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Excerpt & giveaway of HIGHLAND BETRAYAL with Alyson McLayne

Laird Callum MacLean vowed to marry Maggie MacDonnell. But when his father’s apparent suicide makes him Laird of his clan, Callum must unmask his father’s killer before bringing Maggie into his dangerous new home.

Maggie’s home isn’t any safer. When Callum fails to return, Maggie does what any resourceful Highland lass would do. She escapes—and finds herself toe-to-toe with Callum, who’s determined to fulfill his promise. Maggie can’t bring herself to trust him with her heart again. But with a traitor still at large, they must rely on each other in every way, or their clans—and their love—will be destroyed.

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Callum heard the whine of the pulley on the rope.

His stomach dropped as he stared at the curtain wall, rooted to the ground in disbelief and fear. Only one person he knew would be forced to escape the castle like that.

When the clouds drifted from the moon and the shape of a woman appeared from the darkness, barely hanging on to a rickety pulley, he knew it had to be Maggie. Her wild hair streamed behind her as she streaked toward them from high above.

“Lord have mercy,” Artair said. Beside him, Gill made the sign of the cross.

“Christ Almighty, she’s going too fast,” Drustan croaked, sounding as helpless as Callum felt.

She was bare-legged again, her skirts tied up between her legs, and when he saw her lift them up to the rope, it propelled him into motion.

He jumped from his horse directly to the tree and climbed as fast as he could, passing Finn on his way down. Dread tightened Callum’s chest. He wouldn’t make it in time to catch her or soften the impact. Then he heard a bang and the sound of the pulley dragging on the rope, and he knew she’d popped it off the track to slow herself down.

By God, she might make it after all if the rope didn’t fray.

Resourceful woman!

He drew even with the lookout and saw her glide into view and bump arse-first into the tree. Seconds later, a gust of laughter burst from her lungs before she clamped a hand over her mouth. All his fear turned to relief, then boiled into anger over what might have happened—just as it had when she’d been chased up the tree by the wolves.

He had to squeeze the words past the tightness of his throat and clenched jaw. “Maggie MacDonnell, if I e’er find you up a tree again, lucky to be alive, I swear I’ll lock you in my bloody castle and throw away the key!”

She yelped in surprise and almost fell, but her harness held, and she tipped halfway over instead. “Callum?”

He hauled himself up beside her on the platform as she scrambled to right herself. Her skirts fell back to her ankles. He steadied her as he lifted his knife above her head and sawed viciously at the rope. Moments later, it gave way, fell to the ground, and slithered back to the castle.

His emotions careened inside him, all tangled up and whipped into a frenzy like her hair from the pulley ride. Without any thought, consumed by raw need and want, he tucked the knife into his belt and hauled her against him, tight and hot.

Her startled breath fanned his lips as his hand squeezed high on the back of her thigh, pulling it around him.

“Callum MacLean!” She sounded shocked and breathless but not admonishing. Her fingers curled into his waist, anchoring herself instead of pushing him away.

He sank his other hand into the mass of curls at the back of her head and held her in place. Her eyes met his for just a second, and he knew she wanted the same thing he did—wanted him to devour her, to reaffirm that she’d made it, that she was alive!

He caught her mouth without warning, lips open, tongue stroking in, tasting her, savoring her, until neither one of them could breathe. He nibbled down her throat, his hand sliding along her thigh to her knee.

“I’ve dreamt of this, of you, every night since we’ve been apart.” Voice rough, he sounded almost feral.

She answered with a groan as he slipped his hand under her skirts and cupped her thigh, trailing his fingertips along the sensitive inner muscles. They quivered against his palm, and her breath rasped through her lungs. When he reached the top, she gasped, rocked her hips toward him, her heel lifting higher to push into his backside.

He pressed closer and inhaled her scent—the smell of fresh air and sunshine and that unique bouquet of Maggie that he would sometimes wake to even though she wasn’t there.

He knew he should stop, that they weren’t safe yet, but his need for her overwhelmed rational thought. His body was so filled with lust, with feelings, that he could barely reason and strained to sink into her warmth.

He lifted his head and watched her in the moonlight. Her eyes had closed, her mouth had parted. When he skimmed his fingertips along the crease at the top of her leg, her throat arched and lips quavered on her sudden inhalation.

She released his waist and slid her hands up his back to tangle in his hair, pulling and twisting in the short strands.

“We are betrothed, Maggie,” he ground out. “All we need is this final intimacy, then before God and man, we’ll be married. We doona need a priest. Let me join with you, sweetling.”

She groaned and opened her eyes. “I canna believe you’ve asked me this. We’re in a bloody tree, surrounded by our enemies. Your men are just below!”

The low, rough timbre of her voice sent shivers up his spine. “We’re alive. When I saw you flying down that rope, knowing you could fall at any moment, going too fast to land safely…” His throat tightened, and he couldn’t continue.

She pressed her cheek against his, her breath huffing past her lips in warm bursts of air. Every puff sent a jolt down to his groin, tightening his stones. When her teeth dragged over his stubble, he knew it was with a mix of desire and anger, and he wanted to bite back.

“You left me,” she accused, her voice filled with hurt, with fury.

“Aye, and I’m sorry. My father died, Maggie. They whispered he committed suicide, but I knew it was murder. I couldnae keep you safe at my home until I had answers.”

He released her leg and cupped his hands around her face, brought her gaze to his. “But this time, I came back. I left so I could return to the castle and save you.”

“I didn’t need you to save me. I needed you not to leave.”

Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the west coast where she worked in film for several years and met her prop master husband.

Her self-published works in contemporary romance include her Santa Barbara Billionaire Bachelor series: How To Catch A Bride, How To Claim An Heiress, and How To Outplay A Player. How To Catch A Bride (formerly The Fabrizio Bride) was recently nominated for a RONE award.

Sheryl Grace's KING, DUKE, & PRINCE spotlight & excerpt

Write Now Literary is pleased to be coordinating a blog tour for Sheryl Grace, author of King, Duke & Prince. Book a tour here.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publication Date: July 1, 2018

About The Book

Ten years ago, James Miller walked out of prison vowing to leave the past behind. That past included his sons and their mothers and though he told himself that he would return, he never did. Now, he has a new name, a new family, a new career and a best-selling memoir. Meanwhile, the sons he left behind navigated their way to manhood while dealing with the questionable choices of their mothers.

King relies on his looks, charm, and sexual prowess as he methodically plans to find the next successful woman to support his lifestyle. Simply because he works only when he feels like it. When he finds the one, it is not business as usual. But will he reexamine his trifling ways when it nearly causes him to lose those he loves the most?

Darius has a penchant for pursuing the wrong women. However, his mind for business manages to keep him afloat despite his challenges to keep his emotions intact. Working for a stepfather he despises only builds resentment between he and his mother. What happens when the worlds of the two men collide unexpectedly, causing all to question their love and loyalty to one another?

Prince is awkward and highly intelligent. His hard-working mother is thrilled beyond measure upon receiving the news that her son has been given the opportunity of a lifetime. But Prince’s world is shattered by someone he and his mother trusted dearly. The secret is killing him. What will happen when the secret is exposed?

The sons do not know they are brothers but when find out, they are determined to make James pay the price for leaving them behind.

Three Brothers, Three Mothers, One Father and whole lot of drama!
“Charge it to the game cause everybody’s trying to score”

Purchase autographed copies from author’s website

About The Author

Sheryl Grace is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Louisiana native currently residing in North Texas. Her debut novel “He Calls Her Blue” has received positive reviews. Sheryl is also the co-host of the award-winning internet radio show, The Authors Lounge.

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Excerpt from Chapter 6

“Hi, I just came over to introduce myself. My name is King” He said as he held out his tone and muscular arm in her direction to shake her hand. Still under his allure, she did manage to reach out her hand to shake his and stated “Nice to meet you, I’m Lauren” she stated. “Thank you again for the drink” she said politely while looking intensely at his eyes. “You are welcomed, Beautiful” He said with a deep voice that resounded in her soul and made her tingle inside although she tried all she could not to show it. He followed up with the sexiest smile she had ever seen. This is one tall glass of chocolate milk better yet Kahlua, she thought.

TWO STEPS PAST THE ALTAR with Patricia A. Bridewell

Write Now Literaryis pleased to be coordinating a blog tour for Patricia A. Bridewell. This tour will run July 23- Aug 3, 2018.  Book your own tour here.

Title: Two Steps Past the Altar
Genre: Genre: Inspirational Romance/Fiction  
ISBN: 978-1732130913
ASIN:B07DCC5XFT

          Meet Patricia 
Reading and daily journal entries were the catalyst to Patricia’s first novel, Reflections of a Quiet Storm, published by an independent publisher in 2009. An avid reader, her previous published work includes two books, multiple short stories, monthly health care columns for an online magazine, and several health care articles for a local newspaper. She also enjoys reading Women’s Fiction and Romance novels, which occupy many seats on her bookshelves.
Patricia is a Family Nurse Practitioner and a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, she holds Adjunct Nursing Faculty positions at two universities. She is a member of the National Black Nurses Association/Council of Black Nurses – L.A., Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, Black Nurses Rock, California Association of Nurse Practitioners, and International Black Writers & Artists.
Patricia’s church home is Greater Zion Church Family in Compton, CA. She considers music, reading, and prayer as the keys to relaxation and creativity, and she loves spending time with her family.
Patricia’s short story appears in the Brown Girls Books Anthology Single Mama Dating Drama, an AALBC two-time best-selling book. Two Steps Past the Altar is her third and latest novel. She is currently working on her fourth novel.
                                                About The Book
Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, Sasha Edmonds, is a motivated high-flyer with a stellar track record. Being the top sales representative and having a fiancé who loves her is more than she could ever imagine. Her life spins in another direction when she discovers that her mom requires a life-saving medication and her fiancé, Damien, may be cheating. Devastated, she breaks off their engagement. 
Amid healing, she becomes captivated by Wesley, a wealthy pharmaceutical businessman who may hold the cure for her mom, career, and wounded heart. Romance transforms into a love triangle, surfeit of lies, blackmail, and deception. A story of love, trust, restoration, and forgiveness.
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Q&A w/ Will & Kyra from Nancy Herkness' SECOND TIME AROUND w/ giveaway

Opposites Attract: Character Questionnaire from Second Time Around by Nancy Herkness 

Today it is a pleasure to introduce Will Chase and Kyra Dixon to readers! The hero and heroine are from Nancy Herkness’ newest release Second Time Around and the title of the story certainly is inspired by the characters’ story. The ‘first time around’ for this couple was in college when Will was dating Kyra’s roommate. This evil ex cheated on Will and while Kyra longed to comfort her secret crush, but she was firmly friendzoned.

Years later in an accidental meeting in NYC, Kyra and Will are reunited–only this time sparks fly with nothing to get in the way of igniting….except the fact that Will is a little (okay, a lot) out of Kyra’s social circle. This makes interacting with his family and friends a teeny bit awkward. But while Will may have money, he is also kind, funny, hardworking, and stubborn. Too stubborn in fact to let a little bit of status stand in the way of him and the woman he wants.

However, we have to ask: Just how different are these two characters really? Read on for a questionnaire where we find out if Will and Kyra are true opposites or if they are more alike than they realize. ***

 

Question #1: What can you tell us about your favorite childhood memory?

Kyra: My father worked at the Mack Truck factory so he was very wiry and muscular, even though he was short in stature. When I was a child, he would toss me up in the air and catch me. I’ll never forget feeling the strength of his hands wrapped around my waist as he boosted me up, the sense of exhilaration as I flew through the air, and the security of knowing with absolute certainty that his steely, powerful arms would be waiting for me when I came down.

Will: My parents’ house had a two story library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and ladders on rails to reach them. It seemed like a magic cave filled with treasure to me. Once I convinced them that I would treat the books and the room with respect, they allowed me free run of it. I spent many a happy hour deciding which book to read and then stretching out on the Oriental rug to read it. Sometimes I even walked in merely to smell the scent of books waiting to be read.

Question #2: When you were growing up what types of activities did you enjoy?

Kyra: I was a voracious reader, and loved going to the public library where the librarians would set aside books they thought I would like. However, my favorite time spent there was wandering among the shelves until a book called out to me. Ice skating and riding my bike got me outdoors when Mom decided I’d spent too much time inside reading. Mom liked to shop, so we went “malling”, as she called it. I enjoyed that because I always got a treat.

Will: Reading was my activity of choice. However, my sister would sometimes bother me until I came to help her with her beloved horses at the stables, and I got to like that, especially because it was away from our parents. Tennis wasn’t bad. I hated sailing, which my mother forced me into. Couldn’t wait to give that up. I did the usual sports in school: soccer, lacrosse, basketball, etc. Working up a good sweat was satisfying.

Question #3: When it was time for college, how did you decide to attend Brunell college?

Kyra: I couldn’t afford to go far from home, so I stuck to schools in Pennsylvania. Brunell was the best school that offered me a good financial aid package. It also had a terrific English lit department, which was my passion. I only wish I had been able to finish my degree there.

Will: Brunell was my first flash of rebellion. Pops went to Harvard; Mum went to Princeton. I refused to apply to either of those. I wanted to study the classics and a noted authority on Homer taught at Brunell.

Question #4: What was your favorite part about college?

Kyra: Playing quote wars with Will Chase! Well, pretty much anything that had to do with Will. This smart, rich, golden boy from Connecticut was so alien that he fascinated me. Okay, so I loved the classes, too. I was pretty drunk on the whole “learning for the sake of learning” concept. The campus is gorgeous as well. All those brick buildings with white trim and vast, rolling, green lawns.

Will: The classics professor who made me choose Brunell, Dr. Weiss, was a spectacular teacher and mentor. His classes made me think and stretch and grow. Sometimes he’d hold class in his home where he always served the most delicious, sugary doughnuts from the local convenience mart. Every now and then, I still buy a box of those for nostalgia’s sake.

Question #5: What’s your career? How did you choose it?

Kyra: I didn’t exactly choose my career, if you could call it that. I needed to pay off the debt from college and my parents’ health issues and heard that bartenders at high end clubs in New York City could make a lot of money. I knew a little bit about bartending—and cooking— from working at a local restaurant in my hometown, so I packed up and moved. I also cook for the kids at the Carver After-School Care Center, which I love. But I started there only because the job offered a free apartment.

Will: I’m the CEO of Ceres, a multinational chain of cafés that I founded. I started the company because I didn’t want to join my father’s law firm, as he expected me to. Do you see a theme here? It was satisfying to battle the challenges of building a company, never knowing from day to day if it would survive or fail. Now that it’s grown so huge, I find myself restless.

Question #6: Do you have an active social life? What is a favorite date you have been on recently?

Kyra: Social life? I tend bar at night and cook for kids during the day. Who has time for a social life? I can’t remember the last time I went on a date.

Will: I’m the face of Ceres so I attend quite a few charity events, if you consider that a social life. I’m not sure I do. Between that and the hours I work, dating isn’t a priority. Not to mention, a broken engagement left a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to romance. My favorite recent charity event was held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I could wander through the classic Greek and Roman art exhibits without a crowd. That was an unexpected pleasure.

Question #7: What are your goals for the future? Where do you see yourself in a few years?

Kyra: My most urgent and immediate goal is to pay off my debt. Sometimes it feels like a boulder crushing me into the sidewalk. If I ever manage to do that, my aspiration is to finish my college degree in English lit and get a job as an editor at a publishing house. Hey, a girl has a right to her pipe dreams, doesn’t she?

Will: My goal is to figure out where the hell I see myself in a few years. Right now, my future looks like more of the same: long hours at work, too much business travel, attending events for PR purposes, and resisting my mother’s efforts to marry me off to one of her friends’ daughters. Not an exciting prospect.

 

***

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About the Book

Title: Second Time Around

Author: Nancy Herkness

Release Date: July 24, 2018

Publisher: Montlake Romance

 

Kyra Dixon, a blue-collar girl from the boondocks, is dedicated to her job at a community center that matches underprivileged kids with rescue dogs. When she runs into Will Chase—Connecticut blue blood, billionaire CEO, and her old college crush—she’s surprised that he asks a favor from her: to be his date for his uptight family’s dreaded annual garden party. If his parents don’t approve, all the better.

Kyra’s not about to say no. It’ll give her a chance to be oh-so-close to her unrequited love. What begins as a little fling turns so mad hot, so fast, that Kyra finds herself falling all over again for a fantasy that won’t come true. How can it? She doesn’t belong in Will’s world. She doesn’t want to. But Will does want to belong in hers.

All he has to do now is prove it. Will is prepared to give up whatever is necessary to get what his heart most desires.

 

Nancy Herkness is the award-winning author of the Wager of Hearts, Whisper Horse, and Second Glances series, as well as several other contemporary romance novels. With degrees in English literature and creative writing from Princeton University, she has earned the New England Readers’ Choice award, the Book Buyers Best Top Pick honor, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, and she is a two-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award.

 Nancy is a native of West Virginia but now lives in suburban New Jersey with a goofy golden retriever.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.nancyherkness.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nancyherkness

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/NancyHerkness

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/594870.Nancy_Herkness

BABY TEETH Review & print galley giveaway

A battle of wills between mother and daughter reveals the frailty and falsehood of familial bonds in award-winning playwright and filmmaker Zoje Stage’s tense novel of psychological suspense, Baby Teeth. 
Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied. But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger…(synopsis from Amazon)
My thoughts, 4 stars
When & how did it all go so horribly wrong?
There’s plenty of blame to go around, unfortunately. An unhealthy competition for Alex’s time, attention, and love maybe? Suzette, a mother who vacillates between loving, resenting, and hating her child. Seeing her daughter as an intrusion, a mistake, coming between the life she desired and the life she’s forced to live because of perceived maternal expectations, and her husbands vision of the perfect happy family. Suzette is too needy and self-centered, and in my opinion, should never have had a child. Hanna, a daughter who despite her young age, is crafty and cunning. Is this behavior innate, learned or something else entirely? Is it a reflection of Suzette’s inner feelings about the bonds between a mother and child? Could this have been different? Alex, a father who prefers his rosy familial vision to reality. How long will he be able to hold onto that delusion?
BABY TEETH had my sympathies all over the place & in knots. There were times Suzette got on my nerves with her whining and self-centeredness; understandable or not. Hanna became downright scary. Alex’s refusal to believe/understand or acknowledge what was staring him in the face was also understandable, but isn’t there a point, before it reaches crisis stage, when you have to take off those rosy glasses?. In all honesty, I can’t say I particularly liked any of the characters. The over all feel was creepy and the ending left me filled with dread.

Thanks to Jordan at St. Martin’s Press I have a print galley to give away to one lucky commenter, sorry contiguous U.S. only.  Do you believe in bad seeds? Comment, and be sure to leave your email address so we can contact you if you win. Good luck!

DEVIOUSLY FUN. STAGE EXPERTLY CRAFTS THIS CREEPY, CAN’T-PUT-IT-DOWN THRILLER.Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)TIGHTLY PLOTTED, EXPERTLY CHOREOGRAPHED.Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)DELICIOUSLY CREEPY…THE AUTHOR KEEPS THE SUSPENSE TAUT.Library Journal (Starred Review)

Linda Broday's TO CATCH A FALLING STAR & giveaway

Roan Penny soaked up the sun’s warmth and leaned his head back, his eyes closed. Marley wrapped a warm towel around his face, leaving his eyes and mouth open, readying to shave him.

She rested a hand on his shoulder. Her touch gave him such a calm feeling. “I’m going to be very careful and avoid the cut around your throat. If I cause you pain, let me know right away.”

“You can be sure of that.” He closed his eyes and enjoyed the pampering. His thoughts wandered to this ranch, the McClain family, and to Marley. They’d shown him there were still kind people in the world. Minutes passed and she removed the towel.

The razor strokes were smooth, never hard or jerky. Marley’s skill amazed him. Was there anything she couldn’t do? He lay back, soaking up the sounds of the windmill, horses nickering in the corral, and the light scrape of the razor against his jaw. Except for Marley’s closeness, he could doze off.

But she made sleep impossible. The faint scent of something flowery encircled his head. He relaxed and enjoyed her presence, wishing he could tell her how much sharing these days meant to him.

Still, what use would it be to voice feelings that could never go anywhere. His thoughts drifted until he felt her lean over him, felt a strand of hair brush his shoulder. He opened his eyes to find himself staring into her pretty brown ones just inches away. For a second, he barely breathed for fear it was a dream and she’d vanish.

Her close proximity did strange things to his heart.

Dark curls framed her face and her eyes glistened like diamonds shimmering in a stream. Air got trapped in his lungs and the wanting was so powerful it sent throbbing pain through him.

Like a man wandering too long alone, he reached to capture a strand of hair between his thumb and forefinger. The texture was like satin and he couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t speak.

Her soft breath whispered against his newly shaved cheek and hunger rose.

Awareness sizzled between them. He became aware of the length of her eyelashes, her heartbeat, the pulse in the hollow of her elegant neck. He’d long searched for a woman like Marley, never once thinking she existed.

Her mouth was so close. Just a slight move forward…

But to what end? He wouldn’t tease her, make her think they could have more when in truth they could have no future at all.

Marley Rose McClain was everything a man like him could never have and to even wish for a life with her was a big mistake that could only lead to bitter disappointment. Best to remember his place and that he had nothing to offer—not to her or any woman.

Maybe just for a moment he could pretend.

“You have the silkiest hair I’ve ever felt.” His voice was low and full of yearning. He released the strand and brushed a finger lightly across her cheek. “I’m afraid you got a poor bargain when you patched up my rotten hide.”

“Let me be the judge of that and there is nothing wrong with your hide.” Her soft statement wound around his heart like a stubborn trumpet vine.

She adjusted her angle, cleared her throat, and moved back a fraction. Her attention once again on his jaw, she applied the razor’s edge to his stubble. “I’m glad I found you,” she murmured.

“Me too.” Roan glanced toward the barn, a safe place to turn his gaze, feeling the need to apologize. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Good heavens, Roan. You didn’t do anything wrong and I like being with you. We have an easy kind of relationship and over the days and hours we’ve spent together, we’ve become true friends.” She lifted the razor and wiped it with the towel.

Friends. Well, that put him in his place. He should thank her for the reminder of how she saw him.

“You’re easy to be around, Marley, and I’ve enjoyed being with you.” He’d remember this time for the rest of his life. When he sat around a lonely campfire, he’d recall Marley McClain and how tempted he’d been to kiss her.

A minute later, she wiped away the remaining shaving cream and handed him a mirror. “What do you think?”

“You’ve worked a miracle. I feel like a new man and, except for the bruises and black eyes, I look almost human.”

She stood back with a smile. “I think you’re very handsome.”

Roan thought about that later as he sat with her in the sun, listening to the lazy windmill, imagining a life here for real—the place of belonging he’d searched for. He watched her scribbling in her story book, a grin curving her lips. She was an amazing woman with so much to give the world.

He had nothing to offer except bad luck—and grief to Mose’s killers.

But if one day he had the opportunity again to ride near the Aces ’n Eights, he would stop in a heartbeat. For sure, the lovely Marley McClain would fill his dreams for a long time, her gentle touch lingering in his heart.

He’ll do what it takes to prove his love  

The son of a notorious outlaw, Roan Penny yearns to make his life count…but heroism comes with a price. Left badly injured, only the kindness of a gentle stranger can save him. He longs to be with the captivating beauty—his savior, his Texas star, his Marley Rose McClain—but he knows he’d bring her nothing but trouble.

If only he could convince his heart of that.

Marley’s lived a charmed life, and she’s determined to spend the rest of her days at her quiet hero’s side…but she isn’t what she seems. A life-long secret threatens to destroy everything she knows—and everything she could hope to be. As dangerous men threaten to pull her back into the shadows, a desperate Roan must ride hell-bent for leather to save the other half of his heart…before he can lose her light for good.

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SMALL TOWN RUMORS excerpt & giveaway w/ Carolyn Brown

“Well, well, well! Are you leaving us already? You only got here yesterday.” Lettie shoved the suitcase over and sat down across the table from Jennie Sue. Short, as round as Mabel, and sporting a kinky hairdo that had gone out of style years ago, Lettie hadn’t changed since Jennie Sue was a little girl. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Jennie Sue answered. “How have you been, Miz Lettie?” 

“Elaine, I’ll have a big stack of pancakes and two orders of bacon,” Lettie called out across the café. 

“Got it,” Elaine yelled. 

“So where are you going?” Lettie turned back to Jennie Sue. 

“To find a job,” she answered. 

“What kind of skills and experience do you have?” 

Elaine crossed the floor and set Jennie Sue’s breakfast in front of her. “Millie will bring out your order shortly, Miz Lettie.” 

“No rush. Just send me a cup of coffee, and I’ll be happy until it gets here.” Lettie waved her away with a flick of the wrist and turned back to Jennie Sue. “Now, you were about to tell me about your work experience.” 

Jennie Sue picked up the saltshaker and applied an unhealthy dose to her eggs. “I have no experience, but I do have a business degree. The only thing I’m good at is keeping a clean house and organizing fund-raisers and parties.” 

“Hmm.” Lettie pursed her lips. “So why didn’t you have a housekeeper up there in New York?” 

“Percy was never pleased with the way they cleaned.” 

“Was?” Lettie asked. 

“Been divorced for over a year.” 

“Oh, really?” Lettie cocked her head to one side. 

“Yes, ma’am.” 

“Me and my sister, Nadine, lost our housekeeper a couple of weeks ago. The lady that worked for us cleaned for me on Friday and Nadine on Thursday. You interested?” 

Charlotte would probably go into cardiac arrest if Jennie Sue became nothing more than a maid for her archenemies. But hey, it was a job, and Jennie Sue damn sure knew how to clean a house so well that it would pass judgment in the courts of heaven. 

“I might be interested if you could point me in the direction of an apartment or a rental house of some kind that wouldn’t be too expensive,” Jennie Sue answered. 

“I got an apartment over my garage. It’s pretty small, but it’ll work for a single person. I’d be willing to rent it to you furnished. You’ll clean for me on Friday each week, but the last week in the month, you won’t get paid. That’ll be your rent,” Lettie said. 

Jennie Sue could imagine Charlotte throwing whatever she could get her hands on at the wall when one of the Belles called her with that bit of news. Even if she was angry with her mother over trying to mold her into another Wilshire woman, she couldn’t do that to her mother—or could she? How else would she be independent? 

She picked up a piece of crisp bacon with her fingers and took a bite while she thought about the offer. It was a job that she could do. It was a place for her to live. She didn’t have to live in a shelter or sleep on a park bench. However, her mother would never speak to her again, and the rumors would be so hot that they might burn down the whole town of Bloom.

***

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Everyone is talking about Jennie Sue Baker and the mess she made of her life in New York. The former high school queen bee—and wealthy darling of Bloom, Texas—has returned home after all these years, riding on a common bus and bearing two bounced alimony checks. In a town that thrives on gossip, Jennie’s fall from grace has shamed her mother, set the town buzzing, and caused old, jealous enemies to whisper in delight. They say she’s taken a job as a housekeeper, gotten a garage apartment, and might be crushing on Rick Lawson, a simple farmer with modest dreams.

As romance starts to bud, Jennie relishes what it means to follow her heart, find real new friends, and finally be herself—regardless of all the lying town chatter. But fate has another twist in store. Rumor has it that Jennie now stands to lose what matters most . . . unless she can convince Rick of one true thing—and that’s love.

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Carolyn Brown is a New York TimesUSA TodayPublishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and a RITA finalist with more than ninety published books, which include women’s fiction and historical, contemporary, and cowboys-and-country-music romance. She and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma—where everyone knows everyone else and knows what they’re doing and when—and they read the local newspaper on Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young.

ALL-AMERICAN COWBOY & giveaway w/ Dylann Crush

He spun her out and under his arm, then clasped her around the back and pressed her close again. “You have been practicing.” She gazed up at him through heavy lidded eyes while a slight smile played across her lips.

“Just trying to make you look good, Ms. Walker.” Not that she needed any help in that area. There was something about her that drew a man’s attention. Beyond her good looks, she had a spark, a sizzle, some crackling force that surrounded her and demanded to be noticed.

“You’re doing a fine job of that.” She nodded to herself and leaned her head against his chest.

He liked the way it felt, the heat from her cheek pressing against his heart. Hell, he liked the way all of her felt, nestled into his arms.

“About earlier…can I ask you a question?” His chin rested on her hair, and he let himself breathe her in. The scent of sunshine and peach cobbler layered over something else. Something that was just Charlie. “Sure.” “Are you seeing anyone?”

A wrinkle appeared between her brows. “You’re asking because of what Darby said, aren’t you?”

He shifted to the left, spinning them out of the way of a couple in full square-dance gear who spiraled around the small dance floor. “Just curious. If you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to.”

“Good.” She nodded. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Fine. For now. He wasn’t lying—he was curious. Why wouldn’t a woman like Charlie be involved with someone? She was smart and sassy as hell, had a great sense of humor and curves that wouldn’t quit.

She wrapped her arms tighter around him, making him lose track of the simple steps he’d been counting in his head.

He tried to recover but ended up stepping on her foot instead. “Sorry. I guess I’m still learning.”

“Have you always been such a slow learner?” she teased.

He’d play along. “You sure it doesn’t have something to do with the talent of my teacher?”

Charlie’s eyes sparkled, then narrowed. “What are you trying to imply? I’ll have you know your teacher is a two-time two-stepping Texas teen champ.”

Beck chuckled. “I bet you can’t say that ten times fast.”

“Two-time two-stepping Texas teen champ. Two-time two-stepping Texas—”

He laughed and covered her mouth with his hand. Her lips moved against his palm, soft and fluttery like a butterfly’s kiss. He leaned close to her ear, nestling his nose in her hair. “I was just joking.”

She nipped at his palm, sending a charge rocketing through him. “Don’t make bets you don’t intend to pay.”

A dangerous burn flared low in his gut. “Hey, watch it there, champ.”

“Or what?” Rolling her eyes, Charlie added a little extra twist in her step.

He exhaled his next words, trying to squelch the fire she’d sparked inside. “Or else.”

She spun out and around, then resettled herself against his chest. “I’m shaking in my boots. Or else? That’s all you’ve got? I’m utterly terrified.”

“Are you mocking me?” Damn if she didn’t get under his skin. The sass, the smiles, the way her cute Texas twang taunted and teased him.

“What if I am?” She drew her head back and met his gaze, her mouth curved up in a grin. Their feet stopped moving, and they stood frozen, in the middle of the dance floor, the other couples swirling around them. Her arms went around his neck, and he tightened the circle of his arms around her waist. Their hips snapped together, drawn with a magnetic force. His skin crawled with anticipation, every nerve ending crackling, waiting. His eyes searched hers for encouragement. Yes? No? Did she want him to kiss her? Would it be another mistake?

“A part of me wants to kiss you right now, Charlie.”

Her fingers toyed with the hair at the nape of his neck. “Just a part of you?”

“A big part,” he admitted.

“I’m not familiar with all of your parts yet, Manhattan. What kind of part are we talking about here?” She glanced up at him through lowered lashes.

He knew he was about to cross a line. Ironically enough, it was a line he’d put into play. The line that was supposed to keep things on a professional level. He lowered his head, his mouth inches from hers. “Do you want me to?”

She drew in a sharp breath. “What do you think?”

He was close enough to feel the slow exhale on his chin. “I don’t know what to think when I’m around you. You rattle my brain, make my head hurt.”

“Then don’t.”

“You’re right.” He pulled back. “We shouldn’t.”

The confusion in her eyes didn’t match the way her hands gripped him tighter. “I didn’t mean don’t kiss me. I meant don’t think about it so hard.” Then she tilted her head up and met his lips with hers.

Holiday, Texas is known far and wide as the most celebratory town in the South—and no shindig is complete without one of its founding members. It’s a real shame the last remaining Holiday is a city slicker, but what’s that old saying about putting lipstick on a pig…?

Beck has no intention of being charmed by some crazy Texas town, but the minute he lays eyes on his grandfather’s old honky tonk—and Charlie Walker, the beautiful cowgirl who runs it—he finds himself wishing things could be different. Life’s gentler in Holiday. Slower. More real than anything he’s ever known. And when he looks into Charlie’s eyes, Beck may finally discover what it’s like to truly belong.

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