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RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ Touch Wood by Jenika Snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ash brothers—they know how to handle their wood.

A new smoking-hot Ash Brothers novella from USA TODAY bestselling author Jenika Snow

I’ve been celibate for years, by choice. No woman has held my interest long enough to be worth sacrificing
time spent 
at Ash Lumber, energy spent building the family business.

All that changed when a feisty redhead walked into our job-site trailer.

Andra.

Her skirts drive me crazy and her trying so hard to flat-out ignore me does the rest.
Her flushed cheeks when

we flirt are enough to send me to bed for a week.

Andra might be supervising this development deal, but there’s no way we’re going to be able to
keep things professional
around here. My celibate streak is over, and I owe it all to her.




I was a fiend for Andra, so far gone that stopping seemed like a distant thought. Even if I had the strength to walk away from this I wouldn’t have. I needed her in all ways, needed to claim her in the way that only I could. To make her mine. Andra would soon see I was the one in control, that I was the one who would give her pleasure, hear her calling out my name as she came.

I stood there staring at her, unable to take my gaze off her. She was perfection, beautiful…mine.

Her cheeks were flushed, dotted with red from her lust. I started kissing her again, taking in her flavor, her very essence. My desire was so fucking intense that I ground myself against her belly. Her mouth was hot and sweet, and my cock jerked behind my jeans, the fucker needing out and buried deep in her body.

I swept my tongue into the wet cavern of her mouth, stroking it along hers, bringing out a moan from her. I swallowed that sound, wanting more of it. Sliding my hands down her back, I gripped her full, round ass and brought her closer to me, which was almost an impossible act, given the fact we were pressed tightly together. My cock jerked at the feel of her softness, at the scent of her.

“I want you so fucking badly. I can feel it in my marrow, taste it on my tongue,” I said against her mouth, kissing her harder after the words left me.

The sound of her lightly moaning told me she was finding pleasure in this, that she craved me as much as I craved her. And the way she dug her nails into my arms let me know she needed more.

And I’ll give her so much more she can’t even fucking breathe.

Andra slid her hands up my chest and dug her nails into my skin. I hissed in pain…in pleasure. It felt good, so fucking good I could have probably gotten off on this alone.

I needed us naked, needed her bare skin pressed to mine. I wanted to feel her body shaking beneath my hands and mouth, losing control because she came, because I was the one who brought that out in her. I was purely working on instinct now, and there wasn’t anything on this fucking planet that could stop me from claiming her, from making her mine in every way I saw fit.

“You sure you want this, baby?”

“I want this. I want you,” she said instantly and looked into my eyes.

I kissed her harder and with more possession, needing her to see that she was, in fact, only mine. She moaned and pressed her breasts harder against my chest.

“I’m going to have you so sore tomorrow you won’t be able to sit comfortably, but you’ll want more. So much more.”


Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their children.

She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

 

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ For The King by Jenika Snow

 

 

 

 

Willow. Flower shop owner and commoner.

I was her king, a ruthless and brutal ruler who didn’t back down.
And from the moment I saw her I knew she was mine. I had to have her, not just in my bed but also by my side. As my queen.

So I had her taken from her home and made a deal with her. I’d make sure her ailing mother was taken care of and pay off her debts if she agreed to one thing.

Be my wife and carry my heir.

What I wanted I got, and the only thing that I wanted more than all the riches and jewels in the world was her. Willow

 

Warning: Get your fancy clothes on—or off depending on how you roll—and get ready to dive into one hell of a royal love story. It’s got everything that presses your book buttons: a safe read that’s swoony, filthy, and delivers a HEA. It’s true what they say about this king … he does always get what he wants.


I inhaled her panties again, that sweet scent of her pussy making my cock jerk in response. I was going to tear up her pretty virgin cunt, make it mine. She’d take all of my cock as I filled her womb with my seed, putting my heir deep inside of her, making sure she was linked to me forever.
Placing my hand between her thighs again—right over her now bared pussy—I added pressure. “Your cunt tells me you like what I’m doing, that even if you’re trying to be strong you know that I’m the only one who can give you what you need,” I growled out low. “You’re fucking soaked and it’s all because of me.”
I held up my hand, my fingers glistening from her wetness. “Open for me, Willow.” She widened her eyes but did as I said. I slipped my fingers into her mouth, made her taste herself.
“Lick them clean.”
She ran her tongue along the digits, sucking the cream off of them, and couldn’t help but make a small noise in the back of her throat.
“You like it, don’t you?” I said low, wanting to hear her say the words. I removed them from her mouth, took a half a step back, and dropped to my haunches in front of her, her pussy on display, my face right there, seeing it all.
“Fuck, I like that your cunt is mine now, that no one will ever fucking taste you, know how tight you are, how wet and pink you are when you’re turned on.”
I blew a warm breath on her pussy. I lifted my hands and framed her cunt, and pulled her lips apart with my thumbs. My groan was deep and filled with an arousal that no doubt matched hers.
“Spread your legs for me, Willow. I’m going to lick and suck at this little pussy until you come all over my face.”
She did as I ordered and I gripped the back of her knee and brought it over my shoulder, having her pussy spread obscenely wide. And then I had my mouth on her cleft, my tongue parting her folds as I ate her out almost violently.
I had one hand back on her ass, keeping her pressed to my mouth as I did exactly what I wanted with her. Squeezing the fleshy mound, I groaned against her soaked pussy at the same time I dipped my tongue into her body. Fucking her with my tongue and lips, I gently scraped my teeth along her flesh.
I lifted the hand that I had on the back of her knee and moved it between her thighs. As soon as my thumb touched her clit she came for me.
“That’s it,” I said against her swollen flesh as I continued to eat her out.
A low cry left her and she speared her hands in my hair and ground her pussy into my face.
“Fuck,” I groaned.
I gave her pussy one last long lick, like I was sucking on a lollipop, making sure I got all of her flavor, and then I stood. I grabbed her ass again and pulled her forward, letting her feel the hard length of my erection pressed into her belly.


Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their children.She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

 

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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.

 



 

RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ Baby Maker (A Real Man #17) by Jenika Snow

 

 

 

 

 
TexThere was only one woman I wanted, and I’d been secretly lusting after her for years.
My sister’s friend.That first time I saw Calissa was like a right hook to the face, taking me down until there was nothing left. She was my world.

She’s too young for me, too innocent, but that won’t stop me from making her mine.
There’s no stopping it, no controlling this possessive, primal need to claim her.

I’d have Calissa no matter what, as my woman, my wife … with my baby inside of her.

Calissa

It was a forbidden desire to want your best friend’s older brother, but it was my reality.
Tex was big and strong and a successful owner of a security company. He was definitely all man.

I’d thought he’d never see me as anything more than his sister’s friend. How wrong I was.

No more longing gazes or fantasies we were together.
He knew what he wanted out of life and apparently that was me … pregnant with his child.

 

Warning: This hero really knows what he wants and that’s the heroine and getting her knocked up! But no worries, this story is still sweet–even if it is filthy–and you still get that Happily Ever After.


She’s real. This is fucking real.
“Are we really doing this?” she asked softly. “Is this really happening?”
Oh. Fuck. Yeah.
“It should have happened a while ago, Calissa. I should have made you mine when I first realized that’s what I wanted.” I took a step closer. “It was at the eighteenth birthday party. You’d been standing there in a white sundress, your hair piled high on your head, those little pearl earrings catching my eye.” I looked into her eyes. “You remember that night?”
She nodded slowly.
“I wanted you right then and there. I wanted to take you to an empty room, pull your dress up over your ass, and slide my cock deep into that tight little pussy of yours.” I reached out and touched her cheek, her skin warm, smooth. “I wanted to claim that tight little cunt of yours, and the way you looked at me, I know you wanted that, too, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” she said breathlessly.
I moved closer until I could reach out and touch her. I had my hand on her cheek and stroked my thumb along her jawline. I was glad Megs caught us. I was glad she gave her blessing, so to speak. That would have been a hurdle we had to cross later on, but now it was done, sealed. I’d left Megs’ with Calissa in hand, telling her I wanted us to talk, to really understand what was going on. If sex happened tonight than it was meant to, but if not … well I was a fucking patient man. Especially when it came to Calissa.
“How does this feel?” she asked, her voice a whisper.
“It feels pretty fucking incredible. It feels perfect.”
I didn’t stop touching her jawline. I wanted to touch more of her … all of her. She slipped her tongue out and ran it along the swell of her bottom lip. And I lost all semblance of the self-control I’d been holding onto. I lowered my head, moved slightly toward her, and knew if I allowed myself to kiss her, I wouldn’t be able to stop.


Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their two daughters. She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

 

Author Links


 

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 DAY BLITZ ~ Knock on Wood by Jenika Snow

 

A new virgin-hero novella from USA TODAY bestselling author Jenika Sno


The Ash Brothers—they know how to handle their wood
They call me Big Johnny, and they’re not wrong. I’m big all over, and burly, too. But when it comes to her, I’m a freaking pussycat.

Flora.

There’s never been a time when she wasn’t on my mind, not even when she left Rockbridge for college. Those four years were the hardest of my life. Literally.

Saving myself for her has never been the problem. It’s telling her how I feel.

She’s back now and it’s painfully obvious to even a lumberjack like me: Flora’s not a teenager anymore.
She’s a woman who knows what she wants.

That’s me…and the wood I’m packing


They called me Big Johnny because of my size. At six foot seven I was a beast compared to most men—even my brothers, who were well over six feet themselves. But there was one woman who made me feel even bigger than that.

Flora.

I stared off as the car pulled away from the lumberyard. Flora was in there, and yet I didn’t have the balls to go and speak with her. She was too young for me, too innocent. At only eighteen she had the entire world at her fingertips, her future so damn bright I wasn’t about to muck it up because I had feelings for her. I was twenty-five, seven years older, far too old to want anything romantic with her.

She’d bloomed into a woman. Before this summer I hadn’t paid much attention to her. She was just the daughter of family friends, not someone I’d even thought about. But shit, this past summer when we’d had that big cookout and she had come over with her folks, she was all woman. But I still wasn’t going to touch on that, wasn’t going to go after her. That would have been crossing a whole lot of fucking lines.

I wiped the sweat from my face with a rag I’d gotten out of the front of my truck. I stared off as the car disappeared down the road. I felt someone watching me and glanced at Noah. The look he gave me told me maybe he had a suspicion about what I felt for Flora, or maybe I was reading too much into it. Maybe I was feeling guilt over it all. And I kind of did feel guilty. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way, but the emotions were right there at the surface, wrapping their hands around my neck and refusing to let go.

Shit, it was good she was going off to college. She’d meet a nice guy her own age. But the very thought of that pissed me off. I felt rage boil up in me at the very thought of her with another guy, of some asshole touching her, holding her. I wanted to be the one to do that, to make sure she was safe.

Fuck, get a grip.

I finished wiping the sweat off and got back to work. No, her leaving was a good thing, even if it fucking sucked. And if she did meet some guy, had a nice life with him, well, she deserved that and I’d deal with it. I had no choice.


 Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their two daughters. She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

 

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RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ Goldie’s Bears by Mila Crawford

 

 

 

 

 

The Bears

Alpha. Stubborn. Virgins.
We were three alpha bear shifting brothers living out in the wilderness, content away from civilization, happy to keep our virginities…waiting for our mates.
And we found her…in the same female.
Now that she was here we weren’t letting her go. She’d be ours no matter what.
It’s time Goldie knew what it was like having three possessive bear shifters as mates … all of us wanting to get her knocked up first.

Warning: What’s that, you like short, safe, filthy reads, ones that have possessive bear shifters who finally found their one and only? Oh, and you like when your men are virgins? Look no further because this story has you covered!


My bear was itching to get out, to shift, to pierce her neck and show my mate that she was mine—ours. But I kept him in check, knowing that right now I needed to tend to her. But seeing her naked, her womanly curves calling out to the male part of me, her full breasts with her rosy peaked tips, her nipples hard, making my mouth water, was almost my undoing.
And then her pussy, with that trimmed thatch of golden hair covering her slit, had me growling out low.
God, my cock was hard, my dick digging into my zipper, wanting free, wanting to be buried in her lush, hot pussy.
I wanted to see her bent over, her ass spread, and herpussy on clear display. Fuck, my balls were drawn up tight, my cum built up, ready to fill her, make her pregnant. I made a low sound in the back of my throat, watching as her nipples hardened further. The scent of her desire was like a blooming flower in my nose.
​I stared at her in the tub, the bubbles moving along her skin, something I wished I were doing with my hands. She closed her eyes, resting back against the porcelain, her contentment clear.
Male pride filled me that I’d brought that out in my mate. I reached out and ran my knuckles over her cheek, her skin so smooth, like silk. She let out a sigh and my cock jerked, the fucker wanting to be buried deep inside of her.
“That feels so good,” she whispered softly and I couldn’t help the rumble that came from deep within my chest.
“I want to make you feel even better,” I found myself saying. She was looking right at me, her pupils dilated, the black eating up the bright blue of her irises. I didn’t want to rush her, knew my brothers would feel the same, but the need in me was too strong.
We had found our mate and the instinct to claim her rode us hard. It was instinctual, something we couldn’t stop, something we couldn’t control. And even though she was human, she felt the connection between us as well. It was an ingrained sensation, a feeling that her body and mind recognized us as hers.


Mila Crawford is a book lover and has been around them one way or another her whole life. She is a fan of happily ever afters, sassy heroines, over the top alphas, and most of all safe reads.



 

RELEASE DAY BLITZ ~ Until You’re Mine by Jenika Snow

 

 

CoraHe left eight years ago for the military. That was the hardest time of my life. Xavier was the boy who’d sneak into my bed at night and hold me as my parents fought in the next room.
My protector.
My best friend.
The man I was in love with.
The man I’d saved my virginity for.
And now he was back home for good. Too much time had passed. I was done keeping us in the friend zone. I wanted him in my life in every way that counted.
So if he wasn’t going to make the first move then I would, even if it might ruin what we had. Because I had to take that chance.

Xavier

She was my life, the very reason I breathed.
I saved my virginity for Cora because no one else compared. No one else ever would.
It was time I man up and tell Cora that she was the only girl I’d ever loved, that no matter how much time had passed she’d been it for me.
But how could I go about doing that when eight years had gone by? Admitting how I felt was hard as hell seeing as we’d always just been friends. How could I not cross any lines and screw up the relationship we had?
Easy. I’d tell her I loved her and propose.


Warning: Sit back, relax, and dive into a double virgin friends-to-lovers romance that’s so sugary sweet your teeth will ache. Although it’ll tug at your heartstrings, make no mistake it’s as filthy as can be. A standalone romance with no drama and just the juicy bits, this story features cameo appearances by Asher, Cash, and Trevor Mayson from Aurora Rose Reynolds Until series.


I took the few steps it required to get to the front door, reached out, and curled my hand around the brass handle. I pulled it open and a little bell above the door jingled at my entrance.
“Welcome to Sweet Treats,” Cora said, her back still toward me. “I’ll be right with you. Just got to put these buns down,” she said and laughed softly. I couldn’t help but smile that she still had that sense of humor, the one where she’d laugh at her own jokes.
God, her voice sounded like angels singing. I felt dizzy, lightheaded with being so close to her. She didn’t even know I stood only feet from her, the anticipation building inside of me.
She had a tray in her hands as she turned around, her focus on the baked goods. I found myself taking a step closer, and then another one. I swear I could smell her, this sweet, floral scent that brought back memories, that was completely Cora. Her scent was stronger than the bakery aroma, the one of donuts and rolls, sweet little treats that they baked by hand.
And then she lifted her eyes and our gazes locked. For long seconds we just stared at each other, the realization that I was standing just feet from her covering her face. It was the sound of the tray she held crashing to the floor that had me rushing back to reality.
Something in me snapped and I couldn’t help myself. I stalked toward her, placed my hands on the counter that separated us, and scaled the fucker. I had her in my arms seconds later, her body so much smaller than mine, her scent slamming into my head and making me drunk. I was so damn possessive. All I wanted to do was throw her over my shoulder and take her far from here.
Silence stretched between us, but it was perfect.
“Is this really happening?” she whispered against my chest and I tightened my arms around her. “Are you really here, Xavier?” I could hear the tears in her voice, knew she was probably crying. I was on the verge of crying myself.
I don’t know how long I held her, seconds, minutes, Hell, maybe I’d been standing there for hours. She was the one who pulled back, but I didn’t want to let her go. I looked down at her, at the tears tracking down her cheeks. I reached out and brushed them away, wanting to bring that wetness to my mouth and memorize it, take it into me.
“You’re really here,” she whispered again and I couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m really here.” And then I pulled her in for another hug, wanting to just kiss her senseless, but also knowing that I needed to take this slow. I needed to work up to that, tell her how I felt, that I was so madly in love with her I could barely breathe.
I needed to do a lot of things, but I had all the time in the world.


Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their two daughters. She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

 

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RELEASE BLITZ ~ PS I Hate You by Winter Renshaw

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Isaiah,

Eight months ago, you were just a soldier about to be deployed and I was just a waitress, sneaking you free pancakes and hoping you wouldn’t notice that my gaze was lingering a little too long.

But you did notice.

We spent a “week of Saturdays” together before you left, and we said goodbye on day eight, exchanging addresses at the last minute.

I saved every letter you ever sent, your words quickly becoming my religion.

But you went radio silent on me months ago, and then you had the audacity to walk into my diner yesterday and act like you’d never seen me in your life.

To think … I almost loved you and your beautifully complicated soul.

Almost.

Whatever your reason is—I hope it’s a good one.

Maritza the Waitress

PS – I hate you, and this time … I mean it.


There’s no denying something’s there, something that makes my heart trot when he looks at me, something that makes me slick on an extra coat of lip balm or an extra spritz of perfume before dashing out the door to meet him.
And while I’m the one who made the rules—no romance and only honesty at all times—I’m the one who can’t stop thinking about what would happen if we broke one of them.
Only problem is, I have zero idea if he’s thinking what I’m thinking. He’s so even-keeled and emotionally guarded, but they say actions speak louder than words and the fact that he’s here, spending time with me doing stupid shit has to count for something … right?
“Why are you staring like that?” Isaiah asks when he turns around.
My cheeks warm. I’d been spacing off. “No reason.”
“Bullshit. You can’t lie, remember? Tell me what you were thinking about.” His lips draw into a playful smirk, and I can’t decide if I like his mysterious side or his spirited side best. It’s like trying to choose between white chocolate and milk chocolate, which are both delicious in their own ways.
“You don’t want to know.”
And I’m serious. He doesn’t want to know that I’m thinking about him in a way that I was determined not to. Besides, he’s leaving in a few days. There’s no point in ruining the rest of our time together by making this situation unnecessarily complicated.
“Try me,” he says, his stare boring into me. Something tells me he’s not going to let this go.
Giving myself a moment, I gather my thoughts and nibble on my lower lip. “I was just thinking about connections.”
“Connections?” His hands rest on his hips, his shoulders parallel with mine. I have his full, undivided attention.
“I was just thinking about how I hardly know you, but I feel connected to you,” I say, cringing on the inside but fully embracing the discomfiture of this conversation.
He says nothing, which doesn’t make this moment any less awkward for the both of us.
“You asked!” I remind him, throwing my hands up.
Another moment passes, the two of us lingering next to some hairy elephant-looking creature with a long-as-hell scientific name as a group of children runs past us.
“Now I want to know what you’re thinking about.” I nudge his arm. “It’s only fair.”
He smirks, then it fades, and he gazes into the distance. It’s like there’s something on the tip of his tongue, but if I push or prod too much, he’ll never share it.
“Nothing, Maritza. I was thinking about nothing.”
I don’t buy it, but I don’t press any further. I want to burn this awkward moment into a pile of ash and move on.
“Are you going to remember me after this week?” I ask after a bout of silence.
His golden irises glint as his eyes narrow in my direction. “What kind of question is that?”
“A legit one,” I say. “Will you remember me? Or am I always just going to be that waitress girl that you hung out with for a week?”
“Don’t think I could forget you if I tried.” He speaks in such a way that I’m not sure if what he’s saying is a good thing or a bad thing. “Can I be honest right now?”
“You must. It’s a requirement.”
Isaiah’s tongue grazes his full lips for a quick second and he holds my gaze for what feels like forever. “I don’t want to make this any more confusing for either of us, but I feel like kissing you right now.”
I fight a smile. I don’t want to smile. I want to scoff at him and tell him to stop being such a hypocrite.
But that’s only half of me.
The other half of me wants him to kiss me, wants his hands in my hair and his taste on my tongue just one more time because we’ll never have this moment again and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.


 


Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here

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