Category Archives: Chapter preview

SALES BLITZ ~ NUDES (Exposed #1) by Sarah Robinson

Sarah Robinson’s sexy NUDES is on sale!

Be sure to grab your copy by August 26th!

About NUDES:

Praised by #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Blakely, as “Passionate, emotional and uplifting!”, contemporary romance author Sarah Robinson brings readers a new standalone novel set in the glamorous hills of Hollywood and tackling challenging themes like the intersection of sexuality and female empowerment.

Ben Lawson is making a comeback…
After a few tabloid headlines, they think they know me. They don’t know a damn thing. As CEO of a movie production company, I’ll show them who I really am when we hit it big at the box office. My ex thought her smear tactics would ruin me, but I’m unbreakable. Rising from the debris, I swore I’d never let a woman distract me like that again. But then, my leading actress walked on the set and changed everything.

Seductive, sexy, and unapologetic, Aria Rose could break me. I wanted to help her, protect her…love her. Instead, I destroyed her.

Aria Rose is baring it all….
I knew better. I knew not to trust another Hollywood heartthrob with a reputation like his. He was my boss and became my ruin.
I should have stayed far away from him. Ben Lawson promised me the world. He even promised me his heart.

But he destroyed everything–my heart, my career, us.


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Exclusive Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Aria woke with a jolt, looking around the dark bedroom. As her senses slowly began to adjust, she looked for the source of whatever had disturbed her. Her cell phone vibrated against the surface of her nightstand, the screen lit so brightly it cast a square light onto the ceiling above.

Yawning, Aria grabbed for it. She glanced over at the man in bed next to her, her heart filling with warmth at the sight of his sleeping form.

Finally focusing on her phone, she realized she had dozens of missed texts, calls, and emails.

“What the hell?” she whispered to herself, sitting up.

Aria, are you awake? WAKE UP NOW.

Don’t look at the news. We need to talk. 911.

Is that you on E! News? Did you allow that?

OMG, ARIA! WHAT THE HELL?

What did you do?!?! This is career suicide!

Her heart began to race, panic swarming her every cell as she quickly clicked out on a website link her best friend sent her. A photo popped up, and then another, and another, and another, and Aria knew exactly what she was looking at.

Herself.

Nude.

Aria could barely breathe, trembling as she searched social media and entertainment news sites. The photos were everywhere. She was everywhere. Her breasts, her body, her love life on full display for the world to see.

It would have been bad enough if they’d just been images of her posing, but these were pornographic. These were her in her most intimate moments with a man she’d…

A sob stuck in her throat. Did he do this?

She looked at the man still sleeping beside her, fear gripping her heart.

This couldn’t be happening.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Two Months Earlier

“Wait until you meet our lead.” The heavyset producer’s eyes glinted with excitement as he spoke. He brought a sandwich up to his lips, taking a bite and continuing around a mouthful of food. “She’s only had small roles up until this film, but she’s up-and-coming. No doubt about it. Aria Rose is poised to take the world by storm come Oscar season.”

Ben didn’t reply, too distracted watching the producer trying to wipe a blob of mayonnaise off his tie. Arthur Atwood was a large man with a messy comb-over and an ill-fitting suit, which must have been a deliberate choice since Ben knew Arthur made a handsome salary.

Is he licking his tie?

His new right-hand man was actually licking mayonnaise off his tie. Not a good sign. Ben made a mental note never to ask Arthur to have a meeting over lunch at his desk again.

“Bugger, it’s in there good,” Arthur muttered in his thick English accent, dropping his tie and slapping his hands on his knees. “All right. Enough of that. Ready for a tour of the studio?”

“Very,” Ben replied, balling up the parchment paper his own sandwich had been wrapped in and tossing it into the wastebasket beneath his desk. He stood, rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck from side to side.

They’d spent the morning touring the corporate offices on the lot of Shepherd Film Studios where Ben would be officially starting in two weeks as the company’s new chief executive officer. He had agreed to come in on Friday to tour everything and meet the crew on their final day of filming—but the pressure was already on.

One of the oldest movie production companies in Hollywood, Shepherd Film Studios was well respected, but struggled to adapt to new changes in the industry—the rise of streaming services, quicker distribution on the internet, and other changes that appealed to younger generations.

Maguire Industries had recently purchased the studio and placed Ben in charge to fix that. He had one year to prove to the board at Maguire that he could turn Shepherd Films back into a thriving production company or they’d dismantle the company and sell it off for profit.

He was Shepherd Films last resort, and thank goodness, too. No one else in Hollywood was desperate enough to throw him a lifeline. Being an embarrassing public spectacle for the last two years had been by far one of the biggest setbacks in his professional life to date—and his personal life was to blame.

Fucking divorce.

“Have you seen any of her movies?” Arthur held the door to the office open for him, and together they headed down the hallways of the main offices. “She’s a bombshell—literally one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen.”

“Aria Rose?” Ben replied, racking his brain for a mental image of the actress. “I’ve seen a few. Very pretty. She’s very talented but never been a lead.”

Scarlet’s Letters is her first starring role, and she’s perfect for it. We can watch the dailies from today’s filming, and you’ll see what I mean. We were really lucky to score her for this film.”

Ben had wondered about that, too. Aria wasn’t necessarily A-list, but she was an up-and-coming fan favorite among millennial and younger generations. Her social media attention was nonstop, and there was an almost cult following to her that had made Hollywood execs begin to take notice. Yet, he’d seen the budget this morning. She was being vastly underpaid for this film, and he wasn’t sure why.

They passed the guards at the front desk of the main offices and stepped out into the sun. “How did your team manage to sign her?” Ben asked.

“Sheer luck, I’d gather. She was following the script around—or so I heard. Determined to be part of it, though I can’t say why exactly. The script is great—historical World War II romance with a Hester Prynne theme—and we’re already getting some Oscar buzz from it. Still, it’s a long shot, and it’s nothing like her previous films.”

Ben pulled a pair of sunglasses from his suit pocket and placed them over his eyes. The bright Los Angeles sun was beating down on them as they climbed onto a golf cart to traverse the large lot to the studios. “Sounds like we’re the lucky ones, then.”

“You’ve got that right,” Arthur agreed, taking the driver’s seat since Ben was still mostly unfamiliar with the area.

A few minutes later, their golf cart pulled up outside a large warehouse-type building that read STUDIO E in large black letters across the top. Ben climbed out and followed Arthur to a small door off to the side, a red light lit above the door.

Arthur pointed to the light. “That means they’re filming, so not a peep.” He placed a finger to his mouth, indicating they needed to be quiet.

Ben nodded, and they entered the building only to be immediately shrouded in darkness. It might be his first day at Shepherd Films, but Ben was no stranger to movie sets and felt immediately at ease as they carefully made their way over to where the camera crew was.

Ben’s father, Roger Lawson, was a highly sought after cameraman who’d taken a career most people overlooked and became the best. He’d taught Ben to do the same—excel in everything by putting his whole heart into every project, no matter how small or large. As a young boy, he’d spent many a summer day with his father at work, learning the business of not only filming, but creating movies, in general.

Newly thirty years old, Ben had spent the last decade putting his father’s words into practice, rising through the ranks to become one of the hottest names in film production. He only wished his father was still alive to see his ascent, or at least, he had wished that until his ex-wife smeared his name through the tabloids during their divorce.

Never fall in love with an actress. The one rule his father had told him before he died that Ben had ignored. Lesson learned.

“Am I to be punished for helping a fellow human being?” A strong female voice broke through the silence around them.

Ben stepped around a crowd of onlookers to see the set. Behind him was an entire crew, and not a single dry eye. The emotion on everyone’s face surprised him. Following their attention to the main set, he saw the set was a bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed was a tall, broad-shouldered man with his head in his hands, wearing a soldier’s uniform from the 1940’s.

In front of the downtrodden soldier was a statuesque blonde, her hair flowing down her back in one long, chunky braid. Pieces of her golden mane escaped the braid, framing her face and highlighting her soft, pink cheeks. Pale blue-gray eyes brimmed with tears as she folded her hands over her heart.

“I won’t lie, James,” she continued, her voice softer now. “I can’t.”

The soldier suddenly stood, gripping the woman by her upper arms. “You have to lie, Anna. Your life is at stake—my life, our life. You’ll be imprisoned, and everything we’ve dreamt of will be over.”

She steeled herself, her jaw tightening. “If this is real…if our love is real…then we’ll survive this. Without the lies, the tricks, the falsehoods. We can survive this, James.”

Ben felt a swelling in his chest, a lump in his throat. He wasn’t even sure what the storyline was about, and yet, he was captivated by the woman in front of the cameras. Her presence was powerful…she was powerful.

“No, Anna.” He dropped her arms and stepped back, a look of disgust on his face. “We can’t survive this. Not if you choose their lives over mine…over ours.”

The blonde shook her head slowly, her hand now on her stomach as if she might be sick. “You can’t mean that, James. You can’t make me pick between loving you and my purpose in life.”

“It’s them…or it’s me. Now or never, Anna.”

Ben focused on the actress’s face, expecting to see her acquiesce to the steely-delivered ultimatum. Instead, her chin pushed up and she inhaled deeply. Everything about her posture and stance screamed strength, and yet, in the exact same moment, those blue-gray eyes ached with pain. Ben nearly forgot he was watching actors because her portrayal was so genuine…she was so genuine.

“Goodbye, James.” Her voice was gentle, but resolute.

The soldier’s nostrils flared angrily, before he slowly shook his head. “Goodbye, Anna.” With that, he walked out of the door and left her standing alone in the bedroom.

She waited a moment, staring after him. Her hand slowly lifted to her lips, covering her mouth as a loud sob ripped from her throat. In an excruciating display, her body dipped forward slightly before completely crumpling in on itself. She fell against the edge of the bed, sobbing into its sheets, as the lights on set dimmed.

“Cut!” the director yelled. “Holy fuck. That was amazing, Aria!”

The blond actress pushed up off the bed, smiling and wiping the tears from her cheeks. Everyone in the studio erupted into applause, and Ben joined in. She deserved every second of it after that performance.

A surge of excitement ran through Ben’s body—he could do this. With acting like this, there was no way their movie wouldn’t be a success. There was no way he wouldn’t be able to bring this studio success within the year with a film like this.

“Hey, Russell,” Arthur called out to the director and ushered Ben over to him. “Meet our new studio head, Ben Lawson.”

Ben extended a hand to the grungy looking man with long, curly black hair to his shoulders. “Good to meet you, Russell.”

“Please, call me Russ. I’m Russ Rains, director. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.” He donned a cocky smile. Metal and bracelets around his wrists made a clanking sound as they shook hands—a not too unusual fashion choice in this city.

“I have,” Ben admitted, though he didn’t really like this man’s ego already. It was certainly nothing unusual in Hollywood, and Ben had met the type many a time before. Russell Rains was a legitimately well-known director with several big box office hits under his belt, though it had been many years since his last. “Your work is amazing, Russ.”

“Thank you, Benji,” Russ said with an obnoxious chuckle. “Come on. Let me introduce you to our leads.”

“I’ll meet you back at the office,” Arthur told Ben. “Have fun on set!”

Ben followed Russell onto the bedroom set where the actress he’d been so captivated by was hugging the soldier who’d just broken her heart.

“You were amazing, Travis,” she said to him, pulling back from their embrace to smile at him.

Something inside Ben stirred—irritation, anger? He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t like seeing the man’s arms around the beautiful blonde.

“Sweet pea, come meet our new studio head,” Russ called out to Aria, who visibly bristled at his demand. Ben made a mental note to ask about the director’s dynamic with the actors later. “This here is Benji.”

Ben Lawson,” Ben corrected the director, extending his hand to the woman.

“Aria Rose,” she replied, taking his hand with a gentle squeeze. Her fingers were small and warm around his, and there was something sad about letting go. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lawson. This is my co-star, Travis Peters.”

The soldier shook his hand next. “Good to meet you, sir.”

“Please, call me Ben,” he instructed them both. “Travis, you were fantastic. And, Aria, I have to admit that your performance just now was incredible. I was unbelievably moved.”

Her pale pink cheeks darkened as she looked down at her hands. “Thank you.”

“I have no doubt this movie will be phenomenal.”

Russ slapped a hand on Ben’s back. “Hell, yeah. That was our last scene, so we’re officially wrapped.” The director stepped away from them and yelled to the entire crew. “It’s a wrap, fuckers!”

Ben didn’t even cringe at the man’s abrasiveness this time.

The crew clapped and cheered, and everyone was hugging and high-fiving each other. A swarm of people came onto the bedroom set to congratulate Aria, pushing Ben backward as he watched her gracefully accept their praise.

In fact, he couldn’t take his eyes off her, and it only had a little to do with how unbelievably attracted he was to her. As he stepped to the side, he watched how she smiled, laughing and embracing her co-workers. It was captivating. Aria commanded a room, not just when she was acting, but as herself. Her eyes danced and shone as she spoke to the crew and other actors, her smile wide and transformative.

He felt drawn to who she was, not just what he saw, and it was intoxicating. Though, what he saw was certainly breathtaking. Gorgeous wasn’t enough to describe this woman, or the way her long neck dipped into thin shoulders and a deep collarbone. Her breasts pushed against the dark red dress she was wearing that highlighted her hourglass silhouette, and her golden braid hung down over her shoulder with a weight and visible softness he’d never seen before.

Someone bumped Ben’s shoulder as they rushed in her direction, bringing Ben back to reality. What the fuck am I doing? He was barely six months out of a long divorce and had sworn off women entirely for now. And an actress? That was not happening. No way would he repeat his previous mistake twice. Not to mention that he was her boss, essentially, and that it would be a major conflict of interest. That was even assuming she was single and interested in him, which…

Why am I even thinking about this? Ben shook the thought from his head, unsure when the last time was that he’d ever felt this foggy-headed over a woman.

Aria’s laughter peeled through the air just then, melodic and joyous. Ben swallowed hard, shoving his hands in his pockets and heading for the door. He had to get out of there. Now.

He wouldn’t let himself fall for another actress, not even one as beautiful as Aria Rose.




About the Author:

Aside from being a Top 10 Barnes & Noble and Amazon Bestseller, Sarah Robinson is a native of the Washington, DC area and has both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in criminal psychology. She is a divorcée who works as a crisis counselor by day and romance novelist by night. She owns a small zoo of furry pets and is actively involved in volunteering in her community.

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ Whiskey Girl by Adriane Leigh

 

Title: Whiskey Girl
Author: Adriane Leigh

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 26, 2018

 

Blurb
She was the one thing holding him together.
Until she was gone.
And then there was whiskey.
Fallon Gentry has spent the last decade reliving one dark night in his head. The moment he lost the woman he loved when a single blink cascaded into a series of events that stole both of their lives. Now his nights are spent playing music in southern honky-tonks and nursing the memory of her the only way he knows how–at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. 
A brief stint in Nashville, a hit song, and a brush with Hollywood couldn’t bring him closer to God, but when the ghost of Augusta Belle Branson appears in his corner of another lonely dive bar late after dark, he’s forced to confront everything he thought he knew about that fateful night, and a few things he didn’t.
He’s her contradiction, she’s his salvation.
A firestorm of emotion consumes them when they come together after ten lost years, every moment more revealing, more unpredictable, more intoxicating than the next until the only reckoning left for Fallon is the one he must make
with himself. But this time, fate may have left an after-burn too bitter to swallow. This time, he may lose his whiskey girl for good.
An unforgettable, epic love story about two lost souls who, against all odds, find themselves through their passion and music. Filled with raw emotion, this lyrical, all-the-feels masterpiece may catapult Adriane Leigh into the league of Colleen Hoover, Brittainy Cherry, and L.J. Shen.

Nelle L’Amour, New York Times Bestselling author of THAT MAN



Purchase Links
AMAZON: US / UK / CA / AU


Excerpt
One
Fallon
The first time I met Augusta Belle Branson, she was fixin’ on killin’ herself.
Said the minute I’d walked up, she was tryin’ to decide if jumpin’ off the bridge in the center—where the water was deep and the current stronger—would be a swifter end, or if she should jump near the edge, where jagged limestone slabs anchored the slow-moving current.
Certain death for sure.
I replayed the split second when the Indian summer sun burst through the orange oak leaves, a halo of warmth enveloping her.
Like an angel. Stardust sparkling straight from heaven, ploppin’ her in my path.
And then she turned, the most startling shade of liquid amber eyes breathing something real and alive, like fire, into my soul.
That same something I’d been runnin’ from—or chasin’, dependin’ on how you looked at it—just about every day since.
I settled myself on the lone wooden stool that awaited at center
stage, my thoughts drawing back to the present. My head swam, but the old familiar chords floated on through the current of whiskey in my blood, and I strummed the first few notes of a song I wrote a lot of nights ago by an act of
sheer muscle memory.
Old acoustic guitar resting on my knee, my first and third fingers in position on the strings, the opening chords of “Whiskey Girl” bled from my fingers.
Every chord, another dagger.
Every whispered lyric, my undoing.
I still didn’t know what the fuck had overtaken me the night I’d written this song in a fevered rush.
Well, the booze might have played a part, but I happened to think my best shit came out of uninhibited states.
I’d just had a fuckton of uninhibited states recently.
And the harder the liquor, the more she haunted me.
Whiskey Girl.
My poisoned lullaby.
The crowd of a few hundred erupted into a standing ovation
when I ended with the final, emotion-charged words.
The irony of this song was it was the one that’d launched my career. The first single to hit radio waves and then the top spot on the Billboard charts, and brought reporters, music executives, long-lost family members I wasn’t even really sure I was related to, and too much other scum with an end game that carried dollar signs to my front doorstep.
I’d moved to Nashville a rising star and left two years later, middle finger in the air as I tossed my once-promising music career out with last night’s liquor bottles in favor of the open road.
Chasing something.
Not finding the one thing I needed.
Playing local honky-tonks for a fraction of the money I could have made.
But the truth was, the road was the only place I could find my happy.
A familiar ball of pain formed in my throat as I stood, pushing my guitar over one shoulder and bowing deeply. I couldn’t see a single face behind the glaring stage lights, but still, some part of me pretended she could be out there, that I was singing to her.
That she would hear her song and find her way back to me.
After hundreds of faceless crowds and too many bottles of Tennessee whiskey to bother counting, I still felt the pull inside me to travel to every town in America if that’s what it took to find her.
Hell, maybe she was happily married with a few kids, a dog, and a fucking minivan by now.
I nodded my head, giving one last wave to the crowd in the dark beyond, then left the stage, taking the steps two at a time and angling past the curtains to head for the tiny-ass dressing room this dive bar provided. Heading for another chug of amber gold before packing my shit into my truck and hitting the road.
I pushed a hand through my hair, thinking maybe a shower would be in order before I bailed, when a curvy little thing backed right up into me.
My palms landed on her shoulders, warm blond waves falling in a cascade over one side. The heady scent of peaches and honey filled my nostrils. My eyes slammed closed and brought me back to summer nights under a giant oak, fireflies melding together with the stars above like a painting.
“Sorry, I just dropped my phone.” The sweet-scented creature spun, brilliant smile falling from her face when our eyes made contact for the first time.
Every coldhearted memory slammed into my chest like a pallet of bricks.
I narrowed my eyes, gaze tracing the familiar yet unfamiliar angles of her porcelain face.
She was thinner now, cheeks sharp slashes of bone that highlighted her always-devastating round eyes and full lips. It was her, all right. I’d know this woman anywhere.
“Hi, Fallon.” I’d been dreamin’ of this moment for the better part of a decade, and still, my heart wasn’t prepared for those two words. My name on her lips left me with a toxic reaction.
My whiskey girl.
My damnation and my salvation.
“I need a fucking minute.” I dropped my hands from her shoulders, her skin still haunting my fingertips, and walked straight down the narrow hallway, pushing the rusted back door open so hard the hinges protested.
Warm night air filled my lungs, replacing the empty feeling seeing her again had left.
“Fallon…” Hell, she’d followed me out.
And hell if wanted her to, but I didn’t not want her to either.
The emotions bombarding my mind were just a-fucking-bout unbearable.
“I said I need a fucking minute.” The sentence came out as more of a growl than I intended. Before she could reply, I stomped across the potholed parking lot, aiming for my heavy-duty Ford.
I yanked the door open, digging behind the driver’s seat for a fresh bottle of my favorite recipe.
I couldn’t be bothered to retrieve the half-full bottle I’d left in my dressing room. I had to get as far the fuck away from her just to clear my head and process what her being here even meant.
My hands circled the neck of the bottle, and I opened it in a flash, chugging back the first warm bite of pleasure I’d been craving.
I tossed the cap on my dash and fished the keys out of my pocket, about to climb into the cab and make hay, when fingertips painted a dark navy filtered into my vision and back out again, my goddamn truck keys hanging from one finger.
“Fuck,” I bit out, crawling out of the cab and swiping for the keys.
My reactions were a helluva lot slower than I thought they were. How much of that bottle had I drunk before the show? I shook the thought from my head, realizing this was probably about close to my average state of play on any given day. Runnin’ away from the life Augusta Belle and I’d had took something out of me. Something only whiskey could fill.
“I don’t care what your stupid ass does on your own time, but you’re not dying on mine, Fallon Gentry.”
My head pounded then. A whole fucking sentence out of her pretty pink lips, and my body’s old dependable reaction to her infuriating every cell of me.
I’d never been in control when it came to Augusta. Shouldn’t have been surprised it was no different now.
“As irritating as ever, I see,” I said, swiping for my keys one more time and missing before I stumbled off around her, whiskey bottle clutched in my hand and hell on my mind.  Augusta was back, and there wasn’t enough whiskey in the
state of Tennessee to help me deal.


Author Bio

Adriane Leigh is an Amazon Top 25 and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and erotic romance. Raised in a snowbank in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she was born with a book in her hand and won her first Young Authors award before the age of ten. She finished her first romance novel at 14, and hasn’t stopped playing with words since. She earned a literature degree, co-founded and organized international book conventions with RARE: Romance Author & Reader Events, and has written more than 45 independent titles under various pen names.

Married to her own Prince Charming, she now lives among the sand dunes of Lake Michigan, and plays mama to two sweet baby girls. She’s a romantic rebel and word junkie that believes wanderlust is life, is part of the #goodvibetribe, and wishes she had more time to read and knit scarves to keep her cozy during the arctic Michigan winters. Yoga pants, puppies, and mac and cheese also help. Never miss a release! Get an alert at: http://www.adrianeleigh.com

Praise for Adriane’s work:
“Sizzling chemistry, a glamorous world, plot twists…a perfect combination held together with Adriane Leigh’s
addictive writing. I dove into this world, and didn’t want to come up for air. I can’t wait for more!” 

– Alessandra Torre, Hollywood Dirt


“Adriane Leigh never dissapoints with equal amounts of heat and heart with all the sex, suspense and scandal…Leigh’s newest mysterious hero will have you anxiously flipping pages well into the night trying to uncover his secrets.” 

– Jay Crownover, Marked Men
Author Links


Giveaway

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COVER REVEAL & EXCERPT ~ Whiskey Girl by Adriane Leigh

WHISKEY GIRL

from Amazon Top 25 + USA Today Bestseller

ADRIANE LEIGH

  

Photographer: Wander Aguiar

Model: Victorio Piva

Blurb:

She was the one thing holding him together. Until she was gone.

And then there was whiskey.

Fallon Gentry has spent the last decade reliving one dark night in his head. The moment he lost the woman he loved when a single blink cascaded into a series of events that stole both of their lives. Now his nights are spent playing music in southern honky-tonks and nursing the memory of her the only way he knows how–at the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

A brief stint in Nashville, a hit song, and a brush with Hollywood couldn’t bring him closer to God, but when the ghost of Augusta Belle Branson appears in his corner of another lonely dive bar late after dark, he’s forced to confront everything he thought he knew about that fateful night, and a few things he didn’t.

He’s her contradiction, she’s his salvation.

A firestorm of emotion consumes them when they come together after ten lost years, every moment more revealing, more unpredictable, more intoxicating than the next until the only reckoning left for Fallon is the one he must make with himself. But this time, fate may have left an after-burn too bitter to swallow. This time, he may lose his whiskey girl for good.

 

GoodReads Link:


PRAISE for Whiskey Girl:

“An unforgettable, epic love story about two lost souls who, against all odds, find themselves through their passion and music. Filled with raw emotion, this lyrical, all-the-feels masterpiece may catapult Adriane Leigh into the league of Colleen Hoover, Brittainy Cherry, and L.J. Shen.”—Nelle L’Amour, New York Times Bestselling author of THAT MAN




Whiskey Girl Chapter One Excerpt:

(COPYRIGHT 2018 BY ADRIANE LEIGH)

One

Fallon

The first time I met Augusta Belle Branson she was fixin’ on killin’ herself.

Said the minute I’d walked up, she was tryin’ to decide if jumpin’ off the bridge in the center—where the water was deep and the current stronger, would be a swifterend–or if jumping near the edge, where jagged limestone labs anchored the slow moving current awaited her.

Certain death for sure.

I replayed the split-second when the blinding summer sun opened through the orange oak leaves, a halo of warmth enveloping her.

Like an angel, stardust sparkling straight from Heaven, ploppin’ her in my path.

And then she turned, the most startling shade of liquid amber eyes breathing something real and alive, like fire, into my soul.

That same something I’d been runnin’ from, or chasin’, dependin’ on how you looked at it, just about everyday since.

I settled myself on the lone wooden stool that awaited at center stage, my thoughts drawing back to the present. My head swam, but the old familiar chords drove on through the current of whiskey in my blood, strumming the first few notes of a song I wrote a lot of nights ago by the sheer act of muscle memory.

Old acoustic guitar resting on my knee, my first and third fingers in position on the strings, the opening chords of Whiskey Girl bled from my fingers.

Every chord, another dagger.

Every whispered lyric, my undoing.

I still don’t know what the fuck had overtaken me the night I’d written Whiskey Girl in a fevered rush.

Well, the booze may have played a factor, but I happened to think my best shit came out of uninhibited states.

I’d just had a fuck ton of uninhibited states recently.

And the harder the liquor, the more she haunted me.

Whiskey Girl.

My poisoned lullaby.

The crowd of a few hundred erupted into a standing ovation when I ended with the final, emotion-charged words.

The irony that this song was the one that’d launched my career, the first single to hit radio waves and then the top spot on the Billboard charts brought reporters, music executives, long last family members that I wasn’t even really sure I was related to, and too much other scum with an end game that carried dollar signs to my front doorstep.

I’d moved to Nashville a rising star, and left two years later, middle finger in the air as I tossed my once promising music career out with last night’s liquor bottles in favor of the open road.

Chasing something.

Not finding the one thing I needed.

Playing local honky-tonks for a fraction of the money I could have made.

But truth was, the road is the only place I could find my happy.

A familiar ball of pain formed in my throat as I stood, pushing my guitar over one shoulder and bowing deeply. I couldn’t see a single face behind the glaring stage lights, but still, some part of me pretended she could be out there, that I was singing to her.

That she would hear her song and find her way back to me.

After hundreds of faceless crowds and too many bottles of Tennessee whiskey to bother counting, I still felt the pull inside me to travel every town in America if that’s what it took to find her.

Hell, maybe she was happily married with a few kids, a dog, and a fucking minivan by now.

I nodded my head, giving one last wave to the crowd in the dark beyond, then left the stage, taking the steps two at a time and angling past the curtains to head for the tiny-ass dressing room this dive bar provided for another chug of amber gold, before packing my shit into my truck and hitting the road.

I pushed a hand through my hair, thinking maybe a shower would be in order before I bailed when a curvy little thing backed right up into me.

My palms landed on her shoulders, warm blonde waves falling in a cascade over one side. The heady scent of peaches and honey filled my nostrils, my eyes slammed closed and brought me back to summer nights under a giant oak, fireflies melting together with the stars above like a painting.

Sorry, I just dropped my phone.” The sweet-scented creature spun, brilliant smile falling off her face when our eyes made contact for the first time.

Every cold-hearted memory slammed into my chest like a pallet of bricks.

I narrowed my eyes, gaze tracing the familiar, yet unfamiliar angles of her porcelain face.

She was thinner now, cheeks sharp slashes of bone that highlighted her always-devastating round eyes and full lips. It was her alright. I’d know this woman anywhere.

Hi, Fallon.” I’d been dreamin’ of this moment for the better part of a decade and still, my heart wasn’t prepared for those two words. My name on her lips left me with a toxic reaction.

My whiskey girl.

My damnation and my savior.

I need a fucking minute.” I dropped her shoulders, her touch still haunting my fingertips, and walked straight down the narrow hallway, pushing the rusted back door open so hard the hinges protested.

Warm, autumn air filled my lungs, replacing the empty feeling that seeing her again had left.

Fallon…” Hell, she’d followed me out.

And hell if wanted her to, but I didn’t not want her to either.

The emotions bombarding my mind were just a-fucking-bout unbearable.

I said, I need a fucking minute.” The sentence more of a growl than I intended. Before she could reply I stomped across the potholed parking lot, aimed for my heavy-duty Ford.

I yanked the door open, digging behind the driver seat for a fresh bottle of my favorite recipe.

I couldn’t be bothered to retrieve the half-full bottle I’d left in my dressing room, I had to get as far the fuck away from her just to clear my head and process what her being here even meant.

My hands circled the neck of the bottle and I opened it in a flash, chugging back the first warm bite of pleasure I’d been craving.

I tossed the cap on my dash and fished the keys out of my pocket, about to climb into the cab and make hay when fingertips painted a dark navy filtered into my vision and back out again, my goddamn truck keys hanging from one finger.

Fuck,” I bit, crawling out of the cab and swiping for the keys.

My reactions were a helluva lot slower than I thought they were, how much of that bottle had I drank before the show? I shook the thought from my head, realizing this was probably about close to my average state of play on any given day. Runnin’ away from the life Augusta Belle and I’d had took something out of me. Something only whiskey could fill.

I don’t care what your stupid ass does on your own time, but you’re not dying on mine, Fallon Gentry.”

My head pounded then, a whole fucking sentence out of her pretty pink lips, my body’s old dependable reaction to her infuriating every cell of me.

I’d never been in control when it came to Augusta, shouldn’t have been surprised that it was no different now.

As irritating as ever, I see.” I bit, swiping for my keys one more time and missing, before I stumbled off around her, whiskey bottle clutched in my hand and hell on my mind.

Augusta was back and there wasn’t enough whiskey in the state of Tennessee to help me deal.

 

Thank you for reading!

Fallon + Augusta hit e-readers June 26!




Author BIO:

Adriane Leighis an Amazon Top 25 and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and erotic romance. Raised in a snowbank in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she was born with a book in her hand and won her first Young Authors award before the age of ten. She finished her first romance novel at 14, and hasn’t stopped playing with words since. She earned a literature degree, co-founded and organized international book conventions with RARE: Romance Author & Reader Events, and has written more than 45 independent titles under various pen names.

Married to her own Prince Charming, she now lives among the sand dunes of Lake Michigan, and plays mama to two sweet baby girls. She’s a romantic rebel and word junkie that believes wanderlust is life, is part of the #goodvibetribe, and wishes she had more time to read and knit scarves to keep her cozy during the arctic Michigan winters. Yoga pants, puppies, and mac and cheese also help. Never miss a release! Get an alert at: http://www.adrianeleigh.com

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BLOG TOUR ~ FAT CAT LIAR by Ahren Sanders


FAT CAT LIAR
BY AHREN SANDERS


Release Date: May 21st
Genre: Contemporary Romance

 

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BLURB

The night I met Greer Palmer was no coincidence.

The plan was perfect.

Everything was in place. All I had to do was get her attention and the rest would take its course.

What I didn’t plan was my reaction the first time she spoke.

“Are you okay?”

Three little words…

That’s all it took for her to steal my breath and shatter every thing I’d expected.

She was supposed to be a spoiled socialite, a pampered princess, an elite heiress —
anything other than the striking beauty that blew my misconceptions to pieces.

One kiss and I became obsessed.

One night and I became addicted.

One month and she became my world.

Suddenly, my plan wasn’t so perfect.

To her, I am sunset kisses, whispers of seduction, and promises of forever.

It’s all a lie…

I’m Lawson Hall.

My name and reputation speaks for itself as one of the most successful architects in the industry.
Conceited, arrogant, egotistical, ruthless— I’ve earned it all.

In reality, I’ve bided my time, done my job, and waited my turn.

Now is my chance.

Greer thinks we met by accident, but she’s wrong.

Once the lies are exposed, will the truth be enough?




EXCERPT

“Don’t.” I pull her closer, brushing my lips against hers. “You want to know something, ask.”

She nods and resumes scraping lightly on my cheeks.

“Here’s another tidbit of information. I’m in no rush to introduce you to my brother. He’s a lady’s man, and he’ll have no problem trying to snatch you from right under my nose. I’m not an idiot and know a good thing when I find it.”

She giggles, the sound breaking any tension from earlier.

“You’re ridiculous.”

“I’m smart.”

“If you had a rough day, we don’t have to go out.”

“I’m tempted to keep you here like this, especially looking like you do. But I thought you wanted to meet your friends for drinks.”

“What’s wrong with the way I look?”

I make a point to sweep my eyes slowly over her face, neck, shoulders, and chest, stopping when I hit her low-cut neckline. “Your tits are about to burst out of your top.”

“They are not!” She swats me playfully.

I cock an eyebrow at her. “Pretty sure every man that sees you tonight is going to think the same thing. Do me a favor and don’t make any sudden movements.”

“Now, you’re being silly. This top doesn’t show that much cleavage.”

To make a point, I lean in and skim my lips along the edge on the fabric, stopping at the lowest point and darting my tongue out to touch her skin. She inhales sharply.

“Now, do you see my point?”



AUTHOR BIO

Ahren spent her formative years living in an active volcano. There her family made collectible lava art. She studied rock collecting at the Sorbonne in France. There she met the love of her life-her pet pig Sybil. She returned to the states and started writing. She is happily married to a guy who used to live under a bridge and she met while pole-dancing.

Now, meet the real me. I grew up in the south and consider myself a true “Southerner”. Most of the special locations mentioned in my books are reflections of my favorite places. Living on the Florida coast, my family spends a lot time at the beach, which is where I usually can be found with a book in my hand.

For more information on my books, please click here: Ahren Sanders

 

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Liars’ Lair



 

CHAPTER REVEAL ~ Sergio by Natasha Knight

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m the first-born son of the mafia king. The favorite. Destined to rule, I’m a dangerous man, a ruthless one. But in my world, you have to be.Then Natalie stumbles into my life. Wrong place. Wrong time.

Twice, fate put her in my path.
Twice, fate placed the innocent lamb at the mercy of the monster.

I gave her a chance to walk away. Told her it would be better for her if she did.
But she didn’t listen.
And now it’s too late.
Because I’m not good. I never wanted to be. And I won’t let her go anymore. See, I’m not the hero. When I touch her, it’s with dirty hands.

I know my reckoning is coming though. I know I’ll burn for the things I’ve done, the sins I’ve committed. And I don’t deny hell is where I belong, but I want my time first. I want my time with her.

She’s mine.
Forever.
No matter what.

Author’s Note: Sergio: a Dark Mafia Romance is an intensely emotional, steamy and dark standalone romance set in the Benedetti Brothers Mafia world. Be prepared: this is not a traditional romance.


Prologue
Natalie

“Wrong place, wrong time, sweetheart.”

The words echo in my head.
I’ve done this before. Twice in my life now, I’ve been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Isn’t there some sort of karmic balancing? Like isn’t it enough to witness this kind of violence just once in a lifetime?
Last time was six years ago. I was fourteen and standing in front of the freezer of the convenience store down the street from my house deciding which ice cream bar I wanted. I remember the humming of the air conditioner. Liking the cool inside on that too hot August day. It was one of the few times my parents let me go alone. We didn’t live in the best neighborhood.
The men came in so quickly, I barely registered the fact they were wearing ski masks before the first gunshot went off. I dove to the ground and shut my ears to the commands they shouted, but the man with the greasy shirt saw me. He came at me and I would have screamed if I could find my voice, but the others’ screams muted me, and when he gripped me by my hair and hauled me to my feet, I followed where he led me.
Another gunshot was followed by another scream and I swear I saw red splatter the walls.
Blood.
But when he threw me to the ground in the last aisle and I registered what he meant to do, it all became surreal.
Gunshots and fists and screams all seemed in the distance. Like they weren’t part of my reality anymore because my reality was about to change. My reality came down to him and me on the floor of this forgotten shop, with blood seeping from beneath the aisle divider. Fear in the voices of the others trapped here with me. Him with his pants undone. Him with his hands in my jeans. Me watching, mute. Trying to shove him away.
I remember the bell over the door going again.
Remember the sound of footsteps.
Someone cursing.
I remember the sound of a gun being cocked. Readied. How I knew what that little click meant I’m not sure, but it’s an unmistakable sound. I remember the look on the face of the one between my legs as he registered cold steel on the back of his head.
We looked up at the man in the dark suit at the same time. He wore black from head to toe, a dark angel. His pistol shone bright in the blinking fluorescent light. The angel called me to go to him. I did. I scrambled to my feet and went. He glanced down to where my jeans were undone before meeting my eyes. He pulled me to him, put one hand on the back of my head, burying my face in his belly.
He told me to keep my eyes closed. To cover my ears. Said he’d try not to get blood on me.
I didn’t think. I did as he said. Put my hands over my ears. And I swear I know what a bullet tearing through flesh sounds like now.
But all that I’ve managed to file away. Locked up in a box until now.
It’s his words that play back over and over again. The sound of his voice that I recognize as now, so many years after that terrible day, I crouch behind the decrepit machinery in this abandoned warehouse and hide.
“Wrong place, wrong time, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart.
I’ll never forget that voice. Never forget the casual way he called me sweetheart. And I recognize it now. The man in the suit, my dark angel. The man who killed without flinching. The man who saved my life once. It’s him. He’s here.
And when he shifts his gaze in my direction, I swear he hears the pounding of my heart against my chest. Swear it’ll give me away.
Except that this time, if he finds me, he won’t be saving me.************************************************************************

Chapter 1

Sergio

Fuck. I hate these fucking warehouses. Dusty and always frigid.
I’m flanked by two of my men. Four more soldiers trail us with a dozen more outside. It’s to make an impression. Joe and Lance Vitelli have overstepped.
Lance. Who the fuck names their kid Lance in this business? It’s no wonder he’s acting out. Trying to prove he’s not a pussy.
Our footsteps echo off the old machinery as I follow Roman, my uncle, through the main room and to the back where the brothers are being held. There’s no door to that room and the glow of the single light bulb is a contrast to the pitch black of the rest of the place.
The sound of a fist connecting with flesh is followed by a grunt. The grunt, I know, belongs to either Joe or Lance. I pick lint off my sleeve and adjust the cuff of my shirt as we near the entrance. Roman steps into the room, stands to the side, folding his hands together. He takes in what’s going on, then turns to me, gives a brief nod and waits.
I walk into the room, crack my neck. Slept bad last night.
The sight that greets me is not an unfamiliar one. The offenders are sitting in straight back chairs, but they’re not bound. There’s a splattering of blood on Joe’s white shirt. It’s fresh. I guess he’s the one who took the punch I heard.
“That’s disgusting. Get something on his nose,” I say to one of my men.
“It’s fucking broke,” Joe whines, taking the wad of nasty cloth someone just shoved at him.
I go right up to him. Lean down to get my face in his. “You’re lucky you’re not broke. Be grateful or that’ll change.”
He breathes in a sharp breath and I know he’s biting his lip not to reply.
“Sergio,” Lance starts. Lance is the older brother. The slightly smarter one. Or the one with a healthier fear of death.
Of me.
I straighten, turn to him.
“Mr. Benedetti,” he corrects.
I wait.
“My brother screwed up, but it’s fixed. The girls are back home. No harm, no foul, right?” He attempts to smile but it fails and his lips droop.
“In whose territory do you live?” I ask. It’s been a long fucking night already and it’s not close to over. I’m tired, so I’ll get to the point.
“Yours, sir,” he answers.
“In whose territory do your families live? Mothers, sisters, wives, daughters.”
Lance’s face, which was pale when I got here, goes gray. “Yours, Mr. Benedetti. Benedetti territory.”
I nod, shift my gaze to Joe. “To whom has your father pledged your family’s loyalty, Joe?” His eyes narrow and when he doesn’t answer right away, Lance clears his throat to, but I stop him. “I’m asking your fucking brother.”
“Benedetti,” Joe says through gritted teeth.
“DeMarco’s were once loyal to us too, until they weren’t,” I remind them. What happened to that family should be enough warning. What is happening and still will happen to Lucia DeMarco, most precious daughter, should be enough. My father’s right about fear. But there’s more to it. Ruthlessness. It’s what truly gets you respect in this business.
He is ruthless.
And I am my father’s son.
“You have a sister, don’t you?” I ask. “Anna, right? How old is she now?”
Lance just stares back at me, his eyes wide with fear.
I may not agree with how my father is handling the DeMarco girl, but I understand it. “Lucia DeMarco’s age, am I right?”
“She’s only sixteen, sir,” Lance says, his voice a little quieter.
“Yeah, Lucia DeMarco’s age when they lost the war they started with us.” I don’t need to say more.
“Sergio—” Lance starts. “Mr. Benedetti—”
I raise my hand to halt him. “Let’s just be clear. I’m going to give you a warning. One chance, because I know your father. He’s been a friend to my family. But if you overstep again, the consequences will be more…permanent.”
Lance swallows.
“Benedetti’s do not deal in flesh trade. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir,” Lance says quickly.
I look at Joe. If looks could kill, I’d be dead right now.
I grab a handful of Joe’s hair and tug his head backward. “Is that fucking clear?”
One of my men cocks a gun and Lance whimpers like a fucking girl.
“You the tough one?” I ask Joe. “Sucks to always be in big brother’s shadow, doesn’t it?” He exhales, shifts his gaze away from mine, but not to his brother. I’m right. Like Dominic, my youngest brother, he knows he’ll never be boss and it fucking kills him. “Am I fucking clear, Joe? Or do I need to make an example?” I squeeze the handful of over-gelled hair and if I twist just once in the wrong direction, I’ll snap his neck. Quick and clean. No blood on my suit. And he knows it.
“Clear,” he says.
I release him, wipe my hand on my pants and decide I’m not done yet. “Now, show me your loyalty. Your gratitude for my family’s generosity in this unfortunate event.” I step backward, giving him space. He knows what I want and it’s going to kill him to do it.
But he’s going to do it.
I wait. I’m patient.
“Joe. Just fucking do it,” Lance orders his brother when a full minute passes and Joe hasn’t moved.
Joe’s face is a fiery red and his eyes are filled with rage. But soon, the leg of the chair scrapes across the concrete floor as he drops to his knees at my feet.
I look down at him. Give him more space. And my smile widens as he prostrates himself and his lips touch the toe of my shoe.
I want to kick the son-of-a-bitch, but I don’t. I’m a man of my word. I will give them one more chance.
A sound comes from the metal ramp that runs along the perimeter of the large office forming a second level. I look at it. It must have been an observation deck to oversee the plant.
I don’t know if anyone else heard it. A glance at Roman tells me he did, but the others haven’t noticed. I nod to him. He steps out of the room and two men follow.
When I return my gaze to the spectacle in front of me, I’m very aware of my periphery. I want to catch any movement because that sound was too loud for a mouse.
“Get them out of here,” I say to the two soldiers behind the brothers.
“Yes, sir.”
I watch as Joe and Lance are walked rudely out of the room. After a few moments, I turn to my men. “Let’s go,” I say loudly. They walk out. I hang back, switch out the light, listen to the footsteps echo as they vacate the building. I reach for the handgun in its holster beneath my jacket and walk silently toward the direction from where the sound had come.




USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance, Natasha Knight specializes in dark, tortured heroes. Happily-Ever-Afters are guaranteed, but she likes to put her characters through hell to get them there. She’s evil like that.

 



 

CHAPTER REVEAL ~ Knave by Jane Henry & Maisy Archer

 

 

 

 

 

Sabrina: Good guys save the day and criminals go to jail. It’s not rocket science, people.

But then my father’s killed, I’m rescued by a thief, and my worldview is shattered. He takes me to his penthouse. His bed. I don’t have to like it but I can’t help it. His touch is everything a good girl like me shouldn’t want.

Anson: Good and bad mean nothing to a master thief. I take what I want, and what I want is vengeance. No more, no less.

Maybe the girl can help, so I’ll hide her. Protect her. And if I have to manhandle her to keep her quiet, she’ll deal. Hell, she might even like it. But she’ll learn fast that I make the rules.

 


Manhattan
“3, 2, 1… And, security systems are down,” Walker said, his voice with its lilting accent magnified over the tiny communication device in my ear, so that it sounded like he was sitting right next to me. “Daly, you’re up.”
No shit. I rolled my eyes as I employed the tiny laser cutting tool to make a hole in the glass window just large enough for me to slip through. Dangling from a cable four stories above the ground in the middle of a bright, moonlit night was not the best time to start contemplating your life choices, but it seemed to happen every time I worked with these guys; which was to say, twenty-four-seven for the past six months.
“I’m in,” I whispered, pushing the suction holder I’d clamped to the freshly-cut glass disk and reaching my arm into the cooler, drier air of the office. With practiced ease, I levered myself headfirst through the hole, twisting to land lightly on my feet. I set the now useless glass gently on the floor, removed the rappelling cable that tethered me to the roof, and stood silently in the empty office, taking a second to get my bearings, to let my eyes adjust to the relative darkness, and to let my body, sweating from the humid night outside, cool for a second.
“Daly, report.” As always, Xavier’s cool, imperious voice drove me bonkers.
“Report,” I muttered. “Because I’m your freakin’ minion, X.” The comm device, created by Walker to detect the slightest sound, obviously caught my words, but other than Caelan’s reproachful sigh, nobody replied.
Six months, the five of us had been living and working together, and I couldn’t say it had made much difference in my attitude. I still preferred to work alone, and it still bugged the crap out of me that I had four other voices in my head while I was on a job, but I had no one to blame for the situation but myself. I’d answered the invitation that January night, after all, and I’d agreed to stay even after Eugenia Carmichael’s videotaped last will and testament had thrown my life into a tailspin.
“Office is empty,” I said, after a beat or two of silence where I glanced around the empty surfaces of the desk and bookcase behind me. “Doesn’t look like anyone’s been working here. I was able to cut the window in a low visibility location. No direct views from inside or outside, thanks to the Rosenberg building next door being under renovation. Ethan’s intel was good.”
This would buy us crucial time before the office staff of Stuart Fowler Real Estate, LLC, caught on to the fact that they’d been the victims of a break-in.
“Of course it’s good,” Ethan huffed. “I didn’t spend two whole days in that place as the world’s most overqualified temp just to provide you bad information.”
I had to smirk at his little snit, mostly because nobody could see me. Ethan was every bit as good at his job—a cross between reconnaissance and high-key scamming—as I was at mine, but where my role in our little gang involved dressing in black gear and a full-coverage face mask like the one I wore tonight, Ethan’s usually involved wearing an expensive suit and an overly-friendly smile.
“Still wish it didn’t have to happen when the moon was this high,” I grumbled to no one in particular, repeating an argument I’d already made earlier in the week. “Moonlit night in July makes people want to take a walk and look around.”
“And like I told you, the phases of the moon refuse to change no matter how much I try to persuade them to,” Ethan said with an affected sigh. “But if we don’t get the information from the safe tonight, it’s gonna be too late. Now that Fowler’s dead, his attorney’s going to be cleaning out his office and opening the safe to disburse his assets, likely as soon as tomorrow.”
I knew Ethan was right, but I’d be damned before I’d admit it.
“I’m heading to the outer office,” I said instead, moving toward the door. “We’re sure internal door alarms are off?” I was already betting my life on Walker knowing his shit, a pretty safe bet considering he was probably the best hacker on the planet, but old habits died hard, and I really didn’t like relying on anyone but myself.
“I already told you I own the system. You doubting my prowess with the keyboard?” Walker grumbled, his accent thickening when he was put out. “It hurts, man. Just for that, I’m disabling the WiFi in your room and cutting your free premium cable channels.”
“Jesus,” I muttered, placing my hand on the door handle and turning it. Like I gave the first shit about getting free premium cable and WiFi. Thanks to Eugenia Carmichael and her billions, all five of us were now the joint owners of Manhattan’s swankiest penthouse and financially set for life… just as long as we managed to complete the task she’d left us. A task which seemed more and more like the labors of Hercules as the months passed.
I silently eased the door open a crack and stood still again, taking the measure of the room. I didn’t just listen for sounds or heavy breathing, despite the wisecracks Ethan and Walker liked to make, but tried to sense disturbances, picking up on the vibrations that people (and even unforeseen security measures) sometimes gave off. It was a crucial task for any thief who planned to spend his golden years anywhere but a six-by-eight cell.
The room smelled like strawberry candies, and cheap cologne so strong I almost sneezed.
“Daly, you’re on a clock here,” Xavier reminded me needlessly, and my nostrils instinctively flared as I fought the urge to tell him exactly where he could shove his clock. Walker’s jokes were annoying, Ethan’s overly-perceptive friendliness grated, and Caelan’s silent watchfulness made me uncomfortable, but all of them had earned my loyalty over the past six months. The only person in our quintet that I hadn’t warmed to even a fraction was Xavier Malone, heir apparent of the Madison Avenue Malones and douchebag extraordinaire. Walker, Ethan, and Caelan—a former MMA fighter and personal security guard—had all proved their usefulness to our team, as had I, but somehow Xavier’s useless ass had appointed himself our leader.
I wasn’t sure why nobody else minded this as much as I did.
“Shut the fuck up and let me do my job, X,” I retorted.
“X-av-ier. Three syllables, Daly,” he corrected in the fake-bored voice he used when he was all pissed off, and I smiled in satisfaction before I stopped myself.
Legit, was this my life, where calling a high-profile venture capitalist by a hated nickname was how I got my kicks in the middle of a job that could land me in prison?
Jesus.
But even so, I couldn’t resist adding in a whisper, “Did I hurt your feels, honey?”
“I’m gonna hurt both of you if you don’t shut the fuck up and get this done,” Caelan interjected, silencing both of us immediately. Caelan, despite all his bulk and some formidable fighting skills I’d seen in action, had the longest fuse of anyone I’d ever met. When he was finally pushed to the breaking point, it was as effective as an ice bath.
“Reception area is clear,” I said, stepping forward. “I’m going down the hall to Fowler’s office.”
“Remember, code for the office door is 0-0-7-0-1. The safe is on the wall behind the God-awful nude,” Ethan said. “You’re gonna have to use the digital code device…”
“Walker prepped me on the device,” I interrupted, my voice a bare breath of sound as I tread noiselessly down the hall. And I hadn’t needed much of a tutorial to begin with. My memory was nearly photographic, and I’d used similar devices a number of times in the past, for God’s –
Thunk.
“What’s that?” I asked, though I wasn’t sure the sound was audible to anyone else. For a split second, my pulse pounded, and I froze in place, worried there was someone moving in Fowler’s office at the end of the corridor, but then the HVAC system hummed to life, blanketing the room with recycled air. I took a deep breath.
“Daly, report,” Xavier demanded, and for once I wasn’t pissed off about it.
“False alarm, just the A/C kicking in,” I whispered, pressing a hand to my chest.
“Caelan, you’ve got the van in place?” Xavier asked. His voice sounded strained, and for just one second, I let myself wonder what it must be like to feel like you were in charge of a job and know that there was almost nothing you could do to control the outcome, once the game was in play. Huh. For a control freak like Xavier, that had to be a bitch.
“Yep. Got the van parked in the loading zone with a cold lemonade once Daly’s got the documents,” Caelan replied. “Gotta get this beast in for service,” he said fondly, and I could almost hear him petting the steering wheel as he spoke.
The surveillance van was Caelan’s baby, one of the first things he’d purchased on behalf of Masters’ Security Systems, Inc., the security company Xavier had ‘founded’ as a handy cover for our after-hours jobs, and he refused to let any of us even sit behind the wheel.
In some ways, that van and the company it represented were like the sixth member of our band—the one that gave us the respectable façade necessary to hack systems, break and enter locked buildings, and indulge in a little espionage. People actually paid us to test their security systems—both physical and technological—for weaknesses. We were officially known as white-hat thieves and hackers, and our company had quickly earned a reputation for providing the best personal and corporate security money could buy.
No one seemed to suspect that we spent our free time in similar, unsanctioned pursuits.
I crept down the hallway, listening outside each office as I passed, but all was silent. I took a second to curse the air conditioner, which blew strong enough to rustle papers on desks, and was totally throwing me off my game.
Not that any of this was a game—not since Eugenia Carmichael, widow of Federal Judge Trevor Carmichael, stared down at us from that television screen and calmly discussed her own impending murder.
“I’m about to die, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it, gentlemen. The people who’ll kill me don’t care that I’m old or rich. They don’t care that I haven’t long to live in any case, or that the only reason I’ve hung on this long is to get justice for my sweet husband. They’ll make my death seem like the simplest accident or the most natural death imaginable, just like they did for my Trevor. Just like they did for your mother, Anson Daly. Your brother, Ethan Warner. Your fiancée, Caelan Jamison. Your best friend, Walker Smith. And your sister, Xavier Malone.
“They’re soulless bastards, and their greedy tentacles reach into every branch of law enforcement, every institution meant to protect the population from evil men. But when the good folks can’t be trusted, what’s a woman like me to do? I’ll tell you, gents. You gather together a team of criminals. A cat burglar, a computer expert, a bodyguard who’s not afraid to fight, a con-artist… and the greatest criminal of all, a Wall Street investor to lead them.”
I shook my head as I checked the last office on the right and wished I could have known Eugenia Carmichael. Rich as fuck, batty as hell, and the kind of person I’d have liked to have on my team.
“All the other offices are empty,” I whispered. “Entering Fowler’s office.”
I stared down at the keypad and blinked. “Uh, Ethan, what’s it mean if the door is open?” I demanded.
“Impossible. Security system won’t set unless his door is closed,” Ethan said confidently. “Had to stick my tongue down Becca the receptionist’s throat and practically propose marriage to learn that little tidbit, but you know me. Anything for the Masters.”
“Didn’t ask if it was possible,” I retorted, backing away from the door. “Asked what it meant if the impossible was already happening.”
“What? No,” Ethan said, sounding truly concerned. “I don’t know how… Walker, the systems were booted before you shut them down?”
“Definitely,” Walker said. I could hear keys clacking frantically in the background as he no doubt pored over information on the many screens he had set up all over the office we’d created on the second floor of what used to be the Carmichaels’ penthouse. “External system was shut down by me, and the internal system was… Oh.”
“Oh?” I demanded. “What, oh?”
“Well, Jesus, it looks like the internal security wasn’t reset the last time the external security was engaged.”
“In English, geek. My ass is in the wind here!” I fumed, pressing my back into an alcove in the hall.
“Means that someone shut off the security after the building manager closed up. Probably somebody forgot something and had to come back. When they left, they only set the external security, none of the motion sensors inside.”
His voice was apologetic, and honestly, it was something even I wouldn’t have thought to check for, but it was still my ass on the line. “Probably? What’s probably mean, Walker? Like I’ll probably get twenty to life?”
“I’m pulling up the camera feeds now,” he said, the clicking of his fingers on the keyboard sounding like buzzing wasps in my ear.
“Daly, it’s your call,” X said. “If you haven’t seen anyone, Walker’s probably right. System confirms that the external security was restarted an hour ago and wasn’t shut down again until Walker shut it down. Either someone’s been sitting there silently for an hour, or the person who reset the system did a shit job. You know we need those papers, you know the stakes, but it’s your call,” he repeated.
Shit shit shit. I smoothed my hand down the mask that covered my face. My call, but not really.
Last week, the program Walker had set up to cross reference the names of our dead loved ones against the parties involved in cases Eugenia’s dead husband, Judge Trevor Carmichael, had presided over had finally found a match. A year or so ago, Judge Carmichael had ruled on a racketeering case against mid-level real estate owner Stuart Fowler. It just so happened that Stuart Fowler handled the business dealings for Silver, a seedy bar in Vinegar Hill, and the last place my mom had worked before the overdose that killed her. We needed to find out more about who Fowler was working with, who he was working for, and who was behind the dummy corporation Fowler had set up as the owner of Silver, if we wanted to figure out how and why my mother had died.
But clearly we weren’t the only ones who’d cottoned on to this idea, since Fowler, who’d been offered a plea deal in exchange for a reduced sentence, had been killed in prison before he could decide to start naming names.
Chalk another body up to the bad guys.
“Fine. I’m going in,” I told Xavier, pushing the door open with my heart in my throat.
The scent of cologne I’d smelled in the reception area was even more powerful here, and I froze again, listening for any sound, but the room seemed to be holding its breath.
I threw the door wide, making sure no one was hiding behind it, before cautiously creeping forward. Nothing seemed out of place, and the humming of the HVAC was the only sound.
“Clear,” I breathed, stepping forward to finish my mission.
Any thief who claimed he wasn’t superstitious was a liar. Every thief had a tell—a lucky pair of socks, a nervous tic—and I was no different. I cracked the knuckles of my right hand, and then my left, clenching and unclenching my hands exactly twelve times as I walked over to the desk, my eyes fixed on the ugliest nude I’d ever seen. Jesus, her breasts looked like purple apples. I shook my head in disgust as I opened the painting, handily attached to the wall by a hinge, and put my hand in my pocket to extract the digital code device.
“Christ on a cracker,” I breathed, letting the device fall back into my pocket. I wouldn’t need it now. “Someone got here before us. Safe is empty.”
A chorus of curses echoed through my ear.
“What do we do now?” I demanded, taking a step back and pulling the mask up off my face. “This shit show can’t get much worse.”
My heel hit something on the floor with a dull thud, something I couldn’t see from the thin shafts of moonlight coming through the tinted windows. I crouched down to examine it more closely.
“Oh, my God,” I breathed. “I lied. It’s worse. Dead body. Mother fucker, there’s a dead body in here.” I stood up abruptly.
“Who is it?” Xavier demanded, ever practical.
“He’s not exactly introducing himself, X!” I said. I could hear the panic in my own voice, but dead bodies and I did not get along. “I’m outta here.”
“Check his wallet,” Caelan argued.
“No way! You come do it!”
“You said yourself, it can’t get worse. Just keep your head and check the wallet. We need to know who we’re dealing with here!” Caelan soothed.
And that’s how I found myself, against my better judgment, touching the corpse on the floor of Stuart Fowler’s office, and rolling him over to pick his pocket. Yes, this was really my life.
“Got the wallet,” I said, pocketing the thing and letting the body fall back down.
“You sure he’s dead?” Ethan wanted to know.
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Before Caelan could get all reasonable or X could get all imperious, I held my breath, stripped my glove, and put my fingers to the guy’s throat. He was still warm, but there was no pulse. I leaned closer in case I could hear a breath.
“Achoo!”
I jumped three feet. My instincts had saved my life more times than I could count, and for just one second, I swear I thought the man on the floor, the body on the floor, had sneezed, but then I realized where the sound had come from.
“What the hell is that?” Xavier demanded.
“A sneeze,” I said, standing up and getting my wits about me once more. I crept along the floor towards a small coat closet next to the office door, and threw the door open wide.
“Guys?” I said, as I looked down at the small, wide-eyed redhead huddled there. “Things got worse again.”

 


 

 





Jane Henry

 Jane has been writing since her early teens, dabbling in short stories and poetry. When she married and began having children, her pen was laid to rest for several years, until the National Novel Writing Challenge (NaNoWriMo) in 2010 awakened in her the desire to write again. That year, she wrote her first novel, and has been writing ever since. With a houseful of children, she finds time to write in the early hours of the morning, squirreled away with a laptop, blanket, and cup of hot coffee. Years ago, she heard the wise advice, “Write the book you want to read,” and has taken it to heart. She sincerely hopes you also enjoy the books she likes to read.

 

 

Maisy Archer

 

Maisy is an unabashed book nerd who has been in love with romance since reading her first Julie Garwood novel at the tender age of 12. After a decade as a technical writer, she finally made the leap into writing fiction several years ago and has never looked back. Like her other great loves – coffee, caramel, beach vacations, yoga pants, and her amazing family – her love of words has only continued to grow… in a manner inversely proportional to her love of exercise, house cleaning, and large social gatherings. She loves to hear from fellow romance lovers, and is always on the hunt for her next great read.

 

 

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CHAPTER REVEAL ~ His To Claim by Shelly Bell

 

 

 

 

 

“I had to constantly remind myself to breathe. Shelly Bell packs a powerful punch with her flawless writing and suspenseful, passionate love story.” — #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Ellen Malpas on At His Mercy

 

 

Fate brought them together. Family could tear them apart.

Ryder McKay may be a playboy, but he’s never been a fool. Not until he met the woman he simply knew as Jane. For one night, he dropped his guard, but in the morning she disappeared—along with a copy of his top secret technology.

When it ends up in the hands of his biggest enemy—his father—Ryder knows without a doubt he’s been betrayed. And when he finds Jane again, a year later, he can’t decide what’s worse—that her mother is marrying his brother, or that he still finds Jane irresistible, despite the fact that she’s a liar, a thief, and his father’s latest protégé.

Jane Cooper does have a secret, but it’s not the one Ryder thinks. As their rekindled passion changes into something deeper, they’ll have to work together to untangle a web of lies and corruption that will shatter everything they thought they knew about their pasts. Because Jane’s not the only one with a secret—and this secret is getting people killed.

 


 

Ryder McKay knocked back a shot of Jameson, slammed the glass down on the bar, and grabbed the next one, relishing the smooth burn sliding down his throat. It wasn’t every day your brother was about to marry the daughter of the country’s most powerful man.
The press was calling the union a “marriage made in heaven.”
More like a deal with the devil.
Only in this case, it had been a deal between two devils. Two criminals posing as legitimate business men who were likely using their offspring to solidify some kind of pact between the two families. If Keane McKay and Ian Sinclair joined forces instead of working against each other, they’d have the potential to be largest crime syndicate in North America.
It had been years since Ryder had turned his back on Keane and that life. After he’d graduated high school, he’d made good on his lifelong promise to himself. He’d moved out and never returned.
Any conversation with Keane over the past decade had been limited to Ryder’s insistence that his father not contact him again. It had taken several years, but he had eventually gotten the hint and stopped calling.
To maintain his distance from Keane, Ryder hadn’t planned on attending his brother Finn’s wedding.
Then last week, he’d come across a photograph that had changed his mind.
A photo of Jane.
Recalling the vixen he’d spent one wild night with almost a year ago, he licked remnants of the whiskey from his lips and swirled his finger along the rim of the glass. Before falling asleep that night, he’d realized one time inside of Jane hadn’t been enough for him.
He’d wanted more.
Not just sex, but the chance to get to know her.
Crazy thoughts for a man who’d spent his adult life never having sex with the same woman twice.
But she’d pulled a Cinderella on him, fleeing his hotel room in the middle of the night. Other than her first name, he’d known nothing about her.
Obsessed with finding the woman he couldn’t forget, he’d wasted months searching for her. He’d checked with the organization that had sponsored the conference where they’d met. Called other attendees. Combed through photos of the conference. Hell, at one point, he’d been so desperate, he’d hired a private detective.
And what had he found?
Nothing.
It was as if she’d never existed.
His fingers tightened around his glass.
He’d been a fool.
Because now he knew the truth.
Shortly after their night together, he’d realized someone had copied design and software files from his computer. He hadn’t wanted to believe that Jane had been the one to do it—the time stamp didn’t match—but last week, Ryder stumbled upon a recent article online about his father’s foray into the automated commercial kitchen business, the same business as Ryder’s company Novateur.
Then the photo accompanying the article caught his attention.
It was a photo of the company’s vice -president of innovation standing beside Keane.
Jane.
A muscle popped in his jaw as he acknowledged once again what an idiot he’d been that night.
He’d played right into her hands, lowering his guard when he brought her to his hotel room, not suspecting she would stab him in the back while he slept.
Novateur was one of the first in the world to bring “smart kitchen” technology to restaurants and bakeries. Already in business together providing productivity consultations to restaurants, Ryder and his best friend Tristan had formed the company shortly after their discussion that automation was an effective way to cut costs and increase efficiency in restaurant kitchens. Voice-activated appliances, robotic arms, and conveyor belts for restaurants and bakeries—even the smaller, family-owned ones—were now an affordable reality.
Novateur was the only restaurant automation company to custom design and install the technology per the customer’s specific needs—until McKay Industries.
The evidence was indisputable. Jane had been the one to steal the designs for his father.
Had she thought Ryder wouldn’t find out? Or had she thought that changing the time stamp would save her?
In the end, the joke was on her. Because anything she copied was worthless without key pieces of code. That alone should have given him the satisfaction to move on.
And yet he couldn’t. Something about her didn’t add up. He couldn’t equate the woman he’d met that night with the woman he now knew her to be. She’d acted so innocent in his bed, her eyes widening in something that looked like awe as he’d removed his clothes and given her the first glimpse of his cock.
Not that it wasn’t awe worthy. He didn’t bother with false modesty.
But Jane’s response had seemed…honest. She’d actually flinched when he’d first entered her. Even now, he could hear her husky voice in his head and the way she whispered his name as he brought her to climax. He remembered the sensation of her silky thighs against his cheeks and how tight her pussy had clamped around him when she came.
He rubbed the stubble on his chin with his knuckles.
Since that night, every time it came down to sealing the deal with a woman, thoughts of Jane popped into his head.
And while he could admit he was bit of an asshole when it came to the opposite sex, he wouldn’t fuck one woman while thinking of another.
She hadn’t only stolen his technology.
She’d stolen his fucking mojo.
He should hate her, and yet there were nights he’d roll over in bed and reach for her, only to find the sheets cold.
According to Finn, all of McKay’s essential employees had been invited to the wedding.
Which was why Ryder was here.
Tonight, he was on a mission.
Find Jane.
Confront her.
And get her out of his system, once and for all.
Whatever it took.
Even if whatever it took meant him having to dress in a monkey suit, smile at people he detested, and kiss up to his father. If he’d shown up at McKay Industries, no doubt Keane would have had security toss Ryder out of the building.
But he couldn’t keep Ryder from the wedding.
And Jane wouldn’t be expecting him.
Ryder gulped down his next shot, not even bothering to enjoy it, and returned it bottom side up to the white-satin-covered bar top. Thank fuck his brother and his fiancée had chosen to get married in the city’s only five-star hotel instead of having the traditional church wedding. He’d never make it through the next couple of hours if he had to do it sober.
“Make the next one a double and keep ’em coming,” he told the bartender.
A hard slap on his tuxedoed-clad back had his teeth rattling. He didn’t need to turn around to know who had smacked the shit out of him. Finn may be ten years older but he’d never gone easy on him.
“Save some of the good shit for the other guests,” his brother said.
Ryder turned around, relieved that Finn was alone. He definitely needed more whiskey before dealing with the rest of the family. “Thought you’d be getting ready with Keane and all the other groomsmen.”
Although they shared a father, they looked nothing alike. The only thing they had in common were their gray eyes, a trait shared by all the McKay men. Otherwise, Ryder took after his Mexican mother with his dark brown hair and tanned skin while Finn was a younger version of their Irish father with reddish-blond hair. Not to mention, Ryder towered over Finn by a good five inches, something he never let his older brother forget.
Smooth shaven and with his hair cut short, Ryder barely recognized his brother. Where was the beard? His trademark long hair? This guy was a carbon copy of their father. Of course, it had been a couple years since Ryder had last seen Finn. It had killed Ryder to do it, but once his brother had chosen to take a position at McKay Industries, Ryder had been forced to put some space between them.
Finn gave him a wink. “Wanted to make sure my best man hadn’t taken off with some random chick to get his pre-wedding ceremony blow job.”
More like Finn was worried Ryder had again changed his mind about attending the wedding and wouldn’t show. Understandable, since Ryder had questioned his brother more than once as to why Finn was marrying Ciara.
Bad enough Finn had left the attorney general’s office to work at McKay Industries, but to marry into a family possibly even more corrupt than theirs? Finn must have lost his damned mind.
Ryder scratched his head. He had to try one last time to convince Finn he was making the wrong decision. “Listen, I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, but—”
“I’m marrying Ciara.” Finn held up his hand, effectively stopping Ryder from continuing. “I appreciate that you’re concerned for me, but I assure you, I know what I’m doing.”
Folding his arms across his chest, Ryder snorted and leaned his back against the bar. “Yeah, because after all, your first marriage went so well.”
His brother shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Marriage is complicated.”
Complicated was something Ryder didn’t need in his life. That’s why he was never getting married. “Especially when your wife tries to kill you.”
“She wasn’t trying to kill me,” Finn mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. “Greta was an expert marksman. Got me exactly where she wanted to.”
Ryder would never forget the night he’d gotten the phone call that his brother had been shot. Nearly ran off the road trying to get to the hospital, only to arrive and find his brother resting comfortably on his stomach as he watched the Tigers’ game on his iPhone.
Asshole.
“What does your new woman think of the scar on your ass?” Ryder asked Finn.
Finn grinned. “She thinks it’s sexy.”
“Only the daughter of a criminal would find a bullet to the ass sexy.”
His brother shushed him and stepped closer, looking around the empty room in a move that hinted at paranoia. “Keep your voice down, would you?”
Ryder tamped down his urge to chuckle. Fucking with his brother rated high on his list of favorite things to do. “What are you worried about? Someone finding out that your future father-in-law is a criminal or that your ex shot you in the ass when you asked for a divorce?” he asked loud enough for anyone close by to overhear, including the bartender, who stopped his cleaning at Ryder’s words and let out a snort.
Finn only shook his head. “You’re an asshole. Do you know that?” He clamped a hand on Ryder’s shoulder and squeezed. Hard. “But you’re also the best brother any guy could ask for. I’m thankful every day that Dad boinked the maid and fathered you. Which is why I’m going to tell you that when it comes to Ciara and her family, I know what I’m getting into.”
“I thought we agreed we were both getting out of the family business. Me with Novateur and you by becoming some hotshot lawyer. We don’t need Dad’s money and we certainly don’t need his connections.”
His brother clenched his jaw and looked away, almost guiltily. “As long as Dad is still in charge of McKay Industries, we’ll never be free of him. Don’t you get it by now?”
“So you just gave up and figured you’d make him even more powerful by marrying a rival’s daughter?”
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Finn sighed. “I told you. I love—”
“You love Ciara.” He rolled his eyes. Childish, but appropriate. “I heard you the first twenty times. But I still don’t believe you.”
Ryder wasn’t completely dead inside. He had the ability to love. He loved his brother, Tristan, and an ice-cold beer at a ball game, but as for the so-called everlasting romantic kind of love?
Not in his genetic makeup.
His father was on marriage number four—no, five—and his brother’s first marriage had ended in gun play.
The odds were definitely not in Ryder’s favor…or his brother’s.
Long ago, Ryder had made the decision never to get married or have children. Both a wife and a kid would be a vulnerability he couldn’t afford. Look at what Keane had done by stealing Ryder’s designs and competing against him. No, Ryder could never give Keane that kind of power over him.
Finn shot him a look of disappointment. “I know you don’t, but I wish you had at least a little faith that I know what I’m doing.” He puffed out his chest and straightened his bow tie, cutting the awkward tension with his smirk. “After all, I’m the big brother. You’re supposed to look up to me.”
“And I would if you weren’t such a midget,” Ryder deadpanned.
His brother grabbed his crotch. “Yeah, well, unlike you, I’m large where it counts.”
Ryder was about to challenge that comment when his brother’s smirk slid off his face and all the joy was sucked out of the room. He didn’t have to turn around to know the source of the sucking.
“Pop,” Ryder said in greeting.
A firm hand clasped his shoulder and a raspy voice, created by a two-pack- a- day cigarette habit, came from behind him. “Ryder. Good to see you, son.”
Too bad he couldn’t say the same.
He waited for the scent of cigarettes to assault his nose and was surprised when it didn’t happen. Had the old man finally quit?
His father moved to his side, giving Ryder a glimpse of the man he hadn’t seen in years.
Always robust and thick around the waist, his father had shrunk to half his old size. Still not skinny, but to Ryder, the difference was jarring. His white hair had thinned on top, showing off the reddened scalp underneath it, and his wrinkled skin seemed especially pronounced because of his weight loss.
He looked…tired. Old. Too old for seventy-one.
For a moment, Ryder experienced a rush of compassion for his father, until he remembered that his father had never once had any compassion for anyone else.
He expected a lecture. A snide remark. Something.
But his father simply gave him a nod of regard and focused his attention on Finn. “There’s been a slight delay with the wedding ceremony. Apparently, Jane has had an incident with her bridesmaid dress and had to run to the bridal shop to have it repaired. She’s on her way now.”
Ryder froze mid-breath. Although he tried to keep his voice disinterested, he was anything but. “Jane?”
His father’s eyes twinkled with something resembling pride. “My step-granddaughter. Or soon-to-be step-granddaughter.”
No.
It had to be a different Jane.
“Ciara has a child?” he asked his brother, surprised that fact hadn’t come up before.
“Jane’s an adult now. Ciara had her at fifteen,” Finn said quietly. “Jane was raised by Ciara’s aunt and uncle down in Florida. Even now, not a lot of people in our circle know Ciara has a daughter, so I’d appreciate it if you kept the information to yourself.”
Whoever this Jane was, anger flared hot in his gut on her behalf.
They wanted to keep the girl a secret as if she had a reason to be ashamed. Why even bother inviting her to the wedding?
Mumbled curses and frantic footsteps echoed from down the hall, growing louder as someone approached.
Ryder’s mouth went dry.
Even mumbled, he’d recognize that silken voice anywhere.
Like a tornado, she whirled into the room, every part of her in disarray, from her long dark brown curls to the thick black-framed glasses tilted on her nose.
She was as beautiful as he’d remembered.
It made it difficult to remember she was the enemy.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, gripping the sides of her dress in her hands to keep it off the floor and looking down at her feet as if worried she’d trip. “As I was leaving my apartment, the hem of my dress got caught in the…”—she looked up and her eyes widened as she caught sight of Ryder—“…door.”
This wasn’t the plan. He’d wanted to surprise her.
But he hadn’t expected to be just as shocked.
If Ciara was Jane’s mother, that made Jane his…
He couldn’t even finish the thought.
Finn kissed her warmly on the cheek. “Jane. This is my brother, Ryder. Ryder, this is—”
“Jane,” she said, smiling tightly while her swan-like throat worked over a swallow. “Your soon-to-be step-niece.”


 


 Shelly Bell is the author of the popular Benediction and Forbidden Lovers series. Her book, Blue Blooded, received a Top Pick from Romantic Times Book Reviews and was nominated for an RT Award. At His Mercy, the first in her Forbidden Lovers series, has been nominated for an RT Award in Erotic Romance and received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

When she’s not working her day job, taking care of her family, or writing, you’ll find her reading the latest romance or thriller. Shelly is a member of Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

 

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ NUDES by Sarah Robinson


The audiobook of NUDES by Sarah Robinson is LIVE!

Title: NUDES

Author: Sarah Robinson

Genre: Contemporary Romance

 

About Nudes:

Praised by number one New York Times best-selling author Lauren Blakely as “Passionate, emotional and uplifting!”, contemporary romance author Sarah Robinson brings listeners a new stand-alone novel set in the glamorous hills of Hollywood and tackling challenging themes like the intersection of sexuality and female empowerment.

Ben Lawson is making a comeback….

After a few tabloid headlines, they think they know me. They don’t know a damn thing. As CEO of a movie production company, I’ll show them who I really am when we hit it big at the box office. My ex thought her smear tactics would ruin me, but I’m unbreakable. Rising from the debris, I swore I’d never let a woman distract me like that again. But then, my leading actress walked on the set and changed everything.

Seductive, sexy, and unapologetic, Aria Rose could break me. I wanted to help her, protect her…love her. Instead, I destroyed her.

Aria Rose is baring it all….

I knew better. I knew not to trust another Hollywood heartthrob with a reputation like his. He was my boss and became my ruin. I should have stayed far away from him. Ben Lawson promised me the world. He even promised me his heart. But he destroyed everything – my heart, my career, us.

If you enjoy Nudes, preorder the next book in the series, Bare, about Aria’s younger sister, coming 2018!



GRAB YOUR COPY TODAY!

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Exclusive Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Aria woke with a jolt, looking around the dark bedroom. As her senses slowly began to adjust, she looked for the source of whatever had disturbed her. Her cell phone vibrated against the surface of her nightstand, the screen lit so brightly it cast a square light onto the ceiling above.

Yawning, Aria grabbed for it. She glanced over at the man in bed next to her, her heart filling with warmth at the sight of his sleeping form.

Finally focusing on her phone, she realized she had dozens of missed texts, calls, and emails.

“What the hell?” she whispered to herself, sitting up.

Aria, are you awake? WAKE UP NOW.

Don’t look at the news. We need to talk. 911.

Is that you on E! News? Did you allow that?

OMG, ARIA! WHAT THE HELL?

What did you do?!?! This is career suicide!

Her heart began to race, panic swarming her every cell as she quickly clicked out on a website link her best friend sent her. A photo popped up, and then another, and another, and another, and Aria knew exactly what she was looking at.

Herself.

Nude.

Aria could barely breathe, trembling as she searched social media and entertainment news sites. The photos were everywhere. She was everywhere. Her breasts, her body, her love life on full display for the world to see.

It would have been bad enough if they’d just been images of her posing, but these were pornographic. These were her in her most intimate moments with a man she’d…

A sob stuck in her throat. Did he do this?

She looked at the man still sleeping beside her, fear gripping her heart.

This couldn’t be happening.


CHAPTER ONE

Two Months Earlier

“Wait until you meet our lead.” The heavyset producer’s eyes glinted with excitement as he spoke. He brought a sandwich up to his lips, taking a bite and continuing around a mouthful of food. “She’s only had small roles up until this film, but she’s up-and-coming. No doubt about it. Aria Rose is poised to take the world by storm come Oscar season.”

Ben didn’t reply, too distracted watching the producer trying to wipe a blob of mayonnaise off his tie. Arthur Atwood was a large man with a messy comb-over and an ill-fitting suit, which must have been a deliberate choice since Ben knew Arthur made a handsome salary.

Is he licking his tie?

His new right-hand man was actually licking mayonnaise off his tie. Not a good sign. Ben made a mental note never to ask Arthur to have a meeting over lunch at his desk again.

“Bugger, it’s in there good,” Arthur muttered in his thick English accent, dropping his tie and slapping his hands on his knees. “All right. Enough of that. Ready for a tour of the studio?”

“Very,” Ben replied, balling up the parchment paper his own sandwich had been wrapped in and tossing it into the wastebasket beneath his desk. He stood, rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck from side to side.

They’d spent the morning touring the corporate offices on the lot of Shepherd Film Studios where Ben would be officially starting in two weeks as the company’s new chief executive officer. He had agreed to come in on Friday to tour everything and meet the crew on their final day of filming—but the pressure was already on.

One of the oldest movie production companies in Hollywood, Shepherd Film Studios was well respected, but struggled to adapt to new changes in the industry—the rise of streaming services, quicker distribution on the internet, and other changes that appealed to younger generations.

Maguire Industries had recently purchased the studio and placed Ben in charge to fix that. He had one year to prove to the board at Maguire that he could turn Shepherd Films back into a thriving production company or they’d dismantle the company and sell it off for profit.

He was Shepherd Films last resort, and thank goodness, too. No one else in Hollywood was desperate enough to throw him a lifeline. Being an embarrassing public spectacle for the last two years had been by far one of the biggest setbacks in his professional life to date—and his personal life was to blame.

Fucking divorce.

“Have you seen any of her movies?” Arthur held the door to the office open for him, and together they headed down the hallways of the main offices. “She’s a bombshell—literally one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen.”

“Aria Rose?” Ben replied, racking his brain for a mental image of the actress. “I’ve seen a few. Very pretty. She’s very talented but never been a lead.”

Scarlet’s Letters is her first starring role, and she’s perfect for it. We can watch the dailies from today’s filming, and you’ll see what I mean. We were really lucky to score her for this film.”

Ben had wondered about that, too. Aria wasn’t necessarily A-list, but she was an up-and-coming fan favorite among millennial and younger generations. Her social media attention was nonstop, and there was an almost cult following to her that had made Hollywood execs begin to take notice. Yet, he’d seen the budget this morning. She was being vastly underpaid for this film, and he wasn’t sure why.

They passed the guards at the front desk of the main offices and stepped out into the sun. “How did your team manage to sign her?” Ben asked.

“Sheer luck, I’d gather. She was following the script around—or so I heard. Determined to be part of it, though I can’t say why exactly. The script is great—historical World War II romance with a Hester Prynne theme—and we’re already getting some Oscar buzz from it. Still, it’s a long shot, and it’s nothing like her previous films.”

Ben pulled a pair of sunglasses from his suit pocket and placed them over his eyes. The bright Los Angeles sun was beating down on them as they climbed onto a golf cart to traverse the large lot to the studios. “Sounds like we’re the lucky ones, then.”

“You’ve got that right,” Arthur agreed, taking the driver’s seat since Ben was still mostly unfamiliar with the area.

A few minutes later, their golf cart pulled up outside a large warehouse-type building that read STUDIO E in large black letters across the top. Ben climbed out and followed Arthur to a small door off to the side, a red light lit above the door.

Arthur pointed to the light. “That means they’re filming, so not a peep.” He placed a finger to his mouth, indicating they needed to be quiet.

Ben nodded, and they entered the building only to be immediately shrouded in darkness. It might be his first day at Shepherd Films, but Ben was no stranger to movie sets and felt immediately at ease as they carefully made their way over to where the camera crew was.

Ben’s father, Roger Lawson, was a highly sought after cameraman who’d taken a career most people overlooked and became the best. He’d taught Ben to do the same—excel in everything by putting his whole heart into every project, no matter how small or large. As a young boy, he’d spent many a summer day with his father at work, learning the business of not only filming, but creating movies, in general.

Newly thirty years old, Ben had spent the last decade putting his father’s words into practice, rising through the ranks to become one of the hottest names in film production. He only wished his father was still alive to see his ascent, or at least, he had wished that until his ex-wife smeared his name through the tabloids during their divorce.

Never fall in love with an actress. The one rule his father had told him before he died that Ben had ignored. Lesson learned.

“Am I to be punished for helping a fellow human being?” A strong female voice broke through the silence around them.

Ben stepped around a crowd of onlookers to see the set. Behind him was an entire crew, and not a single dry eye. The emotion on everyone’s face surprised him. Following their attention to the main set, he saw the set was a bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed was a tall, broad-shouldered man with his head in his hands, wearing a soldier’s uniform from the 1940’s.

In front of the downtrodden soldier was a statuesque blonde, her hair flowing down her back in one long, chunky braid. Pieces of her golden mane escaped the braid, framing her face and highlighting her soft, pink cheeks. Pale blue-gray eyes brimmed with tears as she folded her hands over her heart.

“I won’t lie, James,” she continued, her voice softer now. “I can’t.”

The soldier suddenly stood, gripping the woman by her upper arms. “You have to lie, Anna. Your life is at stake—my life, our life. You’ll be imprisoned, and everything we’ve dreamt of will be over.”

She steeled herself, her jaw tightening. “If this is real…if our love is real…then we’ll survive this. Without the lies, the tricks, the falsehoods. We can survive this, James.”

Ben felt a swelling in his chest, a lump in his throat. He wasn’t even sure what the storyline was about, and yet, he was captivated by the woman in front of the cameras. Her presence was powerful…she was powerful.

“No, Anna.” He dropped her arms and stepped back, a look of disgust on his face. “We can’t survive this. Not if you choose their lives over mine…over ours.”

The blonde shook her head slowly, her hand now on her stomach as if she might be sick. “You can’t mean that, James. You can’t make me pick between loving you and my purpose in life.”

“It’s them…or it’s me. Now or never, Anna.”

Ben focused on the actress’s face, expecting to see her acquiesce to the steely-delivered ultimatum. Instead, her chin pushed up and she inhaled deeply. Everything about her posture and stance screamed strength, and yet, in the exact same moment, those blue-gray eyes ached with pain. Ben nearly forgot he was watching actors because her portrayal was so genuine…she was so genuine.

“Goodbye, James.” Her voice was gentle, but resolute.

The soldier’s nostrils flared angrily, before he slowly shook his head. “Goodbye, Anna.” With that, he walked out of the door and left her standing alone in the bedroom.

She waited a moment, staring after him. Her hand slowly lifted to her lips, covering her mouth as a loud sob ripped from her throat. In an excruciating display, her body dipped forward slightly before completely crumpling in on itself. She fell against the edge of the bed, sobbing into its sheets, as the lights on set dimmed.

“Cut!” the director yelled. “Holy fuck. That was amazing, Aria!”

The blond actress pushed up off the bed, smiling and wiping the tears from her cheeks. Everyone in the studio erupted into applause, and Ben joined in. She deserved every second of it after that performance.

A surge of excitement ran through Ben’s body—he could do this. With acting like this, there was no way their movie wouldn’t be a success. There was no way he wouldn’t be able to bring this studio success within the year with a film like this.

“Hey, Russell,” Arthur called out to the director and ushered Ben over to him. “Meet our new studio head, Ben Lawson.”

Ben extended a hand to the grungy looking man with long, curly black hair to his shoulders. “Good to meet you, Russell.”

“Please, call me Russ. I’m Russ Rains, director. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.” He donned a cocky smile. Metal and bracelets around his wrists made a clanking sound as they shook hands—a not too unusual fashion choice in this city.

“I have,” Ben admitted, though he didn’t really like this man’s ego already. It was certainly nothing unusual in Hollywood, and Ben had met the type many a time before. Russell Rains was a legitimately well-known director with several big box office hits under his belt, though it had been many years since his last. “Your work is amazing, Russ.”

“Thank you, Benji,” Russ said with an obnoxious chuckle. “Come on. Let me introduce you to our leads.”

“I’ll meet you back at the office,” Arthur told Ben. “Have fun on set!”

Ben followed Russell onto the bedroom set where the actress he’d been so captivated by was hugging the soldier who’d just broken her heart.

“You were amazing, Travis,” she said to him, pulling back from their embrace to smile at him.

Something inside Ben stirred—irritation, anger? He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t like seeing the man’s arms around the beautiful blonde.

“Sweet pea, come meet our new studio head,” Russ called out to Aria, who visibly bristled at his demand. Ben made a mental note to ask about the director’s dynamic with the actors later. “This here is Benji.”

Ben Lawson,” Ben corrected the director, extending his hand to the woman.

“Aria Rose,” she replied, taking his hand with a gentle squeeze. Her fingers were small and warm around his, and there was something sad about letting go. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lawson. This is my co-star, Travis Peters.”

The soldier shook his hand next. “Good to meet you, sir.”

“Please, call me Ben,” he instructed them both. “Travis, you were fantastic. And, Aria, I have to admit that your performance just now was incredible. I was unbelievably moved.”

Her pale pink cheeks darkened as she looked down at her hands. “Thank you.”

“I have no doubt this movie will be phenomenal.”

Russ slapped a hand on Ben’s back. “Hell, yeah. That was our last scene, so we’re officially wrapped.” The director stepped away from them and yelled to the entire crew. “It’s a wrap, fuckers!”

Ben didn’t even cringe at the man’s abrasiveness this time.

The crew clapped and cheered, and everyone was hugging and high-fiving each other. A swarm of people came onto the bedroom set to congratulate Aria, pushing Ben backward as he watched her gracefully accept their praise.

In fact, he couldn’t take his eyes off her, and it only had a little to do with how unbelievably attracted he was to her. As he stepped to the side, he watched how she smiled, laughing and embracing her co-workers. It was captivating. Aria commanded a room, not just when she was acting, but as herself. Her eyes danced and shone as she spoke to the crew and other actors, her smile wide and transformative.

He felt drawn to who she was, not just what he saw, and it was intoxicating. Though, what he saw was certainly breathtaking. Gorgeous wasn’t enough to describe this woman, or the way her long neck dipped into thin shoulders and a deep collarbone. Her breasts pushed against the dark red dress she was wearing that highlighted her hourglass silhouette, and her golden braid hung down over her shoulder with a weight and visible softness he’d never seen before.

Someone bumped Ben’s shoulder as they rushed in her direction, bringing Ben back to reality. What the fuck am I doing? He was barely six months out of a long divorce and had sworn off women entirely for now. And an actress? That was not happening. No way would he repeat his previous mistake twice. Not to mention that he was her boss, essentially, and that it would be a major conflict of interest. That was even assuming she was single and interested in him, which…

Why am I even thinking about this? Ben shook the thought from his head, unsure when the last time was that he’d ever felt this foggy-headed over a woman.

Aria’s laughter peeled through the air just then, melodic and joyous. Ben swallowed hard, shoving his hands in his pockets and heading for the door. He had to get out of there. Now.

He wouldn’t let himself fall for another actress, not even one as beautiful as Aria Rose.


BLP REVIEW ~ Tracy

I really like Sarah Robinson’s books and I was intrigued by the blurb for Nudes, it being a little different from Ms R’s previous stories. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was a good read.

I loved the message behind the story, it’s a very real and sad fact of current life – and not just in Hollywood. 
Ben and Aria had a pretty instant connection regardless of the fact that neither were looking for a relationship having both been recently burned. I liked how they were together but would have enjoyed a more of a build up in their relationship and gods, what is it with crossed wires and lack of communication?!? (that’s a bit of a bug bear with me in stories even though I know it’s necessary at times)

As I said, the story was a good read and one I would recommend but, for me, it was a short read (it only took me a few hours to finish) and I felt there was a little something missing – I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly, but a touch more depth would, again for me, have made this a great read! 

I’m giving Nudes 3.75*.




About Sarah Robinson:

Aside from being a Top 10 Barnes & Noble and Amazon Bestseller, Sarah Robinson is a native of the Washington, DC area and has both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in forensic and clinical psychology. She is newly married to a wonderful man who is just as much of an animal rescue enthusiasts as she is. Together, they own a zoo of rescues including everything from mammals to reptiles to marsupials, as well as volunteering and fostering for multiple animal shelters.

Subscribe to her newsletter at http://www.subscribepage.com/sarahrobinsonnewsletter

Visit the author’s website for more information about Sarah and her books: http://booksbysarahrobinson.net/

 

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CHAPTER REVEAL ~ Taking it Slow by Jordan Marie

 

 

 

A bottle of tequila

10 lime wedges

1 sexy blonde

Add in a crazy Vegas weekend

Lick and Swallow.

What do you get? A recipe for disaster.

Titan

Last night I got married.

I think.

I’m not exactly sure.

I was drunk off my ass, so it’s not exactly crystal clear.

But, I woke up with a ring on my finger, a marriage certificate, and a sneaking suspicion I had a wild wedding night.

Oh, and a bride who is long gone.

Apparently, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay here. Sometimes it takes off running.

But a runaway bride is the least of my problems.

Now I’m chasing after my runaway bride with divorce on my mind.

What could go wrong?

Besides everything.

This is book 3 in the series, but is self-contained and can be read as a standalone.

HEA inside and absolutely no cheating of any kind.


Faith

I whimper when the damn ping of my phone won’t hush. I squint, opening one eye—and one eye only.Sweet Jesus on a turnip truck, I drank way too much last night. I warned Hope I didn’t do weddings. I hate them. She was in Vegas, everyone knows you do the deed at a quicky drive-thru chapel somewhere and get it done—if you are ever crazy enough to say “I do.”

I won’t… ever.

Slowly the room begins to come into a focus… it’s a blurry focus, but still.

The first thing I notice is everything hurts.

Even my hair.

Definitely had too much to drink. The second thing I notice is I’m not in my one-room apartment, lying on my broken-down, never comfortable, probably ruining my back forever, futon.

I’m in a bed. A really soft bed. I’m also in what appears to be a very fancy room. A room with entirely too much sunshine coming in through the windows. My gaze immediately goes to the open glass doors that lead out to a balcony. When I look around I can see I’m not only in a strange hotel room, I’m in one that costs bank.

Lots of bank.

Then, I just happen to notice the crumpled wedding dress on the concrete floor of the balcony.

That’s when panic begins, as memories flood through my mind.

Memories of the night before.

Of course, it might not be the crumpled dress that brings those back quite as much as the huge leg—not that leg—wrapped over mine, the arm currently wrapped across my stomach and the third leg—yes, that “leg”—pushing against my ass.

I look down at the milk chocolate beast of an arm and I swear the female bits between my legs tingle as memories of the night before flood through me. Memories of… Titan. I have the strongest urge to wiggle against the semi-aroused cock pressing against my ass, but I don’t. I hold myself really still.

Because I’m in the middle of the biggest panic attack ever.

I can’t remember all of what I did last night. It’s a blur of devil’s juice, eating the worm—disgusting, by the way, and I may never drink tequila again—and sex… so much sex.

Sex everywhere. Bed, floor, shower, closet—don’t ask—and against the wall. Sex against the floor-to-ceiling window with my ass mooning the strip, but… sex on that balcony after I was stripped of my wedding dress is the one that sticks in my mind. Sex where I hung over the concrete balcony screaming, “Fuck me, harder, Big Daddy,” while Titan did indeed fuck me harder for everyone and anyone to see. There are other balconies close by. I can’t be entirely sure who saw us… or who we may have scarred forever.

Because, let’s face it, sex in real life is never like the porn movies.

I slide out of the bed an inch at a time—panic making my heart slam against my chest so loud I want to cry, because my head hurts like hell. Titan grumbles but flops over on his back, still asleep. I stand there looking down at him and I can’t move.

He’s that beautiful.

His arms are slung out on each side of him, his head turned to the side, his well-trimmed goatee and beautiful, thick lips making my knees weak. The sheet is tangled in his feet and his dick is obviously alert, even if the rest of him isn’t.

The sight of his dick makes me glad I was drunk last night.

Lord have mercy on me, a poor sinner girl… He’s huge. I take a step toward it before I can stop myself. It’s bobbing up in the air like it’s nodding at me. It’s wide, as in—thick as hell. How many women has this man sent running from the room in fear—that kind of thick. I’ve seen a few dicks—I’m not a whore or anything—not counting last night—but I have, and this one is in a class all by itself. And he’s long. I don’t have a tape measure on hand, and I wouldn’t risk waking Titan up for it, but this man could be the pink unicorn of dicks. He could actually be a foot long. He might not be, but it would not surprise me. I back away when Titan grunts in his sleep. Each step I take hurts, only adding credence to Titan’s dick. Damn, I might not walk right for a month.

I run bare-ass naked to the balcony. It’s early, the sun is shining, but the Vegas heat hasn’t raised its evil head yet. I’m definitely going to have to soak my poor abused body soon, however. I can feel where Titan has drilled—so to speak—with each step. I grab the wedding dress and step into it, trying to remain bent over so I cover my body. I might not have been shy last night in my tequila haze, but I don’t have that luxury today. I shove my hands through the dress, rising up so I can zip it—when I hear a throat clearing. I look behind me and see a man standing on a balcony behind me, grinning.

He’s older, as in probably Uncle Jansen’s age, and he’s wearing a cowboy hat. He’s sexy, but not my style.

“Morning,” he smirks, his Texan accent strong.

I give him a tight smile over my shoulder and then reach behind me to zip up the dress and hide my ass from the guy—even if it is a little too late. Walking back into the room, I look around for my shoes. I see some empty condom wrappers—thank you Jesus! I also see an empty bottle of tequila and Titan’s clothes.

Titan Marsh… pro football player, a hell of a good time in bed, and … my husband.

That last part makes me cringe. I don’t want a husband. He didn’t want a wife. We discussed that numerous times while drinking tequila and gambling the night away. How we ended up in that all-night Elvis wedding chapel, I don’t remember exactly. But I clearly remember saying “I do” and twirling my hips like Elvis when he proclaimed us husband and wife. I also remember turning to Titan and demanding—in my best Meg Ryan voice—to take me to bed or lose me forever.

He did take me to bed, but he didn’t get the whole Top Gun reference. I get the feeling Titan isn’t a big movie buff.

I look around for a few more minutes and pick up my veil, looking at the white converse tennis shoes and frowning. I wore tennis shoes to my wedding?

Whatever.

I put them on and lace them up quickly. Just as I’m heading out the door, I find a blue flowered garter. It’s on the entry table. I pick it up and start to stuff it into my pocket, but the dress doesn’t have pockets.

I look back at Titan and then down to the gold band on my hand. I walk back toward him, still feeling him between my legs with each step I make. I clutch the garter tightly in my hand. As I look down at the sleeping man, with the dick that apparently never sleeps, I only know one thing. I don’t want to be married.

He’s damn good in bed, though.

Decision made, I toss my garter toward his dick. It snags on the wide head, and lands at an angle. Titan’s hand comes down and he cups his balls before scratching them. I watch, my mouth falling open and my eyes widening in shock.

When the garter decides to fall down the long shaft of his dick I have to fight back a giggle. Then I hightail it out of the room. I don’t stop to think, I don’t stop to take in the strange stares I’m getting from the people in the elevator or in the lobby. I head straight for the door.


A QUIRKY WRITER GOING WHERE THE VOICES TAKE HER.
USA Today Best Selling Author Jordan Marie, is just a simple small town country girl who is haunted by Alpha Men who talk in her head 24 hours a day.

She currently has 14 books out including 2 that she wrote under the pen name Baylee Rose.

She likes to create a book that takes you on an emotional journey whether tears, laughter (or both) or just steamy hot fun (or all 3). She loves to connect with readers and interacting with them through social media, signings or even old fashioned email.

 



 

CHAPTER REVEAL ~ Careless by Michelle Horst

 


Available via Kindle Unlimited

 

 

 

Irony – when life f@cks you over.

Jax

She’s the one girl I can’t forget.
She’s as innocent as a saint, with the mouth of a sinner.
After taking her virginity, it’s taken me four years to get rid of the guilt.
I used her while she was at her lowest and she’s never forgiven me.
Watching my best friend die a little every day, and not being able to do anything about it, kills me.
I should’ve seen it coming. The second I hit rock bottom, she walks back into my life.
The f@cking irony?
She might be the only one who can save Marcus.
The life of the person who means the most to me lies in the palm of the girl I screwed.

Leigh

Hate is a strong word, but it’s one I’ve really considered when it comes to Jaxson West. But I’ve settled for intensely disliking him. It’s similar to the way I feel about visiting the dentist.
Asking me to forgive Jaxson, is like asking me to willingly sit through a root canal.
He’s heartbreakingly gorgeous, emphasis on heartbreakingly.
He’s an amazing friend, just not to me.
He’s supportive, understanding, caring and loving, just not to me.
No, for me he reserves his dark scowls and low growls.
I’ll do everything I can to save Marcus, but I’m not doing it for Jaxson.

Jaxson West & Leigh Baxter ~ Book 3 in the Enemies To Lovers Series

This is a Stand Alone book in the Enemies To Lovers Series. Each book in the series is about a different couple. To get the full experience of their friendship I’d recommend that you start with Heartless.

 


 

JAXSON

Five years ago…
The bottle slips from my fingers, clinking as it lands on top of the small pile of empty beer bottles already gathering underneath the hammock I’m relaxing on.
“It’s your turn to get beers.”
Drowsily, Marcus closes his eyes. “I’ll go get some in a minute.”
I melt into my own hammock and sigh sleepily.
“This was the best idea you’ve ever had. I’m going to park my ass right here the entire weekend.”
During the week, Marcus came home with five hammocks. So far we’ve only put up two of them, which was an accomplishment in itself, if you ask me. The three leftover hammocks are still lying in the living room.
“Do you think you’ll be able to fuck while keeping your balance on this thing?” I ask, without opening my eyes.
Damn, this is the life. Me and Marcus, all the beer we want, and the sun all fucking day long.
“Don’t know. You can try it out sometime and let me know. It takes ten minutes just to get my ass settled in this thing,” Marcus murmurs.
Yeah, it’s only a matter of minutes before he’ll be fast asleep. Come to think of it, an afternoon nap isn’t such a bad idea. It will give me more energy for the party we’re having tonight.
I glance over at my best friend and grin. He’s lying with both legs hanging off on either side of the hammock.
“Dude, you look uncomfortable, lying like that,” I laugh.
He doesn’t answer at once, and I’m starting to think he’s asleep when he mumbles, “Free-Fucking-Balling. There’s a nice breeze on my balls.”
“Cool,” I grin, as I move slowly so I don’t tip the damn hammock. When I have my legs hanging off the sides, my grin grows. “Fuck, you’re right.”
Marcus laughs lazily. “The wind’s blowing us, dude.”
Everything is about sex when it comes to my best friend. Not like I’m one to talk. It’s as if our minds have a direct link to the gutter.
We’ve been friends since diapers. Our moms were best friends as well. At least, they were until Mr. Reed killed Mrs. Reed. That was one fucked-up day. Marcus was only ten and his sister, Summer, had just turned six the previous month. To this day, no one knows the reason Marcus’ dad lost his shit and shot his wife, daughter, and son, before turning the gun on himself.
Fortunately, the bullet missed Marcus’ heart by a ball hair. Summer and Mrs. Reed died instantly. It happened during our summer vacation so luckily, I could stay with him every day until he got released into Mom’s custody. He had no other family and besides, she was his godmother.
Logan might be my twin, but after the shooting, Marcus and I became inseparable. We might have been close before he lost his family, but during his stay in the hospital, it was as if I became everything in his life.
Those first few weeks he wouldn’t talk to anyone but me. Mom made him see a psychologist, but that didn’t help much either. He became detached from everyone and everything. I was the only one allowed to see behind the walls. I was the only one he didn’t pretend with. I comforted his broken heart suffering from the loss of his mom and sister. I held him as he cried because he didn’t understand what had happened. I took the blows when he was overcome with anger at his father. I took it all – the good, the bad, the broken – without fail. I took it all, so he didn’t have to carry the full weight of his fucked-up past alone.
After the shooting, Mom changed as well. The horror that took place in the Reed’s home rocked the whole community, but after a while, things slowly returned to normal, and people stopped talking about it. Where Marcus turned into himself, Mom seemed to be all over the place, as if she lost her balance in life. The friendship between her and Mrs. Reed reminded me a lot of what Marcus and I had. After Mrs. Reed died, Mom unraveled right before our eyes. She’d gone from mother-of-the-year to fucked-up mess at breakneck speed.
At first, it was little things. She’d spent entire nights sitting outside while finishing a bottle of wine or three. She grew impatient with us, her once loving demeanor being replaced by a snapping tone and cold glare.
It got worse after our thirteenth birthday. I was the first one to go through a growth spurt. Knowing I couldn’t go to Mom about the hair making its appearance on my face, I went to Mr. Hayes. He was the only father any of us had. Even though he worked his ass off, he always had time for us. Honestly, we spent more time at Carter’s house, than anywhere else.
Mr. Hayes was amazing. I mean, fucking amazing. He was never too busy for us. He’d go out of his way to show every single one of us how much he cared. He never missed any of our firsts. The first day of school, first games, first driving lessons—he was there for everything. He was the only solid in our constantly changing lives.
The memory of how he taught us to shave will always be one of my favorites.
It was early one morning after Mom had left for a well-deserved day at the spa after a night of heavy drinking. I was relieved to find that Mr. Hayes hadn’t left for the office yet. After I asked him if he could show me how to shave, he took off his tailored suit jacket and proceeded to roll up the sleeves of his expensive shirt. When he had the five of us standing in front of the mirror, he placed razors and shaving gel in front of us. He made sure to remove all the blades from the razors so we could practice first.
He started with Carter, spending time with each of us, making sure we knew what to do. I was last in line, for which I was grateful because it gave me time to watch as he showed the others. I still remember Mia sitting on the side of the tub, pulling her face as she watched us.
Rhett and Mia were the first to move in with Carter and Mr. Hayes after their parents died. That was a blow to us all. Rhett and Mia had the best parents, and their sudden death caused Marcus to have a setback as well. It was a reminder of what he had lost, opening up his scabbed over wounds.
Mom wasn’t close to Mr. and Mrs. Daniels. She didn’t have any sympathy for Rhett, who she always referred to as that friend.
I don’t like that friend of yours.
You’re spending too much time with that friend.
I don’t want that friend here. You’re all working on my last nerve.
That only led to Logan, Rhett, and Carter spending all their time at Carter’s place, and avoiding our house at all costs.
I was doing my best to help Marcus deal with the nightmares that had started again. He wasn’t confused and angry like he was at the age of ten. Hell no, he was bottling it all up, and I was scared what he’d do the day he exploded.
That’s when the verbal abuse started. I wasn’t sure why she targeted me. Maybe it was because I was the first one to show signs of becoming a man. I’m just thankful she hadn’t set her sights on Logan or Marcus. I never fought back out of fear that she would lay into them instead.
She walked in on me while I was shaving and the usual blank stare she gave me quickly turned to one of rage.
“You look just like him,” she whispered, her voice sounding as tight as a piece of string that was about to snap.
Logan and I weren’t identical twins. We had the same dirty blonde hair and brown eyes, but that was it. I was taller than him, and my features were harsher. Logan was the pretty one with the killer smile where I was abrasive and argumentative. Logan was the friendly, light-hearted brother, and I—I was the careless, cynical one.
That’s another reason why Marcus and I were such a great fit. Marcus was ruthless and at times downright derisive towards others. He was the oil to my fire.
“You’re the spitting image of your father.”
I’d gotten used to the cold and vacant look in her eyes, but I’ll never forget how her mouth pulled down that day. She looked at me with disgust.
“You think I don’t see it, but I do. You and Marcus are narcissists, just like your fathers. You’re poison. Your father killed me, and Robert killed Stella. It’s sickening to know there will be a day you will both do the same to some poor girl.”
The words didn’t hurt half as much as the gleam in her eyes. I’ve been on the receiving end of disappointed and angry looks, plenty of times in my life, but never the ‘I-wish-you-were-never-born’ glare. It felt like I stopped being her son that day.
After that, she took a swing at me every chance she got.
You’re pathetic.
You’re just as spineless as that good-for-nothing father of yours.
I should’ve gotten rid of you when he left. Now I’m stuck looking at your face every day as a reminder that he left. One day you will leave too.
It’s weird how things played out after that.
I should’ve seen it coming, but hell, I had just discovered the magical effect a pair of tits had on my dick.
Mr. Hayes wanted to take us all to New York for the summer break. He was taking over a business there. I’ll be the first to say I was worried about it. If he decided to move, it would pretty much leave me, Marcus, and Logan screwed. It would tear the group in half.
He invited Mom over for dinner so he could discuss the trip with her. After dinner, they walked to the study so they could talk privately, while we went outside to swim. It was hot out already, and it was only the start of summer.
After spending some time in the pool, I needed to use the restroom. Mr. Hayes wouldn’t be too happy with me if he caught me watering the garden, so I dried off and ran inside the house.
I should’ve stayed outside. You never hear anything good when you eavesdrop. As I walked past the study, Mom started yelling.
“How can you sit there, looking so calm as if it didn’t happen? Your wife and my husband ran away together, leaving us with the kids. I’ve spent the best years of my life raising those boys. I’m almost forty, and I have nothing to show for my life! I’m done sitting at home, watching as my life passes me by.”
I felt a weird mixture of shame and anger brewing in my chest. I was embarrassed that my mother was talking to Mr. Hayes like that, and I was pissed off that she was so selfish. Then the part of my father running off with Carter’s mother sunk in, making me feel sick.
I heard a chair scraping over the wooden floor, but no footsteps came towards the door, so I kept listening.
“Are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth, Judy? You have two amazing sons. What about them?”
“I don’t care. Your wife ran off with my husband. If you had kept an eye on her, it wouldn’t have happened. I have my trust fund. You can keep your monthly allowance. I don’t need it. I’m done wasting away in this pathetic town.”
“You’re really going to abandon your sons? What about the promise you made to Stella that you’d always take care of Marcus?”
“She’s been dead for six years. I was a different person when I agreed to be his godmother. They’re sixteen, Christopher. You can either take them or they can take care of themselves. I’m done playing mother to those boys.”
I heard Mom’s high heels on the hardwood floor and ran for the restroom. Just as I slipped inside, the door to the study opened.
“I won’t stop you, Judy, but make it a clean cut. Walk away right now. I’ll keep the boys here tonight and take them home tomorrow to pack their stuff. I want you out of that house by the time I get there with them. I won’t make this harder for them than it already will be.”
“I’ll be gone first thing in the morning.” She didn’t storm off like I expected she would, but instead whispered, “You’re a good man, Christopher. They’ll be happy with you.”
I leaned my head back against the wall as I listened to her footsteps die away.
She left without saying goodbye.
The next day Mr. Hayes took us home to pack our stuff, after having told us that Mom was okay with us spending the summer with him.
I never told anyone about the things she said to me, not even Marcus. I wasn’t sad that she had chosen to leave us. Actually, it made it easier for me to hate her. It made it easier to pretend around Logan.
A few weeks later, Mr. Hayes sat us down and explained that our mother wouldn’t be coming home soon. She was taking some time to travel. He really did his best to break the news to us gently. Marcus and I got up and went to shoot some pool. To me, it was just another day.
Logan, on the other hand, took it hard. He looked like a zombie as he walked out of the office. Mia smiled when she saw him, took one look at his face and hugged him. I left Logan with Mia so she could comfort him.
It was during our senior year that I struggled to control my anger. I joined a gym so I could punch the shit out of a punching bag and lift weights until I was too tired to care.
That’s when Marcus started the Screw Crew list. He made it his mission to add as many names as he could to it.
So for the last few years, Marcus has been doing his best to fuck his demons away, while I’ve been trying to exercise mine away.
∞∞∞

LEIGH

“Seriously! You do know what it means to take a break, right?” Willow watches me with her hands on her hips, her blonde hair piled on top of her head in a messy bun.
We could’ve been sisters, instead of best friends. We both have blonde hair and brown eyes. Willow is a head shorter than me and has a heart-shaped face which you can’t help but stop to admire. I’ve been told I’m pretty but being skinny and tall with an oval-shaped face, I’m not drop-dead gorgeous. Looks never bothered me, though, because I’ve always been a bookworm.
“I am taking a break,” I mumble while keeping my eyes on my laptop’s screen.
Saying I’m a bookworm might be scaling it down a bit. I’m addicted to the written word, although my passion lies with cardiac surgery. I inherited the obsession from my parents. Being the only child of two of the most admired cardiothoracic surgeons in the states, it was a given that I’d follow in their footsteps.
Willow plops down next to me and leans closer so she can see what I’m busy reading.
“You call this taking a break?” she asks, giving me a look that clearly says our definition of the term break is vastly different.
Willow’s the only person who’s been a constant in my life. I have an amazing relationship with my parents, but with their busy careers and my studying, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together. Willow keeps me grounded.
When I graduated school at thirteen, Willow was determined to stay friends with me even though I’m a year younger than her. During my first year at Boston, we kept contact by facetiming at least three times a week. What I love most about Willow is that she never treats me any different just because I have a high IQ. I still think if it weren’t for the fact that Willow and I were neighbors before I started at Boston, I never would’ve made a friend. Being privately tutored at home didn’t exactly give me many opportunities to interact with other kids, and there wasn’t any time to make friends once I started school. I did my best to try to break the record of becoming the youngest doctor in the US, but I missed it by two years. Now my heart is set on becoming the youngest cardiothoracic surgeon.
Dad and Mom forced me to take a six-month break before starting my six-year integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency program at USC. I’m only halfway through my forced vacation, and I’m already feeling antsy. The thought alone of starting my residency makes my heart race with excitement.
“I’m reading an article on postoperative physiotherapy. It’s interesting. It’s like when you read those fashion magazines you love so much.”
She slowly shakes her head, giving me a look that closely resembles pity.
“Only you would think boring medical articles can compete with the latest fashion trends. You, my friend, are in desperate need of fun.”
“But –” I glance from my laptop screen to her, then back to the really interesting article about a survey they did in Sweden rating the effectiveness of physiotherapy after cardiac surgery. “This is fun.”
She shakes her head again, and her facial expression clearly says my relaxation time is up.
“I’m afraid all the studying might have done permanent damage to the fun section of your brain.” She shakes her head, really getting into her role as the doctor. “You, Miss Baxter, are in dire need of a party. I prescribe a full forty-eight hours of drinking and dancing.”
I scrunch my nose, certainly not in the mood to go to parties the entire weekend. Before I can argue she holds up her pointer finger.
“No arguing. It’s of utmost importance that we immediately start with treatment, before the fun section of that genius brain of yours, shrivels and dies.”
I can’t help but grin at her. “You should’ve gone into medicine with me. You’d make a great doctor.”
She pulls a face, shaking her head.
“Hell no, I’d kill all my patients. Fashion is my passion. While we’re on the topic of fashion…”
Willow grabs the laptop and closes it before pulling me up along with her.
“Go shower and put on the dress I made you. Don’t you dare put up your hair in that god-awful bun. It makes you look like a nun who escaped from a convent.” She pulls a face as my eyes dart to the messy bun on top of her head. “I’ll curl it for tonight. You’re nineteen, not ninety.”
“You’re really going to make me go, aren’t you?”
She grins, a wicked gleam in her eyes which promises no sleep in my near future.
“I only have you for another three months before you start your residency. I get a feeling I won’t see you for the next six years. Hell, I’m taking full advantage of my time with you.”
Willow is right. I’ll be working my butt off over the next six years. I want to make a difference in this world, especially when it comes to heart transplants.
I go through the motions of showering and washing my hair. While I leave the conditioner in for a few minutes, I quickly shave. I can’t wear the gorgeous dress Willow made when my legs are so hairy. After rinsing the conditioner out, I grab a towel and pat my body dry before wrapping my hair in it. When I rub lotion all over my body, I inhale deeply. I’m addicted to the sweet, rich fragrance of jasmine.
Walking back into the bedroom I share with Willow, I’m not surprised to find her waiting.
“Let’s do your hair. I’ll shower while you’re putting on your makeup.”
There’s no use in arguing with her, so I take a seat at the vanity. Willow gets busy blow-drying layer by layer of my hair. As I sit and watch her hands move, I think about how lucky I am to have her as a friend.
She shares the apartment with two other girls. I’ve spent some time with Evie, whom I get along with. I can definitely see myself staying friends with Evie once I leave. I haven’t seen much of Della, but she seems nice.
When Willow is busy massaging styling wax into my hair so it won’t go frizzy, I ask, “You mentioned a party? Will Evie be going as well?”
Willow wipes her hands on the towel I had around my hair while admiring her handy work.
“Yeah, she’s already at Carter’s place. We’ll meet her there.”
“Carter? He’s friends with Rhett, right?” I’m still trying to remember names, never mind who fits in where in their social circle.
“Yep, you’ll meet all of Rhett’s friends tonight. Carter is an asshole, so just make sure you stay out of his way.”
My eyebrows almost dart into my hairline. The fact that Willow thinks the guy is an asshole says a lot. She’s the kindest person I know.
“Okay,” I agree, although I’m curious why she doesn’t like him.
“Come to think of it, just stick to my side tonight. I don’t want any of the Screw Crew getting their hands on you.”
“Why are we going then? If you don’t like any of them, we can do something else.”
Like, stay at home.
I can think of a couple of things I’d rather do than go to a party.
“We’re going because it will be fun. Besides, it’s not that I don’t like them. They’re just too wild and tactless for you. They’re fun to hang out with, but you seriously don’t want to end up in bed with one of them. Believe me when I say they will try. They have this thing going to see who can screw the most girls.”
Worry lines instantly cover my forehead.
“I really don’t think I should go. You know I have zero experience with guys. I wouldn’t know who’s being nice and who’s playing me even if my life depended on it.”
“You’ll be okay. We’ll stick together, and they won’t try anything with you as long as I’m by your side.”
Curious to find out more, I ask, “Have any of them tried to get you into bed?”
Willow scrunches her nose. “Only Marcus has tried. Ugh, he’s the worst of the group.”
I don’t miss the blush creeping up her neck as she quickly leaves to go shower. There’s definitely a story there.
∞∞∞

We’ve been here twenty minutes, and I’m ready to go.
I can’t dance so I avoid the makeshift dance floor at all costs. The living room is packed with students, some drinking while others are already drunk, and most are in various stages of making out.
Suppressing a yawn, I decide to go outside for some fresh air. I avoid going near the pool which is surrounded by party-goers. The last thing I want is to be thrown in the pool. It would ruin the beautiful dress Willow made me. I smile as I look down at the pale green, silky fabric. She made me a shift dress which might be a little too short for my taste, but it fits perfectly otherwise.
I spot a table with drinks and make my way over to it. I’m surprised the table isn’t crowded with students. When we got here, we couldn’t even get into the kitchen where the drinks were.
When I notice only sodas on the table, I understand why it’s practically deserted. I pour coke in a red solo cup and watch as the tiny bubbles fizz to the top.
“You want ice?” a deep, gravelly voice says from behind me, which startles the hell out of me. I drop the cup, and it falls to the ground, causing soda to splash all over my legs and sandals.
“Damn it,” I groan as I step away from the mess at my feet. I bend to pick up the now empty cup, seeing as the contents are all over me when I hear the voice behind me again.
“And here I thought it would take some foreplay to get you wet.” From the laughter in his voice, it’s clear he thinks my accident is hilarious.
“You must be one of the assholes, thinking it’s funny that I messed all over myself,” I snap as I place the cup on the table and turn around, getting my first look at the guy.
Shit.
I freeze like a deer in oncoming traffic as I take in the perfect specimen of everything that’s male, standing in front of me. Even though his smug smile makes my anger grow, I can’t help but drink in the sight of his dreamily carved, scruffy face. Don’t even get me started on his hair which is a few shades darker than mine, disheveled and sexy.
Ugh. Double shit.
“You must be one of those bitches, unable to take a joke,” he says as the smile around his full mouth curves into a wicked grin which only makes him hotter.
Damn it. Why does he have to be so incredibly attractive? It messes with my ability to think, which has never happened to me before.
“I can take a joke,” I say, clearing my throat.
“Could’ve fooled me.”
I watch as he pours soda into a cup. He holds it out to me, one eyebrow raised. Not even thinking, I take it from him and as our fingers touch briefly, a shiver races over my body.
To make matters worse, as I’m about to take a much-needed sip, he takes hold of the hem of his shirt and yanks it off his body in one smooth motion.
My mouth drops open as my eyes dart over his chest, wildly trying to drink in every inch of tanned skin and muscle. Damn, he might have a shitty attitude, but his body sure makes up for it.
He grabs a bottle of water which he pours out over my legs and feet. My brain is screaming at me to slap the smirk right off his gorgeous face, but my traitorous body won’t move a muscle.
“Sit,” he says. His voice a mixture of playful and raspy, making flutters erupt in my stomach.
Placing his hand on my shoulder, he pushes me lightly back, and my body, ever the traitor, goes where it’s being guided. The back of my knees hit the edge of a chair, and I sit down.
I want to say something clever that will put him in his place, but my mind has clearly taken a hiatus, leaving my hormones in control of this situation.
He reaches for my left leg, and slipping the sandal from my foot, he starts to dry my leg with his shirt.
I can’t stop myself from staring at his well-toned back and broad shoulders, fascinated by each muscle rippling when he moves. When he’s done with my left leg, he repeats his actions with my right leg. Only, this time his left hand slips up until it reaches the back of my knee while he keeps drying my already dry leg.
I clear my throat to get his attention. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get my voice back with all the tingles zapping upwards to my lady parts, from where he’s touching me.
“There you go, all dry,” he says as he stands up. He looks down at me as he throws the shirt over his shoulder. “Run along now, your mother must be worried.”
“Huh?” I grunt as if my IQ dropped to a miserable zero.
“Pretty little things like you shouldn’t hang out at parties. Isn’t it past your bedtime?”
Finally, a flicker of my intelligence returns along with my temper. I push myself up from the chair, not that it helps as I barely reach his shoulder.
He flashes me a confident grin, his eyes dropping to my feet before slowly making their way up my body. I don’t miss how they rest on my hips and breasts for a few seconds too long before they settle on my face.
I’ve never been so blatantly checked out in my life before, and it makes a dreaded blush creep over my cheeks.
“That’s right, my eyes are up here,” I say so he’ll know that I know he was ogling me. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m nineteen. I’ve practically been living on my own since I was thirteen. Also, I do not appreciate you calling me a pretty little thing. Women aren’t things.”
Feeling proud of my ability to string a few sentences together, I smile triumphantly.
“Jax, stop harassing my friend,” Evie suddenly says behind me, which makes me swing around from surprise. I recognize Rhett, but I haven’t met the other guy with them.
“Your friend?” Mr. Too-hot-to-have-a-personality asks. Thanks to Evie, I now know his name is Jax.
I feel him move behind me and I hate that my body is aware of him. His arm presses against my shoulder and my sandals appear in my line of vision.
I do my best to ignore the fact that I almost forgot them, and snatch them from his hand. I drop them to the floor and quickly slip them onto my feet.
“Yeah, my friend, which means she’s off limits.” Evie hooks her arm through mine and pulls me closer to where Rhett’s standing. “You’ve met Rhett, and this is Carter Hayes. They live here.”
Smiling, I reach out a hand to Carter. “Leigh Baxter. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
We shake hands as Willow joins us, followed by another guy who looks like he’s about to kill someone.
“Sorry, I leave you alone for ten minutes and the wolves descend.”
“Wolves?” Rhett asks with a playful smile on his face.
“Yeah, wolves. Leigh’s parents would kill me if any of you corrupted their daughter.”
“You’re carrying on as if the pretty little thing is fucking royalty?” Jax says from behind me, sounding a little offended. I also don’t miss how he accentuated ‘pretty little thing’ as if he’s already caught onto the fact that I hate it whenever he says it.
“You could say that,” Evie says. She looks to Carter. “Dr. Baxter, your dad’s heart specialist, is her father.”
Instantly, a cloud moves over Carter’s face as if Evie just spat at him instead of introducing me.
“In that case, she’s off limits,” Carter bites out. He grabs my hand and starts to pull me away from the growing crowd gathering around us. “I’ll take her back to the apartment. Willow, are you coming?” It doesn’t sound like a question but more like an order.
More common sense seems to return to my frazzled mind, and I yank my hand free from his grip.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I seethe as my anger quickly burns through my body now that my focus is no longer on Jax.
“You shouldn’t be here, Leigh. Your father will kill me. I’ve heard him talk about his little girl. I’m not pissing off the man who might have his hands inside my dad’s chest one of these days.”
I throw my hands in the air, actually dumbfounded by how quickly the night went downhill.
“You know what,” I say as I start to walk towards the side of the house, “I don’t want to be here. Why the hell I’m torturing myself like this is beyond me.”
I keep walking, not looking back to see if Willow is coming. I’d rather sit outside the apartment for the entire night than spend another second here.


 

Michelle Horst is a Bestselling Romance Author who likes her books hot, dirty, and with a touch of darkness. She loves an alpha hero who is not scared to fight for his woman.

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