Chapter One: WHISKEY UNDONE by Carrie Ann Ryan

Two Friends. One Nights. One shot of whiskey before they risk it all. Read the first chapter of WHISKEY UNDONE by Carrie Ann Ryan below before it releases November 13th!


Available November 13th, 2018

Two best friends follow a dangerous and seductive path in the final standalone novel of the bestselling Whiskey and Lies series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Ainsley Harris has always kept a secret from her best friend. She’s stood by his side, helped him raise his daughter, and tried to keep her distance even though she’s been in love with him for years. She knows he has secrets of his own and she’s not willing to chance what they have on a possibility.

Loch Collins has hidden himself and his past from the world for good reason. Darkness always comes back to haunt those who fight against it, and he knows better than most. One night of temper, however, forces him to realize his true feelings for Ainsley—for better or worse.

But Loch’s former allies aren’t on his side anymore, and now not only is his life and the life of his daughter on the line, but Ainsley is in the crosshairs, as well. Together, two best friends must fight for each other and their small town, because Whiskey has never burned brighter. And danger, it seems, is ever lurking.

WHISKEY UNDONE releases November 13th – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of WHISKEY UNDONE now!

Loch Collins knew the night wasn’t going to end anytime soon, but the pounding in his head wished it would. He’d been up most of the night dealing with paperwork and his daughter. Misty’s nightmares had forced him to wake up earlier than usual to open his gym since his morning rotation crew had called in sick.

To say he was exhausted, irritated, and not in the mood to deal with people was an understatement. But even though he wanted to walk out of the bar and head to his bed for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, he knew he would never be able to, not with his mother giving him looks over her shoulder as he casually crept to the other end of the bar nearest the door.

The woman seemed to have eyes in the back of her head, and ever since he was little, she had been able to figure out what he was doing before he even had a chance to attempt it. Today was the engagement and new baby celebration for his brother Fox and his fiancée Melody at Loch’s other brother Dare’s whiskey bar and restaurant. He knew there was another name for the event, but for the life of him, he couldn’t think of it. They’d closed down this part of the bar for an hour just for family, and it would open up soon for the rest of the town and the tourists. Each of the family members had homes large enough for a party, but Dare’s bar was a great place for them all to congregate and not have to drive after a few glasses of whiskey.

“Why are you sulking over in the corner while the rest of the family is smiling and drinking?”

Loch looked down at his best friend and raised a brow.

Ainsley just rolled her eyes and elbowed him in the gut. He didn’t move, but he did have to hold back a wince. He’d taught her enough self-defense lessons over the years that those bony elbows of hers did real damage—not that he wanted her to know that he’d felt the impact.

“I’m not sulking.” He folded his arms over his chest but didn’t turn to her since he didn’t want his family to notice that he wasn’t really paying attention. He was usually better at family gatherings, but today just wasn’t his day. Apparently, both his mother and Ainsley had noticed.

“You’re sulking. And don’t give me another eyebrow raise. You might have perfected that for everyone else, but I can always see through it. You don’t intimidate me.” Ainsley folded her arms right under her breasts and glared at him, though he saw the humor in those hazel eyes.

She’d let her hair down tonight, and the long, brown waves with honey-colored highlights flowed over her shoulders. Loch always liked it when she wore her hair down, but she didn’t do it as often as he might like. Whether she had it up in a high ponytail or down like it was now, her hair always brought out the sharp features of her face. His mother had once said that Ainsley’s cheekbones could cut glass, and he supposed he agreed with her. He glanced down at his best friend’s lips and noticed she wore gloss today with no color, something she often did since she’d once told him that she didn’t like how thin her lips were. When he’d said that he liked them just fine, she’d just rolled her eyes and huffed something about being a man and not knowing what good lips looked like. He hadn’t responded, but he figured since he was the one looking at her, he should know what he liked in lips.

Not that he’d ever say that to Ainsley since talking about his best friend’s lips or any other part of her body was definitely off-limits.

As it should be.

“You’re staring at me. And still sulking. Perhaps even scowling. What is up with you tonight?”

“Nothing is up with me. Go bother Dare or Fox and leave me be.” He hadn’t meant to snap at her, but he was in a shitty mood, and thinking about Ainsley’s lips hadn’t helped matters.

“You’re an idiot,” she whispered under her breath. “And an asshole. So, get your head out of your ass and go hug your brother. Because he’s engaged and happy and he’s allowed to be.”

This time, Loch turned to her, frowning. “I’m not an asshole.” Yes, he was. “And I never said Fox shouldn’t be happy.”

“You’re sure acting like you think that. You’re over here in the corner while your brother and his woman are celebrating a new baby and the fact that Melody will soon be family. Dare and Kenzie are celebrating too since they’re also engaged. Everyone is happy and starting a new life. And you’re glaring.”

Loch didn’t like the fact that she was calling him out but, frankly, he didn’t know why he had to be here the whole night. This wasn’t the real engagement party, that would come later. This was just a drink or two with the family while they talked about planning and other things that had nothing to do with him. He wasn’t usually this anti-social, but hell, he’d had a long day, a longer week, and an even longer year, and all he wanted to do was sleep. It didn’t help that he knew his daughter was at the babysitter’s at the moment and would be spending the night with his parents for grandparent time. Therefore, the house would be empty for him to just rest in peace.

All he wanted was sleep, damn it.

“I’m only glaring at you right now, Ainsley. Get off my back and go join the family.” He had no idea why the cutting words were slipping from his mouth like they were, but as soon as he said them, he knew he couldn’t take them back.

For a moment, he thought he saw hurt in her eyes, but she quickly blinked it away as if it had never been there at all.

“Like I said. Asshole. What I don’t get is why tonight, Loch? Why do you have to be an asshole tonight? I just don’t understand you sometimes, and for being your so-called best friend, that’s saying something.” Ainsley stormed off for a moment before slowing her steps and brushing her hair over her shoulders so it fell down her back. He couldn’t see her face, but he figured she’d put on a smile for Kenzie, Dare’s fiancée, and Melody.

Both women gave Loch a look over the top of Ainsley’s head, and he figured his best friend’s smile hadn’t been good enough to mask her true feelings.

Well, fuck. Turned out he was an asshole. But it wasn’t like he’d denied it before. At least to himself.

While his parents talked to Kenzie, Melody, and Ainsley, his brothers walked over to him, whiskeys in hand, and a spare one in Dare’s grip for Loch. Loch gladly took the glass from his brother and saluted them both before taking a sip. The whiskey his brother had chosen wasn’t the one to knock back in one gulp but rather take in slowly. No matter how much Loch needed the jolt to his system, he took his time.

The three brothers looked alike, and even their little sister, Tabby, who lived out in Denver with her husband looked like them. They all had dark hair and blue eyes, features which had come from their father. There were subtle differences in each of their faces, and most of that came from their mother’s side of the family. While Tabby was of average height and slender of build, the rest of the siblings were all a bit taller than average. Loch was not only the tallest and biggest of the bunch thanks to his career owning a gym and his other job he didn’t much talk about, but he was also the eldest of the four.

And the only one who wasn’t married, engaged, or thinking of having more children—not that he was complaining.

He already had his one perfect daughter. He didn’t need any more. Nor did he need a serious relationship, or anything headed down that road. He’d thought he had that once with Misty’s mother, but once the baby was born, Marnie, his ex, had signed over legal rights to Misty and hightailed it out of town, never once looking back.

Loch had found himself alone in his hometown of Whiskey, Pennsylvania, trying to figure out how to raise a little baby girl on his own. He hadn’t exactly been alone, of course. His parents had stepped up, as did Fox and Dare when Dare moved back to Whiskey after leaving the police force. Tabby had already been living in Denver at that point, but she had made him countless lists and charts so he could find his way while figuring out how to be a parent.

And, of course, there was Ainsley.

She’d been his everything.

His babysitter. His friend. His protector from his darkest thoughts. His savior.

She’d been the person up late at night, pacing with him when Misty’s cholic had kept her up for hours in pain and crying. She’d been the one helping him cook meals so he could work the hours he needed to. Though neither of them was the best of cooks, they’d made do. She’d stepped in when Loch hadn’t been able to ask for help, and she hadn’t requested a thing in return.

Honestly, she was more of a mother to Misty than Marnie ever was, and he’d never be able to find the words to tell her how truly thankful he was—even if he hated himself a bit more each day for relying on her as much as he did.

She was his everything, and yet…his nothing. Nothing more than she should be anyway.

Snapping back to the present, Loch saw his brothers giving him curious looks, and realized he’d been staring at Ainsley rather than talking to them. Who knew how long he’d been standing there looking like an idiot. And his headache certainly hadn’t gotten any better in the time being.

“You going to keep glaring, or are you going to act like you’re a Collins and get your ass in gear and celebrate?” Dare stared at him, and Loch flipped his brother off.

“Aw, family love right there,” Fox drawled.

“I hate you both sometimes,” Loch said quietly.

“We know,” they said in unison.

“What’s up with you, really?” Dare asked, leaning forward and lowering his voice.

Loch shook his head. “Nothing. Just didn’t get enough sleep and, according to Ainsley, I’m an asshole.”

“Well…she’s not wrong,” Fox added.

Loch flipped his other brother off before taking another sip of his whiskey. He let the smoky taste settle on his tongue before swallowing. Dare’s bar had a variety of whiskeys like most bars around the world, but Loch preferred Dare’s. The bar had been renovated a few times over the years from back when it was part of a small and illegal distillery during the era of Prohibition, but Loch figured Dare’s twist on the historic bar and restaurant with its wide array of delicious spirits was by far the best.

Not that his judgement was biased or anything when it came to his family.

“You don’t have to stay,” Dare said quickly. “I mean, you showed up, we ate, and now you’ve had a drink. You can walk home and just be by yourself. No one is going to care.”

“Mom and Ainsley will.”

“If Mom knew you were tired and had a headache, she wouldn’t.” At Loch’s look, Fox added quickly, “I know you have one because you keep touching your temple. Maybe drinking isn’t the best thing for you right now. Whiskey doesn’t always lead to the best decisions.”

“Considering you’re marrying the woman you had too much to drink with and are having a baby with her thanks to said whiskey, I don’t know if you’re the best person to comment on that. Seems to have worked out for you,” Loch said dryly.

“True enough.” Fox looked over his shoulder and smiled at Melody, who grinned right back. Loch was only just getting to know his future sister-in-law, but he liked her. Loch knew she’d been through hell and back—a few times—but she had come out stronger for it. Fox loved the woman, and anything or anyone that made his brother smile like that was perfect in his book.

He shook himself from his thoughts and focused on his brothers again. “I can’t leave now without annoying Ainsley, and since I’ve been pissing her off more often than not recently, I don’t plan to do it again.”

“Good man.” Dare snorted. “Now, come over here and finish off the cake with us then head home. You’re tired, we get it. Don’t overwork yourself trying to do it all.”

“I don’t.” Another lie.

“Yeah, you do. We’re all like that, but I’m pretty sure you do it the most.” Fox sipped from his glass, meeting Loch’s gaze.

“True enough. Let me get some cake, and then I’ll head out. Sounds like a plan.”

Dare gripped Loch’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze before the three of them made their way over to the others. His mother did indeed give Loch a look, but he sidled up next to Ainsley and sipped his drink—just one since he already had a headache—and ate the cake Ainsley handed to him. Eventually, he had more fun than he thought he would and was glad his brothers had pulled him over. He loved his family, liked spending time with them, but he sometimes forgot not to live in his head, constantly dealing with his own problems.

By the time they parted ways, each of the siblings and their women going to their own houses, and Loch’s parents off to pick up Dare’s son and Misty for a slumber party, Loch was ready for bed.

“Mind if I go with you to your house?” Ainsley asked. “I know you’re tired, but I left my laptop there earlier like an idiot, and I need it for tomorrow morning.”

Loch took his best friend’s hand and gave it a squeeze. He’d been a jerk all night and hated that he’d acted like he had. Ainsley froze and gave him a weird look but didn’t react otherwise.

“Of course. You need me to drive you home after? Your car is at your house, right?” They waved at everyone as they left, but Loch kept his hand on hers, wanting to make sure she knew he was sorry for being an asshole.

“I can walk easily enough. It’s not that late, and it’s a decent night for a walk.” Ainsley didn’t move her hand from his, and he took it as a sign that she forgave him. Or she’d forgotten that she was holding his hand. Or was possibly chilled, since it was the end of winter in Pennsylvania.

“Then let’s get out of the cold,” Loch said quickly as they walked down the sidewalk, passing tourists and townsfolk, who were on their way to other places along the main road of Whiskey. A lot of the town’s income came from tourism, and while the weather might not be too cold at the moment, it was still their downtime.

There was snow coming, Loch could feel it. Once it stopped and stayed on the trees surrounding the old buildings and landmarks, people would come in droves again to take photos and buy trinkets. Some would stay longer for a meal at his brother’s place, maybe rent a room at the family inn Kenzie ran. Others would join a dance class at Melody’s studio or stop by Loch’s gym for a workout. They would read the paper with Fox’s stories, and talk about what was going on in the world as they strolled Whiskey’s streets. Those that lived locally would send their children to Ainsley’s school. All of them were connected to the town in some way. Even if they tried to get away, Whiskey was a part of them.

“How goes school?” He pulled Ainsley close as someone bumped into her, and she leaned into him as they made their way to his house.

“Tiring, but worth it. I love my kids this year, even though I swear the grading is worse than ever. I’m looking forward to spring break, and we’re only halfway there from winter break as it is.”

He smiled down at her. “I did the same when I was a student. Never really thought of how the teachers felt.”

She rolled her eyes and grinned up at him. He swallowed hard, wondering why he couldn’t get his mind off her lips tonight.

“No one ever does. And, here we are. It’s chillier than I thought it was.”

He tugged her close as they made their way to the front of his house. “I should have given you my coat.”

She shrugged as she pulled away, letting him open the front door. “I have my own on. I’m not that cold, Loch. Winter isn’t over yet, but it’s not that bad at the moment.”

“Bite your tongue, woman. Don’t encourage Mother Nature. Now, where is your laptop?”

“I’ve got it. Thanks for this, Loch. I need to get a few things done if I want to make my date tomorrow.”

Loch froze. Surely, he’d heard her wrong.


Ainsley turned and gave him a look that could have peeled paint off the wall. “Yes. A date. I haven’t accepted as of yet, but a friend asked me out, and I said I’d let him know tonight if I was free. Got a problem with that, Loch?”

He stuffed his hands into his pockets, wondering how he’d fucked everything up so badly again. “Didn’t know you were dating.”

“You never asked. I date, Loch.”

“Not often.” He winced as she punched his shoulder. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“You’re an idiot. I’ve already told you that tonight, but I figured I’d say it again. I don’t date often because I don’t have time, not because I’m not desirable.”

His brows shot up. “Whoa, I didn’t say that. I didn’t even mention anything like that. Now, who is this guy? And why am I just now hearing about him?”

“You’re fucking kidding me right now. Seriously? Does it matter? I don’t tell you everything, Loch. And don’t act so surprised someone actually asked me out. Maybe if you actually saw me, you wouldn’t be so surprised.”

“I see you.” He whispered the words, but he wasn’t sure she’d heard him.

“Maybe if you saw me as someone other than your friend, someone who isn’t just the one who’s always here, you’d actually see that I’m dateable. I’ve seen the way you look at me when I’m near other men. Like that one night when you thought I was with Fox. And yet you do nothing about it. You stand there and act surprised that I’m going on a date, yet you won’t even look at me. You don’t see me.”

Loch growled low before taking a step closer to her. “I see you, Ainsley. That’s the fucking problem.”

Then, he took her mouth with his and knew he’d made a mistake at the first touch.

But she didn’t back away.

And neither did he.

Want to catch up on the Whiskey and Lies series?

About WHISKEY SECRETS (Whiskey and Lies #1)

Sparks fly between a former cop-turned-bartender and his new innkeeper in the first installment of a Montgomery Ink spin-off series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Dare Collins is a man who knows his whiskey and women—or at least that’s what he tells himself. When his family decides to hire on a new innkeeper for the inn above his bar and restaurant, he’s more than reluctant. Especially when he meets the new hire. But he’ll soon find that he has no choice but to work with this city girl and accept her new ideas and the burning attraction between them.

Kenzie Owens left her old life and an abusive relationship behind her—or so she thought. She figures she’ll be safe in Whiskey, Pennsylvania but after one look at her new boss, Dare Collins, she might still be in danger, or at least her heart. And when her past catches up with her despite her attempts to avoid it, it’s more than her heart on the line. This time, it might mean her life.

Get your hands on WHISKEY SECRETS!

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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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Chapter Reveal: UNLOCKING SHADOWS by Kennedy Layne

Read the first chapter of UNLOCKING SHADOWS by Kennedy Layne before it releases on September 18th!



Coming September 18th

Gwen Kendall spent ten years in the Navy and used the last four to create a life for herself she could be proud of away from the confines of her overprotective family. Being the only woman in the Kendall clan tended to be a bit overwhelming at times.

Chad Schaeffer had been hired on to help restore an old farmhouse for one of the returning Kendall siblings. He’d heard about the trouble the family had encountered and honestly didn’t want to go anywhere near their properties. He had a change of heart when he saw the most recently returned Kendall sibling stepping out of her car with a key in her hand.

Gwen had waited a very long time to have a place to call her own, just as she had waited for the right man to share her life. One night of seduction convinces her she’s found both, but someone wants to take it all away. It’s been said that old houses retain a piece of each person who has lived there, but she never counted on the dark shadows wanting a piece of her.

Add UNLOCKING SHADOWS to your Goodreads list here!

UNLOCKING SHADOWS releases September 18th – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of UNLOCKING SHADOWS!

Twelve years ago…


How could an individual still have such an impractical yearning after facing such a malicious, unrelenting evil?

Emma Irwin still desperately grasped at the prospect that she’d be with her family soon. She’d tell them all about the things that people took for granted, such as how much she loved them. She’d apologize to her older sister for acting so childish and to her mother for not doing the dishes like she’d promised this morning. The simplest acts of kindness weren’t hard to perform, yet she’d never realized how selfish she’d been until just this moment.

Until she’d found herself in a situation that was her father’s worst nightmare.

Emma bit back another sob as the old wooden dock underneath her back jostled her from side to side in time with the storm. The gusting winds from the gale had churned up the lake, and the choppy waves were slamming into the weathered planks. Cold rain was descending from the black sky overhead, washing away her tears as if they never existed.

When a crack of thunder overhead was followed a second later by a streak of lightning, it was a harsh reminder that she was still alive.

Emma shifted so that her bound hands didn’t dig into the small of her back quite as badly. She struggled to free herself from the thick white zip tie secured tightly around her wrists, refusing to accept that she would die at the hands of someone she’d once trusted.

How could he do this to her?

The hard, half-inch wide plastic cut into her skin, a cruel reminder that she was at his mercy.

His muttered curses were drowned out by the torrential downpour, which served her well. He wouldn’t be able to hear what she was doing behind him.

The wooden deck jarred abruptly, providing her the momentum to roll forward. Her cheek scraped against the wet, rough plank as she leveraged herself to her knees. The cold rain had numbed her skin long ago, but that could easily have been from the terror that had flooded her system when she realized that a man she’d known her entire life was a monster.

“I’ll give you a family of your own.”

Emma screamed as he suddenly appeared before her. “Please,” Emma choked out, having strained her voice after he’d all but thrown her into the bed of his truck. “Please don’t do this. You know me. You know my family. I have a family.”

“You were unhappy.”

“I wasn’t,” Emma denied emphatically with a shake of her head, swallowing back the sob that rose in her throat. “I wasn’t unhappy. I love my family. I do. I always have.”

Emma could have continued pleading, but her frantic claims would have fallen on deaf ears. She began crying uncontrollably. He wasn’t hearing anything she said, and he’d even turned away to throw what looked like a pile of chains into a boat that wasn’t even his.

Her mind registered his horrific intentions, and she instinctively managed to scramble to her feet.

She ran as fast as she could despite of her wrists being bound, ignoring the rain pelting her face and the wind attempting to knock her off the deck and into the lake. She’d just learned to swim this past summer, but she’d done so with the use of her hands. She’d most likely drown immediately without being able to move her arms.

Adrenaline kept her moving forward, though she blinked furiously to clear her vision so that she could make it to land.


Up ahead.

Headlights pulled into one of the cabins that Birdie rented out to fishermen or families on vacation. She instinctively began screaming, but the rumbling thunder overhead drowned out her cries for hope.

That didn’t stop her from trying again.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

“No, no, no, no.” He’d grabbed ahold of her wet strands of hair, yanking her back against him with such force that it knocked the air right out of her lungs. She couldn’t scream, and she couldn’t even cry. “I’m taking you home.”

Emma didn’t need to be told that she would die if he got her into that boat. She fought his constricting grip around her upper body, kicking and twisting in an attempt to free herself at all costs.

It was of no use. He was too strong, and the lights she’d seen were no longer there.

The hope she’d been holding onto had been doused by the rain and swallowed by the darkness of his soul.

“I’m taking you home where you belong, Emma.”


About the Keys to Love Series

Their homecoming wasn’t so welcoming. Four brothers and one sister each gave twelve years of their lives to serve their country and fulfill their family’s legacy of service. As each of them return to their home of record, they weren’t prepared for what awaited them—an unforgivable sin that has been hidden for twelve long years. Secrets and lies are concealed in the dark shadows of the very town they were raised in, and the Kendall family will have no choice but to rely on one another to unravel the sinister evil that they all hold the keys to unlock.

Missed UNLOCKING FEAR and want to catch up? You can grab the first book in the Keys to Love series for free now!



A chance mishap with a sledgehammer was the sole reason a chilling nightmare was unleashed in Blyth Lake.

Noah Kendall’s grisly discovery left him in the middle of a murder investigation and a neighbor who knew more than she was willing to say. Reese Woodward had returned to town with dark secrets, and he was determined to unravel them. While evil lurks in the darkness, seduction burns between them…only time was their enemy.

Will her secrets destroy what they’ve built, or can he earn her trust before the killer strikes again?

Add UNLOCKING FEAR to your Goodreads list here!

Get your copy of UNLOCKING FEAR now!

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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

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First Chapter: WHISKEY REVEALS by Carrie Ann Ryan

We’re less than a week way from the release of WHISKEY REVEALS by Carrie Ann Ryan, but you can read the first chapter now! Be sure to check it out below!


About WHISKEY REVEALS (Whiskey and Lies #2)

One whiskey-saturated night turns into something far more in the second standalone installment of the bestselling Whiskey and Lies series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Fox Collins likes his life just the way it is. His siblings are falling in love all around him, but he’d much rather focus on his next story than on a serious relationship. However, when his latest one-night stand returns to Whiskey-this time for good-he’ll need to learn to trust his instincts to figure out if he can live without her in his life.

Former dancer Melody Waters is finally ready to settle down in her grandmother’s small Pennsylvania hometown. Bad decisions and fateful nights have changed her path more than once, but now she’s focused on one thing: opening her new own dance studio. But fate is a funny thing, and once again, she’ll be forced to learn that actions have consequences and some repercussions can not only change your life forever, they can also come back to haunt you…one broken promise at a time.

Each book is a complete stand alone and can be read in any order.


WHISKEY REVEALS releases June 12th – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of WHISKEY REVEALS

Fox Collins never wanted to wake up.

At least not while he was having the best damn dream of his life. He wasn’t necessarily fully asleep at the moment, but rather half dream-like snoozing, where he could wield his subconscious to finish the delicious dream he’d been having. Meaning, any sound could wake him up, and thinking about it too hard could also rip him from sleep.

That meant he quickly shoved those too complicated thoughts out of his head to avoid waking and went back to the delectable blonde currently sucking his cock. Sadly, she was only his dream woman, not real, but he’d take what he could get since this was one damn sexy figment of his imagination. The fact that she was sort of based on a real person was, again, one of those thoughts he wasn’t going to think about since he wanted this part of his morning to continue.

His blonde licked up his shaft, her tongue like magic and warmth and everything that made him want to come right there. But he held himself back— barely. She slowly sucked on the crown, the tip of her tongue playing with his slit, and his eyes mentally rolled to the back of his head, his body shaking both in and out of the dream. She was so damn sexy, all curves and softness. There was a strength to her, as well. Something that had taken him for a ride the one time they’d had sex out of his dreams, but he wasn’t going to focus on that either. Instead, he would only think about her on her knees on the bed in front of him, as he lay back to let her suck him down. She bobbed her head, her eyes meeting his as she took him whole.

He didn’t reach out to touch her, didn’t let his hands follow the curves of her soft skin. As soon as he did that, he knew he’d wake up. He always did. Because he’d never be able to reach her. It was as if his brain wouldn’t allow him to remember exactly how perfect she felt in his arms— even if those memories were wrapped in a whiskey-laced fog.

His blonde squeezed his dick, and his eyes crossed, his hips bucking off the bed. He shouted her name, but only her first since she’d refused to give him her last, and found himself awake in his bed, his stomach sticky, and his own hand wrapped around the base of his cock.

He was alone, somewhat sated, and as he looked over at the clock on his nightstand… running late.

“Well, Melody, it seems I just can’t quit you.” His voice sounded loud in the emptiness of his room, and he let out a sigh. Apparently, Fox wasn’t the best at one-night stands— even if he’d tried to be. And, now, the blonde from his single night playing with whiskey and fate haunted his dreams and his dick.

He quirked a smile at that. A haunted dick? That could be a fun story to write. He might be the owner and editor of the Whiskey Chronicles, but he could take an afternoon and write a short story just for fun. It would keep his skills sharp, and frankly, he could use a laugh. It had been a long few months with deadline after deadline, and his dream woman continued to seep into his subconscious to the point where he wasn’t sleeping nearly enough.

His second alarm went off on his phone, and he sighed. He’d jacked off in his sleep through the first one, and that meant he had no more time to stay wrapped in his sweaty sheets and brood. Plus, he wasn’t the broody brother, he let that title go to Loch— and maybe even Dare before he’d met Kenzie.

And now, he was thinking about his brothers and his future sister-in-law while naked in bed because he didn’t want to get up and go to work.

He’d officially hit rock bottom.

Fox rolled out of bed, careful to keep his dick close to his stomach so he didn’t make more of a mess and went to clean himself up at least slightly. Before he even took a shower, he went back into his bedroom and stripped off his sheets. This was the second time this week he’d woken to a dream like that, and he was already getting tired of doing laundry.

Knowing he needed coffee before he did anything else, he strode naked to his kitchen and made himself a cup while checking his email and looking over the news on his phone. He’d read the physical publications as well since he was in the paper business and tried to keep up with both formats, but for now, he just wanted to check on any headlines. And with the world as it was, it seemed there was almost hourly breaking news these days.

That was one reason he liked living and working in Whiskey. It was not only his hometown where he knew every single person in residence— other than the tourists, of course— but it was also quiet enough most days that he could get to the heart of the town with its news rather than reading horror stories day in and day out. Maybe, at one time in his life, he’d have liked to be the hardcore reporter who worked on terrifying and heartbreaking news until the wee hours of the morning, but he’d learned long ago that he needed balance in his life in order to make his writing mean something. There needed to be substantial pieces of good news amongst the horrors, and finding a way to do that without looking as if they were merely fluff pieces was his juggling act.

“And now I’m getting way too philosophical on half a cup of coffee. Not to mention, talking to myself.” He drained the rest of his mug and set it under the spout for when he got out of the shower and wanted his second cup. He was on a three-cup-a-day rule and would switch to water after his third, but he tended to drink all three at once. Probably not exactly what his doctor wanted, but it wasn’t as if he were going to change his habits anytime soon.

Fox rolled his shoulders and, still naked, made his way back the bathroom so he could shower and finish getting ready for the day. For a man already late, he sure was taking his time. Of course, since he owned the paper, he could come and go as he pleased, but he didn’t like showing up after the rest of his staff. He needed to at least show some responsibility.

Thoughts of his dream blonde filtered into his mind again, and his cock stiffened once more. Defeated, he looked down at his stiffening dick and frowned.


He didn’t live by his dick and actually needed to get to work, so it looked as though he’d be finishing up his shower as a cold one.


Damn it.


Missed the first book in the WHISKEY AND LIES series? Grab it now!


About WHISKEY SECRETS (Whiskey and Lies #1)

Sparks fly between a former cop-turned-bartender and his new innkeeper in the first installment of a Montgomery Ink spin-off series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Dare Collins is a man who knows his whiskey and women—or at least that’s what he tells himself. When his family decides to hire on a new innkeeper for the inn above his bar and restaurant, he’s more than reluctant. Especially when he meets the new hire. But he’ll soon find that he has no choice but to work with this city girl and accept her new ideas and the burning attraction between them.

Kenzie Owens left her old life and an abusive relationship behind her—or so she thought. She figures she’ll be safe in Whiskey, Pennsylvania but after one look at her new boss, Dare Collins, she might still be in danger, or at least her heart. And when her past catches up with her despite her attempts to avoid it, it’s more than her heart on the line. This time, it might mean her life.


Get your hands on WHISKEY SECRETS now!

✦Barnes & Noble
✦Google Play
✦Amazon Paperback


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.

Website Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest

Chapter Reveal: WHISKEY SECRETS by Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan’s WHISKEY AND LIES kicks off in just under a week…but we couldn’t wait to share the first chaper of the first book, WHISKEY SECRETS, with you! Read it below below, find out more about the series (and how it ties into the Montgomery Ink series!) and preorder your copy today!


About the WHISKEY AND LIES series

The Montgomery Ink world just got a big larger. Dark heroes, tragic pasts, and heroines who rock their worlds…the Collins Brothers are about to see what happens when their small Pennsylvanian town gets shocked to its core.

The Collins Brothers just want to go about their business and live their lives. They’re in no mood for what happens when three women come into their lives when they’re least expecting it. One comes to change what was lost, another comes to prove what could be, while the third reveals what’s already been there all along.

Whiskey, Pennsylvania just got a little bit bigger and this town might not be ready for what’s coming.

Tabby’s Brothers from Ink Exposed get a series of their own.

Each book is a complete stand alone and can be read in any order.


About WHISKEY SECRETS (Whiskey and Lies #1)

Sparks fly between a former cop-turned-bartender and his new innkeeper in the first installment of a Montgomery Ink spin-off series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Dare Collins is a man who knows his whiskey and women—or at least that’s what he tells himself. When his family decides to hire on a new innkeeper for the inn above his bar and restaurant, he’s more than reluctant. Especially when he meets the new hire. But he’ll soon find that he has no choice but to work with this city girl and accept her new ideas and the burning attraction between them.

Kenzie Owens left her old life and an abusive relationship behind her—or so she thought. She figures she’ll be safe in Whiskey, Pennsylvania but after one look at her new boss, Dare Collins, she might still be in danger, or at least her heart. And when her past catches up with her despite her attempts to avoid it, it’s more than her heart on the line. This time, it might mean her life.

WHISKEY SECRETS releases January 2nd, 2018 – preorder your copy now!

✦Barnes & Noble
✦Google Play
✦Amazon Paperback


Read the first chapter of WHISKEY SECRETS:

Shocking pain slammed into his skull and down his back. Dare Collins did his best not to scream in the middle of his own bar. He slowly stood up and rubbed the back of his head since he’d been distracted and hit it on the countertop. Since the thing was made of solid wood and thick as hell, he was surprised he hadn’t given himself a concussion. But since he didn’t see double, he had a feeling once his long night was over, he’d just have to make the throbbing go away with a glass of Macallan.

There was nothing better than a glass of smooth whiskey or an ice-cold mug of beer after a particularly long day. Which one Dare chose each night depended on not only his mood but also those around him. So was the life of a former cop turned bartender.

He had a feeling he’d be going for the whiskey and not a woman tonight— like most nights if he were honest. It had been a long day of inventory and no-show staff members. Meaning he had a headache from hell, and it looked as if he’d be working open to close when he truly didn’t want to. But that’s what happened when one was the owner of a bar and restaurant rather than just a manager or bartender— like he was with the Old Whiskey Restaurant and Bar.

It didn’t help that his family had been in and out of the place all day for one reason or another— his brothers and parents either wanting something to eat or having a question that needed to be answered right away where a phone call or text wouldn’t suffice. His mom and dad had mentioned more than once that he needed to be ready for their morning meeting, and he had a bad feeling in his gut about what that would mean for him later. But he pushed that from his thoughts because he was used to things in his life changing on a dime. He’d left the force for a reason, after all.

Enough of that.

He loved his family, he really did, but sometimes, they— his parents in particular— gave him a headache.

Since his mom and dad still ran the Old Whiskey Inn above his bar, they were constantly around, working their tails off at odd jobs that were far too hard for them at their ages, but they were all just trying to earn a living. When they weren’t handling business for the inn, they were fixing problems upstairs that Dare wished they’d let him help with.

While he’d have preferred to call it a night and head back to his place a few blocks away, he knew that wouldn’t happen tonight. Since his bartender, Rick, had called in sick at the last minute— as well as two of Dare’s waitresses from the bar— Dare was pretty much screwed.

And if he wallowed just a little bit more, he might hear a tiny violin playing in his ear. He needed to get a grip and get over it. Working late and dealing with other people’s mistakes was part of his job description, and he was usually fine with that.

Apparently, he was just a little off tonight. And since he knew himself well, he had a feeling it was because he was nearing the end of his time without his kid. Whenever he spent too many days away from Nathan, he acted like a crabby asshole. Thankfully, his weekend was coming up.

“Solving a hard math problem over there, or just daydreaming? Because that expression on your face looks like you’re working your brain too hard. I’m surprised I don’t see smoke coming out of your ears.” Fox asked as he walked up to the bar, bringing Dare out of his thoughts. Dare had been pulling drafts and cleaning glasses mindlessly while in his head, but he was glad for the distraction, even if it annoyed him that he needed one.

Dare shook his head and flipped off his brother. “Suck me.”

The bar was busy that night, so Fox sat down on one of the empty stools and grinned. “Nice way to greet your customers.” He glanced over his shoulder before looking back at Dare and frowning. “Where are Rick and the rest of your staff?”

Dare barely held back a growl. “Out sick. Either there’s really a twenty-four-hour stomach bug going around and I’m going to be screwed for the next couple of days, or they’re all out on benders.”

Fox cursed under his breath before hopping off his stool and going around the side of the large oak and maple bar to help out. That was Dare’s family in a nutshell— they dropped everything whenever one of them needed help, and nobody even had to ask for it. Since Dare sucked at asking for help on a good day, he was glad that Fox knew what he needed without him having to say it.

Without asking, Fox pulled up a few drink orders and began mixing them with the skill of a long-time barkeep. Since Fox owned the small town newspaper— the Whiskey Chronicle— Dare was still surprised sometimes at how deft his younger brother was at working alongside him. Of course, even his parents, his older brother Loch, and his younger sister Tabby knew their way around the bar.

Just not as well as Dare did. Considering that this was his job, he was grateful for that.

He loved his family, his bar, and hell, he even loved his little town on the outskirts of Philly. Whiskey, Pennsylvania was like most other small towns in his state where some parts were new additions, and others were old stone buildings from the Revolutionary or Civil war eras with add-ons— like his.

And with a place called Whiskey, everyone attached the label where they could. Hence the town paper, his bar, and most of the other businesses around town. Only Loch’s business really stood out with Loch’s Security and Gym down the street, but that was just like Loch to be a little different yet still part of the town.

Whiskey had been named as such because of its old bootlegging days. It used to be called something else, but since Prohibition, the town had changed its name and cashed in on it. Whiskey was one of the last places in the country to keep Prohibition on the books, even with the nationwide decree. They’d fought to keep booze illegal, not for puritan reasons, but because their bootlegging market had helped the township thrive. Dare knew there was a lot more to it than that, but those were the stories the leaders told the tourists, and it helped with the flare.

Whiskey was located right on the Delaware River, so it overlooked New Jersey but was still on the Pennsylvania side of things. The main bridge that connected the two states through Whiskey and Ridge on the New Jersey side was one of the tourist spots for people to drive over and walk so they could be in two states at once while over the Delaware River.

Their town was steeped in history, and close enough to where George Washington had crossed the Delaware that they were able to gain revenue on the reenactments for the tourists, thus helping keep their town afloat.

The one main road through Whiskey that not only housed Loch’s and Dare’s businesses but also many of the other shops and restaurants in the area, was always jammed with cars and people looking for places to parallel park. Dare’s personal parking lot for the bar and inn was a hot commodity.

And while he might like time to himself some days, he knew he wouldn’t trade Whiskey’s feel for any other place. They were a weird little town that was a mesh of history and newcomers, and he wouldn’t trade it for the world. His sister Tabby might have moved out west and found her love and her place with the Montgomerys in Denver, but Dare knew he’d only ever find his home here.

Sure, he’d had a few flings in Denver when he visited his sister, but he knew they’d never be more than one night or two. Hell, he was the king of flings these days, and that was for good reason. He didn’t need commitment or attachments beyond his family and his son, Nathan.

Time with Nathan’s mom had proven that to him, after all.

“You’re still daydreaming over there,” Fox called out from the other side of the bar. “You okay?”

Dare nodded, frowning. “Yeah, I think I need more caffeine or something since my mind keeps wandering.” He pasted on his trademark grin and went to help one of the new arrivals who’d taken a seat at the bar. Dare wasn’t the broody one of the family— that honor went to Loch— and he hated when he acted like it.

“What can I get you?” he asked a young couple that had taken two empty seats at the bar. They had matching wedding bands on their fingers but looked to be in their early twenties.

He couldn’t imagine being married that young. Hell, he’d never been married, and he was in his mid-thirties now. He hadn’t married Monica even though she’d given him Nathan, and even now, he wasn’t sure they’d have ever taken that step even if they had stayed together. She had Auggie now, and he had… well, he had his bar.

That wasn’t depressing at all.

“Two Yuenglings please, draft if you have it,” the guy said, smiling.

Dare nodded. “Gonna need to see your IDs, but I do have it on tap for you.” As Yuengling was a Pennsylvania beer, not having it outside the bottle would be stupid even in a town that prided itself on whiskey.

The couple pulled out their IDs, and Dare checked them quickly. Since both were now the ripe age of twenty-two, he went to pull them their beers and set out their check since they weren’t looking to run a tab.

Another woman with long, caramel brown hair with hints of red came to sit at the edge of the bar. Her hair lay in loose waves down her back and she had on a sexy-as-fuck green dress that draped over her body to showcase sexy curves and legs that seemed to go on forever. The garment didn’t have sleeves so he could see the toned muscles in her arms work as she picked up a menu to look at it. When she looked up, she gave him a dismissive glance before focusing on the menu again. He held back a sigh. Not in the mood to deal with whatever that was about, he let Fox take care of her and put her from his mind. No use dealing with a woman who clearly didn’t want him near, even if it were just to take a drink order. Funny, he usually had to speak to a female before making her want him out of the picture. At least, that’s what he’d learned from Monica.

And why the hell was he thinking about his ex again? He usually only thought of her in passing when he was talking to Nathan or hanging out with his kid for the one weekend a month the custody agreement let Dare have him. Having been in a dangerous job and then becoming a bartender didn’t look good to some lawyers it seemed, at least when Monica had fought for full custody after Nathan was born.

He pushed those thoughts from his mind, however, not in the mood to scare anyone with a scowl on his face by remembering how his ex had looked down on him for his occupation even though she’d been happy to slum it with him when it came to getting her rocks off.

Dare went through the motions of mixing a few more drinks before leaving Fox to tend to the bar so he could go check on the restaurant part of the building.

Since the place had originally been an old stone inn on both floors instead of just the top one, it was set up a little differently than most newer buildings around town. The bar was off to one side; the restaurant area where they served delicious, higher-end entrees and tapas was on the other. Most people needed a reservation to sit down and eat in the main restaurant area, but the bar also had seating for dinner, only their menu wasn’t quite as extensive and ran closer to bar food.

In the past, he’d never imagined he would be running something like this, even though his parents had run a smaller version of it when he was a kid. But none of his siblings had been interested in taking over once his parents wanted to retire from the bar part and only run the inn. When Dare decided to leave the force only a few years in, he’d found his place here, however reluctantly.

Being a cop hadn’t been for him, just like being in a relationship. He’d thought he would be able to do the former, but life had taken a turn, and he’d faced his mortality far sooner than he bargained for. Apparently, being a gruff, perpetually single bar owner was more his speed, and he was pretty damn good at it, too. Most days, anyway.

His house manager over on the restaurant side was running from one thing to another, but from the outside, no one would have noticed. Claire was just that good. She was in her early fifties and already a grandmother, but she didn’t look a day over thirty-five with her smooth, dark skin and bright smile. Good genes and makeup did wonders— according to her anyway. He’d be damned if he’d say that. His mother and Tabby had taught him something over the years.

The restaurant was short-staffed but managing, and he was grateful he had Claire working long hours like he did. He oversaw it all, but he knew he couldn’t have done it without her. After making sure she didn’t need anything, he headed back to the bar to relieve Fox. The rush was finally dying down now, and his brother could just sit back and enjoy a beer since Dare knew he’d already worked a long day at the paper.

By the time the restaurant closed and the bar only held a few dwindling costumers, Dare was ready to go to bed and forget the whole lagging day. Of course, he still had to close out the two businesses and talk to both Fox and Loch since his older brother had shown up a few moments ago. Maybe he’d get them to help him close out so he wouldn’t be here until midnight. He must be tired if the thought of closing out was too much for him.

“So, Rick didn’t show, huh?” Loch asked as he stood up from his stool. His older brother started cleaning up beside Fox, and Dare held back a smile. He’d have to repay them in something other than beer, but he knew they were working alongside him because they were family and had the time; they weren’t doing it for rewards.

“Nope. Shelly and Kayla didn’t show up either.” Dare resisted the urge to grind his teeth at that. “Thanks for helping. I’m exhausted and wasn’t in the mood to deal with this all alone.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Loch said with a shrug.

“By the way, you have any idea what this seven a.m. meeting tomorrow is about?” Fox asked after a moment. “They’re putting Tabby on speaker phone for it and everything.”

Dare let out a sigh. “I’m not in the mood to deal with any meeting that early. I have no idea what it’s going to be about, but I have a bad feeling.”

“Seems like they have an announcement.” Loch sat back down on his stool and scrolled through his phone. He was constantly working or checking on his daughter, so his phone was strapped to him at all times. Misty had to be with Loch’s best friend, Ainsley, since his brother worked that night. Ainsley helped out when Loch needed a night to work or see Dare. Loch had full custody of Misty, and being a single father wasn’t easy.

Dare had a feeling no matter what his parents had to say, things were going to be rocky after the morning meeting. His parents were caring, helpful, and always wanted the best for their family. That also meant they tended to be slightly overbearing in the most loving way possible.

“Well, shit.”

It looked like he’d go without whiskey or a woman tonight.

Of course, an image of the woman with gorgeous hair and that look of disdain filled his mind, and he held back a sigh. Once again, Dare was a glutton for punishment, even in his thoughts.

The next morning, he cupped his mug of coffee in his hands and prayed his eyes would stay open. He’d stupidly gotten caught up on paperwork the night before and was now running on about three hours of sleep.

Loch sat in one of the booths with Misty, watching as she colored in her coloring book. She was the same age as Nathan, which Dare always appreciated since the cousins could grow up like siblings— on weekends when Dare had Nathan that was. The two kids got along great, and he hoped that continued throughout the cootie phases kids seemed to get sporadically.

Fox sat next to Dare at one of the tables with his laptop open. Since his brother owned the town paper, he was always up-to-date on current events and was even now typing up something.

They had Dare’s phone between them with Tabby on the other line, though she wasn’t saying anything. Her fiancé, Alex, was probably near as well since those two seemed to be attached at the hip. Considering his future brother-in-law adored Tabby, Dare didn’t mind that as much as he probably should have as a big brother.

The elder Collinses stood at the bar, smiles on their faces, yet Dare saw nervousness in their stances. He’d been a cop too long to miss it. They were up to something, and he had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it.

“Just get it over with,” Dare said, keeping his language decent— not only for Misty but also because his mother would still take him by the ear if he cursed in front of her. But because his tone had bordered on rude, his mother still raised a brow, and he sighed. Yep, he had a really bad feeling about this.

“Good morning to you, too, Dare,” Bob Collins said with a snort and shook his head. “Well, since you’re all here, even our baby girl, Tabby—”

“Not a baby, Dad!” Tabby called out from the phone, and the rest of them laughed, breaking the tension slightly.

“Yeah, we’re not babies,” Misty put in, causing everyone to laugh even harder.

“Anyway,” Barbara Collins said with a twinkle in her eye. “We have an announcement to make.” She rolled her shoulders back, and Dare narrowed his eyes. “As you know, your father and I have been nearing the age of retirement for a while now, but we still wanted to run our inn as innkeepers rather that merely owners.”

“Finally taking a vacation?” Dare asked. His parents worked far too hard and wouldn’t let their kids help them. He’d done what he could by buying the bar from them when he retired from the force and then built the restaurant himself.

“If you’d let me finish, young man, I’d let you know,” his mother said coolly, though there was still warmth in her eyes. That was his mother in a nutshell. She’d reprimand, but soothe the sting, too.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, and Fox coughed to cover up a laugh. If Dare looked behind him, he figured he’d see Loch hiding a smile of his own.

Tabby laughed outright.

Damn little sisters.

“So, as I was saying, we’ve worked hard. But, lately, it seems like we’ve worked too hard.” She looked over at his dad and smiled softly, taking her husband’s hand. “It’s time to make some changes around here.”

Dare sat up straighter.

“We’re retiring. Somewhat. The inn hasn’t been doing as well as it did back when it was with your grandparents, and part of that is on the economy. But part of that is on us. What we want to do is renovate more and update the existing rooms and service. In order to do that and step back as innkeepers, we’ve hired a new person.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” Dare asked, frowning. “You can’t just hire someone to take over and work in our building without even talking to us. And it’s not like I have time to help her run it when she doesn’t know how you like things.”

“You won’t be running it,” Bob said calmly. “Not yet, anyway. Your mom and I haven’t fully retired, and you know it. We’ve been running the inn for years, but now we want to step away. Something you’ve told us we should do. So, we hired someone. One who knows how to handle this kind of transition and will work with the construction crew and us. She has a lot of experience from working in Philly and New York and will be an asset.”

Dare fisted his hands by his sides and blew out a breath. They had to be fucking kidding. “It sounds like you’ve done your research and already made your decision. Without asking us. Without asking me.”

His mother gave him a sad look. “We’ve always wanted to do this, Dare, you know that.”

“Yes. But you should have talked to us. And renovating like this? I didn’t know you wanted to. We could have helped.” He didn’t know why he was so angry, but being kept out of the loop was probably most of it.

His father sighed. “We’ve been looking into this for years, even before you came back to Whiskey and bought the bar from us. And while it may seem like this is out of the blue, we’ve been doing the research for a while. Yes, we should have told you, but everything came up all at once recently, and we wanted to show you the plans when we had details rather than get your hopes up and end up not doing it.”

Dare just blinked. There was so much in that statement— in all of those statements— that he couldn’t quite process it. And though he could have yelled about any of it just then, his mind fixed on the one thing that annoyed him the most.

“So, you’re going to have some city girl come into my place and order me around? I don’t think so.”

“And why not? Have a problem with listening to women?”

Dare stiffened because that last part hadn’t come from his family. No. He turned toward the voice. It had come from the woman he’d seen the night before in the green dress.

And because fate liked to fuck with him, he had a feeling he knew exactly who this person was.

Their newly hired innkeeper.

And new thorn in his side.


See the WHISKEY SECRETS Trailer:



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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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First Chapter: DEADLY PREMONITIONS by Kennedy Layne

We’re just over a week away from the release of the last book in Kennedy Layne’s Safeguard Series, DEADLY PREMONITIONS! You can get your hands on DEADLY PREMONITIONS on November 14th – and trust us, you don’t want to miss this one! Check out the first chapter below and preorder your copy now!



Available November 14th

USA Today Bestselling Author Kennedy Layne brings the Safeguard Series to a stunning conclusion with your favorite characters that will have you staying wide awake until the very last page is turned…

The ominous knock on the front door in the middle of the night should have given Shailyn Doyle fair warning, but she answered it despite her palpable fear.  Her past had finally come back to haunt her.  It would be nothing more than her worst nightmares come to life.

Townes Calvert had been given a brief glimpse of nirvana before having it ripped from his grasp.  He now has a chance to reclaim what was taken from him, but he must first hunt down the man responsible for murdering eighteen women and risk all that he loves.

Townes and Shailyn have no choice but to play a sadistic serial killer’s twisted game in their search to reclaim the love they had once been forced to sacrifice.  They both have envisioned what could be…but will they end up with nothing more than deadly premonitions?

Add DEADLY PREMONITIONS to your Goodreads list here!

DEADLY PREMONITIONS releases November 14th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

✦Barnes & Noble

Read the First Chapter

Pain unlike anything she’d ever experienced before radiated throughout her body. There were no tears. She couldn’t manage a single teardrop. A deathlike chill had settled into her bones, chasing away all other bodily functions.  

She was paralyzed.

She was unable to move, to scream… or to hide.  

She was at his mercy, of which he had none.

Shailyn Doyle gasped as her upper body came off the bed. She couldn’t suck in enough oxygen. Her vision had become blurry. She would certainly die this time.

Panic took hold as its tentacles slithered around her soul, slowly strangling what life was left within her.

Shailyn wrapped her fingers around her throat in desperation. She struggled to draw air into her lungs to the point that even she could hear the whistling rattle of her frantic attempt at breathing. Seconds ticked by until the terrifying nightmare slowly fragmented into bits and pieces, eventually fading into dust as the terror disappeared.

“Two hours,” Shailyn murmured to herself after glancing at the clock on her bedside table. The green illuminated numbers read three fourteen in the morning. “Progress.”

Shailyn tossed the heavy comforter and sheet to the side in acceptance. She wouldn’t get any more sleep tonight. What was noteworthy was the fact that the top sheet was dry. She hadn’t even broken a sweat in her throes of memories best forgotten. It was hard to be proud of that detail when she recognized her reaction for what it was— tolerance.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed. She recalled as a child always believing something or someone would reach out of the darkness and grab her ankles if she kept them dangling there long enough. She missed the days when the monsters had been nothing but a figment of her imagination.

Certain kinds of monsters were very real.

Shailyn automatically reached for the journal she kept on the bedside table, ignoring the slight tremor of her fingers. It was a byproduct of her time spent as a victim with a psychopath as her tormentor. She’d been left with a lot of daily reminders. That particular one didn’t rate high on the scale of her insecurities.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to write in her diary. It was a rote behavior after so many years of psychoanalysis. She didn’t even think twice about sliding the pen off the soft brown leather cover and setting the black ink to paper. Her psychiatrist had explained that keeping detailed notes of her dreams and reactions could render the next night a little easier and maybe even less intense. That had never been the truth as she knew it, but it did give her purpose.

She wrote down every facet of her nightmare underneath her last entry almost twenty hours earlier. There was no need for her to turn on a light considering she never slept in the dark anymore. As a matter of fact, every lamp and overhead light in this one-bedroom house was currently shining bright to keep the obscure shadows at bay.

It gave her a false sense of security. The dark represented the evil that crept in with the night.

She honestly didn’t care that the reassurance was a fabrication. The presence of the lights allowed her to physically walk through the rooms without hesitation.

Shailyn clipped the pen back onto the smooth jacket of her journal before setting both onto the nightstand. It didn’t take her long to cross the room and carefully draw the heavy curtain aside. Her bedroom was located on the main floor of the house, facing toward the front where a heavily armored, black government-plated SUV had been parked ever since Shepherd Moss had escaped from a federal prison.

Shepherd Moss— her own private monster.

He was a very special demon summoned from the depths of hell itself.

He was out there somewhere, biding his time as he savored her soul. Shailyn didn’t doubt that he was looking for her right this very moment.

After all, she was the only one who had ever gotten away.

Technically, that wasn’t true. She had not been able to work her way out of the restraints Moss had her bound in for three days. An Arthurian hero had found her instead, and her shining knight had refused to let her die. She barely recalled him arriving as dark as the night. His armor had been as rough as sackcloth, moving among the shadows as if they held no sway over him. He was the antithesis of her tormenter.

What did astound her was that the torture she’d undergone had only lasted three days.

A mere seventy-two hours.

How was that even possible when her time spent in that hellhole had seemed like an eternity of several lifetimes? Of course, the same thing could almost be said for the years she’d been in the witness protection program. Now those three hundred and sixty-five day spans seemed endless, consisting of nothingness. Was she actually awaiting Moss’ return with the promise of renewed torture?

She supposed she should be grateful. Eighteen women hadn’t been as lucky as her, but then again, what was so fortunate about living this so-called life she’d been given?

Shailyn let the curtain fall back into place, checking to make sure that not even a sliver of darkness was visible before she crossed the bedroom floor in her bare feet. The coolness of the hardwood didn’t bother her all that much, but wearing any type of shoe made her want to rip them off her feet and burn them. The scars on her ankles always became irritated when material rubbed against them for any period of time. She’d tried slip-ons in the past, as well as flip-flops, but those hadn’t worked either due to the damage done to the heels of her feet.

It didn’t take long for her to enter the living room and walk into the kitchen. The layout was simple, just as she liked it. The walls were devoid of pictures, there were no knick-knacks on the shelves or tabletops, and the few simple sticks of Ikea furniture had been rented with the house. It wasn’t like anyone questioned the way she lived, especially considering she never had any guests. No one was permitted to enter her home, though she did make an exception now and then to the U.S. Marshals who had taken up guarding her night and day since Moss had escaped federal prison. Why make any friendships when she would most likely be relocated sooner rather than later?

Groceries were delivered to a drop box on her front porch from the local store. She had access to the small area from inside the house. She could lock the outside access door to the box before ever opening the inside hatch. The delivery service was a special arrangement the grocery store provided for the elderly and shut-ins.

The Marshals vetted the designated delivery man and all the other employees of the friendly retailer. The grocery store tended to substitute their own brand a lot for other brand names, and they also charged a premium for nearly every item available through their service. Privacy apparently came with a price.

Shailyn hit the brew button, having already prepared the coffee maker three hours ago. She shivered slightly when condensation layered the sides of the glass carafe. Her feet were a little colder on the kitchen tile than they had been on the hardwood floor. The memory of a blue torch flame flashed across her mind’s eye.

She crossed into the living room and looked over at the bay window to ensure the drapes were closed like she’d left them. Her need for solitude had nothing to do with the fact that she was wearing a pair of flannel pajamas.

Everything was as it should be. She didn’t miss a step as she continued directly to the wall where her thermostat was positioned a little lower than eye level.

The digital numbers read seventy-two degrees. She didn’t care what digits were displayed and intentionally pressed the up arrow twice. Heat from the furnace had a tendency to rise from the vents, keeping only the upper half of the room warm while leaving the floors far too cold for her sensitive feet. Winters in Maine tended to get rather brisk, and this house wasn’t insulated properly. She honestly didn’t mind her electricity bill being higher. She always kept to her budget. It wasn’t like she spent her money on anything other than rent, utilities, and groceries.

She turned around to make her way back into the kitchen when the sight of her files on the desk caught her eye. The manila folder with ungraded essays sitting on top of the stack was crooked. She stopped walking, allowing her arms to drop to her sides, anticipating the assault.

Her heart stuttered in fear. Not because of death, but what came before it.

Everything on her desk had been perfect when she’d turned in for the couple hours of sleep she barely managed to obtain. She’d gotten into the habit of positioning items in a manner where only she would recognize if they’d been disturbed. And she was one hundred percent positive that the pile of schoolwork she’d been grading last night had been organized squarely in the left-hand corner. Not a millimeter had been out of place.

Okay. Ninety-nine percent sure, because one of the two U.S. Marshals sitting in the vehicle outside of her house had paid her a visit after noticing one of her two bulbs had burnt out on the porch. He had kindly replaced the lightbulb before rejoining his partner outside in the black sedan.

He could have easily bumped into the edge of her desk, causing the slight misalignment.

How many times had she overreacted over the years? Too many to count, that was for sure.

Shailyn bit her lip as she carefully looked over the living room for any other sign that someone other than the U.S. Marshal had been in her home. She cautiously put one foot in front of the other as she made her way through the entire house, eventually completing her search by returning to her desk after checking every room.

Nothing else was out of place.

“You’re losing your mind, girl.”

It was bound to happen, given the circumstances. She recalled a psychiatrist telling her that the average individual would have been institutionalized after suffering through the ordeal she’d been through. He couldn’t seem to accept that she was nothing extraordinary. She’d switched shrinks after that, going through a long line of men and women who had various opinions on how she should handle her future.

Shailyn gently rested the palm of her right hand underneath her breast on the opposite side. She had been left with a reminder that she would never have a normal life… at least, not the way she’d once envisioned.

The rich aroma of coffee filled the air, prompting her to return to the kitchen. She did stop briefly at the living room window and verify that the ever-present black sedan was still in position. Two silhouettes were easily discernible.

She thought about taking them out a thermos full of coffee, but a couple of things prevented her from doing so. For one, she didn’t go outside of these four walls any more than absolutely necessary. Two, she didn’t even own a thermos.

Shailyn pulled a single brown mug that had seen better days from the cupboard. The eighties-style porcelain dishes came with the rental house, allowing her to travel light when she had to move. Honestly, everything she owned fit in one suitcase and an oversized purse. She was a simple woman, really, even taking her coffee black without any further additions.

She sighed in resignation as she took her steaming coffee into the living room, snatching up the folder of essays that had given her more of a jolt than the caffeine in her coffee could provide. She looked forward to doing some mundane reading from the writing assignments she’d given her students taking the online course she taught to pass the time. It was also a way to make some additional money, though her students knew her as Ms. Rachel Smith.

Her online persona, as detailed in the course curriculum, featured a picture of a random middle-aged spinster freshly returned to the farm after retiring from some teaching position. She sometimes wondered about the identity of the woman in the photograph, considering the lack of a full-fledged backstory. WITSEC wasn’t that original when it came to assigning new identifications to their patrons. Ms. Smith was a retired teacher from Iowa. That was the best they could come up with.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

The essays scattered onto the hardwood floor as the papers fell from her lap, taking the manila folder with them. Each essay was now drenched in coffee as she scrambled to her feet and spilled her hot beverage all over them. Her first thought was that Shepherd Moss wouldn’t knock on her front door to gain entry. He would have just appeared behind her. Her second and most insightful deduction was that trouble had just landed on her front porch.

She quietly stepped over the wet papers and set down her coffee mug on the side table, not stopping until she reached her desk. One of those cheap buy-as-you-go cell phones purchased off the rack at the local drug store was tucked into the top drawer. She always made sure the device was charged and ready to go should she need to leave the property or contact the Marshals. It also came in handy when she needed to call 911… which had never happened in all the years she’d been in WITSEC.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

“Ms. Smith, it’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Sturridge.”

Sturridge was the Marshal who had changed her lightbulb a few hours ago, but she couldn’t fathom why he would need to speak with her at this hour. She quickly opened the top desk drawer and retrieved her phone, pressing in the three numbers without initiating the call. She rested her thumb on the button as she slowly made her way to the door to evaluate the situation further.

“What seems to be the matter, Marshal?” Shailyn asked with concern, but doing her best to keep her fear disguised. She tilted her head so that she could hear Sturridge’s reply through the heavy door. She left off that this wasn’t their usual procedure. Technically, the average WITSEC individual didn’t have two Marshals sitting outside of his or her home on a regular basis. They were all given new identities and then expected to adapt, as if their lives hadn’t been ripped out from underneath them in the most violent way imaginable. “Is everything okay?”

“Ms. Smith, there’s been a development. We need to take you down to the Bureau’s Portland Field Office as soon as possible.”

Shailyn swallowed back the lump of alarm that formed in her throat. Had Moss killed someone else she’d known in her childhood? He’d done that exact thing a couple of months ago, most likely trying to draw her out from under the concealment of her WITSEC identity. The U.S. Marshals Service had been very adamant that she follow their instructions down to the exact letter since Moss had escaped federal custody. She’d complied, but she wasn’t so sure she could continue to do so should he target her friends or family again.

Shailyn rested her forehead against the hard surface of the door and pretended for just a moment that this night was like any other. She’d get close to a couple hours of sleep, work for a couple more on the computer, and then maybe get a half hour rest before her day started with her schedule of online classes. The visual gave her the composure she needed before releasing all three security locks they had installed upon moving her into this house.

“My family?” Shailyn asked hesitantly after opening the door. Sturridge gave her an encouraging smile, though sadness was visible in his soft, brown eyes. He reminded her of those gentle cowboy giants Louis L’Amour had written about when her father had been a young man. She recalled her dad reading her books of the Wild West when she’d been younger, allowing them both to enjoy her bedtime stories. Sometimes she wondered if her father would have preferred a boy. “Are they okay?”

“Yes, ma’am, they’re all fine as far as I’m aware.”

“Then why am I needed at the Portland Field Office in the middle of the night?” Shailyn had once been the spontaneous type, living every second of every day like it was her last when she’d been younger. That day had arrived sooner rather than later, changing her outlook on the simplest of pleasures. “Am I being relocated again?” “

Ms. Smith, you—”

“Please.” The word was just short of a plea. She was only human, and a flawed one at that. “Just tell me.”

“Shepherd Moss killed an agent on the case yesterday.”

Shailyn wasn’t surprised. At least, she shouldn’t have been surprised. Her breathing faltered, though. Moss had targeted someone else, someone unrelated to her. She suspected that it wasn’t with no strings attached. She shouldn’t feel any guilt over the man’s predilection for torturing and killing people, particularly women. She’d done her part by sitting on that witness stand and testifying— no, reliving— every painful cut he’d sliced into her body. That included every burn he branded into her flesh, as well.

“I still don’t understand what that has to do with me, Marshal.”

Shailyn’s mouth had gone dry and she couldn’t even lick her lips to get the words out smoothly. Sturridge was glancing at his watch, as if they should be in a rush to get to the Portland Field Office. Since when had her activities ever been on such a tight timetable?

“Ms. Smith, the agent who was murdered had been assigned to watch over a woman by the name of Brettany Lambert. She was a childhood friend of yours, correct?”

Yes. Brett had been Shailyn’s best friend through elementary and middle school. A memory of them turning up the dial on her old boom box came to mind, along with a made-up game that kept them busy for hours. The first lyric to come through the speaker was what the boy she liked at the time was thinking of her at that very moment. They would each take turns, giggling their weekends away.

“Ms. Smith?”

Shailyn cleared her throat before nodding her agreement. She would go with Sturridge to the Portland Field Office, believing one hundred percent that she would be on a plane by noon. The U.S. Marshals and the FBI had been very cautious. It was their job to ensure her safety from the monster she’d helped put away. There had only ever been one man who’d truly given her that precious sense of security, and she hadn’t seen him once since the day she entered WITSEC.

This was her life now… being alone with only a suitcase to her name. She often wondered when the hand underneath the bed would finally grab her ankles and pull her into the shadows. What if she were to go into that hiding place voluntarily? Was that how she would find her freedom? Was death her only escape?

Or could she slay the monster before he was able to kill her?


He closed his eyes, reliving every second he spent in the company of Shailyn Doyle. Her unblemished flesh had been a canvas from which he had created something beautiful. He did design his masterpiece on her body, but only she had the pleasure of seeing his work every single day in the mirror.

 He wanted her back.

He needed to finish the seminal work he’d begun.  

Did the authorities not understand that he was the one in control? Had he not proven his dominance time and time again? His parting gift in Colorado he’d left for Townes Calvert should have gotten his message across.  

Townes Calvert.

 The only adversary who had ever lived up to his most exacting standards. The man’s personal interest in Shailyn Doyle would only make this game that much sweeter in the end. They would meet again soon, but he wasn’t ready to see his entertainment come to an end. He preferred the long game.

He rocked back on the wooden porch and listened to the crickets and frogs communicate in their harmonious languages. Mother Nature could end their conversations with a mere slap of her hand.  

He recalled the enchanting screams that fell from Shailyn’s chapped lips— now that was his favorite melody.



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

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Chapter Reveal: INKED MEMORIES by Carrie Ann Ryan



We’re less than a week away from the release of INKED MEMORIES – but you don’t have to wait to read the first chapter! Check it out and preorder your copy below. You don’t want to miss meeting the dirtiest Montgomery yet.



The Montgomery Ink series by NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues when the final Denver Montgomery sibling refuses to fall for his brother’s former flame—the company’s new plumber.

Wes Montgomery watched his entire family fall in love, and now finds himself ready to settle down. Except the one person he seems to find chemistry with is not only his twin’s ex, she also works for Montgomery Inc. But when the two find themselves in one compromising situation after another, Wes realizes he’s having second thoughts about the dynamic woman who’s burst her way into his life. Sure she sets off his temper, but she also makes him hot in every other way possible.

Jillian Reid never loved her best friend like everyone thought she should, so she pushed him away so he could have his future. Now, despite fighting it, she finds herself attracted to the one man she shouldn’t. When her father’s health takes a turn for the worse, and a danger no one saw coming show its face, she’s forced to turn to Wes for help. The two of them have fought off their attraction long enough, and each cave to the desire. But this enemies-to-lovers tale might have an ending no one ever dreamed of.


INKED MEMORIES releases October 31st, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of INKED MEMORIES:

Wes Montgomery was ready for a cold beer and a willing woman. Okay, maybe just the cold beer since he didn’t exactly have a woman to go home to like the other men in his family and inner circle. But he had damn good beer at home.

He rubbed the back of his neck and squinted down at his agenda for the rest of the afternoon. He probably should have written it down in a notebook to carry with him down to the jobsite, but he lived and breathed through his tablet. It connected to his phone, laptop, and computer and was constantly backed up in two places. Why would he risk his very detailed organization with something that could blow away on a windy day when they were in the middle of tearing down walls and putting in plumbing?

As soon as he thought about the wind, a hard breeze slid across his skin, and he looked up at the nearly clear-blue sky. Since they were in Denver, the weather could shift at any moment, but for now, there were only a few white and fluffy clouds in the sky, and most of them surrounded the tall and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. He couldn’t help but smile at the grand scenery that not only reminded him how small some of his worries were in the grand scheme of things but also told him what direction west was at all times. Seriously, he had no idea how people outside the area ever knew where to drive without a GPS if they didn’t have the long line of mountains and foothills telling them where to go.

“So, you’re daydreaming in the middle of the day now? Did you put that in your planner?”

Wes lowered his head and flipped off his twin as Storm strolled in. He narrowed his eyes though once he saw that the other man was in work boots and his usual threadbare flannel shirt—as if Storm were planning to work onsite today. Considering that he’d just recovered from a near fatal accident, Wes hoped that wasn’t the case.

He didn’t want to have to beat his brother’s ass for stupidity.

The two of them weren’t identical, but of the eight Montgomery kids in their immediate family, they looked the most alike, at least according to everyone else. They each had the same shade of chestnut brown hair that the rest of the family had, along with their bright blue eyes. But what made them look the most alike was probably their square jawlines and smiles—though Storm hadn’t smiled much before he finally gave in and fell in love.

The two of them were Montgomerys through and through, though. Most of the guys had big beards—though Wes tended to shave his when meeting with clients these days— and all of them had ink. Even his sisters had tons of ink, with Maya having more than almost anyone in the family. But considering she and their eldest brother Austin owned a tattoo shop called Montgomery Ink, that only made sense.

And while Wes and Storm had the ink and even some of the piercings his family tended to lean toward, they didn’t work in the family tattoo shop. Instead, they owned and operated Montgomery Inc., a construction company that their parents had started before handing the reins over. Wes ran the books and was pretty much the lead in charge at all times. Storm was their architect and a god at figuring out how to make things work in a renovation or a new build.

Over time, others had come into the company that their parents had created and slaved over. Now that he was in charge, the weight of that responsibility was never lost on Wes.

“What the hell are you doing onsite in what looks to be your gear?” Wes demanded once Storm came closer. He didn’t want to yell too loudly in case any of their workers were around. Never good to act like a toddler instead of the boss, as his mother would say. And his father for that matter. “You’re supposed to be in bed while Everly and the boys comfort you.”

Storm raised a brow. “We’re in my fiancée’s bookstore, dumbass, of course I’m going to be here.”

“And he’s not going to lift a thing,” Everly said as she made her way to them. Storm’s woman mock glared before coming to stand beside them. Her long, ash-blond hair was up in a loose bun on the top of her head with tendrils spiraling down. He knew she’d probably thrown it up like that during her busy morning of dealing with twin toddlers, a puppy, and a grumpy Storm, yet Wes couldn’t help but think that Storm was one lucky man.

Not that Wes wanted Everly in that way, but having someone, anyone to come home to might be a nice thing once in a while. Jesus, he was starting to sound morose.

“I’m not going to lift anything,” Storm repeated. “I promise. I’m just here to oversee and answer questions. These are just my comfy clothes for any work.” He slowly wrapped an arm around Everly’s shoulders, and she leaned into him, though Wes noted she was careful not to put any weight on him. Storm had hurt his back pretty severely and was lucky to even be walking right then, but he was allowed and encouraged to get exercise and stretch out.

“We’ll find you a chair and a station to set up, then,” Wes said. “We’re not taking any unnecessary chances.”

Storm sighed, but the corner of his mouth lifted up into a smile. “No worries. I’m not about to start dancing a jig or lift even a single box. I promised the boys I’d watch them play in the pool that we set up in the backyard this afternoon, and I’m not about to break that vow.”

Everly’s boys were from her previous marriage, but Storm had been in their lives from day one since he’d been friends with Everly and her late husband. Now, Storm was in the process of adopting the twins and marrying Everly.

Wes couldn’t believe how quickly things had changed, but hell, in the past few years, everything had changed so much he could barely keep up.

His eldest brother, Austin, had married the girl next door, Sierra, and they now had two children—though the eldest was from a previous relationship. Leif was a teenager now, God help them all. Wes’s youngest sister, Miranda, was married to their friend Decker, who also happened to work with Storm and Wes at Montgomery Inc. and Decker and Miranda also had a child. How his younger sister had grown up so quickly, he didn’t know. One minute, he was putting a princess bandage on her knee; and the next, she was holding her own child in her arms. Meghan, the oldest of the Montgomery girls though still younger than Wes, had married her best friend, Luc, and they were raising their three

kids. The two of them even worked with Wes every day with Meghan operating the landscaping arm of the company and Luc as their lead electrician.

Their company was a family business through and through, and it seemed it kept growing with each passing month—just like the family itself.

His younger brother, Griffin, had married his personal assistant, though Wes wasn’t sure she filled that role any longer and he didn’t intend to ask. Autumn always blushed like crazy whenever Wes mentioned it, and he really didn’t want to know what she and his brother did together once the office door was shut.

Maya, the middle Montgomery girl, had not only married her best friend but his ex- boyfriend, as well. Legally, she was only married to one of them, but to everyone close to the family, they knew the truth. Maya, Jake, and Border had had a baby the same time as Meghan and Miranda had theirs, and the three sisters were now raising their kids together. So, like Wes and his siblings, they’d have a huge family to grow up with even though they were cousins and not brothers or sisters. Though for all Wes knew, everyone was gearing up for the next additions to their broods. For a while there, everywhere he turned, someone was turning up pregnant. Thankfully—since he wasn’t in a serious relationship and hadn’t been since he and Sophia broke up—it wasn’t him.

And, finally, there was Alex. Wes rubbed his chest just thinking about his youngest brother. Alex had been through hell and back, and Wes was only now learning the details. But in the end, Alex had come out stronger and was in love with Wes’s admin, Tabby. For a while there, most of the family thought that Wes and Tabby would end up together, but Wes couldn’t help but cringe at that thought. She was like one of his little sisters, nothing more, and he knew Tabby felt the same way about him. Just because the two of them shared a love of planners and organization didn’t mean they were meant for each other. Clearly, she’d been made for his brother. Not him.

And that left him all by himself these days. Alone. Womanless.
And if that wasn’t a depressing thought, he didn’t know what was.
“You’re daydreaming again,” Storm said softly. “You okay, Wes? You seem off

Wes shook himself out of his thoughts and gave his brother a grin that he actually

felt. He might not have a woman in his life, but he wasn’t unhappy. He had a job he loved, and a family that cared for him. And for once, everyone seemed healthy. That was saying something, considering they had been in hospital waiting areas far more than any family should, especially recently. They should just name the damn emergency room the Montgomery Wing at this point.

“I’m fine. Just thinking about how big the Montgomerys have gotten.” That was the truth, or at least part of it, so he went with it.

“We’re doubling each month it seems.” Storm wrapped his arm around Everly’s shoulder. “But I don’t mind.”

Everly rolled her eyes. “Considering the boys and I took over your house? I would hope not.”

“Well, Randy had already tried taking over, and I think the twins are helping their puppy along with that.”

Wes just looked between the couple and shook his head as they bantered. The two of them had been good friends before Everly’s husband passed away. Then, for some reason, they’d pushed each other away though they’d stayed in touch for the boys’ sake.

Now, they were engaged and ready to build their new family as well as rebuild Everly’s bookshop.

Wes wanted that, damn it. He’d come close once, and it had gone to shit for many reasons, one being that he’d known Sophia wasn’t the one for him. Now, he didn’t have any prospects.

He ignored the needling thought in his mind telling him that there was a person he was beyond attracted to, but he’d be damned if he gave in to that particular urge.

And as if the gods themselves had called the siren with her own song, she walked into the building.

Jillian Reid. Storm’s ex friends-with-benefits, and Montgomery Inc.’s current lead plumber.

She strolled in wearing her normal cargo pants and a cotton shirt bearing the Montgomery Inc. logo—the MI iris that was a circle enclosing the letters with a flower on the side. Each of the adult Montgomerys—including those that had married in—had one tattooed on them. It was a rite of passage for their family, and he knew Everly was getting hers soon.

His thoughts went back to the woman walking toward them as Jillian set down her tool kit and stretched her back. The action pressed her breasts right up to the thin cotton of her shirt. He swallowed hard and pulled his gaze up to the blue of her eyes. She worked for him, damn it. He needed to get his act together and not be a freaking lecher.

Of course, it helped to remember that the two of them actively hated each other.

Regardless of how hard he got whenever she was near, he always, always fought with her. And he had no idea why they’d started out fighting, only that they kept irritating the hell out of each other.

“Hey, boss,” Jillian said with a sigh. She glanced at Wes and raised a brow. “Make that bosses. I checked out the bathroom on the first floor, and it’s going to have to be completely gutted. There’s no way I can save the pipes or anything there.” She gave Everly a small smile. “I’m sorry, hon. I know that sucks, but insurance will cover it for sure. The thing is, with these old buildings in downtown Denver, you’d have had to get them replaced sooner or later anyway.”

Everly shrugged before pulling away from Storm to give Jillian a one-armed hug. It would have boggled Wes’s mind that the two women could become so close in such a short amount of time, but Everly was a sweet and open woman who cared about those close to her with a fierce intensity.

“Thanks for looking,” Everly said with a smile. “And I’d hug you more, but since you just came from digging around toilets…”

Jillian batted her eyelashes. “That’s me. Toilets and clogs. It’s no wonder the men are chasing after me.”

Storm snorted and gently tugged Everly back to his side. “Sounds about right. If they only knew what covered your boots right now.”

Wes narrowed his eyes and looked down at the work boots she wore. “What is on your boots that you’re tracking through my jobsite?” He held back a wince at the harshness of his tone. He never meant to sound like an ass, but Jillian brought out the worst in him.

Storm sighed under his breath, and Everly muttered something he didn’t quite catch. Jillian, however, just raised that brow of hers and snorted.

“Don’t worry, Wesley, I wore booties when I was in there. I wouldn’t demean myself by daring to dirty your precious floors.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Storm pull Everly away toward the back of the building. His twin was probably getting sick and tired of being the middle of Jillian’s and Wes’s tiffs. Frankly, Wes was tired of it too, but there was just something about her that got under his skin and made him lash out like a man half his age.

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“Whatever.” She brushed him off. “I’m just doing my job. Something you pay me to do, right? I need to head over to the Anderson house, by the way, to do the final check on my end of things so you can sign off. Is there anything you need me here for today?” She sounded so professional, but beneath the words, he heard the annoyance in her tone.

“There’s some plumbing I’d like her to check, if you know what I mean,” one of the guys working on the demo muttered under his breath as he walked by.

Jillian froze for an instant, her face paling before she tightened her jaw and dashes of red covered her cheekbones—from anger or embarrassment, Wes didn’t know.

Either way, he was pissed.

Jillian reached out and grabbed his arm as he turned to yell at the guy. “Don’t. It’s not worth it,” she whispered under her breath. “Just let it go.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “This isn’t the first time he’s said something. Is it?” She raised her chin. “It doesn’t matter. Just let it go,” she repeated.
“Sorry, no can do.” He pulled away from her, annoyed that her touch left a heated

trail on his skin. He went to Jeff’s side and tapped him on the shoulder. The guy looked surprised for a moment before scowling.

Jeff turned around and frowned before setting down his stuff. The man was around Wes’s age but looked far older since he drank and partied hard when he wasn’t working. He sneered over at Jillian before seeming to think better of it and turning again to Wes. They were out of earshot of others, but Wes had a feeling if the man started yelling, there was no way to hide it.


“First, apologize for that sexist and poor comment. You’re opening yourself—and our company—up to sexual harassment lawsuits because you’re an asshole. Second, pack your bags and get off our site. You’re fired.”

“You’re fucking kidding me, right? For this bitch? I’ve been working for this company for years. Hell, your daddy is the one who hired me. You have no right.”

Wes’s hand tightened on his tablet, and he blew out a breath so he wouldn’t hit the man. “I have every right. You never treat anyone like you just did. You hear me?”

“Fuck this shit. And fuck you. Must be great having that nice ass to bang when you’re not living in your high castle.”

He stormed off, and Wes stood there, his chest heaving. There was no way the others hadn’t heard that, even though he’d tried to keep the conversation private. But there was no damn way he was going to let that man work for Montgomery Inc. if he treated his coworkers—or hell, any woman—like that.

Wes stepped around the corner, and the others got back to work quickly, acting as if they hadn’t been listening. Storm and Everly were nowhere to be seen, but he knew they’d hear about it soon.

Jillian, however, stood exactly where she’d been, her arms folded across her chest and her face red.

“Thanks for that. I guess. But from now on, I can handle things myself.”
He clenched his jaw, anger spilling out with his words. “No. This is my company.

My family’s company. No one gets to treat you like that. Or anyone else for that matter. If you have a problem with the way I run things, then you can get the hell out of here, too.” He didn’t mean the last part, but he was pissed off that anyone would say shit like that to her. And, apparently, this wasn’t the first time.

She raised her chin once more, her nostrils flaring. “Whatever, Wesley.” And with that, she picked up her things and walked out of the building, leaving him standing there like an idiot.

“My name’s not fucking Wesley,” he growled, knowing no one was listening to him. Or, at least, that’s what he thought.

“Just fucking ask her out already,” Decker mumbled as he passed by. “Seriously.”

“He’s right, you know,” Meghan singsonged. Apparently, the two of them hadn’t heard what had happened with Jeff yet or they’d be singing another tune.

“Just shut up,” Wes snarled and turned on his heel. He had things to do today, and none of them included growling over a woman he didn’t want to want.

He didn’t know much about what his future would bring, but he did know one thing for sure—Jillian Reid was not for him. 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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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!



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!

✦Barnes & Noble


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.


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.


What was on top of the snow?


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.


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.


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

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Chapter One: HOPE RESTORED by Carrie Ann Ryan

The last book in Carrie Ann Ryan’s Gallagher Brothers series releases in less than a week – but you can read the first chapter now! Check it out below and preorder your copy today!



The Gallagher Brothers series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan concludes with the final brother who thought he had everything to look forward to, and the one woman who can handle him.

Life isn’t worth living if you don’t fight to live. That’s what Murphy Gallagher learned at a young age when cancer ravaged his body not once, but twice. Over the course of his survival, he lost his parents and his childhood, but he’s been healthy for years and has become a man he hopes his family is proud of. But when his world tilts on its axis yet again, he’ll have to learn what it means to fight not only the unknown but also his attraction to his best friend.

Tessa Stone works hard and plays harder. She’s spent her life trying to figure out who she is in the present rather than looking back. Yet when she’s forced into close proximity with Murphy, she’ll have to not only be his rock but learn how to relax enough to maybe let him be hers, as well. But seduction doesn’t stop when the world seems to, and close encounters of the naked kind might just be the first step in something much more complicated than either of them bargained for. Life, though, is for living, after all.

Add HOPE RESTORED to your Goodreads list here!

HOPE RESTORED releases July 25th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

✦Barnes & Noble

Chapter One of HOPE RESTORED

Sometimes, life was damn good. Other times, it kicked him in the balls until he couldn’t catch his breath. Today, luckily, was one of the good days. Murphy Gallagher grinned from ear to ear as he tried to run from his niece, Rowan. She was eleven now and getting pretty fast, but he was faster. Not that he’d actually run at his full speed around her. It was always more entertaining when she caught him and took him to her lair.

As he was the evil dragon to her warrior princess, it only made sense.

“Behold! My mighty sword that shall slay the dragon!”

Murphy bit his tongue so he wouldn’t start laughing, but seriously, where had Rowan learned to say things like that? Of course, she was almost a teenager now and probably a little too old to play princess and the dragon, but that wasn’t something Murphy would ever bring up. Her mom, Blake, had been married to Murphy’s brother, Graham, for a little while now. Murphy hadn’t known Rowan when she was little, and he had a lot of playing to catch up on being her favorite uncle.

Sure, his brothers Owen and Jake were decent uncles, as well, but he would always be the best. Jake was the artistic one, Owen the type-A, Graham the grumpy one, and Murphy was the fun one.

He had to play his part and make sure Rowan had the time of her life. She’d only had her mom to play with for years, and while Blake was a kickass mother who made sure Rowan had the best childhood, Murphy wanted to make sure Rowan had even more fun now.

Murphy rolled to the ground as Rowan jumped on his back, both of them laughing so hard they shook. He made sure to take the brunt of the impact so he wouldn’t hurt his niece. She giggled as she stabbed him with her imaginary sword, and he put his hand over his heart and gasped, feigning injury before letting his tongue hang out and groaning.

And… the dragon was dead.

“Victory!” Rowan stood up and started dancing near Murphy’s corpse like any dignified warrior princess was wont to do.

“It’s about time,” Graham said with a laugh as he walked out from the porch where the rest of the Gallaghers were sitting. “I thought you’d have gotten him within the first few minutes, Rowan.”

Murphy sat up as Rowan beamed at her stepdad, though she just called him “Dad” now. Murphy smiled as he remembered the first time Rowan had called his brother “Dad” in front of them. Every single Gallagher had choked up and didn’t bother shrugging it off. They might all be inked, bearded, and pierced, but Rowan referring to Graham as her father as if it were no big deal was a big fucking deal.

“I didn’t want my prey to feel like it didn’t put up a fight,” Rowan said solemnly.

Murphy barked a laugh. “Prey? Really? What shows are you watching these days?”

Rowan turned to him and rolled her eyes with the pro of a teenage girl, rather than the eleven-year-old she was. “It was from a book, duh. Uncle Border got me a whole set of books with dragons in them.”

Border was Jake’s husband and the quietest of their group, though Murphy knew Border and Jake’s wife, Maya, was slowly changing that. The triad had been together the longest out of the Gallagher relationships, and yet they still acted like newlyweds with the way they incessantly groped one another.

Come to think of it, Blake and Graham acted the same way. And, hell, Owen and Liz— newly engaged— made out relentlessly, as well. No wonder Liz and Blake were pregnant; their men couldn’t keep their hands off their women.

That, of course, meant that Murphy was the last single Gallagher. He didn’t mind, though. After all, someone had to bear the mantle of bachelorhood. Plus, he really wasn’t ready to start settling down yet. He’d just learned to live life as it was, no need to change everything so dramatically again.

And that was enough of that.

Murphy rolled his shoulders and took Graham’s outstretched hand, helping him to his feet. “It wasn’t Game of Thrones was it?” he asked his niece.

Rowan rolled her eyes again, and Graham narrowed his. “It wasn’t that, Uncle Murphy.”

“What did we say about rolling your eyes so much, Rowan? Use your words, not your attitude.”

Rowan blushed and looked down at her feet. “Sorry, Dad.”

Murphy did his best not to smile at the way Graham’s chest puffed out at that. Seriously, the man was like a damn peacock. And now that Blake was pregnant, his brother was even worse. It was as if he were the first man to get his wife pregnant. And considering Jake and Border already had a kid with Maya, and Owen’s fiancée Liz was also pregnant, it wasn’t as if babies were something totally new to their crew.

Though with the way everyone kept popping them out, Murphy made a mental note to buy more condoms. There was something in the water with all the pregnancy hormones flying around like they were.

Murphy followed father and daughter back to the porch and gingerly took a seat next to Liz’s former roommate and Owen’s neighbor, Tessa— the only other single person at the Gallagher family dinner. He’d hit the ground a bit hard when he rolled to make sure Rowan didn’t get hurt in her exuberance and now his muscles were feeling it. He was in damned good shape— had to be for his job— but, apparently, he needed more protein or something because his body made him feel like an old man.

Murphy looked at the brunette next to him. Tessa wasn’t a Gallagher, but she was the only family Liz had, even though they weren’t related by blood. Plus, it would have been awkward as hell to not have Tessa over since there wasn’t a fence separating the two yards at the moment. Owen had taken it down after a few of the boards rotted. Eventually, they’d put it back up.

Considering that the family owned a construction and restoration company, it wouldn’t take too long, but they actually had to find the time to do it. Murphy figured he’d be enlisted soon to take care of it since he was the only one without a pregnant significant other or kids to keep him busy. And it wasn’t like he minded. He liked being able to do things for his family since they’d spent so much of their lives doing things for him when he couldn’t do them for himself.

And that, once again, was enough of those thoughts.

“You okay, dear dragon?” Tessa asked with a wink before handing over a beer. He took it with a wink of his own. “Thanks, and yeah. That warrior princess is tough.”

She laughed and pulled her long, chestnut hair behind her shoulders. He hadn’t seen her wear it down for a while since she was always working and tended to do severe ponytails. He had to say, he kind of liked it better down. Not that he’d tell her that since she’d have his balls for breakfast if he did. Every single woman in the Gallagher’s circle tended to be a ballbuster, and while Murphy loved it, he didn’t want to lose his nuts. He liked them, what could he say.

“That she is, but I was serious. You hit the ground hard, and you winced when you sat down. Did you hurt yourself? Because you know, Murphy Gallagher, you may still be hot as fuck, but you’re not getting any younger.” She whispered the last part so the kids wouldn’t hear, and Murphy held back a snort.

Considering he’d spent most of his life praying that he’d have a chance to get older, he didn’t mind that he had a few more aches and pains now that he was in his thirties. Hell, he’d relish the day he got wrinkles and grey in his hair. That meant he was alive to witness his body changing. For a man who didn’t know if that would ever happen, it was his own form of bliss.

Of course, he didn’t tell Tessa any of that and wasn’t sure why he’d let his thoughts get that deep so suddenly. Tessa was a fantastic person and sexy as all get out, and he loved flirting with her, but there was no way he’d get into deep feelings or heavy conversation with her. Their dynamic worked because they joked around and kept things light— if a bit inappropriate at times. If he changed that, then things would get fucked up, and he didn’t want to jeopardize what they had. Hell, he didn’t want to jeopardize her position in the group.

Everything was better if they just remained friends that didn’t go too deep.

“Hey, Murphy, did you send over the files on the house?” Owen asked, a frown on his face as he looked at his phone. Liz was perched on his lap, their hands tangled over her baby bump. She was finally starting to show, and Murphy loved the way she glowed. She just finally seemed so at peace with being pregnant, though he knew that wasn’t always the case since the baby hadn’t exactly been planned.

He made another note to himself to buy condoms. He couldn’t be too careful these days.

“I did,” he answered before pulling out his phone to check his outgoing messages. “I thought you replied back.”

Owen let out a sigh. “Shit, I did. Sorry. Didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Murphy looked over at Tessa and winked since she loved joking with him, and she laughed before whistling. “What were you doing, Mr. Organized One, if you weren’t sleeping.”

Owen looked over to where Rowan held her cousin Noah, Jake’s son, and shook his head. “Perv,” his brother whispered. “I was up finishing the final details on Blake’s house.”

Blake looked over and widened her eyes. “It’s almost done? Really?”

Murphy didn’t blame his sister-in-law for the incredulous look. The Gallaghers had been working on Blake’s family home for over a year now and had hit every obstacle known to man, including a kidnapping and an injured worker thanks to Blake’s former in-laws. Murphy fisted his hands as he let the rage wash through him, remembering everything that Graham and Blake had gone through when they were dating.

“It’s almost done,” Graham said as he wrapped his arm around Blake’s middle, his large hand resting over Blake’s tiny baby bump. She wasn’t as far along as Liz, but she was close.

Blake wiped away tears and turned into Graham’s arms for a hug. Murphy blinked in surprise at Blake’s show of emotion since she usually hid what she felt so well. Either she was feeling more comfortable around them, or it was the baby hormones. Knowing Blake, it might be a little of both.

“I can’t believe it’s almost done,” Blake said after a moment. “I mean, I knew you had to be close, but…” She shook her head as if at a loss for words.

Maya came up and hugged Blake, even though Graham refused to let his wife go. “These guys are pretty amazing, aren’t they? And soon, you won’t have to deal with the house at all. It’ll be in the city’s hands and only a distant memory.” She kissed Blake’s temple before going back to take Noah out of Rowan’s arms.

Murphy didn’t know the whole story behind Blake’s childhood, but he knew it wasn’t good. She’d grown up affluent but with the worst kind of family. She’d run off as soon as she could, and had had Rowan when she was pretty young. And when her parents had died, they’d left the huge mansion in disrepair and neglect but had forced Blake through their will to oversee the restoration. The project had brought Graham and Blake together, but other than that, it had been a pain in the ass. And considering that Murphy loved jobs where he got to dive into the history of a place and see how to keep some of the past blended into the present, it was saying something that he truly wanted nothing more to do with the project.

The others began talking about the next steps involved in finishing up the house as well as what they would do next since their last big project hadn’t panned out thanks to shady deals and selfish businessmen. But Murphy just closed his eyes and let the breeze slide over him. He’d slept for shit the night before, and he wished it had been because of a woman. Instead, he hadn’t been feeling well and had tossed and turned all night.

“Hey, I’m going to go get the chips and salsa, want to help?” Tessa asked. She put her hand on his forearm, and he opened his eyes. Her hands were cold to the touch, but it could be that his skin was overheated. Ever since the chemo when he was younger, he had a hard time keeping a consistent body temperature. That’s what happened when you had leukemia when you were in grade school and again when you were a teenager. You dealt with the side effects for the rest of your life.

No wonder he was damn tired.

“Sure,” he said and sat up, taking a sip of his beer once he was on his feet. The others were still shooting the breeze and passing Noah around. The kid was getting pretty big since he was nearing one year old now. Or at least Murphy thought. He should probably check his calendar and make sure he hadn’t missed a birthday since their family kept growing.

He and Tessa made their way to the kitchen and got out the chips and three kinds of salsa and dip that they’d made for the barbeque. Tessa brushed by him on her way to the fridge, and his cock hardened.

He glared down at his crotch, annoyed with himself for once again getting hard around her. She was his friend. Sure, they flirted because it was fun, but they’d never fooled around, and there was no way they would now. They’d firmly put themselves into their roles, and he didn’t want to change that.

Of course, his dick had other ideas, but hell, Tessa was hot. She was tall, mostly leg, and had just enough curves that he knew he’d have plenty to hold onto when he fucked her from behind or held her up against the wall and pounded into her.

Not when.


He would never be fucking Tessa against anything, thank you very much.

Tessa snuck a chip into the salsa and groaned. He did his best not to think about whether she’d groan like that under him, or over him… anywhere around him.

“This is so good. Here, taste.” She held out a chip with salsa on it, and he bent forward, taking it in one bite as he gently nipped at her fingers.

She swallowed hard before lowering her hand and giving him a sultry smile. “Like it?”

He nodded before swallowing. “Spicy.”

“I like a little heat, what can I say.”

He snorted and took a sip of his beer. He loved flirting with Tessa, even though he had to use his hands more often than not when she wasn’t around because she kept him in a perpetual state of arousal. He couldn’t help it. She was sexy and flirted better than anyone he’d ever met, but still, they were just friends.

Tessa took his beer from him since she hadn’t brought hers with her and took a sip, her eyes on him the whole time. He cleared his throat and looked away, only to glance at her breasts and notice that her nipples were hard pebbles against her very thin bra.

Damn, he could just bend her over the kitchen island and fuck her right there. Just slide her jeans down and fill that tight pussy with his dick. She’d cream for him, coming hard on his cock, and he’d fill her to the brim.

And… that wouldn’t be happening.

He shook off those thoughts, and Tessa gave him a knowing wink before handing back his beer. He took a deep swallow, finishing it off, and then tossed the bottle into the recycling can.

“Why didn’t you bring Brian?” he asked, keeping his mind on what was important. Like the fact that she was sort of dating a guy that wasn’t him.

Tessa laughed and picked up one of the trays of veggies they’d also taken out of the fridge. “His name is Brent, dork. We’re not that serious and still pretty new. There’s no way I’d bring him over to one of these. We’re just casual. And why didn’t you bring one of your many lady friends?”

“There aren’t that many, and I’m not seeing anyone serious right now.” In fact, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t been with a woman in over a month. Hell, no wonder he couldn’t get sex with Tessa off his mind. He just needed to get laid, and everything would work itself out.

Thoughts of Tessa just might kill him, but damn, he loved being her friend. Way better than any fucking amazing sex they might have.

“You’re never seeing anyone serious, Murph. It’s why we get along. Let the others be adults and get settled. We can live it up for the rest of them.”

She turned and sashayed from the room, and he did his best to keep his eyes off her very bitable ass. It wasn’t exactly easy since it was right there and practically speaking in tongues at him.

He followed Tessa out to the back deck and bent over the table to set everything down. He froze at Tessa’s gasp and looked over his shoulder.

“What is it?”

“What the fuck, Murphy?” she asked, pulling up his shirt. “What happened to you?”

He frowned and straightened, trying to see what the hell she was talking about. “Huh?”

“Jesus Christ,” Jake said shakily. “Your back, Murph. You’re black and blue.”

“What’s wrong with Uncle Murphy?” Rowan asked, her voice shaky.

Thunder pounded in Murphy’s ears, and he tried to process what everyone was saying, but they were all talking at once and trying to tug up his shirt. He pulled away from them and ran back into the house and into the nearest guest bathroom so he could check himself out in the mirror.

They had to be wrong or just fucking with him. Everything was fine. He was not black and blue. There was no way this could be happening again. He was healthy, damn it, and had been for a decade.

He wasn’t sick.

He wasn’t bruised.

But when he turned on the light and lifted up his shirt, he couldn’t think. Couldn’t speak. He’d looked at himself that morning after he got out of the shower, and the bruises hadn’t been here. Yet his side and what he could see of his back were covered in newly formed bruises. They weren’t bad yet, but he knew they’d grow.

They always did.

“Murphy,” Tessa whispered from the doorway. “I… Murphy…”

He met her eyes in the mirror and tried to think of something to say to brush this off, but he couldn’t. He knew what the bruises meant. He’d seen them before. Every single little ache and pain, infected scratch from the jobsite, mood swing, and fever over the past few weeks came back to him in a rush.

His cancer was back.

And he had no idea what the fuck he was going to do about it.


HOPE RESTORED releases July 25th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

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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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First Chapter: CASUAL IMPRESSIONS by Kennedy Layne

We’re just a little over a week away from the release of CASUAL IMPRESSIONS by Kennedy Layne and we thought we’d share part of the first chapter with you to celebrate! Check it out below and preorder your copy now!



In this electrifying novel from USA Today Bestselling Author Kennedy Layne, the Safeguard team is coming ever closer to catching an elusive serial killer who might very well be hunting one of their own…

Sawyer Madison has spent the last few months hunting down a sadistic killer.  He and his team don’t seem to be any closer to solving this particular case that has hit a little too close to home. Fortunately, they had all served in the Corps. That kind of training and dedication meant none of them considered quitting before the mission was done.

Camryn Novak had spent most of her childhood, and a large part of her adult life, dealing with her overprotective brother. So when an admirer becomes a little too obsessed with her due to her high-profile career, she decides it would be simpler to reach out to someone a little less emotionally invested.

Sawyer never expected to bump into the sister of one of his teammates while traveling on assignment.  Women like her were off limits—one shouldn’t mix business with pleasure.  One burning touch was all it took to make his good intentions go up in flames.  Unfortunately, it won’t just be her brother’s wrath he’s forced to face when an unknown perp targets Camryn—it might very well be the same psychopath they’ve been hunting all along.

Add CASUAL IMPRESSIONS to your Goodreads list here!

CASUAL IMPRESSIONS releases July 18th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

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Read part of the first chapter of CASUAL IMPRESSIONS

“You look like you could use some help.”

Camryn glanced up to find an attractive male around five years her junior standing before her. He had a beer glass in one hand and was holding up his other arm to grab the attention of the bartender. In seconds, another hand towel was tossed their way— this one damp with soda water. It didn’t take a genius to figure out from the man’s southern drawl, or the immediate attention he’d garnered from the staff, that he was a recognized face here.

“Thank you,” Camryn said, raising her voice so that he could hear her over the conversations around them.

She had her long, dark brown strands pulled back at the base of her neck. She’d purposefully chosen a pair of sunglasses that were too dark to wear casually, which was why she’d flipped them up onto her head earlier this evening.

Camryn used the sunglasses earlier to prevent people from recognizing her and hadn’t given it a second thought upon entering this establishment. She should have taken Aiden up on his offer to walk her back to her hotel, but she hadn’t caught sight of the man taking pictures until she’d started strolling down the infamous Bourbon Street.

“You look familiar.” The man had somehow magically exchanged his beer for a glass of soda water and was offering it to her so that she could dip the towel into the cleansing liquid. His curious gaze never left her face. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

“I don’t think we’ve met,” Camryn replied with a small smile to hide her convenient lie. She took the towel from his hand and quickly wiped the coarse material down her arms and chest. She was now wishing she’d worn a light jacket. “I wasn’t watching where I was going and bumped into someone with a fresh Hurricane, of all things. Needless to say, it spilled on both of us.”

“It sounds like you could use a drink yourself,” the man surmised, holding up his hand once more to signify to the bartender that he wanted another round of whatever he was having. “Bourbon Street tends to be a bit crowded during this time of night. It’s rare anyone goes home without a set of beads and in desperate need of a shower.”

“Speaking of home, I really should be moving along.” Camryn pressed a now clean hand against the back pocket of her jeans, confirming that her phone, identification, and credit card were still in place. She hadn’t wanted to carry a purse with so many people milling about. “I have an early business meeting.”

“Do you live in the Parish? Like I said, you look familiar. Maybe I’ve seen you around socially.”

“I’m from Illinois,” Camryn automatically replied, having learned long ago never to reveal the location of her current address to a stranger. Technically, this time she wasn’t actually lying. Her mother still resided in Chicago. “Thank you so much for the towel and soda water. I—”

Camryn had just tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear when she caught sight of a black camera— the same one she’d spotted leaving the last bar. Large hands were busy adjusting the lens as the man zoomed in on her, most likely modifying his focus due to the dim lighting between the front room and the side area where the bar was located. She forced herself to really examine the figure behind the camera, noticing right away he didn’t carry a bulging case like the typical paparazzi.

He also didn’t have any type of identification badge hanging around his neck like most of the press photographers, not that it was a prerequisite for independents. Something told her this man had nothing to do with any gossip rag or reputable magazine.

He was just shadowing her.

“Oh, shit,” the man exclaimed excitedly, having turned to see who had caught her interest. The camera must have triggered his memory. “You’re Camryn Novak! Guys, come over here! Camryn Novak is right here!”

This wasn’t the type of attention she was hoping for at the moment, but it was almost impossible for her to just up and leave now that a crowd began to form around her. The only benefit of her present situation was the fact that she was no longer visible to the man who’d once again tracked her down.

Who was he?

Granted, he might just be an obsessed fan who wanted to take her picture and was too shy to ask her to strike a pose, but that wasn’t what her intuition was telling her. He had an aggressive manner about him.

The next fifteen minutes inched by as she spent the time getting her photograph taken by the patrons and signing napkins for those who sought an autograph. Camryn was mystified why anyone would want a picture with her wearing a red-stained blouse, with her looking all windblown and just one hot mess.

Camryn still managed to paste a smile on her face, all the while doing her best not to panic at the thought of leaving here unaccompanied to walk to her hotel.

Where was he now?

He had to be nearby waiting for her to leave. Unfortunately, both exits were visible from the corner.

She could always call her brother’s friend. He would certainly deter any unwanted advances. He also just happened to be in town on business. She immediately discarded that thought after a single moment of reflection, refusing to let word get back to Brody that his baby sister couldn’t take care of herself while strolling down Bourbon Street on a typical November weekday evening.

Camryn had fought very hard to get this far in her life, and she wouldn’t ruin it now.

Another napkin was pushed in front of her, but she didn’t sign it right away. There was already writing imbedded into the rough material. She froze as the black ink finally penetrated, though the indentions made no sense to her at first.

Why were there a series of numbers written on a napkin?

Her name was also etched onto the white square, right above the date… a date that wouldn’t occur for another two weeks yet.

It was then that a cold realization settled over her unlike anything she had ever experienced.

She had to be mistaken. Maybe someone wanted to date her autograph and had just gotten the day of the month wrong. That was more plausible than the thoughts racing through her mind.

Brody Novak. Her brother— the same brother who was working for a privately contracted security agency. He and his team were currently searching for a notorious serial killer who had escaped from federal prison only a few months ago. Shepherd Moss had been the name of the bloodthirsty murderer, and he’d been convicted of killing eighteen women after torturing them for days on end, only to then carve the date of their death into their bodies while they were still breathing.

It was ludicrous to think that the same serial killer would target her of all people, just to get back at her brother, all because of who his employer was and what they were doing to hunt him down.

It was just a date written on a napkin.

It didn’t mean anything to anyone.

She should never have had that second drink she’d been offered. Her mind was starting to twist innocent facts. She was taking a relatively innocuous incident and making it into something it couldn’t possibly be.

Camryn scrunched the white cocktail napkin in the palm of her hand as she lifted her head and scanned the crowd. Her heart stuttered when her eyes landed on that same black lens, but she stood firm. She should have confronted this creep when she’d first spotted him.

There he was by the entrance of the wide-open foyer, the camera once again blocking the majority of his face.

Camryn couldn’t stop her brother’s voice from whispering all those casual warnings in her head repeatedly.

Shepherd Moss was a wanted man, listed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list. His picture had been plastered across the national media endlessly. She tried to make herself see reason and not get herself caught up in the moment. There was absolutely no way he could be walking around New Orleans without someone spotting him. She struggled to recall his features, but the image of his face wouldn’t surface no matter how hard she tried.

She’d recognize him if she saw him, right?

She watched in somewhat disbelief as he released the camera with one hand, reaching his arm out to her and pointing his finger at the napkin still hanging from her fingertips.

It hadn’t been a mistake. The date written in black ink had been intentional. There was no doubt he was responsible for the odd notation in her hand.

Camryn had seen a lot in her line of business— one of them being what stalkers could do to mess with a fellow actress or actor’s mind. It went both ways. It was as if they had some kind of perverse relationship.

She had no idea if this man was Shepherd Moss or just some random guy who’d grown an unhealthy obsession over her, but she’d be damned if she would sit back and play the terrifying female role when she had a trove of adoring male fans around to utilize in her defense. There were too many witnesses for this man to do anything violent to her. After all, the best defense was a good offense.

Her brother had taught her to take the initiative.

Camryn didn’t waste time as she elbowed her way through the massive crowd, ignoring the calls for more autographs as she drew attention to herself. All eyes were on her, but her sole focus was on the man with the camera who’d been following her for at least thirty minutes, if not longer. She didn’t miss his startled reaction when he hastily took a step back away from her rushing figure. He spun on his worn brown loafers and only then lowered the camera as he tried to get past the patrons standing in the entryway.

She memorized every detail she could of his backside, all the way down to the generic set of khaki pants he was wearing with a brown belt to match his shoes. He was distancing himself quickly and she tried her best to catch up to him before he left the building, but it was futile.

The man had vanished by the time her wedge sandals hit the black and white checkered tile floor of the entrance.

Camryn scanned the crowd passing by just outside the double doors, even though she was aware her search was pointless. She still stepped outside into the cooling night air, hoping to catch some glimpse of him. It appeared she’d scared him off by taking the offensive, but the question remained… would he linger behind and wait for another glimpse of her? Would he be able to detect her amongst the crowd when it came time to leave? If the answer was yes, then she would need to be prepared. That did not include a call to her brother, who would only put her in some sort of protective custody, most likely deploying the entire New Orleans Police Department in the meantime.

She had another trump up her sleeve, and she was willing to use it if she could get a guarantee that word wouldn’t get back to Brody. Before placing that call, she needed to finish what she’d started inside the pub. She didn’t seek out publicity, but she was never rude to a fan once she was recognized.

The shove at her shoulder was so unexpected that she immediately lost her balance.

Camryn frantically flailed her arms to reach out to the nearest person, but her fingers couldn’t grab ahold of anything.


All she caught was air and though she tried to brace herself for the impact of the street, she was unsuccessful.

Camryn’s head hit the cement curb and then… nothing.



She was so beautiful… lying there on the sidewalk with her lashes resting on her flushed cheeks. Or was that from the neon red light from the crosswalk sign? It didn’t really matter. People still surrounded her if they really cared whether she lived or died. Had her gluttonous heart stopped beating, her memory would vanish within days. As usual, it didn’t take long before a few of these strangers recognized her.  

It was sickening.

Why was she so special?  

He wanted to take a picture of her lying there prostrate at his feet so he could recall this moment in time over and over as he prepared.

After all, this was the magical moment both of their lives had changed.


CASUAL IMPRESSIONS releases July 18th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!

✦Barnes & Noble

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

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Chapter Reveal, Part 3: PASSION RESTORED by Carrie Ann Ryan

 We’re less than a week away until the release of PASSION RESTORED by Carrie Ann Ryan (!!!), but we couldn’t wait. So we revealed the first chapter! Find out more about PASSION RESTORED and dive into the first chapter below!




The Gallagher Brothers series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues with the one brother who thinks he can handle it all and the one woman who could change that.

Owen Gallagher likes everything in its place and is organized to a fault. While his brothers have each dealt with their own personal tragedies and stresses, Owen figures he’s had it pretty easy. That is until his perfectly ordered world is rocked at its foundation and he’s forced to rely on others. Now, he must heal his body and his soul while trying to ignore his delectable and utterly off-limits neighbor.

Liz McKinley is stressed out, exhausted, and not in the mood for a bearded and growly man in her ER. When she patches him up to the best of his ability, she’s prepared to push him firmly from her thoughts. Of course, that would be easier if she and her best friend hadn’t bought the house next to his. Now their paths seem to cross daily, and she is finding it harder and harder to say no to the injured and angry man next door. But she’s been scarred one too many times in her life, and even though this Gallagher looks good enough to eat, she knows that sometimes, sating that craving is the worst thing she can do.

Add PASSION RESTORED to your Goodreads list here!

PASSION RESTORED releases February 28th – preorder now!

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Read the Third Part of Chapter One:

Missed part one? Read it here!

Missed part two? Read it here!


“Hi, boys,” the brunette said with a slight drunken slur. “Liz is making me leave, but I wanted to say hi. I’m Tessa.” She held out her hand, looked down, and laughed before pulling her arm back. “Sorry. Not at work. I guess handshakes in bars are weird, right?”

Blondie—Liz, he corrected himself—closed her eyes, and he assumed counted to ten. He couldn’t help but feel for her right then. Picking up inebriated friends from bars when you were clearly not in the mood wasn’t the easiest thing in the world.

“We’re all friends here,” Murphy said softly. “I’m Murphy, this is my brother, Owen.”

Owen nodded at them both, though his eyes were still on Liz. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Liz said with a soft scowl. “Now that we’ve said hello, Tessa, we’re going home. I’m exhausted and not in the mood to deal with bars and the grabby hands of the dudes that frequent them.” She winced and looked over at Owen and Murphy. “Sorry. No offense.”

Murphy snorted and held up his hands. “No offense taken, and no grabby hands here. Nice to meet you both.”

Owen tilted his head and studied the shadows beneath Liz’s eyes. She may be exhausted, but he had a feeling it wasn’t just lack of sleep that gave her that look.

And why did he care?

He’d literally just met her and her friend and had said all of one word so far. He should just let them go and head home himself. He wasn’t in the mood for a bar night either it seemed.

“Get some sleep, ladies,” Owen said after a moment. “Nice to meet you both.”

Tessa pouted but winked as she did it, completely ruining the effect. “Nighty-night, boys.”

Liz rolled her eyes, a small smile playing on her lips even as she tried to frown. “Good night.” She pulled at Tessa’s arm, and the two of them made their way out of the bar, most of the eyes of the men in the building following them. Owen couldn’t blame the guys as he was one of them, but he still felt a little bad about it.

A guy tripped his way up to Owen’s side and snorted. “Looks good coming and going. I’d fuck either one of them, but that blonde one seems a bit stiff. Maybe she just needs a little D to get over whatever stick is up her ass.”

Owen looked over at the idiot and narrowed his eyes. “Watch it,” he growled softly. “She was just picking up her friend.”

The guy raised a brow. “What the fuck ever. She needs to get over herself.”

The asshole’s friend cupped himself, rocking into his hand. “She just needs to be stuffed with something other than that stick.”

Murphy put his hand on Owen’s shoulder, and that’s when Owen realized he’d moved forward ever so slightly toward the other two men. And now that Owen got a good look at them, he recognized them as the group Tessa had been talking to before in the corner.

Owen might have had fantasies about Liz—and now felt like an asshole about them—but in the daydreams, she’d been a willing participant, not something to fuck and get over like these guys insinuated. And hell, he was glad Liz had gotten Tessa out of there because a woman drinking alone with these guys would only lead to bad things.

Fucking idiots.

“Let’s go,” Owen growled. “I’m done.”

Murphy squeezed his shoulder and pulled him back again. “I’m with you.”

The other guys ignored them, going back to whatever crude and mundane conversation they’d been having before, and Owen was grateful for it. He didn’t want to get in a fight tonight. Didn’t want to deal with the inevitable injuries to his hands—even though he and Murphy would have won for sure against these drunk idiots—and, hell, he definitely didn’t want to deal with the cops.

Liz and Tessa hadn’t asked for their help and weren’t even there any longer, but Owen still had the desire to teach the guys a lesson.

And because there was nothing he could do other than show them how to treat women, he slung back the rest of his club soda so he had a bit of pep thanks to the bubbles for the drive home and headed out of the bar with Murphy.

The parking lot wasn’t that full since it was the middle of the week, but since he and Murphy had gotten there at different times, they hadn’t been able to park next to one another.

“See you in the morning,” Owen grumbled.

“Nine, right?” Murphy asked, his eyes too innocent.

“Seven, and you know that.” Though Murphy would probably stroll in bleary-eyed and in need of caffeine at seven-fifteen or so. Their little brother was not a morning person and usually worked later than all of them to make up for it.

“God, why are there two sevens in the day? I mean, hell, isn’t seven in the evening enough for us?” Murphy clutched his chest and took a couple of steps back, and Owen shook his head.

“You’ll be fine.” And, thankfully, they were calling it an early night tonight since they did, in fact, have a very early morning. Owen would probably set out at six or so to pick up something to eat for the crew and coffee for his brothers. They never asked it of him, but he always did it. Anyone could have picked it up, but then Owen wouldn’t be able to make sure it was done correctly and on time.

So he was a little anal-retentive.

What of it?

He said goodbye to Murphy and headed back to his car, aware that others were filing out of the bar, as well, their voices carrying on the wind. Owen rolled his head on his shoulders and stuffed his hands into his pockets as he crossed the long lot to where he’d parked under a street lamp.

At the sound of a shout, he turned, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Lights filled his vision, and he took a staggering step back, throwing his hands up to shield his face.

The sound of an engine filled his ears, and he only had a moment to realize what it was he saw until he couldn’t see anything else. The truck—it had to be a truck with the size of those lights—clipped him in the side, and Owen flew.

He felt weightless and yet too heavy all at the same time.

His body went numb before it felt as if he’d caught on fire.

He hit the pavement hard enough to crack bones—maybe a few ribs—and he tried to scream, only he couldn’t get enough air. His body skidded across the parking lot for far too long, his head scraping the gravel along the way.

Then he stopped.

His body shaking.

His mind whirling.

And yet he couldn’t focus.

Couldn’t see.

Couldn’t breathe.

The sound of tires burning rubber as they skidded away made him want to wince, but he couldn’t pull his arms up to cover his face. Rapid footsteps sounded as someone came near and others shouted for help.

But Owen didn’t do anything.

He couldn’t.

When he finally opened his eyes and saw Murphy above him, his brother’s eyes wide, tears running down his pale cheeks, the streetlight hovering above him like a halo, Owen figured this might be the end.

Because no Gallagher looked like an angel, not even his baby brother.

Owen tried to reach out, to say something.

But the darkness came, and then there was nothing.


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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