Dom, Her Dom’s Lesson), and two stand-alone books, Just One Summer and Intent.

When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her own alpha male character in their north Georgia mountain home. She is also an avid reader of romance novels, a master at procrastination, a chocolate sommelier, a twister of words, and speaks fluent sarcasm. An avid animal lover, A.D. Justice has three horses, two dogs, and one cat.

While the primary focus of her books have been romantic suspense, she has plans to expand into different sub-genres of romance. Stay tuned to read what she has in store for you!

Stay Connected: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook



 

CHAPTER REVEAL ~ Roommates with Benefits by Nicole Williams

 

Coming June 5th

Pre-order exclusively via iBooks HERE

 

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Soren Decker. He’s the epitome of the “bad boy, good man” persona. The best of both worlds. The worst of them too. He’s the type of guy most girls would not mind sharing a confined space with, except my new roommate isn’t all swagger and chiseled abs.

He’s bossy. Messy. Cocky. Infuriating. Doesn’t believe in personal space. Has no qualms about roaming the apartment with a loincloth-sized towel cinched around his waist. Seems under the delusion he’s my personal protector (refer back to infuriating). He plays college baseball and holds down a part-time job—I don’t know where he finds the time to get on my nerves.


We’re got nothing in common . . . except for one thing. Our attraction to one another. And in six hundred square feet of shared space, the tension only has so much room to grow before one of us gives in to temptation. But really, what chance do a couple of young kids chasing their dreams in the big city have of making it?

Since Soren claims I know squat about sports (he might have a semi-point), here’s a stat for him—one in a million. That’s our odds.





I felt like all of my dreams had, or were about to, come true.
​Waved farewell to Podunk hometown? Check.
​Arrived in posh metropolis with luggage in tow? Check.
​Signed to a top agency? Check.
​About to roll up to my swanky new pad? Check.
​The world wasn’t just at my fingertips—I felt like it was clutched in the palm of my hand. All the obstacles—everything I’d had to overcome to get here—and I’d done it. I’d paid the price. Now I was ready to reap the darn reward.
​“Oh, crap.” My heart soared into my throat when I glanced at the taximeter for the first time since leaving the airport. I’d been totally preoccupied with staring at the bright lights and sights of New York City. “Is that how much it will cost for the entire ride? Hopefully?” My eyes widened when the meter tacked on another fifty cents.
​The driver glanced at me through the rearview. He must have thought I was making a joke until he saw my face. “What? You serious, kid?” His meaty arm draped across the passenger seat. “That’s how much it costs to get to right here.” He speared his finger out the window, two bushy brows lifting. “There’s still another mile before we hit the address you gave me.”
​“Pull over. Please. Pull over.”
Digging inside my purse, I counted out what I owed the driver. Which left me with a whole two dollars and some cents to my name. Ever since I was a little girl declaring my plans to make it in the big city, everyone had been warning me that New York City was expensive. I guessed I hadn’t realized that translated to public transportation as well.
​Once the driver had pulled up to the curb, I handed him what I owed. He waited, blinking at me like I was missing something.
​“Oh, yeah.” I pulled out the last two dollars and handful of cents I had left for the tip. Even dropping the last penny to my name in his palm, it was a puny tip.
​Heaving a sigh, he crawled out his door to pull my suitcase from the trunk. The dark streets looked different now that I’d be walking them alone.
“Do you have a map or anything I might be able to have?” I asked as he rolled my suitcase around to me.
​The driver pointed his finger down the street we were on. “Keep going straight one mile. That will get you there.”
​I felt my palms clam up when I realized I was about to attempt to navigate on foot a city I’d never been to, with all of my personal belongings in tow, without a dollar to my name. The small-town girl I’d been wanted to cry and run to the first phone to call home. The big-city woman I was born to be had me clutching the handle of my luggage and lifting my chin. By the time, I took my first step toward my new life, the taxi was long gone.
​Even though it was almost eight at night, the streets were still bustling. Unlike Hastings, Nebraska, where a person could hear the whir of their neighbor’s washing machine by nine every night, New York looked like it was just getting warmed up. Cars whipping up and down the streets, horns blasting, people moving, bikes weaving in and out through it all; this was an entirely different life than the one I’d grown up knowing.
​I loved it.
​I felt like I passed more people on every block than had made up the whole population of Hastings, and the people here were dressed like they were off to a meeting with foreign dignitaries, instead of the 4-H meeting every Saturday morning at The Hastings Grange.
Fashion. God, I loved fashion. Designing it was my endgame, but first, I had to get my foot in the door however I could. Modeling would give me that opportunity.
​By the time I’d rolled myself and my luggage down what felt like a million city blocks, I figured I had another three or four to go. My feet were killing me, since I’d worn heels instead of the comfy flats my mom had suggested when dropping me off at the airport earlier. I’d argued that I didn’t want to arrive in NYC with faux leather loafers, but man, those discount store flats sounded pretty amazing right now.
​Sheer willpower got me through the last few blocks, and I arrived at what I guessed was my destination, afraid to look at my feet for fear of finding them swimming in pools of blood or swollen beyond recognition. Or on fire, based on the feeling coming from them.
​When I stopped in front of the address I’d written down, I had to triple-check that the numbers on my paper matched the ones on the outside of the building. They did, but this sure didn’t look like Big City Living at its Finest, as the classified had listed. It more looked like Big City Living at its Most Primitive.
​Then again, maybe it was one of those apartment buildings that looked like a dump on the outside but was a palace on the inside. You know, to keep the bourgeois away. That had to be it. There was probably a chandelier hanging in the elevator and the hallways were lined with gleaming white marble, but no one would guess that from the outside.
​Doing one final check to make sure I was at the right address, I lugged my suitcase up the stairs. Someone was leaving as I made it to the front door, but either they didn’t see me or didn’t care to hold the door open for the woman in three-inch heels wrestling a monster-sized bag into submission. The door practically slammed in my face, heavy enough it almost sent me sprawling backward. I managed to snag the handle to keep it open long enough to shove inside.
​Okay, so there were a lot of differences between Hastings and New York City.
​I still loved it. A lot.
​It would just take an adjustment period to get used to. Before I knew it, I’d be keeping up with the best of the city girls.
​Once I’d made it past the front door, I paused to catch my breath and take in the interior of the apartment building. So the halls weren’t exactly lined in marble. Or gleaming, whatever surface it was they were covered with. There was an elevator though, but as I took my first steps toward it, I noticed the sign taped to the doors. Out of Order.
​Why not?
​Shuffling toward the bottom of the staircase, I stared up them, thankful there were only six floors to the top. Kicking off my heels, I collected them in one hand and started heaving my suitcase up all six flights, one stair at a time.
The upside to arriving on the sixth floor in a panting, sweating mess? I’d just gotten my cardio in. For the whole week.
​My chest felt like it was about to explode as I rolled down the hall, checking the number on each door as I passed. There wasn’t any marble up here either. Or chandeliers. Or anything that held a semblance of shine, actually.
​There was a smell though—a mix of mildew and garbage and. . . some other scent I didn’t want to assign a name to. A couple of bulbs were burnt out on the ceiling, casting an eerie tone to the environment.
There were noises, too. Music, hammering, talking, screaming . . . other heavy breathing sounds. It was like the walls were made of plastic wrap and painted white’ish to give the illusion of privacy. I could hear every word of the heated conversation coming from the door behind me.
​Number sixty-nine. That was a number nine, right? I checked the piece of paper in my hand just to be sure. Yep. My eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. The door’s paint was chipping, the numbers cockeyed, and from the damage done to it where the locks were, it looked like there’d been multiple attempts to break into it. There was nothing welcoming about this door.
​This couldn’t be the right place. No way. I had to have written something down wrong, or misread the address outside, or something—anything—that would assure me this wasn’t the place where I was about to spend the next six months of my life.
​As I debated knocking on the door or fleeing from it, a door screeched open down the hall.
​“You finally made it.” A young guy emerged through the door, his focus on me. “Have you been waiting there long? When you were late, I decided to swing by Mrs. Lopez’s and give her a hand with a few things.” He was still talking to me as he slid his feet into a worn pair of Converse. His fly was down too, but that didn’t seem to be on his concern radar.
​It looked like he’d decided to give Mrs. Lopez more than just a hand.
​“Oh, god. You don’t speak English, do you?” He exhaled, making his way down the hall. “You’re one of those Eastern European chicks, right?”
​I stepped back as he moved closer.
In another situation, I wouldn’t have been trying to back away from the stranger approaching with a look that could make the most frigid of girls melt. He was easy to look at—a little too easy—walking that ever-so-fine line of cute meets hot. He was cute-hot. Hot-cute. Whatever. He was candy to the eyes, and had we run into each other at the Jolt Café back in Hastings, I wouldn’t have been creeping away from him as I was now.
“Do I know you?” I asked.
He finally realized his proximity was making me uncomfortable, and he stopped right outside of Number Sixty-Nine. “You do speak English. Good. Because I’m not sure I have the brain space to figure out how to say ‘The water bill’s due yesterday’ in Latvian.”
I guessed the look on my face echoed my prior question.
“Soren Decker.” He held out his hand then slid it into his jeans’ pocket when it caught nothing but airtime. “And you are . . . ?”
“Not at the right address. Clearly.”
He leaned into the dilapidated door. “What address are you looking for?”
I had to lift the piece of paper in my hand to remember. Once I read it off, he shrugged.
“You have arrived at your destination.”
That’s what I was afraid of. “I must have the wrong apartment number then.”
The way he was looking at me told me exactly what he was thinking—that I was mental. “What apartment are you looking for?”
Another review of the paper. Just to be sure. “Sixty-nine.”
When his brows bounced, I felt my cheeks heat. I balanced my temporary embarrassment by narrowing my eyes.
“Sixty-nine.” He rapped his knuckle below the crooked numbers on the door. “Home sweet home.”
That was when the obvious started to settle in. “You’re looking for a roommate? You posted the ad I responded to?” I swallowed. “You?”
He glanced down at himself like he was checking for a stain on his shirt. In the process, he noticed his fly was still open. “I really didn’t think this would be so confusing,” he said, pulling his zipper back into place. “Yes, this is the right address. Yes, this is lucky apartment number sixty-nine. And yes, I am the one looking for a roomie, who you replied to last week.”
My heart had lodged into the back of my throat from the feel of it. This was the person I’d be living with? This was who I’d be sharing the same space with for the next half year?
He looked part California surfer, part vintage Hollywood film star. Pretty much the type of guy anyone attracted to males and in possession of a functioning set of eyes would drip some degree of drool over. Light hair, blue eyes that projected trouble, matching his smirky smile, good—great—body; he was pretty much the result of creation’s best efforts.
Most girls probably would have been chanting jackpot in their heads, but I gaped at the perfection that was him, freaking out.
“You said you were looking for a girl,” I said.
“I am.” He motioned at me.
I motioned right back at him. “You’re a guy.”
“Wow. Okay. So much confusion.” He shifted from one foot to the other, tipping back the red ball cap on his head.
“Why would you prefer a girl roommate when you’re a guy?”
Again, the look that implied I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. If he kept it up, I was going to start throwing daggers at him. Provided I had any. Or even one. Which I didn’t, because airline regulations and all.
“For obvious reasons,” he said.
“For obvious reasons like what? A built-in bedmate?”
His expression flattened as he realized what I was getting at. “You think I’m looking for some kind of ‘roommates with benefits’ type of thing?” He rubbed his chin like he was considering it right that moment. “I hadn’t thought about that, but now that you mention it . . .” Whatever he saw when he glanced at me sparked an amused gleam in his eyes. “I’m not looking for that. I swear.”
“Then why insist on a female roommate?”
“Because the female species tends to be neater than the male, ape variety. Plus, you smell better, too.” His hand dropped to the doorknob. Before he opened the door, he tipped his chin at me. “And you’re nicer to look at.” When I didn’t move after he motioned inside the apartment, he leaned into the hall and crossed his arms. “Come on, give it to me. I can tell you’re dying to say whatever it is you’ve been biting your tongue over since I had the nerve to address you.”
The way he said it, I realized I was maybe leaning toward the bitchy end of the spectrum. “It’s just that I thought you were a girl. I didn’t realize the person I’d agreed to room with was a guy.”
“That’s not my fault.” As soon as my mouth opened to argue, he added, “You could have asked. But you didn’t. You assumed.”
My teeth chewed on the inside of my cheek, hating that he was right.
“If you’re uncomfortable moving in because I’m a guy, okay, no problem. I’m not going to force you to move in. Even though I took down the ‘roommate wanted’ ad when you placed dibs. Losing out on a whole week of finding someone.”
My fingers pinched the bridge of my nose as I struggled to form one rational thought. If this guy would shut it for one minute, I could think.
“You know, and what’s this whole thing about gender equality and erasing those lines that used to separate the sexes? You’re pretty much saying you’re okay with moving in with a total stranger, sight unseen, just so long as that stranger doesn’t come equipped with a scrotum.”
“What?” My hand dropped back at my side. “Gross. Just stop talking. Please. Give me a second to try to figure out what is happening right now . . .”
Squeezing his lips together, he tipped his head back against the wall, making a “carry on” motion in my direction.
Okay. Think.
Swanky new pad was more a nasty, biohazardous dump.
Hip New York roommate was more a crass, vile entity of dubious intentions. Who came equipped with a scrotum, as he’d so articulately put it.
I had an appointment in the morning with the agency, potential go-sees right after, and a whole zero dollars and zero cents to my name. A hotel was out. A really shady motel was out. I supposed I could sleep on a park bench, but instead of just one man, I’d have to be worried about the rest of the city sneaking up on me as I slept.
I didn’t have many options.
Actually, I wasn’t sure I had any at all.
Taking another good look at him, he didn’t seem so bad. He wasn’t tattooed from head to toe, didn’t have that predatory look parents taught their daughters to identify from twenty paces back, and he didn’t reek of alcohol or other substances of questionable repute.
He was no Boy Scout, that was for darn sure, but he didn’t have the look of an axe murderer either. Besides, I was a tough chick. If he tried anything, he wouldn’t walk away with that cute-hot face unscathed.
“I’m Hayden.” I rolled my shoulders back and crossed the distance. “Hayden Hayes.”
“Soren Decker. In case you missed it the first time.” He held out his hand as I approached. “By the way, I’m a dude. You know, to clear up any confusion you might have on the subject.”
“One of those creatures that comes with a scrotum?” My eyebrows lifted as I shook his hand.
He cracked a smile as he shoved off of the wall. He didn’t have a terrible smile. Not even a little bit.
“Wow. Dang.” He twisted his cap around so it was backward as he stood as tall as he could. “You are tall. Like, please don’t wear heels around me tall.”
I held up the pair of heels I was still clutching. “Just missed them.”
“Good. I can’t have a girl roommate who’s taller than me. It might emasculate me.”
“More than you already are?”
“A fellow smartass.” He made a face of approval as I moved inside the apartment. “We’re going to get along just fine.”
“So long as I don’t wear heels when you’re nearby?”
“See? You get me. Two and a half minutes into our relationship and you understand me. Why can’t the rest of the girls on the planet seem to get it?” He didn’t give me a chance to fire back my idea on that topic. “Seriously, though, how tall are you?”
“Five ten.” Once I rolled my suitcase inside, he closed the door behind us.
“Liar, liar. Designer jeans on fire.” He waved his finger at me as he moved into the apartment.
These were designer jeans. The one pair I owned and would be living in until I could afford a second pair. It had taken me three months of mucking out stalls to make enough to afford them.
“Fine. Five eleven.” When his brows disappeared into his ball cap, I sighed. “And a half.”
“My six one is suddenly not feeling so big and bad.”
The inside of the apartment was an improvement on the outside. Somewhat. Paint wasn’t chipping off the walls, and the funky odor wasn’t quite as strong in here. Although there was a different one—that sweat-and-dirty laundry man smell with the faintest hint of aftershave or cologne mixed in.
“So. Here it us. My humble abode.”
Emphasis on humble.
​There wasn’t much to see. A shoe-box-sized kitchen was right inside the door—at least there was a stove and a fridge—with a same sized bathroom across from it, and what must have been the main living space, which we were standing in now, was made up of a line of windows, a couch I would not sit on unless a sheet of plastic separated me from it, a couple of room dividers, and a rectangular metal table with four mismatched chairs.
​It was semi-clean and super small.
​“Where’s the rest?” I asked when he stopped beside me, nodding at the space like it was the definition of opulent.
​“What do you mean? This is it.” He indicated the room.
​My gaze circled the space again. A secret hallway. There had to be one of those hiding in here somewhere. “Where are the bedrooms?”
​He made a clucking sound with his tongue, leading me to one corner tucked behind a sad divider. “Here’s mine,” he said, letting me peek behind the divider.
My heart did that hiccupping thing again when I noticed a twin mattress lying on the floor, a whirl of blankets and pillows scattered on it. There was a big plastic bin too, which looked like it served as a dresser.
“And yours is over here.” Guiding me to the corner across from this one, he proudly waved at the empty space behind the second divider.
​There was nothing there. Unless you counted the dust bunnies.
​“You’re kidding, right?” I blinked, frowning when I found the exact same scene in front of me.
​“About what?” he asked, straight-faced.
​“This being a bedroom.” My arms flew toward the empty space. “This is a stall. Actually, I’ve mucked out stalls twice as big back home.”
​His brows pinched together. “Like a bathroom stall?”
​“No, like a stall inside a barn. A horse stall. A cow stall. Shoot, even the pigs get a better deal than this.” My voice was rising, as I realized he wasn’t messing with me. This was supposed to serve as my bedroom, and there were a few big things missing to make it my definition of a bedroom—for starters, a door.
​“Wait. So you’re one of those small-town girls?” He appraised me with new eyes, like everything was finally making sense.
​“Yes, I’m one of those small-town girls, but not small town enough to realize I’m getting the big city runaround.”
​“The runaround?” His arms crossed. “What do you mean the runaround? I didn’t say anything about there being a private bedroom straight out of the Four Seasons, girlie.”
​I tried to remember the “roommate wanted” ad I’d seen online last week. Specifically, the wording. “Yeah? And what about the penthouse views?” I crossed my arms just like he was. “This is the opposite of a penthouse, and the view sucks.” I glanced out the row of windows, where there was a view of the building across the street.
​Soren’s eyes lifted before he moved toward the windows. He waited for me before pointing his finger up. Way up. “Penthouses.” His finger was aimed at the tippy top of the buildings around us. “We have a view of penthouses.”
​My mouth opened. “That’s not how you meant it to be taken, nice try.”
​“How do you know how I meant for it to be taken? Penthouse views. That’s the truth.” He was still pointing out the window. “You make a lot of assumptions. Might want to work on that if you plan on surviving in the city.”
​Turning away from the window, I scanned the apartment. Had it shrunken in size when I’d turned my back? “You said it was a generous living space.”
​He indicated the same apartment I was looking at. “Are you kidding me? This is a generous living space.”
​“Compared to what? A cardboard box?”
​His mouth snapped open, but he closed it before whatever was about to come out, did. He rolled his head a few times, his neck cracking in a way that made me cringe. “Listen. You are obviously from a different world than I am. I grew up in Brooklyn. My definition of generous is clearly different than yours.”
​“I grew up in Hastings, Nebraska, raised by a single mom with a high school education after dear old dad bailed on her and his three daughters.” I paused, staring at him. “I was not raised in the lap of luxury, nor am I a spoiled brat, but this . . ..” My hand waved between his and my “bedrooms,” my stomach churning when I counted off maybe ten feet of separation between them. “This is not generous living space.”
​“Then fine. Don’t move in. It’s not like you’ve unpacked your things. You’re the one looking for an apartment, not me. Go find some other place to live in the heart of the city for less than eight hundred dollars a month. Good luck with that.”
When he started toward my suitcase, I intercepted him. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. No friends. No family. No money. My first rent check here wasn’t due for a couple of weeks. Accepting that should have made this place seem much more appealing, but instead I felt more like an inmate resigned to their cell.
​“It’s been a long day. There have been lots of surprises. I’m feeling overwhelmed.” I rolled my suitcase toward my barracks so he didn’t roll it out the front door.
​“You’re not in Nebraska anymore. You’re in New York City.” He indicated out the windows before storming toward the kitchen. “Buck up, buttercup.”
​I bit my tongue when I wanted to fire something right back. My life had not been easy, and I hated that he assumed it had been because I was shocked I’d be sharing a room with a strange boy. This wasn’t normal. This was five thousand percent not normal.
​“You want a sandwich?” he called from the kitchen as he started tossing things onto the counter.
​“A sandwich?” I repeated. Hadn’t we just been in a moderately heated conversation? And now he’d moved on to sandwich-making twelve seconds later?
​“You know, meat, cheese, condiments? Two slices of bread holding it all together?” He shot me a smirk as he twirled open the bag of bread.
​My stomach answered for me. “Actually, yeah. Thanks.” Leaving my suitcase behind the divider, I moved toward the kitchen.
​“What brought you to the biggest city in the country from Nebraska?” he asked, glancing at me.
​I stopped behind one of the plastic chairs around the table. It didn’t feel right to just make myself at home . . . even though this was my new home. “Modeling.”
​He made a sound like everything made sense now, then stalled with the knife in the mayo jar. “So when you say you want a sandwich, you mean two pieces of celery smashed together?”
​My eyes lifted. I’d been called a stick, a twig, a pole, a beanpole, accused of being anorexic, bulimic, a drug addict, you name it, because I was genetically predisposed to having a thin frame. Now that I was officially a model, it was only going to get worse, I guessed. “I hate celery.”
​Soren spread a thick layer of mustard on one piece of bread. “Too many carbs?”
​“You’re annoying.”
​“So I’ve been told.”
​Of course my roommate would be one of the few people on the planet who was capable of getting under my skin. Who better to share a six-hundred-square-foot space with than someone who couldn’t look at me without triggering mild irritation? The more he talked, the less cute-hot he became. Silver linings. I didn’t need to harbor some minor attraction to the guy I was sharing an apartment with.
​“Don’t you have any questions for me?” I asked after a minute.
​One shoulder rose as he layered on what looked like pastrami. “You don’t smoke?”
​“Nope.”
​“You don’t stay out late partying, getting your drink on, and come home smelling like the city barfed on you?”
​“Definitely not.” I wasn’t straitlaced, but I wasn’t a hot mess either.
He pulled a couple of plates from a cupboard, tossed the sandwiches onto them, and moved toward the table. “You aren’t prone to stealing other people’s property? Namely my Nutter Butters?”
It didn’t seem like a serious question. The look on his face told otherwise. “No,” I answered.
He held one plate toward me. “Then we’re good.”
When I took the plate, my stomach growled. The last thing I’d eaten was the pretzels on the plane.
“Thanks,” I said, feeling a stab of guilt for the way I’d acted since meeting him. He was the only person in New York who’d offered me a place to live, and he was giving me a free meal.
“You don’t look like you could afford to miss one more meal,” he said. I didn’t miss the way he inspected my arms as I took a seat. “So now that you’ve had the grand tour, do you have any questions for me? And by that, I mean actual questions, not accusations.”
When I shot him a look, he gave me a big smile right before stuffing his sandwich in his mouth. Let’s see. I knew his name, his gender, where he’d grown up, that he was a smartass, and that he was cute-hot when he wasn’t talking.
“What do you do?”
He lowered his sandwich. “I model,” he said, his expression flat. “Men’s underwear mainly. Sometimes women’s. If they pay me enough.”
I smiled at my sandwich as I lifted it. “I thought you looked familiar. I just didn’t recognize you without those big wings and the million-dollar diamond bra.”
He chuckled, tearing off another bite of his sandwich. “I play ball,” he said, still chewing.
“Like dodgeball?” I took a small bite of the sandwich he’d made me so it wouldn’t seem like I was starving.
He shot me a tight smile. “Like baseball.” He waved his sandwich toward his “bedroom,” where a big red duffel was, a mitt and bat hanging out of it. “I play at one of the junior colleges close by since none of the D1 schools wanted to take a risk with me.”
​“A risk?” I took another bite, this one bigger. I wasn’t usually a fan of pastrami or mustard, but dang, this was the best sandwich I’d ever had.
“Let’s just say I was a bit of a hothead in high school, and D1 schools would rather have the golden boy with some talent than the wild card with mad talent.”
“Hothead . . .?”
“I got into a few fights at some games.”
I circled my sandwich in the air. “Like pushing, name calling type fights?”
“Try fists flying, dust spinning type of fights.” He must have guessed where my mind was taking me. “Don’t worry. I never have or never would put my hands on a woman like that, and I’ve calmed my shit down a lot since then. Nothing like being forced to eat a slice of humble pie at junior college to get a player in line.”
Nibbling off a corner, I curled my legs up onto the chair. I’d been too busy freaking out over my new living arrangements to notice how chilly it was in here. I couldn’t see my breath or anything, but it felt only a few degrees away from that.
“What are you studying?” I asked.
He dropped the last piece of sandwich into his mouth before wiping his hands on his jeans. “I’m just banging general requirements out of the way right now. I don’t care about becoming an accountant or a project manager or whatever the hell else other guys go to college for. I want to play ball. I go to school because it’s a package deal.”
“So your plan is to transfer to a D1 school to play ball after you’re finished?” I asked, like I knew what I was talking about. Which I didn’t. Sports weren’t my thing. Watching or partaking in them.
“I want to get drafted by the best professional baseball team in the whole wide world. That’s my plan.” He shoved out of his chair, carrying his plate into the kitchen.
“You want to play professional baseball?”
“No. I’m going to play professional baseball. And the one good thing about playing at a junior college is that I can be drafted any time they want me. I don’t have to wait until I graduate like I would have if one of those D1 schools had recruited me.” He rinsed his plate in the sink before setting it on a drying rack. He hadn’t used soap, but I supposed it was better than licking it clean and sticking it back in the cupboard. “Want anything to drink? Another sandwich?”
I lifted what was left of my first sandwich. It was only halfway gone and I was already feeling full. It wasn’t because I was a small eater either—he made his sandwiches like he was entertaining a team of linebackers. “I’m good, thanks.”
He lifted a package of Nutter Butters, one hanging from his mouth, a half dozen clutched in his other hand.
“I just promised I wouldn’t steal your Nutter Butters.”
“But I’m offering you one. There’s a difference.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. Looks like you need them.” I eyed the stack in his hand as he stuffed the package back on the top shelf.
“I play ball two to four hours a day. I go to school four to six hours. Homework on top of that, and a part-time job in between. I have to take advantage when I have a minute to stuff my face.” He padded back to the table and set one cookie from the pile in his hand on my plate. “For dessert.”
I thanked him, even though I wasn’t a fan of Nutter Butters. I was more a chocolate person than a peanut butter one.
“You want a hand bringing up the rest of your stuff? I’ve got some time before I should hit the books. I have a biology test tomorrow morning.” His nose crinkled as he stuffed another cookie in his mouth.
For his apparent love affair with cookies, he sure didn’t have the body of a cookie enthusiast. Thanks to his light-colored tee, which hugged particularly nice parts of the male anatomy, he looked like the type who ate egg whites and kale in his sleep.
“Oh, I don’t have anything else. Just my big suitcase and me.” I set my sandwich down after taking one more bite.
“So you don’t have any more stuff to move in?” When I shrugged, he frowned. “No more stuff as in a futon or mattress or . . .?”
My head shook as I moved toward my suitcase. I needed to throw on a sweatshirt before I gave myself frostbite. “They don’t let you check mattresses or futons on the airplane. But I brought a pillow and a sleeping bag.” Setting down the suitcase, I unzipped it and pulled out those very items.
“Hardwood floors.” His foot tapped the floor.
“I’ve slept in barns, train depots, and the backseat of a ’77 Malibu.” Shaking the sleeping bag open, I shot him a smile. Whatever had happened or was about to, I was chasing my dreams. Life was pretty damn good. “Buck up, buttercup.”

 


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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
 
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ Disgraced by Natasha Knight

 

 

 
 
Title: Disgraced

Author: Natasha Knight

 

Genre: Dark Romance
Release Date: May 26, 2017
 
 
 
 
Blurb
 
Disgrace: the condition of one fallen from grace.
She is my forbidden fruit. The one temptation I cannot resist.
The first night…
I rescued her from an attack in the seedy underground of New York City.
The second night…
She told me the first of many lies.
She thinks she can keep me out of her world, but she’s in over her head.
Watching her, being near her, it gives breath to something dark inside me.
Something primal and forbidden. Forbidden to me.
Because in six months, I’ll be an ordained priest.
And she complicates things.
She thinks she is my disgrace. Truth is, my fall had begun the moment I’d laid eyes on her.
 

 


 


 
Purchase Links
 
 
AMAZON: US / UK / CA / AU
 

 

 

 

 
Author Bio

 

USA Today Bestselling author Natasha Knight writes dark romance as well as spanking romance in a variety of genres including contemporary, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, science-fiction and fantasy. She is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in multiple categories forever searching in every story for that single most important element of love. All of her stories contain at least one kinky Alpha male, lots of dirty talk and a well deserved happily ever after.

 
 
 
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