She's a Lip Biter

Get ready for some Lip Biting

Category: Excerpt Reveals (page 1 of 3)

Excerpt Reveal: Beneath the Truth by Meghan March

by Meghan March
Genres: Contemporary Romance

 

 

From USA Today bestselling author Meghan March comes the final sexy standalone set in the Beneath world of New Orleans.

I used to believe there were lines in life you don’t cross.
Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal.
Until I learned people don’t always practice what they preach.
I turned in my badge and gun and walked away from everything.
Then I got the call no one wants, and I’m back in New Orleans.
What I don’t expect is for her to be here too.
Another line you don’t cross?
Don’t touch your best friend’s little sister.
She’s always been off-limits.
Too bad I don’t follow the rules anymore.

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“Fine. If you don’t want to play me, I’m sure there’s someone in this bar who will.”

She rose from the bar stool and smoothed her dress down her thighs. I swore it looked longer at the cemetery than it did right now, inching up her toned legs. The shoulders and chest were sheer black lace, as sophisticated as could be, but the lace took on a sexier edge in the dim light of the bar. I’d lay money on her being the classiest thing this place had ever seen. And damn, what those heels did for her . . .

I ripped my gaze away from her ass to focus on her face.

Her lips flattened in obstinate challenge before she strutted toward the pool table. And yeah, I used the word strutted because there was no other way to describe how she walked in those stilettos now that her attitude was flaring.

Heads turned to follow her progress, and two guys jumped off their stools to follow her.

Oh, hell no. Not a chance, assholes.

I pushed off my seat and stalked toward her. Ari’s back was to me when I stopped behind her at the cue rack. She spun around, unaware of my presence, and smacked into my chest, a pool stick trapped between us. She sucked in a breath, jerking her head up.

“Sorry. Didn’t realize you were so close.”

Years ago, she never would have lost track of where I was if we were in the same room. The realization was a blow to my ego, although not unexpected. I no longer made the cut on her priority list, and that stung.

Rather than move and give her space, I reached around her to snag a cue off the rack, letting my arm brush her shoulder.

Ah . . . there it is. Her facial expression remained static, but her involuntary shiver gave her away. Maybe I’m not off the list completely.

I didn’t know why it mattered, but after the last few brutal days, I needed something good to distract me from the shit show that was my life. And there was no doubt in my mind that Ariel Sampson was everything good.

Her spine straightened and she bobbed around me, avoiding contact in favor of racking the balls and lining them up.

“Do you want to break?” she asked.

“Ladies first.”

Ari rolled her eyes and reached for the chalk. With her stick prepped, she leaned over the edge of the table, her ass jutting out and the hem of her dress riding up her thigh.

Lord . . . I groaned silently. This was torture.

Haven’t I been through enough? I tossed the question skyward and received no sign the big man had heard me.

I tore my gaze off her ass and scanned the bar. Mistake. My fist tightened around the pool cue as a reflex, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t use it to smack every jerk in this bar back into line if they didn’t quit staring. Double standard? Sure. But I didn’t care.

With a step behind her, I blocked the most direct view and turned to glare at all of them. Thankfully, Heath’s interest was hooked on the waitress working our table. One by one, the gazes dropped away, and I turned back to Ari, marginally satisfied that they picked up what I was throwing down. Off-limits, assholes.

Ari cursed and stood up straight, leaning lightly on her pool cue. “Dammit. I had that shot.”

I scanned the green felt and found half her balls were missing. “Jesus, what were you doing? Trying to clear the table?”

Her nose went up in the air. “Trying? If I wanted to clear the table, it would be clear. It’s just angles.”

“Brainiac as always.”

Ari shrugged, but I caught a hint of a smile. “Didn’t you hear? It’s cool to be a geek now.”

I had no doubt that wherever she lived in California, she was exactly what was cool. Shit, she had every man’s attention in this bar.

“You were always cool in my book, Red. My turn.” Even though I wanted to wait for her smile, I chalked my cue and sank two shots before missing the third.

“Not bad.” Her nonchalant tone made me grin.

“I try.”

Her eyes finally locked on mine. “I succeed.”

Hell. Why was that statement so damned sexy coming from her lips?

She pushed off her pool cue and spun around to face the table again, her dress sliding up another inch as she bent over the table.

My dick pulsed against my jeans.

Heath is going to kill me.

 

 

 

 

 

meghanmarchpic

Meghan March has been known to wear camo face paint and tromp around in woods wearing mud-covered boots, all while sporting a perfect manicure. She’s also impulsive, easily entertained, and absolutely unapologetic about the fact that she loves to read and write smut. Her past lives include slinging auto parts, selling lingerie, making custom jewelry, and practicing corporate law. Writing books about dirty talking alpha males and the strong, sassy women who bring them to their knees is by far the most fabulous job she’s ever had. She loves hearing from her readers at meghanmarchbooks@gmail.com.

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Chapter Reveal: So Good by Nicola Rendell

by Nicola Rendell

 

 

 

Coming August 7th

 

 

 

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On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.

Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.

But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?

It feels so good.

 


1
Max

I wasn’t planning to see her naked—I swear to God, I wasn’t. The day was a scorcher, one of those godforsaken New England summer days that makes a guy wonder how he ever said fuck you to winter. I stood on the roof her house, three stories above the Maine woods, with a far-off view of the ocean. It was pretty, yeah, like the kind of shit real estate companies put on complimentary calendars. But in that heat, it was like standing on top of a goddamned toaster, turned all the way to burnt. I could feel that shit in my socks, straight through my work boots. At my feet was a stack of shake shingles, old school, to replace the ones that were missing. Her house had a few slow leaks, and one over her bathroom that made the ceiling look like a huge Rorschach test. She said it definitely looked like a rose in bloom, I said it definitely looked like Batman. But I told her hidden meanings wouldn’t make shit for difference when the ceiling collapsed into the tub, so there I was. Fucking miserable work, but I was glad to do it. Glad to do anything for her—anything she needed at all.
In the forest on every side around the cottage, the cicadas screeched. It sounded like a needle squeaking off a record player. I knelt down by the stack of shingles, using my utility knife to score a line through one to fit a nearby gap. I snapped it with my hands and tossed the scrap end off the edge of the roof. A trickle of sweat ran down my forehead, and I wiped my face with my forearm. One droplet got away, sparkling in the sun. It caught my eye, and I watched it fall, as it landed on the skylight window with a splat.
And that was when it happened. Boom.
There she was, right under me. She couldn’t have been more than six feet away, but she felt even closer. I had a direct line of sight down into her gorgeous, soft cleavage, bright and pure in the sunshine. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the surprise of seeing her, but at first I didn’t really process that it was Rosie at all. My dude brain said, I want that woman.
Then my regular brain said, Don’t be an asshole, man. It’s Rosie. Have some respect.
Respect I definitely had, but of course I’d thought about seeing her naked before. She was so fucking beautiful that any man would have thought about it. Sometimes, like right then looking down into her dress, I couldn’t fucking help it. Sometimes we’d be out doing something ordinary, like eating dinner, or I’d be changing her oil, or she’d be teaching me to do shit I should have learned at some point in the last 34 years, like iron a dress shirt without screwing up the collar, and I’d catch myself watching her cleavage rise and fall as she breathed, or thinking how nice her legs were, and I’d think, Holy hell.
Now she was directly underneath the skylight. The angle of the sun cast my shadow down the roofline, away from the skylight, so I didn’t give myself away. Like that, I watched her. I gave in to my dude brain and just took her in. Her light brown hair glinted, and a beam of light caught the curve of her shoulder.
That was when the goddamned striptease started, beginning with the left strap of her sundress.
Her movements were graceful, sexy, sassy—the sway of her hips, the shake of her shoulders. I realized I might be in real fucking trouble, because I loved that sexy sass. It wasn’t normal Rosie-cute. It was naughty, like nothing I’d ever seen her do before. I liked it so much, I couldn’t look away. She shimmied out of her sundress, and it fell to the floor in a pool at her feet. No big deal, I tried to tell myself. I’d seen her in her bikini a thousand times. This was no different from that.
Except it was, because then she reached around to undo her bra. Before I could tell myself Don’t look, dude. It’s Rosie, don’t look, it was too fucking late. The straps slid down off her shoulders, and for one perfect second got caught on her nipples, swinging in the air before falling to the floor.
Holy…
I pressed my clenched fist to my mouth and groaned into my hand. All my blood was leaving my head. The roofline was getting wobbly.
It wasn’t like I didn’t know her curves; we’d spent whole summers on the beach—I knew her shape and her softness, I knew her lines and her freckles. Every curve of Rosie Madden was sacred in my book. Fucking douchebags on the beach giving her eyes had to answer to me and my eyes, right behind her. She did that to me—I was one punch away from defending her honor, always. But this? This was different. Seeing your best friend in a bikini at a clam bake is one thing. Protecting your best friend from assholes with wandering eyes is part of the guy-girl best friend creed. But seeing your best friend, absolutely naked in her bedroom, without knowing she can see you? That was a different deal.
…Shit.
Part of me knew I should keep my eyes off of her. She thought she was in private, I had no business spying. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy. I hated that guy. But the other part of me, fuck. The other part of me was nothing but want.
Then she bent at the hips, and time slowed down, like some kind of stop-motion Jackie Chan kung fu sequence. All the cicadas went silent, at least in my head they did. The wind stopped blowing through the trees. It was just her, and her perfection, in the sunshine underneath me. I felt like I was on one of those glass-bottomed boats, looking at a world I never knew existed.
She tossed her bra aside, and it landed on her neatly made bed. She shimmied out of her panties, shaking her ass as she did. I growled into my fist, and that’s when I went down into a crouch.
Because as she shimmied I saw it in a V above her ass. My kryptonite. A skimpy thong.
All these years, all these decades, I’d had her pegged for cute cotton panties—pastel polka dots, thin stripes, shit that was sweet and sensible. But I was so fucking wrong. Black. Strappy. Tiny. Not sensible at all. Now it was in a rolled-up ball at her ankles. Using her toes, she plucked her panties from the floor, and caught them on one finger.
Fucking A.
She was completely naked, not a thread on her. Every thought I’d ever had got sucked out of my brain, like dishwater down the sink drain. What was left was only one true thing, and it wasn’t about her ass, or her skin, or her breasts. It was the one thing I think I’d always known but never let myself feel. Until that moment.
She is the most beautiful woman in the world.
Part of the reason I thought that was, yeah, obviously, she was fucking stunning, every inch of her straight out of a dream. Not just my dream, either. Guys would slow down on Main Street to give her the elevator stare, and I’d quietly crack my knuckles and give them don’t-you-fucking-dare stares. But the other part, the part that wasn’t in my gut but that was in my heart, was that I fucking adored her. Adored her so hard it hurt.
She crouched down to pick up her dress, lifting the delicate straps with her small, sweet fingers. She pivoted, so I had a view of her other side of her body for the first time. There it was.
The tattoo.
I groaned again. I wasn’t prepared for this shit; three stories up, that body was dangerous. It was a rose tattoo, snaking around her hip, on the milk-white skin that was always under her bikini bottoms. The part of her I’d never seen. It was serious ink, real art, not some namby-pamby temporary tattoo or some amateur shit she might’ve gotten in an hour at a tattoo parlor on a dare on a cruise to Puerto Rico. It was complicated, detailed, and artful. Multiple visits to some tattoo artist, touching that creamy skin—goddamn.
It took every fucking ounce of strength I had, but I did manage to look away. I felt as disoriented as if I’d been sucker punched. Not cotton—lace. Not cute—hot. Not my friend—my fucking fantasy.
She was so important to me, such an integral part of my world, that I’d never let myself think of her as more than what she was. She was like running water, or electricity, or the sunshine itself. She was one of those things that was perfect exactly as it was, and one of those things only an idiot would want to change. I never looked at her and thought, I wish I could have more of her than I do already. That would be like thinking, I wish I could turn that cold glass of water into a swimming pool. Or, I wish electricity came through the air. Fuck that noise. Perfect things are perfect things, and Rosie Madden was a perfect goddamned thing, from the tips of her toes to the freckles on her nose. And that rose, holy fuck, that rose.
I was strong, but not that strong, and I let my eyes move down again. She’d disappeared from view, mostly, except for the edge of her ass. I watched her rifle through her closet, and a few dresses fluttered onto her bed. On her bedside table, I caught a glimpse of the picture she always kept there, of the two of us together. The memories flew back at me like a runaway train. The first time I’d ever seen her was the day my parents and I moved to Truelove, at the start of middle school. The first time I ever saw her, she was volunteering at the community gardens. She had a smudge of dirt on her cheek, and I thought she’d looked super badass. I’d helped her dig up carrots and had been too fucking tongue-tied to say a goddamned word.
That’s how I felt, all over again times a thousand.
I’d never made a move. She’d cried on my shoulder through a line of guys who were never good enough for her. Jocks and pricks and a brief and seriously unfortunate stint with a guy who was a drummer for a reggae band who I hated so much it made me grind my teeth. But I never said shit about it. She was perfect even when she made mistakes. Tips of her toes. Freckles on her nose.
Never mind that rose. Like Banksy took on a temple.
One more time, I glanced down. Now she was sitting on her bed, and I saw that dark V shadow between her thighs. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. I watched her put on a pair of red panties. Equally skimpy, equally not-sensible, equally ball-busting. They were only tragic because they hid the parts of her I’d never seen before.
Christ. All. Mighty.
As the world started to spin, I realized fixing the shingles could wait. I’d been working on old houses long enough to know that if you found yourself on a dangerously sloping roof and felt like you might be less than 100% on the ball, you needed to reconsider your game plan. I needed to get my shit together—that body had me totally fucking derailed. So I made my way down the roof, basically bouldering down backward. I focused on my grip, and my steps, like a climber coming down from Everest without enough oxygen. When I got to the gutter, I worked my way around the corner, standing on the eave, and hooked my leg over my ladder, making sure to put one foot after another and keep a tight grip on every rung.
When I stepped off the ladder, I grabbed a bottle of water that she’d left for me and filled up my palm and then splashed my face. My sweat stung my eyes through the droplets of water, and I rubbed away the tears. I heard the hinges on the screen door creak. “All done?” she asked.
I opened my eyes. They stung like hell, but I didn’t give a fuck. There she was, in a dress I’d seen before. Striped and sweet. But now I knew the secret. There were red panties under there. Red. Cherry red. My eyes fell on that part of her hip that I knew was inked.
“Max?”
I managed somehow to snap out of it. “Sorry. Getting there. Spotted something weird with the skylight.”
Rosie cocked her head. “Were you up there? Above my room?”
Awesome, dude. Smooth. “Just noticed it out of the corner of my eye.”
“I don’t like you being on the roof.” She pursed her lips. “Too steep. Promise you’ll get some ropes up there or something? Promise?” She reached out and put her hand to my arm, her fingers with their short pink nails pressing into my tanned skin. I had a quick but totally unavoidable image of her gripping my forearm in a very different situation. I want that. So fucking…
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
When I didn’t answer—I knew that if I opened my mouth the first words out would be You. Me. Right Now.—she looked up at the roof and squinted into the sun. She peered suspiciously up at me and shifted her nose, kind of like a bunny. Adorable. She wasn’t very tall, so whenever she looked at me she had to lift her chin, which used to be cute. But now looked…like everything I’d ever wanted. “Have you had too much sun?”
I was vaguely aware that she’d said some words, but I wasn’t hearing them because I realized that I couldn’t see her bra straps, so that had to mean she was she was wearing a strapless…
Knock. That. Shit. Off. “I’m good.”
“Mmm.” She nodded and furrowed her delicate eyebrows, which had never looked so pretty as they did at that moment. I didn’t even know eyebrows could be pretty. They’re eyebrows, for fuck’s sake. But suddenly I felt like for the last ten years, I’d been looking at her through a standard definition television, with a shitty cable connection. Now someone had handed me an HDMI cable, and she was in 1080 dots per inch. Christ.
“Lemme make you a sandwich. You’re acting strange.”
Rather than answer her, I dumped the remaining half a bottle of water over my head, like Andre Agassi used to do between break points at the French Open.
“Ham? Or turkey? I’ve got both. Or chicken salad!” She clapped her hands together, compressing her cleavage. “Do you want a pickle?”
She means an actual pickle, you fuckwit. “Surprise me,” I told her, and dragged my eyes off the curve of her cleavage. I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and pressed it to my eyes. I had to get out of there. I needed a cold shower, or a call from my tax guy, or an unexpectedly urgent trip to the DMV—anything to stop myself seeing her stark naked every goddamned time I looked at her. Anything to get my mind off that ink.
As I wiped my face, she cleared her throat, and I dropped my shirt. “What?”
She pressed her lips together and rocked back on her sandals. “Nothing!”
I followed her eyes and glanced down at my fly, but the stallion was still in the barn. “Come on,” I said, finding myself smiling right along with her. “What are you looking at?”
“Just…” She swallowed hard. “Looking good there, champ.” She glanced at my stomach, where I’d shown her my bare abs. She made a fist and gave me a mock punch, soft and sweet. “That P90X is working great for you.”
Here we go again with the fitness videos. For everything else she was—beautiful, smart, funny—she was also a fucking ball-buster sometimes. She’d worked up this whole narrative that I spent my nights with Tony Horton on my houseboat, getting cut and doing reps while I drank protein shakes with a straw straight from the blender. It was her only explanation for why I didn’t have a girlfriend. P90X it had to be, she’d said. Or maybe, she’d whispered like a co-conspirator, “Jazzercise.” Now, though, I had a better idea than ever about why I was so picky: not a single woman held a candle to her. I’d been fucking blind to it, but now the mist had burned right off. “I’ve never even seen the opening sequence. Never have. Never will.”
“They’re streaming now!”
“Christ.”
Rosie snorted and made a long wheeeeee. “Sure. Surrrrrrre,” she said, stifling her giggle. “One ham-and-turkey, coming right up.” She spun on her sandals and disappeared into the house. Hips swinging. Red panties invisible, but not to me.
Not anymore.

 

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Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
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Excerpt Reveal of Butcher by Leann Ashers

by LeAnn Ashers
Genres: MC Romance

★★★ EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT ★★★

BUTCHER

By Leann Ashers

“Fucking made for me,” he growls and gives me a deep, wet kiss. He slows down and rises on his elbows, which are on either side of my face. “Made for me,” he repeats. He slowly moves inside me and my toes curl. “I love you, my Shay.”

“I love my Butcher.”

He grins and presses his forehead against mine. I grip the back of his neck, holding him to me. We come together as one, staring deep into each other’s eyes.

“I have nightmares that this is a dream,” Butcher whispers and my heart breaks a little at his words. His dark eyes look deep into mine, his face scarred up and beautiful.

“It’s real. I am real.” I take his hand and press it to my heart. “This is yours.”

“I don’t deserve you, my Shay. But I am selfish and will take you any way I can.”

I shake my head furiously and grip his face between my hands. “I am the one who doesn’t deserve you, Butcher.” I kiss him deeply before placing my face in the crook of his neck. I feel Butcher relax into me and I close my eyes.

Butcher, the newest addition to the Devil Souls MC series by LeAnn Ashers is releasing August 3rd!

Add to your TBR: http://bit.ly/2jh5mIR

He stalked me from the moment he saw me. He watched me day and night.

Butcher is what everyone calls crazy. They see all the tattoos and scars and to be honest, to most people he looks downright scary. He’s dangerous. He is after all the enforcer to the Devil Souls MC.

But to me? He’s just Butcher. I see him. I see who he really is. I see a man who will do anything for the people he cares about. I see the man who will protect and love me above everything else.  

I am just as obsessed with him as he is me. I will die for him and he would kill for me.  

What everyone doesn’t know is I have the same crazy inside of me…

Haven’t read this series yet?  

Now is your chance to get caught up!

BOOK ONE IS ONLY $0.99!

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About the Author

LeAnn Asher’s is a blogger turned author who spends her days reading and writing She released her debut novel early 2016, and can’t wait to where this new adventure takes her. LeAnn writes about strong minded females and strong protective males who love their women unconditionally.

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Chapter Reveal – Something So Perfect by Natasha Madison

by Natasha Madison
Genres: Sports Romance

 

Pre-order exclusively via

 

Coming July 31st

 

 

Matthew

Drafted first round pick when I was seventeen, playing first line at eighteen, branded NHL’s bad boy at nineteen. At twenty-three I was cut from the team and living back home with my parents. A knock on the door brought an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. All I had to do was prove I learned from my mistakes, so no way would I fall for a chick with a pouty mouth even if I wanted to spend all day devouring it.

Karrie

When my father gave me a job, I had no idea it would be to babysit some washed up NHL player. He wanted me to be his chaperone, his overpaid babysitter. I thought it was a joke. Then I met him, Matthew Grant. I wasn’t prepared for this particular bad boy. He’s not only hot but he’s arrogant and kinda sweet in a ‘you make me crazy’ kind of way.
Basically now that he’s finished screwing up his life, he’s decided to turn mine upside down.


She’s the first thing I’ve ever wanted more than hockey.

He’s the guy I know I should stay away from.

But what if this thing that started out so wrong turns into something so perfect?

 

 

   Matthew Cooper Stone is my stepfather, the Cooper Stone who’s the best person to ever skate. He holds every single record that’s out there because he’s just that fucking good.
   “What the fuck are you doing?”
   I didn’t even have a chance to say hello before Cooper’s voice filled the room. I groaned and turned over to see that he was on speakerphone. My finger must have touched it by accident. “Matthew, seriously, I’m one second from flying out there and yanking you off the fucking ice.”
    I was twenty-one and already being benched and scratched.
   I was no chump. I was drafted first over all. The day still played in my mind. “The Los Angeles Royals choose Matthew Grant.” The minute my name was said, I sat there in shock while my little sister was yelling and my mother, Parker, had tears running down her cheeks while her face lit up with happiness and pride. Cooper was the first to grab me and stand me up.
   “Go get that fucking jersey.” His voice was loud in my ear. My mother was next. “I’m so proud of you, Matthew, so, so proud.”
   I kissed her cheek and walked down the stairs toward the stage from where the general manager, the owner, and the coach all looked at me. When I walked on stage, I tried to hold my tears in.
   Taking the owner’s hand in mine, I shook it and thanked him. Putting that jersey on was surreal. Posing for pictures was a blur. I got so drunk that night I don’t remember much, except Cooper having to carry me inside while I pledged my love to my mother, my sister, and the trees around us.
   Usually, once you get drafted, you start off on their farm team, but not me. I was on the starting line. I was up to my ears in silicone. There would be a different girl every night, everyone wanting to get a piece of me. The star of the team. Then my game started to slip. The late nights took a toll on me and my body. Three years later, I was sent down to the farm team. You’d think I would wake up, but no, not me. I just partied harder. I was on the front page of almost every single tabloid magazine that you could think of.
   Every single summer I went back home, spending the time training hard with Cooper riding my ass, promising him that I was out of the party phase, but the minute my feet landed back in L.A., it was back to the booze and the puck bunnies. Another three years later, I was put on wavers. When no one picked me up, I packed up and went back home. For two years, I played hockey at home in charity games, till the GM from the New York Stingers came knocking at my door. Robert Western.
   Cooper, Mom, and I sat down with him. My hands shook with nerves, my legs bouncing with happiness that someone actually wanted me.
  “We want to offer him a one-year contract, with certain rules.” He eyed me and then Cooper. I knew Cooper had called in a favor.
   “What is it?” I asked, holding my breath.
   “Chaperone.”
    I was about to get up and say fuck that when Cooper put his hand on mine and blurted out, “He’ll do it.”
   I looked at him while he glared at me. My mother put a hand on top of her husband’s. United. Always.
   Robert slapped his hands together. “Matthew, you, my friend, are going to bring another cup to New York.” He got up to shake my hand and then Cooper’s, slapping him on the arm. “Who knows, you may also knock this asshole off a throne or two.”
   Cooper laughed out loud, but I knew he would be the one egging me on, the one daring me to push him off. He would also be the first one coming to congratulate me if I ever did it.
   He had come into my life when I’d needed a male figure the most. I just hadn’t known it. He showed me that you can fall in love with your whole heart and everything will fall into place. He showed me that you fight for what you want. But most of all, he showed me that love is a gift and once it’s given, you cherish it.
   So now here I am on the plane getting ready to land in New York. I have to meet the owner of the team and the PR people tomorrow at noon. I scroll through my social media sites while I wait for the doors to open. My sister is tagging me in old photos of us from Mom and Cooper’s wedding. Feels like it was just yesterday. When you see the way Cooper looks at my mother, you know he loves her with all his heart. He would walk to the ends of the earth for her.
   I press the heart emoji on the picture and then hear the ping of the seat belt sign telling us we can stand up. I grab my leather jacket and slide it on, put on my aviators, and grab my leather duffel bag. Walking out of the plane, I nod at the two flight attendants, who both slipped me their numbers. Numbers I left in the side of the seat.
   Fresh start. It’s time to make my parents proud of me. Time to show the world that Matthew Grant is here for good this time.
   On my way to my hotel in Times Square, I look out the window of the yellow cab zigzagging its way through traffic. Nothing in the world beats the cab drivers in New York City. You sit back and hold your breath while you pray to not end up being slammed forward. We reach the W hotel. I swipe my card through the card holder in the back, thanking him. I don’t even have time to close the door before he races off from the curb.
   I enter and check in without having anything to say. The woman at reception starts going through her routine talk. I cut in. “What floor is the gym on?”
   She smiles at me, telling me the information while giving me her private number in case I have any other questions.
   I nod at her and then walk up to my room. It’s the size of a closet. Welcome to New York. I take my phone out to send a text to Cooper.     
   Landed. Going to work out.
   Be good.
   I’m always good.
   Okay, then behave.
   I laugh and throw the phone on the bed, and then get my workout clothes out of the bag. I grab my headphones and make my way to the gym.
   I have texts from Allison, my sister, and Tom, who is married to my aunt Meghan and is an ex-NHLer, wishing me luck. But the one that makes me laugh out loud is from my Aunt Meghan, telling me that my dick won’t fall off if I don’t use it. I’m about to answer her when the elevator beeps, signaling I have arrived at the gym floor.
   I walk to the gym and scan my card so I can get in. Usually, these hotel gyms are almost empty, but not this time. A girl is jogging on the treadmill, but I don’t make eye contact with her.
   Grabbing a towel from the basket in the corner, I walk over to the other treadmill, look down at the buttons, and turn it on.
   I start off slow while Drake fills my ears, but that doesn’t last long before I crank it up and push myself hard. I’m in the best shape of my life, thanks to my mom, Cooper, and Tim. They didn’t let me sit down and drown my sorrows in bonbons and booze. They had my ass skating at the crack of dawn. In the gym pushing and pulling. Meaning I’m the biggest I’ve ever been. My shoulders are wider, my waist leaner, my arms bigger.
   I’m sweating up a storm, so I look over to see if the girl is still running on the treadmill, which is my first mistake. Not only is she next to me running as fast as me, but she’s in a sports bra holding up a perfect set of tits, her stomach bare, her abs defined but looking soft, and her little booty shorts not keeping anything back. She isn’t tall. Her blond hair swings in the air while she’s looking at the iPad she has in front of her. Is she watching the Kardashians? Jesus. She must sense me watching her because she looks over, which is when I feel the earth move under my feet. Her eyes are crystal blue, so blue it’s like I’m looking into the ocean. I almost trip over my own two feet, but I recover and smile at her. I turn my head forward and continue running till my legs feel like they’re going to snap in two.
   Getting off the treadmill, I whip my soaking shirt off and throw it over my shoulder before I grab a water bottle and drain it all. I notice she’s slowing her speed. She shuts off the treadmill, dabbing her face with the towel that she has near her. She takes the water bottle, drinking in a good amount.
   I start to walk out of the room when she gets off the treadmill. I stop right before we collide with each other, then put out my hand, giving her the right of way.
   “Thanks,” she says, her voice soft, sweet, pure.
   Following her out, I watch her ass swing in front of me. I don’t even notice she stops and I crash into her, grabbing her shoulders and making sure she doesn’t fall on her face because I was staring at her ass. “I’m sorry, I was…” I’m sure I don’t have to say anything to her because my cock is nestled in her back.
   She shrugs my hands off her shoulders while she presses the elevator button. We stand here not saying anything while we wait. What can you say? Sorry my dick poked your back? Sorry I was watching your sweet ass instead of watching where I was going? Silence is golden right now.
   When the elevator arrives, I wait for her to walk in before entering and see that we are on the same floor. Great. The ride lasts no longer than a second before the door opens and she sprints out, away from the crazy pervert who poked his dick into her back. I head to my door and see she’s in the room right next to mine. I want to say something, anything, but by the time I look up, she’s already in the safety of her own room.  

 

 

When her nose isn’t buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she’s in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It’s a good thing her characters do what she says, because even her Labrador doesn’t listen to her…

 

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Chapter Reveal: A Losing Battle by Annie Stone

by Annie Stone

 

 

Hunter has left home to join the Marine Corps, leaving Mackenzie behind, confused and unsure about her feelings. She loves Carter, she really, really does, but could there be a spark between her and Hunter, as well?

Mackenzie does the only thing she can in the circumstances: she buries her conflicting emotions in her work. But when she sees Hunter again, she knows the time for a decision has come.

Little does she know, time is running out for the both of them.
Coming July 24th

 

 

 
Hunter

When we get out off the bus at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, we’re told to step onto the yellow footprints, our first formation for close-order drill. They used the bus ride to give us a first impression of our new life as Marines. To sum it up: nothing here is even remotely gentle or pleasant.
We’re allowed to call home and inform our next of kin that we’ve arrived safely. But, obviously, I don’t. I can’t risk Mac picking up. Hearing her voice would kill me. What if she sounded sad? I’d be on my way home in an instant—but that would make me a deserter. And what if she sounded happy? My heart would turn to dust.
After people have made their calls, we’re given uniforms and a “high and tight”—that hot Marine-style haircut. I already wear my hair short, but after they’re done, I’m practically bald.
That first day, we have to fill in forms, then we get some vaccines and undergo medical examinations. And then? They give us our first weapon.
For three days, we’re up and running without any sleep whatsoever. After that, we have to take the IST—the initial strength test—to see whether we’re fit to be Marines.
First, we’re required to do sit-ups—at least forty-five in two minutes. I’m glad I’m in good shape, thanks to football—and Shane. While it’s happening, I don’t really have time to see how the others do, but I do notice some of them giving up. So far, I haven’t really talked to anyone. But after three days without sleep, expecting anyone to get anything done is pretty much a miracle.
Next, we do pull-ups. We have to do three, which seems laughable. I can do way more, but no need to show them. After that, we have to complete a one-and-a-half mile run in less than thirteen and a half minutes. Not a problem. Even when groggy and sleep deprived. But this is how they separate the wheat from the chaff. I would be embarrassed to be failing already, but some of these guys really do not measure up to what’s expected of a Marine.
I’ve never been so exhausted in my life. You know when you’re dead tired, but then you keep going and get beyond that point? No? I don’t either. I’d fall asleep standing up if they’d let me. But there isn’t a quiet minute to be had. The only good thing about all this? There’s no time to think.
I reach my limits on “Black Friday.” We meet our drill instructor, who yells at us and intimidates us, pushing our psychological limits. Shane told me about this—including the fact that they make the initial stage of boot camp as confusing and disorienting as possible to let us know that civilian life is over for us, and life as a Marine is something completely different.
But it’s tough. In my family, there’s never been a lot of yelling. Dad probably yelled at me for the first time in five years just last week. And suddenly there’s this guy yelling directly into your ear, not giving you an ounce of the respect you’re used to, the respect your father always said you deserved. Your initial impulse is not to stand there and take it. Growing up in liberal California has made it difficult to take that kind of abuse. But I do anyway. I know they want total obedience so that we can function in extreme situations, and this is what I want.
But that was only the Receiving Phase.
As soon as we enter Phase One, I’ll want to go back to the first part of our training—or to any other part of my life, for that matter. Phase One will take four weeks, and they’ll break us down psychologically, trying to expel every last ounce of civilian behavior from our bones. Because we are no longer civilians. We are Marine recruits. Everything we’ve done in our lives thus far is wrong and bad for us if we want to be proper soldiers.
Strict discipline, endless training, and the same routines over and over again—these are the building blocks of our first few weeks. Training is easy for me. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but I knew it was going to be bad. I’ve been preparing myself for this, which makes it easier. I can take it. But what I really hate is all the stuff they do to rob us of our individuality. Your entire life people have been telling you to choose your own path and stop being like a sheep following the herd, and suddenly it’s the exact opposite they want from you.
We’re not supposed to be individuals. We’re supposed to be a team. And it makes sense. We need to be able to rely on each other. In combat, we can’t be successful if we’re not a cohesive unit, but it’s still tough. We’re only allowed to talk about ourselves in the third person, saying things like “This recruit understands” and stuff. Everything inside me rebels against it, but I know that’s part of it all.
At night, I lie awake trying not to think about Mac. She is my strength and my greatest weakness at the same time. I want to make her proud, show her what kind of a man I am. But thinking of her also opens up wounds inside me. It’s hard to love and not be loved back.
On the other hand, intense physical and mental exhaustion makes it impossible to give too much thought to anything. It may sound strange, but I embrace the rigidity. I don’t want to think about all the things that are going wrong in my life, and instead focus on surviving this. And it’s like the drill sergeants know it. They make sure that if they ever give us a free moment, all we want to do is sleep.
We learn about the history of the Marines, the rank structure, first aid. We study formations and uniforms. We learn how to handle our weapon, clean it, and always have it with us. We start our close-combat training. Without weapons, with repurposed weapons, and with our rifle, which is going to accompany us throughout boot camp.
We don’t talk much. Usually we’re half dead when they stop yelling in our ears. But the first friendships develop somehow. Killian Hastings is my bed neighbor. Cool guy. A natural-born soldier, a natural-born Marine. He passes every exam like he was made to do this. If he wasn’t cool, I would hate him. But he’s a team player, always thinking about others first. He is not a leader and never will be, but he is the glue you need to build a team.
Joey Montana is the second comrade I would call a friend. He’s a joker, always up for some banter. And let me tell you, I need it—especially in the third week when we start our swimming and water survival training. The pressure is getting worse. Because this is the first time they can kick us out of boot camp. Fail twice, and you can forget about being a Marine.
It’s enough to drives you to despair. But we don’t have time for that, either. We are not supposed to think, and our superiors take that idea seriously. And they’re really good at it.
Our training gets harder by the day. The stronger we get, the more they expect from us. The more our bodies get used to the strain, the tougher it gets. We’re made to repeat everything, in order to engrain it into our brains and make it muscle memory—so that we’re able to do every exercise in our sleep. It’s tiring. But nobody ever said boot camp was going to be easy.
It does help against heartbreak, though. The harder I work, the less I think of Mac, simply because my brain’s capacity is insufficient to deal with anything beyond survival.
And then there’s the part of Phase One I dread the most. The gas chamber. I don’t want to go in. But we have to. If we leave it, they send us back in. If we don’t obey, they kick us out of boot camp.
I’m standing there with my gas mask doing calisthenics when they tell us to take off our masks. I take it off and feel panic trying to conquer my insides. I can’t do this is the only thought in my head. I can’t do this, but I have no choice. I can’t give up because I wouldn’t know what else to do. I can’t go back home, back to that situation. That might make me a coward, but the thought of it just rips my heart out. Every time Dad kisses her, I want to grab her from his arms and punch him in the face because he’s kissing my girl. But I don’t think the caveman method would sit too well with him.
No, I need to stick to this. It’s all I have.
There comes the command to put our masks back on.
It’s over. My panic recedes.
The threat of Mac has saved me, even if I wish I could entertain more positive thoughts of her.
Before we go to bed, we get one hour of square-away time. It’s not every night, only when our DI says so. We have to make sure our gear is up to scratch, and while we’re not allowed to shower or sleep, we’re allowed to shave, which feels good. We’re also allowed to read and write letters. I keep getting letters from Carey, but I don’t read them, and I don’t write back. I just can’t. It makes me too sad. I feel horrible about leaving him. The only thing that makes me feel a little better is the idea that I’ve left him with Mac.
“Hey, man,” Joey says, sitting down beside me. “There’s this girl I like. She wrote to me, and I want to write back, but all I can think of is the fact that I want to stick my dick inside her.”
I smile.
“Something makes me think that wouldn’t be such a good idea,” he says. “Can you help me out?”
“It depends where you are in your relationship. Have you ever had your dick inside her?” I ask.
He smiles. “Everywhere.”
Across the room, Killian laughs. “I don’t believe you. If you’d actually been inside her ass, you’d know what to write to her.”
“A sonnet to her juicy ass?” Joey asks, laughing.
“Thinking of her juicy ass, I can survive the harshest gas,” Killian says with mock severity.
“Oh man, that was horrible,” I laugh, wiping tears from my eyes.
“When I see her juicy ass, I want her to blow my brass,” somebody else quips.
“Dude, I lose my fucking wits, sucking on her awesome tits,” yells another bard from the other side of the dorm. I laugh because it just feels good to be young and stupid for a change.
“Let me be blunt, I’d fuck her cunt.”
“She sucks my dick, it’s hard as a brick.”
“Good thing none of you have to make a living as a poet,” Joey says. “I actually like her, okay?”
“Hey, man, there’s no need to wallow. She might like you too—does she swallow?”
“Well, if she doesn’t suck it up, you can serve it to her in a cup.”
We laugh and laugh until we hear: “What exactly is there to laugh about, recruits? Free time’s over. A hundred and twenty seconds to get showered. Go!”
A hundred and twenty seconds isn’t that long, but you learn really quickly to only wash the important parts. Normally, this would include my dick—just in case it gets sucked—but there’s nobody here I would want on the job. And besides, I kind of swore an oath I would only ever let Mac do it.
Fuck. I really didn’t think that promise through.
Overall, it gets easier. A person can get used to anything. The tough training becomes second nature, and it gets easier to adjust to the whole drill. Phase Two is mainly weapons training. We’re sent to Edson Range, at Pendleton, for three weeks, where we practice marksmanship. We have to pass several exams, but they prepare us well. And let’s face it. We’ve been through worse. Still, when we get our first badges for marksmanship, it feels good to have achieved something tangible, to get to tick some boxes.
I don’t know whether it’s because we’re going through the same experience, or maybe you just get used to each other more easily in times of crisis, but Killian and Joey become like brothers to me. I don’t want to put Carey down, but I would entrust my life to them before him.
It also quickly becomes clear why the buddy system is such a hit. It is much easier to make it through difficult situations when you have moral support. We cheer and egg each other on—whenever we’re not too tired to open our mouths. Without my two buddies, this would be much harder.
Killian is from Texas and looks like an all-American boy. Normally. There’s hardly anything left of his blond hair, but his blue eyes still shine, even at the ends of the toughest days. He’s tall, not as tall as me, but then again, few are. He has a sunny disposition, and nothing can faze him. He’s always cool, never reacts to people teasing him. Not that a lot of them would try. I guess with his looks, you’re predestined to be respected.
Joey, on the other hand, is small. Sometimes I wonder aloud how he passed the minimum height and weight requirements—but only to tease him. He’s not actually that small, and he has endless strength and endurance. Where Killian and I have trouble with our height, Joey always gets through. Not that I’m jealous or anything.
At the end of our marksmanship training, the platoons compete with each other, and we win, breaking out into enthusiastic cheers. This really lifts morale on our team, and it also earns us a bonus. We’re allowed to make phone calls. A privilege I don’t use…
Still, the next week feels like we’re on break. They take our measurements for our gala uniforms, and any medical conditions are treated. It’s only four weeks left. Then we’re done. The goal during our final phase is to put everything we’ve learned together and polish our initial skill set. This includes an exam and a performance test that I pass with flying colors.
I’m stronger than I was a few weeks ago, not just physically, but mentally, too. I no longer have any doubt: I know what my life is going to look like, and I have accepted it. Physically, I’m somewhat wider, having built up more muscle. And it’s made me feel more at home inside my body. Often, when you’re tall, you subconsciously hunch down in order not to stand out. And even though I’ve always been relatively confident, I’ve always had to bend down to communicate with other people. Which messed with my posture. And, in psychological terms, it does the same to you as walking through life with a bent back.
But now? Now I have a completely different outlook.
Boot camp has given me a new confidence, the type of confidence you can only gain knowing that you’ll be able to defend yourself in any situation you’ll ever face—be it with words, weapons, or your own bare hands.
At the end of boot camp, we’re divided into groups to do a final exam lasting two days. It’s a combat simulation testing us in different stress situations, including sleep and food deprivation, and danger to your body and your life.
It is difficult, but it’s surprising how you can turn into a completely different person in such a short period of time. Twelve weeks ago, I would never have believed I could do this. Now, it seems like I was born to do it, like I’ve never done anything else in my life. And it feels good. It shows what I’ve achieved, what I can achieve if I make up my mind. A lot of it is physical, but it is the mental strength I’ve gained that really surprises me.
After twelve weeks, we’re done. Finally, I want to say. But that’s not how I feel.
Now it feels like I’m leaving my family all over again. It’s not a good feeling.
Joey wants to join the infantry, while Killian and I are going to do twenty-nine days of Marine Combat Training before joining the Marine Combatant Divers. At least it’s good to know I don’t have to leave everybody behind again.
After graduation, we’ll get ten days off. Killian has invited me to Texas, and I’ve decided to accept because I still can’t imagine going home. And I have nowhere else to go.

Everybody is desperate for our graduation ceremony. Not just because it means we’ve made it, but because they’re proud. They want to show their loved ones what they’ve achieved. Personally, I don’t care about that part of it, but I haven’t told the others that when I’m done here, I won’t have anybody waiting to congratulate for me.
At the ceremony, we stand in formation to listen to the final talk, the finish to this chapter of our training. As Marines. All around me, my comrades are hugging their mothers, sisters, and girlfriends. All around me, there is love.
But I’m all alone.
“Hey, soldier!” I hear the voice behind me but don’t turn.
For a moment, I stay completely still, certain I’m hallucinating. Finally, I turn around.
And there’s Mac, standing in front of me in a summer dress. She is so beautiful my breath stops for a moment.
“Marine,” I say softly.
She smiles. “Hey, Marine.”
She comes closer, somewhat unsure about how to act, before throwing herself around my neck. I hug her back, pick her up, and squeeze her really tight.
“I’m so proud of you,” she whispers in my ear.
Fuck, hearing that from her really turns me on!
When, after half an eternity, I put her back down, I look into her teary eyes. “How did you know?”
She shrugs. “I’m stalking you.”
I smile. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything more beautiful in my life. “Oh, really?”
“I knew you wouldn’t tell me, but I wanted you to know how incredibly proud of you I am. I knew you’d make it.”
Right now, I feel ten feet tall instead of six. No, wait! I’m not even mortal. I’m a god!
My girl is proud of me. Is there anything in the world better than that?
“Carey’s here, too,” she says.
I look around and see him standing a little off to the side. He looks insecure, like he doesn’t know whether he’s welcome here. I hate myself for making my brother question whether I care about him. I run over to him and pull him into my arms.
“I’ve missed you, bro,” I say quietly, patting him on the back
“You never wrote back,” he says, his fingers clawing into my uniform like he never wants to let me go again.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t. I always wanted to, but I couldn’t. It would have broken my focus.”
Carey nods. “I thought…”
“I’m sorry, man. I always want you in my life. You’re my brother. The only family I’ve got.”
“You’ve got Mac, too,” he says quietly, and I look over at her. She’s standing a few steps away, her cheeks shiny, looking at us but giving us privacy.
I nod. “I’ve got Mac, too, but not like I want her.” Oops. That just came out. I wasn’t planning to tell Carey.
But he says, “I know.”
I give him a surprised look. “You do?”
“I’m not blind. Your goodbye kiss was pretty obvious,” he says. “And I’m not deaf, either. Dad and Mac fight about you all the time.”
“That bad?”
He shrugs just as Mac steps closer. “Is everything okay, boys?”
I nod, putting my arm around her shoulders to pull her close again. I plant a kiss on her head.
“Hey, Tilman!” Joey calls, coming toward us.
“Hands off,” I joke before I introduce him. He kisses Mac’s hand and smiles at Carey.
“My parents want to go grab a bite to eat. They wanted to invite my friends. You coming?”
I look at Mac and Carey.
“They can come,” Joey says quickly.
Mac shakes her head. “Thanks, that’s really sweet, but I need to go.” She avoids my eye, and I know she’s thinking about Dad.
I make an effort to hide my disappointment as I tell Joey, “Carey and I’ll be there in a second.”
“I’m sorry,” Mac whispers.
“It’s okay,” I say, even though nothing is okay. In that moment, I realize—no, remember—that she’s never going to leave Dad for me.
This needs to stop. Otherwise I will not survive it.
“How long do you get off?” she asks.
“Ten days.”
“Are you coming home?”
“Home. Nice word, but I no longer have one,” I say, shocked at the bitterness in my own voice.
She nods, tears running down her cheeks. “I—”
“Let it go, Mac. Let it go.”
She quickly presses herself against me and runs away without turning around again. I look after her.
“Hunt…”
“She’s never going to leave him, is she?”
Carey shrugs. “No idea, man. But I wouldn’t wait for it.”

 

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

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

Love, Annie

 

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Chapter Reveal: Exodus by Kylie Hillman

by Kylie Hillman
Genres: Psychological Thriller

 

Coming April 11th

 

 

 

Xander Barrett had it all.
Until it was stolen by the devil.
His life. His lover. His freedom.

A chance encounter secures his release.
But, it comes at a cost–a debt he must settle before he’s allowed to take his revenge.

Luckily, it’s a price he’s willing to pay.

Stripping a man of everything but his pride isn’t smart. It creates a monster that’s bigger and meaner than the original. Satan has spawned his match, and he’s ready to cause an exodus.

DISCLAIMER: This story contains triggering content and is not suitable for all readers, especially those under eighteen years of age.

This story is the second installment in the Centrifuge Duet, and while it can be read as a standalone, reading Amnesia, Centrifuge Duet #1 first is recommended.

 

Prologue

 



I always thought everyone had a conscience. That even the worst type of people had one—they were just adept at ignoring it. However, the past eighteen months have forced me to reassess this.
Why? Because I no longer have a nagging voice in my head or the hollow feeling in my gut when I do something wrong. The two things that I associated with my conscience are gone. Poof. Like a puff of smoke, they up and left me sometime between the first time I was arrested and last night, when I watched a man I didn’t know—a man who’d never done a thing to me—bleed out over his desk after I’d slit his throat.
Nowadays, I don’t believe that many of us possess a conscience. There’s too many people willing to throw their own granny under the bus for a dollar for me to hang on to the idealistic view of the human race that I held for the first thirty-two years of my life. In this current incarnation of the world we inhabit, a conscience is no longer an asset.
It’s a liability.





Chapter 1

Ever wanted to see the love of your life getting fucked six ways to Sunday by the asshole she chose over you?
Nah, me neither.
Unfortunately, I don’t get a say in the matter. Not when each afternoon at precisely three o’clock, I’m hauled out of my cell, dragged down the long, white hallway, and handcuffed to the table in one of the private visitation rooms provided by the prison. The flat-screen TV mounted in the corner of the room is turned on and I get a ringside view of my ex-fiancée getting reamed by her new husband.
I say “reamed”, not because I’m being a prick. I say it because that’s exactly what it is. He drives his cock into her like he’s trying to brand her from the inside. Hard. Fast. And, furious. He’s always furious. There’s a deep rage burning in the gaze that Dr. Jaxon Ray always manages to send straight down the barrel of the camera. If I was prone to flights of fancy—which I’m not—I’d say that he does it deliberately in some sick determination to let me know that he knows how I feel watching them.
Every thrust is a clear message, anyway.
I won. You lost.
She’s mine.
Keys rattle in the door of my cell. They herald the start of another free porn show. Bile rises in my throat, the sickening churning in my gut commencing like clockwork at the thought of what’s to come.
Here we go again. Another epic fucking day in this freakshow that is currently my life.
“Barrett.” A cursory glance in the direction of the man who speaks tells me that the guard is not one I’ve met before.
I ignore him and remain lying on my back on the lumpy mattress, one arm behind my head in an attempt at nonchalant posture while the other is hidden by my side with my fingers curled into a fist ready for whatever this change in guard’s may bring. The flaky grey ceiling above me has two distinct dark shadows on it. One is mine, unmoving and unwilling. The second is the guard. I track the latter black blob moving toward me, the handcuffs he holds jingling ominously with each step he takes.
“Move your ass, Barrett.”
“Fuck you.” My response earns me a boot to the side. I hear the second guard enter my cell, his chuckle of enjoyment giving away his identity. It’s the usual prick who escorts me. The one who likes to wait with me and narrate the carnal joining as it unfolds on the screen. My nostrils flare when pain blooms from the connection of the first guards foot with my ribs. I roll into a ball. My mouth shut—lips sealed through sheer willpower. I’ll swallow my tongue before I give them a reaction.
“I’m not kidding.” The threat precedes a follow-up kick that has me rolling away until my knees hit the wall at the far side of the bed. “Your visitor doesn’t like to be kept waiting. I’d move my ass if I was you. This might be your only chance to get out of here.”
The pain in my body leaves immediately. I struggle to sit up, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed once I’m facing them. Apprehension pumps through my veins when I meet their smug gazes.
“Visitor?” The raspy quality to my voice is less than optimal. Clearing my throat, I try again, this time with some authority in my tone. “What visitor? I don’t have anyone approved.”
The closest guard—Mr. Chatty Porn Lover—answers first. “No shit, Sherlock. Who said anything about her being approved?”
His companion shrugs, then holds the cuffs out to me. “She might not be approved, but I think you’ll want to see her.”
My heart lurches in my chest, skipping a beat before it settles into a frenetic pace that has me sweating like a fat kid at an all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s one question running around my head at a million miles an hour.
Amber’s here?
A glance in the direction of the guards tells me that I won’t get any further answers out of them. I swallow my growing curiosity and the overwhelming desire to knock out the two pricks who separate me from the woman who owns every functioning cell in my body. I know acting on my urgency will only slow the damn process so I force myself to cooperate.
Standing, I hold out my arms with the wrists parallel. He snaps the handcuffs on and then follows the chain that connects them until he’s squatting at my feet. Sharp, efficient movements have the other set of larger steel cuffs locked around my ankles in seconds. Once I’m secured, the guard yanks on the chain that joins my bound hands and feet in a silent command to follow him. I shuffle along, one guard in front of me and one behind, intently watching me like I’m the convicted murderer I’m purported to be.
When we pass the visitor’s room that I’m usually led into, I almost let my curiosity get the better of me and ask where the hell we’re going. Thankfully, answers are provided before I give them the opportunity to shoot me down with sick glee.
The door that leads into the room next to the one I normally occupy is opened by the guard who’s leading me. I stand as tall as I can, shoulders back and head held high, determined to resemble my old self as much as I can when I come face to face with Amber for the first time in almost two years.
It takes a ridiculous amount of resolve to stop the shaking that threatens to take hold of my body as I lift my head to greet my woman. Our eyes meet. I blink furiously, unable to believe what I’m seeing. Playing it cool is no longer an option. Not with the guard behind me blocking any opportunity for escape. Instead, I let my mouth fall open and verbalise the question that’s beating a thunderous cacophony of confusion around my skull.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Such rudeness is unbecoming from a man in your position.” The woman seated at the table in the middle of the room sniffs, her annoyance with my lack of manners clear. She smooths her skirt over her thighs before settling a satisfied gaze on me. “Considering I’m your new boss and your passport out of this establishment.”
Wife to a Harley riding, boating and fishing, four-wheel driving, quintessential Aussie bloke.
Mum to two crazy, adorable, and creative kids.
Crohn’s Disease sufferer and awareness campaigner.
She’s also an avid tea drinker, a connoisseur of 80’s/90’s rock music, and is known for lacing everything she says with sarcasm and inappropriate innuendo.

Formerly working in finance, she was forced to reevaluate her plans for her life when severe Crohn’s Disease brought her corporate career to a screeching halt. Restarting her childhood hobbies of writing and reading to alleviate the monotony of being sick and housebound, she found her calling and is enjoying life to the max. A typical day is spent in the “real” world where she hangs out with her awesome family and “book” world where she gets to chill with her fictional characters.

Kylie writes the books she wants to read. A lover of strong men who aren’t perfect and aren’t afraid to admit it, straight talking women who embrace their vulnerabilities, and real life gritty stories, she hopes these themes shine through her writing. An avid reader of all genres, Kylie hopes to release books that keep the reader on the edge of their seat- be it with suspense, heart-stopping thrills, or laughter.

Author Links

 

 

 

Amnesia by Kylie Hillman – Excerpt Reveal

 

Coming February 20th

 

 

Amnesia, a Psychological Thriller

Dr. Jaxon Ray has only ever wanted one woman. He’s loved her from afar since their Junior School days, worshiping the ground she walks on, intent on having her for his own when the time is right.
Amber St. George isn’t interested in the trappings that come with her family’s wealth. A simple life as a teacher at an underprivileged school, a comfortable home with her lover, and good friends; that’s all she desires.
Once Jax decides it’s time to take what’s his, Amber finds herself at the mercy of a madman. A sociopath with access to the latest neurological advancements, who possesses the ability to use her own mind to keep her captive. Programmed to forget. Reprogrammed as her captor’s perfect partner. Amber’s left with medically-induced amnesia and no idea that she’s in for the fight of her life.
When the people who know you’re missing aren’t on your side, and the love of your life has been led to believe that you’ve turned your back on him, is rescue possible? When you can’t remember the real you, is escape even on the cards?
DISCLAIMER: This story contains triggering content and is not suitable for all readers, especially those under eighteen years of age.

 

 



On shaking legs, I make my way down the ornate staircase. Ever since I woke up in Jax’s bedroom, my mind has been racing a million miles an hour. What am I doing here?
In Hell.
A hell that I swore I’d never return to.
I press my palm against my forehead and squint my eyes, trying to get some answers out of my almost empty head. I know enough to recognise who I am and my current location. Apart from that, my mind feels like a dense cloud of nothingness.
As I descend further, voices become clearer. My father. My mother. Jax. His father. Sebastian. Oh my God, Seb is here. Without thought, or care for my protesting body, I run down the remainder of the steps and straight into Seb’s arms. His familiar embrace engulfs me, my entire weight falling against him as relief that I have one ally in this room hits me.
“Amby Pamby,” Seb rests his chin on the top of my head as he addresses me by the ridiculous nickname he gave me when we were kids. “It’s damn good to see you again.”
“Same.” The word leaves me in a rush, confusion wrapping around my answer with an urgent intensity.
Seb grabs me by the top of my arms and pulls me from his chest. He looks down at me with serious eyes that reside in a face that’s identical to his big brother’s, except for one glaring difference. His face is full of warmth and kindness, something that can never be said for Jax.
“What’s wrong?” He lets go of me with one hand and gestures around the room. “Apart from the obvious. What the hell are you doing here? You made your feelings about my brother very clear the day you disappeared from our lives like you’d never existed.”
My shoulders nearly touch my ear lobes when I shrug. “I don’t know. My memory’s gone.”
Jax clears his throat, stepping into my space and laying an arm across my shoulders. With obvious intent, he steers me away from Seb until I standing between him and my father. I send a searching look in Dad’s direction. He surprises me by meeting my silent questioning with a smile and an approving nod. I might not be able to remember much, but I know that this isn’t usual.
As I open my mouth to greet my parents, the last sentence that Seb said sinks in. I whirl around to face him. “What do you mean I disappeared from your lives?”
Jax cuts in before his brother can speak. “He’s talking out of his ass, like usual.”
He takes hold of my upper arms with a gentleness that isn’t mirrored in his tense expression. “Baby, you know what Seb’s like. He’s been enjoying himself immensely, using your amnesia to take liberties with our history.”
His fingers tighten around my biceps and he pulls me into his chest, tucking me under his chin and wrapping strong arms around me. “Why, just yesterday, he had you believing that you had run away from me to study abroad.”
The chuckle that rumbles in his chest sounds sincere and nobody in the foyer speaks up to deny what Jax has said. However, I can feel increased tension pervading the atmosphere when he addresses his brother. “Isn’t that right, Seb? You’re toying with my poor fiancée.”
I attempt to turn in Jax’s arms so I can see Seb’s face. The arms that hold me turn from strong and comforting to constricting in an instant. I’m effectively pinned against my fiancé’s chest, and left to rely on my hearing to determine the sincerity in his brother’s answer.
“Yeah.” A dry laugh fills the foyer. “I’m just messing with you.”
Warm breath blows over the top of my head as Jax lets out the breath that I realise he was holding. He releases his hold on me, just before Seb pats my shoulder. I turn to my childhood friend—and apparent brother-in-law-to-be—and poke him in the stomach.
“You’re so mean.” My tone is deliberately light, although my gaze is serious when I meet his eyes. “Maybe, you can tell me the truth instead? Fill in the blanks.”
Seb’s eyes widen. He looks at the floor and shuffles his feet. “I don’t know if that’s possible. Memories are subjective. Depends who’s telling the story, doesn’t it?”
He doesn’t wait for my answer to his cryptic response. Pushing past Jax, he throws an arm over my shoulder and stokes my hair before laying a kiss on the top of my head. Then, he glares at his big brother and strides toward the front door. As the butler closes it behind his retreating figure, a sense of familiarity tugs at the edges of my mind and a recollection breaks free.
I’m lying on my bathroom floor, naked and crying, when a teenage Seb pushes the door open and rushes into the vast, tiled room. He drops to his knees next to me, pulling an extra towel from the rail above us, and draping it over my shoulders. With a strength that he shouldn’t possess at his young age, he picks me up and sits me in his lap.
“I hate him.”
A shaky hand strokes the back of my head, fingers tangling lightly in my knotted hair, and he whispers, “I know, Amby Pamby. He’s evil.  But, I don’t know how to stop him. Maybe if you try to forget what he’s done, you won’t feel so bad. Grandpa always says that memories are subjective because it depends on who’s telling the story. I guess that means that we can get rid of the bad ones if we try hard enough to forget. After all, our life is our story.”
The words from my memory are so similar to the one’s that Seb just said, that a sense of déjà vu grips me, and I slap my hand over my mouth. Jax returns his attention to me. I stare at him through disbelieving eyes and try to really take him in.
On the surface, he looks stressed and concerned. Like a worried fiancé should. Except, the anxiety doesn’t seem to come from true concern, it’s an act. As if, he knows it’s expected of him, so he’s providing it.
Seb’s strange departure—and the memory it shook free—has a million questions running around my head, rattling against my skull, demanding answers. Self-preservation screams louder than my confusion. It drowns out my need for an explanation; instead, cautioning me that the people in this room aren’t trustworthy.
With this warning at the forefront of my thoughts, I let Jax take my arm in his, and lead me to toward the formal lounge. My acquiescence has the tension in his athletic frame lessening with each step until the smile that I send his way has it disappearing completely. We settle next to each other onto one of the ornate love seats. My parents sit directly across from us, and Henry, Jax and Seb’s dad, sits on the single seat next to me. A hushed reverence fills the room, making me forget my immediate problems. It feels like someone has died.
“Amber-Rose,” my father addresses me by my full name. It sends shivers down my spine, the prickling sensation growing into apprehension. Jax takes my closest hand and places it in his lap. He runs warm fingers across the pulse point in my wrist. It calms me; removing my doubts about him, and replacing them with a sensual lick of desire that has me trying my hardest not to press my thighs together and squirm in front of my parents.
If it didn’t feel so delicious, it would be humiliating in its intensity.
A smirk lifts the corner of Jax’s full lips, signalling that he knows what he’s doing to me. I try to tug my hand from his grip, stopping when his tightened hold tells me that he’s not going to let me go. A devious glint can be seen in his expression, moments before he increases the pace of his soft ministrations. The answering ripple of desire that runs through my body almost drowns out the words that leave my father’s mouth next.
“After we attend Charles’ funeral this afternoon, we need to sit down and hammer out the fine details of your prenup. You’ve had enough time to get on board with this. It’s time to seal the deal and join our families.” My mind sticks on the first part of Dad’s declaration, not comprehending the enormity of his final sentence.
Charles’ funeral? The only Charles I can remember is my Uncle Charlie. My dad’s younger brother. I look at my mother for the first time, noticing the strain around her eyes and the tight line of her lips. She doesn’t even attempt to smile at me, the sorrow that’s painted on her face all the confirmation I need.
“Uncle Charlie’s dead?”
“Yesterday,” Jax answers without pausing. “He was shot in front of you. Don’t you remember?”
Grief is causing my heart to pound in my ears. It’s almost deafening; yet, it doesn’t drown out the mocking in Jax’s voice. My shoulder hits his when I swing around to face him. The devious desire that filled his expression moments ago has been replaced by a challenge.
Why he’s looking at me like that, I don’t know. But, it’s not right.
My eyesight fades, darkness taking hold as what Jax said circles my addled brain.
He was shot in front of you.
Don’t you remember?
Voices fill my head, competing for dominance with the wild rush of remembrance that’s flooding me.
Jax. Uncle Charlie. Xander.
Who’s Xander?
He’s my fiancé. My real fiancé.
No, he’s not. Jax is.
No Xander, my fiancé was there.
For what?
To save me.
There’s an argument. Uncle Charlie yells at Jax.
A loud bang. Jax shoots my uncle in front of me.
Don’t you remember?
“I remember.” The words leave my lips before I can stop them. My ever-present self-preservation stops me from verbalising exactly what it is that I remember. Jax nods, taking my hands in his, squeezing them painfully.
“That’s good, baby.” He murmurs this against my hair, then stands and lifts me into the air. “That means you know what I’m capable of and you’re scared. I like that. Except if you remember, then you know what I did to you, and that’s not good.”
My body sways when Jax starts walking. My hands push against his chest in a ridiculous protest. I don’t have any allies here so escape is futile. My body recognises this, a leaden feeling of surrender overcoming me. The fight leaves me. My head dropping against Jax’s shoulder.
“Amber needs another dose,” he announces to the room just before we cross the threshold into the foyer and head for the stairs.
“Whatever it takes to keep her under control,” my dad answers.
“The finishing line is too close for this fall apart now.” Henry sounds stern when he comments. “If it does, we’re all ruined.”
His strange choice of words piques my curiosity and I try to force my mind to provide the answer to my newest question.  
How do I make this fall apart so I can ruin them all?
Wife to a Harley riding, boating and fishing, four-wheel driving, quintessential Aussie bloke.
Mum to two crazy, adorable, and creative kids.
Crohn’s Disease sufferer and awareness campaigner.
She’s also an avid tea drinker, a connoisseur of 80’s/90’s rock music, and is known for lacing everything she says with sarcasm and inappropriate innuendo.

Formerly working in finance, she was forced to reevaluate her plans for her life when severe Crohn’s Disease brought her corporate career to a screeching halt. Restarting her childhood hobbies of writing and reading to alleviate the monotony of being sick and housebound, she found her calling and is enjoying life to the max. A typical day is spent in the “real” world where she hangs out with her awesome family and “book” world where she gets to chill with her fictional characters.

Kylie writes the books she wants to read. A lover of strong men who aren’t perfect and aren’t afraid to admit it, straight talking women who embrace their vulnerabilities, and real life gritty stories, she hopes these themes shine through her writing. An avid reader of all genres, Kylie hopes to release books that keep the reader on the edge of their seat- be it with suspense, heart-stopping thrills, or laughter.

Author Links

 

 

 

S.O.B. By J.C. Valentine – Review & Excerpt

by JC Valentine
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, New Adult, Romance

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S.O.B, A Stepbrother Romance

by J.C. Valentine
Publication Date: November 10, 2016
Genres: Adult, New Adult, Contemporary, Erotic, Romance

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Amazon (99c or #FREE with #KindleUnlimited): http://amzn.to/2f22PMl

Synopsis: Levi Black is an s.o.b.Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he’s a pretentious, obnoxious, womanizing jacka** who thinks the world revolves around him.

He wouldn’t be wrong.

A famous soccer player, his skills on and off the field have won him medals, trophies, women, and the cover of every heartthrob magazine in the country. He’s broken nearly every bone in his body and a few hearts along the way, including mine—his stepsister—and lived to tell about it.

One night changed everything, and I’ve avoided him like the plague ever since. Just long enough to finish college, to bury the hurt, and to outrun the memories. But now that’s all changed. I’m back, and there’s no more running.

My hands are supposed to be my livelihood, but now they’re my curse. Levi’s reckless ways have landed him in a sticky situation, and his father has given me an offer I can’t refuse. One month, and all I have to do is put my hands on his body. Easier said than done. The problem is, even though I know it’s bound to bite me in the a**, I can’t bring myself to say no to the s.o.b.

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Review

5star

OMG!!! I have owned this book for ages and never had a chance to read it. It was always I get to that later. It took for me to be asked to review it. That I finally get round to it. Well what an idiot I am, I Loved ever single word of this book and I could kick myself.

The story is Taboo to some but I love a good old step brother romance and see nothing wrong in them at all. This book was also a sports romance but also so much more.

I fell completely in love with Levi, the way he wound up Vista was so funny but Vista gave just as good as she got. I couldn’t help but chuckle at their bantering and chemistry. It made the book really funny and emotionally fueled. This book made me cry alot but I think it needed to take the journey that it did.

I will most definitely be reading more from JC Valentine and will be recommending this book to everyone. It’s a must read for me. A great story that is so hard not to love.

Reviewed by Donna

EXCERPT 

“This is where we’re going to do it?” Vista’s eyes are wide, darting everywhere as she tries to soak it all in at once.

“As many times as you want,” I tell her, smirking when she levels me with one of her disapproving frowns that make her forehead wrinkle adorably.

“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.”

With her chin held high, she takes the lead. There are chairs set up around the entire perimeter of the pool for the residents, and Vista chooses one, dropping her towel at the foot and, no lie, when she strips off the sundress, I think I have a stroke.

She has the most beautiful body I have ever seen on a woman. Fit, firm, curvy in all the right places. I love her ass most of all. At the pond, I had my fingers buried in those cheeks so hard she probably had bruises for days after, and I’ve been anticipating when I can do it again. Despite her determination to keep me at arm’s length, I can’t get her off my mind.  

Approaching the edge of the pool, she dips her toes into it to test the temperature. “I’m assuming you know how to swim?” she asks sarcastically over her shoulder.

“Like a fish.” Dropping my towel at the foot of the chair next to hers, I stand facing her with my arms folded over my chest.

“I think we’ll start with a couple laps to get your blood pumping.”

 

ABOUT J.C. VALENTINE

JC Valentine

J.C. Valentine is the USA Today and International bestselling author of the Night Calls and Wayward Fighters Series and the Forbidden Series. Her vivid imagination and love of words and romance had her penning her own romance stories from an early age, which, despite being poorly edited and written longhand, she forced friends and family members to read. No, she isn’t sorry.

J.C. earned her own happily ever after when she married her high school sweetheart. Living in the Northwest, they have three amazing children and far too many pets and spend much of their free time together enjoying movies or the outdoors. Among the many hats she wears, J.C. is an entrepreneur. Having graduated with honors, she holds a Bachelor’s in English and when she isn’t writing, you can find her editing for fellow authors.

Sign up for J.C.’s newsletter and never miss a thing! http://bit.ly/1KxXWWB

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Heat Wave by Karina Halle – Review

by Karina Halle
Genres: Contemporary Romance

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heat-wave-3d-bookThey say when life closes one door, another one opens.

This door happens to lead to paradise.

And a man I can never, ever have.

Still grieving the loss of her sister who died two years ago, the last thing Veronica “Ronnie” Locke needed was to lose her job at one of Chicago’s finest restaurants and have to move back in with her parents. So when a window of opportunity opens for her – running a kitchen at a small Hawaiian hotel – she’d be crazy not to take it.

The only problem is, the man running the hotel drives her crazy:

Logan Shephard.

It doesn’t matter that he’s got dark brown eyes, a tall, muscular build that’s sculpted from daily surfing sessions, and a deep Australian accent that makes your toes curl.

What does matter is that he’s a grump.

Kind of an asshole, too.

And gets under Ronnie’s skin like no one else.

But the more time Ronnie spends on the island of Kauai, falling in love with the lush land and its carefree lifestyle, the closer she gets to Logan. And the closer she gets to Logan, the more she realizes she may have pegged him all wrong. Maybe it’s the hot, steamy jungles or the invigorating ocean air, but soon their relationship becomes utterly intoxicating.

There’s just one major catch.

The two of them together would incite a scandal neither Ronnie, nor her family, would ever recover from.

Forbidden, Illicit, off-limits – sometimes the heat is worth surrendering to, even if you get burned.

 

AMAZON | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | B&N

 

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Review

4-star

I Absolutely loved this book and I just wonder how many more wonderful stories that Karina Halle has in her locker that will keep us dreaming for a HEA.

This book defin6doesnt disappoint at all and again my emotions took a pounding which is the normal it seem whenever I read a Karina Halle book. Although this book was a slow burner I love it, I Loved the way Ronnie and Logan were together. Logan stole my heart with his support for Ronnie, she had such a hard time with no support from anywhere at all. And even when they weren’t together he was by her side.

I recommend this book so much. It’s a definite read for me. You won’t be disappointed at all.

 

Reviewed by Donna

 

PROLOGUE

I saw him first.

It shamed me to think it then, it shames me to think it now.

But that’s what the truth does to you sometimes. It shames you because it’s only in the truth that you realize how human you really are. What a raw, devastating thing that is, to embrace your humanity and learn to live with all your sharp points, the hollow places, the cracks and the crevices. To be utterly real. To be terribly flawed.

Those cracks had always been forming inside me, slowly making their way to the surface over the years. In my family, there wasn’t much you could do but try and hold yourself together, to stick glue on your wounds, to paste over the imperfections. But the cracks still grew, until all of us were held together by crumbling cement, just statues waiting to collapse.

That was years and years ago. I was just twenty-two at the time. A baby. I’m still a baby in the grand scheme of things, but there’s something precious about your early twenties, where you think you’re so much older, bigger, than you are, where life is just about to deliver the crushing blows that will knock you off your feet for the rest of your days. The small things become the big things and the big things become the small things and you aren’t quite sure when they made the switch.

But in the end, I saw him first. He was mine, even before he knew it. He was mine in some strange way that I still don’t understand. The only way I can think of to explain it is…

You just know.

There are moments in your life, people in your life, that when they cross your path and meet your eye, you know. Maybe it’s all in the chemistry, certain pheromones that react when they mix together, maybe it’s a smell that triggers a memory, maybe it’s a glimpse at a future you don’t recognize or a hint at the past, a life you’ve lived and forgotten. Whatever it is, you know that moment, that person, is going to shape you for the rest of your life.

That’s what it was like when I saw him. Standing over by the windows and staring out Lake Michigan, like he was wishing he could be anywhere but there.

I wished the same. My mother’s the deputy mayor of Chicago and this was another one of her fundraisers I felt obliged to attend. It was tradition in my family, for my father, for me, for my sister, to show up and wave the flag of support. It didn’t seem to matter that the stuffy politicians that surrounded these events never paid me any attention. And if they did, it was the wrong kind of attention, always the sixty-year-old man leering after the young thing with the nice smile.

Luckily I didn’t smile all that often. My resting bitch face took over whenever I was deep in thought, which was pretty much all the time.

But this guy…I felt a kinship with him. I felt like I knew exactly what he was thinking, feeling, and that it was completely wrapped up in and connected to everything that was going through me.

I don’t know where I found the nerve to go over and talk to him. He seemed so much older, not quite the sixty-year-old politicians I was used to seeing, but maybe in his early-thirties. More than that, there was some kind of aura around him. Sounds stupid, I know. Whatever it was, it was like he belonged in some whole other universe than here, a star on earth, permanently grounded and yearning to be in the sky.

It was usually Juliet’s job to go around and make everyone feel warm and comfortable at these events—hell, in every event—but she wasn’t here yet. And though I could have easily stayed in the shadows, I was pulled to him, like he had a wave of gravity whirling around him.

I remember what I was wearing. Strappy flats because I hated wearing heels, a knee-length cocktail dress in emerald green, sleeveless, high-neck. It made me look older and I wore it because my mother always wanted me to look like a lady.

With a glass of champagne in hand, I made my way over to the windows, my heart racing the closer I got to him. He looked taller up close, well over six feet. His shoulders were broad, like a swimmer’s, and suddenly I had a vision of him diving into the lake. The navy blue suit he was wearing looked well-tailored but he seemed uncomfortable in it, like he couldn’t wait to get rid of it.

I stood beside him for a moment, following his gaze out the window. He seemed lost in his thoughts but out of my peripheral his head tilted slightly and he brought his eyes over to me while I kept staring at that wide expanse of water, stretching out to the horizon.

“Can’t wait to get out of here?” I asked, but though my tone was mild, my delivery was bold. It was as if someone else had taken a hold of my body, forcing me to speak. I slowly turned my head to meet his eyes.

I was taken aback for a second. He was staring at me like he knew me, even though I’d never seen him before. Then again, I was sure I’d been staring at him in the same way. That feeling of knowing. He knew me, I knew him, and who the hell knows how that was possible.

His eyes were brown—are brown—dark with currents of gold and amber, giving them beautiful clarity. Slightly almond shaped. His brows were also dark, arched, adding to the intensity of his gaze. He’s the type of guy whose eyes latch onto you, dig deep, trying to sift through the files of your life, see who you really are.

“How did you know?” he asked, a full-on Australian accent rumbling through his gruff voice. It made my stomach flip, my core smolder. How deed you now, is what it sounded like. Funny how I stopped hearing the accent after time.

I gave a half shrug and looked back to the party. More people had flooded the room, mingling around the appetizers. My mother was in the corner, a crowd of politicians around her. She didn’t see me. She never did.

“Because I think I’d rather be in the middle of Lake Michigan too,” I told him, “then be stuck here with all these people.”

“These people,” he repeated. My focus was drawn to his lips, full, wide, tilting up into a smirk. Beneath them was a strong chin and even sharper jaw, dusted with a five o’clock shadow that seemed permanent, like the man couldn’t get a clean shave even if he tried. “How do you know I’m not one of these people?”

“Because you’re over here and not over there. How come you keep answering my questions with more questions?”

He studied me for a moment. My blood pounded in my head and I felt a giddy kind of thrill at how this was progressing. If anything, I was proud for holding my own with this handsome stranger. He was the first man I ever really felt at ease with.

He cleared his throat, offered me a quick smile before he nodded at the lake, his hands sliding into his pockets. “She almost looks like the ocean, doesn’t she?”

“Not quite the same as Australia, I would imagine.”

“No hiding this accent, is there?” He glanced at me and stuck out his hand, which I shook for a moment, warm palm to warm palm. “I’m Logan Shepard. Australian. And the reason I’m here is because I was invited by a friend of mine. I’m only in town for a few days and he didn’t want to go alone. He’s over there.” He nodded at a tall black man in the corner, listening intently to another man.

“Warren Jones,” he said, as if I should know him. Perhaps I should. He probably thought I was one of them. “He’s local and the key piece to my investment.”

I wasn’t one for business talk—I never had anything to contribute other than lamenting student loans—but I wanted him to keep talking. “What’s your investment?”

“Starting my own hotel,” he said. “In Hawaii. Have you ever been there?”

“Once. When I was eight. I think we were in Honolulu. I remember a city, anyway. Waikiki Beach.”

“This hotel is in Kauai. The Garden Isle. Went there once as a teenager and couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

I didn’t know the right things to say. I wanted to ask more about the hotel, what it means when you have an investor, but I didn’t want to appear dumb. I kept my mouth shut.

“You haven’t introduced yourself,” he said. “Protecting a secret identity?”

I smiled, close-lipped. “Not really. I’m Veronica Locke. American. And I unfortunately I don’t have much else to add to that.”

“Locke?” he repeated, eyes darting to my mother. “Are you the daughter of the deputy mayor, Rose Locke?”

“One of them,” I told him.

He nodded quickly. “I see. No wonder you’d rather be in the middle of the bloody lake. I bet you have to do this stuff all the time.”

“It’s not so bad.” I took a sip of my drink so I didn’t have to say anything more and looked away at the crowd. The bubbles teased my nose, making my eyes water.

I could feel his gaze on me as he spoke. “I’m sure you have plenty more to say about yourself though. Where do you work? Student?”

“Culinary arts,” I told him. “I’m one of those crazy people who dream of being a chef one day.”

He frowned. “Why is that crazy?”

I gave him a look, forgetting that most people have no idea how hard it is. “Because it’s a long road, long hours, and nothing is guaranteed. People think being a chef is easy. They see Gordon Ramsey or Nigella Lawson and think it’s all fame and food and money and they have no idea what it’s really like. I’m not even out of school and already I feel half-beaten.”

He was still frowning. He did that a lot, I would soon learn. “Sounds like life to me.” His eyes dropped to my lips and something intensely carnal came over them, like suddenly I was the food, not the wannabe chef. “Did you want to get a drink somewhere. After this? When you’ve done your daughterly duties?”

I swallowed hard. I didn’t know what a drink meant. Just a drink? A date? Was it sex? I started going through my head, trying to think of reasons why it was a bad idea. My legs were shaved, did my bra and underwear match? Did I have a condom? I had taken the pill this morning, even though my last boyfriend and I had broken up months ago. I hadn’t been with a guy, let alone a man, in a long time.

Don’t flatter yourself, I quickly thought. What makes you think he’d be interested in you that way?

“Yes,” I said when I finally found my voice. “Yes, I would like that.”

A spark flashed in his eyes, lighting them up in such a way that made my toes literally curl. Damn. I was in trouble with this man. “Any way you can get out of your duties sooner?” he asked.

I couldn’t help but smile, raising my brow at his presumptuousness, while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that I was freaking out. I looked around the room and tried to judge how likely it was that someone would notice if I was gone. My mom was still surrounded by a wall of people and no one was paying any attention to us, standing by the windows, already removed.

A sad thought hit me, sliding past before I could really dwell on it: no one even notices when I’m here.

“If we’re quick and sneaky,” I told him.

“Being quick isn’t in my repertoire,” he said, “but I could give it a shot.”

Again. Damn. I wasn’t one to blush but I could feel my cheeks heating up and hoped my skin supressed the flush. He was so much older than me in so many ways, the last thing I wanted was to appear the naïve schoolgirl.

And I didn’t know what to say to that. He was staring at me with those dark eyes, a look so intense yet sparkling with charm and something…wicked.

I’d never find out how wicked they could be.

“Ronnie!” A melodic, ultra-feminine voice sliced through the moment like an unwieldy machete, causing me to flinch, my fingers tightening around the stem of the glass.

Oh no, I thought. Not now.

Logan’s head swiveled toward the sound of the voice, like a hound picking up a scent. I didn’t bother looking over, I kept my focus on him, watching his expression intently. It changed, as I knew it would.

She had walked into the room.

He saw her.

And like it was for so many men, that look of lust I had thought was for me, was now for her.

That’s when I knew it was over. Whatever thing I had felt for him, it didn’t matter anymore, not when she was in the room. Nothing ever mattered as long as she was around.

I might have saw him first.

But he was all hers after that.

 

 

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Halle HeadshotKarina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.

Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook. You can also visit www.authorkarinahalle.com and sign up for the newsletter for news, excerpts, previews, private book signing sales and more.

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Hell and Back by Natasha Madison – Excerpt Reveal

by Natasha Madsion

BLURB

 
Meeting him was a fluke. Dating him was a mistake. Watching him become a drug addict put me through hell. Running was my only option.

***

I’m running from my demons and when I find out she’s trying to escape her past, I know what I have to do.

One broken cop. One woman fighting for her life. A fragile love.

Sinister secrets that threaten to tear them apart.

They’ve been to hell. The hard part will be finding their way back together.



Releasing October 31, 2016
 
 
 
 

PRE-ORDER TODAY

 
 
 

EXCERPT

 
I pull up in my driveway looking over at the house.  What I see pisses me off. 
Here she is in a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, hat and glasses pushing a brand new lawn mower.
I make sure I check my temper before I walk over.
Right before I cross the street the little girl on the front porch stops me mid step.
She looks like just like her mother, just a smaller version.  She is sitting on a plastic little table, that they probably just bought, coloring.
I make my way over to her right when the lawn mower goes off
“I told you I would cut the grass.”  I try to sound casual, but the blood in me is boiling, it must be ninety-five degrees
outside, and she’s wearing enough clothes for a trek across the frozen tundra.
She looks up “I also said I got it, and I would be doing it myself.” The little girl from the porch makes it to her mother and hides behind her, yanking on her pant leg. 
The fearful look that she gives me is just like her mother’s.  I crouch down, getting eye-to-eye with her and say “Hey there, beautiful. What’s your name?” She doesn’t reply, and instead she lowers her gaze so she is looking at her feet. “I’m Jackson,” I
reach out my hand, but drop it when I know she won’t take it.  I gesture behind me, as I say “I live in that house right over there.  I used to know your great grandma.”  I’m trying to draw her into a conversation with me, but nothing I say engages her.
“It’s ok baby, you can tell him your name.  Nan used to make him cookies, so you know what that means, she must have really
liked him.”  She rubs her daughters shoulder.
“I’m Lilah,” she says in barely a whisper.
“That is the most beautiful name in the whole wide world.  You’re lucky to have such a beautiful name.”  She smiles at me, right as a car back fires. She yells and puts her hands to her ears. 
Two things happen at the same time, her mother grabs her and runs toward the house, and I vow to protect them.
“Wait,” I rush after them and make it right to the door before it’s closed in my face.  I stand there inside the house and
watch them rushing to the corner and hide.
Two broken girls protecting each other against some monster of the outside world.  I walk up to them “It’s ok, it’s just a car, it was nothing but a car.”
“Lilah, baby it’s ok, it’s ok.  I’m here.  It’s ok baby girl, were safe.” She is trying to comfort the little girl who is sobbing quietly in her mother arms.  “No one is here baby.”
She looks over at me, our eyes meeting for one minute before she lowers them again.
“Look it’s ok, it’s just Jackson.  There is no one here, baby.”  She rocks Lilah back and forth. Her back against the wall while she soothes her baby girl whose sobs are slowly stopping, her eyes closing.
“What can I do?”  I’m now sitting in front of her not sure how to even start to dissect this.
“Nothing, you can’t do anything for us,” she kisses Lilah’s head. “No one can.”
I ignore that last part not sure how to talk about this now. 
“I’m going to go outside and finish cutting the grass, then I’m going to go pick up some food for us.  Does she like pizza?”
“Jackson, I don’t know what relationship you had with my grandmother, but I don’t need your help.  We will be fine.  Please, it’s ok, you can leave.” She rests her head on the the wall closing her eyes, the defeat of the day leaving her body.
“I’m going to go outside and finish mowing the lawn so Lilah doesn’t have to go outside anymore today.  Then I’m going to
pick up pizza for myself.  You won’t have time to cook, so I’m going to pick one up for you.  I want to eat with you guys, but I’m not pushing myself on you either after today.  Now I don’t want to fight with you or even discuss this, so just nod
that you understand?”
She looks into my eyes, but nods yes.
“I can pay you for the pizza?  I have money. I don’t need a hand out,” she says while trying to push herself up to go get
fucking money. 
If she weren’t so scared of things I would punch the fuck out of something right now.  “I don’t want your money, now or
ever.  I have no doubt you can take care of yourself.  Consider this a housewarming present.” I get up going to the door not even giving her a chance to say anything else.
“She’s never had pizza before, so can you just get us plain cheese.”
I don’t say anything afraid of what will come out of my mouth.  I nod and walk out the door, closing it quietly so as not to wake Lilah.
I close my eyes exhaling the breath that I didn’t even realize I was holding.
“She’s barely holding on while fighting for her life.  She has demons, they both do.  Whatever happened to them, it’s in there deep.  The both of them are so scared, you can practically see the fear coming off of them.”  I look over at Brenda who is on
her porch watering her plants. “Tread lightly, Jackson, or better yet walk away if you aren’t going to do anything about it.”
I don’t have a chance to respond she walks into her house closing her front door softly, leaving me fighting my own demons.
 
 
About Natasha Madsion
 
When her nose isn’t buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she’s in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It’s a good thing her characters do what she says, because even her Labrador doesn’t listen to her…
 
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