Category Archives: Chapter preview

RELEASE BLITZ – Accidental Sugar Daddy by Kaci Rose

Title:
Author:
Genre:
Release Date: November 19, 2020
BLURB
AN ACCIDENTAL MEETING.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL OFFER.
AN UNDENIABLE ATTRACTION… 
Ellie wasn’t looking for a Sugar Daddy. The second she realized she had accidentally stumbled into a mixer of Sugar Babies looking for daddies, she started for the door. Then the sizzling hot guy at the bar caught her eye. What started as a simple dinner date turned into an offer too tempting to resist. Join him at work events and social gatherings for one month—no sex involved—and make enough money to ease the burdens she faced as a single mom. Surely she can resist her attraction to him for one month… 
As far as Owen was concerned, Ellie was a complete mystery. She agreed to his offer, yet hated for him to spend any money on her. It didn’t add up… until he discovered she was a mother. He wasn’t looking for an insta-family, yet the more time he spends with Ellie and her kids, the more he wants them in his life.
Can what started as a business arrangement shift into more? Or will their unconventional start ruin a chance for a beautiful forever? 
This is a VERY Steamy, Billionaire, Sugar Daddy Romance. No Cliffhangers.
As always there is a satisfying Happy Ever After.
If you love steamy romances with insta love, hot love scenes, and billionaires, then this one is for you.
This is steamier then any book I have written to date. You have been warned

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Ellie

We all have that one friend; you know the one you would call to help you bury the body at three am. Well, who do you call when it’s their body you plan to bury?
See she is the reason I’m in a mixer full of older men, and one of which just told me the real reason everyone is here, details said friend left out. But let’s start at the beginning.
“Ellie just go. It’s a night out and some free booze.” My best friend Mia says.
“I have the girls, they have homework and need dinner,” I say.
I’m a single mom to two amazing girls. Allie who is seven and Becca, who is five. Their dad, my ex-husband, was my high school sweetheart. Then one day he walked out when Becca was almost two. He disappeared for a year and then I received divorce papers.
Still, he gave me no reason and he saw the girls just once right before the divorce was final. He has every other weekend visitation, spring break, and two weeks in the summer but hasn’t used a day of it. Child support comes on time every month though, thank God for small favors.
Mia knows all this. She knows I’m working to cover all our bills and while we are paying everything on time, one mess up and we would be in trouble. I have three-hundred dollars in savings and survive on my job at the coffee shop bakery and child support.
I don’t go out, there is no money to do so. This is why Mia suggested the mixer so I could get out of the house. Apparently, this is where guys who aren’t looking for commitment are finding someone to have dates with and they pay for it all.
It sounds too good to be true or like there is a catch, but Mia swears there isn’t, and Mia is my person, so I trust her.
To be honest, I’m not sure how she convinced me to go, it’s all still a blur but I’m here. Mia is with the girls and I’m nursing a glass of wine standing off to the side taking it all in. There are guys sixty and older, there are some guys my age in their mid-twenties and everything between.
But the girls are what catch my eye. They are all the same. Super skinny, tan, perfectly done blond hair, manis and pedis. Most look younger than me and they are flirty, basically the version of a trophy wife.
The word gold digger crosses my mind.
They are the opposite of me.
I have a little weight to me, I’m a mom of two after all, that flat stomach disappeared seven years ago. I’m not pale white, but I’m not super tan either. I’m five feet five inches and while these girls are wearing dresses that leave little to the imagination, I’m in dressy dark jeans, my favorite dress top, and heels.
The girls here all have the blond hair from a bottle while my hair is my natural chestnut brown. They have makeup on and perfect contouring,; I have mascara and lip gloss. I don’t fit in here.
I decide I’m going to finish my drink because it was free and then bail. This is not my thing and not one person has even tried to talk to me. I finish off my wine and set it down. I gather my purse, but before I can turn to leave, a husky deep voice fills the air.
“You look like you are about to leave,” he says.
I turn to see a man over six-foot-tall and he looks to be in his mid-thirties judging by the laugh lines. He has dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. He’s huge, like muscles for days huge. He has money,I can tell with his perfectly tailored suit and the Rolex on his wrist.
I smile, “That’s because I am. A friend suggested I come here tonight, but I don’t know, this isn’t my kind of dating,” I say looking around.
“Dating…” he says, “Did your friend say what kind of group this was?”
“Just that the guys would be older, and I needed to get out of the house.” I roll my eyes and he laughs. A husky laugh that has my stomach clenching and shivers running across my skin.
“Can I get you a drink? I would love to talk to you, and I think your friend left out some details,” he says and extends his arm toward a table off to the side.
I hesitate. At the very least he does have my interest and he isn’t bad looking. Okay, that is an understatement, this man is sexy as hell when he laughs and smiles.
Plus, I need to know if Mia’s death will be quick or slow.
He must see my hesitation. “Just one drink and let me explain. Then you can leave, I won’t stop you.”
I take a deep breath and nod. We then sit at a table off to the side and out of the way, but still have a full view of the room. I study him and see him looking at me too.
“I’m Owen,” he says.
“Ellie,” I nod.
He takes a sip of his drink and then leans toward me resting his arms on the table. He points across the room.
“All these men have money and lots of it. What they don’t want, is a relationship. The commitment, the feelings, the sticky stuff. Many want company, dates to events, someone to enjoy a meal out with, maybe a movie. Some just want a beautiful woman on their arm,” he says.
“Like a trophy wife.”
He laughs. “Yeah kind of, but without the marriage and with no strings. If there is a connection, they’re willing to pay the girls for their time.”
Well, that catches my attention and I sit up straight.
“Like a hooker? Sorry, that is not me.” I can’t help the disgust in my voice.
He touches my hand gently. And sparks shoot up my arm and my hand feels like it’s on fire. I wonder if he feels it too.
“No sex is involved unless both parties agree. If a relationship is agreed upon these girls get paid for each date the guy takes them on, they get a monthly spending allowance, gifts, vacations it all varies from person to person.”
“So, like a Sugar Daddy?”
“Pretty much,” he grins.
I look at him thinking that this is why he is here. I don’t get it. He is attractive and damn sexy so why would he need to pay for a date? What do I have to lose?
“Well, why are you here?” I ask him.
“Ahhh,” he says with a sparkle in his eye. He looks away over the crowd and takes another sip of his drink.
“Relationships are messy, feelings, breakups. I run a very successful company and need dates to events, charity functions, and also, I like to go out, try new places to eat, see movies, and it kind of sucks doing that alone. I found many women were just after my money when I was looking for something real.” He takes another sip of his drink. “After being emotionally drained, having both my work performance and my company suffer just for someone who only wanted money, I figured why not call a spade a spade. I have people who have families who depend on the success of the company, on me and I take that very seriously. So, I figured I can get the dates and company I want while being open about my motives and giving the women what they want. It’s been a pretty good deal before.”
“So how many ‘relationships’ have you had like this?” I ask.
“Three that lasted more than a month and one that went over a year.”
“Why end it if it was going so well?”
“Everyone including her expected an engagement. While I have no problem with the arrangement, when or if I do get married, I plan for it to be for love, not to someone who is in it for what it can do for her. Call me old- fashioned, but marriage is a sacred thing for me.”
I nod and sip my drink in silence looking at the crowd with new eyes.
“You’re different than the other girls here,” he says.
I laugh, “Why because I don’t dye my hair and my tits are real?”
He laughs so hard it causes people nearby to actually stop and stare, which causes my face to warm slightly.
“I wasn’t thinking along those lines, but that’s a good point. You are very real and blunt, and I can tell you aren’t into all this.”
“Yeah well, I don’t have time to sugar coat things and if I had known what this was, I never would have shown up. As it is, my friend will need a SWAT team to protect her when I get home.”
“Would an arrangement like this be so bad for you?”
I pause and then point to an older gentleman at another table well past his seventies with a walker next to him.
“What like him? He’s looking for a sexy nurse for sponge baths. So not interested.”
He gives me a soft smile never taking his eyes off me. Then his face goes serious.
“Well, what if it was me asking?”
I look him over and shake my head and start to stand up.
“You don’t want me, but I bet the blond at the bar would be more than willing though.” I know I need to leave before he goes and tries to pick her up cause watching that would suck. I grab my purse to leave.
“Will you please just hear me out?” he asks. “What harm can come from hearing what I have to say?”
I look at him wondering if I really want to hear it. I guess if nothing else this can be a funny story on the next horrible date I go on. I don’t answer right away, so he continues.
“What if I sweeten the deal and buy you dinner? No strings attached. We talk and worst case you get a nice meal out of it and head home to slaughter your friend with my lawyers’ card in your hand for when she goes missing.” He raises his eyebrow and I laugh.
When was the last time I found someone who can keep up with me?
“Okay dinner, but I’m driving my own car.”
“Okay,” he says. “There is a bistro less than five minutes from here that just opened a few weeks ago I’ve been wanting to try.”
I nod, “I’ll follow you there.”
We end up at a little bistro that has modern touches and is done up in creams with lime green accents. I’m actually surprised I like the decor.
Owen gets us a seat in the back while I’m looking around. The place is pretty packed, so I’m surprised when we get right in.
He places his hand on my lower back and guides me to the table. Normally this would make me uncomfortable on a date, but for some reason, it has the opposite effect with Owen.
Owen pulls out my chair for me and is the picture of a perfect gentleman which is very refreshing.
We pick up our menus and he says, “Order anything you like, drinks, appetizers, desserts, and don’t hold back”
Well, okay then. I order a glass of wine. I look around at the people at tables near us and at their plates of food.
I try to match up what they are eating with what’s on the menu and my eyes go wide. Seventy-five dollars for three skimpy slices of steak on a small scoop of mashed photos and some fancy sauce. This place is out of its mind.
I sigh, and he hears it.
“What?”
“Nothing.” I keep looking at the menu.
“No come on, don’t hold your opinions back now.”
I lean in so I can lower my voice. “You really think a place like this is worth your money?”
“I haven’t eaten here yet, but everyone is saying good things and the chef is from Washington D.C. and has cooked for the president.”
“Yeah, I bet he didn’t rip him off,” I say
“What do you mean?” He asks.
I point to the plate of the woman next to us.
“Seventy-five dollars for three slices of steak? You can get a twenty-ounce steak cooked perfectly and melts in your mouth for less than that elsewhere.”
He shakes his head and smiles, “Let’s give it a fair shake, yeah? Don’t look at prices, let’s try the food and see if it measures up.”
“Okay,” I hesitantly agree.
We order an appetizer of crab cakes that aren’t actually too bad, but I have had better ones.
“So, let’s not beat around the bush,” I say. “Get to talking.”
“Upfront, are we?” he says.
“Yes, remember I speak my mind.”
There is a twinkle in his eye at that.
“I like you because you are different, you hold your own in a conversation, you can make me laugh, and you have opinions. I guess I like that this isn’t your thing, and you aren’t being what you think I want, you are just you.”
“Yes, well I’m not a bullshitter, never have been. I tend to be too blunt sometimes and put my foot in my mouth more than I’d like to admit. But I’m real, what you see is what you get. I don’t like games. Games hurt too much,” I say.
He looks at me seriously. “Yes, I agree, I don’t do games either.” He pauses and his tone softens, “Look, I’d like to do a trial run with you. One month.”
I laugh, “You’ll run screaming after a week, trust me.”
He just smiles. “One month, either of us can walk away, no questions asked. If after a month we agree it works, then we do a contract.”
I look at him and study him as he talks. “What does this all entail?”
“Well, I’d like dinner once a week with you just like this, maybe a better restaurant,” he pauses and smiles. “As I said, I like trying new places. That means drinks, dinner, maybe a movie, or an event downtown. Several hours of your time. I pay you three-hundred dollars a date and cover all expenses on said date. Say every Friday night. You are free to say no to any others during the week, but Friday night would be a must.”
I stare at him, thinking. Three-hundred dollars more than pays for a babysitter if Mia or my mom aren’t available and that’s an extra $1200 a month. The money could build up my savings account and give me some breathing room.
He continues, “Over the next month I have three functions on my schedule. These are longer nights and require socializing, proper etiquette, dress, hair, makeup, etc. I pay five-hundred dollars a night for these. I cover your dress, hair, makeup, and anything else needed for the event. At the moment everything is in town, but I have had out-of-town events mostly for a weekend where I’d need you to come along. We’ll negotiate that beforehand. You will also be given a one-thousand-dollar line of credit for clothes and a two- monthly allowance to be on call for last minutes dates.”
When he said that I almost choked on my wine. Did I just hear him right?
“Two-thousand dollars a month allowance?” I ask.
“Yes, to pay your bills, buy things you need. It’s an incentive to drop plans when I ask for last minute dates.”
“And what do you expect on the physical end from this?”
He smirks. “When we are out, it will be just like tonight. I’ll open the doors, pull out your chair, guide you with my hand on your back, or place your arm in mine and even hold your hand.” He pauses, letting me take it in.
“At the big social events there might be some kisses on the cheek and dancing, but you are not required to kiss me or sleep with me and if you’re ever uncomfortable, you say so. But you do have to make it look like you enjoy my company, and we are on a real date and have a real relationship,” he says.
I take another sip of my drink and think. Twelve-hundred dollars for one date a week to get out of the house, no kids. Fifteen-hundred dollars for three events and a two-thousand-dollar allowance is four-thousand dollars in one month. That’s more than I make in a month with child support. Plus, there is an option to make more with other dates.
I could take fewer hours at work this month, spend some time with the kids, chaperone Allie’s field trip, and write my book. Then when this is all over, sell the clothes and make a little more to put in the bank.
“And at any time, I can be done if this doesn’t work. Even mid-date?” I ask.
“Yes, and you can keep the full allowance amount and any money and clothing allowance for the month. If the month works and you agree to a contract, then things are a bit stricter, but we can negotiate all that when the time comes.”
It doesn’t sound like a bad deal, almost too good to be true.
“I don’t even know your full name,” I say.
“Owen Garrett.”
I pull out my phone and type it in.
“Are you Googling me?” he asks and smiles, clearly amused.
“Umm yeah, I need to know my chances of this ending with me being butchered in your backyard.”
He grins again as our dinner shows up. He ordered scallops and I ordered the sliced steak.
“You aren’t on any of these trendy diets, are you?” I ask, eying his plate.
“No why?”
“Because I like burgers, fries, and steak, all things meat and carbs.”
“Good to know,” he says over his drink glass with a hint of amusement in his voice.
We talk a bit about the food, how small the portions are, and we even swap a bite off each other’s plate.
“So, chances of you being slaughtered and buried in my back yard?” he asks.



AUTHOR BIO

Kaci Rose runs on coffee, chocolate, and Oreos. She writes the type of romance books she wants to read. 
Kaci loves her book boyfriends with tattoos, muscles, beards, and a little dirty.
AUTHOR LINKS



RELEASE BLITZ – The Director (Chicago Bratva #1) by Renee Rose

Title: The Director
Series: Chicago Bratva #1
Author: Renee Rose
Genre: Dark Mafia Romance
Release Date: October 30, 2020
BLURB
NO ONE TAKES WHAT’S MINE.
The lovely attorney kept a secret from me. 
A baby she’s been carrying since Valentine’s night. The night we were thrown together by the roulette wheel. She never contacted me. Meant to keep me in the dark. 
She’s about to find out what happens when you cross a bratva boss. 
Punishment is in order. Sequestering until the birth. 
And I’ll use that time to win her surrender. 
Because I don’t just plan to keep the baby– 
I plan to make his mother my bride. 
And it would be much better for both of us if she were willing.


PURCHASE LINKS
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
*B&N coming soo


EXCERPT
“Don’t scream.” He barely speaks it. Just a low intonation from the shadowed figure in my armchair. 
My heart stutters and thuds painfully when I identify him, one elegant leg crossed over the other, lounging back like he owns the place. 
He unfolds his large form from the chair with grace. 
“Wh-what are you doing here?” I catch the back of the sofa with my fingertips to steady the swoop of the room. Damn blood volume. 
He doesn’t answer, just saunters toward me with a devilish smirk in place. Like he knows everything that’s about to happen and enjoys that I don’t. 
Damn Russian. 
“I came to get what’s mine.” He advances slowly. 
The floor stops tilting enough for me to take my hand away from the couch and jab it into the purse still slung over my shoulder to find my phone. I might be able to call 911— 
Ravil catches my wrist and takes the phone away, pocketing it. 
Or not. 
He divests me of the purse, which he drops on the floor by the satchel. 
If he looked angry, if his touch had hurt me, I’m sure I would have screamed. At least, that’s what I tell myself. 
In reality, I’m trapped in his azure gaze, memories of how he commanded my body so masterfully the last time we were together flooding back. 
I find indulgence in his eyes… not rage. Only a hint of danger. 
I put a hand protectively over my belly and take a step backward toward the hall. 
He catches my wrist again and pulls me back. Places my palm back on the sofa. “I liked you where you were, kotyonok.” 
Kotyonok. His pet name for me. 
Kitten
He picks up my other hand and puts it on the back of the sofa, and I have no doubt why he enjoyed this position. I’m perfectly presented for a spanking. He presses down on the backs of both hands, his body crowding mine from behind. “Don’t. Move,” he murmurs against my ear. 
I instantly rebel, pulling one hand up and away. 
“Hmmm.” He’s patient. He catches my hand and pins it down again. “No safe words for you this, time, kitten. But I’ll be gentle.” 
He bands one arm around my waist and splays his hand over my growing belly. “You shouldn’t have kept this from me.”


AUTHOR BIO
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE loves a dominant, dirty-talking alpha hero! She’s sold over a half million copies of steamy romance with varying levels of kink. Her books have been featured in USA Today’s Happily Ever After and Popsugar. Named Eroticon USA’s Next Top Erotic Author in 2013, she has also won Spunky and Sassy’s Favorite Sci-Fi and Anthology author, and The Romance Reviews Best Historical Romance. She’s hit the USA Today list seven times with various anthologies.
Sign up to receive a FREE ebook: https://subscribepage.com/alphastemp
AUTHOR LINKS


TEASER REVEAL – A RECKLESS NOTE (The Brilliance Trilogy #1) by Lisa Renee Jones

 

A RECKLESS NOTE

The Brilliance Trilogy #1

by Lisa Renee Jones

Release Date: June 23rd

 

Add to Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48570822-a-reckless-note

Read the First Four Chapters Here:
https://www.lisareneejones.com/a-reckless-note-first-four-chapters.html

 

PREORDER TODAY!!
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3e1kVNJ
Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/RecklessNote
Apple: https://apple.co/34pvt4o
Nook: http://bit.ly/34pLTtA
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2pAlvOO

Blurb:
I’m drawn to his passion, his talent, a darkness in him that somehow becomes my light, my life. I know he has secrets. I don’t care. Because you see, I have secrets, too.



Pre-Order Contest:
To celebrate the launch of Lisa Renee Jones’ brand-new Brilliance Trilogy, she’s hosting a massive PRE-ORDER CONTEST! There are 14 grand prizes to win, and EVERYONE receives two sexy cut scenes from Dirty Rich Betrayal: Love Me Forever!

GRAND PRIZES TO WIN:
$50 Gift Card to the Retailer of the Winner’s Choice
10 Purple Chris Merit Paintbrush Pens
A Set of Savage Mugs (red mug and green mug)
2 Special Edition Signed Hardbacks of A Reckless Note

ENTER HERE → https://www.lisareneejones.com/brilliance-trilogy-pre-order-contest.html


 About the Series:

A Reckless Note (book one) – June 23, 2020
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3e1kVNJ
Apple: https://apple.co/34pvt4o
Nook: http://bit.ly/34pLTtA
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2pAlvOO

A Wicked Song (book two) – August 18, 2020
Amazon: http://mybook.to/WickedSong
Apple: https://apple.co/2NAiB4E
Nook: http://bit.ly/2r2v5u1
Kobo: http://bit.ly/34nJEa4

A Sinful Encore (book three) – September 22, 2020
Amazon: http://mybook.to/SinfulEncore
Apple: https://apple.co/2JHJX7R
Nook: http://bit.ly/2JKITQB
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2PIwEaW


About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series.

In addition to the success of Lisa’s INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is also the author of the bestselling WHITE LIES and LILAH LOVE series.

Prior to publishing Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women’s Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.

Connect w/Lisa:
Newsletter http://lisareneejones.com/newsletter-sign-up/
Bookbub http://bookbub.com/authors/lisa-renee-jones
Amazon https://amzn.to/2MoWosB
Twitter https://twitter.com/LisaReneeJones
Instagram http://instagram.com/lisareneejones
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/LisaReneeJones


EXCERPT REVEAL – MY FAVORITE SOUVENIR by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

My Favorite Souvenir

A Contemporary Romance Novel

New York Times Bestselling Authors Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Release date: 4/27/2020

EXCERPT REVEAL:

“Good afternoon. You’ve reached the Four Seasons Resort, Vail, Colorado. How may I direct your call?”

I took a deep breath. “Hi. I checked out early this morning. My reservation was for ten days, but I only wound up staying two nights. Is there any chance you might still have my room available? Or any room, for that matter? My flight was canceled because of the storm.”

“Let me take a look. What’s your last name?”

“Appleton.” I shook my head. “Actually, the reservation was under Ellis. My fiancé’s last name.” Or ex-fiancé. But I’d let her call me Mrs. Ellis at this point if it meant I could have a place to sleep tonight.

“Give me one moment and I’ll check.”

“Thank you.”

I sat down in the lobby of the Best Western, the third hotel I’d been to in the last two hours. It was dumb of me to check out this morning. Though, at least I was consistent. After making the bad decision to go on my previously planned honeymoon alone, I’d brilliantly decided to check out only two days into the trip…without looking at the weather report for Vail. When I arrived at the airport, I had no idea that a blizzard was on the way. But the airline had assured me my flight was still scheduled as planned. And they’d kept their word right up until five minutes before we were supposed to board, when they announced a two-hour delay. Two hours turned into three, and three turned into five, and when we hit six hours of sitting on uncomfortable plastic seats outside the gate, they finally admitted it wasn’t going to happen. Every other flight had been canceled by then. And now, every hotel seemed to be full.

“Hi, Mrs. Ellis?”

I cringed at being called that, but answered anyway. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry. After you checked out, your room was rebooked. We’re actually sold out for the night because of the storm.”

I sighed. Of course you are. “Okay. Thank you.”

This was just my luck lately. I called four more hotels, until one said they might have a few rooms available. Apparently they had guests that hadn’t checked in yet and were in the process of making calls to confirm whether they would still be arriving today.

Rooms would be freed up on a first-come, first-served basis. So I decided to take a chance and head on over. It was already seven o’clock at night, and there was no point in sitting here anymore. Surprisingly, Uber was still running, even though the airport had called it quits hours ago.

Out front, the snow was coming down hard. A giant SUV with snow chains on the tires pulled up in front of the door. I couldn’t check the license plate or get a look at the make and model of the vehicle since it was covered in snow, so I walked over to the car and motioned for the driver to roll down the window.

“Are you Hazel?” the older woman behind the wheel asked.

I smiled. “Yes.”

“Heading over to the Snow Eagle Lodge?”

“Yes, please.”

Even though the next hotel was only two miles away, it took fifteen minutes to get there. By the time we pulled up, the conditions were almost white-out. It couldn’t be safe driving in this anymore.

“God, it’s really terrible out here,” I said as I pulled up the hood of my jacket. “Be careful driving tonight.”

“Oh, I will, honey. The next place I’m driving is home. I only picked you up because you were on my way. Good thing you’re at your hotel now. No one is going to be on the roads tonight anymore.”

Great. This place really better have a room for me.

As I climbed out of the SUV, a gust of snow smacked me in the face, despite the fact that we were parked under the building’s overhang. The wind made it look like someone had shaken a snow globe, hard. Inside the hotel, I wiped flakes from my eyelashes and glanced around the lobby.

Oh no.

This didn’t look good. A line of at least thirty or forty people snaked five rows deep, waiting to get to the reception desk. I sighed and wheeled my luggage to behind the last person. More than half an hour later, I finally reached the front.

“Hi. I called earlier, and the person I spoke to said some rooms might become available, that you were going to contact guests who hadn’t showed and see if they were still coming?”

The woman nodded with a frown. “Yeah. I can put you on our waitlist. But we’re still making calls, and to be honest, it’s not looking too good.”

My shoulders slumped. “Okay. Well, I guess please add me to your wait list.”

The woman lifted a clipboard and set it down on the counter. She thumbed through a few pages and turned it to face me, pointing at the next available line, which was two from the bottom of the page. “Just add your name and cell phone number.”

I scribbled both and let the pages above the one I’d been writing on fan back into place. Noticing the sheet at the top looked just like the one I’d signed, five or six pages down, I glanced through all the papers. There had to be at least a hundred names and telephone numbers.

“Are these all on your waiting list?”

The hotel clerk nodded.

“How many people haven’t checked in?”

“I think about a dozen.”

Oh God. This really wasn’t good. But maybe people had just added their names and left, like in a packed restaurant. Maybe the bulk of people ahead of me on the list had found other hotels.

Turning around, whatever hope I’d talked myself into immediately deflated.

Every seat in the lobby area behind me was taken. Some were even sitting on the floor, leaning against their luggage. With very few options, I wandered over and found an empty space on a carpeted area of the floor, not too far from the concierge desk. Though I knew it was futile, I took out my iPad and continued to search for a hotel with availability. Even if I found one, getting there would be a miracle on its own at this point.

The nearby concierge desk had been empty while I scrolled and made calls, but now two women walked over. One I recognized as the manager, since I’d spent a half hour staring at the people behind the front desk while I’d waited in line. The other had on a nametag and held a clipboard. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation from where I sat.

“These seven we still haven’t reached,” the manager said. “All of the other rooms have been checked in, or we’ve reallocated them to people from the waiting list.”

The employee flipped through the pages and looked around the full hotel lobby.

“Jeez. And this storm is supposed to stick around for days.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a guy standing on the other side of the concierge desk. His back was to the ladies talking, but he craned his neck, and I thought he, too, might be eavesdropping. Figuring he was probably just as bored as me, I went back to my iPad search—until a few minutes later when I noticed him scribbling something with a pen on the inside of his hand.

What the hell is he doing?

He wrote for a few seconds and then seemed to go back to eavesdropping. The manager had walked away, leaving the employee to make her phone calls. She hung up from one call and dialed again.

“Hi. This is Catherine from the Snow Eagle Lodge. I’m trying to reach Milo or Madeline Hooker.”

The minute she said the names, the eavesdropper scribbled on his hand again.

Catherine continued leaving her message. “I just wanted to confirm whether you’d still be arriving this evening. Your reservation is guaranteed, so we’ll hold it as long as you need. However, if the storm has perhaps caused a change in your travel plans, we do have a long wait list of guests who could use the two rooms you have booked. My number here is 970-555-4000, if you could please return my call at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”

The same thing went on with the next two calls. Catherine left a message and the eavesdropper scribbled. Curious about what he was up to, I kept my eye on him. After the hotel clerk finished making her calls, she went back to the front desk. Eavesdropper picked up his backpack and casually strolled down a nearby hallway. I leaned to watch where he was going, and he eventually pulled up his hood and exited out a side door I hadn’t even noticed was there.

I thought it was odd, but I figured the show was over.

But a few minutes later, a guy with the same ski jacket walked through the front lobby door. He pulled his hood down, and I got a look at his face for the very first time.

Damn, he was handsome. Medium brown hair that was kind of shaggy and needed a cut, full lips, hazel eyes, and tanned skin. His warm skin tone really stood out against the pasty color of most people in Colorado this time of the year, including me. It was a shame I loathed men right now, because he was seriously gorgeous. He dusted some of the snow from the shoulders of his jacket and went to wait in line. It was much shorter now, with only two men in front of him, mostly because people weren’t braving the storm anymore. I had no idea what possessed me to do it, but I decided to get up and wait behind the guy. Maybe I was imagining things to keep myself entertained, but I had the distinct feeling he was up to something.

When it was his turn at the front desk, I moved as close as I could to listen without seeming like a stalker.

“Hi. I’m checking in,” the man said.

“Great. What’s your last name, sir?”

He cleared his throat. “Hooker. Milo Hooker.”

I squinted. The guy was totally full of shit. I knew it!

The unsuspecting hotel clerk punched a bunch of keys on her keyboard and smiled. “I have your reservation right here. Two rooms for two nights, breakfast included. Is that right?”

“Uhhh…” The guy nodded. “Yeah. I booked two rooms. But it turns out I’m only going to need the one.” He looked over his shoulder. “Looks like you won’t have a problem filling the other one, though.”

She smiled. “No, we definitely won’t. I’ll just need a credit card and a picture ID please, Mr. Hooker.”

I waited. This was the moment of truth. If he wasn’t actually Milo Hooker, he was going to have to make up some excuse.

The guy reached into his front pocket like he was going to pull out his wallet. For a second, I thought I might’ve been wrong, but then he pulled out a wad of cash.

“I lost my wallet on the slopes today. Luckily, I had some cash sent over through Western Union before the storm got too bad. Can I just pay cash?”

The young woman hesitated. “You don’t have any ID at all? I’m not supposed to check people in without photo identification.”

Fake Milo poured on the charm. He leaned forward and showed off a set of cavernous dimples. “We could take a selfie together?”

The woman giggled. She actually giggled. “Let me just check with my manager.”

She disappeared into the back and returned with the manager a few minutes later.

A crazy idea popped into my head. She said there were two rooms… I made a spur-of-the-moment decision and approached the counter.

“There you are, Milo.” I rested my hand on the guy’s shoulder. “My flight was canceled. I hope they still have our rooms.”

Fake Milo turned and looked at me with his brows furrowed.

He was going to blow it if I didn’t do something, so I turned my attention to the two hotel employees. “My brother and I booked rooms here for two nights, but I was trying to get out before the storm. Obviously I had no luck. I spent the entire day in the airport. Please tell me you still have my room? I’m dying for a hot bath.”

Milo looked at me, then the hotel employees, then back at me. I smiled and arched a brow. For a second, I almost felt bad for the guy. He looked so bewildered. Since he still seemed to be at a loss for words, I figured I should continue talking. “We went skiing early this morning and had our backpacks stolen. Between that and the storm coming, I figured it was a sign that I should get back home early. Apparently Mother Nature had other plans. We should have two rooms—Milo and Madeline Hooker. Someone actually just left me a message on my cell asking us to confirm. Her name was Catherine, I believe.”

The desk clerk nodded. “That was me. The storm has a lot of people stranded here unexpectedly without rooms, so we were checking in with guests that hadn’t arrived yet.”

The manager looked back and forth between Fake Milo and me. “We’ll have to take a hundred-dollar deposit for incidentals on each room since you don’t have a credit card.”

I smiled. “Of course.”

She nodded to her employee. “Check them in. It’s fine.”

The man next to me still had his mouth hanging open. So I dug into my purse, being careful not to show my wallet, which was supposed to have been stolen, and scooped out all of the cash.

“How much are the rooms?” I asked the clerk.

“Let’s see. With tax, they come to three-hundred-and-forty-two dollars each, for the two nights, and then we have to collect the hundred-dollar deposit.”

I didn’t think I had that much cash. I counted the money in my hand and slid it over in front of Fake Milo. “Can you spot me forty dollars? You know I’m good for it, bro.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure.”

After we paid and got the room keys, we walked side by side to the elevator bank in silence. It wasn’t until we were alone and the elevator doors slid shut that Milo turned to me. “What the hell just happened?”

I laughed. “We just got rooms, that’s what happened.”

He shook his head. “But who are you?”

“I noticed you standing near the concierge desk and eavesdropping while she called the guests who hadn’t arrived yet.” I reached forward and took the man’s hand, opening it to display blue ink. “You wrote down the names of the guests. I thought it was odd, so I followed you to the front desk to see what you were up to. When you made up that bogus story about losing your wallet so you could justify not having any ID, I knew you were full of shit.” I shrugged. “When the woman said there were two rooms on the reservation, I saw an opening and took it.”

“How did you know I’d go along with it?”

I smiled. “I didn’t. But that’s what made it so much fun!” I covered my chest with my hand. “My heart feels like it’s trying to ricochet out of my ribcage at this moment. It’s been a long time since I did anything risky like that.”

His eyes roamed my face. I got the feeling he still wasn’t sure what to make of me, even though I’d just explained what I’d done. He looked down at my lips, which were still curved in an excited smile.

“Why is that?”

My forehead wrinkled. “Why is what?”

“Why’s it been a long time since you’ve done anything risky? It looks to me like you enjoyed it.”

I blinked a few times, not having expected a question that would tug at my heartstrings, and my smile fell. “I don’t know. I guess I kind of turned into a different person over the last few years.”

Fake Milo’s eyes locked with mine. We’d gone from pulling off a crazy stunt and laughing, to an odd seriousness. His eyes flickered to my lips and back once again.

“That’s a shame. You have a great smile.”

Warmth spread through me, and I couldn’t seem to unlock my eyes from the stranger’s—at least until the elevator dinged and the doors opened on the third floor.

“This is us,” he said. “Rooms 320 and 321.”

“Oh. Right. Okay.” I stepped out and followed the signs to our rooms. Since we were, of course, family, they’d put us right next to each other. We stood a few feet apart as we opened our respective doors. As my lock unlatched and I turned the handle to go inside, something dawned on me.

“I almost forgot! I owe you forty dollars for the room.”

He smiled. “Don’t worry about it.”

“No, don’t be silly. I just didn’t have enough cash and didn’t want to hand the woman a credit card when we weren’t supposed to have ID. I’ll just throw my bag in the room and go downstairs to find an ATM. They must have one somewhere.”

“I thought you couldn’t wait to take a hot bath, or was that part of the act?”

I laughed. “No, it actually wasn’t. I wasn’t lying when I said I spent the entire day at the airport. A hot bath sounds pretty amazing right about now. But I can grab your cash first. It won’t take me long.”

Fake Milo scratched at the stubble on his chin. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to take a quick shower and then go downstairs to the bar for a drink. Take your bath. You can find me there afterward to give me the money.”

“Okay.”

We looked at each other for a moment.

“Alright, well, enjoy your soak, sis.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Milo. I’ll see you later.”


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BLURB

My planned trip for two unexpectedly turned into a trip for one. Rather than let my breakup get me down, I packed my bags and decided a week at a luxury resort was just what I needed.

But one calamity after the next, and suddenly I was stuck without a hotel room, along with a few hundred other people.

It looked like my fancy vacation was about to turn into me sleeping on the hotel lobby floor.

Until I overheard a gorgeous man pretending to be someone he wasn’t in order to steal a reservation from a guest who hadn’t shown up yet.

When I realized there were two rooms, instead of calling him out, I pretended to be his sister. That’s how the story of “Milo and Maddie Hooker” began.

We were the Hookers.

My depressing trip quickly made a U-turn into an adventure.

My fake brother spent the next few days showing me around his hometown.

When it was time to leave, neither of us really wanted to go yet.

So, instead of flying back to our respective homes, we ventured on a road trip.

At every stop, we’d pick up souvenirs.

But as hot as our chemistry was, we never crossed the line.

Milo knew I’d just come out of a tough relationship and didn’t want to mess with a vulnerable woman.

So instead, at the end of our trip, we made a pact to meet again in three months.

It was always my intention to meet him.

But when I got back home, reality hit in a big way.

And I worried I may have lost my handsome stranger forever.

Was there a place for him in my future?

Or had the memory of him just become my favorite souvenir?


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

PENELOPE WARD:

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.

With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.

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VI KEELAND:

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

VI’S SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Facebook Fan Group:

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Facebook:

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Website:

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Twitter:

@vikeeland

Instagram:

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http://instagram.com/Vi_Keeland/



RELEASE BLITZ – MAKING YOU MINE by Melissa Foster

🔥🔥 HOT NEW RELEASE 🔥🔥

Making You Mine by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster is LIVE! One-click today!!

BOOK BLURB

Knox Bentley never liked the pomp and circumstance that came with being wealthy. He’d distanced himself from his pretentious family and their fortune as a young adult and found his own path to success. But even with the world at his fingertips, he realizes something is missing, and after a long stay overseas, he finally knows exactly what it is.

His no-strings-attached hookups with Aubrey Stewart, an exquisite and stubbornly independent blonde, are no longer enough for him. They connect on every level, but Aubrey is a fierce businesswoman with a new movie channel on the horizon and no time for much else. She is the deal he can’t close, the precious jewel even his billions can’t buy. Now that he’s back in the States, he’s determined to show her that what they have goes beyond the bedroom and finally make her his.

You may have met LWW Enterprises billionaire Aubrey Stewart in ANYTHING FOR LOVE, and her friends-with-benefits lover (Graham Braden’s business partner), Knox Bentley, in TRAILS OF LOVE. If not, don’t worry! Like all of my books, their story may be enjoyed as a standalone! Buckle up and enjoy the wildly romantic, fantastically fun, ride!


Add to your Goodreads TBR:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45306340-making-you-mine

Read First Chapter:

https://melissafoster.com/making-you-mine-sneak-peek/
 
BUY LINKS
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SERIES BUY LINKS:

Series Buy Links:
EMBRACING HER HEART (Book 1)
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NOOK: http://smarturl.it/EHH_Nook
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Also in Audiobook
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Apple: http://smarturl.it/EHH_iBooks
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ANYTHING FOR LOVE (Book 2)
KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/AFL_Kindle
iBOOKS: http://apple.co/2wkOgQ2
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NOOK: http://smarturl.it/AFL_Nook
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Also in Audiobook
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Apple: http://smarturl.it/AFL_aib
Audible: http://smarturl.it/AFL_aud
 
TRAILS OF LOVE (Book 3)
KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/TOL_Ki
APPLE: https://apple.co/2FU6RoA
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NOOK: http://smarturl.it/tol_n
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Also in Audiobook
Amazon: http://smarturl.it/TOLa_Amazon
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WILD, CRAZY HEARTS (Book 4)
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Also in Audio Book
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Apple: https://smarturl.it/WCHa_Apple
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Pre-order today!
 
SEARCHING FOR LOVE
KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/SFL_Kindle
APPLE BOOKS: http://smarturl.it/SFL_Apple
NOOK: http://smarturl.it/SFL_Nook
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PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/SFL_Pb
 


TEASERS



 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and new adult romance with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance lovers who enjoy reading about wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines.
 
AUTHOR LINKS
Website: http://www.melissafoster.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Melissa_Foster
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3023973.Melissa_Foster
Newsletter: http://melissafoster.com/newsletter/
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/melissa-foster
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissafoster_author/


EXCERPT REVEAL – The Marriage Pact by Winter Renshaw

I was sixteen when I vowed I would never marry him.We shook on it. Pinky swore. Even put it in writing and all but signed our names in blood.

It was the one and only thing we ever agreed on.

To the world, he’s Prince Ian, Duke of Montcroix, second in line to the Chamont throne. Panty-melting accent. Royal charm. Hypnotic presence. Blindingly gorgeous. Laundry list of women all over the world who would give their first born for the chance to marry him. Most eligible bachelor in the free world …But to me, he’s nothing more than the son of my father’s best friend—the pesky blue-eyed boy who made it his mission to annoy the ever-loving hell out of me summer after summer as our families vacationed together, our parents oblivious to our mutual disdain as they joked about our “betrothal.”

He was also my first kiss.

And my first taste of heartbreak so cataclysmic it almost broke me.

I meant it with every fiber of my soul when I swore I’d never marry him.

But on the eve of my 24th birthday, His Royal Highness has the audacity to show up at my door after years of silence and make a demand will forever change the trajectory of our lives: “We have to break our pact.”


Chapter 1

Emelie

“Em? There’s a guy here to see you …” My best friend Gillian stands in the doorway of my bathroom as I hover over the sink, scrubbing tonight’s makeup from my face.

My feet ache from hours spent dancing in the most beautiful crystal-encrusted heels known to man, and my head has finally stopped spinning from the too-many-to-count top shelf cocktails. My body is in the process of thanking me for changing out of a skintight bandage dress and into jersey pajama pants and a cotton tank sans bra. I’m two point five seconds from crawling under the cool covers in my dark room and succumbing to a long, hard sleep.

After the year I’ve had, I needed tonight, but I have a feeling I’m going to be paying for it all day tomorrow.

“He probably has the wrong address.” I press a dry washcloth against my skin before moving for my moisturizer.

“Look, I admire your dedication to your skincare routine after a night on the town, but I’m serious. There’s a guy at your door and he asked for you.” Gillian bites her lip before continuing. “And, um, he’s insanely, ridiculously hot.”

I roll my eyes. Earlier tonight, a few of my friends were trying to hook me up with a dark-eyed stranger sitting at the end of the bar. It was every bit as awkward and embarrassing as it sounds, and he was clearly not having his best night. He just wanted to be alone in a room full of strangers. I get it. I’ve been there.

“Did Stacia tell him where I live?” I ask. “The guy from the bar?”

Gillian laughs through her nose. “No, no, no. The guy at your door is definitely not the guy from the bar.”

I shoot her a look. I don’t know what she’s trying to pull, but I feel like I’m being set up.

“Did Hadley make a fake Tinder account in my name again?” I ask, one hand cocked on my hip.

Just because it’s the eve of my twenty-fourth birthday and I’ve been going through a rough patch and a dry spell doesn’t mean I’m in the mood to hook up with some random guy hand-selected by the most well-meaning yet least discerning friend in my group.

Gillian’s hands lift to the air and she shrugs. “I don’t know who this guy is, but he looks official.”

“Official?”

“He’s wearing a nice suit and he’s got a security-looking guy with him.”

“I’m so confused.”

“You and me both.” Gillian yanks me by the crook of my elbow and leads me down the hall and toward the front door. “So why don’t you just see who he is and what he wants?”

“You realize how sketchy this sounds,” I say.

“I do. That’s why I’ll have my phone out in case we need to call 9-1-1 …”

“Reassuring.” I sweep my hair off my neck and pile it onto the top of my head, securing it with a hair tie from my wrist, and then I take a deep breath before opening the door.

And then I hold that breath, deep in my lungs, until they burn.

“Hello, Emelie.” A familiar sparkling blue gaze and signature half-smirk greets me. I’m tempted to slam the door in his face until I remind myself that he’d probably enjoy that too much.

“Julian,” I say, hand gripping the edge of the door so hard my palm throbs. “What are you doing here?”

A man dressed in all black stands a couple of steps behind him, hands folded at his waist as he scans the area then returns his attention to his charge.

“I realize it’s late,” he says, an air of uncharacteristic remorse in his panty-melting voice. There are a million things I despise about this obnoxiously gorgeous specimen of a man, but his accent has never been one of them. Too casual to be the Queen’s English. Too posh to be middle-American.

“Extremely,” I say.

“But I’m afraid my matter is rather urgent.”

I maintain my poise and poker face, keeping my vision trained on him despite the fact that the myriad of cocktails I enjoyed tonight are still working their way through my system.

“Would you mind if I came in and we chatted for a few moments?” he asks. His politeness is jarring, as is the pressed and tailored suit that covers his filled-in physique.

I run a quick calculation and determine that it’s been almost eight years since I saw him last.

That’s right.

It was the summer after I turned sixteen—a summer I’d do anything to forget.

I glance behind me and shoot Gillian a “help me out here” sort of look. She shoots me a quizzical look in return. She doesn’t get it. And she wouldn’t. I’ve never told her about him before.

“I have someone over,” I begin to say. “Now’s not really a good—”

“Hi, I’m Gillian.” The door swings open wider, and Gillian takes the spot beside me, drinking in the handsome vision before us with zero shame. “We met a second ago when I answered the door.”

She’s drunker than I thought …

“Em, you going to introduce me to your friend?” Gillian asks. “I find it odd that we’ve been best friends since our freshman year at Tulane and not once did you ever mention knowing … this gentleman.”

I study Julian’s stunning physique from head to toe, noting the way he’s filled out over the years. His jawline is sharper than before, his sandy brown hair perfectly coiffed, thick and windswept yet formal enough that he could waltz into a meeting at the United States embassy or grace a billboard in Times Square and no one would think twice.

“This is Julian,” I say. “An old family friend.”

“Right. From long ago. It’s been ages, hasn’t it, Em?” he asks. “Though sometimes it feels like it was yesterday.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t feel that way for me,” I say. “Anyway, thanks for stopping by. We’ll have to catch up another time.”

“Emelie …” Gillian whispers under her breath.

I realize I’m being rude, but was it not rude for him to show up unannounced at one o’clock in the morning after eight years of silence?

“Please, Emelie.” Julian’s rich accent fills my ears and makes my knees buckle ever so slightly. “A few moments of your time is all I’m asking for, then I’ll be on my way.”

I fold my arms across my chest as the cool night air wraps around me, sending a chill across my bare flesh, and I remember now that I’m standing in a white tank top, no bra, and sheer pajama pants—but it’s the strangest thing: his eyes haven’t once left mine.

He’s being a perfect gentleman: charming, non-abrasive, and well-mannered.

But of course he is.

He wants something.

Giving into my piqued curiosity, I let him in.

“You have two minutes,” I say as he and his man-in-black step across the threshold and into the small entryway of my townhome.

Gillian lingers for a second, fingers twitching at her sides, and then she mutters something before disappearing down the hall.

“Rafa, if you could excuse us for a moment?” Julian says to his bodyguard. At least, I assume it’s his bodyguard. The man wears an intimidating straight face, not to mention he makes Julian look slight, and Julian is far from slight.

“There’s a patio through there,” I point to my left and Rafa heads to the sliding doors off my living room.

I’m afraid I don’t have anywhere else for him to go. My townhouse is the definition of cozy and all the rooms sort of blur into one another—the entry blurs into the living room which blurs into a small dining area that becomes part of the kitchen. When I bought the place, the realtor called it “open concept.” It sounded nice at the time, but after living here for a couple of years, I realize I forked over my entire life savings for a down payment on a glorified two-bedroom, one-bath shoebox. That farmhouse sink though …

I’m pretty sure my entire home could fit into one of Julian’s palatial bathrooms.

And his bathrooms are palatial … given the fact that he lives in a literal palace.

Not that I’ve ever visited.

Our fathers were best friends who met as young boys at a private New England boarding school. After graduation, they kept in touch, and when they both married and started families, a tradition was born. Every summer, Julian and his parents would spend twelve weeks with us at our country home in Briar Cove, North Carolina. One big happy family …

Despite the fact that Julian’s father was a reigning king of a developed nation, he never acted like it around us. His one and only request was that we “treat him like anyone else.” He didn’t want to feel special. He wanted to feel like a regular guy with his regular wife and regular son enjoying a regular summer and spending time with their regular friends.

The last time I saw King Leo and Queen Marguerite was at my dad’s funeral last year. The king was beside himself. The queen could barely utter more than a few condolences to my mother.

I busied myself with my younger sisters and wallowed in my own grief, though it didn’t stop me from glancing around the funeral parlor every so often, half expecting to see Julian waltz in the door, but he never showed.

I was relieved.

I also hated him for it.

“Emelie.” Julian narrows his gaze at me, my name melting off his tongue with finesse. “Why don’t we have a seat?”

Rubbing my lips together, I glance at my humble living room with my used sofa and unfluffed pillows, the messy stack of glossy magazines, the half-burnt peony candle, and this morning’s coffee mug, and I resist the urge to begin straightening up.

It’s not that I care what Julian thinks, but I’d hate for anyone to get the impression that this is how I live, that my life is in shambles.

Today was a busy day, that’s all. And when you live alone, sometimes you have better things to do than make sure your gossip magazines are stacked neatly and stowed away properly …

“Still reading this rubbish, I see.” He swipes an Us Weekly from the top of the stack.

“Still sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, I see.” I take it from his supple, unworked hands and return it to the pile.

“Do they ever write about me here? In the States?” he asks. I don’t know why he’s playing coy. With an ego that size, I guarantee he knows exactly who writes about him and what they’re saying. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps an entire library of archived gossip articles in the Knightborne Palace library.

“Rarely,” I lie. Two can play this game.

There’s one magazine, Starwood, that writes about him incessantly. I’m pretty sure their editor-in-chief has a personal obsession with Julian. Last year I counted his chiseled likeness on no less than twenty-six covers, and I swear the story was the same recycled garbage about his on-again, off-again love, Princess Dayanara of Spain.

As much as I try to flip past those stories and convince myself that I couldn’t care less what he’s up to these days, I never can resist. It’s like reading about an old high school nemesis, someone who bullied you, hoping they finally got their comeuppance.

Only as far as I can tell, he’s yet to have his date with karma.

In fact, from what I’ve read, his life is pretty magical.

Trips to the Maldives, parties in Ibiza, private planes, a fleet of royal yachts at his leisure, women lined up everywhere he goes, throwing themselves at him.

Screaming.

Crying.

Professing their love.

If they only knew the real Prince Julian.

“Anyway, what is it you needed to talk to me about?” I ask, checking my watch and ignoring a text from Gillian that flashes across the screen. She’s probably pacing my room, wondering what the hell is going on. And in all fairness, I never told any of my friends that I knew royalty.

That my first kiss was a prince.

That I gave my virginity to the future King of Chamont (more like he stole it).

After my sixteenth summer, it seemed irrelevant, and Julian wasn’t anyone I wanted to bring up ever again.

“Do you remember that pact we made?” he asks. “The marriage pact?”

My stomach heaves and my blood runs cold.

Of all the things I expected him to bring up tonight, that was the last.

“If you’re talking about the pact we made where we promised never to marry each other, then yes. I remember it. Clearly. In fact, it’s the one thing from that summer that stands out most.”

I’ve never told a single soul about our promise. I never wanted to have to explain it. I never wanted to explain him. Without the facts and details to accompany such a pact, it wouldn’t make sense anyway.

I’ve had friends who’ve made marriage pacts of the mainstream variety—if we’re not married by thirty, we’ll marry each other, that sort of thing—but ours was … unique.

And also necessary.

Our fathers were absolutely convinced that we were going to end up together one day, and our mothers used to throw around the word “betrothed” like candy at a parade with smiles on their faces as they were intoxicated off pricey white wine (and oblivious to our mutual disdain for one another that started long before either of us had so much as reached junior high).

After Prince Julian so callously and carelessly shattered my naive little teenage heart into a thousand-billion pieces, I had to make it clear in front of both of our families that a marriage between the two of us would never happen.

It was funny how quickly the word “betrothed” left our mothers’ vocabularies after that.

“Good,” Julian says. “I’m glad you remember it … because we have to break it.”

I start to reply but choke on my words, barely coughing out a simple, “What?!”

He can’t be serious.

Julian smiles a devilish smile for all of two seconds before regaining his composure. He always did love getting reactions out of me.

“No,” I say. “Absolutely not. Please tell me you didn’t fly all the way to North Carolina to ask me to marry you.”

“What if I did?”

“Then I’d say you’re ….”

“What? I’m what?”

“Delusional?” I half-chuckle. “Insane? Arrogant? Mistaken? I would never marry you.”

My hands fly through the air as I speak. I’m pretty sure I’m the one looking insane right now, but I’m too worked up to care.

Julian rakes his hand along his sharp jaw, exhaling. The tiniest bit of five o’clock shadow darkens his sun-kissed skin. I imagine he’s been traveling all day and he’s exhausted, but that isn’t my problem.

I’m not the idiot who thought he could walk back into someone’s life and expect her to say yes to his sorry excuse for a marriage proposal.

“I realize I’m asking the world of you, Emelie,” he says, and I wish he’d stop saying my name. It’s distracting coming from those full lips and soaked in that rich accent with his smooth cadence. “But I wouldn’t come all this way and ask this of you if I weren’t in dire straits.”

“You’re twenty-six.” And the world’s most eligible bachelor … but I don’t tell him that because he can’t know that I’ve kept up on him all these years. “Why would you want to get married now? And to me? I don’t even like you, Julian. What makes you think I’d even consider marrying you?”

My words are harsh, but the audacity of his request has me all kinds of stirred up and confused. I swear I’m feeling emotions I never knew existed before, and it’s making my mind run a million miles per hour with contradicting thoughts.

I don’t know what it is about first loves, but even the briefest ones leave their marks and the tiniest, most microscopic part of you can’t un-love them, even if you can’t stand them.

“You have every reason to feel the way you do, but please. Hear me out,” he says.

I realize now that we’ve yet to take a seat. We’re standing opposite each other, nothing but my cluttered coffee table separating us. I fold my arms over my chest, wishing I’d have thrown a cardigan over myself when I had the chance because how is he ever going to take me seriously when I’m standing here braless and indecent and barking at him like a crazy person who’s been tossing back Belvederes all night?

“The monarchy is currently in jeopardy,” he says. “In my father’s age … his beliefs are … shifting, if you will. He’s growing a bit extreme in his ways. Wanting to change things. The Chamontians, as you know, are a very outspoken people. They’re not having it and quite frankly, neither am I. It’s getting to the point where the media is making a mockery out of him and our country is becoming late-night talk show fodder.”

“What does any of that have to do with you?” I ask. I vaguely recall reading a few articles here or there claiming King Lionel of Chamont is going senile in his old age, but beyond that I never gave them that much thought, writing them off like I do most gossip articles—as fictionalized entertainment.

“Our Parliament wants to do away with the monarchy completely,” he says. “They feel it’s a relic. A costly relic. And with my father acting out … they feel the monarchy is a liability as well.”

“Why don’t you talk to him? Have him step aside?”

“Believe me, Emelie, I’ve tried that. It only makes things worse. He flies into these rages …” his voice tempers into nothing. “We can’t even have him examined by the royal physician. He’s uncooperative and hostile toward everyone who comes into his path, my mother included.”

A vision of King Leo at my dad’s funeral last year comes to mind. Normally a stoic man with a round belly and a boisterous boom in his voice you can hear halfway across town, he was thinner, frailer, and quieter. Less hair. Lackluster blue eyes that had almost turned grey. I thought it was the loss of his best friend that was doing a number on him. Now I wonder if it was something more …

“Our Parliament has the power to overthrow the monarchy and they’re on the cusp of doing so, however, I’ve spoken with our prime minister, and she is willing to make an exception,” he says. “She’s willing to remove my father from power and replace him with a successor. However, the royal order, which spans back hundreds of years and dozens of generations, states that the successor must be married.”

I roll my eyes. I can’t help it. “If Parliament can overthrow your father, I’m sure they can change an outdated rule.”

“I agree with you wholeheartedly,” he says. “Unfortunately, I’ve had that conversation with our prime minister as well. Chamontian culture is steeped in tradition. This was a non-negotiable for them.”

“Don’t you have a cousin or something? An uncle?” I ask. I can’t count how many times he confessed to me when we were younger that he had no interest in being king or running a country. He thought his father’s job was boring and said he’d “sooner gouge my eyes out with a sterling silver caviar spoon.”

“My father was an only child,” he says. “I’m the only successor. I’m all they have.”

“Your mother can’t take over?”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“It should.”

“Right. It should. But it doesn’t. And she wouldn’t want to.” He exhales, nostrils flaring. “Anyway, getting back to business, you’re—”

“Wait.” I lift a flattened palm. “Let me make sure I understand this. You need a wife, and the first person you think to ask is me?”

“Yes, Emelie,” he says, jaw setting as he exhales through his perfect, straight nose. “I was just about to explain my rationale to you.”

I silence my commentary and give him my full attention, but only because I’m dying of curiosity.

“My country, as you might know, has a rather complicated relationship with yours.”

Fitting.

And also true.

“And I believe this could be a step in bridging that divide and changing … perspectives. Public and personal.” He pauses before locking eyes with me again. “To put it frankly, Emelie, Chamontians despise Americans, and from what I understand, the feeling is mutual.”

“I don’t think we should be generalizing, but I understand what you’re getting at,” I say. “That said, you’re wasting your time. I’m ninety-nine percent sure you could walk up to any random American girl on the street and propose to her and she’ll say yes. I mean, there’s this whole Meghan Markle phenomenon now and there are a lot of girls dreaming of having royal weddings of their own, so … lucky you.”

“I don’t want some random girl from the street, Emelie. I want you.”

His words suck the air from my lungs, but not for long. “Do you hear yourself right now? How crazy you sound? You’re not even making sense. I can’t stand you, Julian. I would never marry you. And that’s a promise I intend to keep.”

I check my watch again before heading to the patio slider to let Rafa back inside.

“Our conversation is over,” I say to them both before turning to Julian and escorting them to the door. “You came to ask a question. You got your answer. Good luck.”

They leave, quiet. Dumfounded, probably. And I lock the door behind them, refusing to let myself watch through the peephole.

The instant they’re gone, Gillian rushes down the hall, throwing questions at me faster than I can think to answer them, but I still have one of my own: why does he want me?

The man didn’t just shatter my heart that summer, he obliterated it. It took me years to piece it back together and even then, it was never fully right after that. Never quite whole.

I meant it with every fiber in my soul when I swore I would never marry him.

I meant it then.

And I mean it now.



Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j

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CHAPTER REVEAL – Broken Princess by Loki Renard

One day she will rule, but first she must be broken.Locked away in her tower, Princess Aya spent years hiding from the truth as her people suffered terribly under her uncle’s tyrannical reign. Now she will pay the shameful price for her silence…

Awakened by the cries of the oppressed, Kazriel will not rest until things are made right. But putting Aya on the throne is only the beginning. Before he allows her to rule, the princess must be stripped bare and mastered so thoroughly she will never forget how it feels to be powerless.

Naked, bound, and at his mercy, she will scream and beg as her helpless, quivering body is put on display and tormented with pain and pleasure, then claimed so publicly she may never stop blushing. She is not just going to be humbled, punished, and ravaged. She is going to be broken.

Publisher’s Note: Broken Princess includes spankings and sexual scenes. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.


Prologue

GUILTY

The word tolled from a thousand throats like a bell. It resonated through Aya’s tender frame, her silky soft skin turning to a myriad of bumps of fear as the energy of those voices passed over and through her.

She wrapped her arms around herself, trembling fingers clasping at the fine silk of her gown. Those who denounced her wore scraps of cloth and threadbare cloaks of wool, but their voices were clear, and they rang with truth.

GUILTY

The word was intoned with a collective gravity which chilled the princess to her core. They did not shriek the words. They barely shouted them. She would rather have faced a screaming mob than this civilian intensity which sunk into her bones and made her wish she could curl up on herself and simply disappear.

“I didn’t know!” She tried to argue, her soft voice carried away by the wind. “I couldn’t have known…”

GUILTY

Three times the pronouncement rang out from the mouths of the people. Her fate was sealed. The word shot into her heart and made it pound with abject fear. She could not be guilty. A princess could never be guilty, not ever. A princess was above the law.

The gaze of the peasants was shameful enough, but it was the least of her concerns. She felt a much more powerful stare on her. Celestial green eyes swept over her and it was as if she was entirely naked though she remained clothed. The people were common, but he was not. He was more than royal. He was the one creature in all the world who could be said to rule over a princess. More than a king.

She looked into the eyes of Kazriel and met a gaze which was not meant to be incarnate. He did not merely see the surface of her. He saw everything. Every thought. Every hope. Every desire. Her mind rebelled at finding itself prematurely laid bare. Perhaps after death she might have found herself judged, but there had never been any indication that a wayward princess like pretty Aya might find herself called to answer before the guardian of justice.

“I didn’t know…”

Her voice was as soft as her excuse was weak.

“You knew.”

His voice was deep, and not unkind. He spoke with the voice of the world, with the grinding of stones and the growing of trees. His voice was not merely sound, it was a resonance which touched every part of her and made her tremble with the guilt she had long denied and now could not.

“I had no choice…”

Again she tried to argue her way out of what was to come. She could not have known what the guardian had in store for her, but she sensed that it would be enough to make amends – and there were so very many amends to be made. She cowered in fear of the consequences as much as at the great beast of a god who stood before her, taller, broader, stronger, perfectly masculine in the carved planes of his body, human ideal made flesh.

He reached out. She flinched away. His touch would not bring comfort. She knew what she deserved. She knew what he would do to her. She knew that the fine garments protecting her from the eyes surrounding her would not remain intact much longer. She knew shame awaited, a shame she might never recover from.

But this was not her fault. She had only been trying to do what everyone else was trying to do: survive.

Perhaps she had been doing it differently from those who now stood in collective judgement of her, but that was an accident of birth. She had no more chosen to be a princess than any of the commoners around her had decided to be peasants. Why didn’t this creature who held her prisoner understand that?

She had begged for this chance to plead her case to the people, so certain that they would pardon her. But there was no pardon on their lips, and there was no mercy in their gazes. She would take the punishment. All of it. And they would be witness to it, from the scribes who would write this into the history books, to the common men who would tell the story to their sons so it may be told to all sons thereafter.

Princess Aya swallowed the lump in her throat and faced her destiny.

“Very well,” she murmured, a touch more rebellion than was wise entering her tone. “Do your worst.”

A soft chuckle escaped Kazriel. “My worst? Princess, you would not survive a fraction of my worst.”

She clamped her lips together and did not reply, but her look said everything. She had survived more than he could imagine, and she could take more than the guardian could inflict. It was a curse even he could not lift.

It was beginning.

Harsh ropes wrapped around her wrists and drew them high above her head, making her body stretch before the crowds. They would see through the sheer of her robe. They would make out the curve of her body, the lines of her most intimate places.

She heard the sound of hundreds of people looking at her, an intense, focused silence which made her every hair prickle at attention.

He stepped closer, his shadow falling over her. He was so tall, powerful beyond compare. She reacted to him on a visceral level. He called to more than her flesh. He called to her soul.

“Guilty,” he said, his hand running up the inside of her thighs, his fingers moments away from making contact with the virginal core of her.

“Do you repent, princess?”

Aya turned her eyes on him. She was so small in comparison. So weak. Her brown gaze was of earth, unlike his eyes which were iridescent with power. She could have said so many things in that moment. She could have apologized. She could have begged for forgiveness. She could have declared herself reformed. Instead, she took refuge in the haughtiness of her station and stared down the deity she had been worshipping since she was forced into the world by birth.

“I repent nothing.”



It’s just as well Loki Renard became an author because other career paths proved disastrous. She was once thrown out of someone’s house for trying to sell them citrus based cleaning product, and her brief brush with corporate life ended when she wrote profiles for her fellow employees likening them to various feral animals then attempted to negotiate the idea of not coming into the office and getting paid anyway. Perhaps if she’d had the dedication to slug herself in the face a la Fight Club, things might have turned out differently.



RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ From Breath and Ruin by Carrie Ann Ryan

FROM BREATH & RUIN by Carrie Ann Ryan is available now – get your hands on this stunning first book in a debut YA fantasy series now!

About FROM BREATH AND RUIN

Available March 19, 2019

In her YA debut, New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan dives into a world with magic and sacrifice with the Elements of Five.

Five hundred years ago, the Maison Realm was shattered, divided into warring kingdoms of elemental Wielders with fate and truth shadowed and uncertain. Now, factions of both the light and dark venture into the human realm in search of the prophesied Spirit Priestess who is said to Wield the Elements of Five and bring the two fractured kingdoms together.

Lyric has no idea that there’s a realm outside the human one she lives in. When fate and circumstances are pulled from her hands after an accident, and she finds out that nothing is at it seems.

There is a war surrounding her and when Lyric realizes that they are searching for her, she must rely on those she once trusted: a boy who isn’t who she thought, and a new realm of warriors who have come to protect her as she trains.

For the darkness is coming, and the Queen of Obscurité wants to ensure that the King of Lumière can’t get his hands on Lyric. And the only way to ensure that is if Lyric herself is no more…no matter the cost to prophecy.


Preorder your copy of FROM BREATH AND RUIN now!

✦Amazon https://amzn.to/2CQOMda
✦Apple Books https://apple.co/2PyXmjb
✦B&N http://bit.ly/2CQma3Q
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2ylrnN9
✦Google Play http://bit.ly/2EvwL5F
✦Amazon Paperback https://amzn.to/2q4vcBL


Audio (Read by Bailey Carr):

✦Audible https://adbl.co/2OjccxI
✦Amazon https://amzn.to/2A3fJrw
✦B&N http://bit.ly/2CQma3Q
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2QLISgr
✦Downpour http://bit.ly/2EuUq6q

Add FROM BREATH AND RUIN to your Goodreads shelves!


Read the first two chapters of FROM BREATH AND RUIN now!


About the ELEMENTS OF FIVE series

One thousand years ago, there was one realm of magic. The Maison Realm. It held five kingdoms with five kings or queens, who worked together to keep the Maison people safe and ensure the balance of magic. Over the last five hundred years following the Fall, the great war that began the fracture, many of the kingdoms’ inhabitants intermated, and the magics soon became tied to one another in pairs. Except for the Spirit Wielders. The two remaining kingdoms are now converging, and the veil between the two is fading. Only the human realm lies between the two, and no one there knows there is a war surrounding them.

Over time, certain children of the Fall began to leave their respective kingdoms to venture into the human realm in search of the prophesied Spirit Priestess who is said to wield the Elements of Five and bring the two fractured kingdoms together. For the realms are dying without their sister magics. And soon, there will be no more power left to rule the kingdoms, for there will be no more kingdoms left to rule.


 About the Author

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest



CHAPTER REVEAL – From Breath and Ruin by Carrie Ann Ryan

We’re less than a week away from the release of FROM BREATH AND RUIN by Carrie Ann, but you can read the first two chapters now!

 

About FROM BREATH AND RUIN

Available March 19, 2019

In her YA debut, New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan dives into a world with magic and sacrifice with the Elements of Five.

Five hundred years ago, the Maison Realm was shattered, divided into warring kingdoms of elemental Wielders with fate and truth shadowed and uncertain. Now, factions of both the light and dark venture into the human realm in search of the prophesied Spirit Priestess who is said to Wield the Elements of Five and bring the two fractured kingdoms together.

Lyric has no idea that there’s a realm outside the human one she lives in. When fate and circumstances are pulled from her hands after an accident, and she finds out that nothing is at it seems.

There is a war surrounding her and when Lyric realizes that they are searching for her, she must rely on those she once trusted: a boy who isn’t who she thought, and a new realm of warriors who have come to protect her as she trains.

For the darkness is coming, and the Queen of Obscurité wants to ensure that the King of Lumière can’t get his hands on Lyric. And the only way to ensure that is if Lyric herself is no more…no matter the cost to prophecy.


Preorder your copy of FROM BREATH AND RUIN now!

✦Amazon https://amzn.to/2CQOMda
✦Apple Books https://apple.co/2PyXmjb
✦B&N http://bit.ly/2CQma3Q
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2ylrnN9
✦Google Play http://bit.ly/2EvwL5F
✦Amazon Paperback https://amzn.to/2q4vcBL

Audio (Read by Bailey Carr):

✦Audible https://adbl.co/2OjccxI
✦Amazon https://amzn.to/2A3fJrw
✦B&N http://bit.ly/2CQma3Q
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2QLISgr
✦Downpour http://bit.ly/2EuUq6q
✦iTunes Coming Soon

Add FROM BREATH AND RUIN to your Goodreads shelves!

 



Read the first two chapters of FROM BREATH AND RUIN:

Chapter 1

The dreams didn’t come often, but when they did, it usually took me far too long to realize I could find my way out of them. At least, most of the time, I could make my way out. Other times, no matter how hard I tried to shake myself awake or tear at the seams of what the dream could be, I was forced to live within them, in the nightmares that felt far too real.

My heartbeat thudded in my ears as I tried to get my bearings once again. The dreams were never the same in what happened or even where I was when they occurred, but there was a thread that seemed familiar, as if it were calling to me in a way I could never understand.

Sometimes, I was on the fringe, watching the court of royals dance and hide their daggers of both wit and steel. Then they’d bow and turn to smoke, the ashes of their lies and hidden admissions blowing away like dust in the wind.

Other times, I was in the middle of the action, hurtling from side to side as towers fell, and water rushed by. Air blew through my hair, whipping it into my face, the earth below me trembling as fire rained down on all of us.

Tonight, however, the visions weren’t either of those. Yes, I was in the present, the dream happening to me rather than me being a witness to an absolution I would never understand.

But I stood in a clearing, winter on my back, summer facing me down with wicked heat. Spring danced along my right side with a cool warmth that didn’t make sense, while fall brushed my left, its warming coolness confusing me even further.

There were two shadows in front of me, their arms outstretched, each calling my name in whispers. I could only hear their breaths, not their voices, so I had no idea who they were or what they represented in this dream that I knew would linger long after I woke.

“Lyric,” they called in unison.

“Lyric.”

And though that was my name, it still didn’t sound as if they were truly calling to me. Instead, it was as if they called to the person they needed me to be. I wasn’t that person, though. Wasn’t what they needed, and I knew I may not ever be.

And while I still had the same body shape as I did when I was awake—my slightly larger-than-average curves filling out my dress, and my height just below average so the bottom of my hem slid along the mud—I wasn’t truly me in the dream.

My blond hair blew in the wind, catching the light and making it look white at times, gold at others. The shade was always changing depending on how much sun I took in during the season, but in this dream, it changed with the direction I turned.

It isn’t truly me, I told myself again. This wasn’t my dress, this wasn’t my life.

Those shadows couldn’t actually call to me because I wasn’t me.

“Lyric,” the shadows called again.

“Wake up,” the one nearest the spring side demanded.

“It’s time,” the one closest to fall whispered.

And though they were both whispers, they sounded like screams in my ear.

I jolted awake, my sweat-slick skin clammy as I tried to catch my breath. My tank was soaked, sticking to my body, and my shorts had ridden up as if I’d thrashed in my sleep. Considering my comforter was on the floor, and my sheet was currently a knot at the end of my bed, I would say that was probably exactly what had happened.

I swallowed hard, narrowing my eyes at the clock, trying to see what time it was. The sun was already up, even though it wasn’t quite seven in the morning, but it was summer in Denver, Colorado, and that meant blue skies, bright sun, and the occasional rain that came out of nowhere.

I had my white curtains drawn, but they didn’t really block out the light, so I’d learned to sleep through the rays on my face long ago. I had to if I ever wanted to sleep in. And since I was also a teenager, sleeping in was part of life—especially during the summer.

I might be eighteen, out of high school and ready to start college in the fall, but I still felt like the teenager who wanted to sleep in and not have to wake up early for classes. It didn’t help that my walls were still a light lilac from when I’d been in my purple phase, and there was still lace on my curtains and the skirt of my bed.

My family made a decent income, but we were firmly in the middle of middle class, and these days, that meant there wasn’t money to update my bedroom to something a little less tween girl and a little more college-bound woman. I didn’t care too much, however. I wasn’t staying here long. Soon, I’d be in a dorm at the local university, an offshoot of the University of Colorado since there was no way I could afford Boulder’s campus. Plus, this way, I could still be close to home.

Because as much as I might think I was ready to start my new life and be an adult, the nightmares that had plagued me for as long as I could remember told me that I wasn’t as grown-up as I thought.

Honestly, what kind of teenager still needed a nightlight because she was scared of the shadows?

Me, apparently. Lyric Camaron, the walking embodiment of indecision and someone not quite ready for anything.

I ran a hand over my face, holding back a gag at how sweaty I was, and let out a sigh. The dreams hadn’t happened so often before, but now they came almost every other night, and I had no idea what they meant. I’d always had a vivid imagination, but my dreams took that to a whole new level.

I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and yet I still dreamed of princes and princesses, of magic and might. I dreamed of courts and pretty dresses, and flowers and rain. Still, I thought that was probably all just a front for what the dreams actually carried. A veil across the hate and lies and mystery of everything that came with them.

I’d always secretly wanted to write them down, to make them into a book or just a few stories, but for some reason, I’d held myself back. There was no use documenting what never made sense. The dreams scared me even when they shouldn’t, and writing them down would only make them more real.

And it wasn’t like writing would help me in my real life outside of the dreams. I needed to grow up, stop thinking about fairy tales that weren’t bright and shiny, and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because I wasn’t a little kid anymore and, sadly, the time to make those choices had already started to pass me by, and I was struggling to keep up.

“Shut up, Lyric,” I mumbled to myself. It was far too early, and I still wasn’t awake enough for my mind to be going down that path. I’d likely be getting a very similar lecture from my parents over breakfast—and perhaps lunch and dinner—as it was.

They loved me, and I loved them.

And that meant I needed to be a better daughter.

The first step to doing that was getting out of bed and washing off the sweat that coated my skin. Then, I’d wash my sheets, air out my comforter, and maybe even go for a run so I could get the cobwebs out of my mind. I wasn’t a coffee fan since I tended to need far too much sugar to even like it, so I couldn’t have a cup of that to help. So, that meant chores and fresh air so I could get out of my funk, let the dreams lie where they needed to be—far from my reality—and get on with my day.

I could do that. Totally. If only I could get the images from the dream out of my mind.

Those two shadows had been in more than one of my nightmares, and I couldn’t help but think that they meant something. Who or what did they represent? Why were they important? I didn’t know if they were male or female or if they were truly people at all. If they were supposed to be love interests, then having them be either a man or a woman would only mean that my dream-self represented my real-self since I was attracted to both and had dated both in real life. But I still didn’t know what the dreams or the shadows in them really meant.

In a few, the apparitions had moved, and I could almost imagine them wanting to be even closer. They always held out their hands, as if I had to make a decision between them, to go to one or the other.

The seasons coming at me all at once seemed like another symbol for choice and change, as well. The same with the instances where I was covered in earth or water, air or flame. All of it indicated choice.

So maybe the dreams didn’t mean anything beyond what I already knew.

It was time for me to make a choice.

A choice regarding who I could be—who Lyric Camaron would be as an adult.

That choice seemed the hardest of all, and yet I knew it was important. All teenagers went through this, they all had to make decisions, no matter what course outside forces wanted them to take.

I knew there was a path laid out before me, one that would lead to a life not unlike the one I held now, one made of decisions that made practical sense. That was the one I knew I should take, the one that would be easier and yet far more thought-out.

And yet part of me wanted something different. I wanted to be a Lyric who wasn’t so middle-of-the-road as I currently was as a bisexual teenager living in Denver, Colorado.

There were choices I had to make. Clear-cut ones that had nothing to do with royals and elements, nothing to do with seasons and change.

I would make the right choice.

I had to.

And I would ignore the dreams and the idea that there could be something more for me. There hadn’t been before, and I wasn’t going to lie in wait for answers that scared me, translations of dreams that challenged me.

I would make my own way, make my own choices.

And they would be the right ones because they would be mine.

The dreams would go away eventually.

They would fade just like the young girl I used to be. In its place would be the future I needed, the one I craved.

I told myself I wouldn’t dream again. I couldn’t.

Because I didn’t want to know what those shadows meant. I didn’t want to know why they knew my name.

I didn’t want to know why it all felt so real. And, above all else, I didn’t want to know why I saw those same shadows when I was awake. Because those were the ones that scared me. The ones that were far too real.

I was Lyric, the girl with everything to look forward to. I wasn’t the girl who saw shadows, who had dreams.

I couldn’t be.

 

Chapter 2

After I’d put my sheets into the washer, I set the load, took a quick shower to rinse off, and headed out for my jog. I’d decided to go with long, black leggings, a hot pink sports bra under two black tanks, and a black jacket that had air holes all through it and thumb holes in the sleeves. It was my favorite jacket of all time, and I was seriously disappointed when I went to buy another one and found out that they were no longer making them. There were already frayed edges on the cuffs and, sometimes, the metal on my purse got caught in the mesh of the body, making me wince.

The fact that I had such an emotional attachment to my running gear told me I needed to get out of the house more—and not just for jogging around the neighborhood. I huffed a breath as I slowly ran up the steep hill at one of the entrances to the sub-division, cursing the fact that I lived in a mountainous city. Sure, once you got outside city lines to the east, it was all flat planes and easy walking, but within the city limits and west toward the Rockies? Hills galore that did nothing but make my side ache as I ran.

I’d always been a runner, but never in an organized way when it came to school. I hadn’t played sports or joined the cross-country team. While I played soccer and T-ball as a kid, I hadn’t been particularly good at it, not enough to focus so much of my time on it. I’d even tried gymnastics and ballet as a little girl like most kids did, but it wasn’t my thing. And while I enjoyed running—still do—doing it to compete took the fun out of it for me. I was always a little jealous of people who could put in that effort and still have fun, but for me, sports wasn’t where it was at. I did well in school, knowing I’d need any academic scholarship I could get so I could go to college, but I’d had to work at anything not English-related. Writing I could do. Writing, I loved to do.

Differentials? Not so much.

I held back a shiver at that thought and pushed myself into my second mile. I wasn’t going to do any more than that today since I wanted breakfast, and I figured that most of the strain from my dreams was now gone. But I thought I might go out again later in the day after the hottest part of the afternoon for another run. Increments worked best for me and my attention span.

I thought I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye, but as I whipped my head to look at it, nearly tripping over my own feet as I did, I figured it was just my hair and a trick of the light. I wasn’t seeing shadows outside of dreams. I wasn’t.

I just needed to get those weird thoughts and remnants out of my head and start my day off better.

My parents hadn’t been awake when I left for my jog, but thanks to the note I placed by the coffee machine, they’d know I was out of the house. I might be an adult, but I was still their child and living under their roof. There were rules to be followed, a curfew to be kept, and manners to be upheld. I didn’t know how I was going to handle living outside of their rules when I went to the dorms, but I also didn’t think I’d be the type to go crazy like so many of the stories I’d heard growing up. I didn’t want to flunk out of college when I hadn’t even chosen my major yet. And I sure as heck didn’t want to end up drinking the whole time and wind up with a minor in possession misdemeanor or something that would forever stain my record.

No, thank you, evil temptation and all.

By the time I got home, my parents were off to work, but I knew I’d see them for dinner. My best friend Braelynn, and my ex-girlfriend/friend Emory were coming over to eat with us, and I knew my parents were excited to see what the other two ladies planned for college. In Mom’s and Dad’s way of thinking, if I knew what others were doing, it would push me to make a decision. The problem was, the more they pressured me, the more I wanted to hide in my shell like a turtle and not make a choice at all.

The dream came back to me, and I tried not to frown as I poured myself some juice and put two slices of bread into the toaster. Just because I was once again having weird dreams that I tried to make sense of, didn’t mean they actually meant anything.

I had more to do today than think about nightmares that didn’t mean anything more than I needed to watch what I ate before bed. Sure, it was summer, and I was between jobs since the coffee shop I had been working at shut down unexpectedly, but I had other things in my life. Like that whole deciding what I wanted to do with my life thing.

But first, I would focus on my friends and the certain impending doom from the conversation that would surely happen over mashed potatoes and roasted chicken tonight.

 

Oddly enough, I wasn’t lulled into a sense of security once my parents came home and didn’t once mention school or my future. I knew the talk was coming, but they were giving me time to drop my defenses so they could pounce.

I didn’t know why I kept floundering whenever it came to making a decision about majors and life choices, but the enormity of it just seemed overwhelming. I was eighteen, an adult who could fight and die in wars, but I couldn’t drink. I could buy cigarettes and vote, but I was still technically a teenager.

Having to make a huge life choice when all I really wanted to do was explore and learn and find out what suited me felt so far out of my depth, it wasn’t funny. I knew thousands upon thousands of people did it every year, and many of them even went in not knowing exactly what they wanted to do—but they still had an idea.

Me? I knew what I loved, but I also knew that love wouldn’t pay the bills. At least that’s what I’d been told. And, frankly, I sort of believed it.

My mind had always been full of dreams and layers upon layers of vivid imagery my imagination would tumble over and over. I loved putting those visions into work, at least in my mind. Picking a major that worked with that, wasn’t something my parents were going to go for. The idea of doing it all on my own, or choosing a major and finding out that I wasn’t really good at it or didn’t like it anymore was just too much.

It was all too much.

I saw another shadow out of the corner of my eye, and I turned, trying to catch it, only to see my father staring at me instead. His eyes were wide since I’d moved so fast, clearly startled.

“Whoa there, Lyric. Didn’t mean to scare you.” I looked like a perfect mix of my parents, something that I’d never truly noticed until I got older. I had my mom’s blond hair and height, but my dad’s light brown eyes. Everything else was a complete mix of the two, and I’d always loved that I knew where I came from, despite not knowing where I was going.

Dad continued. “I was just wondering when Braelynn and Emory would be here.” Dad didn’t particularly like Emory. Not because she was gay, and I was bisexual—that part he was totally on board with, and I knew I had the best parents for that part of my life—no, he didn’t like her because she was my ex. He didn’t get how we could still be friends after she’d dumped me. Frankly, I didn’t understand it either. Sometimes, I felt like our friendship was fraying on the edges, but I didn’t think that had to do with our breakup. We were just finding out we were two different people, and everyone was moving on to college anyway. It sucked, and I didn’t know how I felt about it. I never did, really, when it came to Emory.

That explanation hadn’t been good enough for Dad. I still didn’t know how my mother felt about it since she was so good at hiding it, but she at least put on a better face.

“They’ll be here soon.” The doorbell rang, and I grinned. “And there they are.”

Dad nodded and moved out of the way so I could make it to the door before Mom did. My parents were great, but they were parents and liked to know exactly what my friends were doing at all times, even if it wasn’t their business. I was pretty sure all parents were wired that way, and I’d learned to deal with it.

Braelynn smiled widely at me, her shoulder-length black hair up in a ponytail so I could see the honey highlights she’d put in on the lower layers. Her moms hated it, and Emory called her a skunk, but I loved them.

“Yay for dinner. I brought rolls.” Braelynn held up a basket, and I moved back to let her in, knowing that Emory was right behind my friend.

“Yay rolls! I know Mom will be happy since you and your moms make like the best bread ever.”

“Totally true. I do have the best moms.” Braelynn winked and handed over the basket as Emory sauntered in. Why she had to saunter, I didn’t know, but whatever worked for her.

“I’m starving,” Emory said in way of greeting before leaning down to buss a kiss on my cheek. She’d done that before we began dating and hadn’t stopped. Since I didn’t care either way, I didn’t push her off. Once I started to care and put up those boundaries, she’d stop. That was who she was.

“I’m hungry, too,” I said. “Hi, Emory.”

Emory studied my face and frowned. “You didn’t sleep.”

I tried to school my features, but I knew I wasn’t good at it. “I’m fine. Let’s go finish setting the table.”

“Hmm.” That was all she said as she made her way into the dining room, saying hello to my parents as if she hadn’t broken part of my heart and left me wondering what I’d done.

And…I had no idea where that thought had come from. Maybe I really needed more sleep and fewer dreams about random shadows, seasons, and elements messing with my head.

By the time we were all seated at the table, Braelynn’s rolls like manna to us all, I was on edge since Emory kept studying me. I didn’t know why, and it bugged me because I knew this dinner would only get worse when my parents brought up the dreaded subject of majors.

They always did, and I knew there was nothing I could do about it other than choose a freaking major. But I didn’t want to make the wrong choice.

I couldn’t make the wrong choice.

“So, Emory, what did you decide to study again?” Mom asked, not even trying to be subtle.

Here we go.

Emory shrugged. “Photography with a minor in history. I want to work for the AP or something, going around the world, taking photos of the people left behind in war and strife.”

My parents nodded as if they totally understood and not just because they were happy Emory had chosen a direction for her life. It didn’t matter that it was dangerous and could end up being a career that didn’t keep her financially set, Emory wasn’t their daughter.

“And, Braelynn?”

My best friend smiled sweetly. She was always so sweet, so gentle. I loved her to the end of the world and back and knew I’d chosen well on that first day of preschool when we shared our blocks.

“Vet school, eventually. I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s my passion.”

I winced at that word. Passion.

I didn’t have that, not that I could tell anyway. How was I supposed to know what to do when I still had so much to learn? I tried not to let any of those thoughts cross my face, however, because my parents turned to me, expectant looks on their faces.

They loved me. They truly did.

But they didn’t understand me.

And the thing was, I wasn’t so sure I understood myself.


About the ELEMENTS OF FIVE series

One thousand years ago, there was one realm of magic. The Maison Realm. It held five kingdoms with five kings or queens, who worked together to keep the Maison people safe and ensure the balance of magic. Over the last five hundred years following the Fall, the great war that began the fracture, many of the kingdoms’ inhabitants intermated, and the magics soon became tied to one another in pairs. Except for the Spirit Wielders. The two remaining kingdoms are now converging, and the veil between the two is fading. Only the human realm lies between the two, and no one there knows there is a war surrounding them.

Over time, certain children of the Fall began to leave their respective kingdoms to venture into the human realm in search of the prophesied Spirit Priestess who is said to wield the Elements of Five and bring the two fractured kingdoms together. For the realms are dying without their sister magics. And soon, there will be no more power left to rule the kingdoms, for there will be no more kingdoms left to rule.


About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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RELEASE BLITZ – Hard at Work (Nice and Dirty #3) by Lola StVil

Title: Hard at Work
Series: Nice and Dirty #3
Author: Lola StVil
Genre: Dark Alpha Romance
Release Date: February 25, 2019
Blurb:
When a clumsy waitress spilled a drink on me, I looked up to see who this woman was. Her name is Aria Stevens. She is gorgeous and her curves are so dangerous they should come with a warning. 
When her boss fires her for spilling the drink, I offer her a job at my firm. I find out that not only is she hot, she’s also smart and funny. I want her so damn bad; it hurts.
But she’s skittish and shies away from me. I thought she was staying away because I’m her Boss, but its more than that; she’s a virgin. 
Now that I know, I have plans for Aria and I will make sure that I claim not only her body but also her heart and soul. She says she’s single because men are hard to deal
with. But I’ll show her that a hard man is exactly what she needs. 
Purchase Links
Only 99c + free in Kindle Unlimited!!
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE
COLTON
What the fuck am I doing here? That’s the question that keeps on running through my head as I circulate around the governor’s ball. Yeah, the fucking governor’s ball.
It’s so not my scene, but it’s the sort of event that opens doors. You get seen at a place like this, and the money in the room knows your business is trustworthy.
I fit in because I force myself to, but my suit itches and irritates me. I’d be so much
more comfortable in jeans and a tool belt, but as the owner of Colton Blackwell
Industries, I find myself in a suit way more often than I’d like.
I smile politely and nod as a woman dripping in diamonds and wearing a little too much of over-expensive foreign scent tells me her issues with the current political
system for the fourth time. I’m trying to figure out how the fuck I can get away from her without being outright rude, when I see her. A vision. An actual fucking angel.
I can only see her from the back, but the way her black cocktail dress hugs her hips makes her ass captivate me. I feel my cock stiffening as I look her over. She’s tall,
but she’s not one of those girls who try to shrink themselves. She has her shoulders back, her head held high. She balances the tray of champagne on her hand with ease, moving through the crowd with a quiet grace. The electric-blue streak in her jet-black hair makes her look exotic, like she knows how to kick back and some fun.
I have no idea what the woman talking to me is saying. From the second my eyes set on that waitress, there’s been no room in my head for anything else. I see myself
walking up behind her, taking the tray from her, and throwing it to one side. I stand behind her, push her dress up, and rip away her panties. I bend her over the table and fuck her senseless.
“Mr. Blackwell? Are you all right?”
Hearing my name pulls me out of the fantasy and I turn back to the conversation. I fake a smile.
“Yes. Sorry, I felt a little dizzy for a moment there,” I say. “Would you excuse me? I think I need a bit of air.”
I walk away before she has a chance to reply, and I’m sure I offended her, but it would
surely offend her more if she happened to glance down and see I had a hard-on.
I slip into the bathroom and lock the door, leaning back against it, waiting it out until my cock goes down. I want to jerk off, to let my fantasies run wild as I picture the waitress. If the front of her is even half as pleasing on my eye as the back, then fuck me am I in trouble if I see her again.
I am shocked at the reaction she caused in me. I haven’t so much as glanced at a
woman in almost two years. There’s no deep reason for it, no skeleton in my closet. I just got sick of being part of the dating scene. It’s a mess of gold diggers, social climbers, and women with whom I just had nothing in common and no chemistry.
But her? She awoke a side of me I thought was gone for good. The side of me that wants to make her scream my name through her raw throat as she comes for the third
and fourth time. The side that makes me want to taste her pussy, claim it as mine and fuck her all day, every day.
Thinking this way is doing nothing to get my hard-on to go away, and I resign myself to
the fact that I’m going to have to jerk off in the governor’s bathroom. Not something I ever saw myself doing. But then, I didn’t know that such a rare beauty existed, that such fire could course through my body and make me lose complete control.
I take care of my business and clean my cock with some toilet paper. I flush it away and wash my hands. I walk back out into the room. I stand on the edges, scanning
the room, but I don’t see her. Instead I see an ocean of wealthy, glamorous, small-minded, fake people—the in crowd.
I can fake the smiles and feign interest in things I don’t give a rat’s ass about, but I’ll
never be one of them. Not really. I don’t want to be. I want Colton Blackwell Industries to flourish, and I like the fact I’m only twenty-nine and already a millionaire, but it hasn’t changed who I am. And who I am is not one of these people. I’m just a normal guy who turned his passion into a business. I was shocked when the governor called me and asked me to complete a large extension on one of his properties. I was even more surprised when he personally oversaw the job. And the last thing I expected was an invite to his ball. I mean, come on. Like, what the actual fuck?
It’s been a whole lot of surprises, and the most surprising part of it all is my reaction to the waitress. Part of me wants to stay right here until I see her again, but part of me wants to turn around, leave, and try to forget her. That won’t be easy, but I swore off women and I have no intention of that changing. Just because she looks so damn good in a dress doesn’t mean she’ll be different than the rest, and I have no intention of getting involved with her or anyone else.
I decide to give it another half an hour and then slip away. To leave too early would be
seen as a snub on the governor, and I’m not an idiot. I know that, as much as I hate this fake shit, to land big projects, you have to know the right people. I decide to go out on the balcony and get some fresh air like I said I was.
I start to cross the room, nodding hello at the few faces I recognize as I go. I am halfway across when my cell phone buzzes in my pocket. I fish it out and look down at the screen. Before I even register who it is, I feel someone collide with me.
A loud clatter fills the air, and I feel champagne soaking into my expensive suit. I stand there, frozen in time. Not because of the champagne, but because I find myself face to face with my girl.
Her face is a mask of horror, but she is still beautiful. She has big brown doe eyes that
stare back at me with the same intensity I am staring at her. Her lips are full, red and sensuous, and I can’t help imagining how they would feel wrapped around my cock. She looks every bit as good from the front as she did from the back. Her breasts aren’t big, but they are perky, and I want to caress them, to pull them into my mouth. I feel my cock starting to rise again.
I remind myself that I’m done with dating, but something tells me this waitress will break that resolve without trying. There’s something special about her.
Something that scares me. Because when I look at her, I don’t see a quick fuck and a goodbye. I see a lifetime.

CHAPTER TWO
ARIA
I hate being a waitress. There, I said it. The thing is, I need this job. The pay is reasonable and the tips make it good money. Good enough to pay for business school and cover my bills and not intense enough that I can’t get any studying done.
The most annoying thing about waitressing is that even though I hate it, I’m pretty good at it. I look good enough in a tight black dress, I can be unobtrusive, and I have decent skills when it comes to balancing overloaded drinks trays on my hands. It’s not my passion, though. My passion is business, but I want to learn the ropes before I dive in. I’m only twenty-one; I have plenty of time to do this the right way.
I walk around the room with my tray of drinks, smiling politely, subtly collecting up empty glasses, and generally wishing I was anywhere but here.
“Excuse me, miss,” someone behind me calls.
I turn my head and realize they are talking to one of the other waitresses. I turn back the way I’m walking, but it’s too late. I collide with a man. The tray flies from my hand, hundreds of dollars’ worth of glassware crashes to the ground, and the champagne from all those glasses soaks him.
I freeze, looking at the mess I made. And then my eyes meet his. His eyes are dark brown, almost black. They are stormy and dangerous and utterly addictive. I feel a
rush of wetness between my legs as his piercing gaze locks on to mine. Great. I’m practically coming in my panties and he’s going to yell at me. The more I look at him, the wetter and more flustered I get.
I wish I spotted him sooner, like before I’d doused him in expensive champagne. Not that it matters. Someone like him wouldn’t waste their time with a waitress. And besides, I have a boyfriend and I’m not the kind of girl who cheats. I’m generally not the kind of girl who gets wet looking at strangers, either.
I manage to pull my gaze from his long enough to take in the expensive suit I ruined and the taut muscles beneath it. I feel myself tingling as I take him in.
I realize that the crashing sound of the tray falling to the floor has caused everyone in
the room to fall silent. I feel heat start to flush my cheeks. I wait for him to make a scene. I am so fired. I don’t know what to do. Should I run for a towel? Clean up the glass? I should at least apologize.
“I … I’m so sorry,” I stammer.
My words break the spell, and the tantrum never comes. The man gives me a half shrug and smiles, a smile that lights up his eyes and sends another shiver running through me. He crouches down and begins to pick up the pieces of broken glass.
I see the governor rushing toward us. He nods subtly to another waiter, who takes the hint: get the mess cleaned up. The conversation in the room starts up again as the other guests realize they’re staring.
The governor reaches us. “Colton, I’m so sorry about this.”
He doesn’t give Colton a chance to respond before he turns to me.
“What’s your name?” he demands.
“Aria. Aria Stevens, sir,” I whisper.
“Well, Aria Stevens, it’s time for you pack your things and get out of here. And I’ll make
sure you never work in this town again. You’re a disgrace.”
I feel tears flood my eyes. I need this job.
“I …” I start.
I stop, knowing I won’t be able to say any more without crying. Colton glares at the governor and then turns to me. He smiles and holds out his hand.
“Hi. I’m Colton Blackwell,” he says. “And I’d love to have you…”


Also Available
Only 99c + free in Kindle Unlimited!!
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Only 99c + free in Kindle Unlimited!!
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Author Bio
Lola StVil is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who writes Fantasy in
addition to Contemporary romance. She has written over a dozen books and loves taking her readers on an emotional roller coaster ride. She is currently living in California and enjoys staying in touch with her readers.
Author Links


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