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Spend a Morning with Dane Madden, The Hero of TUMBLE by Adriana Locke w/ Giveaway

I looked in the mirror this morning to shave. As I lifted the razor to my cheek, I saw a little scar that sits just to the side of my right eye. It’s not something most people would ever notice. Hell, I don’t notice it every day. But the light caught it just right and suddenly it was all I could see.
I’m Dane Madden, the carpenter, not Dane Madden the philosopher, so why I stood there for a good five minutes remembering the night I got that scar is beyond me. But I did. I thought about how the barbed wire caught my skin and ripped the flesh and how Neely Kimber’s face filled with so much concern I was kind of glad I was bleeding.
She and I were inseparable back then. From the moment she opened the door and our eyes locked, there was a bond between us that grew stronger. We went from finding ways to bump into each other, to hanging out with a group of friends, to dating in the sincerest way. She wasn’t just a girl. Neely wasn’t a pretty face I wanted on my arm, or in my bed as things evolved, like many of the guys I knew back then labeled their girlfriends. She was more than that to me—my best friend. My confidant when things with Dad went sour. My trusty right hand that bailed my ass out of more trouble than I was worth.
The night my eye was cut, she remembered to go back and get my hat so it wouldn’t be found the next day. Had she not done picked up the evidence, the farmer whose cows my friends and I had been trying to tip (terrible idea, if you’re wondering) would’ve been able to track the mess in his field to me and my friends. Dogwood Lane is a small town. Word gets around easy enough without trying.
Then there was the night my brother Matt, our friend Penn, and I went corning around Halloween. That’s another terrible idea, if you’re wondering, and involves throwing shucked corn at cars passing by. Let’s just say a certain driver in an oversized pick-up truck didn’t appreciate the sentiment. After being chased on foot to the outskirts of town, we had to hide in a chicken coop until Neely could come get us.
Despite my antics, she was there. She might’ve laughed at me or pointed out how stupid we were, but she took my worst right along with my best.
Our lives were entwined by shenanigans, stories, and so much love. Damn, I loved her. I didn’t know where she stopped and I started. I didn’t want to know. She was the best thing in my life. She made me better. And that was the ruination of us because I couldn’t bear to think I would make her life worse.
Seeing her again after all these years lit a fire inside me that I didn’t think was possible. I haven’t felt this burn since the day I walked off her porch having broken her heart. I want to talk to her, touch her, hold her and I can’t do any of it. Even though so much of our lives were built together, our memories from the easiest time of our lives shared, we aren’t those people anymore. And it’s all my fault.
 
***
Summary
 After being burned by her dream job in New York City, sports journalist Neely Kimber suddenly finds herself jobless and paying a long-overdue visit to her hometown in Tennessee. Her plan? Relax, reset, and head back up the corporate ladder. There’s just one unexpected step. Neely’s back in Dogwood Lane for barely a day when she sees the man she ran from nine years ago: the bad boy next door who was her first kiss, her first love, and her first heartbreak.

Devoted single dad Dane Madden knows he hurt Neely in the worst way. He’s got a lot to make up for. And as passionate as their reconnection is, it’s a lot to hope for. Having her back in his arms feels so right. But falling in love all over again with a woman who wants to live a world away is bound to go so wrong.

What’s it going to take for Neely to give him—and Dogwood Lane—just one more chance?

 

 

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USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke lives and breathes books. After years of slightly obsessive relationships with the flawed bad boys dreamed up by other authors, she decided to create her own. She is the author of Tumble, the first novel in her Dogwood Lane series; the Exception series; the Gibson Brothers series; and the Landry Family series.


She resides in the Midwest with her husband, her sons, two dogs, two cats, and a bird. She spends a large amount of time playing with her kids, drinking coffee, and cooking. You can find her outside if the weather’s nice, and there’s always a piece of candy in her pocket. Besides cinnamon gummy bears, boxing, and random quotes, her next favorite thing is chatting with readers. She’d love to hear from you! Look for her at www.adrianalocke.com.

HOT FOR A COWBOY excerpt & giveaway with Kim Redford

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Two flames burn way hotter than one…

Eden Rafferty has lost it all: big time career, high-profile marriage, and just about everything she owns. Coming back to Wildcat Bluff with her tail between her legs, the only person who can help her heal is cowboy firefighter Shane Taggart. But nothing is simple, and their high-octane past is just the beginning of their current problems…

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Shane didn’t dare touch Eden. He hardly dared speak. Everything that meant anything to him hung on his next few words. He was better with animals than he was with people. Still, he’d do his best. He knelt in front of her and drew her hands away from her face. “Look at me, Eden.”

No.” She shook her head, causing her hair to fly out then back down. “I want to go home.”

You are home. The Rocky T has always been your home.”

No. It’s your home.”

You’re wrong.”

She finally glanced up at him, but only to give him a baleful glare.

It’s our home.”

The lease—”

I told you I’d renew it.” He abruptly stood up. “But that won’t do now, will it?”

You can’t imagine how badly I wanted to get home, where nobody could take away what was mine and where I could feel secure again.”

So you wouldn’t be vulnerable to the likes of Tanner.”

I guess I’ve been running so hard since I got here, trying so hard to get back what I’d lost, that I didn’t stop to think about the reality of my situation. Maybe I should thank Graham for making me see the light of day.”

Shane felt sick at heart. He was losing her before his very eyes. And he didn’t know how to stop his loss or her pain.

She glanced around the room. “I adore this room, this house. It’s been a wonderful visit to happier days. Thank you.”

If he didn’t do something drastic, she was going to leave and she wouldn’t be coming back. She’d talk herself not only out of his life but out of Wildcat Bluff, too. He couldn’t let her do it. He knew her heart. He’d always known it. He’d just grown up too much to remember—or maybe, when she’d left, it’d been too painful to hang on to all the details of that night up on Lovers Leap.

It’s not just a visit. You’ve come to stay.”

I told you—”

Do you remember the last thing you promised me on Lovers Leap?”

She abruptly stood up, eyes wide in wonder.

Do you remember your promise?”

She turned away, paced across the room, and stood with her back to him.

I waited.” He walked closer to her.

We were young. We didn’t mean—”

I promised I’d wait.”

That’s why you didn’t marry?” She whirled around, searching every feature of his face with her wide blue eyes.

I’ve had your ring for years.”

My ring?”

You showed me one you liked in a magazine.”

She put a hand over her mouth, blinking back tears.

He didn’t let her emotions stop or slow him. He had to be ruthless—for both of them. “We could go to Vegas, but I bet Wildcat Bluff would like to see a big, fancy wedding. Summer ought to be about right.”

Wedding?” She stepped back, keeping her hand over her mouth as if to retain words or emotions.

That’s what you promised me.”

When I got back?”

You told me you loved me and you’d be back to marry me.”

I’m not comfortable with the L word or marriage anymore.”

I love you. I’ve always loved you. I will always love you.” He reached up and gently brushed a tear from her cheek. “I know you love me, too.”

She closed her eyes, bowed her head, and then looked back at him. “I tried not to love you. It hurt too much being separated from you. I figured you’d moved on with life. I’ve tried not to love you since I got back.”

Didn’t work, did it?” He felt a small frisson of hope, but he knew he wasn’t out of the woods yet.

No.” She straightened her shoulders and stood taller. “But it doesn’t matter.”

How can it not matter?” He felt his hope plummet again.

If I married you, we’d both always wonder if I did it just so I’d have a home on the Rocky T, someplace where I’d feel safe and secure, someplace where I could build KWCB without worrying about losing it.”

Stop right there. We’ve always loved each other. Marriage has nothing to do with what happened to you in LA. Once you get back on your feet, you won’t feel vulnerable anymore.”

She reached up and stroked his face with tears streaming down her cheeks. “I love you, but I’m leaving you.”

He simply pulled her against his chest, cradling her like he’d done when they were young and she’d stubbed her toe or fallen out of a tree. If she was hurting, he was hurting. Right now, they were both hurting.

She eased back from him and brushed her tears away. “I need to go home.”

You can’t go back to Clem’s place. It’s not safe.”

But I want—”

You know it’s not safe.” He put his arm around her shoulders and tugged her against him. “You’ll stay here and get a good night’s sleep. Everything will look better after you’re rested in the morning.”

I guess you’re right. It’s not safe. But I’ll sleep here in my room.”

That bed’s too small for me.”

I’ll sleep alone.”

We’ll sleep in my room.” He guided her in that direction. “If I can’t watch over you to make sure you’re safe, I won’t sleep a wink.”

She gave a little huff, frowning. “But I’m not sure—”

And if we both can’t get to sleep, we can make wedding plans,” he said with a chuckle to ease the tension, but he meant every word of it.

 

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Spotlight: MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE by Glenn W Powell

Write Now Literary Book Tours is pleased to be organizing a book blast tour for My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One by Glenn W. Powell. This tour will run Feb 22, 2019. Click here to book your own tour. 
Genre of Book: Memoir, Motivational, Military Life and History
ISBN-10: 1986878406
ISBN-13: 978-1986878401
               

           Meet Glenn 


Sergeant First Class Glenn W. Powell (Retired) is a native of Toledo, Ohio. He enlisted into the United States Army in 1982 and retired in 2002. During his military career, he served as a heavy vehicle driver, a squad leader, and non-commissioned officer.
In September 1991, SFC Powell joined the George HW Bush White House as a chauffeur, and in 1992, was promoted to transportation coordinator for the white house Press Corps, serving in the Clinton Administration.
In December 1995, he assumed the duties of transportation supervisor for Air Force One.
In January 2001, during his service under President George W. Bush, SFC Powell was transferred to the White House Military Office, Customer Support and Organizational Development where he served as deputy director.
SFC Powell retired with distinction from the Military in 2002. He received numerous awards and decorations throughout his service, including the Legion of Merit Metal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the United States Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He received U.S. Service Ribbons for both domestic and overseas service.
Glenn and Ronda Holloway Powell have been married for 25 years, and have three sons, Darius, Warren, and Glenn, II. They reside in Virginia. For more information, or to contact Glenn Powell regarding availability for speaking opportunities, please email him at glennwpowell@aol.com.


              About The Book

Sergeant Glenn W. Powell’s MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL is the story of a most unlikely young man who leaves his working-class environment of Toledo, Ohio, to become a soldier. Seeking excitement and a way to “make something of himself,” Glenn Powell’s journey exceeds his wildest dreams—a journey that began in basic training in Fort Hood, Texas ends at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue—the most important address in the world. MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL is about so much more than Glenn Powell’s military journey, but about poignant memories of family, friendships, sacrifices, and love—central to his story is Ronda Holloway, the beautiful young woman he falls in love with in Manheim, Germany, and, who joins him on his life journey as wife, soulmate and mother to their two sons. MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL offers readers a glimpse into Sergeant Glenn Powell’s 30-year transformation from the much-beloved boy who seeks more in life…to the man, who discovers it—in adventure, in friendships, and in service to three American presidents. a service he delivered with pride, unquestioned loyalty, distinction and in the end, great admiration.


Excerpt

A Soldier’s Story 
Shortly after I turned 18, I enlisted in the army. Around that time, I learned that the young woman I’d been dating was pregnant, so going into the army would be an opportunity to provide for my child. The army sent me to Fort Dix in New Jersey for boot camp training on April 22, 1982. It was the perfect enlistment site for me.
Because of the popular television show, Dallas, I had in mind that I wanted to go to Fort Hood, Texas and meet JR Ewing. Not only did I meet Larry Hagman, the actor who played JR, but I also met the entire cast at one of the big Dallas malls. That was in the 80s when the networks spent money to have cast members show up to greet their fans, and when fans could easily get a photo with the stars. Meeting JR had been on my mental bucket list. Later I learned that “Klinger” from Mash and Danny Thomas were both from Toledo, and so I added them to the list.
In 1983, I re-enlisted and chose Hawaii as my next army stint. There for 18 months, I’m convinced that the Hawaii move helped me look long and hard at myself and my future. In Hawaii, I decided I needed to better myself. I enrolled at the Wahiawa Community School for Adults and got my high school diploma. My mother was so disappointed when I didn’t graduate from high school, so I did it as much for her as for myself.
My long transportation management career began in Wahiawa. I was one of a large number of applicants who applied for a temporary mission of driving for the Sergeant Major for the division. He was the senior enlisted man at the post. I beat out the other candidates for that position. Later, I drove for the one-star general at the post. After that, I returned to my unit and worked as the battalion mail clerk until he left in 1985. While there, I met friends and mentors who would help me decide on my career journey. That same year, I was asked to re-enlist, and First Sergeant Herbert Harris became a lifelong mentor and friend. Sergeant Harris recommended that I choose Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia for my re-enlistment. I remained at Fort Eustis from April 1985 until January 1988.
I became a squad leader, and for the next six months, I managed a squad of truck drivers in and around the base. After that, I was set on transportation becoming my specialty, but my career trajectory changed some when I was appointed to head up NCO Training, where I was responsible for the training of 270 soldiers.
Around this time, I met First Sergeant Fletcher Walker. He was sent in to straighten out our company, and he did just that. He would stand up at the top of the stairs with his hat covering his eyes but looking down at us. Sergeant Walker was a ‘soldier among soldiers,’ an airborne paratrooper, a Vietnam Veteran who had been shot three times. There was no one more surprised when he chose me to run the training.
I knew he had high expectations, and I was determined not to disappoint him. He was the kind of leaders for whom soldiers would fight and die. He was a true hero who taught me how to be a soldier and a man. He shared a lot about life with me. I imitated him in many ways so much that everyone would call me “Baby Walker.” I met his family and it was an honor. He retired as a Command Sergeant Major.

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Sharon Sala's FOREVER MY HERO & Home Sweet Southern Prize Pkg giveaway

“Sharon Sala is a consummate storyteller.”—DEBBIE MACOMBER, #1 NYT Bestselling Author for A Piece of My Heart

 Every storm they’ve weathered…has led them to each other 

Dan Amos lost his wife and son years ago, when they inadvertently got in the way of a death threat meant for him. He’s never had eyes for anyone since, and he doesn’t want to. But fellow Blessings resident Alice Conroy sparks something inside him…

Newly widowed, Alice was disillusioned by marriage and isn’t looking to fall in love anytime soon. Then a tropical storm blazes a path straight for the Georgia coast, and as the town prepares for the worst, Dan opens his heart and his home. The tempest is raging, but Alice and Dan are learning to find shelter…in each other.

SHARON SALA has over one hundred books in print and has published in five different genres. She is an eight-time RITA finalist, five-time Career Achievement winner from RT Book Reviews, and five-time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Visit her on the web at sharonsala.net.

https://www.romancereads.com/bd-forever-my-hero.html

School was officially out for the day, and parents were standing outside their cars, making sure they were in plain sight today so that their children would not be afraid.

Dan was on his way back to his truck when Alice got out. She waved at him, then stood out on the sidewalk so Patty could see her. She would be looking for their car, not Dan Amos’s truck.

Dan jogged over to where she was standing and tossed his crowbar into the truck bed.

You were amazing,” Alice said. “I was afraid you would get hurt, too.”

He grinned. “It appears I haven’t lost my roping skills.”

Alice’s eyes widened. “I thought you were a lawyer before you came here.”

I was once, but I grew up on a ranch in Texas. My parents still live on it, but both of my brothers run it now. When we were kids, we all worked the ranch,” he said.

So I guess you ride horses, too?” she said.

Grinning, Dan pointed to his boots and belt buckle. “Yes, ma’am. This stuff’s not for show.”

Alice laughed and then heard the bell ring and turned toward the school. Within moments, kids began emerging through the front doors. “Here they come,” she said.

Dan was still trying to get past how her laugh made him feel when the children began coming outside. To his surprise, there was actually a kind of order to their exit. Teachers walked with part of the students toward buses, while other teachers walked with the in-­town riders. He was wondering who would be driving the injured driver’s bus when he saw a man come jogging out behind some of the kids and head that way.

That’s the PE coach. I’ll bet he’s going to be the substitute driver,” Alice said, and then pointed. “There’s Patty! Oh…she doesn’t see my car.”

We’ll fix that,” Dan said, and once again, he picked Alice up by the waist and swung her up and into the truck bed. Now she was heads above everyone. “Wave! She’ll see you,” Dan said.

Alice’s heart was hammering as she turned and waved, and then kept on waving until suddenly Patty saw her, smiled, and waved back.

She saw you, right?” Dan asked.

Yes, she did! Thank you so much.”

Ready to get down?” he asked.

She nodded.

This time, he let the tailgate down and then held out his arms. She sat down on the tailgate, then he lifted her off and set her on her feet.

We should have driven my car. Then you wouldn’t have to be helping me up and helping me down,” she said.

What’s the fun in that?” he asked, grinning as he set her back into his front seat.

She was a bit taken aback by the teasing, then laughed. Moments later, they began moving up in line along with everyone else. Within a couple of minutes, they were at the loading zone. Dan jumped out and opened the back door of his truck.

One more Conroy girl to load up, and then we’re good to go,” he said as Patty came running.

As soon as she was buckled in the back seat, she started talking.

Mama, a girl named Shirley threw up on teacher’s shoes at lunch. I got a happy face on my workbook page and skinned my knee at recess! Did you know there were mean dogs at our school? Will they come back? I might be a’scairt tomorrow.”

Dan was grinning. “Does she ever stop to take a breath?”

Rarely,” Alice said, then turned around to look at Patty. “Good for you for getting a happy face. That makes Mama’s face happy, too. We did know about the dogs. Mr. Amos saw the dogs and ran to help the bus driver. He stopped the dogs, and the police came and took them away. You don’t have to be scared about anything, okay?”

Okay, Mama. Thank you, Mr. Amos.”

You’re welcome, Patty.” Then he glanced at Alice. “Do you need anything before I take you home?”

No, thank you. We have all we need,” she said.

Okay then,” he said, and turned left at the stop sign by the school.

Mama, is Charlie gonna have to walk home by himself? Won’t he be a’scairt, too?”

Alice shook her head. “Charlie walks home every day, and no, he won’t be scared. Charlie is a big boy, remember?”

Patty nodded.

Dan smiled as he drove, enjoying the little girl’s chatter and Alice’s calm demeanor. He was actually disappointed when he reached their house and pulled up into the driveway.

Well, ladies, you’re home. Alice, if you will bear with me one more time, I’ll help you two out and see you to the door like the gentleman my mama raised me to be.”

He circled the truck, helped Alice down first, and then Patty. Once Patty’s feet touched the ground, she was running toward the house and already on the porch, airing her cheerleader skills by running from one end of the porch to the other, cheering as she went.

Dan laughed out loud at the surprised expression on Alice’s face.

Alice sighed. “Don’t encourage her.”

Is that even possible?” he asked, as he helped her up the steps. “House key?”

She handed it to him. “It’s the one with the pink nail polish on it, remember?”

Got it,” he said, unlocked the front door, and then stood back out of the way as Patty danced through the doorway and into the house. Dan was still grinning as he dropped the key ring into Alice’s palm. “It has been a pleasure to spend this time with you and your mini me, Ms. Alice. Maybe we could do this again sometime when there’s nothing else calling your attention.”

Alice was so shocked by the invitation that she forgot to answer.

Dan hesitated. That wasn’t the response he was hoping for. “Uh…so, is that a silent yes, or a silent no?”

She blinked. “Oh. I’m sorry. Uh…it’s a yes, and thank you?”

His heart skipped a beat. Here he was, wanting to kiss her again. He settled for a touch on her forearm. “Take care of that hand,” he said, and left before he made a bigger fool of himself or she changed her mind.

He was on his way home before the shock of what he’d done finally hit. “I cannot believe I asked her on a date.” He drove a whole block farther. “I can’t believe she said yes,” he added. He got home and all the way inside his house with one last question yet unasked. Was tomorrow too soon?

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Stefanie London's BAD INFLUENCE ~ the bad bachelor who inspired it all w/ giveaway

He’s the bad bachelor who inspired it all…

Annie Maxwell had her whole life figured out…until her fiancé left her when his career took off. If that wasn’t bad enough, every society blog posted pictures of him escorting a woman wearing her engagement ring. To help the women of New York avoid guys like her ex, Annie created the Bad Bachelors app. But try as she might, Annie just can’t forget him…

For bank executive Joe Preston, his greatest mistake was leaving the love of his life when she needed him most. Now, all he wants is to make things right—and she won’t have him. But when Annie’s safety is threatened by a hacker determined to bring down her app, Joe is the only one she can turn to. He’ll have to lay himself on the line to prove to Annie that he’s a changed man. But will their hard-won bond survive the revelation that Annie is the one pulling the strings behind Bad Bachelors?

Bad Bachelor (Book 1)     Bad Reputation (Book 2)     Bad Influence (Book 3)

“You’re not thinking about seeing him again, are you?” Darcy shoved the sleeve of her sweater up, exposing her elaborate tattoos. “Please tell me you’re not in self-destruct mode.”

“I’m not,” Annie said, unsure which of the two things she was actually addressing.

She should be repulsed by the thought of having Joseph back in her life. Spitting in anger that he’d waltzed back into Manhattan and was hanging around “their place” without warning her. But the fact was, Friday night had shifted something between them. He’d come to her rescue when she’d needed him.

This time. Let’s not forget that his presence and attention are conditional.

Darcy pulled on a pair of pink rubber gloves and wrenched Annie’s mother’s old, squeaky taps. “Look me in the eye and tell me you’re not thinking about seeing him again.”

The answer should have been an immediate absolutely not, but the words didn’t spring to Annie’s lips. “Maybe it’ll give me some closure.”

“It’s been three years. What other information could change the way you feel?”

“I don’t know.”

“The answer is none. Nothing will change what happened.” She squirted detergent into the basin and Annie watched the luminescent bubbles multiply under the hot water. “Think about the reasons why he might want to talk to you. Stay the hell away. Trust me, your sanity will thank you.”

Of course, she knew Darcy was right. When Joseph had walked out, she’d fallen to pieces. Her friends had helped put her back together. They’d crashed at her place that first night—Darcy and Remi sleeping on the cramped pullout sofa bed—to make sure she got up the next morning and ate a proper breakfast. They’d stood by her while she called her boss and asked for a few days off to deal with it. They’d plied her with wine and pizza and cheesy movies.

They’d gone to the hospital with her after her mother’s mastectomy, held her hand, and promised her that everything would be okay. Things he should have done.

“What are you two gossiping about?” Her mother appeared in the doorway, a knowing smile on her lips. Only she wouldn’t be smiling if she actually knew that their “boy talk” was about he who should not be named.

Darcy shot Annie a look. “Your daughter is harassing me about my charity run.”

Connie snorted. “That sounds like her.”

“Ma! You’re supposed to be on my side.”

Her mother walked over and wrapped her arms around her, her head barely coming up to Annie’s chin. She smelled like lemon and sweet basil and perfume. Like always. It struck Annie, even now, that her mother’s shape was so permanently changed. She’d decided not to have reconstructive surgery after the double mastectomy—one to address the cancer and one as a preventive measure—having always hated her huge bust. But they’d never actually talked about it. And Annie hadn’t wanted to pressure her mother when she knew it was still a painful topic.

Her mother and Sal had always been determined to “protect” their kids from anything painful in life, including their health problems. At the time, they’d hid Connie’s diagnosis until it was decided she needed to have surgery. Had Annie known about her mother’s situation earlier, she might never have agreed to go to Singapore. Perhaps with that on the table from the get-go, things might have turned out differently between Annie and Joseph.

But it hadn’t, and knowing her parents were inclined to harbor such big secrets had made Annie jittery. And untrusting.

Wow, and the hypocrite of the year award goes to…?

“You know I love you, topolina. But you are a giant pain in the ass sometimes.” Connie’s loud laugh ricocheted off the worn linoleum and weathered walls.

“Charming,” Annie replied, extracting herself from her mother’s embrace and heading behind the breakfast bar to gather more dishes. “Let me know when we want to do dessert, and I’ll get some coffee going.”

“Soon. The girls have gone for a walk and the boys are in the garage.” She attempted to muscle her way into the kitchen to help, but both women waved her away.

Connie rested against the breakfast bar. Her once-chocolate-brown hair was now peppered with gray. The lines had deepened around her eyes, which still had a mischievous twinkle, and she wore her signature bright-pink lipstick.

To Annie, she would always be the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. And the bravest.

“So,” Connie said. Annie’s ears pricked up at her tone. It was the I’ve heard something interesting tone. “When were you going to tell me Joseph is back in town?”

Darcy made a choking sound and Annie froze, her back to her mother as she dried one of the white ceramic platters. “Huh?”

“I ran into Zia Mariella at Costco, who said she’d had lunch with Anna-Maria from down the street, and she had spoken with Petra—Petra who’s married to Tony—whose grandson works for one of the banks, and he read an article saying Joseph is now the chief something-or-other.”

Annie blinked as her brain took the necessary time to catch up with her mother’s story. “Wait, which Petra?”

Connie ignored her question and narrowed her eyes. “Did you know?”

Darcy looked like she was about to back out of the kitchen, so Annie grabbed her wrist, shooting her a Don’t you dare leave me look. Crap. What was she supposed to do now? She never lied to her parents. Ever.

“Uhhh…”

“You did know.” Connie’s lips flattened into a line so thin that almost all of the pink lipstick disappeared. “How could you not tell me?”

“I didn’t think you’d want to know, to be honest.” Annie tucked her hair behind her ear. Shit. This was not a time for her tells. When it came to dealing with her mother’s warpath, the mantra needed to be: Show no weakness!

“Well, I do.” Connie planted her hands on her hips. “So now I can tell him to leave again. He’s not welcome in this city.”

Her mother would definitely freak the hell out if she knew he’d been in Annie’s apartment.

“Thanks, Mayor Mama. I’ll be sure to revoke his Connie visa.” She rolled her eyes.

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Letty Harper's THE HALF TRUTH heroine on How to Create a Fake Relationship & giveaway


My name is Tatum Alexander, and I’m a liar. There…I’ve said it. Now, before you judge me, hear me out. While I understand this might sound preposterous (if it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe it, either), trust me when I say it’s 100% true.

You see, what had happened was…my fiancé dumped me in the most epically humiliating way—while sitting at a table in a fancy restaurant, waiting for my friends and family to join us for my birthday dinner. But, he wasn’t just my fiancé (well, technically, my ex-fiancé), he was also the owner of the posh restaurant I worked at. And rather than quit my job after he dumped me, I stayed because it would’ve been career suicide to leave after I’d gotten so close to being a sous-chef (my dream job). The one thing I hadn’t expected was that a few months later, my ex-fiancé would hire his new girlfriend—who happens to work in the kitchen, one station away from me. Needless to say, I was unable to escape the embarrassment and devastation that surrounded my breakup…especially since the kitchen was full of nosy-bodies.

And since my ex has the heart of a corpse, he decided to schedule me and his new girlfriend to work side by side at the town’s annual foodie festival. She’s not a bad person—kind of sweet, really, aside from the whole dating my ex thing—so it wouldn’t have been that bad had she not spent the whole time discussing how “wonderful” her relationship was. Before I knew it, I was telling them all about the new guy I was dating. (I’ll let you in on a little secret…I wasn’t dating anyone. Didn’t really even know the guy, but that’s what I get for trying to sound like I wasn’t bothered by her stories of her “amazing” boyfriend.) I guess you can say that was the beginning of the train wreck. And boy, what a train wreck it was!

Looking back on it now, I can see where I went wrong. Then again, hindsight’s twenty-twenty. If I had to make a list of all the mistakes I made while forming this “half” truth of sorts (AKA my new boyfriend), I’d probably start with the boyfriend himself. You see…I had recently met my best friend’s older, extremely hot, sexy, and single cousin. And somehow, while describing my faux-beau, I ended up giving a very detailed description of said older, extremely hot, sexy, and single cousin of my best friend. The very next mistake happened about five seconds later when I was asked what his name was. Jay. Sounded simple enough. Except my bestie’s cousin’s name is Jason. Technically not the same name. But still, it would’ve been smarter to have gone with Ricardo…or Thor. Anything other than the first syllable of his real name. And the very next mistake happened five seconds after that…when I stupidly showed the girls his picture. It could be argued that that had been the biggest mistake of them all, considering the real Jason showed up to the very same foodie festival I was working. Although, with as well as I’d detailed his entire body, they could’ve very well picked him out of a crowd without a picture.

My story doesn’t end there, but I don’t want to bore you with the details of how my “lie” became somewhat of a “truth”…right after everyone I worked with witnessed him cheating on me (in his defense, he had no idea we were dating. In my defense, I had no idea he’d become interested in me after all my co-workers thought him to be a lying, cheating scumbag. But I digress.) All of that could’ve easily been avoided if I was a better liar, if I wasn’t such an awkward person—especially around a certain extremely hot, sexy, single guy—if I hadn’t kept it all from my best friend, or if that same best friend hadn’t “forbidden” me to see him in the first place. So all in all, it wasn’t entirely my fault.

But at least I now know what not to do when creating a fake relationship. So, if any of you find yourselves in a situation like I did (oh, who am I kidding? I’m literally the only person on the planet who could manage that) or in any situation where one might need an imaginary boyfriend, I have a few tips to keep in mind. One—never use a real person. Especially his name. It would be best if you take eleven or twelve different men and describe their physical traits as if they were one person. That way, the chances of anyone “finding” him will be slim to none. And if he is found…I’d say that’s as good as any sign I can think of that he’s your soul mate—which might behoove you to pick some pretty delicious-looking men, if you ask me. Two—and this one’s important, so pay very close attention…never, and I mean never show anyone a picture of this guy. If anyone asks why you don’t have any photos, make sure you have a realistic list of excuses. Such as: he’s camera shy; you lost all your pictures in the last software update on your phone; he’s a celebrity and doesn’t want to risk putting you in the public eye. Okay, that last one might be a bit too much. I never claimed to be a good liar. And three—which might very well be the most important tip I could ever give…do not, under any circumstances, fall in love with him (especially if you’ve made him up…because then you’d have a few additional problems to deal with rather than just getting caught in a lie).

Trust me…getting caught in what I call a “domino-effect” lie (once one falls apart, the entire thing comes crashing down) is not fun. So, if you’ve learned anything from me today, I hope that it’s the importance of a well-crafted lie. But in the event you get caught, always remember…it’s not a lie; it’s a “half” truth.

“You do know Michael used to be engaged to Tatum, right?”

“Yeah, he told me. But that was a while ago. Does it bother you, Tatum? You’ve never said anything about it.”

I thought about pointing out that six months wasn’t really a while ago, but I decided to let that go. And the idea of admitting how it felt to see him smile at her or whisper into her ear, let alone hear about all the things I didn’t have to witness, made me want to disappear. “Oh, no. I’m so over it. So, so over it.” And since stopping while I was ahead had never been my strong suit, I added, “In fact, I’ve been dating someone.”

“You have?” Both Rebecca and Amanda asked the same question at the same time, but while Rebecca’s voice was filled with excitement—which matched her bright eyes and ridiculous hand clap—Amanda’s was more cynical.

“Yup. And he’s amazing.”

“What’s his name?” Again with the doubtful tone from Amanda. She’d been part of my postbreakup support system, so I couldn’t exactly blame her for questioning my sudden confession. After everything Michael had put me through, this was something I definitely would’ve told her … had it been true.

“Uh … Jay. His name’s Jay.”

“Where’d you meet him?” This time, it was Rebecca asking, as if we were girlfriends sharing juicy gossip over mimosas at a spa.

I had no idea why I’d even started this. I should’ve known they’d jump all over it like rabid dogs on a T-bone. Yet I couldn’t back out now.

“We met at a barbecue.” Short and sweet, not many details I’d have to remember. Perfect.

“When?” Dammit, Amanda. She was no longer on my Christmas card list—not that I’d ever sent any out, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a list in case one year I felt ambitious. And if that year ever came, this heifer wouldn’t get one.

“Two weeks ago.”

“What’s he look like?” Rebecca’s blue eyes shimmered.

“Yeah, tell us what he looks like, Tatum.” And now she could forget getting a birthday present from me. It also helped that I had no idea when her birthday was.

“He’s tall. Hot. A man’s man.” That could’ve been anyone. I was still safe.

“How very nondescript of you.”

“Well, you know how it is, Amanda.” I glared at her, hoping she’d get the hint and go with it. “It’s still new, and I wouldn’t want anyone to get jealous of how perfect he is.”

“No need to worry about me. I’m very secure in my relationship with Michael.”

I wanted to ask Rebecca how secure she could possibly be with a man who, six months ago, had broken up with his fiancée on her birthday because he said he wasn’t sure if he was ready for something so serious. But I held back the wicked comments that longed to slip off my tongue.

The next words out of my mouth were Michael’s fault. Had he not forced me to spend the day with his new girlfriend, listening to every detail of their relationship, I never would’ve been in this position.

“He has dark hair that’s trimmed short on the sides and a little longer on top, just enough to look messy if he runs his fingers through it. His eyes are this amazing shade of green—sometimes they’re light, like blades of grass at the beginning of spring, and other times they’re darker, similar to the color of a Christmas tree. And he’s gotta be over six feet tall. When I stand next to him, I’m eye level with his chest.” I glanced at my phone in my hand, noticing that the photo still filled the screen, and realized I had described Jason to a T.

“Go on,” Rebecca prodded. “Is he fit like Michael?”

By this point, I was in it to win it.

“He makes Michael look like a wimp. And I’m not just saying that because Michael’s my ex, either. I could wash my clothes on his abs.” Well, that was taking it a little too far. I had to rein it in some if I wanted her to actually believe me. “He works out all the time, so he’s totally in shape. Not an inch of fat on him.”

“He sounds dreamy,” Rebecca said with a sigh.

“Yeah, he does. Almost too good to be true … like you made him up. You probably don’t have any pictures of him, do you?” As only a friend would, Amanda loved watching me dig my own grave.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” I thought about sticking my tongue out at Amanda in an immature “shows what you know” kind of way, but then I realized what I’d just done. In my need to prove her wrong—even though she wasn’t—I’d inadvertently dug my hole even deeper.

“Well, let’s see it.”

I had no choice but to show them the photo on my phone. I had to admit, though, the surprise on Amanda’s face when she saw it gave me a sense of victory—like winning Monopoly only because I cheated. Rebecca’s approval was simply the icing on the cake.

A cake that came crashing to the ground about thirty minutes later.

Rebecca stared at something over my shoulder and asked, “Hey, Tatum, isn’t that Jay?”

“Huh? Jay who?”

“Uh … your boyfriend,” Amanda reminded me with a quirked brow.

I craned my neck so fast it gave me a cramp. There was no way it was him. Okay, so that was wishful thinking on my part. Not only was there a chance he was here, but he was, in fact, here. At Taste of the Town. Standing a few tents away next to another guy.

My life was over.

Having Amanda believe I had lied about a boyfriend was one thing—having multiple people catch me in said lie was another. Add in the probability of Jason being one of those people, and … shoot me now.

***


div>Tatum Alexander is so close to realizing her dream of becoming a sous chef she can taste it, but working at her ex-fiancé’s restaurant with his new girlfriend was never in her career plan. To save face and prove she’s moved on, Tatum cooks up a lie that she’s in a relationship with her best friend’s superhot cousin. There’s just one problem: Jason only recently moved to town, and he has no idea they’re already “dating.”

Jason’s a recovering ladies’ man who shouldn’t be on the menu, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to Tatum’s quirky charm. Giving her lie a kernel of truth, they decide some no-strings-attached fun between the sheets can’t hurt. But as Tatum’s forced to keep making up stories to cover her original fib, she has a hard time separating what’s real and what’s fake—including her feelings for Jason.
With too many tales spun, Tatum can only watch in horror as her collection of yarns begins to unravel, leaving everyone she cares about feeling betrayed. After so many lies, will it be too late to set the record straight? And more importantly, will she be able to convince Jason there’s truth in their love?

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Leddy Harper had to use her imagination often as a child: she grew up the only girl in a family full of boys. At fourteen, she decided to use that imagination to write her first book, and she never stopped. She often calls writing her therapy, using it to deal with issues through the eyes of her characters.
Harper is now a mother of three girls, making her husband the only man in a house full of females. She published her first book to encourage her children to go after whatever they want, to inspire them to love what they do and do it well, and to teach them what it means to overcome their fears. You can learn more about Harper at www.leddyharper.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Leddy.Harper.