Guest Authors Blogging on Manic Readers!


Interested in guest blogging on Manic Readers? Please contact Ivy.
ivydtruitt at gmail (dot) com.

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Amy Sandas' THE GUNSLINGER'S VOW w/ giveaway

Three runaway brides
Determined to escape their fates

Flee West to find freedom that can only be had

in a cowboy’s arms…

Alexandra Brighton spent the last five years in Boston, erasing all evidence of the wild frontier girl she used to be. Before she settles down, she’s determined to visit her childhood home one final time. But when she finds herself stranded far from civilization, she has no choice but to trust her safety to the tall, dark and decidedly dangerous bounty hunter Malcolm Kincaid.

Now that Malcolm finally has the location his brother’s killer, he has no intention of wasting time protecting a pampered Eastern lady. But something about Alexandra speaks to the heart he long thought frozen—and her slow transformation from proper miss to wild-eyed beauty leaves him shaken. By the time they reach Montana, Malcolm must decide if seeking justice for past wrongs is worth losing a future with the woman he never expected to need…

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After knocking sharply, he lowered his chin, crossed his arms over his chest, and waited. He chose not to analyze why the idea of disturbing her sleep gave him a perverse sort of pleasure.

He was about to knock again, when the lock released and the door opened to reveal a very sleepy— and very undressed—woman blinking at him with wide blue eyes. 

“Mr. Kincaid? Is something wrong?” 

Wrong? Hellfire and damnation. Malcolm could barely think. 

The foolish woman stood there in nothing more than a white towel wrapped around her body from chest to knee. The creamy skin of her limbs and shoulders was entirely exposed, and dark hair fell in heavy waves down her back. She looked soft and feminine and too damned enticing. 

Lust swept hot and furious through him. He ground his back teeth hard to stop his body’s instant reaction to the sight of Miss Brighton in such a state. 

“What the hell are you doing opening the door like that?” Malcolm growled, glancing down the hall to make sure no one else was about. 

Her eyes grew wider as she looked down at herself. A swift blush pinkened her cheeks, and she tried to step back around the edge of the door. “I was in a deep sleep,” she explained. “I forgot I wasn’t dressed.” 

“What if it hadn’t been me knocking?” he asked angrily. 

It was probably his tone that had her lifting her chin and narrowing her gaze. “Well, it is you, isn’t it? And you still haven’t told me why you have come to bother me in the middle of the night.” 

“It’s barely ten o’clock.” 

Apparently over her embarrassment, she crossed her arms over her chest in a perfect copy of his own stance and lifted her brows in question. The action plumped the upper swells of her breasts, and Malcolm’s mouth went bone-dry. 

Forcing his attention back to her face didn’t seem to help much. Not with her eyes all soft from sleep and those lips looking so damn kissable. 

“I’ll take you to Montana,” he said abruptly, trying to shake himself free of the sensual snare he’d walked into. 

Her mouth dropped open in surprise. “You will?” 

Malcolm was tempted to back out then simply due to the strength of his unbidden desire. He did not want to entertain the idea that his attraction to her was growing stronger rather than fading. But it was the damned truth. The journey was going to be torturous in more ways than one. He had no intention of acting on the lust she inspired, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel it, and it didn’t mean he’d always be able to hide it. 

But he couldn’t in good conscience leave her stranded. Doing so would make him no better than Lassiter, and there was no telling what manner of character she’d end up in the hands of if he wasn’t there to keep her out of trouble. 

“We do things my way,” he stated firmly. “No arguing.” 

She nodded vigorously. “Of course. Whatever you say, Mr. Kincaid.”

Malcolm narrowed his gaze. Her ready agreement was suspicious, but he’d made his decision. “Malcolm,” he muttered. 

Her eyebrows lifted in surprise. Then she smiled, and Malcolm’s gut clenched. The curve of that lower lip was going to be the death of him. 

“All right, Malcolm.” She unfolded her arms to extend her hand. “And you may call me Alexandra.” 

Malcolm knew he shouldn’t take her hand. Not there in the dark while she stood in nothing but a towel, not when desire ran rampant through his blood at the simple sight of her. But she kept her hand extended and lifted a brow as though in challenge. 

He took her hand in his, noting its softness and how easily it became folded up in his larger grip. His bicep tensed with the urge to give a quick and forceful tug so she’d tumble toward him until her breasts flattened against his chest, her thighs bumped his, and her breath spread across his throat. It’d be so easy to take her in his arms and claim her mouth. 

But she was innocent and far too trusting—not to mention way the hell out of his class—and Malcolm had never taken anything from a woman that wasn’t freely given. Miss Brighton was not for him. 

Oblivious to his train of thought, she gave a surprisingly firm handshake. Her smile never wavered as she declared, “You won’t regret this. I promise.” 

Malcom released her hand and stepped back. “Be downstairs by seven o’clock tomorrow.” 

“I will. Thank you, Malcolm.” 

“And ask who’s at your door before you open the damned thing.”

Malcolm held his position until the door closed and he heard the lock click into place. Then he stalked down the hall to his own room, taking slow breaths to rein in his body’s fierce and unwelcome craving. He’d need to see to his own relief tonight. There was no way he was going to start on the trail with that woman wound as tight as he was. 

Not if he hoped to survive the journey.

 

Lynnette Austin's MUST LOVE BABIES w/ giveaway

This baby’s not the only one in need of a cuddle…

Brant Wylder is a bachelor and loving it! He’s in Misty Bottoms, Georgia, property-hunting for his vintage car repair shop when he gets the call. His sister’s been in an accident, and Brant has to drop everything and take care of his five-month-old nephew. That’s the end of the bachelor lifestyle.

Bridal boutique owner Molly Stiles is all business all the time until she sees that Brant’s in trouble. In this Southern town, nobody ever has to go it alone. And besides, how can she resist that beautiful baby in the arms of a beautiful man…?

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Molly stood beneath a magnolia tree, her face tipped to catch the moonlight. The breath caught in his throat, and for one fanciful second, Brant imagined a mythical princess or fairy.

He shook his head. The woman was real, and he wanted a dance, wanted to hold her in his arms. A little flirting? Harmless.

Stepping out of the shadows, he made his way to her.

“Beautiful night, huh?”

“Perfect.” Slowly, she turned, a smile on her face.

“How about a dance?” 

She hesitated.

“I’m not asking for a lifelong commitment, sugar. Just a single dance under the stars. The night’s made for dancing.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

He caught her hand in his, amazed at its softness against his work-roughened one. “In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not the world’s greatest dancer, but you shouldn’t lose any toes.” He glanced at her sequined stilettos, showcased by her cocktail-length dress. “Don’t know how you even walk in those, let alone put on the miles you do, but I have to say that all mankind is grateful.”

Smiling, Molly peeked at her shoes. “They’re awesome, aren’t they?”

He nodded. “You can dance in them?”

“I could run a marathon in these.”

“Okay, then.” The moon shone through Spanish moss that dripped from the live oaks, forming a lacy pattern on the dewy grass.

Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” played over the sound system. Reaching the dance floor, Brant slid an arm around her waist and drew her in, breathed in her scent. He swung her out and brought her back in one smooth motion, felt her quick laugh in the pit of his stomach. The music slowed when the band segued into John Legend’s “All of Me,” and he drew her close.

Molly fit perfectly in his arms. She lived in Georgia and he in Tennessee, and that made her safe. And if the plans he and his brothers were working on panned out? Still nothing to worry about since she lived in Savannah. When she rested her head against his chest, he wondered if she could hear the rapid thump of his heart. Ms. Molly was hot, hot, hot.

His hand slid a little lower, and without missing a beat, she relocated it to her waist.

Molly smelled of a midnight garden with just a touch of naughty. His body responded, and he willed himself to think about something else. “How’s the city?”

“Savannah?” She shrugged. “I live in Misty Bottoms now. I opened a bridal boutique. Today’s bride was my first.” She grinned, dimples creasing her cheeks. 

The dance ended, and he reluctantly released Molly. “I’m driving back to Tennessee tomorrow.”

“Speaking of driving, thanks for taxiing the last of the rehearsal dinner’s partiers home last night. I heard they celebrated pretty hard at Duffy’s.”

“No problem.”

“I need to stop at my car before I go back inside. I left the little silver heart I attach to the bridal gown’s garment bag in my glove box.”

Brant walked beside her in the soft night air, a hand at her elbow, while the band played Blake Shelton’s “God Gave Me You.”

He lowered his head. “Before we call it a night, I’d love to see the rose garden our friend Cole salvaged.”

“What a mess, but after a lot of hard work it’s incredible again.”

The scent of roses surrounding them, they strolled through the yard. In the silver light of the moon, the flowers glowed and took on an almost magical, fairy-tale illusion. The house shimmered and welcomed, like the true Southern lady she was. Interlacing his fingers with Molly’s, peace enveloped Brant.

They wandered across the expanse of lawn and through the blooms in comfortable silence.

From the parking area, he heard the sound of engines starting, of tires crunching on the long drive. “Looks like it’s about time for lights-out. We’d better head back so you can finish up.”

A slight breeze caused Molly to shiver, and happy for the excuse, Brant wrapped an arm around her and pulled her a little closer, surprised when she didn’t pull away.

Reaching her yellow-and-white Mini Countryman, he made to open her door, then changed his mind, leaned in and gave her a quick kiss, one that should have been impersonal. Friendly. Instead, fire shot through him.

He pulled back, unsure whether he should be relieved or horrified that the expression on her face mirrored his own stampeding feelings. Clearing his throat, he said, “I’m taking care of a few loose ends in the morning, then heading back to Tennessee. And I already said that, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did. The kiss was nice, thanks, but you don’t need to worry. I won’t show up naked at your hotel door.”

His breath caught.

She grinned, and he understood she knew exactly the effect she was having on him.

“I—” His phone vibrated. “Whoops. Sorry, but I’d better take this. My brothers probably forgot something. Organization isn’t their strong suit. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Sure.”

“Hello? Dad?” As he spoke, he made his way to a gnarly old oak. His father’s voice was gruff, almost as if he’d been crying. Panic grabbed Brant by the throat. “What’s wrong?

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COWBOY SEAL REDEMPTION & giveaway w/ Nicole Helm

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Jack Armstrong’s been slowly piecing his life back together after a career-ending injury bounced him from the SEALs. The only trouble is, his family’s on their way to his new haven in Montana…and Jack refuses to let them know he’s still hurting. Desperate, he makes a deal with local bad girl Rose Rogers: in exchange for some extra security, she’ll play the perfect loving girlfriend.  

Rose doesn’t trust any man, much less some tough-as-nails former SEAL. But the more they settle into their ruse, the more things start to feel real, and the more Rose’s true fear surfaces—that she’ll never be good enough for love. But Jack isn’t about to lose Rose. He’s done running when things get tough, and he’s determined to prove—once and for all—that even the most troubled hearts can find their way to redemption.

Three former Navy SEALs 

Injured in the line of duty

Desperate for a new beginning…

Searching for a place to call their own.

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No man had ever held her close like this. Like you just held a person because you woke up together. And okay, maybe she’d never really spent the night with a guy. The few times she’d allowed herself to be charmed into sex, she’d always vamoosed either once the act was done or once the guy dozed off. 

She didn’t stay. She didn’t do it again. And she did not, God forbid, cuddle. Someone holding her was supposed to be stifling. It was supposed to feel awkward. She was supposed to want to make fun of an act as soft and pointless as this. 

Mostly she wanted to cry again and stay here forever. What was this man doing to her? And why him? Was it the scars—internal and external? The sob story? Or just those eyes? 

“Do you have nightmares?” he asked out of nowhere. 

She shifted in his arms. “Why would I have nightmares?” 

He kissed her bare shoulder. “PTSD.” 

“Hate to break it to you, sailor, but I never went to war.” 

“You survived your own hell,” he said so matter-of-factly, she couldn’t even think up a response. “War isn’t the only thing that stamps itself on you, and death isn’t either. You know, when I was in the rehabilitation center, someone told me foster kids suffer from PTSD at a higher rate than military veterans.” 

“What asshole said that to you while you were in a rehabilitation center?” 

He shrugged. “Mike.” 

“I’d like to wring that little fucker’s neck.” 

Jack’s mouth curved into a smile. “I’d rather you didn’t. My mother likes you, but she wouldn’t approve of that.” 

“Your sister likes me too.” Which she shouldn’t have said or even thought. What did it matter what his family thought? It was a fake like, for a fake her…but she liked them in return. 

Except Dick Bag Mike. 

“My sister worships you and might not care if you wring Mike’s neck.” 

She laughed. Oh, damn him for having half a charming family. Vivian was adorable, and his parents were… 

Well, she didn’t want to think about how lovely they were. 

“You had your own trauma, Rose. I just wondered if it still bothered you. Nightmares. Panic attacks. I’ve done it all, so…” 

Trauma. As though she were a victim. She had been, in a sense, but not like her sisters. They’d all looked after each other. They had put each other first at great risk to themselves. Only Rose had ever taken their father’s teachings to heart. 

Always look out for number one. 

“Just tell me the truth,” he said, and it was all gentle and impossible to fight him off. 

The truth. She didn’t want to acknowledge the truth, but lying to Jack seemed so impossible. “S-sometimes. I’ve had nightmares. Rarely, but sometimes.” 

“Mine have gotten fewer ever since I started talking. I told my sister I loved her last night.” He paused, rubbing his lightly stubbled chin against her temple. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that. And it was something. Telling Madison how much she hurt me changed something. I’ve still got scars, Geiger is still dead, Madison is still married to my brother, but…” 

“But what?” 

“See, that’s the thing. There didn’t used to be a but. It was a list of horrible, dark things, and it ended there. Everything was awful. Now? I still feel beat down by those things, by those hurts and scars, but…there’s a but. There’s more.” 

She wanted to cry. For him. Because of him. She knew what it was like to have a but. Her sisters had always been that. It was so strange to realize that, over the past year as her sisters had been building their lives, she’d lost that but for herself. 

She had her bar, her power, and her freedom. It should have been enough, but the list of bleak was holding her down, and she didn’t know how to be as brave as Jack and believe in a but. 

“I’m not your happy ending, Jack,” she rasped. 

“I don’t believe in happy endings anymore, Rose. Maybe I never did. I do know we don’t get what we deserve, and hard work doesn’t always pay off. That doesn’t change the beauty and hope of having a but.” He smiled then, so open and perfect and beautiful. “I care about you, Rose.” A gesture she didn’t deserve. 

“I wish you wouldn’t,” she whispered. 

“I know.” He sighed and brushed his lips across hers, light and quick. “I have to go do my chores before the family wakes up. Why don’t you come with me?” 

“Come with?” 

“Yeah, you can watch me do manly chores, we can eat breakfast with my family, and then you can head home and get some rest before you have to open the bar.” 

She should refuse, stop diving deeper into this thing that was going to end so very badly if she let him get more attached. 

If you let yourself get more attached. 

“Say yes,” he murmured against her neck, nuzzling there. 

And she was a very, very stupid woman, because that’s exactly what she said 

WHAT HAPPENS IN SUMMER & giveaway w/ Caridad Pineiro

Playing it safe was far worse than taking a risk on what you wanted.

Jonathan Pierce knew just what he wanted.

He grabbed hold of the gnarly branch of the decades-old wisteria vine that climbed the side of the Sinclair mansion and boosted himself up. He’d made the journey so many times this past summer, he could do it blindfolded.

He scrambled up the vine, finding the familiar foot and handholds until he vaulted up and over the second floor railing, and landed silently as a cat burglar on the balcony. It ran the length of the immense oceanfront mansion, with elegant french doors offering views of the sea.

The first darkened doorway was Maggie Sinclair’s room. He rushed past it quietly; Maggie belonged to his older brother, Owen. Not that Owen had acted on it yet, but Jonathan had known for years that the two were meant to be together, family feud be damned.

The next doorway was usually Maggie’s dad’s, but the old man had stopped coming down to the Shore as often as he once had, so it was a good bet that room was unoccupied.

Reaching the third room, he saw the curtains wafting in the summer breeze and the dim light from behind the partially closed french doors. He smiled and his heart raced with pleasure.

Connie was waiting for him. Ever-responsible, ever-loyal Connie had broken her own rules to fall in love with him. Or at least he thought it was love. It definitely was on his part. With barely a week left before the girls all went back to school, he intended to let her know just how he felt.

He slipped carefully through the open doors and shut them behind him. He’d gone no more than a step when she launched herself at him, laughing and kissing him as she said, “What took you so long?”

“I missed you, too,” he said, knowing it was more about the separation to come in a week and not about the long hours since last night. 

He bent his head and kissed her, his touch tender and caring, and she answered in kind, her lips soft and coaxing.

Although Maggie had been bringing her friends to the Jersey Shore every summer since they’d met freshman year in college, he’d never really paid much attention to Connie at first. He’d had his share of girls from his high school class fawning over him.

But when Maggie and her friends had come back the next year, he had finally, gratefully, noticed what a real woman should be. Like Connie: all luscious curves; also proud, smart, and independent,

As impatient as he might be to make love to her tonight, he wanted her to know how much this meant to him. How this wasn’t only a summer romance for him.

He leaned over her, his gaze locked on her face. He wanted to say the words—Lord, how he wanted to—but they stuck in his throat and so he let every kiss and touch tell her what he couldn’t voice. 

***

Connie’s heart thudded almost painfully in her chest as she wondered how, in a week’s time, she could leave him. The ache deepened beneath her breastbone and she put her hand there and rubbed to assuage the hurt.

What had started as a summer fling with a funny, smart, and beautiful boy had turned into something so much more, with an incredibly amazing man. Falling in love with Jonathan hadn’t been in her game plan, but he was just too hard to resist.

She should have resisted. He was a Pierce. She wasn’t a Sinclair, but Maggie was like a sister and that stupid family feud was still going strong, as far as she knew.

He was going back to Villanova in a week and she’d be returning to Princeton. The colleges were not all that far apart, but if she was to execute her game plan, she had to stay in the game, which meant studying and more studying. Not nights spent in bed making love and days spent daydreaming about the nights. But like Adam with Eve, now that she’d had a bite of such delicious forbidden fruit, she didn’t know how she could go on a Jonathan-free diet.

At the moment, she could just admire his sun-streaked light brown hair waving wildly around a masculine face with chiseled features. A sexy dimpled grin was on his lips and his eyes glittered with a blue as enchanting as a Sea Kiss summer sea.

That ache in her heart rocketed to life again together with an almost unbearable lightness in her soul. For so much of her life she’d been driven to accomplish more and more, but with Jonathan, she could just be herself. No goals or responsibilities. Just…happy.

And so, in the blink of an eye, her game plan altered. She could see it all so clearly, only now Jonathan was there beside her at each step. Finish college. Head to law school. Pass the bar. Get a job in a big New York City law firm so she could help her family financially, as well as others who had legal problems and couldn’t afford representation. Become a partner. Marry Jonathan. Or maybe marry Jonathan and then become a partner. She didn’t want to wait too long to be with him forever.

Not that she’d ever pictured getting married to anyone before, since her home life hadn’t been anything great. But for Jonathan, she’d make an exception.

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She knows the kind of man he is;

The kind who breaks hearts.

But a hot summer at the Jersey Shore

Might be just what they need to light up their lives…

As the only daughter of a single mom, Connie Reyes swore she would never put herself or her child in a similar position. But when she runs into oh so tempting Jonathan Pierce at a wedding, she knows she must stay away. She’ll fall for him—hard. And he’s not the type to stick around.

Ever since he left town after their teenaged fling, Jonathan hasn’t been able to forget about Connie. He can’t wait for the wedding—to show her the man he’s become. And when the night finally comes, their mutual desire will lead to unexpected consequences neither of them was prepared for…

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THE ONE YOU CAN'T FORGET & giveaway w/ Roni Loren

Most days Rebecca Lindt feels like an imposter…

The world admires her as a survivor. But that impression would crumble if people knew her secret. She didn’t deserve to be the one who got away. But nothing can change the past, so she’s thrown herself into her work. She can’t dwell if she never slows down.

Wes Garrett is trying to get back on his feet after losing his dream restaurant, his money, and half his damn mind in a vicious divorce. But when he intervenes in a mugging and saves Rebecca—the attorney who helped his ex ruin him—his simple life gets complicated.

Their attraction is inconvenient and neither wants more than a fling. But when Rebecca’s secret is put at risk, both discover they could lose everything, including what they never realized they needed: each other

She laughed and kissed him. This morning she’d melted down. But somehow this man had her laughing and turned on only a few hours later. Everything inside her felt buoyed.

She felt…light. 

She’d forgotten what that felt like.

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Fifteen minutes. That was how long it took for Marco and Kincaid to abandon Rebecca and Wes in the kitchen under the auspices of Let me show you the view from Marco and Does this building have original details? from Kincaid.

Kincaid had motioned at Rebecca as she slipped out of the kitchen, some invented sign language that probably meant Talk it out with the hot chef but looked more like a drunken game of naughty charades.

Rebecca had promptly flipped her off.

But now here she was. Alone with Wes again.

Wes stood behind the large island, black bandanna keeping his hair back, gray T-shirt putting all that colorful arm ink on display, and forearms flexing as he sliced and diced an onion with practiced precision. If not for the simmering annoyance, it would’ve been a nice show to watch from her spot sitting on a stool on the other side of the counter. But he hadn’t said a word to her since they’d gotten into the condo. Just chop, chop, chop and irritated grunts.

“Do you need any help?” she asked for lack of anything else to say.

“Can you help me murder my brother?”

“I was thinking we could get rid of them both in one go. How far is the drop from the balcony?” Rebecca tapped her chin. “We could make it look like an accident. I know someone who could defend us.”

Wes smirked.

The little break in the wall helped her relax some. “Why’d you give in anyway? I was about to get us out of it. I had a whole argument prepared. There were bullet points. Closing statements. We could’ve saved ourselves this lovely moment.”

He frowned and dumped the onions into one of the prep bowls. “Yeah, but you didn’t see the look on my brother’s face.” He pushed a basket of strawberries and a paring knife toward her. “Can lawyers hull strawberries?”

“Sure.” She took the berries and stole one of his empty prep bowls. “So what kind of look was that?”

“The Don’t ruin this for me look. The Remember all the times I’ve helped you out look. That look.”

“That’s a lot for a look to say.”

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t hard to get the point. He’s always working and doesn’t get to go out and meet women. He likes your friend, and she seems to like him for whatever reason”—he shrugged and grabbed a bell pepper from the stack of vegetables—“so I’m hanging out with my ex-wife’s lawyer and taking one for the team.”

She wrinkled her nose.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing. I’m just having a high school flashback.” Thankfully not the kind she’d had Friday night, but one that was unpleasant enough in its own right.

“How’s that?”

She concentrated on cutting the stem off a strawberry. “I had a friend whose parents would only let her go on group dates. So I always got dragged out with her and had to be the date of her boyfriend’s best friend, who pretty much reminded me every ten minutes that he was there as a favor and was taking one for the team by hanging out with me. It was super awesome for my fifteen-year-old ego.”

“Ouch. What an idiot.”

“Yeah, I should’ve just told her to leave me out of it and sneak out like everyone else.”

“No, I meant him. What a douche.”

“Oh. Yeah. He was.” But even as she said it, she felt a pang of guilt in her gut. Craig hadn’t made it through prom night. So douche or not, she felt guilty talking bad about the dead. “We were just in a doomed-to-fail setup. Popular jock and high-strung goody-goody were not a wise combination. Two different planets and all that. He probably thought I was an insufferable Miss Priss.”

His lip curled. “Were you?”

She lifted her hand and held her index finger and thumb an inch apart. “Maybe a little. I wasn’t…not. When they brought weed to date night, I couldn’t just say no and let them do their thing. I gave everyone a lecture about how long it stays in your system and how having something on your record could ruin your college chances.”

He cringed. “Ahh, you were that girl. We had one of those at my school, too.”

“Yeah?”

He nodded. “Laney Becker. And she thought I was a douche.”

“Were you?”

He lifted his fingers, repeating her motion back to her but widening the gap further.

“Nice.”

“I probably would’ve done better if I’d been friends with someone like her. I could’ve used a girl telling me not to blow off class and get high. Or doing a lot of other things I shouldn’t have been doing back then.” He tossed more chopped veggies into a bowl. “And I’m sorry about the ‘taking one for the team’ comment. I didn’t mean it that way. This is just…a screwed-up situation. I’m willing to call a temporary let’s-forget-we-have-history truce for today.”

“I’m on board with that.”

“Good.” He frowned down at her chopped berries. “Hold up. That’s not how to hull.”

She looked down at the berry in her hand. She’d cut off the top. The stem was gone. She didn’t see any problem. “What’s wrong?”

He set down his knife and stepped around the island. “You’re wasting a big part of the berry that way. Here.” He held out his hand for the paring knife, and she handed it over. He shifted until he was right next to her and held the fruit in front of her. “The woody part is just under the leaves. That’s what you’re after.”

He poked the tip of the knife right beneath the leaves and then made a circle around the stem. He popped out the stem and only a little piece of the berry, leaving much more of the fruit intact.

“See.” He held the strawberry in his palm, the sweet scent of the ripe fruit wafting up to her. “Lots more berry, and you also don’t lose the shape of the fruit that way.”

“Oh.” She tried to focus on what he was showing her and not on the fact that he was so close and she could feel his body heat against her arm. Her hormones apparently had no qualms about this man. They remembered what his lips tasted like and were ready to ignore everything she knew about him. Stupid, misguided hormones.

Band of Sisters #1 I AM JUSTICE Excerpt & giveaway w/ Diana Muñoz Stewart

I Am Justice

Diana Muñoz Stewart

Band of Sisters, #1

May 1, 2018

Romantic Suspense

This bad-*** band of sisters plays for keeps.

She’s ready to start a war

Justice Parish takes down bad guys. Rescued from the streets by the world renowned Parish family, she joined their covert sisterhood of vigilante assassins. Her next target: a sex-trafficking ring in the war-torn Middle East. She just needs to get close enough to take them down…

He just wants peace

Sandesh Ross left Special Forces to found a humanitarian group to aid war-torn countries. But saving the world isn’t cheap. Enter Parish Industries and limitless funding, with one catch—their hot, prickly ‘PR specialist’, Justice Parish.

Their chemistry is instant and off-the-charts. But when Justice is injured and her cover blown, Sandesh has to figure out if he can reconcile their missions. With danger dogging their every move, their white-hot passion can change the world—if it doesn’t destroy them first.

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Diana Muñoz Stewart is the award-winning, romantic suspense author of the Band of Sisters series, which includes I Am Justice (Sourcebooks Casablanca). She lives in eastern Pennsylvania in an often chaotic and always welcoming home that—depending on the day—can include husband, kids, extended family, friends, and a canine or two. When not writing, Diana can be found kayaking, doing sprints up her long driveway—harder than it sounds–practicing yoga on her deck, flying, climbing, or hiking with the man who’s had her heart since they were teens. Find Diana at www.dianamunozstewart.com.

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Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Deep inside the stone-and-spire main building of the 160-acre campus of the Mantua Academy for Girls, Justice knew the thing that sucked most about a family business. The family part.
She reached her sister’s office…door? Great. Bridget had followed through on her promise to have the door removed.
She rapped on the wood framing the empty doorway. Inside, Bridget sat cross-legged on her mesh, ergohuman office chair, eyes closed. Her frizzy, dark hair stabbed with a silver comb drooped lopsidedly, like a hairy modern art sculpture.
Justice smiled. This was so perfectly Bridget it almost deserved its own word, like freaktacular or weirdiful.
Justice knocked again. “Bridge?”
Bridget’s eyes fluttered open and locked on her. Justice instantly felt seen. As in seen below the skin. Shiva, uhm, Bridget quirked an eyebrow. “What can I do for you, Justice?”
“I need to talk to you about the yoga class. Is it true you have the girls chanting in Sanskrit?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure of your question. I submitted the yoga for approval through the director’s office.”
Justice walked into the office and plopped into a chair. “You got approval for yoga, She-pak Chopra. Not to have the girls chanting in Sanskrit. This isn’t good PR. And that’s bad for me. Means I have to do work.”
Bridget rested her hands on the desk. “I will limit my teaching to poses and centering music.”
Justice smiled. “Dammit, Bridge, you’re so easy.
Why can’t I have more sisters like you?”
“Perhaps, because you are as abrasive as a starving boar,” a voice said from the hall.
Justice turned. Sheared head, lips painted bright red, skin as satiny smooth and dark as a starless sky, and cocked against the doorway, the generous curve of boys- can’t-help-but-wonder hips clad in a leopard-print skirt. Dada, six-foot-two in spiked heels.
And this was the problem with having no doors. Justice slipped her shoe back on, rose, and crossed the room. “You’re home? Aren’t you supposed to be contacting your Brothers Grim informant?”
Dada’s forehead creased. She looked around the hall, but the school staff, a.k.a. no-idea-a-secret-society-of- vigilantes-existed-under-their-feet staff, weren’t in yet. “Have you checked your secure email this morning?”
***
After passing through security, Justice whisked through the headquarters of the Parish empire in Philadelphia. She was too pissed to pay attention to the repeated nods and hellos. Momma’s morning email had sent her scrambling for her Jeep keys. The mission to take down the global trafficking ring had been put on hold.
Nope. Not happening.
She didn’t care if the Brothers Grim had been alerted by her screwup with Tony last week. Or that they’d moved their meeting up by six weeks. Or that they’d moved the location to Jordan—the one place on the entire ****ing globe where the League had no established cover. This was bull****.
Ahead, at the mahogany double doors at the mouth of two intersecting hallways, Momma’s executive assistant, straitlaced Lorena of the cotton button-downs and starched pantsuits, stood from her desk and crossed her arms. Huh. A human barricade.
Good thing Justice had been trained for just such an event.
Sprinting forward, she lifted her foot, planted the arch of her shoe against the edge of the desk, toed herself into the leap, and vaulted into the air.
Lorena ducked and cried out. Instant classic.
Justice landed with a thud. Lorena was still sputtering vague threats when Justice closed Momma’s office door. Click.
For a confused moment, she stood within the inner sanctum. A huge corner office with buttoned leather couches, two flat-screen TVs, a hulking Thor of a desk, and a well-stocked kitchen. The self-satisfied grin slipped from her face.
S***.
The man—built like a hot night of unforgettable, wild blond hair like a sandstorm, eyes the color of the ocean after a lazy day in the sun—drove the air from her lungs. She couldn’t move. Struck deaf, dumb, and blind meet deer-in-headlights. D***, the man was tall. Like a wall. A wall of man muscle. So hot.
“Justice.” Leland, Momma’s oldest friend and most trusted adviser, extended his hand with a warm smile. His silver hair gleamed under the canopy of recessed lights. The gray- checkered Armani suit draped over him as if upon the confident shoulders of dignity itself.
Justice took Leland’s smooth hand. He pressed down firmly and tugged her farther inside.
“Sandesh, I’d like you to meet Justice Parish.” Only the stern grip of Leland’s hand told her how annoyed he was. “She does PR for the Mantua Academy and will be working on the Greenville Initiative. She is familiar with all aspects of our newest philanthropy venture.”
Dude was good. Calm. Graceful. And full of ****. Greenville? What was that project about? Giving away money, judging by what Leland had said.
Behind Leland, Momma’s brown eyes showed as little as the rose-colored niqab that covered her hair and face and scars.
Justice turned and gave Leland a rictus grin meant to be a smile. She was usually more successful at hiding her feelings, but a high-pressure situation—you know the kind where you Jack-be-nimbled your momma’s executive assistant, barged into a business meeting, and eye- appraised-seduced-and-**** a total stranger—had her off her game.
“Actually, my role in all philanthropic projects is still advisory. I wouldn’t want to mislead, uhm, what was your name?”
Blue-Eyes reached for her hand. “I’m Sandesh. Head of the International Peace Team. We’re partnering with Greenville in Jordan.”
He slid his long fingers along her palm in a hot brush that sent her skin tingling. He grasped her hand. Heat suffused her body, brought a flush to her stomach and a smile to her lips. Nice.
Who said philanthropy wasn’t sexy?
Wait. Jordan?

Jennie Marts' CAUGHT UP IN A COWBOY excerpt & giveaway!

Bits of gravel flew behind the tires of the convertible, and Rockford James swore as he turned onto the dirt road leading to the Triple J Ranch. Normally he enjoyed coming home for a visit, especially in the late spring when everything was turning green and the wildflowers were in bloom, but not this spring—not when he was coming home with both his pride and his body badly injured.
His spirits lifted and the corners of his mouth tugged up in a grin as he drew even with what appeared to be a pirate riding a child’s bicycle along the shoulder of the road. A gorgeous female pirate—one with long blond hair and great legs.
Legs he recognized.
Legs that belonged to the only woman who had ever stolen his heart.
Nine years ago, Quinn Rivers had given him her heart as well. Too bad he’d broken it. Not exactly broken—more like smashed, crushed, and shattered it into a million tiny pieces. According to her anyway.
He slowed the car, calling out as he drew alongside her. Her outfit consisted of a flimsy little top that bared her shoulders under a snug corset vest and a short, frilly striped skirt. She wore some kind of sheer white knee socks, and one of them had fallen and pooled loosely around her ankle.
“Ahoy there Matey—you lose your ship?”
Keeping her eyes focused on the road, she stuck out her hand and offered him a gesture unbecoming of a lady—pirate or otherwise. Then her feet stilled on the pedals as she must have registered his voice. “Ho-ly crap. You have got to be freaking kidding me.”
Bracing her feet on the ground, she turned her head, brown eyes flashing with anger. “And here I thought my day couldn’t get any worse. What the hell are you doing here, Rock?”
He stopped the car next to her, then draped his arm over the steering wheel, trying to appear cool. Even though his heart pounded against his chest from the fact that he was seeing her again. She had this way of getting under his skin—she was just so damn beautiful. Even wearing a pirate outfit.
“Hey now—is that any way to speak to an old friend?”
“I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I run into one.”
Ouch. He’d hoped she wasn’t still that bitter about their breakup. They’d been kids, barely out of high school. But they’d been together since they were fourteen, his conscience reminded him, and they’d made plans to spend their future together.
But that was before he got the full ride scholarship and the NHL started scouting him.
And he had tried.
Yeah, keep telling yourself that, buddy.
Okay, he probably hadn’t tried hard enough. But he’d been young and dumb, and swept up in the fever and glory of finally having his dreams of pursuing a professional hockey career coming true.
With that glory, came attention and fame and lots of travel with the team where cute puck bunnies were ready and willing to show their favorite players a good time.
He hadn’t cheated on Quinn, but he came home less often and didn’t make the time for texts and calls. He’d gone to college first while she finished her senior year, and by the time he did come home the next summer, he’d felt like he’d outgrown their relationship, and her, and had suggested they take a mini-break.
Which turned into an actual break, of both their relationship and Quinn’s heart.
But it had been almost nine years since he’d left—they’d been kids, and that kind of stuff happened all the time. Since then, he didn’t make it home a lot, and had only run into her a handful of times. In fact, he probably hadn’t seen her in over a year.
But he’d thought of her. Often. And repeatedly wondered if he’d made the right choice by picking the fame and celebrity of the career and letting go of her.
Sometimes, those summer days spent with Quinn seemed like yesterday, but really so much had happened—in both of their lives—that it felt like a lifetime ago.
Surely she’d softened a little toward him in all that time. “Let me offer you a lift.” The dirt road they were on led to both of their family’s neighboring ranches.
“No thanks. I’d rather pedal this bike until the moon comes up than take a ride from you.”
Yep. Still mad, all right.
Nothing he could do if she wanted to keep the grudge fest going. Except he was tired of the grudge. Tired of them being enemies. She’d been the best friend he’d ever had. And right now he felt like he could use a friend.
His pride had already been wounded, what was one more hit? At least he could say he tried.
Although he didn’t want it to seem like he was trying too hard. He did still have a little pride left, dammit.

Caught Up in a Cowboy
Jennie Marts
Cowboys of Creedence, #1
May 1, 2018
Contemporary Western

This cowboy plays to win

Rockford James was raised as a tried-and-true cowboy in a town crazy about ice hockey. Rock is as hot on the ice as he is on a horse, and the NHL snapped him up. Now, injuries have permanently benched him. Body and pride wounded, he returns to his hometown ranch to find that a lot has changed. The one thing that hasn’t? His feelings for high school sweetheart and girl-next-door Quinn Rivers.

Quinn had no choice but to get over Rock after he left. Teenaged and heartbroken, she had a rebound one night stand that ended in single motherhood. Now that Rock’s back—and clamoring for a second chance—Quinn will do anything to avoid getting caught up in this oh-so-tempting cowboy…

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Jennie Marts is the USA Today bestselling author of award-winning books filled with love, laughter, and always a happily ever after. She is living her own happily ever after in the mountains of Colorado with her husband, two dogs, and a parakeet that loves to tweet to the oldies. She’s addicted to Diet Coke, adores Cheetos, and believes you can’t have too many books, shoes, or friends. Find her online at jenniemarts.com.   FB           Twitter      Goodreads

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ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND WOLF Excerpt & giveaway w/ Terry Spear

 Looking forward to seeing Jake there, Sarandon climbed into the Suburban and took off. This might be even more fun than he had planned.
Sarandon headed into the wilderness, and after a couple of hours, he finally reached the Elk Horn cabin. He parked, got out, and stretched. Taking a deep breath of the pines and Douglas firs, he embraced the peace and quiet, the sound of a river flowing nearby, birds twittering in the trees, and the breeze fluttering the leaves.
Once he’d hauled all his supplies inside, he started a fire in the fireplace and planned to go for a run, something he couldn’t do while acting as a tour guide. Not unless he was taking a wolf group out.
Within minutes, he’d stripped off his clothes and shifted, then pushed through the wolf door. He dashed through the woods, exploring and scent-marking, letting any animal in the area know a wolf was on the prowl and this was his claimed territory.
The sound of a car’s tires crunching on the private gravel road, heading toward the cabin, caught his attention. He stopped and listened from the shelter of the trees and brush. There was nothing out here but wilderness. And the cabins and the land were private property. He could tell by the engine’s purr that the car wasn’t Jake’s or anyone else’s he knew in the pack. The car parked, and the engine shut off in the distance.
If the driver were a hunter, Sarandon didn’t want to be caught in his wolf coat and end up getting shot. Cursing mentally to himself, he waffled about what to do. Hidden in the undergrowth in the woods, he could check out the person leaving the car, or he could run back to the cabin, shift, dress, arm himself with his rifle, and then see who it was and what he or she was up to.
Sarandon opted for returning to the cabin first and ditching his wolf coat. That way, he could tell the trespasser to leave.
When he reached the cabin, he dove through the wolf door, shifted, and rushed to dress. He removed his rifle from the locked gun cabinet and left the cabin, locking it behind him. Listening for any sign of where the person was, Sarandon headed down the road to where he’d heard the car park.
A quarter of a mile from the cabin, he stopped dead in his tracks. A woman was standing off the road, partially hidden in the woods, holding a rifle aimed at him. The way she was holding it, she looked like she knew how to use it. And he’d thought running as a wolf could cause him trouble!
“Hey, I’m just camping up here at one of my family’s cabins. I don’t have any intention of hurting you,” Sarandon said, trying to put the woman at ease, even if she was in the wrong. “This is private property .”
“Carefully, put the rifle down!” she commanded in an authoritative, no-nonsense way.
Well, this was bizarre. She was trespassing and pointing a rifle at him, and yet she was telling him to disarm himself when he belonged here? He considered her attire: black cargo pants, a black windbreaker, and boots. She didn’t look like a half-crazed criminal or a hunter either. He wasn’t afraid of her; he’d be much warier of a man holding a rifle on him than a woman. He just figured he’d spooked her.
“All right. All right. You don’t have to be afraid of me.” Being the nice wolf he was, Sarandon set his rifle on the ground, figuring the woman was going hiking, albeit on private property, and didn’t know privately owned cabins were located here, though signs were posted in the area. But the fact that she was carrying a rifle made him suspect something else might be going on. “I run photo-op tours, hiking, mountain climbing, and white-water rafting guided tours, one-on-one tours, and group tours.” He thought if he told her what he did, she would realize he was employed, not some mountain man living out here in the wilderness alone, and that his occupation meant he was one of the good guys who liked working with people. “Whatever customers might be interested in,” he continued.
She was someone he was interested in. If she was a wolf and would put the weapon down. Something about her straightforward and confrontational attitude appealed. He swore it was the wolf in him.
“Sarandon Silver?” she asked, her brow arched.
Learning that she knew his name surprised him. If she knew who he was, why was she pointing the rifle at him? Then he wondered if this had something to do with his brothers. Maybe they’d sent her as a plant, a way to get him to meet a new she-wolf, believing the standard boy-meets-girl routine wouldn’t cut it with him. Especially since he’d said he was trying to come up with an idea for a new adventure.
“Yeah, I’m Sarandon Silver. Do you want to tell me how you know me and why you’re still pointing a weapon at me?” She had to be his brothers’ idea, but he wondered where she was taking this.
If this was for real, he didn’t recall anything he’d done that would have aggravated anyone to the extent that she’d pull a weapon on him. He hadn’t taken a mate and pissed off her family. He hadn’t lost anyone on one of his excursions. His dad was the only one who’d ever committed any crimes in the family, and he’d paid for his sins with his life.
“Come this way, nice and slow,” she said, her voice firm and resolved.
He frowned at her. She sounded like a cop. He looked her over again, but her clothes didn’t indicate that. He couldn’t see what was underneath the jacket, though from the slight bulk underneath the material, it looked like she might have a sidearm holstered there. She hadn’t said she was a cop though. Plus, if she were, she wasn’t in her own jurisdiction. Her car was a silver Ford Expedition, with no indication it was a cop’s vehicle.
She was a beautiful brunette, her hair cut short and bouncy, her eyes a crystal-clear blue. If his brothers—and maybe his cousins—had put her up to this… Well, he didn’t want to appear as though he couldn’t take a joke. She’d share with them how growly he’d been, and they’d all have a good laugh over it—at his expense.
“Am I under arrest?” he asked with good humor, smiling a little. He couldn’t help it. He couldn’t take this seriously.

   

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 All’s Fair in Love and Wolf

 Terry Spear

 Silver Town Wolf, #8

 9781492655817

 May 1, 2018

Paranormal

The Silver Town wolf pack has your back

Wolf shifter Sarandon Silver’s in trouble with the law, and bounty hunter she-wolf Jenna St. James is determined to bring him in for trial.

Lucky for Sarandon, the entire Silver Town pack is ready to fight for his innocence. But until the case is solved, Jenna’s sticking to Sarandon like glue…

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USA Today bestselling author Terry Spear has written over sixty paranormal romances. In 2008, Heart of the Wolf was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. A retired officer of the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry also creates award-winning teddy bears that have found homes all over the world. She lives in Spring, Texas where she raises two Havanese puppies.

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Marie Harte's THE ONLY THING & giveaway

“J.T.?”

He froze for a moment, feeling déjà vu. He kept hearing Hope Donnigan’s voice in the weirdest places. Although she had actually been at his dad’s on Friday. He turned to see her standing by the wall-mounted screen to his right. Huh. She was really here.

“Hope?” 

She wore open toed sandals showing off dainty, blue painted toenails. Shapely legs disappeared under a knee-length, floral sun dress. A cropped sweater hid her shoulders. She looked like the essence of summer, and he wanted to kneel down in worship. Innocence radiated from her in waves, as if begging him to muss her a little and show her just what heels like those would look like on either side of his head.

He should have felt dirty for wanting to muddy that innocence. Instead, he grew more aroused. Hell.

“Hi.” She smiled at him. 

His heart raced. Damn, that dimple slayed him every time. 

“He says hi back,” Suke said dryly. “I’m Suke, one of the harder working artists around here. I take it you know J.T.?”

Hope nodded. “Great place. I hadn’t realized it was down here.”

As she and Suke spoke, he watched them interact. Hope didn’t seem to care that Suke had tattoos up and down her arms, piercings in her nose and lip, and spiked black hair in a dare-to-be punk style. Nor did she seem to mind the way Suke was eye-fucking her.

“Hey.” He growled; he minded. 

Suke grinned. “I’m leaving for the day. You need me to stick around and lock up? Maybe walk Hope out to her car?”

“Go.” 

Suke chuckled and left.

“She’s nice.”

He laughed. “Suke? She busts our balls on a daily basis, but we love her. Now what brings you to the lion’s den?”

She grinned. “Is that what this is? The sign outside said Tull Paint & Body.”

“Yeah, a play on Auto Paint & Body, like a car paint shop. I worked for my dad before I opened the place, and some of him stuck.” Jesus, he was babbling.

“Tull?”

He shrugged, searching for calm. “My dad was a Jethro Tull fan. Sounded cool when I was twenty-five.” He paused, shoving his hands in his pockets so he wouldn’t tuck a stray strand of her golden hair back behind her ear. “What’s up, Hope?”

She flushed, now looking uncomfortable. “Ah, this is kind of awkward. I have a favor to ask.” She didn’t say any more.

She looked so damn adorable. He couldn’t help himself. He had to mess with her. “Okay. So you want a baby without the commitment. I get it. You want to make one right here or in the back room? Do you have some paperwork for me to sign first? You know, about rights for the kid?”

What? No.” She blinked at him. “Have you done that before?”

“Nah, but I can’t think of a more awkward conversation. So now that I know you’re not here to use me and abuse me, what can I do for you?”

“Ah, actually…” Her face turned bright red.

He gaped. “Shit. Really?” He took a step closer. “You want to abuse me? I’m game.”

“J.T.” She blew out a breath. “I have a problem. And I kind of dragged you into it.”

“Color me intrigued.” He led her to the high-backed purple leather chairs by a coffee table, on which a print portfolio of their work lay, along with some other tattoo mags.

“Sorry,” Hope apologized. She crossed her legs to sit demurely in the chair, and his heart threatened to leap from his chest. He wondered if she felt the same sexual chemistry he had since the first time he’d laid eyes on her.

Probably not, since she didn’t seem affected by him. She was shy, gorgeous, and could have any guy she wanted with the crook of her finger. He couldn’t imagine why she needed his help, but whatever. He was game. And truth be told, he felt protective of her. She was a weird extension of family his sister had married into.

“Hope? Just tell me.”

“It’s my mother. She’s such a pain.” Hope glared, and he was taken aback by the fierceness out of a woman he’d never seen be anything but pleasant. “She was on me about dating some rich guy. A doctor this time. Then she was riding me about my job, my lifestyle, being boring. You name it. She jumped on my nerves and ground them to nothing.”

“Ah, sorry.” He still didn’t see what part he had to play in this.

“So I mentioned I was dating someone. A tattoo artist who had baby mommas everywhere and had done time. Have you done time? Because that would be good.”

He blinked. “Huh?’

Like a steamroller, she continued, “I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend the next time I have to go to dinner at Mom and Dad’s. And you need to be awful.”

He didn’t like the tone of this drama. “What? Play the big bad black man to scare your lily-white mom?”

She snorted. “Please. If only it was that easy to scare Linda Donnigan.”

He relaxed, more than glad to know she couldn’t care less about his skin color. “Then what do you need, exactly?”

“My mother loves men and women of all races, genders, and sexualities. But she’s a snob. It’s all about money and success to her. If you’re not dying to be president, you’re nothing.”

“President as in…?”

“The top of whatever your career is, or the actual POTUS. With Linda, it could be either,” she said wryly. “I have no drive to be more than Cam’s assistant right now. I work at my cousin’s investment firm, and I’m basically a glorified secretary. But I’m okay with that.”

“You don’t sound okay.” She sounded frustrated.

“I am. Mostly.” She sighed. “Look, none of this is your fault. I needed someone I thought my mother wouldn’t like.”

“That hurts.” He wasn’t lying.

“It’s not personal. She doesn’t know you, J.T. But she’s not a fan of tattoos at all. And you look tough. So I thought, who do I know who would freak my mother out?”

“Me?”

“Yes.” She smiled. “I just need you to pretend to be my new boyfriend a few times. Then we can ‘break up’ and she’ll never know.”

“I have met your mom, you know. It was brief, at Del’s wedding. She might remember.” He frowned. “Then again, she was drinking that night.”

“She’s good like that.” Hope leaned closer and grabbed his hand. 

The feel of her smaller palm against his had sweat break out on his forehead. He stared into her honey gold eyes and felt himself nodding.

What do you do when a “fake” relationship is so much better than the real thing? 

Hope Donnigan is finally getting her life together. She’s working a job she likes, has some amazing friends, and is steering clear of Mr. Wrong. Now if only she could get her mother to understand that. Maybe a hot tattoo artist from the other side town is just the ticket to teach her mom a lesson. 

J.T. Webster fell for Hope months ago at his sister’s wedding. So when she propositions him to be her fake boyfriend to get her mother off her back, he’s all in. The only problem is J.T. had no idea their pretend relationship would be better than anything real he’s ever had…

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Samantha Chase's UNTIL THERE WAS US w/ giveaway

 

 

 

He’ll have to play his cards just right for her to take a chance on him…

Megan Montgomery has always been careful…except that one time she threw caution to the wind and hooked up with a sexy groomsman at her cousin’s wedding. But that was two years ago—so why can’t she stop thinking about Alex Rebat?

Alex has been living the good life. He loves his job, has a great circle of friends, and doesn’t answer to anyone. The problem? There’s only one woman he wants and she ran out on him after one amazing weekend. But now that Megan’s coming back to town, Alex hopes he can convince her to take another chance on him…and on a future that can only be built together.

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Fifteen minutes later, Megan felt like a wet noodle as she slid into Gabriella’s car. They’d already called in the massive dinner order, and really, all Megan needed to do was hold the box in her lap until they got to Summer’s. There were worse ways to spend her time.

Once they arrived, Megan was surprised to see that the guys were there already. Zach came out to greet Gabriella, and Alex came out to take the food. When Megan didn’t immediately move to get out of the car, Alex looked at her curiously.

“You okay?” he asked. “Shopping wear you out?”

She laughed softly. “You have no idea. Those two are lethal.”

Zach and Gabriella had already walked into the house when Ethan came out. “Everything okay?”

Alex handed him the box of food with a laugh of his own. “It seems like shopping took a little more out of her than she expected.”

For a minute Megan considered arguing that he didn’t need to talk about her like she wasn’t there, but she was too tired to.

“I can believe it,” Ethan said. “Next time, pace yourself. Summer and Gabriella are like Olympic medalists where shopping and girls’ days are concerned.” With a smile and a quick wave, he was gone.

Alex crouched next to the open car door. “You gonna make it?” he teased.

With her eyes closed, Megan couldn’t help but smile. “Go. Eat Chinese food. Save yourself. Just leave me here to sleep for a day or two.”

“No can do,” he said softly. “If you don’t join everyone inside for dinner, I’ll have to carry you in.”

Turning her head to the side, she opened her eyes and looked at him.

And almost forgot how to breathe.

Damn, why did he have to be so attractive? Here he was after moving furniture and painting all day, and he looked too good for words. She struggled to keep from leaning forward and tasting him. Her mind had to be playing tricks on her because Megan was fairly certain her memory of how Alex tasted and kissed was being overexaggerated.

He leaned in closer—or maybe she was the one who moved. Either way, they were a heck of a lot closer than they had been a minute ago.

Maybe it was the fact that she was feeling extremely mellow or maybe it was the fact that he was too damn tempting to resist. All Megan wanted was to know whether her mind had been playing tricks on her.

Alex whispered her name as he gently pressed his lips to hers.

Oh…

One of Alex’s hands came up and cupped her cheek, and his touch was both arousing and familiar. Megan mimicked his move and marveled in the scratchiness of his jaw, the warmth of his skin. She sighed and moved a little closer, and the kiss went from chaste to inquisitive to a full onslaught in the blink of an eye. She wanted to pull him into the car or have him pull her out onto the driveway so she could feel more of him, but for now, this would have to do—the taste of him and being consumed by him.

No, her mind hadn’t been playing games with her.

There had been no exaggeration.

Alex Rebat was sexy and sensual and completely lethal.

She pulled back because she couldn’t breathe, but Alex’s hand stayed where it was, gently caressing her skin. Megan leaned into it as she tried to catch her breath.

“It’s still there,” he whispered.

Her eyes drifted closed even as she nodded in agreement because she knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I know now isn’t the time, but—”

“Did she fall asleep out there?” Gabriella called out from the doorway with a small laugh. “Come on, Megan! The food’s getting cold!”

Alex stood and held out a hand to Megan. She accepted it and had to bite her tongue to keep from groaning at how good it felt to touch him. He gently tugged her to her feet, and for a brief moment, she was pressed up against him. Slowly she looked up at him and saw the same emotion on his face she knew was on hers.

Desire.

Plain and simple.

It would be so easy right now to reach up, wrap her arms around him, and pull him in for another kiss. As if reading her mind, Alex released her hand and said, “C’mon. Let’s go have some dinner.”

Mutely, she nodded, and they walked side by side into the house.