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RELEASE BLITZ – On the Surface (Imperfect Love #3) by Nikki Ash

Title: On the Surface
Series: Imperfect Love #3
Author: Nikki Ash
Genre: Single Dad Romance
Release Date: June 22, 2019



People see what they want to see. They only view what’s on the surface, and they’re easy to fool. I let them see on the outside that I’m a successful businesswoman. My clothes are designer, my makeup flawless, and I live in a high-rise condo in Lennox Hills. They see perfection, not what lies beneath the surface.
The real me, the one I keep hidden is a broken-hearted woman who uses the makeup to hide her tears. The expensive clothing covers a heart once shattered by love. The walls of my expensive home shelter a lonely woman who hides the fact that deep down she wants to be loved. A woman who is too scared to risk her fragile heart.
For ten years, I’ve managed to hide behind the image of perfection. Only letting people see what’s on the surface.
Until I ran into Jase.
Now, every raw emotion, every shattered piece of my heart that I buried long ago is exposed outside the protective walls of my high-rise condo. No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep the walls from crumbling. He sees me beyond the image that I’ve created. He says he can handle what’s below the surface, but can I?



BLP REVIEW – Tracy



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NEW RELEASE – An Instant Connection (Read Me Romance) by Melanie Moreland

Title: An Instant Connection: Read Me Romance
Author: Melanie Moreland
Genre: Contemporary Rom/Com (Short Story)
Release Date: June 4, 2019
A chance meeting. An instant connection. Mitch and Mandy burn hot, but when the smoke clears, and things get real, can their feelings stay strong?
This story is a stand-alone with no cliffhanger.
**Book contains bonus material not in original audio format**
Listen for FREE the original story here on Read Me Romance: 
Google Play -> http://geni.us/7lB4UBK



The cool, fall air hit me as I exited the tall Toronto skyscraper in the early evening. I breathed in deeply, ignoring the scent of exhaust fumes and the hundreds of people bustling past me, no doubt as anxious to be home as I was at the moment. I needed to get the smell of the stale, building air out of my lungs. 

At least I was out of the office and away from my tyrant of a boss. Plus, it was Friday, which meant I had the whole weekend ahead of me. With a heavy sigh, I turned and headed toward the bus station a few blocks away. 

Michelle had been on a tear today, worse than usual. HR had confirmed the hire of a new associate at the architectural company I worked for, and he was due to arrive on Monday. Michelle was the head administrative manager of the office, and she ran her department with an iron fist. When she found out a new person would be arriving and his office needed to be ready, she had snagged me and another woman from the temp pool and put us to work. Betty had “fallen ill” by noon, which left me on my own with Michelle, who simply could not be pleased today. It was rare she could be, and it seemed the new hire, Mr. Mackenzie, was particular and liked things a certain way. 

The pictures of his work I helped unpack showed his creative, edgy style. His initials on each piece were a bold MM slashed in the corner in thick black ink. There was a box I emptied, under her watchful eye, filled with unique items from around the world. I had set them carefully on the shelves that lined the wall, knowing Mr. Mackenzie would probably move them to a different spot, but thankfully, they were unpacked. Obviously, the man had traveled extensively throughout his career. The way Michelle kept nattering on about him and how lucky the company was to have hired him, I assumed he was well known and admired. He had to be for her to pay that much attention to his office. I was sure the two of them would get along famously the way she was fussing. 

When I first started at the company, I had looked forward to learning from Michelle, but once I began to work under her, I changed my mind. She was catty and unpleasant, only polite to her bosses and the managers she catered to daily. To her underlings, she was dismissive, curt, and at times, cutting. I kept my head down, did my work, and unobtrusively sent out as many resumes as I could. 

I reached the bus stop, knowing I had already missed the seven o’clock bus, and would have to wait for the next one, which wasn’t for forty-five minutes. It wasn’t a bad place to wait—lots of benches situated around the large area, and it was well lit. Since it was one of the main stops, and most of the city buses came through, it was usually bustling; although, being later on a Friday night, it was fairly quiet. 

A woman brushed past me, calling an apology over her shoulder as she rushed for a bus ahead of us that was beginning to close the doors. She waved frantically at the driver, her stuffed messenger bag bouncing off her back as she ran. I noticed how tired she looked as she met my gaze quickly, and without thinking, I lifted my hand to my mouth and whistled. 

I was a great whistler, and the sound cut through the night. The driver hesitated, saw the woman, and waited. With a wave, she climbed on the bus, and I fist bumped the air. 

“My good deed for the day,” I muttered, made my way over to the bench, and sat down. I bent low, rubbing my calves. I hated high heels, but it was part of the “look” Michelle demanded of all the assistants in the office. I wore the lowest ones I could get away with, so I didn’t face her wrath, but still, by the end of the day, my legs were always sore. All I wanted was to get home, kick off my heels, pour a large glass of wine, and have a soak in the tub. 

“That is an impressive set of lips.”

Startled, I looked up, meeting the eyes of a man. He was leaning against the streetlamp, his arms crossed. A bright, coppery mass of curls gleamed under the light. He was tall, his shoulders wide and thick, his coat stretched tight across his torso. He was near enough I could see the color of his eyes. Piercing, brilliant blue irises were set into a face I could only describe as gorgeous. He had high cheekbones and a strong jaw covered with more copper. His smile was lazy, his lips drawn back, showing off straight, white teeth, one corner of his mouth lifted higher than the other one, giving him a rakish air. 

“I beg your pardon?”

“Great whistle.”

“I was trying to get the attention of the bus driver.”

“You got more than that. You got my attention.”


RELEASE BLITZ – A Debt Owed by Clarissa Wild

Title: A Debt Owed
Author: Clarissa Wild
Genre: Dark Romance
Release Date: May 27, 2019
My enemy’s daughter … offered to me as payment towards a debt.
Now she’ll become my wife … my pet.
I wasn’t always cold-hearted and vindictive.
She made me that way.
Charlotte Davis … the most beautiful and privileged princess there is.
I’d kill for her to be mine.
We met by chance at her father’s wedding … And then again years later.
But she forgot about me. Ignored me. Enraged me.
Then her father did the unforgivable, and I made it my lifelong goal to ruin him …
By taking her as payment towards a debt he owed.
A debt she will repay by marrying me.
Until death do us part.


I push the button to close off the front of the car to the back of the car so we can have some privacy. “What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Nothing,” she mutters, averting her eyes.

I frown. “You’re looking at me …”

“I can’t look at you now?” she scoffs.

“You can.” I grab her chin and turn her head. “But not like that. Like you’re hiding something or think I’m the worst man in the entire world.”

“You are,” she says, smirking at her own savviness.

I lick my lips at her comment. “Worse than your father, who sold you to the first bidder?”

Her nostrils flare, and she looks away, blinking heavily. I know I touched on a sore point there, but it’s the truth, and she knows it. Her father couldn’t care less about her, explaining why she’s become such a stuck-up princess. Always trying to grab his attention and then right her wrongs when he wasn’t pleased. Her whole life revolved around making her family happy.

Well, not anymore. She’s mine now, and she needs to remember that.

“I’ll be good to you if you let me,” I murmur into her ear, and I press a kiss just below it. “If you’d just let me kiss you … fuck you … without fighting.”

“No way,” she hisses, but she still bites her lip as I place another kiss on her neck.

“You only say that because you think you should. Because you’ve been taught to act like a lady and defend against any immoral behavior. But you don’t have to with me. I want you to be immoral.” My hand slides up her knee between her legs to right where her soft spot lies. And she clenches her legs in response, her breath faltering. “Be sinful with me. It could be so fucking good.”




Clarissa Wild is a New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of Dark Romance and Contemporary Romance novels. She is an avid reader and writer of swoony stories about dangerous men and feisty women. Her other loves include her hilarious husband, her two crazy but cute dogs, and her ninja cat that sometimes thinks he’s a dog too. In her free time she enjoys watching all sorts of movies, playing video games, reading tons of books, and cooking her favorite meals.
Want to get an email when my next book is released? Sign up here to receive 4 FREE short stories: http://eepurl.com/FdY71


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RELEASE BLITZ – Take Me Hard (Arizona Heat #3) by Katie Douglas


Title: Take Me Hard
Series: Arizona Heat Book 3
Author: Katie Douglas
Genre: Erotic/Western Romance
Release Date:


“Another brilliant book in the Arizona Heat series…” ~ CLiK Book Blog


“… a must read if you love some sexy alphas.” ~The Little Bookworm


𝐈 𝐰𝐨𝐧𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐦𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐬. 𝐍𝐨𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐚 𝐝𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐥𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐂𝐥𝐚𝐲.”

When I met Clay Dale, he just made me so mad. Telling me what to do. Making me stay at his place just because he accidentally hit me with his truck. Who does that?
His dominance does strange things to my body, and when he brings out the rope… all I want him to do is take me, hard. But I can’t betray my dreams of making it in Hollywood. I’m so torn, I’m almost at breaking point, and not just because I got pounded by his enormous… truck.
𝘛𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘔𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘳𝘥 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘈𝘳𝘪𝘻𝘰𝘯𝘢 𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘧𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘸𝘣𝘰𝘺𝘴, 𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘮, 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘸𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘥 𝘥𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘢 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘦𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘯𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘺 𝘴𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘢 𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶.


BLP REVIEW – Tracy

Take Me Hard is the third book in the Arizona Heat series by Katie Douglas and so far my favourite of the stories to date.

I liked Clay and Kinsley together and even though the 10 year age gap bothered him quite a bit I thought they worked well as a couple.

Clay knows what he needs and wants from her, he’s worried that she’s too young and needs more from life than settling with him. Kinsley hasn’t had a good upbringing and in her mind, her only escape is to Hollywood where she can fulfill her ambition as an actress.

Though she feels a lot for Clay, she’s still determined to achieve her goal. Will this pair make it together or are the destined to go their own separate path?

A quick read, with heat, attraction, quite a bit of emotion and a lot of steam, this was a good story and I’m looking forward to the final book in the series.

For me this was a 4* read.


 


USA Today and worldwide number 1 bestselling author Katie Douglas is the sort of incorrigible British girl you’d find at St Trinian’s. She recently quit her job as a school librarian in China to write steamy romance full-time, and loves reading and writing books filled with steamy alphas with hearts of gold. She prefers cozy diners to fancy restaurants, coffee or whisky to champagne, and sometimes she adults.

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RELEASE BLITZ – Spotlight (Guardians Series) by Piper Davenport

Title: Spotlight
Series: Guardians Series
Author: Piper Davenport
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Harmony Morgan is caught in the cross-fire of a crazed stalker trying to get to her superstar sister.
Jaxon Quinn has been tasked with finding and neutralizing the threat surrounding the Morgan sisters, but no one warned him about the risk to his heart.
As danger closes in on them, will Jaxon be able to keep Harmony safe?
Will he recognize that by saving her, he may be saving himself as well?

Piper Davenport is the alter-ego of New York Times Bestselling Author, Tracey Jane Jackson. She writes from a place of passion and intrigue, combining elements of romance and suspense with strong modern-day heroes and heroines.
She currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids.

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RELEASE BLITZ – Dangerous Love by Jamie Begley

Title: Dangerous Love
Author: Jamie Begley
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Erotic
Release Date: February 28, 2019
Kindle Unlimited
A Jamie Begley Anthology
HEAVEN SENT】
There wasn’t anything Shade didn’t know about his wife, or so he thought. When another man wanted Lily, it didn’t come as a surprise. What did was that she hadn’t told him. 
His “Angel” had been sent from heaven just for him, not for another who was trying to steal what was his. 
Some lessons had to be learned the hard way and “when you burn, you learn” was his favorite lesson to teach.
CHASING RAINBOWS】
Ice had never believed in happily ever after … until he fell in love with Grace. He had put a ring on her finger, trying to tie her to him before she came to her senses and realized there was nothing redeeming about him. So, he wasn’t surprised that their marriage was on the rocks. 
She might be chasing rainbows, trying to find the man she believed he was, but rainbows never lasted, and Ice had never pretended to be anything but what he was—a cold-blooded Predator.
She didn’t realize you don’t have to chase after something that’s already been caught.
HALO FOR THREE】
Hammer and Jonas were on the hunt for a woman to share. However, either they couldn’t agree on the right woman, or she wanted no part of being in a ménage. That they found Mika on Valentine’s Day gave them hope that they had finally found the woman that they could spend the rest of their lives with … until she disappeared the next day, leaving them with an empty bed and no way to find her. 
She might have escaped for now, believing she had gotten off scot-free, but the bounty hunters were determined to catch their fleeing third. 
She might not know it yet, but some halos were made to be shared.



“I was born in a small town in Kentucky. My family began poor, but worked their way to owning a restaurant. My mother was one of the best cooks I have ever known, and she instilled in all her children the value of hard work, and education.
Taking after my mother, I’ve always loved to cook, and became pretty good if I do say so myself. I love to experiment and my unfortunate family has suffered through many. They now have learned to steer clear of those dishes. I absolutely love the holidays and my family puts up with my zany decorations.
For now, my days are spent writing, writing, and writing. I have two children, my daughter is also an author, and my son just tries not to blush when someone asks him about my books.
All my books are written for one purpose- the enjoyment others find in them, and the expectations of my fans that inspire me to give it my best.”

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RELEASE BLITZ – Truth or Bear (Shift Book 2) by Zoe Ashwood

Title: Truth or Bear
Series: Shift Book 2
Author: Zoe Ashwood
Genre: Paranormal Shapeshifter Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2019
Cover Design: Natasha Snow Designs
Teaser Credit: Elle Thorpe

Even a lone wolf’s heart can be broken.
Nikolai’s life was going just fine—until he was betrayed. He’s lost his job, his family’s trust, and his purpose, all for the cost of falling for a pretty bear. Now his friends have turned against him and they won’t stop until he’s dead. The last thing he wants to do is join forces with the woman responsible, but she might be his only chance at survival.
Getting kidnapped and shot was not part of Claire’s plan—and neither was falling for the lieutenant of the very organization she swore to destroy. Now working with Nik is dredging up all sorts of unwanted, heated memories. She couldn’t resist him when they first met, and nothing has changed when she sees his handsome face again.
But when rogues threaten their families, claws come out. Keeping secrets might have been their job description, but they’ll have to come clean to beat their enemies.
CHAPTER ONE
NIK
The dimly lit corridor was empty as Nik made his way toward the server room. He flicked off the safety on his gun then glanced over his shoulder to confirm that Stevens and Novak were actually doing what they’d been told for once. At their nervous nods, he faced forward again, reaching for the door handle.
His shift was about to end, just forty minutes until he could shuck his gun belt and go find Masha. Take me out on a real date, she’d said last night as they’d lain on his bed, sweaty and breathing hard after the most spectacular sex he’d ever experienced. He’d have promised her anything right then: a date, a dozen dates, his heart and soul—so he’d kissed her and later made dinner reservations for tonight.
“On three, I’ll open the door. Novak, you cover Stevens while he enters.” He kept his voice at a murmur, not wanting to spook the intruder who’d tripped the silent alarm.
How he’d gotten past the other security measures—an armed guard and an eight-digit keypad—was a question Nik would be asking as soon as the asshole was shackled to a chair. The guy had to be pretty stupid. Like he was going to get away with breaking into the room where Maxwell kept all the Guard’s backups?
The hum of the cooling vents drowned out any sounds coming from the room beyond, and Nik could barely detect the scent of something living over the musty smell of dust. This house wasn’t one of the luxurious mansions Maxwell liked to rent. They’d vacated one of those just days ago after the report had come in that the Shifter Assembly of North America had captured one of their people. The hyena was a nasty piece of work, and Nik wasn’t sad to see him gone, but he’d been taken alive, which meant he could be questioned. He could be turned. So Maxwell wasn’t taking any chances with this new intruder. Three to one might have seemed like overkill, but they couldn’t let him slip through their fingers. Not if he had answers to give.
“One…two…three!”
With a sharp push, he threw open the door, stepping to the side in the same movement to hide from a potential attack. Novak, overeager monkey that he was, barreled right past him, his gun raised to a point where he was sure to clock himself in the eye if he actually fired his weapon. He clearly needed more hours at the shooting range. Stevens covered for him, though, staying back.
Novak’s voice sounded from inside the room, “Oh fuck, Nik. I mean, sir.”
Something about his tone had Nik moving, even though he hadn’t received the all-clear from his trainee. He stepped over the threshold, gun ready, and swept the room for the intruder. Here, the scent of another living creature that had barely filtered through to the corridor became stronger, more pronounced. His body reacted to it before his mind caught up. And then he saw her.
Masha was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the server room, her computer in her lap and her palms up. Novak pointed his gun at her. Stevens was hot on Nik’s heels, and now the two of them were aiming at his—his what? Girlfriend? He thought he might be sick as the truth rolled over him like a tidal wave. She had no reason to be there. Which meant… Fuck.
The defiant look in her eyes faltered when he barked the order. “Cuff her.”
“Nik, wait,” she called, but he turned from her, putting away his gun. There was a scuffle, something crashed, and Novak yelled at her to get back down. Nik flinched but kept going. A blow connected, then a soft groan nearly ripped him in two.
A weight settled on him, the crushing realization that he’d been fooled, that every good thing that had happened in the past two months had been a lie.
“Nik!” she gasped, then yelped in pain.
He did not turn back.
***
Entering the living room, Nik was relatively sure his face was blank. Hard to tell since he’d spent the past hour trying to get his emotions under control, punching a bag in the gym—without gloves—until he’d skinned his knuckles and sweat poured off him. He’d had a cold shower to cool down and changed his clothes, all the while breathing through his mouth and keeping the windows open, though the night temperatures had dropped below freezing. But Masha’s scent lingered. He’d sat on his bed, and a cloud of it rose around him like a seductive, deceptive embrace.
He’d chucked her pillow through the window, startling another young guard into shifting. At the gangly elk’s confused stare, Nik had cursed and yelled an order to burn that fucking pillow. Clearly not his finest moment.
He was better now. A fresh shirt that only smelled of his detergent, a gun strapped in his shoulder harness, a prayer that Maxwell wasn’t in the mood to make a spectacle out of her. He could face his lover and be as professional as his reputation claimed he was.
But one look at Masha, and he realized his poker face would do him no good at all. She was tied to a chair in the middle of the room, her head hanging forward so wisps of her short black hair obscured her face. The sharp scent of her fear hit him hard, and her labored breaths told him she was in bad shape. What scared him the most was the plastic tarp that covered the dusty wooden floor and the carpet. A tarp meant to catch any bodily fluids that were released during the…questioning, and possibly to wrap up the remains after his boss had extracted all the information he needed.
Nik had his gun out before he knew what he was doing. The two lieutenants who stood guard by the door advanced, going for their own weapons, so Nik forced himself to relax, letting his hands drop. But he didn’t holster his gun. Then he focused all his attention on his boss, even though his gaze was drawn to Masha.
“Thank you for joining us,” Reid Maxwell said, his voice mock-polite. “I’m sorry we started without you.”
“What’s going on?”
At the sound of his voice, Masha lifted her head, and Nik couldn’t help the curse that slipped out of his mouth. Her face was a ruin, blood dribbling from her lip, and one eye already swelling shut. From the way she grimaced with every shallow breath, her ribs were broken or at least bruised. He moved toward her; he couldn’t even process what he was doing. They questioned suspects, yes, but not like this. Never—
“Uh-uh, Nicky.” Maxwell’s soft admonishment stopped him dead. “I can’t let you at her just yet. You think you’re angry now? You want to hurt her for betraying your trust? Wait until you hear who our little friend really is.”
Hurt her? Maxwell’s words refused to pierce Nik’s shock. He thought Nik wanted to hurt her even more? God, yes, he wanted to shake her, ask what the hell she’d been thinking, breaking into a restricted room, but she was defenseless, unarmed. A woman. If he hit her with enough force, he could… Bile rose in his throat, and he wondered, stupidly, whether the tarp would also serve to protect the floor from his vomit.
Novak, his eyes round with apprehension, stepped closer to Nik, offering a thin file. Nik reached out to take it, anything to keep his mind from imagining how Masha got those bruises. Which of them had hurt her? He’d kill them, he’d—
The black-and-white photo inside the file was of Masha, a candid shot of her in the street, her face thoughtful as she studied her phone. Her hair was longer, a silky mass that fell around her shoulders, and black-framed glasses perched on her nose. But the clothes made the biggest difference. The Masha on the photo wore a fitted dress that even Nik recognized as elegant, a fancy trench coat and a handbag that probably cost more than his monthly salary. And heels. Sleek high heels that sent an involuntary curl of lust into his gut. But it wasn’t her outfit that boiled his blood. It was the building behind her: a glass-paneled wall of a corporate high-rise in downtown Manhattan that he knew too well from hours of surveillance that he’d done on the place.
“What’s this?” he choked out, turning to Masha.
This Masha, the short-haired tomboy who’d wormed her way into his bed, spat blood onto the tarp. Nik saw how much it cost her to lift her head, to look him in the eyes.
“This right here is Claire Thibault,” Maxwell said, stepping over the spit and placing a hand on the nape of her neck.
She flinched at the gesture, just slightly, but enough for Nik to know it was his boss who’d inflicted the injuries, not one of the other lieutenants.
“She can’t be.”
“You’d think Thibault would take better care of his little heir, wouldn’t you? Fucking cowards, sending a woman to do their job.” Maxwell’s voice was deceptively light as he cupped Masha’s face and lifted her chin. “But the family resemblance is there. She even has the birthmark.”
Nobody had ever seen the heiress of the largest North American shifter clan. Protected and kept hidden in their Canadian stronghold, that was the word on the streets concerning Claire Thibault. People joked about her—was she so ugly Thibault hid her from the world? Pregnant and busy making an army of little bears?
Bears. The thought clicked into place, a missing puzzle piece. Masha had claimed she was a half-blood brown bear, and from her name, he’d assumed she had Russian roots like him. As a half-blood, her shifts didn’t come easily, she’d said, explaining her reluctance to wear her animal form. But if it was true, if she was really Claire Thibault, her other form was a black bear. Fuck. The betrayal stung. The scents were too close to distinguish, so the ruse had worked perfectly. Everything about her had been calculated to make him trust her, like her.
And the birthmark? Nik’s heart sank even lower. How could he have missed it? The identifying mark of all Thibault shifters, a stamp of their pure blood, of their superiority.
“You can see why I was worried to find someone breaking into our server room.” Maxwell dropped her chin and wiped the blood off his fingers.
“You knew who she was before you sent us in?” His boss was a sadist but he usually reserved this kind of subterfuge for his enemies, not his highest-ranking officers. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Nik rubbed his hand through his hair. “Fuck, Reid, how did you even find out?”
Maxwell snorted. “It was too easy. I should have thought of flipping one of the Council members years ago. A threat here, a fat check there, and voilà, one Councilwoman all too ready to rat out this little mole.” He grinned, the smile reminding Nik of days when their world had been a lot less bleak and angry. “Did I go too far with the animal metaphors? Never mind. All that matters is that we have one very important guest here.” He waved his gun in Masha’s—Claire’s—direction.
Then he stepped closer and backhanded her. The chair toppled over with the force of the blow. Masha’s head whipped back, droplets of blood splattering the tarp, and Nik snarled, prickles of heat all over his skin announcing he was about to shift.
He felt more than saw the lieutenants close in as Maxwell turned on him.
“What, Nik?” he snapped. “You don’t want to see her hurt? What did you expect, that I’d let her go?” Leaning in close, he murmured, “Do you want me to look weak?”
Panic rising in his chest, Nik had to force his jaw to unclench. “No, sir. But she won’t be worth much as a hostage if she’s dead.”
Maxwell cocked his head to the side. “See, you’re saying the right things. Yes, Thibault would pay more if I could convince him that his precious princess hasn’t been hurt. But you know we need information. And if it were anyone else, you’d be the first to agree. You’re my best interrogator! Yet here you are…” He drew in a deep breath, and Nik fought not to step back. “…smelling of fear. You’re shaking, Nicky. So tell me. What are you hiding?”
A hundred answers flitted through Nik’s mind, none convincing enough for Maxwell to drop this line of questioning. The worst that could happen… Oh, who was he kidding? The worst was already happening right in front of him.
“I should have worked out who she was.” The truth was all he could give his boss. The man he’d once thought was his closest friend. “I’m sorry.”
“So why are you afraid?” Maxwell’s amber eyes burned holes into him. “Don’t you want to see her punished? She fooled you. Fucked you. So she could run back to Daddy and tell him all about it.”
Nik’s stomach roiled at the thought, and he shook his head, half to say no, he didn’t want her punished anymore, and half to deny that this was what their relationship could be boiled down to.
Maxwell clicked his tongue. “You’re growing soft on me. I need you sharp, Nicky, if we’re going to win this war.” He turned back to Masha, who was still lying on the floor, and gave her a casual kick in the ribs that had her whimpering. Then he waved his free hand at Novak and Stevens. “Pick her up.”
The younglings scrambled forward, feet slipping on the tarp, and heaved Masha’s chair upright. Then they almost ran back to the corner of the room, eyes darting between Nik and Masha, as if they were hoping for him to tell them what to do. So he jerked his head toward the door. There was no need for them to witness this.
Maxwell watched with narrowed eyes as Nik’s youngest trainees left and only the two lieutenants remained. Bach and Moers each took one corner of the room. The three men stared at him, but he couldn’t move. Couldn’t think past the crushing blow that had shattered all hopes he’d had for his future, for their future. He couldn’t look at the mess that had been his lover’s beautiful face.
Nik didn’t step closer to Masha, and Maxwell lifted his arms. “What are you waiting for? We need answers.”
Masha’s dark eyes met his, and he knew he was screwed. He would never hit her. He was sick to his stomach with guilt from having left her alone with these people. The irony didn’t escape him—he was usually an eager member of ‘these people’. So many times, he had questioned men and gotten answers. He’d always been good at getting answers. But now, there was only one answer he could give his boss.
“No.”



Zoe Ashwood is a romance writer with a passion for sweet stories with a sexy twist. While she’s always been a reader, Zoe’s writing used to be limited to diary scribbles and bad (really bad) teenage poetry. Then she participated in NaNoWriMo 2015 and never looked back.
Some 400,000 words later, she’s still in love with the art of making up stories—and making her characters fall in love. Trust the Wolf is her debut novel.
When she’s not writing, Zoe works as a literary translator. She’s happily married to her best friend and has two small boys who are as stubborn as they’re cute.
She’s active on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, but her newsletter or Facebook Group are the best way of keeping in touch!
Get Bearly Married, a free prequel novella to the Shift series, for free here: https://zoeashwood.com/newsletter/


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NEW RELEASE ~ The Pickup (Imperfect Love #1) by Nikki Ash

Title: The Pickup
Series: Imperfect Love Book 1
Author: Nikki Ash

Genre: Sports Romance Standalone
Release Date: February 7, 2019

Somebody once said we don’t decide who we love. The world decides for us. But I disagree.
 
I believe love is a decision.
Who we love, how we love.
It’s in our control–in our hands.
I grew up having no clue about the true meaning of love. Money. Cars. Houses. Status. Fame. That’s what love means to the people around me.
It wasn’t until the woman I picked up in a bar came back into my life and showed me love can be so much more.
So, what’s the problem?
The woman I’m falling in love with believes in fairytales. She compares everything to a storybook and wants the happily-ever-after.
So while she’s stuck on recreating stories that have already been told, page by page, I’m showing her it’s time we write our own book.
Nobody ever said the journey of falling in love would be easy, just that it would be worth it.

The Pickup was my first read by Nikki Ash and I really enjoyed it!!! 

Nick and Olivia were great together – once he stopped being a douche (I got why he came across as kinda jaded and cynical at one point but I still wanted to slap him a time or two!). 

There were a couple of very complex characters (friends of the leads) – I’ve got a few thoughts on what’s going on/has gone on with them and I’m sure they are gonna make for interesting reading when it comes to their books.

A little angst, a lot of sweet and sexy and tons of heart, with an interesting supporting cast of characters, this is a great second chance read and a really good start to the Imperfect Love series.

4*

 


“I am so in love with this author. Nikki Ash writes another home run with this amazing book!” – Justmyloveforbooks blog

 

Wow!!!!! I devoured this story in one day. I was hooked from the first page read to the last one. An amazing storyline combined with amazing characters.” – TDC Book Reviews

 

“Nikki Ash never fails to bring out all my emotions with her writing.” – Red Hatter Book Blog

 

“A delightfully captivating sports romance, The Pickup by Nikki Ash was absolutely heart melting!” – Up All Night With Books




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RELEASE BLITZ ~ Surrender (The Hunter Series Book #3) by S E Cooper


Title: Surrender
Series: The Hunter Series Book 3
Author: S.E. Cooper

Genre: Romance
Release Date: January 31, 2019

 

“You think I’m too hot to handle, don’t you, Freckles?”

“Maybe a little.”
 
“A little my ass,” he grinned, “Baby, you can’t breathe when I’m near you.”
 
Never in her wildest dreams did Sloane Bailey think Kerr Hunter would look her way. Now he’s offering himself to her in the only way he knows. It’s a hell of an offer for the reticent redhead who fell in love at first sight. She knows from the very beginning she’s in over her head, but she has neither the strength nor the inclination to deny him.
 
Kerr thinks his infatuation with Sloane is under control. He’s about to discover, when it comes to affairs of the heart, resisting the inevitable is a futile endeavor. However, he still has no intention of surrendering his tortured soul. When his painful past and perilous present collide, Kerr finds himself fighting for more than just his heart. Lives are at stake. He failed once before. He has no intention of letting it happen again. However, with his mind clouded by revenge and fear overshadowing his judgment, can Kerr unravel the tangled network of corruption before it’s too late?


 
 



“I should never have come here, not like this,” he admitted. “It was wrong of me.”

 
My eyes glistened with tears. “You think what we just did was wrong?”
 
He looked mortified. “Hell, no.”
 
“Then what do you mean?”
 
He stopped cleaning me and settled himself back on the edge of the tub.
 
“I wasn’t in a good place. I’d been drinking. What happened between us shouldn’t have happened. Not under those circumstances.”
 
“Is that…how you always like sex?” I asked, something that had been on my mind ever since he tied my hands.
 
Kerr grinned. “Sometimes I like to play.”
 
“Oh.”
 
“Sex is different every time,” he said gently. “Sometimes, it’s hard. Sometimes, it’s soft”
 
“Like Tahoe,” I murmured.
 
Kerr smiled. “Yes, like Tahoe. And sometimes I like to play.”
 
“So we were just playing?”
 
“Yes,” he replied, swirling his finger in the water close to my thigh. “It’s not something I expected to do with you this quickly, but I tend to lose control whenever I’m around you. It’s a bad habit of mine.”
 
I smiled.
 
I liked the idea I could make him lose control.
 
“You liked it.”
 
“Is that a bad thing?”
 
Kerr shook his head. “Never, you say the word and we can play anytime you want.”
 
“What word should I use?” I asked, sitting up a little in the water.
 
Kerr started to laugh, proper belly rumbling laughter. Then he leaned forward and planted a quick hard kiss on my forehead.
 
“Why are you laughing?” I scrunched up my nose. “What’s so funny?”
 
As entertaining as his laughter was, I refused to join in when it was at my expense.
 
“You are fucking amazing; do you know that?”
 
“I don’t understand why you’re laughing.”
 
“Freckles, most people choose a word for when they want to stop. You want to choose one for starting.”
 
“Oh.”
 
“Well, choose one then.”
 
“No.” I covered my eyes in horror.
 
“Sloane.” His tone changed back to commanding. “Choose a word for when you want to play, and I’ll make it happen.”
 
“You’re serious?”
 
“Deadly.”
 
I sighed, knowing there was no way I was getting out of this. “Okay then…Scarlett.”
 
Kerr nodded his approval. “The color of your hair.”
 
“No.” I flicked some bubbles at him. “The color of my ass when you spanked it.”
 
Kerr chuckled, “Scarlett it is.”


 
 


 


 

S E Cooper lives in Scotland with her husband, their two boys, two crazy cats and a bonkers bunny. She has always loved to read and write stories, but it wasn’t until she discovered the wonderful world of self-publishing and became inspired by some of her favorite Indie Authors that she decided to take the plunge herself.
S E Cooper likes her heroes hot and her heroines feisty. She writes Romantic Suspense that will steal your breath and your heart. Her pages may be full of intrigue and passion but at the core, they are always about family and how far we are prepared to go to protect the ones we love.



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BOOK TOUR ~ The Boyfriends Cruise (A Pride of the Caribbean Vacation) by Deanna Wadsworth

 
Title: The Boyfriend Cruise
Series: A Pride of the Caribbean Vacation
Author: Deanna Wadsworth

Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: December 25, 2018



 
 
The Pride of the Caribbean is a cruise ship unlike any other. Paranormals working onboard the enchanted ship hide in plain sight, under the benevolent protection of a demigod captain and his fairy husband.
 
And this is a shipboard romance unlike any other.
 
Josh Gilbert’s well-meaning family booked a gay-friendly cruise for Christmas in order to find Josh a steady boyfriend. Hoping to escape the constant parade of bachelors—and the collapsible fishing rod dangling mistletoe his mom keeps in her purse—Josh takes solace in a growing friendship with the ship’s photographer, Nathan. Though Josh is falling for Nathan, he worries it will never be more than a shipboard fling.
 
Nathan recently became aware of his incubus heritage, and has finally learned how to control his demon side. But Josh has awaken more than just the demon’s need for orgasms–Josh has awaken Nathan’s heart. What’s developing between them is the real thing, but can Josh ever accept Nathan’s promiscuous past… and love a sex demon?
 

Amid lush tropical settings, family hilarity, holiday costume parties, sexy snorkeling adventures, gingerbread martinis, and mythical creatures, will Josh get his Christmas wish and find true love?

 

DiverseReader – “Deanna Wadsworth’s story telling of The Boyfriend Cruise, is a heartfelt tale of love that sees what’s inside of the person and less of what’s on the outside.”

 

Amazon Review – “I enjoyed a lot of the book. The plot was easy to follow, it was well written, funny and dynamic.”

 

OMGReads – “Cute story about all sorts of beings who call the cruise ship home. Throw in a little Christmas and the book was fun to read.”


 

Chapter One

Day One, At Sea
THE WARM Florida sunshine bathed Josh Gilbert, and he turned his face into it as he walked up the cruise ship gangway, rolling luggage in tow. His weather app said the temps back home in Indiana would reach a balmy fifteen degrees. Josh still couldn’t believe Mom and Dad had surprised their family—and Josh’s best friend—with a Caribbean cruise for Christmas.

Falling in line behind his older brother, Luke, and his wife, Ramona, the Gilbert clan hauled suitcases and bags of holiday presents onto their new home for the week—the Pride of the Caribbean.

Dwarfed somewhat by the giant cruise liners docked beside them in the Port of Miami, the elegantly appointed Pride made a grand first impression when they entered the lobby behind a slew of other passengers.

“Check out this place,” Luke said, craning his neck, eyes wide.

In awe, they all took in the plush red carpets, crystal chandeliers, and the sleek gold-and-glass banister of the impressive grand staircase. A colossal Christmas tree sat proudly on the first landing, a set of stairs branching to either side and draped in glittering garlands. The tree glistened with white twinkling lights, bows, seashells, and large glass ornaments that, when they caught the light just right, seemed to flicker and dance.

How much did Dad shell out for this trip? Josh wondered.

“Dang, this ship is da bomb,” Aaron muttered in Josh’s ear.

Pleasantly stunned, Josh glanced up at his tall BFF. “No doubt,” he agreed, and then he flinched at something unexpected.

In front of him, two men held hands, chatting with excitement about the cruise.

Though it made Josh happy to see—and more than a tad jealous—openly gay couples in public still surprised him.

If only Josh could ever have something like that in his life.

“Have you figured it out, Josh?” Mom asked, gesturing toward a different couple boarding the ship—two women holding hands.

Puzzle pieces began to fit together, creating a picture Josh wasn’t sure he liked. He narrowed his eyes at his mother. “What’s going on?”

Mom twirled a brown curl around one finger, grinning. Curvy and short—he’d inherited that from her along with the brown hair and eyes—she looked ready to burst.

But Josh’s sister-in-law exploded first.

“It’s a gay cruise!” Ramona cried.

Josh shook his head. “What?”

“We’re gonna find you a boyfriend for Christmas!” Clare announced.

Josh whirled on his sister. “What did you say, Clare?”

She clutched her hands to her ample chest, her curvy figure promising the same weight struggle Mom and Josh suffered. “That we’re gonna find you a boyfriend for Christmas,” his little sister repeated. “This cruise line is gay-friendly, which means there should be plenty of guys for you to have a shipboard romance. Isn’t that great?”

Dad and Luke squirmed, as if caught in the women’s schemes too, or perhaps they feared Josh’s response. Dad was an aged version of his eldest son, as tall and lean as the rest of the family was short and round.

“It’ll be fun, Josh,” Luke assured him, shifting from foot to foot. “No pressure.”

“Yes, pressure,” Ramona insisted, slapping her husband on the arm, her white teeth as dazzling against her brown skin as her white sundress. “He’s getting on board single, but he’s not leaving that way.”

Aaron laughed, and Josh glared at him.

“And I have just the trick,” Mom said, rummaging in her giant purse.

Unable to believe his ears, Josh frowned at Dad. “Were you in on this?”

Before Dad could answer, a stranger stepped in front of Josh. Middle-aged and overly tanned, he wore a lecherous grin.

“What’s this?” the stranger asked. “Mistletoe?”

Then shocking Josh into a stupor, the man kissed him right on the lips.

“What the—” Josh recoiled.

“Name’s Brian,” the guy said, still grinning. “Find me later for a dance.”

Then he slipped into the crowd of passengers.

“What the heck?” Josh spun to face Mom.

Grinning like a fiend, she had a children’s fishing rod in her hand, and rather than a worm dangling from the hook, she’d hung a clump of mistletoe.

“What are you doing?” he cried, too stunned to be as angry as he should’ve been.

“Getting you a man,” Mom said, her face serious now.

Josh set his rolling suitcase on all four wheels and then crossed his arms to glare at her. “You are certifiable, you know that?”

“Certifiably the best matchmaker you know,” she quipped. “Ask Clare and Luke how good I am.”

Luke threw an arm around his pretty wife, and they shared a loving kiss. “Luckiest man in the whole world that Mom introduced me to her tennis coach.” After six years of marriage—sans kids, though not for lack of trying—Luke and Ramona were living the high-end life with their goldendoodle, Fred.

Patting Josh on the shoulder, Clare sighed. “Seriously, dude, you should let Mom pick a guy for you. She has the gift.” Clare’s husband, William, was the son of a lady in Mom’s bunco group. They were married last Valentine’s Day.

“No,” Josh declared, waving his hand in a sweeping gesture of finality. He couldn’t argue against Mom’s success thus far, but Mom would not be how he found his first real boyfriend.

“You can find me a boyfriend, Mrs. G.” Aaron took the fishing rod from her and waggled it over his own head. “Mistletoe, boys!”

Sure enough, Josh’s attractive friend soon had a line of four guys waiting to kiss him. Josh’s face flamed with embarrassment when the third guy added some tongue action and a grope on the ass, which Aaron didn’t seem to find offensive at all.

Josh would die a million deaths if some guy kissed him like that in public—especially in front of his family.

Mom laughed and took back her fishing pole. “You don’t need any help,” she told Aaron, who was still whispering something in bachelor number three’s ear.

Josh pointed at his mother. “Keep that thing away from me.”

“You’re such a party pooper,” she scolded.

“That’s enough,” Dad decided. “Let’s find our rooms.”

As the Gilbert clan moved forward, much to Josh’s further horror, Ramona announced, “Single hot gay guy coming through!”

“Ramona,” Josh hissed, face on fire.

“It’s my job to take pictures of all the single hot guys on this cruise ship,” a sultry voice said from off to the left.

Josh jumped and turned, shocked by the camera pointed at him.

Click.

The lens lowered, and the hottest man Josh had ever laid eyes on was grinning at him.

Tanned, blond, and straight off a Ralph Lauren yacht, the man wore white pants, a navy jacket, and a red ascot. He was tall, lean, and broad in the shoulders, with green eyes a man could get lost in and a face like Adonis himself!

“Uh…?”

“Nathan Bradshaw, shipboard photographer,” the man introduced himself, his blond hair glistening in the sparkling lights of the chandelier.

Or maybe Josh just imagined it glistened. The guy was startling to look at.

Nathan extended a well-manicured hand. “Welcome aboard the Pride.”

“Uh…?”

“This is Josh,” Ramona piped up, bodily pushing him closer to the handsome stranger.

A warm hand, soft but firm, took hold of Josh’s.

“He’s single,” Clare said.

“Is that so?” Nathan drawled, shaking Josh’s hand and not letting go. “Well, so am I, Josh. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, um… you too, Nathan.” That’s when clarity came to Josh’s stunned brain. He scowled at his meddling family. “You guys, just stop,” he hissed, dropping the man’s hand like a house afire.

Clare’s big brown eyes widened innocently. “What?”

Nathan chuckled, and Josh’s face heated further—if such a thing were possible.

“Everybody needs a cheering section,” Nathan said. Then he gestured to the whole Gilbert clan. “Everybody, get closer. Let’s immortalize the moment you began the best vacation of your life.”

Josh squished between Clare and Ramona, while Dad, Aaron, and Luke took the back and Mom the far left. Josh somehow managed to say “cheese” along with everyone else while Nathan snapped a few pics.

Nathan looked at his display. “Perfect. Now, let’s get one of each couple.”

“We’re a couple.” Ramona pointed at Luke, then Mom and Dad. “And so are they. Those three are all flying solo.”

“So you said.” Nathan eyed Josh with a sideways grin that could almost be described as predatory.

Josh’s cheeks warmed, and he couldn’t smile. I must be losing my mind. This is all some sort of twisted dream. Please wake up. Wake up!

But nothing happened, except Aaron and Clare posing on either side of him and Nathan raising the camera again.

“C’mon, smile for the camera,” Nathan prompted, and somehow Josh managed to suck in his gut and smile.

Looking only at Josh, Nathan stepped toward them. “The pictures will be displayed on the viewing screens near the purser’s desk at 7:00 p.m. tonight. They’re available for purchase anytime during the cruise.” He leaned in close and whispered, “But just a tip, they go on sale the last day, so keep track of the numbers for the ones you want.” Not leaning out of Josh’s personal space, Nathan winked at him. “Just don’t tell anybody or it might get me fired.”

Josh swallowed, nervous all of a sudden with how close Nathan had gotten and how delicious his cologne smelled. Like honey or something else equally warm and inviting. Josh couldn’t quite place it, but he liked it. Before he could get another chance to identify the alluring fragrance, the gorgeous photographer had slipped back into the crowd, smiling and flirting with the next group of passengers.

For a hot second, Josh had imagined Nathan was actually flirting with him, but he quickly pushed such thoughts away.

It’s his job to flirt. Get over yourself!

“He was handsome,” Mom said.

He flinched at her hovering behind him, and then he frowned at her. “So is Brad Pitt. Doesn’t mean he wants me.”

She scoffed. “Oh, if Brad Pitt ever saw this face, he’d switch teams, for sure.”

And then, to Josh’s horror, she pinched both of his cheeks.

Hating it when she did that, but grateful she didn’t add her usual “just look at these chipmunk cheeks,” Josh wriggled out of her grasp. “Don’t pull on my skin. You’ll give me wrinkles.”

She scoffed again. “You’re only twenty-seven. What do you know about wrinkles?”

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Aaron chimed.

Yeah, it was bad enough that at twenty-seven Josh had never had a real boyfriend. The last thing he needed was premature wrinkling. His family was already going to make him prematurely gray.

“C’mon,” Dad said. “I’m tired after all the driving. Let’s get to our rooms and get settled. I think there’s a manhattan somewhere on this ship with my name on it.”

Several crewmembers with tablets mingled in the crowd, giving directions to staterooms. Dad made a beeline toward a man in a Santa hat, holding a tablet, who stood beside a distinguished-looking fellow in a captain’s uniform.

“Welcome aboard,” the man with the tablet said. Though he looked almost Mom and Dad’s age, his tanned skin was flawless and his hair a rich brown. “I’m Raoul, your purser, and this is Captain Leonides.”

“Welcome aboard,” the captain said, with a tip of his hat. He was quite handsome, in an exotic Mediterranean sort of way, with the faintest hint of gray at his temples. Definitely looked competent to captain their ship, a man born to be at sea.

I might die of embarrassment, but at least not from shipwreck.

“Thank you,” Dad said, and everyone else repeated similar greetings. “We’re the Gilbert family. I believe we have four rooms booked.”

Raoul swiped a few times and tapped on his tablet. “Yes, the Gilberts. You are in cabins F1, 2, 3, and 4, on the Fiesta deck. Very nice accommodations you’ve chosen. Some of our finest suites, each with ocean views and balconies.”

“Balconies?” Luke cried, sliding down his shades, his brown eyes wide. “How much money did you spend on this, Dad?”

Dad raised a hand. “You know it’s rude to ask that. This is your Christmas present, and I want us all to have a great time. I even got us the unlimited drink package.”

“Woo-hoo, margaritas, here I come,” Aaron declared, raising his hand for a high five from Clare, which she returned after a slight frown.

“You guys better have a great time,” Mom said. “Because none of you are getting birthday gifts from us this year.”

Josh laughed. Dad had an overly generous spirit, but Mom kept a tight rein on the family purse strings. She might have married a renowned heart surgeon, but she never forgot the trailer she was born and raised in. She passed along the value of money to all of her children—well, maybe not to Clare. As the youngest and the only girl, Clare was more than spoiled. Dad had bailed her out of credit card debt twice that Josh knew of.

“No birthday present for me? Mrs. G, that’s just cruel,” Aaron cried.

She patted his cheek rather than pinching it, Josh noted. “Oh, well, maybe for you.”

“That’s fair,” Clare muttered to Josh, and he wisely said nothing.

Clare might be spoiled and bad with money, but Josh adored her. And since her husband was currently in Afghanistan fighting for their freedoms and she would be spending her first Christmas as a married woman without him, he kept the comment to himself that she shouldn’t worry. Daddy’s girl always got a present.

A large, stoic bellman loaded their suitcases, gift bags, and wrapped presents onto a trolley, grunting a “No” when Dad tried to help. Raoul gave him instructions to deliver their things to the suites, and the man lumbered toward an elevator.

Raoul snapped his fingers, and as if out of nowhere, a very petite woman with a bright smile and a pink streak in her hair appeared.

Aaron jumped back and put his hands to his chest. “You just came out of nowhere, didn’t you?”

“I’m little,” she quipped.

“Penelope dear, please show the Gilbert family to their suites,” Raoul told her.

She grinned impishly. “Right this way, family,” she said in a cheery voice. All but floating up the grand staircase with her hands at the small of her back, Penelope led them to their rooms.

“Have you sailed with us before?” Penelope asked Dad, gazing up at him with big doe eyes she batted coquettishly.

“No, first time.” Dad smiled down at her, seeming smitten with how cute and tiny she was.

“Isn’t she adorable?” Mom whispered to Josh.

“Yeah, sure, I guess,” he said. For a flash, Josh thought Penelope frowned at him, but the change in her face happened so quick he probably imagined it.

Penelope was very pretty, but her long eyelashes were as fake as the pink streak in her blonde hair. The glitter across her brow and eyelids might’ve been unprofessional, but this was a gay-friendly cruise. He wondered if she was on the rainbow, but couldn’t be sure with the way she giggled so flirtatiously with Dad.

“Here is the first suite,” Penelope announced, pausing outside F1. She studied Josh and Aaron. “I pick this one for you two.”

“Um, okay,” Josh said, figuring it was her attempt at being cute and the rooms were assigned.

The act worked on Dad and Luke, if the way they tilted their heads and smiled at her were any indicator—as if they couldn’t decide if she was real or not. Regardless, Luke had better stop staring or his feisty wife would smack him one.

But when Penelope opened the first room, all their eyes went straight to the spacious suite and dazzling view.

Josh gasped.

“Holy ocean view, Batman,” Aaron exclaimed.

The room was gorgeous, not cramped like the cruise he went on for spring break in college. They each had a double bed, and there was a sitting area with a couch, a door that probably led to the bathroom, and sliding doors that opened to a balcony, which currently faced the Port of Miami. Towels folded into wreaths with soaps for ornaments and big red bows lay on each bed. A pretty Christmas tree with blown-glass ornaments that seemed to glisten and dance in the light was perched on the table between the beds. Mirrored closet doors visually doubled the space, and much to Josh’s surprise, their luggage had already arrived.

“Wow” was all Josh could say.

Dad and Mom grinned, and rubbernecking behind them, his siblings had eyes as wide as their mouths.

“Have fun, boys,” Penelope sang.

Josh pulled out his wallet to tip Penelope, but Dad raised a hand. “No, no, save your money for souvenirs.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Aaron went up and hugged first Mom, then Dad. “Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. G. Can you adopt me?”

Mom laughed. “I think we did that a long time ago.”

“Moving this way, family,” Penelope announced. “Let’s see which of you get the next room.” Then she flitted away, the rest of the Gilberts following and her voice fading like tinkling sleigh bells as their suite door shut.

Once alone, Josh and Aaron exchanged looks.

“This is going to be the best vacation ever,” Aaron declared.

Josh put his hands on his hips. “Fess up. Did you know Mom and Dad booked a gay-friendly cruise to find me a boyfriend?”

Aaron waved him off. “Why are you looking a gift horse in the mouth?” He was tall, fit, and had the prettiest dark curls and blue eyes—which was why he never had a problem scoring a date.

“I’m not.”

“You are.” He made a beeline to the balcony door and slid it open, filling the suite with warm, salty air. “And yes, I knew it was gay-friendly, and the girls have this notion that you’ll have a shipboard romance and fall in love. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. All I know is that you’re the luckiest SOB on earth to have a family who would pick a gay cruise line just for you. And your mom even booked us all mani-pedis this afternoon. Your dad and Luke are getting massages. Bet they’re hoping that little pink pixie, Penelope, is the massage therapist.” He snorted at his own joke, obviously noting the same thing Josh did about the way Dad and Luke had been enraptured with the woman.

Chagrined by Aaron’s speech, Josh shuffled his feet, studying his sandals. He knew he was lucky. Aaron’s family would never go on a ship like this. Especially his father. The man could barely look at Aaron sometimes. His mom and brother were never cruel, but Josh always sensed they weren’t sure how to take the flamboyant Aaron. Sometimes, if Aaron had too much to drink, he’d cry or bitch about them, saying he felt more love from Josh’s family than his own.

Evidenced by the coin Dad put out for this trip, the Gilberts viewed Aaron as family too.

“Yeah, I know I sound ungrateful—”

“You do.”

“But I hope they don’t run around the ship looking for a man for me. That will be so humiliating. And that mistletoe fishing pole? What the heck?”

“That mistletoe got me a hot date for the Christmas costume party tonight. And your family means well,” Aaron said, leaning on the railing and tipping his face up to the sun.

Not a fan of heights, Josh popped his head out onto the balcony. “Nice view. I won’t be sitting out here.”

“Why not?”

“Haven’t you heard about all the people who fall off cruise ships?”

Aaron scoffed. “Only jealous husbands push their wives overboard. That would never happen on a gay ship.”

Josh chuckled but wisely stepped inside. “Promise me you won’t go on the balcony after we’ve been drinking, ’kay?”

“Okay, worrywart, as long as you promise to let loose. Have fun.” Aaron gave Josh a shimmy. “This is a cruise custom designed for us!”

“Okay, I promise to have fun.”

“Ground rules.” Aaron sprawled out on the bed closest to the balcony, lacing his fingers behind his head. “If the Do Not Disturb is on the door, we won’t interrupt any hookups. Any overnighters, we have to okay with the other, that way one of us can sleep in Clare’s room.”

“Okay.” Josh laughed, doubting very much he’d have an overnight guest.

“And no fucking in each other’s bed,” Aaron added. “I love you, but even I have standards.”

“I’m fine with whatever,” Josh said. “We both know you’re the only one who’s going to be hooking up in this room. I should probably just move my stuff into Clare’s room right now.”

“You don’t know that. You could meet the man of your dreams.”

Josh scoffed, his mind revisiting a pair of green eyes and golden hair sparkling in the sunlight…. Nope, never gonna happen. “Yeah, like I’m gonna meet the man of my dreams.”

“You never know what could happen.”

“I’m too fat.”

“No, you’re not. I know how hard you’ve been trying to lose weight. You look amazing.”

“I could stand to lose another twenty pounds.”

“Don’t,” Aaron scolded. “I hate it when you get down on yourself.”

“It’s just the truth.”

“Says you. Just try and chill out for once. Don’t worry about your waistline or whatever rules you’ve made up in your head. Just go out there and have fun. Who knows? Maybe something magical will happen.”

As he unpacked, listening to Aaron list all the activities and excursions the ship offered, Josh knew he could be a stick in the mud. Well, in comparison to Aaron, anyway. But he’d been looking forward to a relaxing vacation with no computers, deadlines, or spreadsheets, and no worries. He didn’t even have to worry about any homophobes on this trip.

His thoughts alighted again on the cute photographer, Nathan.

Maybe this boyfriend cruise might not be so bad.

His family loved him enough to pick this ship, and honestly, until this moment, a shipboard romance hadn’t been an option. He hadn’t been on board half an hour and he’d already been kissed once—even if he wasn’t pleased with Mom about it.

This ship was full of potential for a guy like Josh.

Aaron was right. Josh needed to let loose this week. He’d waited his entire life to find romance, so if a chance presented itself, he should not squander the opportunity.

Even if that meant his family embarrassing him all over the Caribbean.


Deanna Wadsworth might be a bestselling erotica author, but she leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her wonderful husband and a couple adorable cocker spaniels. She has been spinning tales and penning stories since childhood, and her first erotic novella was published in 2010. She has served multiple board positions at her local RWA chapter and is the current President 2017 for Rainbow Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing books or brainstorming with friends, you can find her making people gorgeous in a beauty salon. She loves music and dancing, and can often be seen hanging out on the sandbar in the muddy Maumee River or chilling with her hubby and a cocktail in their basement bar. In between all that fun, Deanna cherishes the quiet times when she can let her wildly active imagination have the full run of her mind. Her fascination with people and the interworkings of their relationships have always inspired her to write romance with spice and love without boundaries.
 

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