Laura Kaye’s THEIRS TO TAKE – Review Blitz

 

 

Decadent… Sensual… Forbidden…

 

12 Masters. 12 Desires. 12 Fantasies Come to Life.
Meet the Masters of Blasphemy…

 

 

About THEIRS TO TAKE (Blasphemy #4, 9/26/17):

12 Masters. Infinite fantasies. Welcome to Blasphemy…

She’s the fantasy they’ve always wanted to share…

Best friends Jonathan Allen and Cruz Ramos share almost everything—a history in the Navy, their sailboat building and restoration business, and the desire to dominate a woman together, which they do at Baltimore’s exclusive club, Blasphemy. Now if they could find someone who wants to play for keeps…

All Hartley Farren has in the world is the charter sailing business she inherited from her beloved father. So when a storm damages her boat, she throws herself on the mercy of business acquaintances to do the repairs—stat. She never expected to find herself desiring the sexy, hard-bodied builders, but being around Jonathan and Cruz reminds Hartley of how much she longs for connection. If only she could decide which man she wants to pursue more…

As their attraction flashes hot, Jonathan and Cruz determine to have Hartley for their own. But the men’s erotic world is new and overwhelming, and Hartley’s unsure if she could really submit to being both of theirs to take…forever.

 

 

A Special Cross-Over Release with Jennifer Probst’s Reveal Me from her Steele Brothers Series!

 

Available On:

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Books in the Blasphemy Series:

Hard to Serve #.5

Bound to Submit #1 – FREE EVERYWHERE!

Mastering Her Senses #2

Eyes on You #3

Theirs to Take #4 (9/26/17)

On His Knees #5 – Coming Winter 2018

 

 

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Laura Kaye’s THEIRS TO TAKE – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

September 25th

A Woman and her books

EDGy Reviews

FMR Book Grind

Knotty Girl Book Reviews

Red Hot + Blue Reads

The Smutbrarians

September 26th

Feeling Fictional

Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews

Inner Goddess

Lit. 4 Ladies

Read more sleep less

September 27th

Drunk On a Book

Only One More Page

Rachel Loren’s Love of Reading

Stephanie’s Book Reports

The Book Hammock

September 28th

A crazy vermonters book reviews

Nerdy Dirty and Flirty

Romance Reviews and More

Tanya the book obsessed momma

Thoughts of a Blonde

Vagabonda Reads

September 29th

OMGReads

Reads All the Books

The Book Boyfriend Addict

Two Girls with Books

Wickedcoolflight

September 30th

abibliophobia anonymous book reviews

Bad boys and bedtime stories book blog

Reading Is My Bliss

Sofia Loves books

Sweet & spicy reads

October 1st

Always a happy ever after

Becky on Books

Books According to Abby

Love Notes Book Blog

Sweet Red Reads

October 2nd

Bookaliciousbabes blog

Four Chicks Flipping Pages

Living In Our Own Story

Novel Addiction

Romancing the Readers

October 3rd

Bound By Books Book Review

KDRBCK

Obsessive Reading Disorder

Renee Entress’s Blog

The Book Reading Gals

October 4th

Busy Bumble Bee Book Reviews

I am a Book Hoarder

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

MammieBabbie

Oh My Growing TBR

Somewhere Lost in Books

October 5th

A small girl, her man and her books

Book Nook Nuts

Pardon My Blurb

Spoons, Hooks, and Books

The Romance Reviews

October 6th

Amo

Books 2 Blog

Ripe For Reader

These Curves Talk

Wicked Reads

 

 

About Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books in contemporary and erotic romance and romantic suspense, including the Blasphemy, Hard Ink, and Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. Laura also writes historical fiction as the NYT bestselling author, Laura Kamoie. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

 

 

 

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Chapter Reveal: The Heiress by Cassia Leo

We’re just a few days away from the release of THE HEIRESS by Cassia Leo – are you ready to read the first chapter? Read it below!

 

Title: THE HEIRESS
Author: Cassia Leo
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Day: September 26th

 

About The Heiress

A new heartfelt and suspenseful stand-alone novel from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

How much is love worth?

Twenty-two-year-old Kristin and her single mom have always struggled to make ends meet. When her mother’s body begins to deteriorate after many backbreaking years of working as a housekeeper, Kristin must say farewell to her college dreams and hello to a full-time job waitressing. She doesn’t really mind. After all, giving up on her dreams will be her penance for that one horrible night.

Her luck begins to turn when she meets Daniel Meyers. Daniel is sexy and funny, but most importantly, he wants to get to know the real Kristin. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also extremely wealthy and intent on protecting her. Kristin feels safe with him. She wants to open up to him, to share the details of the awful night that changed her life. But she can’t shake the feeling that Daniel may be keeping a dark secret of his own…

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Chapter Reveal

Chapter 1
Taken Care Of

 The dimly lit stairwells in our five-floor walk-up in the Bronx smelled even more like cat piss than usual.

The August humidity had a lovely way of extracting the aromas that were usually trapped inside the dingy walls of our building. I tried to breathe through my mouth as I climbed the final steps to the fifth floor. But when I stepped into the corridor, a bright yellow notice taped to the front door of apartment 502 made me gasp, and the sharp smell got sucked into my nose again.

I gagged, then marched toward my apartment. “What the actual fuck?”

My curse came out much louder than I’d anticipated.

Dropping my canvas bag of groceries on the floor, I quickly snatched the paper off the door, but not quickly enough. Mr. Williams walked out of his apartment as I bent over to stuff the notice into my grocery bag.

“Good morning, Mr. Williams,” I said, breathing far too heavily for a casual walk to the bodega. “How’s your day so far?”

He tilted his head a bit as his dark eyes remained focused on my bag. “Is that an eviction notice?”

I unzipped my purse and dug frantically through the receipts and half-used drugstore makeup, which had probably been there since I dropped out of college two years ago. “It’s just a mix-up,” I replied with a chuckle when I found my house key. “Same thing happened a couple weeks ago. At least this time it happened on a Monday morning instead of a Friday night. I’m heading straight to the property manager’s office as soon as I get these groceries in the fridge.”

“Is everything okay with you and your ma?” he asked through narrowed eyes.

“We’re fine,” I said, forcing a smile. “Thank you so much for asking, but we’re just fine. This is just a huge mix-up.”

Mr. Williams scratched his scraggly white beard, which sparsely covered his chestnut-brown skin. “Okay,” he said, slowly nodding. “Well, if you need anything, don’t you hesitate to holler at this old fool.”

My smile widened, and this time it was genuine. “Thank you, Mr. Williams. I promise I’ll do that.”

He stuck his chin out and beamed with pride. “That’s a good girl. You take care now,” he said, then ambled back into the apartment across the hall.

When I was five, I often wondered if I was invisible—not metaphorically speaking, but actually invisible. I would watch in complete silence as my mom came home from a fourteen-hour shift, cleaning up other people’s messes. She’d collapse onto the sofa, turn on the evening news, and eat her dinner with a tired smile. Then I’d retreat to my bedroom and dream of a world where I existed.

It wasn’t until a fateful evening in September two years ago, my fingernails peeling off as I desperately clawed my way up a highway embankment, that I finally realized how tangible I was, how heavily I was anchored to this merciless world.

Now, as I rushed inside the humid apartment I shared with my mother in the South Bronx, I wished I could be invisible again.

Closing the door softly behind me—so as not to attract the attention of any more neighbors—I power-walked into the kitchen and tossed my canvas grocery bag onto the counter. Yanking out the bright yellow eviction notice, I contemplated the ten-digit phone number scrawled on it in black marker.

No. I wasn’t going to give those incompetent pricks at the property management office the courtesy of calling before I showed up. No way would I give them time to come up with some trumped-up violation that my mother or I had supposedly committed.

Despite the fact that our building was more than a hundred years old and in serious disrepair, the bylaws consisted of a list of rules—I kid you not—at least sixty pages long. The list was mailed to us every year with an offer to renew the lease—with another rent increase, of course. And every year, the list got longer.

One rule actually stipulated we were not allowed to walk around in high heels after ten p.m. I supposed it was a good thing I had no social life. I was in no danger of violating that rule.

Of course, whatever bone the management was picking with us now was probably not due to anything I did or didn’t do. The eviction notice was almost certainly a response to what I had threatened to do. Three weeks ago, I threatened to file an ADA—Americans with Disabilities Act—complaint if they didn’t fix the loose handrails in the stairwells.

When my mom and I moved into this apartment more than ten years ago, my mom was in excellent physical shape. Despite the fact that she had spent most of her life working as a housekeeper, she had managed to take good care of her body. Until she fell off a ladder at home and shattered her kneecap. Three surgeries later, she was desperate to return to work so I could return to NYU, but no one would hire her back.

If the eviction notice was left on our door, that meant my mom wasn’t home when the notice was served, which meant our neighbor Leslie had come by to take her shopping.

I put the groceries away and stuffed the eviction notice into my purse before I left the apartment. I thought of leaving a message with Leslie’s family, but decided against it. I didn’t want to worry her or my mom.

Leslie was a stay-at-home mother with two kids in high school and a husband who drove a bus for MTA. She helped my mom up and down the stairs once a week to go shopping. Having amazing neighbors like Leslie and Mr. Williams was one of the many reasons I was hesitant to move to another apartment building with an elevator.

One subway ride and nine blocks of walking in the glaring summer sun later, I arrived, sweaty and determined, at the front doors of Golde Property Management. I entered through the glass double doors, which squeaked on their hinges as I pushed my way inside. The black and gold confetti design on the linoleum looked like something straight out of a ’70s discotheque. The faux oak furniture in the waiting room, with the wood-grain laminate peeling off the corners, confirmed that I had stepped into an office stuck in another century.

In the decade since we moved into our apartment, and ever since I began paying the rent a couple of years ago, I’d never had to visit Golde Property Management. I always paid the rent on time, and I always agreed to the new lease terms. If I had known that they were living in the ’70s, I wouldn’t have bothered asking them to bring our apartment up to modern building standards.

Nonetheless, I needed to clear up this eviction nonsense. The last thing I needed was for my mother and me to be thrown out on our asses over a clerical error.

The receptionist sat at a desk behind a sliding-glass window at the back of the waiting room. She watched me approach without even attempting to smile.

I slid the yellow eviction notice across the counter onto her side of the glass. “I want to know what this is about.”

She spun in her chair to face the computer on her left, positioning her fingers over the keyboard. “What’s the property address?”

“Twenty-four eighty-three Hughes,” I replied sharply.

She typed in the address, then her eyes scanned down to the lower-right part of the computer screen and stopped. “It says here that the eviction notice was posted today at 10:02 a.m. by the Bronx County Sheriff’s Department due to violation of the rental agreement. The violation listed here is nonpayment of rental dues in the amount of $7,050.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Are you kidding me? Our monthly rent is $1,175. That means $7,050 is what, like, six months’ rent? We’re not even late one month, let alone six. I want to speak to a manager.”

She rolled her eyes as she picked up the beige phone handset and dialed an extension. “Is Jerry in his office?” she asked the person on the other end. “I’ve got a tenant here who says she’s paid up, but she just got served.” She sighed as she balanced the handset between her ear and shoulder. “Well, tell him when he’s done with his meeting that I got someone waiting for him up here. Okay? Okay.” She hung up the phone and looked up at me with a bored expression. “He’s in a meeting with an investor. You’ll have to wait a few minutes.”

I wanted to protest for the simple fact that if I caused a scene it might ruin their chances with this investor, but I decided not to press my luck. “I’ll be waiting right over there,” I said, nodding toward the tweed sofa in the waiting area.

Taking a seat on the sofa that smelled like desperation, I picked up a copy of the NY Post from the coffee table. The paper was dated thirteen months ago. This place needed an investor more than my mom needed a disability-accessible apartment building with an elevator.

Of course, my mom would never admit that she needed anything.

The eldest of four sisters, my mom left her small hometown in South Dakota to make her way in New York City when she was just nineteen. After a brief brush with homelessness, she started cleaning houses and saving up money to start her own cleaning business. Not long after that, I was born, and her dreams of being her own boss were tossed out the window.

I had just finished reading a story about a feud between the hosts of two popular YouTube channels when a door leading into the back office opened. The first man who stepped into the waiting area—whom I assumed was Jerry—looked to be about sixty years old, and wore brown slacks and a short-sleeved blue button-up shirt, the fabric thin enough to show the dinginess of the tank top he wore underneath.

The second man who walked through the door looked more like a mirage than a man.

He was no more than twenty-eight years old, wearing a sharp navy-blue suit and a swagger in his step that said he didn’t just own the place, he owned the world. His dark hair was short, but not so short you couldn’t help but notice it held the perfect amount of wave. Every inch of him, from his prominent brow to his broad shoulders and beyond looked sturdy. This man was built to last a thousand lifetimes.

But it was his face that made me wonder if I was actually staring at a desert mirage.

His strong jaw and brilliant green eyes looked as if they’d been chiseled by Michelangelo. As a former student of sculpture at NYU, I could make that type of comparison in the more literal sense.

If this investor bought out Golde Property Management, I’d probably sign a hundred-year lease.

I shrugged off this ridiculous thought. It wasn’t as if this wealthy godlike man was going to send my next lease renewal along with a handwritten marriage proposal.

Will you be my wife? Check yes or no. Please send reply in the enclosed envelope with full rent payment by the first of the month.

“Are you Kristin?”

I snapped out of my absurd fantasy to find the man I suspected to be Jerry staring at me as he held the door to the back office open. “Excuse me?”

“Are you Kristin Owens?” he replied. “Here about the eviction notice?”

His question set my blood on fire with anger. “Yes. I want to know what this is all about,” I said, getting to my feet as I held the yellow paper in front of me. “We’ve paid our rent on time every single month for the past ten years. If this is about me threatening to—”

Jerry held up his hand to interrupt me. “Okay, okay. Let’s go into my office,” he said, his expression a mixture of shame and anger, probably because I just made a scene in front of his potential investor. He looked up at the man. “I look forward to hearing from you again, Mr. Meyers. Jennie over there can validate your parking.”

Mr. Meyers cocked an eyebrow as he looked me over. “Maybe I should sit in on this.”

Jerry waved off the suggestion. “Oh, no, this is just routine admin stuff. It will be over in two minutes. Don’t want to waste your time.”

I stared at Jerry, making no attempt to avoid looking directly at the huge hairy mole protruding from his temple. “So now I’m a waste of time?” I asked. “If you think you can get away with—”

“Excuse me,” Meyers interrupted, taking a step forward. “Earlier, you said you’ve paid your rent on time every single month for the past ten years. So, forgive me if I’m wrong, but that allows you to continue living in the unit until any further disputes are settled in court. Am I right?”

Jerry shook his head. “But she hasn’t paid her rent,” he insisted. “I thought it was strange when the computer spat out the notice, but they only come up when a tenant is coming up on six months past due. Computers don’t lie. People lie.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I shouted. “Are you calling me a liar? You piece of trash. I swear to God, I will bury you in so many legal—”

“Whoa-whoa-whoa…” Meyers interrupted again. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said, casting a calm, confident look in my direction, holding my gaze for a moment before he turned back to Jerry. “You said computers don’t lie, but they do sometimes glitch. You even said you thought it was strange the computer spat out her name.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t randomly spit out names all day long,” Jerry objected.

Meyers nodded and pressed his lips together in an expression that said he understood where Jerry was coming from. This guy was good. He was refereeing this dispute like a seasoned mediator.

“But it’s possible the computer got it wrong,” Meyers continued as he looked back and forth between Jerry and me, smiling when I crossed my arms over my chest. “How about this? I’ll pay the past-due amount until you can figure out the glitch in the system. Does that sound fair?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Who the hell are you?”

His veneer of confidence cracked for just a fraction of a second before he regained his composure. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” he replied. “You’re right. It’s very presumptuous of me to think I could settle this with the swipe of a pen. Forgive me.” He turned to Jerry and gave him a curt nod. “I have some…thinking to do. I’m not sure your organization is a good fit for us. We’ll be in touch.”

“Wait!” Jerry shrieked. “I think she was just taken by surprise with your offer. Right, Christina?”

“Kristin,” I corrected him. “And I don’t need him to pay my rent. I already paid it. I need you to fix this!” I crumpled the yellow eviction notice and dropped it at his feet.

“I can’t,” Jerry replied as Meyers quietly made his way to the receptionist’s desk. “My lawyer handles the evictions. He won’t close the file until the rent’s paid in full. I can’t pay him if I don’t have your money.”

“You have my money!” I yelled so loudly I could almost hear my vocal cords snap.

I cursed myself as tears stung the corners of my eyes. Blinking them away, I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to find Meyers staring aghast at my lack of control. He probably wasn’t accustomed to that sort of thing in his perfect world of privilege. But he wasn’t there. He was gone. I didn’t know if I felt more relieved that he hadn’t witnessed my outburst, or disappointed that the only sure way out of this eviction mess—at least, temporarily—had just walked out of my life.

God, why didn’t I just let him help me? It wasn’t as if I knew the guy. I didn’t need to maintain some foolish sense of pride in front of him.

I was becoming more and more like my mother every day.

“It’s taken care of.”

I looked up at the sound of the receptionist’s bored voice.

She waved a piece of paper in the air, which looked suspiciously like a check. “He took care of your rent,” she said, looking annoyed.

I turned to Jerry, but all he did was shrug.

What the fuck just happened?

 

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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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Susan Mallery’s SECOND CHANCE GIRL – Review & Excerpt Tour

 

 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool’s Gold romances Susan Mallery, comes the second standalone title in the Happily, Inc. Series—YOU SAY IT FIRST! You’re invited to visit Happily, Inc., a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale. Where people live… wait for it… happily ever after.

Order your copy today!

 

 

SECOND CHANCE GIRL Synopsis:

From the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Susan Mallery, read the second irresistible installment in the Happily Inc series!

Mathias Mitchell’s easy smile hides a world of hurt. After the worst kind of family betrayal, he moves to Happily Inc., California—the wedding destination town supplies a steady stream of bridesmaids, perfect for his “no promises, no pain” lifestyle. Yet he can’t stop watching for his beautiful, elusive neighbor on the animal preserve behind their homes.

Gamekeeper Carol Lund knows she’s not special enough to attract an alpha male like Mathias, so his offer to help her adopt a herd for her lonely giraffe is surprising—and his determined seduction, even more so. But just as she finally welcomes him into her bed, his careless actions crush her heart. Will she give him a second chance to prove she’ll always come first in his heart?

Don’t miss You Say It First, the first book in the Happily Inc series.

 

 

Get your copy of SECOND CHANCE GIRL here!

 

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Write your own Wedding story!

 

 

 

 

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Susan Mallery’s SECOND CHANCE GIRL – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

September 18th

A Southern Girls Bookshelf – Excerpt

Fire and Ice Book Reviews – Review

Little Bookworm Reviews – Review

The Butterfly Reads – Review & Excerpt

September 19th

Collector of book boyfriends – Excerpt

I Love Romance – Review & Excerpt

Mama She’s Crazy About Books – Review

Ramblings From This Chick – Excerpt

September 20th

Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

It’s all About the Romance – Review & Excerpt

Rachel Loren’s Love of Reading – Review & Excerpt

Stephanie’s Book Reports – Review & Excerpt

September 21st

Adventures in Writing – Excerpt

Books and Things Blog – Review & Excerpt

Reading Reality – Review

Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance – Excerpt

September 22nd

Becky on Books – Review & Excerpt

Jen’s Reading Obsession – Review & Excerpt

KDRBCK – Review

Romancing the Readers – Review

September 23rd

Brittany’s Book Blog – Excerpt

OMGReads – Review & Excerpt

What Is That Book About – Excerpt

September 24th

E-Romance News – Excerpt

K.T. Castle – Excerpt

Melena’s Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Nicole’s Book Musings – Review & Excerpt

September 25th

For the love of romance – Review & Excerpt

Inside The Mind of an Avid Reader – Review & Excerpt

Smokin Hot Reads Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

September 26th

Always a happy ever after – Review & Excerpt

Bookishly Yours – Excerpt

Cesya MaRae Cuono, Author – Excerpt

Lattes & Paperbacks – Review & Excerpt

September 27th

Loves Great Reads Blog – Excerpt

Pervy Ladies Books – Review & Excerpt

Reads & Reviews – Review

Thoughts of a Blonde – Excerpt

September 28th

I’m A Book Shark – Review & Excerpt

Romantic Reads and Such – Excerpt

Tales From A Bookworm – Review & Excerpt

September 29th

Gataleitora – Review

Nose Stuck in a Book – Excerpt

Remarkablylisa – Review & Excerpt

TBR Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

September 30th

A geordielass honest blog on reviews – Review

Dog-Eared Daydreams – Review

Sofia Loves Books – Review & Excerpt

Two Book Pushers – Review

October 1st

Miss Riki – Review & Excerpt

Shannon’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

The Book Maven – Review

October 2nd

Crazii Bitches Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

From the TBR PIle – Review & Excerpt

Living In Our Own Story – Review & Excerpt

Booknerd1107 – Review & Excerpt

October 3rd

Katy and Zetti’s Book Ramblings – Excerpt

I love My Bookgasms blog – Review & Excerpt

Readaholic – Excerpt

Renee Entress’s Blog – Review & Excerpt

October 4th

Booked All Night – Review & Excerpt

JOJO THE BOOKAHOLIC – Review & Excerpt

My Nook, Books & More – Review

Sascha Darlington’s Microcosm Explored – Review & Excerpt

October 5th

Book Reviews By Lexi – Review

Mean Girls Luv Books – Review & Excerpt

The bookworm chronicles – Excerpt

Sweet Red Reads – Review & Excerpt

October 6th

Book Lovers Hangout – Review & Excerpt

G & T’s Indie Café – Excerpt

Lover of Big Books Cannot Lie – Review & Excerpt

Shelf_Life – Review & Excerpt

 

 

AND don’t miss the first standalone title in the Happily, Inc. Series, YOU SAY IT FIRST! Grab your copy today!

 

Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Nook | Book Depository | Powell’s

iBooks | BAM | Kobo | GooglePlay | IndieBound | Audible

 

 

About Susan Mallery:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming and humorous novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. She’s best known for putting nuanced characters into emotionally complex, real-life situations with twists that surprise readers to laughter. Because Susan is passionate about animal welfare, pets play a big role in her books. Beloved by millions of readers worldwide, her books have been translated into 28 languages.

Susan lives in Washington state with her husband, two ragdoll cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her online at SusanMallery.com.

 

 

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WICKED DIRTY by J.Kenner – Excerpt Reveal

14

 

 

Sometimes bad isn’t good enough…

On the outside, Lyle Tarpin is a clean-cut Hollywood actor whose star is on the rise. Inside, he’s battling his own demons, shunning relationships and finding solace in the arms of a string of anonymous women paid very well for their discretion.

But when he’s photographed in a compromising position by an over-eager reporter, the only way to save his career is to say that the woman he was with is his fiancée. And now Lyle has to play a very public game with the only woman who’s ever managed to get under his skin.

Struggling waitress Sugar Laine agrees to spend one night with Lyle—but only because she’s desperate to save her family home. She never expects that a night of passion will turn into a pretend engagement … or that the heat between them will blossom into love.

But sometimes love has a price.

And now the only question is—can Lyle and Sugar afford to pay it?

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“As for the first, he probably did it to piss me off. He knows I don’t date and don’t like to be in the spotlight where relationships are concerned. And he’s a little jealous that I’m doing movies now, and his last show was a web series.

“And as for why I didn’t correct him,” Lyle continues, “I honestly didn’t think about it. Then again,” he adds softly, “maybe it was there in the back of my mind.”

“What was?”

“That if you were my pretend fiancée, I’d get to see you again.”

“Oh.” I draw a breath, hoping he can’t tell how much I like hearing those words.

“Will you do it?” he asks. “Backing off now would draw the kind of attention I don’t want. And besides, being engaged is a sure fire way to keep Frannie at bay for the filming.”

“The filming? You aren’t even set to begin for weeks, right?”

“Our engagement doesn’t have to be that long. Two weeks, very public. Then we can break up. With any luck, Frannie will have found another man. And even if she hasn’t, I can claim a broken heart and the hope of reconciliation. She’ll leave me alone,” he says with certainty.

“And that’s it? That’s all I have to do? Pretend to be engaged?”

He nods. “You in? I’m willing to pay.”

“Damn right, you are,” I say. “This is going to be an arms-length transaction or not at all.”

He laughs. “Well, then name your price.”

I think about it, then nod. What the hell, right? I might as well go for broke. “Sixteen thousand, nine-hundred seventy-four dollars.”

“Well,” he says with a small frown. “That’s a very exact number.”

“The amount I need to pay off the loan, minus the ten I already applied, and the five you paid me for our date. I’m not applying the value of the thousand-dollar bill, because I think it’s cool, and I don’t want to sell it. And I’m not applying the two grand I’ve saved because that would clean me out. Or the money I could get as a cash advance off my credit cards. Because then I’d just have more debt.” I shrug. “So that’s the number. Take it or leave it.”

“Done.”

“Really?” I grin. I was expecting more of a battle.

“Really,” he acknowledges. “You’re my adoring fiancée, in public and in private.”

I take a step toward him. “Fair enough,” I say. “As long as we’re clear on one thing. I’ll be your girl, and I’ll put on a show for whoever’s watching. As for the private part? You can sleep here, or I’ll sleep at your place. And we can take day trips together and put on quite the show for the media. And if you really want me to, I’ll even do your laundry.”

I’m right in front of him now, and I press my finger to his lips, then trace it down, down, down, all the way to the fly of his jeans. “But that’s as far as private goes. This,” I add, cupping his crotch, “isn’t part of our deal at all.”

I back away as I feel his cock stiffen under my hand, then smile sweetly. “Those are the terms,” I say. “Take them or leave them.”

 

 

 

 

Julie - J Kenner Author PhotoJ.Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres.

Though known primarily for her award-winning and international bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit.

JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for them.” A five time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). Her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (as Julie Kenner) is currently in development with AwesomenessTV/Awestruck.

Her books have sold over three million copies and are published in over twenty languages.

In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | YouTube | Amazon Author Page

 

 

Dear Bridget, I Want You by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland – Sneak Peek

 

 

Dear Bridget,

I’m writing this letter because it’s highly doubtful I’ll ever garner the courage to say this to your face.

So, here goes.

We’re totally wrong for each other. You’re the proper single mum with a good head on your shoulders. I’m just the carefree British doctor passing through town and temporarily living in your converted garage until I head back to England.

But here’s the thing… for some bloody reason, I can’t stop thinking about you in very inappropriate ways.

I want you.

The only reason I’m even admitting all of this to you right now is because I don’t believe it’s one-sided. I notice your eyes when you look at me, too. And as crass as I appear when we’re joking around about sex, my attraction to you is not a joke.

So, what’s the purpose of this note? I guess it’s a reminder that we’re adults, that sex is healthy and natural, and that you can find me just through the door past the kitchen. More specifically, it’s to let you know that I’m leaving said door cracked open from now on in case you’d like to visit me in the middle of the night sometime.

No questions asked.

Think about it.

Or don’t.

Whatever you choose.

It’s doubtful I’ll even end up sliding this letter under your door anyway.

–Simon

ADD TO GOODREADS

 

 

Dear Bridget, I Want You will be available on all platforms on September 18th!

 

Pre-orders are available at the following:

iBooks |  B&N |  Kobo  | Google Play  |  Amazon paperback

There is no Amazon eBook preorder. Will go live on Amazon on release day.
Sign up for mailing list now and be the first one notified when it goes live

 

 

 

Every time I considered leaving my room, I would grab the framed picture of Ben and stare at it.  The urge to go to Simon was so strong; I basically hadn’t put down the framed photo of my deceased husband in an hour.  I was lying in my bed, holding a picture of a dead man while fantasizing about one who was very much alive and in the other room.  With the door cracked open waiting for me.  There was one part of Simon’s note that I just kept reading over and over.

I want to make you come. Hard. I want you to get lost in me and I want to hear you say my name over and over while we fuck.

While we fuck.

While we fuck.

I was pretty sure that Ben had never used the word fuck like that before.  Did we even fuck?  We made love, sure.  Our sex life was normal—at least, I think it was normal.  Don’t get me wrong, the passion wasn’t the same as when we first got together.  But after ten years, both of us working full time and raising a child, it was normal to have some of the desire dwindle, wasn’t it?

While we fuck.

I looked at the picture of my husband and sighed.  We didn’t fuck.  Not even in the beginning.   And I felt guilty for that now.  Maybe we should have been fucking.  I certainly didn’t do anything to entice him to want me the last few years.  Was it my fault our sex life had gotten boring?  I rested the picture of Ben over my heart and laid my hand over it.  I could feel my heart beating out of control beneath my fingers.

Shutting my eyes, I tried to force thoughts of Simon from my mind.  But it was no use.  Visions of his hard, sculpted body hovering over me had infiltrated my brain.  So, here I was, a thirty-three-year-old, single mother lying in my bed all alone with a picture of my dead husband held to my heart while I visualized fucking another man.

Fucking.

Not making love.

I needed my head examined.

After two hours and no sleep in sight, I decided the only way I was going to be able to get any rest was if I got everything I was feeling off of my chest.  Flicking on the light, I carefully set the framed photo of my beloved Ben on my nightstand and then opened the drawer and dug out a pen and piece of pretty stationery.  I would write down my thoughts to clear my mind.  I had no intention of actually giving the letter to Simon, so there was no reason to filter anything I said.

Dear Simon…

 

★★★★

We hope you enjoyed this preview!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of thirteen novels. With over a million books sold, her titles have placed on the New York Times Bestseller list seventeen times. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope, her husband, and kids reside in Rhode Island.

Facebook Fan Group | Facebook | Website |Twitter | Instagram

 

 

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author. With more than a million and a half books sold, her titles have appeared in over eighty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in seventeen languages. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

Website | Facebook Fan Group | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

 

 

Lorelei James’s TRIPPED OUT – Review & Excerpt Tour

 

 

From New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lorelei James, comes TRIPPED OUT, a new novella in her Blacktop Cowboys Series, brought to you by 1,001 Dark Nights! Be sure to grab your copy today!

 

 

About TRIPPED OUT:

Where there’s smoke…

Stirling Gradsky abandoned the corporate rat race for a more laidback lifestyle. So it’s ironic she’s stuck working with a hard-bodied, know-it-all scientist who treats her like a stoner instead of a stone cold business woman capable of running a large scale cannabis operation. Dr. Hot and Tattooed with the big…brain needs to stop sampling their product; he’s under the half-baked idea that he’s the boss.

Dr. Liam Argent’s doctorate isn’t in chemistry, but from the moment he meets his sexy new coworker, there’s enough heat between them to short out all the lights in the grow house. First item on his agenda? Clearing up the sassy, blunt blonde’s hazy notion that she’s in charge.

Sparks fly as their attraction blazes. But can they weed out their differences without getting burned?

 

 

 

Grab your copy of TRIPPED OUT today!

Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Amazon AU

 

Download the Free Kindle App

 

 

 

 

 

Lorelei James’s TRIPPED OUT – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

September 13th

#Minxes Book Review – Review & Excerpt

Books n Wine – Review & Excerpt

I Love Romance – Review & Excerpt

Ramblings From This Chick – Excerpt

Sweet Red Reads – Review & Excerpt

September 14th

Coffee Books Life – Review & Excerpt

E-Romance News – Excerpt

I love My Bookgasms blog – Review & Excerpt

OMGReads – Review & Excerpt

Shayna Renee’s Spicy Reads – Review & Excerpt

September 15th

AC Squared Book Blog – Excerpt

Engaging Secrets – Review & Excerpt

Kim’s Reading Nook – Review

Literary Misfit – Review & Excerpt

Smut Book Junkie Reviews – Review & Excerpt

September 16th

Bad boys and bedtime stories book blog – Review

Cesya MaRae Cuono, Author – Excerpt

Greyland Reviews – Excerpt

Shannon’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Wicked Babes Blog Reviews – Review & Excerpt

September 17th

Brittany’s Book Blog – Excerpt

Novel Addiction – Review

Reading Between the Wines Book Club – Excerpt

The Reading Cafe – Review & Excerpt

September 18th

Fictional Rendezvous Book Blog – Excerpt

Nadine’s Obsessed with Books – Review & Excerpt

Read in a Flash! – Review & Excerpt

Sip Red Love – Review

Two Girls with Books – Review

September 19th

A geordielass honest blog on reviews – Review

BOOKS to LUST BY – Review & Excerpt

Katy and Zetti’s Book Ramblings – Excerpt

Oh My Growing TBR – Excerpt

That’s What I’m Talking About – Excerpt

September 20th

All Things Dark & Dirty – Excerpt

Jax’s Book Magic – Excerpt

Knotty Girl Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Ruby Red Romance Review – Review & Excerpt

The Romance Reviews – Review

September 21st

Always a happy ever after – Review & Excerpt

Books 2 Blog – Review

Evermore Books – Review & Excerpt

Kick Back & Review – Review

Reese’s Reviews – Review & Excerpt

September 22nd

Angels With Attitude Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Crystal’s Book World – Review & Excerpt

G & T’s Indie Café – Excerpt

KDRBCK – Review & Excerpt

Loves Great Reads Blog – Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Lorelei James:

Lorelei James is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of contemporary erotic western romances set in the modern day Wild West and also contemporary erotic romances. Lorelei’s books have been nominated for and won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s choice Award, as well as the CAPA Award. Lorelei lives in western South Dakota with her family…and a whole closet full of cow girl boots.

From Lorelei: “Why do I have a particular fondness for all things western? Well, I’m a fourth generation South Dakotan, living in the Black Hills, which is chock-full of interesting characters, including cowboys, Indians, ranchers, and bikers. The geographical diversity of the surrounding area showcases mountains, plains, and badlands. Living in and writing about rural settings gives me a unique perspective, especially since I’m not writing historical westerns. Through my fictional world, I can show the ideals and the cowboy way of life are still very much alive.”

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Sign Up |TRIPPED OUT on Goodreads

 

 

 

 

Lorelei James’s TRIPPED OUT – Release Day Launch

 

 

From New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lorelei James, comes TRIPPED OUT, a new novella in her Blacktop Cowboys Series, brought to you by 1,001 Dark Nights! Be sure to grab your copy today!

 

 

About TRIPPED OUT:

Where there’s smoke…

Stirling Gradsky abandoned the corporate rat race for a more laidback lifestyle. So it’s ironic she’s stuck working with a hard-bodied, know-it-all scientist who treats her like a stoner instead of a stone cold business woman capable of running a large scale cannabis operation. Dr. Hot and Tattooed with the big…brain needs to stop sampling their product; he’s under the half-baked idea that he’s the boss.

Dr. Liam Argent’s doctorate isn’t in chemistry, but from the moment he meets his sexy new coworker, there’s enough heat between them to short out all the lights in the grow house. First item on his agenda? Clearing up the sassy, blunt blonde’s hazy notion that she’s in charge.

Sparks fly as their attraction blazes. But can they weed out their differences without getting burned?

 

 

 

Grab your copy of TRIPPED OUT today!

Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada | Amazon AU

 

Download the Free Kindle App

 

 

 

 

Excerpt:

The first rule of being a prankster?

A killer poker face.

And StirlingGradsky had that down pat.

The second rule of being a prankster?

Learn your opponent’s weak spots.

Maybe Stirling didn’t have that rule down entirely. Her pranking prey, Dr. Liam Argent, remained as much a mystery now as he’d been when he’d waltzed into High Society ten months ago and declared himself emperor.

Okay, maybe not emperor, but he definitely acted like the laboratory was his private kingdom.

His appearance hadn’t been a surprise. Stirling’s brother Macon, her business partner in High Society—a cannabis operation that included a retail store, a medical dispensary, and an onsite grow house—had informed her that he’d hired a guy from California, a cannabis expert, to work in the lab.

After dealing in euphemisms regarding all things cannabis related, Stirling believed “the lab” was Macon’s shorthand for the grow house. She imagined the California dude to be an older version of the iconic stoner character Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Turned out she had been wrong on both accounts.

Macon had indeed meant he’d created a full-blown, state of the art laboratory, complete with a beefed up security system for their resident cannabis expert. And the “dude from California” turned out to be Dr. Liam Argent, stuffed shirt extraordinaire, with advanced degrees up the wazoo.

The man drove her crazy.

Crazy.

From day one he’d refused to tell her what he was working on in his fancy-ass lab. When she’d complained to Macon about Dr. Argent’s secretive manner, he’d instructed her to leave Dr. Argent alone.

Her brother may as well have waved a red flag in front of her.

She’d tried being friendly…to no avail.

She’d tried being bossy…to no avail.

She’d tried every “employee relations improvement” tactic she’d learned in her years in the corporate world…to no avail.

Hence her oh-so-mature decision to prank him until he cracked. She’d worked with men like him before. At least if you got them angry enough, they’d yell at you, which nine times out of ten led to an actual conversation.

Except Dr. Argent hadn’t shown the slightest chink in his armor. In fact, he’d joined in on her prankfest and one-upped her on occasion.

Which was why today’s prank ranked as one of the better ones he’d pulled on her.

It was also why Stirling was massively annoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Lorelei James:

Lorelei James is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of contemporary erotic western romances set in the modern day Wild West and also contemporary erotic romances. Lorelei’s books have been nominated for and won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s choice Award, as well as the CAPA Award. Lorelei lives in western South Dakota with her family…and a whole closet full of cow girl boots.

From Lorelei: “Why do I have a particular fondness for all things western? Well, I’m a fourth generation South Dakotan, living in the Black Hills, which is chock-full of interesting characters, including cowboys, Indians, ranchers, and bikers. The geographical diversity of the surrounding area showcases mountains, plains, and badlands. Living in and writing about rural settings gives me a unique perspective, especially since I’m not writing historical westerns. Through my fictional world, I can show the ideals and the cowboy way of life are still very much alive.”

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Sign Up |TRIPPED OUT on Goodreads

 

 

 

 

First Chapter: HONEST INTENTIONS by Kennedy Layne

We’re just over a week away from the release of HONEST INTENTIONS by Kennedy Layne – but we couldn’t wait that long! Read the first chapter below and preorder your copy today!

 
 

About HONEST INTENTIONS 

USA Today Bestselling Author Kennedy Layne continues the Safeguard Series with this fast-paced romantic suspense novel that leads the SSI team on the trail of a serial killer who continually seems to be one step ahead…

Coen Flynn has always done the right thing, even it meant siding against his own family. His sense of justice was what led him to take a job in law enforcement, though his choice of agency was a bit unorthodox. His current assignment was believed to be a simple protection detail.  He was never supposed to be identified by his charge, but a murder took priority and changed the course of his mission.

Brettany Lambert’s life is suddenly rocked when she finds the body of a dead friend on the eve of what was supposed to be a special wedding. Now Brettany and Coen are trapped in the middle of a blizzard and their attraction will fuel the heat of temptation. Good intentions always have a way of backfiring, but his desired intent won’t matter if a notorious serial killer can finish what he started.

Add HONEST INTENTIONS to your Goodreads list here!

 

HONEST INTENTIONS releases September 19th – preorder your copy now!

✦Amazon http://amzn.to/2tdIcrO
✦iBooks http://apple.co/2i19V8M 
✦Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/2jkiuxl
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2qXv3mD

 

Read the first chapter of HONEST INTENTIONS now:

One week ago…

The shrieking howl of the bitter cold wind pierced through the walls of the tiny log cabin as it endeavored to find a way inside.  The flames of the blazing fire reflected a thousand tiny flickers on the river rock hearth as it rose through the rafters and beyond.  The view was mesmerizing as the dancing columns of blue and yellow fluttered briefly in their efforts to consume enough oxygen.

The crisp night air finally succeeded in finding an otherwise tiny gap in the roughhewn pine logs that nevertheless continued their valiant fight to keep Old Man Winter at bay.  The tail ends of each curling spark were like desperate souls trying to fight for their survival.

The irony of that useless battle wasn’t lost on her as the fire consumed its fuel.

Brettany Lambert slowly ran her hands up her arms and over the soft fabric of her chain-knit sweater in a vain attempt to absorb the warmth emanating only a few feet from the fire.  The electricity had gone out hours ago, the backup generator had failed to start, and the wind chill had already dipped well below zero.  The night proved to be long, but she didn’t have to spend it alone.

She shot a glance toward the window that usually offered her a charming view of Mount Evans, but all she could see were large, distorted snowflakes battering the windowpane that Jack Frost had decorated with a whimsical etching of the winter winds.

Beyond that?

Nothing but darkness.

The Colorado mountain range was picturesque in the middle of winter, but it certainly wasn’t her idea of an idyllic place to host a romantic wedding.  Who wanted to say their vows against a backdrop of a wind chill that was in the double digits?  Add on to that the fact that each of the guests had to use snowmobiles or an arctic cat to reach their destination.  That should have clued in the future bride and groom that a classic Aruba beach wedding would have been much more appropriate—in addition to being a lot warmer, even during the latter part of the season.  Eighty-two degrees sounded pretty good right now.

Brett sighed in resignation as she reached for the scarf she’d strung up over the coatrack earlier.  She personally would have preferred any Caribbean location, but her proposal had been tossed aside like a bad penny the moment the wedding planning had begun over a year ago.  She usually tried not to dwell over where she stood on the friendship scale, but at that moment she had been shoved aside given that certain souls born in the West Elk Mountains of west-central Colorado were strange breeds anyway.  It was as if exposure to all those dark winter months affected their perception of what was obvious to everyone else.

The bride had listened to her maid of honor, despite all the other opposing views.  Heidi had thought Louise and Chad marrying where they met would be romantic, but it turned out to be a total disaster.  The wedding journey had started off with the incredibly difficult task of finding a heavy winter coat that would cover a traditional wedding dress.  Unfortunately, the beautifully added layer wasn’t needed by the end of the rocky passage to wedded bliss.

Chad had decided the day before the ceremony was the perfect time to bring up old wounds, unearthing some deep-seated bitterness that had never been completely wiped clean.  Louise had been all but blindsided as the groom had heatedly declared that the wedding was off, although most of the still sober guests suspected an alcohol-soaked bachelor party was to blame.  It instantly caused their family and friends to take sides.

“Complete idiots,” Brett muttered in fondness, wrapping the cashmere scarf around her neck before lightly binding the ends together.  “Any Caribbean island would have sufficed.  But no, we had to come to a place that resembles Antarctica.”

She loved them both dearly and didn’t want either of them to throw away a life together over a past mistake that had been rehashed over and over again until there was nothing but ashes.  Louise and Chad thrived on drama, though.  It followed them no matter where they went—even on their wedding getaway to the great white north.

Luckily for them, all the guests were now stranded on this isolated mountain range until the storm lifted and permitted everyone to take what snowmobiles and conveyances there were across the pass to safety.  Until then, it gave Chad and Louise’s family and friends time to try to talk sense into the two of them…at least those who weren’t in favor of a total and complete separation.

Had that been Heidi’s plan all along?  She never did like some of Chad’s friends.

Brett shrugged into the horribly expensive parka she’d specifically bought for this trip, ignoring the path her thoughts had taken.  She wasn’t one to judge, and that certainly wouldn’t help the situation now that everything had blown over, so to speak.  The bottom line was that she could either stay out here in this tiny, frosty cabin she’d been assigned to for the whole weekend and go stir crazy, or she could join the others up at the lodge and see if the massive hoard of proffered nuptial booze was still available.

It wasn’t that the main inn was some kind of colossal log structure that could fit hundreds of guests.  It was much more of a larger cabin…maybe triple in size as the one she was currently staying in with a large kitchen to host the twelve or so guests occupying the camp.  It also helped that the lodge had a larger generator that worked even at these temperatures.

Brett checked herself over one more time, taking in her winter jacket, scarf, gloves, and waterproofed Ugg boots.  She had somehow drawn the shortest straw without even realizing it when she’d been assigned the cabin farthest from the lodge.

Suddenly, the scene from Jurassic Park popped into her head when the actors drew lots to see who would race those velociraptors through the utility tunnels to turn the power back on to the contaminated pens.

She honestly hadn’t minded the distance in the least, until the storm had hit.  Watching the groundskeeper string rope from each cabin had put the dangers of such extreme weather into serious perspective.

Brett finally gathered the courage to crack open the hatch.

The wind was stronger than she had expected.  She barely maintained her hold on the side of the door as a strong gust tried to rip the wood from her fingers.  The snowfall didn’t feel like the normal white fluffy flakes collecting on the ground, but instead like pelting ice crystals trying to penetrate her cheeks similar to little needles.  She pushed down her gathering irritation that they could all be lying on the beach somewhere enjoying the trade winds with those umbrella drinks to drown their disappointment with the cancelled ceremony.

Brett turned away as she pulled the door closed behind her, not bothering to lock the latch.  One, she trusted everyone here not to snoop.  Two, no other sane person not stupid enough to attend this debacle could possibly be this high up on the mountain range in this crappy weather.  Three, there was nothing of value that she’d brought with her other than her laptop anyway.  It wasn’t like her computer was even of any use, considering there wasn’t Wi-Fi or any other type of cellular service that could be activated to reach the Internet.

This area was as primitive as it got, which was why a shiver ran up the back of her neck that had nothing to do with the bitter cold.  God help them should anything happen that would be considered a real emergency.  They were a very long way from medical rescue help.  There would be no life flight helicopter with this storm, just a whole lot of pain for a very long time.

Another shriek of wind jarringly howled as the strong gusts of frigid air traveled through the ancient pines surrounding the campground.  Had she not been listening to that exact same eerie sound all evening, she would have thought it was a screaming banshee somewhere off in the distance.  It was downright terrifying.  Mother Nature at her worst.  Brett breathed a little easier as the screeching wail slowly faded.

She had no choice but to expose her face to the harsh elements as she looked for the knotted rope that would guide her toward the lodge.  It occurred to her that the knots were evenly spaced at ten foot intervals.  She reached into her right pocket and pulled out a small black lithium battery flashlight they had all been given by the groundskeeper.  That vital contribution alone should have clued her in as to how severe these conditions could develop from a simple prediction of two to four inches into something truly monstrous as the system stalled swirling over the top of the range like a miniature hurricane made up of icy winds.

The meteorologist had certainly gotten this one wrong.   His ass should be fired.

Brett focused the beam in the direction of where the rope had been tied off to a small stake in the ground ahead of her.  She had no trouble locating the line tied to her post on the front porch, though it was rather difficult to walk against the wind out in the open.  At least seven inches of heavy snow had already dropped with many more expected according to the last radio transmission she’d heard this morning before the power and the wedding failed.

Now one of the children’s songs from Frosty the Snowman got stuck in her head.

Put one foot in front of the other…

Each step Brett managed to undertake took effort, but it wasn’t quite so hard with the joyful melody in her head.  She mentally kept track of her pace, figuring she wasn’t even halfway to the next cabin and even farther from her intended destination.  That was okay.  Her daily runs kept her in fairly good shape.  It was getting a little hard to breathe, but she chalked it up to the altitude and the temperature.

“Ahh!”

Brett tried to catch herself as her boot caught on something solid buried in the snow.  Not even her tight grip on the rope could keep her upright.  The cushion of the thick white blanket did nothing to stop the blunt force of her body hitting the ground with a muted thud.  She landed on her hands and knees abruptly.  The impact instantly sent her good spirits and the merry little melody packing.  It didn’t help that she’d lost her hold on the tiny flashlight.  The item in question had landed about four feet in front of her.

“Damn it,” Brett muttered in frustration, instantly lifting both hands in the air as she sat back on her legs.  She tried to shake out the snow that had stuck itself into the sleeves of her jacket, but it was too late.  “Ugh.”

The cold slush had already melted against her wrists and was instantly soaked up by the material of her sweater sleeves.  It didn’t help that the thin denim of her jeans became saturated by the cold moisture around her knees in spite of her long johns underneath, though her boots were well insulated and protected her ankles and feet.

There was always a silver lining, right?

Well, she couldn’t stay outside in these unforgiving temperatures forever. She quickly reached for the rope that was now shoulder height above her.  She finally caught onto the coarse twine, but she didn’t stand.  Instead, she scooted forward on her knees and reached out toward the bright light illuminating the snow like a brilliant beam driving up into the night’s sky.

Wait.

What was on top of the snow?

Blood?

Brett instinctively closed her gloved fingers into the palm of her hand.  Her mind immediately rejected the grisly word it had formed, her heart breaking for whatever poor animal had been hurt in such a harsh winter storm.  She couldn’t stand to think of such an innocent creature suffering in pain.

She tried to look around, but it was a futile effort.

Had the critter found shelter, food, and water?

Brett maintained her hold on the rope as she reached over the splatters of red dots for the flashlight.  She followed the trail with the beam, easily making out the darker circle that had already melted the snow underneath.

That was a lot of blood for an animal.

“Shit,” Brett muttered, left with a decision that could very well be detrimental to her own health.  She wanted to help whatever animal was bleeding so profusely, but she didn’t want to put herself in any danger of getting lost in the winter landscape.  It could be a bunny rabbit or a doe some hunter had wounded that simply needed a bandage and some shelter in order to recover.  Or it could very well be a very large black bear, in which case she would immediately regret her choice of not leaving well enough alone.  “This is the kind of crap that gets me into trouble.  Nothing like this would have happened in Aruba.”

Brett’s parents had to deal with more strays than any other mother and father in their old neighborhood.  She really should have become a veterinarian, but teaching kids had seemed less daunting than Taming the Shrew, her ode to her favorite classic author.  How wrong she’d been, but she could ruminate about her life’s choices another time.  A wounded animal was somewhere close by, and she couldn’t leave them to fend for themselves in this crap.

She made a rash decision to quickly check out how far the trail of blood went with every intention of turning back once she reached the outer edge of the camp.  She wouldn’t venture any farther than the back clearing the cabins were in.  Taking in how far she’d already walked, Heidi or Martin’s cabin had to be to the right of her current location.  Her search should be safe enough, if she discounted the fact that she was starting to shake from exposure to the cold.

The pool of blood that had soaked into the ground happened to be right underneath one of the other ropes, so Brett grabbed ahold of the thick twine and cautiously proceeded to follow the trail.  She didn’t want to inadvertently stumble upon a wounded animal, so she slowed her steps.  The critter would almost certainly react in defense of itself, most likely striking out at her.  It wouldn’t do to have them both hurt and bleeding.

Brett couldn’t stop her teeth from chattering as the cold moisture from her denim and the wetness from the sleeves of her sweater started to soak into her skin.  It didn’t help that the wind had once again picked up to a howl, propelling the little needles directly into her face.  She blinked several times, unable to stop her eyes from watering as the forceful gusts refused to relent.

After halting her progress a couple of times to wipe the tears from her cheeks with the back of her gloves, she finally managed to find the end of the blood trail.  Surprisingly, it was on the doorstep to one of the cabins.  Had someone already taken whatever it was inside?

She lifted the flashlight and shined the beam on the assigned number.

Four.

That was Heidi’s cabin.

Brett surmised that the animal must have curled up underneath the small awning, but a slow swipe of the artificial light revealed nothing of interest.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true.

A splatter of blood was literally at the threshold of the door.

Had Heidi heard the injured animal and brought it inside?

“Heidi!” Brett called out after a couple of knocks on the door.  “Heidi, open up!”

No answer.

As a matter of fact, the wind had died down and the snow appeared to be falling at a slower pace as the flakes leisurely found their home with the others on the ground.  It had become eerily quiet as the echo of her voice faded in the clearing.

The smell of firewood burning drifted through the air from every direction, reminding Brett that everyone was trying to ride out the storm and stay warm.  Had Heidi brought the wounded animal inside to keep it warm or had she taken it up to the main lodge?

Brett looked over her shoulder, shifting her hood after she’d released her hold on the rope.  She swiped the beam of the flashlight over the area, though she found no one else around.  That wasn’t surprising.  All the other guests were probably enjoying a late dinner and trying to patch up Chris and Louise’s relationship so that tomorrow’s ceremony could continue without further delay.

Brett would knock one more time, just in case Heidi was still inside.  She might need help bringing the little critter up to the central cabin.

“Heidi?” Brett called out with a bang of her fist to the frozen wood, certainly not expecting the door to unlatch and swing open from the simple force of her knock.  She instinctively used her shoulder to push open the entrance upon sensing the heat from inside…only there was no fire.  There was only darkness…and the distinct smell of copper.  “Hello?”

Heidi must have already left to join the others, leaving her fire to burn itself out.  Brett was well aware that leaving a roaring fire burning in the hearth when no one was present wasn’t the brightest of ideas, but this campground had no electricity at the moment.  The only structure she knew of with a working generator was the main lodge, but that didn’t help the individual cabins once the main power to the camp had failed.

It also didn’t help to extinguish the strong odor of what could only be blood.

Had Heidi been unable to save the animal, or had she sought help from the others?  Brett’s curiosity always got the better of her, and now was no exception to that rule.  She quickly swiped her arm in one long motion, only wanting to confirm that the animal hadn’t been left behind.  It took more than a few seconds for the sight before her to penetrate the deep-seated denial that her mind instantly created.

The gruesome image trying to form in her mind was of Heidi’s sightless, cloudy, dilated eyes staring directly into the beam of Brett’s flashlight, but that couldn’t be right.

Her friend couldn’t dead.

That wasn’t right.

“Heidi?” Brett took a step closer because the name falling from her lips came out as nothing but a whisper as her breath billowed in the air.  Heidi wouldn’t be able to hear her.  She hadn’t been loud enough to be heard properly.  She cleared her throat and tried again.  “Heidi?”

Brett’s boot slipped out from under her.  She tried to catch her balance, but there was nothing for her to grab ahold of as she swung her arms wildly and caught nothing but air.  She landed hard on her side where her hip took the brunt of her body weight.  Unfortunately, her flashlight once again slipped away from her grip and rolled a couple feet away.

Panic had already started to infuse itself, because there was no way she could accept the scene which was painted in front of her.  This had to be a horrible joke—a very sick and cruel joke.  That didn’t stop the horror of what could possibly be reality bubble into a scream that never released.  Brett was too busy scrambling for the flashlight and crawling toward the beam that was now directed toward herself.

“What—”

Brett stared in revulsion at the red, thick coagulating liquid coating her hand.  She’d first thought her palms had landed in the melting snow she’d brought in with her boots, but this…this was all blood.

Heidi’s blood.

“No, no, no,” Brett chanted over and over as she finally picked up the flashlight and swung the light back toward Heidi.

Was this real?

Oh, my God!

Heidi’s lips were parted as if she were silently screaming, while her eyes were trained on something no one on this earth could possibly see.  Her normally ivory white skin had lost its vibrancy, reminding Brett of the glue her class used to make arts and crafts.  She’d never be able to glue glitter on construction paper again without recalling this grisly image.

Blue.  The color of Heidi’s lips and her discernable veins were blue.

Her friend was almost certainly dead.

And the blood.

There was so much blood.

Brett swallowed against the bile in her throat as she attempted to stand without falling.  She recognized the need to call for help, but she couldn’t get her body to agree to move.  No one would hear her anyway.

All she could manage to do was stare in horror at…death.

Death had come knocking without a wedding invitation.

Heidi was too young to have her life cut so short.

Terror unlike anything Brett had ever experienced settled over her like a cold blanket at the thought that someone had done this to Heidi.  There had been no wounded animal.  The blood outside had been Heidi’s and someone had brought her inside to bleed out.

Icy spindles wrapped themselves around Brett as she finally grasped the understanding that this hadn’t been an accident.

Someone had done this to her friend.

Someone had committed murder so far away from the rest of the world.

And that someone had to still be here in the campground, trapped by the storm…trapped here with her.

* * * *

He hadn’t had time to finish what he’d started.

Anger morphed into rage, but he had no outlet.

Not now that the body had been discovered.

That had been taken from him the moment Brettany Lambert had walked into Heidi’s cabin.  He’d been trying to cover the tread of the boot marks he’d left in the snow when he’d heard a muffled cry, alerting him to the fact that he hadn’t been alone anymore.

Brettany had walked right by him, not even realizing she had been arm’s length away from the sharp blade of his knife.  He should have stabbed her then and there, dropping her in the snow.

Now, he had to watch from afar as the beam from her flashlight finally faded from his sight as she entered Heidi’s cabin.  He waited in the darkness for the satisfying scream to carry through the air.

It took longer than he thought it would.

           

About Kennedy Layne

Kennedy Layne is a USA Today bestselling author. She draws inspiration for her military romantic suspense novels in part from her not-so-secret second life as a wife of a retired Marine Master Sergeant. He doubles as her critique partner, beta reader, and military consultant. They live in the Midwest with their teenage son and menagerie of pets. The loyal dogs and mischievous cats appreciate her writing days as much as she does, usually curled up in front of the fireplace. She loves hearing from readers–find out how to connect with her at www.kennedylayne.com.

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Jill Shalvis’s CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE – Excerpt Reveal

 

 

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes the next sexy, standalone novel in the Heartbreaker Bay series… Don’t miss the amazing excerpt below, and preorder your copy today!

 

 

About CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE:

Meet cute…

Run for the hills—temporarily. That’s Colbie Albright’s plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie’s so over it that she’s under it. She’s also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she’s pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won’t be a stranger for long.

Make merry…

Spence’s commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn’t have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot—chemistry he’s got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself… just because she’s gorgeous and a great listener…just because she “gets” Spencer immediately doesn’t mean he won’t be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

…and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock’s ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime

 

 

 

Pre-Order CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE in ebook or paperback, releasing 9/26/17

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Add to your Goodreads

 

 

EXCERPT:

#Motherforker

The elevator doors opened onto the fifth floor, Spence’s private floor. He guided Colbie off the elevator into a lobby with four doors. One led to the stairwell—which Elle came out of with Daisy Duke in tow, perfectly behaved now, of course.

Two more doors led to Spence’s private penthouse apartment and office. The last one opened directly into his gym. They went through that door, and while Elle flicked on lights and hit the alarm pad to enter his code, Spence heard Colbie gasp. He turned back quickly to find her staring in awe out the windows at the sun setting over the bay.

“Wow,” she breathed, still shaking but taking the time to eye the 180-degree vista of the city as she hugged herself in his jacket. He knew that from where she stood, she could see the rest of Cow Hollow, and past that, Fort Mason Park, the Marina Green, and the bay.

And he thought it was pretty wow too. He loved this view. It was one of the many reasons he’d bought the building in the first place.

I wouldn’t be able to work out to this view,” she said.

“Never gets old for me either.” Spence pulled out his phone to crank up the heat from his app before remembering he hadn’t dried the phone out yet. He had to actually use the control panel on the wall before going to her at the window. When he was stuck in his own head and unable to get anywhere with his work, he liked to stare out at the city that was more home to him than anywhere else had ever been.

“I love it,” she breathed. “I feel like from right here I can see all the way to the ends of the Earth.”

He knew what she meant. Out beyond the bay stretched the Pacific Ocean in all its deep-blue majesticness, clear to the gently curved horizon.

“I could so write to this view,” she went on in a hushed, amazed voice and turned to Elle, who was working out her thumbs—on her phone. “This is such a great building. I saw the pub downstairs. And the coffee shop and that cute reclaimed-wood furniture place. What else is there?”

“More shops and businesses,” Elle said, her thumbs still going, Daisy Duke at her side falling asleep standing up. “An eclectic mix on the first and second floors. Residential apartments on three and four.”

“I don’t suppose you have any apartments available for a short-term rental?” Colbie asked hopefully. “I’m only going to be here until Christmas Eve but would happily pay for the whole month to stay here.”

“Sorry,” Elle said. “But no.”

Spence met Elle’s gaze. She was the mother figure he didn’t need, the bossy-as-hell sister he’d never asked for, and his favorite and most important employee, but she was also a colossal pain in his ass. “What Elle means,” he said, “is that she doesn’t know of anything offhand but I’m sure she could check it out for you.”

“Hmm,” Elle said and nudged a trembling Colbie toward the shower area. “The restroom’s through that door. Fresh towels under the sink. Go get warmed up.”

Colbie, apparently too cold to further argue, nodded. She shut the door behind herself and they heard the lock click into place.

Cute, sexy, and smart.

“Are you kidding me?” Elle asked him, keeping her voice low.

“What?”

“Don’t ‘what’ me. You know what. You’re in the middle of saving the world right now for Clarissa, remember? So please tell me what the hell you think you’re doing.”

They heard the shower come on from inside the bathroom. “Look,” he said, trying to not picture Colbie stripping out of her clothes. “I got her into this mess. This is the least I can do.”

“No,” she said. “The least you could do is give her a hundred bucks for her trouble and send her on her way.”

“Cold, Elle, even for you.”

“Did you even get a last name on her? Or what she does for a living? Did you vet her in any way?”

“For what?” he asked. “I’m the one who ruined her day, not the other way around.”

“And how about the way she reacted to you even thinking about touching her phone? Did you notice that little red flag?”

“Of course. And I wouldn’t have let a stranger touch my phone either,” he said. “Hell, I barely let you touch it.”

“You know what I’m getting at,” she said. “Maybe she has something to hide, Spence.”

Or maybe she was in trouble. She’d denied that but he couldn’t help but think of her sweet eyes and the haunted depths he’d seen in them. “She needs a place to stay. Give her the empty furnished apartment I’m holding on the third floor.”

“We don’t do short-term rentals here. By your own decree.”

“We do today.”

There was a beat of silence. Since Elle was never silent, it had to be shock.

“You hold that open for a reason,” she finally said.

“Yeah, and so far Eddie’s refused to come in off the streets, hasn’t he?” Yet another problem he hadn’t been able to solve, which tightened the ever-present knot in his chest. “Make the rent cheap because she’s a struggling writer—she probably doesn’t have much money.”

Elle’s mouth fell open. “She’s a writer? Are you kidding me?”

“Not a reporter,” he said. “A fiction writer.”

Elle just continued to stare at him. “Are you even listening to yourself?”

“Look, I got her knocked into the fountain and it’s butt-ass cold out there, and she rolled with it.” He remembered Colbie’s throaty laugh and it made him smile even now. “She’d been a really good sport about it.”

“Maybe she had a good reason,” Elle said. “Maybe she was trying to get close to you. Hell, maybe she is a reporter and the whole thing’s a setup.”

“Come on,” he said. “She couldn’t have known Daisy Duke would send her sprawling into the fountain. This happened on my property—I’m making it right, end of story.”

“Fine.” Elle pulled out her phone, which had gone off four thousand times in the past four minutes. “But I’d like to remind your stubborn ass that you’ve not been yourself since this whole media thing. You need to be more cautious about connecting with a stranger who appeared basically out of nowhere.”

“She’s not running a con on me.”

“I’m not saying she is, but we both know you’ve been screwed over, twice if we’re counting, and you haven’t come to terms with the betrayal yet. So just be careful, okay? That’s all I’m saying.” She pointed at him. “And remember, you’re the smartest person in this building and probably the smartest person I’ll ever meet. Use your powers for good.”

He had to laugh. “Ditto.”

She blew out a sigh, gave him a quick hug, and then she and Daisy Duke were gone.

Spence let his smile slip as he walked across the room to check the thermostat again. He’d heard what Elle had to say, and he got it. He was still stinging, and he wasn’t himself. Added to that was the project for Clarissa. The unfinished project. It was critical work, more important than anything he’d ever done, and it was kicking his ass. He was on a deadline and could feel it breathing down his neck every single day that passed. He could afford no break in his concentration and efforts.

A problem now that 99 percent of his brain had short-circuited over the thought of Colbie naked in his shower…

He heard the water go off and he pictured her wrapping herself in his towel. Dripping wet… Shoving his hands in his pickets, he moved to the window and looked out at the view that had so impressed her. Once upon a time he couldn’t have imagined living in a place like this, much less owning it. But he’d conquered the shitty hand that life had dealt him.

And he’d do it again if he had to.

The bathroom door opened, and even better than h is fantasy, Colbie emerged from a cloud of steam, her willowy body wrapped in one of his towels, her exposed skin gleaming and dewy damp. Her hair had been piled on top of her head, but wavy strands had escaped, clinging to her neck and shoulders.

He couldn’t tear his gaze off of her. There was just something so uncalculated about her, so…natural and easy. She was like a beacon to him, which was both crazy and more than a little terrifying.

Clearly not seeing him against the wall, she moved with an effortless grace to the suitcase she’d left at the door. Bending low enough to give him a near heart attack, she rifled through her things, mumbling to herself that she should’ve researched more about how to be a normal person instead of how to kill someone with an everyday object.

“Do you kill a lot of people, then?” Spence asked.

“Motherforker!” she said with a startled squeak of surprise, whirling to face him, almost losing her grip on the towel.

Five days a week, Spence worked out hard in this gym. Mostly to outrun his demons, but the upside was he could run miles without losing his breath. But he lost his breath now.

And that wasn’t his body’s only reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

And don’t miss the previous books in Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay Series, SWEET LITTLE LIES, THE TROUBLE WITH MISTLETOE, ONE SNOWY NIGHT and ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, now available! Grab your copies HERE!

 

 

About Jill Shalvis:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

 

 

 

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Chapter Reveal: DESTINY DISGRACED by Carrie Ann Ryan

We’re just a little under a week away from the release of DESTINY DISGRACED by Carrie Ann Ryan – are you ready to read the first chapteR? Read it below!

 About DESTINY DISGRACED

The Talon Pack continues with a new twist to the Packs and a revelation no one was prepared for.

Mitchell Brentwood is aware that others think he’s the harsh taskmaster Beta trying to keep his Pack alive, but they only see what he wants them to know. He’d once thought he had his path laid out before him, but when his future was violently ripped away, he vowed he’d never let anyone close again—especially not a young wolf from a traitorous Pack.

Dawn Levin may be younger than the war that destroyed her people, but she knows she must still pay for their sins. She’s ready to find her way in this new world where wolves and humans blend as one, but first, she needs to fight her attraction to the dark wolf that stands in her way.

While the two struggle with their feelings and burning attraction for each other, they can’t ignore the world that shakes beneath their feet. There is a new enemy on the horizon, one with revenge and the unknown on their minds. An adversary that might be closer than they realize.

Add DESTINY DISGRACED to your Goodreads list here!

DESTINY DISGRACED releases September 12th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of DESTINY DISGRACED:

Death was but a whisper away, and yet Mitchell Brentwood couldn’t breathe. With a slow blink, he moved to the side as a fist came at him, his opponent struggling to keep up with Mitchell’s moves. As the youth was only a teenager and still learning while Mitchell was the Beta of the Talon Pack, he didn’t blame the pup for not being fast enough.

He’d just train the kid until he sweated and cursed Mitchell out and then maybe the teen would be ready for whatever came next.

That was how Packs worked— always ready for the next battle, the next fight.

An odd thought for a wolf without a war to face.

He’d spent his life preparing for conflict or fighting an unseen master he’d never thought to find his way out from under, and now here he was, training young wolves to help them control their beasts, yet… alone.

His cousin Kameron punched his shoulder and frowned at him. Well, if one could call it a frown considering the man rarely if ever showed any emotion— no anger, no disappointment, no sadness, and certainly not a smile. While some called Mitchell a hard-ass bastard, they called Kameron the cold-ass one.

“What?” Mitchell growled. The punch hadn’t hurt since Kameron hadn’t put any heat behind it, but he still wasn’t expecting it. And considering he and his brother, Max, had been raised with the rest of the cousins as if they were brothers, it was the principle of the thing.

“Your mind is wandering, and you’re not paying attention.” Kameron’s gaze was on the juveniles in front of them and their training and not on him, so he flipped his cousin off. “Saw that. I’m pretty sure the kids saw that, too. Good job, oh fearless leader.”

“Suck me,” Mitchell whispered so low that only Kameron could hear. Since the trainees in front of them were also wolves, they had exceptional hearing, so he had to be careful how loud he spoke when he didn’t want others to listen in.

“No, thanks, cousin. Why don’t you find yourself a woman to do that? Maybe if you finally get laid, you’ll wipe that perpetual scowl off your face.”

A familiar ache pulsated deep inside, and it took everything within him not to let the pain cascading through him show on his face. He’d spent years perfecting that ability, yet each time it seemed to grow, increasing in need and dread.

Mitchell lashed out, kicking Kameron on the back of his knee. And though Mitchell was one of the best fighters in the Pack, he wasn’t the best. That title belonged to their Enforcer— Kameron. While Mitchell was the Beta of the Talons and in charge of the day-to-day needs of the Pack, Kameron, as the Enforcer, was in charge of their defense. It only made sense that his cousin would be a slightly better fighter— it was genetic. So instead of his foot making contact, Kameron leapt out of the way so gracefully that he could have been a dancer in another life instead of a soldier.

Then, they fought.

Well, not really, as they weren’t landing their punches or kicks, but they’d spent decades learning each other’s moves and weaknesses. Even though neither of them was the Alpha or the strongest wolf in the Pack, they still fought like what they were— some of the best.

The younger wolves around them stopped what they were doing to watch the older wolves fight, and Mitchell didn’t fault them for that. There was a reason he and his family were the highest in the hierarchy of the Pack, and they were damn good at what they did to protect their people. After a few minutes, they were both sweaty, their shirts sticking to their skin. Kameron’s mouth twitched as if he were smiling. For his non-emotive cousin, that was big.

“Maybe you should think about your dick and get off mine,” Mitchell said with a sneer.

“Why does everything you’re saying today sound so dirty?” Kameron asked, wiping his face with the bottom of his shirt. A few sighs sounded from some of the women in their training group, and Mitchell held back a snort. There was always someone lusting after Kam, as if they wanted to be the one to melt his icy exterior.

Not too many panted after Mitchell, and he was just fine with that. He’d done his best to make his asshole persona permanent for a reason.

“You’re just a pervert,” Mitchell finally answered as he rolled his shoulders. “You can’t help it, though, you’re from that line of the Brentwoods.”

Kameron flipped him off and almost smiled again. Two times in one day, that had to be a record. “Like your line is any better.” He shook his head and turned to the others, watching them. “Okay, that’s a wrap for the day. Let’s cool down. Then you guys get to hear what your next assignment is.”

Mitchell nodded. “You guys did good. All of you are learning to not only use your bodies as tools, but you’re controlling your beasts more and more.” The same could not be said for some of the older wolves in the Pack. That was why tomorrow’s training sessions would be with some of the dominants, who were already on shifts around the den. Even though the Pack wasn’t at war, that didn’t mean they could slack off in their training.

It had been a year since the final battle with the rogue human factions that didn’t know if they wanted to control the wolves or wipe them from existence. The Talons and their allies, the Redwoods, had lost many and endured countless other horrors that left horrific memories that would never fade. But in the end, a great sacrifice had saved them all. Mitchell still wasn’t sure how he felt about the fact that he hadn’t been strong enough to protect his people. It was the sacrifice of the others— the pain of others, including his brother, Max— that had won the war. Mitchell had only been there to fight.

But there wasn’t a battle to be fought with claw and fang now. The humans came out on the good side in the end, and now they were in a time of peace. A calm where the wolves were no longer stuck within their wards inside the den, afraid to go out in public for fear that they’d be attacked by those anxious of what they didn’t know or understand. Now, his people could go out and do what they’d done for hundreds of years before the Unveiling, before the wolves were forced out into the open, revealing their secrets.

Almost all of his Packmates had jobs outside the den. Hell, most of them had lived on the outside before everything crumbled down around them. When they’d been at war, things were a little tight within the wards, but they’d made it work because there hadn’t been another option. So, while many of the wolves had shifts within the den depending on their strengths, they also had jobs and lives outside the Pack’s domain.

It was how it should have been all along, and his people were just now getting used to the fact that this was how it would be again. Only this time, many of them weren’t hiding in plain sight. There wasn’t a national register for the shifters, as Washington had nixed that idea after the asshole senator, McMaster, was killed, but there were still some non-government sanctioned websites out there that had lists of names and information on shifters. His cousin and Alpha, Gideon, growled daily about the mere existence of it, but there was nothing they could do about it. In this age of technology, even humans had all of that information since it was out in the public for anyone to see. The wolves could only control so much.

So, yes, Mitchell’s people could go out and have jobs like they had in the past, but now they had to deal with the added pressure of being a wolf in human’s clothing. At least, that’s what others called them. Mitchell knew he was more than that. He was both— a wolf and a human, not just one or the other. That was how all shifters were, and they struggled with that balance every day. Hence the training sessions for juveniles and young adults like they just had. Adding hormones to the mix usually just made keeping control of one’s wolf that much harder.

And yet, with all the talk of peace, Mitchell had a feeling there was something else coming. He’d spent most of his life either at war or fighting battles within his own Pack, yet he felt his sense of knowing wasn’t because he missed the tension and anxiety. He just knew there was no way that things could suddenly be perfect and harmonious after everything that happened.

Something was going to change their peace, and Mitchell would be ready for it.

No matter what it took.

“You headed over to Gideon’s?” Kameron asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “I have to go help one of the soldiers with a problem on the outer perimeter, but Gideon said he wanted to see us at some point.”

Mitchell nodded. “I planned to stop by.” Plus, it would give him a chance to see his new niece. Though Gideon and the others weren’t technically his brothers, making the newest additions to the Brentwoods second cousins or something like that, everyone had taken to calling Max and Mitchell uncles anyway.

Max didn’t have a mate, and after the attack that had scarred his brother in more ways than one, Mitchell wasn’t sure that Max wanted a mate. And as for Mitchell… well… he knew for a fact that he wouldn’t find his mate. Ever.

There were just some things set in stone, and Mitchell being alone for the rest of his unnaturally long life was one of them. “Let him and Brie know I’ll stop by before dinner,” Kameron said before lifting his chin and heading to wherever he needed to be.

Mitchell sighed and made his way over to Gideon’s since he didn’t have any other plans for a few hours. He figured he might as well see what his Alpha needed instead of sitting alone in his house, wondering what the hell to do. And, damn, he needed to stop sounding so depressing. It had been easier when he had battles and strategy to plan, or when the den was bursting at the seams with people. Since it was his job to ensure that every Pack member had a roof over their heads and was situated enough for their wolves to remain calm, he had plenty to do when everyone was forced within the den under their failing wards.

Now, the wards were rebuilt thanks to his cousin Brandon and his two mates, and people had started moving back into their homes outside the den. That meant there was less for Mitchell to do. And he hated it.

As he made his way to the front of Gideon’s house, he heard the giggle of a sweet one-year-old and pushed all those thoughts to the side. Gideon and Brie’s daughter, Fallon, toddled over to him, though she almost tripped a few times. He bent down to pick her up, brushing his lips over the top of her head when he pulled her close. She patted his mouth with her tiny hands and babbled incoherently. He was pretty sure a few of the things she said were actually words, but he couldn’t make sense of them.

Only Gideon and Brie could understand their daughter, the same as how his cousin Ryder and his wife Leah could understand their son, Bryson Roland. In the past year, there’d been three new Brentwoods born into the world— well, two Brentwoods and a Jamenson since his cousin Brynn mated a Redwood wolf named Finn. They’d had their daughter Mackenzie a couple of months ago, around the same time that Bryson was born. Still, the fact that there was three more was a whole hell of a lot, considering there hadn’t been an addition to their family in over a century. They were wolves after all, and lived ages longer than humans. They could spend lifetimes alone before eventually finding their mates, and some even waited longer to have children, preferring to spend time as a mated couple before adding to their family. The fact that the Brentwoods kept finding their mates in such quick succession would have worried Mitchell, but it wasn’t as if he would find his mate. Not with everything he’d been through in the past.

“I see,” Mitchell said solemnly, nodding his head as Fallon continued her conversation. He thought he heard something about a puppy, but that could have been any number of people in their wolf form, so he honestly didn’t know.

“You’re good with her,” Brie, his Alpha’s mate, said with a small smile. He hated the way she always seemed to see too much of him. She was a submissive wolf mated to the Alpha of their Pack. And while it might not make sense to outsiders, it made all the sense in the world to those inside the wards. She protected the Pack in her own way, her worth and contribution to the Pack’s needs something none of them even knew they were missing until she showed up and took care of them.

If he weren’t such a jerk, he might have been nicer to her, but he needed to keep her at a distance. He needed to keep everyone at arm’s length.

“She’s easy,” he said with a shrug before handing Fallon over to her mother. “Gideon said he wanted to talk to me,” he added instead of saying hello.

Brie ran her hand down Fallon’s back as the little girl started to doze off. It must have been near her naptime, or the little girl wouldn’t have started to fall asleep so easily. She was usually a burst of energy and babbles.

“He had to go meet with Kade, but he told me he texted you.” She rocked back and forth as Fallon fell fully asleep in her mother’s arms. The little girl would one day be Alpha— a first for the Talons, and maybe even all the Packs as Mitchell hadn’t heard of a female Alpha before. It wasn’t that they weren’t strong or capable because, hell, female dominants were tougher than most men he knew. No, it was because becoming the Alpha, Heir, Beta, Enforcer, Omega, or Healer wasn’t something someone could fight for or try to attain. Those titles were bestowed— he held back a mental cringe at that word— upon them by the moon goddess. The goddess had made the first wolf, the first shifter, and also determined the hierarchies needed for a Pack. Mitchell hadn’t learned until recently that those first goddess-touched were Talons. In fact, the first wolves who made the Pack were actually reincarnated as the triplets— Kameron, Walker, and Brandon.

Mitchell still wasn’t sure he quite believed that and, hell, didn’t know if he wanted to, but it wasn’t his business, so he chose not to think about it.

“Mitchell?”

He shook himself out of those thoughts and held back a curse as he pulled out his phone and saw that he had indeed missed a text from Gideon. “I didn’t feel it vibrate and didn’t have the ringer on since we were training. Sorry to bother you at naptime.”

Brie just smiled and shook her head. “You’re never a bother. Do you want to come in for something to drink? I’m headed to the maternal council meeting in a bit, but I have an hour or so.”

Mitchell was shaking his head before she’d finished her sentence. He preferred being alone to having Brie so close where she saw too much of him. And it always hurt him when he remembered exactly who she reminded him of.

He quickly pushed those thoughts from his brain and did his best not to rub at the three jagged scars on his chest. He’d been too in his head today and needed to do something different, or he’d end up drowning himself in a bottle of tequila later and be of no use to anyone.

“I need to pick up a few things from town. I should get on that. Do you need anything?” The den was pretty self-sufficient and had enough land to remain that way for years, but they’d been trying to do more outside the den walls since the end of the war. Mitchell was only doing his part, he reminded himself. He wasn’t running away. Not again.

“Can you pick up a bag of coffee beans from that shop down on First?” she asked with a bright smile. “I know I can get beans in bulk online or even at another store, but now that I’m allowed caffeine again, I seemed to have found myself a new craving. If it’s out of your way, though, I can pick some up later.”

Mitchell nodded even as he went through his memory to see if he’d ever actually been inside that shop. He knew that Brynn loved that place and still went there with her mate, but he didn’t venture into coffee shops much. Too many people, and way too many scents for his wolf nose.

“Just tell me what kind you want and how much, and I’ll pick them up.” He made a note in his phone when she told him the name then gave her a nod and walked away.

His wolf had begun prowling inside him, and he wasn’t sure if it was about Brie or what she represented. Either way, he needed to get far enough away that he could calm his wolf and forget about the pain that he lived with every day.

Because the one thing they didn’t talk about when it came to mating was that if a bond broke, a wolf could still feel it. Mitchell felt the echo of what had been, the life he’d been promised, with every breath.

But he’d lost all that, and had learned to live like he was now. His mate was dead.

And wolves like him didn’t get second chances.

Ever.

 

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About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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