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Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Handle With Care by Helena Hunting

Handle With Care
Release Date: August 27th, 2019

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PREORDER LINKS

US → https://amzn.to/2CgGp87
CA → https://amzn.to/2Av1f3k
UK → https://amzn.to/2CTeblc
AU → TBA
iBooks → http://bit.ly/HandleWC
NOOK → http://bit.ly/NookHWC
Kobo → http://bit.ly/KoboHWC
Google Play → http://bit.ly/HandleWCgp

Mass Market Paperback Preorder
Amazon PB → https://amzn.to/2UIonUw
B&N → http://bit.ly/BNHandleWC
Chapters → http://bit.ly/ChHandleWC
Indie Bound → http://bit.ly/IBHandleWC
BAM → http://bit.ly/BAMHandleWC

Add it to Goodreads → http://bit.ly/GRHandleWChh

Website Link  → http://helenahunting.com/books/handle-with-care/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

helena hunting author photo

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She’s writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

Social Media Links:

Author Web Site
Facebook
Twitter


Excerpt

NOTE: This is an unedited excerpt and is subject to change.

I’m startled out of my thoughts when my brother jumps up and shouts a bunch of profane nonsense, hands flailing like he’s trying to swim on land, or approximate the chicken dance while on an LSD trip. 

“You can’t do this! It’s absolute bullshit!” Armstrong yells.

I look around the table, trying to piece together what I missed.

“I’m sorry, Armstrong. I know this is a shock, but we feel it’s in the company’s best interest to put Lincoln at the helm during this transitional stage,” G-mom says firmly.

At the helm? I look to G-mom who’s busy not looking at me.

Armstrong jabs at finger at himself. “But I’m the one who’s put in all the time here! I deserve to run the company! Lincoln doesn’t know the first thing about Moorehead. All he knows how to do is dig wells and forage for food in the wilderness. How are those valuable assets here?” He turns his attention to our mother. “Did you know about this? How can you let this happen? Look at him. How can that be the face of our company? He looks like he crawled out of a gutter and mugged a twenty-year-old college kid on a bender. How is this better for our bottom line?”

My mother clasps her hands in front of her. “I’m sorry, Armstrong, but this decision wasn’t mine to make. I know this is hard for you, but your grandmother and fath—” 

Armstrong stomps his foot, exactly as a toddler would. “The company is mine! Lincoln can’t have it!”

I raise a hand, half to quiet my brother and also to find out what the freaking deal is. “Whoa, let’s back this bus up.  Can someone explain what’s going on?”

“You’ve been appointed as the CEO of Moorehead Media, according to the will,” Christophe—no R, because that would make it far too pedestrian a name—my father’s lawyer says.

I’m working on trying to remain calm as I address my grandmother. “You didn’t say anything about me being CEO. You said you needed my help.”

“Running the company, yes,” she says through a practiced, stiff smile. 

It’s her warning face, but seriously, when she said she needed my help for a few months I figured it meant I’d be keeping Armstrong in line while she sorted out who was going to take over the company, which I realize now was a stupid assumption. 

“I didn’t think that meant CEO. How am I going to run a company with this dickhead on staff?” I motion to my brother. 

“The name calling is unnecessary,” G-mom replies.

“Lincoln’s not even part of this family! He hasn’t attended one event in the past five years except for Dad’s funeral. He didn’t bother coming to my wedding and now he’s going to run the company? How is that fair?”

I snort. “Your wedding was an expensive joke.”

He crosses his arms over his chest. “I was set up. Amalie had cold feet and made me out to look like the bad guy.”

The woman beside him shoots him disgusted look. 

Armstrong clears his throat and tugs at his collar. “My wedding is not the real issue. The point is that you’ve never involved yourself in any part of this family and now you think you can come in and take over. I will not stand by and let this happen!” He keeps jabbing his finger at me, as if he’s engaged in a finger sword fight.

I lean back in my chair and lace my fingers behind my neck. Armstrong has always been reactive. And self-absorbed. For a while it seemed like he finally had it together—back when he was engaged. But ever since that fiasco of a wedding he seems to have come completely unglued. Again. But worse this time. “Someone needs a timeout.”

blog tour · book blog · book review · books · reading · review · romance · romantic comedy

Blog Tour: Stolen Goods by Kay Marie

stolen goods coverStolen Goods
Kay Marie
(To Catch a Thief #2)
Publication date: January 7th, 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Catch Me If You Can meets Tangled in this funny and feel-good adventurous romance, new from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis, writing as Kay Marie.

Addison Abbot is a dreamer—she dreams of owning her own cake shop, of traveling the world, of finding Prince Charming. But when it comes to actually following any of those dreams, she’s a little, well, stuck. So when a devilishly handsome stranger saves her from two robbers with guns and pulls her into the adventure of a lifetime, she’s determined to find her fairytale ending—until she realizes he’s the most wanted criminal in America, that is.

Thaddeus Ryder was just another run-of-the-mill international art thief until his latest heist went south. Now, his face is on every news station, his name is making headlines, and his partner is working for the feds. Talk about a bad week on the job. His only option is to flee the country. But when hitmen for the Russian mafia interrupt his getaway, Thad gains an accidental companion—a baking beauty who might be too tempting to resist.

When a good girl meets a bad boy, sparks are bound to fly. But this con man is about to discover the only thing he can’t steal is her heart…

**To Catch a Thief is a romantic comedy series that’s one part humorous and one part heartfelt, with a dash of adventure, a hint of criminal activity, and a whole heap of fun! Each book is a stand-alone romance with a HEA.

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42432521-stolen-goods?ac=1&from_search=true

Links:
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07J5Q19MW
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07J5Q19MW
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07J5Q19MW
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07J5Q19MW

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Meet the Author

Kaitlyn Davis, a bestselling author with over a quarter of a million books sold, writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. Publishers Weekly has said, “Davis writes with confidence and poise,” while USA Today has recommended her work as “must-read romance.”

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she’s not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found playing fetch with her puppy, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family. If you have any questions for her–about her books, about scheduling an event, or just in general–you may contact her at: KaitlynDavisBooks@gmail.com

Sign up for Kaitlyn’s newsletter to stay up-to-date with all of her new releases, to receive exclusive subscriber bonus content, and more! bit.ly/KaitlynDavisNewsletter

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

$25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Excerpt

All the locks in the car slid into place.

All the missing pieces did too.

“Oh my God!” Addy shouted, whipping her head to the side, meeting those steely eyes, sharp and cunning. No wonder he looked so familiar! He was on the cover of the magazine sitting on her nightstand back home. His face had been on the news every single night for a week—not that she watched the news, but she usually caught the last five or so minutes before the show she actually wanted to watch came on. Maybe I should have been watching the news. Maybe if I had, I would have recognized the most wanted criminal in America! Maybe I would have done the smart thing, like, I don’t know, running away and calling the police instead of falling at his feet and drooling over his smile! Gah! “You’re Thaddeus Ryder!”

“The one and only,” he mused, edge of his lip quirking with a smile, no shame whatsoever evident in his expression.

“Oh my God, those men weren’t trying to kill me—they were trying to kill you!”

He wrinkled his nose with thinly veiled judgment. “Honestly, I’m a little surprised it took you this long to realize that. Unless the world of wedding cake design is a lot more cutthroat than I ever realized.”

“You have no idea,” she commented darkly, and then jolted, looking around at the leather dashboard, the bullet hole in the windshield, the black paint on the hood. She gasped. “Your car didn’t break down!”

“No.”

“I bet this isn’t even your car.”

He didn’t respond.

“Is it stolen?”

“Yes.”

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

I’m aiding and abetting a known fugitive.

Oh my God!

“I demand you let me out of the car at once!” Addy exclaimed, her voice as rigid and severe as she could possibly make it.

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen,” he replied smoothly, all confidence and control.

“But— But—” That always works in the movies. “But I demand it!”

“And your demand is adorable, really, but it’s not going to happen. I didn’t mean to get you involved, but you are. You’re in this, whether you want to be or not.”

“In what?” Her voice was small, unsure.

He glanced at her, something soft and almost pained in his gaze. Then he looked forward and tightened his grip on the steering wheel, staring out the window with new resolve. “In this car, with me, until I say otherwise.”

I don’t think so. “I’ll call the police.”

“I have your phone.”

“I’ll scream.”

“Please don’t. I’m pretty sure no one but me will hear you, and my eardrums can’t take any more.”

“I’ll— I’ll—” Addy searched around for some sort of ammunition. Her hand went to the door handle and tugged on it uselessly.

“It’s locked, remember? And even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t recommend that route, just based on my own personal experience. Jumping out of a car going upwards of sixty miles an hour hurts like hell.”

She folded her fingers into her palm and pulled her hand back slightly, then spun, lunging for the wheel. He caught her with his forearm and pushed her back against the seat, locked in place. Addy punched and kicked, but he didn’t budge.

“I’m not going to hurt you, I swear. If I wanted to do that, I would’ve left you back there on your own. I wouldn’t have taken you with me.” He released her and ran his hand through his hair, ruffling those dark, wavy locks in a way that was frustratingly attractive. “This is all a big mistake. I just need to make sure it’s safe before I let you go.”

“Why should I believe you?”

He winced. “Because I have no reason to lie.”

Addy snorted with disbelief before she could stop it—uncaring for once in her life that the gesture was incredibly unladylike. “You’re a criminal. And a thief. And a con. And all you’ve done tonight is lie!”

“True,” he stated slowly, meeting her eyes with a smile. “But wasn’t it exciting?”



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Once again, the minute I read the blurb for Stolen Goods, I knew I had to read it. I mean who wouldn’t want to read a book that is described as Tangled meets Catch Me If You Can!?!?! As a die hard Tangled fan AKA my favorite Disney movie, I couldn’t wait to dive into the second book of the To Catch a Thief series. And just like with the first book, I enjoyed every second of it.

Can I just begin by saying I was LIVING for all the nods to Tangled throughout this book. Thaddeus Ryder is basically Flynn Ryder’s long lost brother, in my opinion, and that moment in the bakery at the beginning of the book had me both laughing and fangirling at the same time. Add in the element of danger of being hunted down by the Russian mafia, and there were times when I could not put this book down.

For those who have read the first book in this series, Hot Pursuit, you will recognize both Thad and Addison. If not, Thad aka Thaddeus Ryder is the childhood best friend of Jo Carter (the heroine in Hot Pursuit) and also an international art thief who was taught his not-so-legal skills under the tutelage of Jo’s father. Addison Abbot is also connected to Jo Carter, only their relationship has been strictly online bonding over their love of baking via a chat forum. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Addison, her friendship with Jo Carter is the reason her quiet, simple life gets upended when Thaddeus Ryder enters her life.

Kay Marie does a wonderful job pulling you into the story with an action-packed beginning and soon you are joining the lovable, yet fierce Addison as she navigates this new adventure she is thrust into at the hands of Thaddeus Ryder. What might have started out as the only way to get into contact with Jo while on the run, quickly turns into so much more when Thaddeus meets the one person who could potentially see him as more than just a criminal.

If you like romantic comedies with an element of suspense and danger, then I definitely recommend you check out Stolen Goods!

4 stars

blog tour · book review · books · excerpt · MC Romance · reading · release day · review · romance

Blog Tour: Wicked Whiskey Love by Melissa Foster

WickedWhiskeyLove_FINAL

Wicked Whiskey Love
The Whiskeys series
Melissa Foster
Releasing November 7th, 2018
World Literary Press

Fall in love with Bones Whiskey in WICKED WHISKEY LOVE, an emotionally riveting, sexy new standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. A magnificent love story for those who enjoy fiercely loyal and insanely sexy alpha heroes, smart, sassy heroines, families, bikers, babies, and more!

In WICKED WHISKEY LOVE…
After escaping abusive parents and, later, an abusive relationship, Sarah Beckley has spent a lifetime watching snakes shed their skin. With two small children to care for and another on the way, she’s finally found a home in Peaceful Harbor with the brother she hasn’t seen in more than a decade. She’s still searching for her sister, but life is good. If only she could stop thinking about the sinfully sexy doctor/biker who has taken to her children like a loving uncle—and to her like a hungry man.

Trust doesn’t come easily for Sarah, but Bones Whiskey is patient and protective, amazing with her children, and he looks at her like she is the only woman he could ever want–and more. With two little ones underfoot, Sarah expects him to move on quickly, yet with every tender kiss and each trying moment with the children, Bones surprises her. But will the fiercely loyal biker stick around when Sarah’s worst secret is revealed, or will he shed his skin, too?

For more hot Whiskey love, check out Melissa’s other Whiskey novels.
TRU BLUE
TRULY MADLY WHISKEY
DRIVING WHISKEY WILD
And don’t miss RIVER OF LOVE, the first story in which the Whiskeys were introduced!

Goodreads link:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37840670-wicked-whiskey-love

Goodreads series link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/204908-the-whiskeys

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Buy Links:
➜KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/WWL_K
➜APPLE: https://apple.co/2CNjjcc
➜KOBO: http://smarturl.it/WWL_Kobo
➜NOOK: http://smarturl.it/WWL_Nook
➜GPLAY: http://bit.ly/2CW9zZQ
➜PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/WWL_Pb

Series Buy Links:
TRU BLUE
➜KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/TB_Kindle
➜iBOOKS: http://apple.co/2lG7dEL
➜NOOK: http://bit.ly/2f3loBH
➜KOBO: http://smarturl.it/TB_Kobo
➜GPLAY: http://bit.ly/2knJYhu
➜PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/TB_Paperback
🎧 Available in audio
➜Amazon Audio: http://smarturl.it/TB_Audio_Amazon
➜iBooks Audio: http://apple.co/2kK1HTT
➜Audible: http://adbl.co/2kBUDpU

TRULY, MADLY, WHISKEY
➜KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/TMW1_Amazon
➜iBOOKS: http://apple.co/2hJbntC
➜KOBO: http://smarturl.it/WWN_Kobo
➜NOOK: http://bit.ly/2gVN6QS
➜GPLAY: http://bit.ly/2hqM7cb
➜PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/WWN_Paperback
🎧 Available in audio
➜Amazon: http://smarturl.it/TMW_Audio_Amazon
➜iBooks: http://apple.co/2oD2Ew7
➜Audible: http://adbl.co/2owVMjN

DRIVING WHISKEY WILD
➜KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/DWW_Kindle
➜iBOOKS: http://apple.co/2yUXpAG
➜NOOK: http://bit.ly/2yVGGgS
➜KOBO: http://smarturl.it/DWW_Kobo
➜GPLAY: http://bit.ly/2y7SugC
➜PAPERBACK: http://smarturl.it/DWW_Pb
🎧 Available in audio
➜Amazon: http://smarturl.it/DWW_Audio
➜iBooks: https://apple.co/2GeqRSQ
➜Audible: http://adbl.co/2FuX5gp

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Author Info

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Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and new adult romance with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance lovers who enjoy reading about wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines.

Author Links:  
Website:  http://www.melissafoster.com/
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Melissa_Foster
GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3023973.Melissa_Foster
Newsletter: http://melissafoster.com/newsletter/
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/melissa-foster
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissafoster_author/


Rafflecopter Giveaway
(Five winners will receive a digital copy of TRULY MADLY WHISKEY)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Excerpt:

“Hey, beautiful,” Bones said softly.

Her eyes clashed with his. He sat with one arm across the back of Bradley’s chair, watching her in her moment of turmoil. She may not believe in happily ever afters and she definitely had trouble trusting, but she longed to be closer to him, to experience this loyal, thoughtful man on a more personal level. Emotionally and physically. Swallowing hard, feeling happy and sad, nervous and calm, petrified and curious. It was so overwhelming, she was sure everyone could sense it. But it was Bones who pushed his hand farther across the back of Bradley’s chair until his fingertips brushed her arm, concern written in those dark eyes.

“You okay, darlin’? Want to go for a walk?”

A walk? No, she definitely wouldn’t survive this night with Dr. Whiskey looking at her like he could heal all her wounds. She needed space to clear her head.

“No, thank you,” she finally managed. “I’m just going up to the house to change Lila.”

He pushed to his feet. “I’ll walk you up.”

“No,” she said quickly. “I’m fine, really. I just need…” Grasping for an excuse, she decided to go with honesty, because at the moment she was just that pathetic. “To breathe, and you sort of make that impossible.”

A slow grin spread across his lips.

“Ohmygosh,” came out before she could stop it. “Could you please look the other way?”

“Not a chance, darlin’.”

His arrogance came out smooth as velvet. Ugh. She pushed to her feet, needing to escape before he worked his magic on her. “Come on, Bradley. Let’s go potty before dinner.”

“I don’t have to go,” Bradley whined.

“I’ll watch him,” Bones offered, that panty-melting grin still in place.

Great. Another ovary-exploding dose of goodness. Just what I need.


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I would just like to start off by saying that the statements made in the note to the readers is absolutely true. You will have an ovary explosion when you see Bones with Sarah’s children, but I would just like to add that almost anything Bones did in this book had my ovaries exploding. I knew not even 20% into this book that I was going to love it and that is 100% because of Bones.

Sarah Beckley was introduced in Driving Whiskey Wild when Bullet Whiskey rescues her and her children from a horrendous car accident that left her children as well as her brother injured. On top of all that, Sarah is pregnant with her third child. The only shining light that came from this ordeal was that she was introduced to the Whiskey brothers, specifically Bones Whiskey, and taken in by the Dark Knights Motorcycle Club who fiercely protects those they consider family.

So, Driving Whiskey Wild is one of my favorite books of this year. Bullet Whiskey has my heart, but then Bones Whiskey happened. Bones has always been the mysterious brother. He is part of the Dark Knights, can totally pulls off the whole biker vibe even though he has no visible tattoos AND he is a doctor. Add in his compassionate, loving side when he is around Sarah and her children and the man is basically a unicorn when it comes to the male gender.

Then there is Sarah, who is a strong as hell mother-of-two with a third on the way who has been to hell and back. Years of abuse at the hands of her parents and then the father of her children has made Sarah wary to believe she will ever find that someone who will love her as well as make her and her children feel safe. She honestly believes she doesn’t deserve that kind of love after all she has been through and luckily Bones is here to tell her otherwise. And boy, does he not only tell her, he shows her in more ways than one.

I have not really touched upon what happens in this book and that is for a reason. This is an emotional, heartfelt romance that is best experienced going in as blind as you can. That is how I approached Driving Whiskey Wild and I was blown away and now it has happened a second time. Melissa Foster does an amazing job creating characters you not only love but root for as well as writing romances that tear at your heartstrings, in a good way I promise!

4 stars

blog tour · book review · books · enemies-to-lovers · excerpt · new adult · review · romance · sports romance

Blog Tour: I Bet You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

She’s the one bet I can’t resist…

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills returns with an all-new swoon-fest of a novel about what happens when you look beyond labels and take a chance on love.

I Bet You, an all-new sexy college romance standalone is available NOW!

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Sexy Athlete: I bet you…

Penelope Graham: Burn in hell, quarterback.

The late night text is random but Penelope knows exactly who “Sexy Athlete” is. And why she shouldn’t take his wager.

Ryker Voss.

Football star.

Walks on water and God’s gift to women.

Just ask him.

His bet? He promises Penelope he’ll win her the heart of the nerdy guy she’s been crushing on. His plan—good old-fashioned jealousy. Once her crush sees her kissing Ryker, he’ll realize what he’s missing. Sounds legit, right? The only question is…why is Ryker being so nice to her?

Penelope Graham.

Virgin.

Lover of sparkly vampires and calculus.

His mortal enemy.

Penelope knows she shouldn’t trust a jock, but what’s a girl to do when she needs a date to Homecoming? And Ryker’s keeping a secret, another bet, one that could destroy Penelope’s heart forever.

Will the quarterback score the good girl or will his secret mean everyone loses at this game of love?

IBY-AN

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2yKDR15

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/IBetYouIMM

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2vLgSkX


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Holy Crap! This book was so freaking adorable!

Penelope Graham got on Ryker Voss’s radar when she wrote about his involvement in a football fighting ring. What started out as enemies-to-lovers soon turns into intrigue on Ryker’s part as we see his sweet side come out as he tries to convince Penelope he is not who she thinks he is.

I got major She’s All That vibes from this book which I absolutely loved because who doesn’t love that movie. You have Ryker Voss aka Zach Siler, Penelope Graham who is not exactly Laney Boggs but definitely has her own quirks like Laney, and Archer who makes a bet with Ryker and 100% reminded me of Paul Walker’s character (RIP Paul Walker).

One thing I love about this series is that the heroines are quirky and geeky. Penelope Graham and I are literally soul sisters minus the whole being a sorority girl thing. Between being a lover of romance novels to her beliefs about being intimate with that special someone, I have never connected more to a heroine in a very long time. Oh, and I totally recommend checking out I Dare You, the first book in this series, because Delaney is just as amazing.

And now let’s talk about Ryker Voss. So, this might sound a little strange but I was hoping for a lot more of Penelope and Graham being enemies-to-lovers. We do get that in the beginning but then Ryker starts getting all sweet and adorable and it kind of goes away. Like I said it sounds crazy I know, but I wanted just a little bit more angst between these two. Then of course, Ryker starts being all cute and even I found myself falling under his spell. Nothing is more appealing than a quarterback who is not only hot but also sweet and totally understanding, am I right?

I could not of enjoyed this book more, so much so that I thought it was too short! I wanted more of Penelope and Ryker! If you love college sports romances and quirky heroines, then check out this series!

In fact, read the excerpt below, I guarantee it will make you want to read I Bet You and then hopefully I Dare You too!

4 stars


Excerpt:

Penelope

I stand in front of the mirror in the restroom and gasp. Holy moly, I’m a total disaster. Red is on my shirt, my neck, my cheek, and there’s even a dab in my hair. I let out a heavy sigh as I wipe at it with a wet paper towel. At least my hair is auburn and the red will just blend right in. I scrub at the stain on my shirt, but all I end up doing is making a giant wet spot.

“Forget it,” I mutter to myself a few minutes later as I straighten my lopsided messy bun and adjust my glasses. My makeup is faded, and I reach into my apron for a tube of cherry red lipstick then quickly swipe it over my mouth. Like that’s going to improve the situation. I need a makeover and new clothes stat.

I walk out of the restroom and take in Sugar’s Bar and Grill, a restaurant in Magnolia, Mississippi. The dinner rush is over, but a few stragglers will come in, mostly college students. Only a block from campus, Sugar’s has a modern farmhouse feel with galvanized steel light fixtures, pale pine floors, and straight-back metal chairs, but the food…well, that’s what keeps the place hopping. It’s the only restaurant near campus to get anything you want served up with a side of fresh fried green tomatoes. Their menu also features Southern classics, such as chicken and dumplings or macaroni and cheese with bacon sprinkled on top. Just thinking about it makes my stomach rumble. I was so wrapped up in writing during my break that I forgot to eat.

I sigh and head to the football table, where they promptly hand over the money. “Nice doing business with you, boys,” I say before flouncing off, feeling Ryker’s eyes on me the entire time.

What’s his deal with me?

I mean, you’d think he’d want to avoid me because of the article, but it’s as if his mission is to be around me as much as he can. In fact, I’m not even sure he knew who I was before I wrote it since we don’t run in the same circles. I suspect he’s torturing me.

I push him out of my head and walk over to a table that needs bussing, picking up half-empty soda glasses and putting them on my tray. The door chimes, signaling that someone has come in, and I raise my head to see—

Whoa.

I freeze.

Bring out the angels and cue the hallelujah chorus.

Now that’s the kind of man I should be writing sexy scenes about.

Standing at the door is Connor Dimpleshitz—yes, his surname is unfortunate, but his IQ makes up for it. I’ve been crushing on him since our sociology class last semester.

Framed by a golden halo of sunlight as it glints through the windows, I decide he’s what would happen if Albert Einstein and Henry Cavill had a baby. “A hot genius. The perfect unicorn,” I murmur to myself.

I chew on my lip, debating on whether to mosey up to him and say hi or hide.

Hide wins. I know, I’m a little ridiculous, especially since we have calculus together this semester and he’ll obviously see me at some point in class.

But then I’ll have good hair and ketchup-free clothes.

I quickly survey the possibilities for my escape as the hostess seats him in another server’s section. My eyes land on the right side of the restaurant, where I could make a mad dash for the kitchen, but he’s bound to see me darting since I’d have to walk past him. Plus, I want to hang around and watch him without him knowing.

I come to a decision. Wrangling the tray of half-empty sodas I cleared, I quickstep it over to the back left corner, the farthest away from the double doors of the entrance. I maneuver my body into an awkward hunkering position behind a huge potted plant with wide fan-shaped leaves. At least five feet tall with a gnarly brown trunk, the green monster is perfect camouflage.

I peek around a big leaf that’s in dire need of a good dusting,judging by the motes floating around. Feeling paranoid that someone is a witness to my absurdity, I throw a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure no one’s around.

Ryker. Shit.

He’s staring at me from the football table, and there’s a glint in his gaze, as if he’s wondering what I’m doing.

I scowl and stick my tongue out at him. He makes me feel so rebellious and flustered and…excited.

I can’t even stop myself. Ugh.

His expression deepens in amusement, and I grimace, realizing my butt is sticking out. His annoying eyebrow jacks up and says, What the hell are you doing?

With eye telepathy I tell him to mind his own freaking business.

I pointedly turn my back on him and focus on The Unicorn.

A few seconds later, a familiar deep voice resonates from behind me, making me start. “You look a little flustered, Penelope. Spying on someone for your next story, perhaps?”

I freeze. Blink. His voice is husky and lower than before when he was calling me garçon, the tone reminding me of languid summer nights under a starry Southern sky while he gives me deep, passionate kisses—

Good Lord.Stop your daydreaming.Must. Stop. Reading. Romances.

I heave out a sigh and turn around to face Ryker.

What the hell does he want now?

***

“I don’t submit to the Wildcat Weekly anymore,” I say.

I worked for them most of last year, covering the home games and a few random articles. With a dad who was in the NFL, I know a lot about football, but when Sugar’s offered me more hours, I took it.

“No more football stories, huh?”

I shrug, my gaze taking in his chiseled cheekbones, the curve of his full lips, the hint of scruff on his jaw. Dammit, why is he so gorgeous? “What can I say? I covered the most fascinating story last semester—you. Guess I went out on a high note.”

He nods, taking that dig. “I always noticed you at the games.”

I scoff. “I didn’t think girls like me were on your radar.”

“You sat near the third row at the fifty-yard line taking notes at every home game.” His eyes drift over me. “And I didn’t say you were on my radar.”

“Really? Sounds like you did.”

“Trust me, I have more discriminating tastes.” He shrugs.

“Why, how sweet of you.” My Southern accent has thickened, the way it does when I’m sassy. It’s one thing to know he doesn’t like me, but for him to say I’m not up to his standards…well. “Did you pop over here just to be nice?”

He exhales and rakes a hand through his hair, calling attention to the lighter strands that have been bleached by the sun. “Honestly, I’m not sure why I came over here.” A conflicted expression crosses his face as he tugs at his collar. My eyes stare at the myriad of curly blond chest hairs that are poking out from the V-neck of the light blue Oxford he’s wearing with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay from the ketchup getting all over you, but everything I’m saying is coming out wrong.”

Oh. This is different. And not what I expected.

“I’m fine, Baby Llama. No need to worry. You can go. Your girlfriends are waiting for you.” I tilt my head back toward the football table.

He doesn’t budge. “Baby Llama?” An amused grin flashes over his face.

I shrug. It’s been my private nickname for him since sophomore year when I stumbled upon him coming out of an upstairs bathroom at the Tau house after a shower with only a white towel wrapped around his trim waist. Some jersey chaser was with him. His hairy chest had both shocked my virgin sensibilities and excited me at the same time. The unruly curls just made him seem more naked, as if I’d seen his cock. Much to my dismay, I’d later dream about rolling around on that bed of golden curls. Seriously, who takes a shower with a chick in the middle of a kegger? Ryker Voss, that’s who. Because he can. And girls do whatever he wants.

But not this one.

I respect the game—even love it—but I don’t fall for football players, especially high and mighty quarterbacks who think they walk on water. My dad was the star player at Waylon twenty years ago, and trust me, I know how they operate. They get what they want and then they walk out, leaving broken hearts everywhere.

“Have you ever seen a real llama?” he asks, continuing our conversation. It’s as if he’s actually trying to be nice. “I saw one at a safari park once. Little bugger tried to eat my hand off when I fed him, but he was cute. Maybe you need a poster of one in your room so when you see it, you’ll think about me. I’ll even sign it for you.”

And there’s the cocky again.

“Buy me one. I’ll throw darts at it.”

“Damn, you never stop.” He huffs out a laugh, his eyes lingering on my neck. “Oh, there’s a bit of ketchup here too,” he says, reaching out to glide his finger across the top of my collar, his knuckles barely brushing against my neck.

The feather-light touch is brief and not sexual, yet my body hums, tendrils of sparks racing over my skin. I suck in a breath and catch his scent, warm and spicy with hints of leather and sandalwood.

He blinks and clears his throat. “Um, I actually have this cleaner stuff that I spray on my practice clothes. It’s a miracle worker. You’re welcome to borrow it. Of course, you’d have to come by the football dorm to pick it up. We could even do laundry together if you wanted?”

He says the words softly, as if they’re nothing,and I’m staring at him full on.

Do our laundry together?

I suspect Ryker Voss is flirting with me, though not well. The pimply-faced checkout boy at Big Star has better lines than this.

Yet…

Something warm grows inside my stomach and then flutters around, the sputtering of newborn butterflies. He is the hottest guy on campus. Still, I remind myself he’s a player, gather my resolve, and shoot those butterflies down.

“You’re being weird, Ryker.”

“Because I’m being nice? Yeah. New year, new start. I want to forget all the bad stuff from last semester.” He pauses. “And the article you wrote.”

“Is that right? Even the part where I said you dishonored the sport and were a disgrace to college players everywhere?”

He stares down at his hands. “I had my reasons for what happened.”

So I heard. He got involved in the fighting to help his friend and fellow teammate Maverick save his disabled sister.

“Ah, well, I did write a follow-up article, but it wasn’t nearly as popular as the first one.”

He shrugs, and somehow, he’s closer now. I stare into his thickly lashed cerulean eyes and blink at the force of them. His irises…God, someone should name a crayon after them.

“So…do you want to do laundry together sometime?”

This again? My mouth parts. “What? Like a date?”

“Yeah.”

I blink rapidly, my brain trying to wrap about this new Ryker. “No. I’m sure you already have jersey chasers lined up outside your dorm vying to do your laundry. I’ve heard they actually beg to rub your shoulders and do your homework. I imagine they even fight to be the one to suck your sweet little toes.” I come to an abrupt halt. Suck his toes? SUCK HIS TOES? OMG. Where did that random comment come from? I don’t have a foot fetish. I blame it on his presence and carry on. “And don’t worry about me—I don’t need your laundry advice. A little ketchup never hurt anyone.”

Determination crosses his face and with a flurry of movement, he drops a small piece of paper onto the tray I’m holding.

I stare down at it. Sexy as Hell Athlete is written in masculine handwriting with a phone number after it. I look back up at him, my eyes tracing the enigmatic half-smile on his face.

“I wrote it down for you earlier and wanted to give it to you after the ketchup thing, but I chickened out.”

Several seconds go by.

“Will you give me yours?” he asks after a few moments of us just standing here.

“My what?”

“Number.” He grins.

I indicate the tray and my obvious impediment. “I don’t have any paper on me.”

“Just tell me. I’ll remember.”

I’m flustered, and that’s the only reason I rattle off my phone number. He grins and repeats it back to me.

He lowers his voice in a conspiratorial way. “So…you’re watching someone, I take it. Anyone I know?”

Feeling bemused by his attention, I shake my head, quickly losing control of this situation.

“For a writer, you seem to be at a loss for words. Do I make you speechless, Penelope?”

I scoff. “No.”

“I’m curious as to what has your attention back here.” He slides in next to me behind the plant, his shoulder brushing against mine. He’s a giant next to my slender frame, and all at once, I feel protected and safe, which is entirely wrong. It’s probably his male pheromones, lulling me into softness before the kill—and damn if it isn’t working. He murmurs something about us hiding together and spying on people, but I’m distracted because my face is up close and personal with the chest hair that pokes out of his shirt. I want to trail my fingers through it and see if it’s as soft as it looks. He smells like alpha male and sex. Hard, passionate sex that makes you orgasm fast and furious.

Not that I have any firsthand knowledge of that, of course, but I have my fantasies.

Gird your loins, Penelope.

Resist the quarterback.

But I’m getting sucked in.

I blame it on the dimple that appears when he smiles. My stomach does that fluttering thing again, and this time, I can’t shoo the butterflies away. I’m weak. I move my eyes up the strong column of his tanned throat to meet his gaze. At least ten seconds go by as we take each other in.

What. Is. Happening?

“You’re pretty,” he murmurs. “Have I ever told you that?”

“We don’t usually talk except for when I take your order.”

His hand reaches up and briefly touches a piece of my hair that’s fallen out of my topknot. He rubs it between his fingers. “Your hair…it’s—”

“Auburn,” I manage, clearing my throat.

“It reminds me of a new penny, the way the amber color catches the light…” His voice trails off, and he bites his bottom lip. “God, that has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever said.”

“You have worse lines. Tell me, is doing laundry code for sex?” I say, staring up at him. I’m itching to straighten my glasses, a nervous reflex, but my hands are holding the tray.

“I only use lines on jersey chasers. You’re the kind of girl I have to work for.”

“What about your discriminating tastes?”

“Pure bluff. I think we have a real connection, Penelope.” His face is closer now, and I swallow, wondering how we must look to everyone else in the restaurant. I realize that in the process of talking, we’ve backed up to the wall behind the plant, and I figure the only table we’re visible to is the football one, but I don’t tear my eyes away from Ryker to check.

“You smell like rainbows,” he says.

My chest rises. I’m enjoying his full-court press. It’s…intoxicating. “What does a rainbow smell like?”

“Sweet and delicious.”

“It’s the suckers.” His eyes land on my lips, and it almost feels as if he’s touched them. Heat rushes over my skin. “The red ones are my favorite. I think they’re cherry or strawberry or raspberry…definitely not cranberry…that’s disgusting,” I say, rambling, feeling disoriented.

“It’s crazy, but I really want to kiss you right now,” he murmurs.

My eyes drift over his shoulder to where Connor’s table is. I can’t see his face, but I know he’s there, and even though I’m drugged by Ryker’s proximity, I remind myself he’s the one I should kiss.

Not Ryker.

Ryker is a player—just like my dad was.

He watches the direction of my gaze and follows it. “You’ve been watching Dimples hitz, haven’t you?” he says, a frown line appearing on his forehead. “Are you into him?”

My stomach dips. “Why would you say that?”

“Because you hightailed it over here when he walked in and you’ve been hiding ever since. So, I figure he either did you wrong or you’re infatuated, and since I haven’t heard any gossip about you and him, I’m guessing you must have a thing for him.”

Abort! Abort!He knows too much!

Sanity slowly returns to my brain in small increments, and I take a deep breath, orienting myself as questions race through my head. What if he uses my crush against me? Maybe he wants revenge for the article. I don’t know!

Flustered and unsure, my eyes dart around the restaurant, looking for an exit so I don’t have to answer his question.

My gaze lands on the football table he came from, and I notice Archer watching us with focused interest, a calculating look on his face as he whips his eyes from me to Ryker. He leans over and whispers to Blaze, who turns to peer in our direction. I pause, my brain analyzing and decoding. Why is Archer suddenly interested in what Ryker is doing over here with me—especially when there’s a pretty co-ed sitting right next to him, tracing little circles on his bicep?

Yet Archer’s eagle eyes are onus. Watchful.

I notice all three players at the table have suddenly given us their attention, anticipation evident on their faces.

Alarms go off in my head and things start to click into place.

How nice he was to me. How we ‘have a connection’. Yeah, right.

Mortification washes over me.

How could I not have seen it sooner?

God, I am an idiot.I was so distracted…

I’m a bet. A stupid freaking bet.

I feel like someone just punched me in the gut.

My survival instinct tells me to get away from Ryker, and obviously,I could just walk away and hold my head high, but I want to make a point and show those football players they can’t toy with me. I release the tray I’ve been balancing for what seems like days in his direction. The contents of the glasses spill out and crash to the floor, watered-down soda and ice drenching us before dripping down to the floor. The plastic glasses make a horrible clattering noise on the wooden floors, and I imagine most everyone in the restaurant heard it. I don’t look to see their faces. I only glare at Ryker.

He jumps back and stares down at the mess on his khaki pants then looks back at me. “Remind me to never bring up Dimpleshitz again.”

“Stop your games, Ryker.”

His face stills. “What games?”

My teeth snap together. Enough.


Love football heroes and nerdy heroines?

Start the series of standalones today with I DARE YOU

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About the Author

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Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap. She’s best known for her angsty, heartfelt new adult college romances.

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice; Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.

She’s also addicted to frothy coffee beverages, Vampire Diaries, and any kind of book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females.

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blog tour · books · rockstar romance · romance · second chance romance

Blog Tour: No Tomorrow by Carian Cole

Title: No Tomorrow
Author: Carian Cole
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 13, 2018

The people we love are thieves.
They steal our hearts. They steal our breath.
They steal our sanity.
And we let them.
Over and over and over again.

They say you never forget your first time.  

Mine was with a homeless musician who effed my brains out under a bridge.  

He was my first love. And sixteen years later, I still can’t get him out of my head.

He broke all my rules.
He also broke my heart.

I watched him climb to stardom, cheering him on from afar.
But I was never a fan; just a girl in love.

Like a tornado, he spiraled, leaving a path of destruction in his wake.

But love conquers all, right? It has to. Because here I stand, ravaged and ruined, needing it to be true.

You can’t go back, but I want to. Back to the bridge. Back to when he sang only for me. Before he was famous. Before he shattered my heart.

I thought I knew everything about him.
But I could not have been more wrong.

He promised me every tomorrow. And here I am, waiting.
And hoping. Again.

“This is going to be in the running for my “Best Reads of 2018″.  This story is going to take you on a journey of love, forgiveness and salvation.  It’s beautifully written and I was spellbound by it! Bravo Ms. Cole! I so look forward to reading your past works and your future stories!” ~ Bibliophile Chloe

“No Tomorrow is without a doubt one of my favorite reads of the year. Carian Cole has an exceptional talent with storytelling. The story is brilliant. The romance is unlike anything you have read.” ~ Spellbound Stories

“Every once in a while, avid readers will reach out and find an author, that through their books, touches the heart and soul. I have loved all of Carian Cole’s books, but this one is my favorite. I have no doubt that I will read this one again and again over the years. FINALLY someone figured out how to write about a truly broken hero, his determined courageous heroine, and how true love really can conquer all. This book DID pull some triggers for me, but honestly only in the most positive way. It’s a book that celebrates love even through topics that most people want to keep quiet about, or even run from. I turned to the last page and it left hope shining in my heart. Very well done Ms. Cole. Standing ovation from me.” ~ Ideally Unique

I have a passion for the bad boys, those covered in tattoos, sexy smirks, ripped jeans, fast cars, motorcycles and of course, the sweet girls that try to tame them and win their hearts.

My first novel in the best-selling Ashes & Embers series, Storm, published in September of 2014. I have many books and sequels slated for this series. My new spin-off series, Devils Wolves, launched in 2016 with the best-selling novel, Torn. There are several books planned for this series as well.

Born and raised a Jersey girl, I now reside in beautiful New Hampshire with my husband and our multitude of furry pets and spend most of my time writing, reading, and vacuuming.

Social Media links:

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Email: carrie@cariancole.com

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blog tour · books · new adult · review · romance · sports romance

Blog Tour: Sweet Insanity by Desireé Adele

Photo Sep 02, 1 05 39 AM

We’re celebrating the release of SWEET INSANITY by Desireé Adele!
Don’t forget to one-click and add it to your TBR today!

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NA Contemporary Romance/Sports Romance
Stand Alone
Designed by: Melissa Panio-Petersen

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Old hurt runs deep…

After she left, I was given a second chance at life thanks to my savior and adoptive father. A chance I refused to waste. Determined to be invincible, I became a true fighter in every sense of the word. Nothing and no one would get in my way.

Not even the guy who sat behind me in class.

Zack Graves had the entire world in his hands. A promising hockey career and the confidence and gorgeous looks that had every girl throwing themselves at his feet.

Except me. I was only too happy to wipe the sexy smirk off his face while tossing him on his smug ass.

And he kept coming back for more.

I kept my scars hidden, until Zack managed to trace the lines straight to a place I fought to keep guarded.

Zack was fighting his own immortality, his own scars becoming visible the closer we got. He challenged my guard at every turn forcing me to fight harder, only to realize he would be my undoing.

But some wounds refuse to heal.

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About the Author:

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Author Desireé Adele grew up with a passion for all things literature.

Upon discovering the world of indie romance, Desireé found her tribe and started her journey as a blogger and booktuber, eventually turning her attention to her lifelong aspiration of becoming an author.

Aside from losing herself in a good book, she enjoys listening to progressive metal, working out, and cooking.

Desireé currently resides in Connecticut with her husband and young son, who serve as her biggest inspirations in her writing journey.

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review-banner

What a fantastic debut! I was beyond excited to get the chance to read Sweet Insanity as I have been a loyal follower of Desiree’s YouTube channel for a while now. And let me tell you, my excitement only grew the further I read, turning into absolute adornment by the end.

Dahlia Anastas has been fighting her entire life, whether that is at her adoptive father’s MMA studio where she acts as an apprentice or from the dark shadows of her past. The instinct to fight is in her blood along with the need to construct barriers in order for her to continue to feel safe and not let the feelings of her past creep back in. This all changes though when she goes off on Zack Graves at the end of class one day, star center of her college’s hockey team, setting off a chain of events her heart wasn’t ready for.

Getting told off by a fiery redhead for being on his cellphone in class not only shocks Zack but also intrigues him. His curiosity of who this girl is leads him to one of the biggest challenges of his life. But, all the good things in life are never easy right? And Zack soon learns that getting Dahlia Anastas to trust him and let him in is worth it even if their relationship is met with a number of obstacles and a few moments of heartbreak along the way.

Sweet Insanity has so much to offer and it is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. While I am a sucker for a new adult hockey romance, I thought the MMA elements and how that is such a huge part of Dahlia’s life were both refreshing to see in a romance as well as amazing to read about. Dahlia was such a kickass heroine (pun, intended) and I LOVED that she was skilled enough to takedown Zack, setting the record straight on exactly how capable she is and that basically that you should not mess with her.

The writing was another aspect that stood out to me. There were times when I would just go back and re-read passages throughout this book because the words just spoke to me so much and had such a profound effect on me. Maybe it is because of what is going on in my life right now, but there are certain parts of this book, especially when Dahlia is reflecting on fear, that were heartfelt and emotional yet also relatable at the same time. Desiree’s writing ability was amazing and I still can’t believe this is only her first book.

All in all, this was a wonderful debut and I can’t wait to read Desiree’s next book! I highly recommend everyone check out Sweet Insanity!

4 stars

**Copy provided by Wordsmith Publicity in exchange for an honest review**
blog tour · books · dark romance · excerpt · romance

Blog Tour: Perversion by T.M. Frazier

“T.M. Frazier sucked me in from the very first page and then slayed me with the end of Perversion. This trilogy is EPIC!
Meghan March, New York Times bestselling author

PERVERSION, book one in the Perversion Trilogy from USA Today bestselling author T.M. Frazier is available now!

PERVERSION FRONT AMAZON

Love is supposed to be a fairy tale.

Ours is a death wish.

I’m the executioner for the Bedlam Brotherhood.

She’s a con artist working for my greatest enemy.

I use her.

She manipulates me.

We find ourselves on opposite sides of a bloody war.

My heart and head tell me I have to stay away.

My lust for her doesn’t give a sh*t.

Nothing’s fair in love and gang war.

PERVERSION IS BOOK ONE IN THE PERVERSION TRILOGY

BOOK TWO: POSSESSION

BOOK THREE: PERMISSION


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PERVERSION TRILOGY

Pre-order POSSESSION now

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Excerpt:

Emma Jean

When I was younger, I fell in love with magic. I learned every card trick there was from library books and unmasking magic TV specials. I used to put on shows for Gabby that included escaping from complicated knots and trick handcuffs. But what’s magic besides a sleight of hand?

It’s a lie.

And lying is what I’m damn good at.

My ability to spin a tall tale or two lead to stealing wallets and conning people into taking stray pets for the thrill of it. Now, I’m using it to earn for Marco. The thrill is there, but it’s muted, hindered, lost under his pile of mounting threats.

The inside of the casino smells like stale cigarettes, spilled beer, and burnt coffee. We’re not supposed to be in here. It’s Bedlam territory. But that’s also why it’s perfect.

It isn’t like anyone would recognize us here.

We’ve made friends with a few of the cocktail waitresses by giving them a small cut, and they don’t ask questions or ring any alarms when they see us working. I’ve also been straightening my hair over the last few years since my crazy curls stand out like a reflector on a dark highway. I’ve dyed it a few shades darker than my normal honey blonde to help blend in.

Tonight is starting off well. Gabby and I are working a con we’ve run a few times before.

Gabby walks away, her long dark hair swooshing behind her. She gives me a nod as she passes me by on the slot machine I’m pretending to play. She’s just faked losing an expensive engagement ring at another slot machine. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she frantically looked around for it, then loudly announced a thousand-dollar reward would be waiting at the casino cage for whoever returned it.

She is flawless. She should be an actress. And in another life, she would be.

But we don’t live in another life.

We live in Lacking and belong to Los Muertos.

Our lives are not our own.

A few people casually look around the area, then return to their machines when they don’t find the ring Gabby was ranting about. They won’t either. Because it’s not there.

Yet.

It’s go time.

I strut over to the area Gabby just left and put a dollar in the machine. While the wheels spin, I pretend to pick up the dime store ring I already have in my hand. By the time the machine dings to tell me I’ve lost my dollar, I’m turning the ring over, inspecting it like I don’t have half a dozen more just like it in my drawer back at the apartment.

“Would you look at that?” I mutter to myself loud enough so others around me can hear.

A man in an Adidas jumpsuit with a potbelly taps me on the shoulder. “I’ll take that. I saw the woman who dropped it. I’ll go return it to her.”

Liar. You just want the reward.

“That’s so nice of you,” I say. I hold it out, about to drop it into his hand when I pull it back. “I bet there’s a reward for something this valuable.” I start to walk around the man. “I’ll take it up to management. Maybe, they know…”

“Here,” the man says, holding up a hundred-dollar bill. “Take this. I’ll take it to her. I just…you know, as I said, I want to make sure it gets back to the right person.”

You’re not even a good liar.

Sometimes, it’s just too freaking easy. And this scam wasn’t even an Emma Jean and Gabby original. We saw it a long time ago in a movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Doesn’t anyone else watch movies?

I shrug and pass him the ring. Plucking the bill from his hand, I tuck it into my bra. “Thanks,” I say before quickly making my way toward the large glass front doors. It’s Thursday. Marco’s money is due in two days, and we’re short this week.

Really short.

I walk slowly and wave goodbye to the valets with a smile on my face. “Any luck, tonight?” One asks me.

“I think so,” I answer with a smile. Once I’m down the sidewalk and out of view, I scramble to the side of the casino where I kick off my heels and change from the sequined dress I’d stolen from a dry-cleaner into a pair of cut-off shorts and my yellow Keds.

Now, all I have to do is wait for Gabby.

I don’t have to wait long.

“Run!” Gabby yells, darting from the doors of the casino with two large men wearing tight black security t-shirts close behind. Running from security is terrifying enough, knowing that we’re running from members of the Bedlam Brotherhood kicks it up a notch.

I grab my backpack and sling it across my shoulders. I move as fast as I can until I’m running right alongside her. We race through the gates, cross the street, narrowly avoiding being hit by two cars. We duck into a hole in a fence and run through one backyard after the other.

“One of those cunt waitresses must have tipped them off!” Gabby says, through shallow breaths. She’s barefoot in a black mini-dress hiked up to her ass to give her long legs room to run. Her long thick hair is wrapped around her face, sticking to her mouth.

We hit the sixth backyard. Without another word, we separate behind a clothesline. We’ve mapped out this escape plan a thousand times, but this is the first time we’ve ever had to use it.

When I make it into the central part of town, to the Los Muertos/Bedlam border, I can no longer hear the shouts of the security guards. I lost them.

Hopefully, Gabby did, too.

I use a tower of stacked-up wooden pallets on the sidewalk like a ladder to scale a concrete wall, then drop down into the alley.

I grow more panic-stricken the longer I wait for Gabby. I bite the inside of my lip, pacing back and forth along the high wall. The Bedlam Brotherhood runs the security at the casino. If they catch her and find out who she is? Or worse? Who her brother is? They’ll… I shake the thought from my mind. She’ll be fine.

She HAS to be fine.

Please be okay, Gabby. Please.

I’m trying to catch my breath and pull myself together when I hear a clink echo through the alley as if someone dropped some spare change, followed by the sound of something heavy dropping to the asphalt.

“Gabby?” I ask into the darkness. Thinking it’s her, relief washes over me like rain on a barren desert.

My only answer is the flickering of a fluorescent light mounted high on the roof’s edge of the adjoining building. And the hiss of what sounds like a cat behind a dumpster.

I walk over and peer around it. “Gabby? Are you hurt? Say something!” I whisper-shout.

Someone moves from within the shadow. “Get out here, Gabby. We’ve got to go before Mar…”

The light flickers again, for just a second. That second is all I need to see that the someone slowly stalking toward me is not Gabby.

It’s a man…twice my size.

“Who are you?” I ask, shuffling backward as the man cloaked in a black leather hood emerges from the shadows. The front of his jacket is open. Underneath, he’s shirtless, covered in a sheen of sweat, and more tattoos than visible skin all the way up the front of his throat. His muscled chest and abs flex with each step he takes. The hood shadows most of his face, but when the lights flicker again, yellow eyes glow from within.

And they’re locked on me.

My ‘save your ass’ mode kicks in.

The man is blocking the only exit. My only other chance of escape is to scale the same wall I used to drop into the alley.

I keep moving backward as he approaches until my back hits the wall. I look left and right for something to use to climb on.

There’s nothing but emptiness.

My stomach sinks, but surrender is not an option.

I swallow hard as the alarm bells scream in my head for me to run. Somewhere. Anywhere.

There’s nowhere to go!

My legs tremble. Fear crawls like a million spiders along the backs of my legs. I push myself further against the wall as if I can squish the feeling away, but it’s useless.

Fear consumes me. Swallows me whole.

He continues toward me. As he gets closer, I realize it’s not just sweat glistening on his skin. There’s something else splattered across the tattoos on his chest and on his stubbled jaw.

It almost looks like wet paint.

My breathing stops when he’s close enough that I can make out the tattoo on the front of his throat.

A bleeding black rose.

The symbol of the Bedlam Brotherhood.

I’ve heard stories about Grim. The man in the hood. The executioner for Bedlam. They were all terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying as the reality of coming face to face with the man himself.

“We didn’t do anything,” I blurt. “I mean, we did, but it wasn’t a big deal. I’ll…I’ll give the money back. Just tell your men not to hurt my friend. It was all my idea. Let her go, and you can take me.”

“Who the fuck are you?” he asks. His voice is so thick and deep I feel it more than hear it. Shivers erupt all over my body.

He raises his arm, revealing a long curved blade.

For the first time in my life, I can’t seem to be able to hide my fear with my wit or sarcasm. My throat tightens. I can’t swallow, never mind speak. I’ve lost my words completely, along with my nerve.

The man’s blade drips red onto the pavement from the serrated tip.

Every fear response I didn’t even know I had runs rampant. I’m holding my breath. My muscles tense as if running was still an option. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck prickle my skin as they stand on end. I raise up to my tip-toes and push back, trying to make myself disappear into the wall.

I glance from the knife back to his chest, then back again. The splatters across his skin?

It’s not fucking paint.

Before I can process what the hell is happening, he switches from slow-stalking mode into hyper-speed, pinning my wrists above my head. His hard, bloodied chest pushes against me, smearing blood across my white tank top, forcing the back of my head to connect roughly with the wall.

“I’ll only ask you this one more time. Who the fuck are you?” His low guttural growl rattles my bones.

His unblinking, angry, golden eyes lock onto mine. Without the fluorescent light, they’re more golden brown than a glowing yellow. As much as I want to, I can’t look away. He could be the last person I ever see.

The thought is just the spike of adrenaline I need.

“Let me go,” I say, finally finding my words. I try and jerk my wrists from his grip with no luck. I’m trapped. My fear and anger rise to the surface, but I shove it back down. Fear won’t get me out of this situation, so it will have to wait for its damned turn.

He digs his rough fingers into my skin. “Answer me. Who the fuck are you?”

The bite of pain only makes me angrier. I throw his question back at him. “Who the fuck are you?”

He glances down at my rapidly rising and falling chest before pinning me with his stare. The corner of his mouth tugs up in a half-smirk.

“So much confidence for someone who’s trembling,” he says with an amused glint shining in his demonic eyes.

I shrug. “Maybe, I’m just not a fan of enclosed spaces,” I say through gritted teeth.

“You didn’t answer me,” he says.

“Why do you have blood all over you?” I answer him with yet another question. “You know, if you were committing some kind of crime back there, you should be more careful. I recommend a bleach bath and death by fire for your clothes the first chance you get. If it’s self-harm, I’m sure there’s a helpline you can call.”

He cocks his head to the side. His nostrils flare. His face is only inches away. I can feel the heat from his body against mine. His cool breath flutters against my neck.

I’ve never been this close to a man before. My trembling grows. My inner thighs shake sending a rippling wave of something very unfamiliar coursing through the center my body. I try and press my legs together to stop it from happening again, but when he uses his knee to wedge my legs apart, caging me in even further, it only grows, uncoiling from within like a slinky being pulled apart at the ends.

I swallow hard as the stubble of his jaw presses against my neck.

“Name,” he demands, his voice raspier than before.

I shut my eyes tight for a beat, trying to gain composure, control, something that will help me as I try and reason my way out of this. “Listen, I didn’t see anything,” I blurt. “That is if you did anything. I’m not going to call the police if that’s what you’re worried about. I wouldn’t anyway, even if I saw something, which I didn’t.”

His brows knit together in a harsh line. “Why?”

His question confuses me.

“Why what?”

“Why wouldn’t you tell the police?”

Because Marco owns them.

“Let’s just say that I haven’t exactly been a model citizen myself tonight. Let’s face it. If the police around here weren’t being paid not to do their jobs, half this town would be locked up.” I take a deep, shaky breath. “Especially people like us.”

He stills. There’s no more talking. Only heavy breathing and a battle of wills. He releases one of my hands. I think he’s reaching for his knife. My blood turns cold. I can feel my face pale as my heart starts beating as faster and faster as if it wants to get in as many as possible before the end.

I’m surprised when he doesn’t go for his knife. Instead, his hand travels slowly down my chest into my cleavage.

“No, don’t!” I say, but it’s too late, he’s already yanked on my locket.

“Please just give it back, and let me go,” I plead. Feeling like it’s my real heart he’s torn from my chest. “It’s the only thing in this world that means anything to me. Besides my best friend, it’s all I have.”

I hate the desperation in my voice, but it’s the truth.

He’s silent for a moment. He raises his arms. I flinch, raising my arms over my face defensively. But when nothing happens, I lower them, just in time to see him push back his hood, revealing his face.

“Why?” I ask, closing my eyes knowing full well that the only time a criminal reveals himself to a witness is right before they take them out.

“Look at me,” he demands, holding my face in his hand.

“No!” I say, shutting my eyes tighter.

“Look at me!” he bellows. He’s on me again. This time, he holds my head in his large rough hands. “Open your fucking eyes so you can see me.”

With no other choice than to get my head squished like a turtle under a car tire, I do as he demands. Opening my eyes, I blink through the haze, and when it clears, I’m met with tousled, medium-length, light brown hair, slicked back on the top, shorn close to head on the sides. His nose is slightly crooked like it’s been broken a few times before. The stubble on his square, defined jaw is a few days over needing a shave. A jagged scar runs through his chin like an angry white lightning bolt.

He’s the most fucking beautifully terrifying man I’ve ever seen.

He’s searching my eyes for something, but I don’t know what.

“Why?” I ask in a whisper.

His hands release mine, but he doesn’t step back. He leans in closer, speaking against my cheek in a rumble of a whisper. The strange feeling from earlier comes back as a zap of electricity bouncing around my insides looking for somewhere to ground.

I’m breathing heavy. Our lips are so close, almost touching. He slides one hand off my face, snaking it around my neck, pulling me closer. He starts to answer in a rumble of a whisper, causing goosebumps to rise on my already prickled skin. “Because I want you to see the face of the man who’s just—”

“Where the fuck are you?” calls Gabby from the other side of the wall. “I lost them!”

The moment, whatever it is, is now broken. The man releases me so suddenly I brace myself against the wall to keep from falling. I turn my head toward her voice.

“Gabby!” I shout back.

My heart is beating out of control. Out of habit, I raise my hand to my chest, seeking familiar comfort.

I look up. The man in the hood is gone.

And so is my locket.

About the Author

TmFrazier

T.M. (Tracey Marie) Frazier never dreamed that a single person would ever read a word she wrote when she published her first book. Now, she is a five-time USA Today bestselling author and her books have been translated into numerous languages and published all around the world.

T.M. enjoys writing what she calls sexy‘wrongside of the tracks romance’ with morally corrupt anti-heroes and ballsy heroines.

Her books have been described as raw, dark and gritty. Basically, what that means, is while some authors are great at describing a flower as it blooms, T.M. is better at describing it in the final stages of decay.

She loves meeting her readers, but if you see her at an event please don’t pinch her because she’s not ready to wake up from this amazing dream.

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