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Carolyn Brown & Dotty Welcomes Readers to The Magnolia Inn ~ Gift Card & digital Giveaway!

Good morning to all y’all. Thank you for inviting me to your site today to tell you a little about The Magnolia Inn. I’m so excited about this book. The characters became like family to me as I was writing it. Today, I have Dotty with me. She’s one of the four ladies—Sugar, Dotty, Lucy and Flossie—who’ve been fast friends since their youth. I’m going to turn this microphone over to Dotty now, and leave the rest of the post to her.
Hello, folks, I’m Dotty Beauchamp—half Texan, half Louisianan and all sass. I own the Tipsy Gater bar that sets right on the Big Cypress Bayou near Jefferson, Texas. When my good friend, Sugar, told me that she was going to give half of The Magnolia Inn, the bed and breakfast that her family had owned for generations, to her niece, Jolene, I thought she was bat crap crazy. When she said that her husband, Jasper, was giving the other half to his wimpy nephew, Reuben—well, I figured Reuben would sell his half the minute the ink dried on the papers.
I was right! The little weasel sold out his part of the inn to Tucker Malone. We—that would be Lucy and Flossie and me since Sugar was already off in that big ass RV touring the United States—had heard that he was a tortured soul. And dear hearts, we damn sure believed the rumor. He was the best of the best when it came to carpentry work, and from what we heard he only hit the bottle on weekends, but still we didn’t want our precious Jolene in living in that inn with him.
I really didn’t want to hire Jolene when she came to the bar looking for work, but I needed help and she sure enough needed a job. I figured I’d take some flack for it from Sugar, Lucy and Flossie, and I did—believe me I did. But Jolene and I both lived through it.
When we met Tucker for the first time, we were sure that the rumors had been right. His wife had died in an automobile accident a few years back. She’d gone to our church so we all knew her very well, and we’d met Tucker a few times when he showed up at church with her. When she died, he turned to the bottle and lost his important job on the police force over in Dallas. It was rumored that he came to our part of the world to be near her grave site. Poor man, he wore the guilt like a heavy shroud and just couldn’t seem to get past it.
But I’m digressing. When we met him we found out that he was also a Prince Charming. He didn’t have a white horse or a white cowboy hat, or a crown, but he was so sweet and kind, and he had such a sweet nature, that pretty soon, we fell in love with him as much as—well, she didn’t know it then, being as how she had plenty of baggage of her own—but as much as Jolene could it they’d could get past all the obstacles life kept throwing at them.
I see that my time is up. So let me thank you again for inviting me sit a spell and visit with all y’all. And if you’re ever in Jefferson, Texas, come on down to the Tipsy Gater and I’ll give you a free drink if you tell me that you’ve read The Magnolia Inn.
*****

“Why is Tucker a tortured soul?”

“He lost his wife, Melanie, a couple of years ago. She was his whole life,” Lucy whispered. She clucked like an old hen gathering in her baby chickens. “I just can’t believe he bought half interest in this place. It takes a people person to operate a B&B, and from what I hear, Tucker is almost a hermit.”

“I guess we’ve all got our own emotional baggage,” Jolene said.

“Wait until he hauls his damn sorry ass home drunk and you’ve got guests in the place,” Lucy declared.

“She loves Jesus, but she still cusses a little,” Dotty said with a wicked grin.

“He’s a fantastic carpenter. He’s got money to put into the inn. And I’ll cross the drinkin’ bridge when it happens. And . . .” She glanced over at Dotty, who shrugged and winked.

“And just so y’all know.” Jolene took a deep breath. “I’ll be working at the Gator starting Friday night.”

“Lord have mercy,” Lucy groaned. “Have you talked to Sugar about this?”

“Visited with her last night and was going to tell her, but . . .”

Lucy threw a hand over her forehead in a dramatic gesture and then shook a fist at Dotty. “You’re leading our sweet girl down the path of unrighteousness. Jolene, I’ll give you a job in my place of business. Full-time with benefits if you’ll quit the Gator right now.”

“I know bartending, and I can only handle part-time work with the inn, but thank you,” Jolene said and tried to change the subject. “Do I have the recipe for these cookies in Aunt Sugar’s files?”

“I’m sure you do, chère,” Dotty said. “But now let’s talk about the Easter Tour of Homes. Surely Sugar mentioned it?”

“Oh, that.” Jolene was glad Dotty had changed the subject. “She always wanted to be included in it but figured the Magnolia was too far out of town.”

“It might be, but we want to add it this year,” Lucy said.

“It’s, what, like three months from now?” Jolene asked.

“Yes,” Tucker said from the doorway. “We’ll have it ready by then.”

Jolene felt heat rising from her neck to her cheeks. How much had he heard? She motioned to the coffeepot and then to the cookies. “Come on in and meet my friends.”

“Always ready for cookies and coffee. I’m Tucker Malone.” He stuck his hand out toward Lucy.

Her expression said that she’d rather be sticking her hand in a rattlesnake pit, but she put her frail hand in his. “You probably don’t remember us, but we remember you from when you used to come to church with your wife. I’m Lucy Rogers. I own Attic Treasures, an antique store in Jefferson.”

“Jolene told me that a couple of you ladies own antique shops. That’s wonderful.” Tucker brought her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “I’m right glad to make your acquaintance, ma’am. I hope to do some business with y’all as we work on this place. We’d like to keep the antique ambience but use modern things like tubs and showers to make things nice for our guests.”

From Lucy’s expression, Jolene could’ve sworn she’d rather have been shaking hands with the devil. “Well, I’ll be sure to give you a real good price on anything that you can use.”

He turned to settle his crystal-clear blue eyes on Flossie.

“I’m Flossie Simmons, and I own Mama’s Place in Jefferson. My antiques are better than Lucy’s.” She winked. “And since Jolene is like a daughter to all of us, I can beat any deal Lucy would give you.”

“And I’m Dotty Beauchamp.” Dotty’s southern accent thickened. “I’m a Louisiana girl from the other side of the Big Cypress Bayou, and I own the Tipsy Gator. I’ve seen you a few times in my bar. You always sit on the last stool in the shadows, right, chère?”

“Yes, ma’am, I sure do,” Tucker said.

Jolene was totally blown away. One minute they were ready to crucify her for letting Tucker live there, and the next they were flirting with him. Good glory! They had to be seventy or older, and he wasn’t a day over thirty-seven.

“We should let you two get back to work,” Dotty said with a broad wink toward Jolene. “And since you’re going to be out of pocket on Friday night, then Sunday afternoon will be our meetin’ time.”

They pushed their chairs back and paraded toward the foyer. Lucy stopped at the hall tree for her coat, and Tucker hurried over to help her into it. “Thank you for the cookies.”

“You’re welcome. Good luck with all this remodeling.” Flossie gave Jolene a quick hug and whispered, “I hope you know what you’re doin’.”

Tucker picked up the last coat from the hall tree and held it out to Dotty. “It’s been a real pleasure to meet you ladies.”

Jolene sank down on the bottom step of the stairs and sighed when Tucker shut the door behind the ladies. Tucker sat down beside her and propped his forearms on his knees. “So you work in a bar?”

“Ever since I was twenty-one. Until then I did waitress work,” she answered. “How much did you hear?”

“I got there when Lucy was offering you a job to quit working in a bar,” he answered.

“Sounds like you heard most of it, then. I’ll be working at a bar on Friday and Saturday nights. I understand that you drink a little on weekends.”

He got to his feet. “I’m going to get a couple more cookies and another cup of coffee to take upstairs with me. And, honey, I drink a lot on Saturday nights.”

“Just so long as we understand each other.” Jolene stood up and headed toward the kitchen. “Right now we could take fifteen minutes off and call it a midmorning snack.”

“Got chocolate syrup?” He followed her into the kitchen. “For the cookies, the coffee, or the milk?”

“Milk, and then I dip my cookies in it,” he answered.

The ladies had called him a tortured soul. Jolene stole glances at him as she got out the chocolate syrup. It was a shame that he’d lost his wife so suddenly. He might never get over it, but she sure wasn’t looking forward to dealing with another weekend drunk—like her mother or that last worthless boyfriend.

*****

Inheriting the Magnolia Inn, a Victorian home nestled in the East Texas pines, is a fantasy come true for Jolene Broussard. After living with the guilt of failing to rescue her self-destructive mother, Jolene knows her aunt and uncle’s B&B is the perfect jump start for a new life and a comforting place to call home. There’s just one hitch: stubborn and moody carpenter Tucker Malone. He’s got a half interest in the Magnolia Inn, and he’s planting his dusty cowboy boots squarely in the middle of her dream.
Ever since his wife’s death, Tucker’s own guilt and demons have left him as guarded as Jolene. The last thing he expects is for his new partner to stir something inside him he thought was gone forever. And as wary as Jolene is, she may have found a kindred spirit—someone she can help, and someone she can hold on to.
Restoring the Magnolia Inn is the first step toward restoring their hearts. Will they be able to let go of the past and trust each other to do it together?

 

 

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times, USA Today, Publishers 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. Visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.

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A Visit with Jessica Lauryn & A SULTRY PERFORMANCE

Thanks so much for welcoming me back to Manic Readers, everyone! I’m thrilled to share that my latest title, A Sultry Performance has just been released. This story of love, passion and decades-old secrets is about a dancer named Victoria Morrow who, though at a severe monetary disadvantage in a world of privileged elites, possesses a dancing talent that is otherwise unparalleled in her universe. I find that so inspiring, not only Victoria’s strength because she is definitely a strong woman, but more so, her passion. Victoria has discovered the thing that she loves to do more than anything else in the world, and despite whatever hardships have come her way she’s always remained dedicated to her pursuit. Dancing is Victoria’s livelihood, but it’s also her life’s ambition and the thing that keeps her grounded when nothing else in the world around her is fair or right.

Ironically, or maybe not so ironically, I began dancing again myself shortly after I’d completed A Sultry Performance. Though my brief time on the ballroom dancing team at my college had seemed like something I should best leave in the past, when the opportunity to dance once again presented itself I welcomed it with open arms. Having learned a thing or two about persistence from my very determined heroine, I gave the dances I was learning for the second time, with the help of a skilled instructor and a dedicated partner, everything I had. 3 spotlight dances and 2 progress checks later, I expect to graduate the Bronze I level at our dance academy some time next year. I’m excited, because dancing is something I’ve always wanted to do. It isn’t my greatest passion, however. That, for me, will always be writing.

Earlier this year, I took a long hiatus from writing. Burned out from facing the challenges of an ever-changing publishing industry and busy as all get-out with the other responsibilities of my “real-life,” I was no longer sure whether I could keep writing at the pace I have been for almost a decade or if I could continue writing at all. But passion is one of those things inside us that burns within us like a flame, even when we ignore it. Working on other projects, I was constantly reminded of the stories I wasn’t writing, the ideas I’d yet to develop and the characters I’d not yet had the pleasure of talking to for hours on end. It was as though a part of me had been lost. Though I’d still be facing the same challenges, the least of which being a busy life with very little time to spare in a day, I decided to return to what I love. And what a joy it has been!

Passion is something all of us need in our lives. If you’ve yet to find your passion, simply follow the direction your heart is pointed in—I guarantee it won’t steer you wrong! And if you have found your passion, don’t abandon it as I did for a time. Treasure it, nurture it, cherish it. Everything else is so much better when you are doing what you love!

 

 

“I’m fine.” Victoria hid her eyes.

Chris tucked a disheveled wave behind her ear. “You don’t look fine. You’re trembling, and you look as though you’ve been crying.”

Victoria did her best to hold it together, like she always did. But seeing the compassion in Chris’s eyes, compassion that ran deeper than anything she had ever been on the receiving end of, the emotions welled inside of her. As the tears spilled down her face Chris took her into his arms. His strength surrounded her. He brought her inside of it, brushing one strong hand up and down her back.

“Victoria,” he whispered, “why are you marrying that man?”

Victoria tried, but couldn’t think of a single reason why she was. For years, she’d been telling herself that she was humoring Oakley, biding her time with him until she could approach him from a position of power. But the more time passed, the more she questioned whether that day would ever come. The night Oakley had asked her to marry him, there hadn’t been any question in her mind that she was going to say yes. Such had been the way of their disgusting farce of a relationship. She presented a hard-edged front to the world, but when it came to the man who’d been manipulating her for half her life, it was as though she had no power at all, as though she might just as well be nothing more than a mouse.

Avoiding Chris’s eyes, because she couldn’t possibly hide the truth from him if they were looking at each other head-on, Victoria simply said, “I love him.”

Chris’s arms stiffened and Victoria froze in turn, barely breathing as he took her by the shoulders, saying, “Victoria, that man just embarrassed you in front of two hundred people. He berated you, he manhandled you and he exploits you every night of your life. How could you possibly love a man like that?”

Victoria gnawed her lip, completely at a loss for words. She had no defense for the man in question and by aligning herself with him she was sacrificing more of her identity every day. Not that the life she’d led had made her crazy about relationships in general, but she wasn’t even opening herself to the possibility of another man’s companionship, to his soothing words and soft touch. Was it so wrong to want these things, so impossible to have them? Bringing Chris into the middle of her relationship with Oakley was liable to prove dangerous for both of them. But Chris was strong. He had to be, to have survived the loss he had.

Cautioning herself not to allow her thoughts to get away from her, knowing that Oakley would probably kill a man he perceived to be a serious enough threat to him, Victoria lifted her chin. “I know what it looks like, but I couldn’t count the things Oakley has done for me over the years. He’s protected me, and I sleep soundly at night knowing that no one is going to hurt me. He makes me feel safe.”

She realized right away that she shouldn’t have put things in those terms because the twinkle in Chris’s eyes told her exactly what his reply was going to be. She ought to run. He was giving her a chance to do just that, but her legs refused to stand. Instead, they eased sideways, leading the way like the smokestack on a train as her body leaned helplessly into that of the man sitting beside her.

“Tell me, Victoria—” Chris looked into her eyes, “does Oakley Sutherland make you feel like this?”

Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater, suspects his late wife’s hit-and-run was never an accident. He believes the man she was having an affair with, Oakley Sutherland, was responsible and he vows to get Evelyn justice, igniting a plot to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley’s fiancée, Victoria.

A well-known exotic dancer by night, Victoria Morrow has been fighting to make a better life for herself, and she won’t be taken advantage of. But when the most handsome man at Rabourn Theater takes an interest in her, she finds herself spiraling down a path she never expected to. Can Victoria resist Chris’s charms? Or will both of them fall prey to the danger that lurks in the wings?

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#1 BookStrand bestselling author Jessica Lauryn has been writing since before she could hold a pen. Her days of storytelling through the art of playing with dolls inspired her to write romantic suspense novels The Romance Reviews describe as having “Just the right amount of passion and romance!” Villains often reform in Jessica’s stories, and just may become heroes themselves! Jessica is an avid antique collector, as well as a proud member of Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers.

 

For all the dog lover's Debbie Burns' MY FOREVER HOME & giveaway

 
 
Love comes to the rescue.
 
Vet school drop-out Tess Grasso dreams of having her own pet therapy business, but she meets one disastrous obstacle after another. There’s no denying she has a way with animals, so in the meantime she puts her skills to use at a local no-kill shelter. Between helping her furry companions and a budding relationship with fellow dog lover Mason Redding, Tess begins to find fresh confidence…
What Tess doesn’t know is that Mason is recovering from an accident, hoping to get back to his pro-baseball career. He’s afraid the truth will ruin everything—and he’s right. But in the midst of hurt and betrayal, a free-spirited stray Husky enters their lives, and teaches them a few things about faith, love and forgiveness.
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It was time to get out, but Tess didn’t want to leave. She unbuckled her seat belt but didn’t move. “So, the laptop. I don’t know that I can accept it.”
A single crease lined Mason’s forehead. “You lost yours helping me. I wanted to do it.”
“If I keep it,” Tess said, “I’d like the chance to make it up to you.”
The lopsided smile that made her heart wallop reappeared. “What’re you thinking?”
“John Ronald. I want to help you catch him.”
His smile fell as quickly as it had popped up, and he studied her face in the glow from the dashboard instruments. Tess wanted to know what he was thinking. She didn’t know him well enough to guess.
It was too dark to see the color of his eyes, but Tess was hungry to. She’d already memorized what a perfect mixture of blue and green they were.
“The dog may not be lost,” she continued before the last bit of her nerve slipped underneath the seat, “but I’m not entirely sure that means he’s found. When I saw him tonight, I got the feeling that he wants to come to you, but he’s afraid. You’re probably hoping he’ll let you catch him, but that’s a jump he might not know how to make. Life is hard for strays. Really hard. And if animal control catches him, who knows what kind of chance he’d have.”
Mason thumped the side of his thumb against the top of the console as he seemed to consider her words. “I’d like that,” he said finally. “And your offer takes the pressure off me to figure out the best way to tell you that I want to see you again.”
It had been on the tip of her tongue to add that she’d had some experience catching strays, but words fled. Tess bit her lip to keep her jaw from dropping to the floor.
“So, yes, I’ll take your help. Gladly,” Mason said. “And I’m going to try really hard to stay true to form and act like you offering this and not something less personal didn’t just hit home deeper than you could know.”
Tess shook her head. What could he possibly expect her to say in return?
“So instead,” he continued, his smile reappearing, “I’ll admit that while I’ve never gone on a real stray-dog hunt, I suspect it’ll work up an appetite even in someone as petite as you, and I’ll offer to make dinner.”
“I’m, uh, a vegetarian.” That’s your answer? That’s the best you can do?
His smile widened. “That rules out the three meals I claim to have mastered at the most basic of levels, but I’m up for a challenge. What night’s good for you?”
Tess pressed down her delight. He wanted to make her dinner. “How about Thursday after work? As long as it isn’t raining. He’d likely be hunkered down in the rain, and it’s unlikely we’d find him in the same spot as yesterday.”
“Perfect. I’ll pick you up. Six thirty all right?”
Tess heard herself agreeing. Instead of dinner and a movie, it was dinner and dog catching. So much for a cute pair of boots and a skirt to undo the image of the dorky pants-rolling of earlier.
“I wrote this in the card, but my grandma threw away the cup with your number on it. I should’ve said so earlier, but that’s why I rode to your place. I didn’t want you thinking I wasn’t appreciative about the laptop. It’ll probably be a few days before I get a new phone, but my grandma’s number is in the card if you need it.”
“I’m glad you came over, but I’m pretty sure my number is on a slip of paper on your grandma’s fridge. She asked if you had it and when I told her I’d written it on a cup, she said cups were no place for phone numbers and had me write it on a piece of paper.”
Tess clicked her tongue. “She knew I was looking for a cup after I found the laptop. You’d think she’d have told me that before I dashed out.”
“If you ask me, it worked out pretty well that she didn’t.” For a split second, Tess got the feeling that he was about to lean in to kiss her, but then he shifted farther away and pushed open his door and headed for her bike.
“Good luck tomorrow,” he said, hooking his thumb into his jeans pocket after it was down.
Tess thanked him. She remembered a flash of the dream she’d awoken to, the one in which she’d been kissing him and he’d been holding back. It hardly seemed possible that she’d only met him yesterday. If he was holding back, it was the right thing to do. How off the wall was it that if he had kissed her, she’d have kissed him right back? 
Her last boyfriend had been someone she’d connected with mentally and emotionally, but not physically. They’d been dating for nearly a month when Tess had realized that every time he leaned in to kiss her, she had to keep herself from pulling away.
She couldn’t imagine wanting to pull away from Mason. 
What was she doing? Get it together, Tess.
She looked toward the house. “My grandma’s probably waiting. I’ll see you Thursday?” She forced a step toward the driveway; it just didn’t turn out to be very large one.
“Six thirty,” he repeated. “And I’ll have takeout cued up on my phone in case dinner sucks.”
Tess laughed. “Can I bring something? Dessert?”
“Just your sweet self.”
Her mouth went dry. She didn’t think in all her life she’d ever wanted to be kissed as much as she did now. The urge was ridiculous but impossible to suppress. Then she remembered the taut, enticing muscles in his arms, chest, and shoulders and took off toward the driveway. “Thanks again for the ride.”
“Anytime, Tess Grasso.” 
As she headed up the driveway, Tess was left to contemplate how Nonna must have told him her last name. And he’d remembered it.
 

Debbie Burns’ writing commendations include a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews for A New Leash on Love, as well as first-place awards for short stories, flash fiction, and longer selections. Her hobbies include hiking, gardening, and daydreaming, which, of course, always leads to new story ideas. She lives in St. Louis with her family, two phenomenal rescue dogs, and a somewhat tetchy Maine coon cat who everyone loves anyway.

Tolu A. Akinyemi's Poetry Tour: DEAD DOGS DON'T BARK & DEAD LIONS DON'T ROAR

Hello! I’m Tolu A. Akinyemi and this is one of my tour stops during my one-month book tour for Dead Dogs Don’t Bark and Dead Lions Don’t Roar. This virtual book tour is organized by Write Now Literary Book Tours. The tour runs Nov 5-30, 2018.  Authors book your own tour here.

 

Genre: Poetry

Introducing Tolu Akinyemi
Tolu Akinyemi was born in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria and currently lives in the United Kingdom. Tolu Akinyemi is an exceptional talent, out-of-the box creative thinker, a change management agent and a leader par excellence. Tolu is a business analyst and financial crime consultant as well as a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) with extensive experience working with leading Investment banks and Consultancy Firms. Tolu is also a personal development and career coach and a prolific writer with more than 10 years’ writing experience; he is a mentor to hundreds of young people. He worked as an Associate mentor in St Mary’s School, Cheshunt and as an Inclusion Mentor in Barnwell School, Stevenage in the United Kingdom, helping students raise their aspirations, standards of performance and helping them cope with transitions from one educational stage to another.
Tolu has headlined and featured in various Open Slam, Poetry Slam, Spoken Word and Open Mic events in the United Kingdom. He also inspires large audiences through spoken word performances, he has appeared as a keynote speaker in major forums and events in the United Kingdom and facilitates creative writing masterclasses to all types of audiences.
In March 2018 he was endorsed by the Arts Council England as an ‘Exceptional Talent’.


About The Book
Dead Lions Don’t Roar is a collection of inspiring and motivating modern day verses. Addressing many issues close to home and also many taboo subjects, the poetry is reflecting of today’s struggles and lights the way to a positive future. The uplifting book will appeal to all age groups, anyone going through change, building or enjoying a career and facing day to day struggles. Many of the short verses will resonate with readers, leaving a sense of peace and well-being.
Amazon:http://a.co/d/bLCmMt1    
 Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2CAY9N5





 Excerpt for Dead Lions Don’t Roar
A motivating and inspiring book of poetry should always leave the reader with thoughts about personal development and doses of inspiration … and that is exactly what Dead Lions Don’t Roar does. Whilst the poem entitled the name of the collection speaks volumes about using our gifts and talent and finding our own unique roar, there are a number of other poems that share the essence of the book. Here is a sneak peak of one such poem:
If Men were God
There would be no more us,
Long Dead and buried,
Forgotten with the times,
An atonement for our sins
If men were God….
This poem makes us think about what each of our individual role and purpose is in life, which will then motivate us to achieve…our very best. This is the entire purpose of Dead Lion’s Don’t Roar.

About The Book
Dead Dogs Don’t Bark is the second poetry collection from the acclaimed author, Tolu A. Akinyemi. With a similar tone and style to Dead Lions Don’t Roar (Tolu’s first poetry collection) this follow up masterpiece is nothing short of pure motivation. The poems cover a range of topics that many in life are aware of, that the Author himself has experienced and that we all, whatever our age, need support in. Beautifully written, the poems speak volumes to all age groups as they feature finding your inner talent, celebrating your individuality and distinct voice. The poetry collection has didactic elements for evaporating the effects of peer pressure and criminality amongst many others. Also covering mental health, relationships, career focus, and general life issues, the poetry is bitter sweet, amusing and thought provoking in turns.

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2qaFPml  

Excerpt for Dead Dogs Don’t Bark
A follow on to the success of Dead Lions Don’t Roar, Dead Dogs Don’t Bark goes one step further. As well as self-motivation, Dead Dogs Don’t Bark digs deep into society, into behavior and into relationships that make existence worthwhile. An insight into the true power of the collection rings strong in the following snippet:
Cuddle up to Excellence
Else Mediocrity can catch up with you like a heatwave
Released in full force like a loaf oven baked
The days of long service awards are over
If your dream is to buy a Range Rover
Then you have to embrace excellence
This poem reinforces that it is healthy to have dreams and ambitions but that we must remember to strive for them and not just expect them … not taking things for granted and putting your best foot forward in life encapsulates the resonating theme of Dead Dogs Don’t Bark.
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Christmas Gift Guide help from Sourcebooks Casablanca & giveaway!

How about some help with those romance readers on your gift list this year? Here’s a list of some great reads bound to give them all the feels they’re looking for.

To purchase any or all, head here.

Christmas Gift Guide Roundup
 Mistletoe in Texas
Gift this to: Anyone who loves all things Texas or rodeo, and fans of second chance romance
Suggested gift pairing: A cute Texas cookie cutter, or a bag of Texas Pecan coffee for a warm and authentic treat. (Because a horse won’t fit under the tree!)
 
 
 Cowboy Christmas Jubilee
Gift this to: The friend who loves Christmas more than any other holiday, and fans of small town cowboy romance
Suggested gift pairing: Anything Christmas related – bonus points if there are cowboy boots involved.



 Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas
Gift this to: Anyone who has ever wanted to live on a Christmas tree farm (!) or cowboy readers who like a little suspense 
Suggested gift pairing: A pine-scented candle, or a favorite piece from a local artist (in honor of our folk artist heroine)


 Cowboy SEAL Christmas
Gift this to: The friend whose favorite holiday movie is How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or anyone who thinks horses and heroes are a winning combination.
Suggested gift pairing: Cute notecards, a framed photo, or an invitation to a holiday celebration because Christmas is all about connecting with the people we love!
 
 
 Billionaire Wolf for Christmas
Gift this to: The friend who has a long checklist for her perfect guy (billionaire, doctor, wolf shifter) or anyone who loves a trope mashup!
Suggested gift pairing: If you can’t find a half-naked billionaire to put a bow on, then how about an adorable book themed tote to throw a copy into.
 
 
 
 My Forever Home

Gift this to: Dog lovers, and fans of 

Suggested gift pairing: A puppy! (just kidding) For the minimalist friend, give this along with making a donation to a local no-kill rescue shelter. For something that’s easier to wrap, pair this with a cozy pair of red mittens for a soft and sweet gift.

Don’t forget gifts for you! At the holidays we always spend so much time thinking about others that it’s easy to leave ourselves out. Treat yourself this Christmas and enter to win all 6 holiday books! Then cozy up with a blanket, a hot cup of whatever you like, and get lost in a wonderful romance.

 

Jennie Marts' YOU HAD ME AT COWBOY excerpt & giveaway

This cowboy is falling hard.
 
Mason James is the responsible one who stayed behind to run the ranch while his brother, Rock, took off to play professional hockey. Women have used him before to get to his brother—and Mason intends never to get burned again. But after he meets quirky Tessa Kane at his brother’s wedding, Mason discovers he’s ready to take a chance on love.
Tessa Kane is a reporter on the verge of losing a job she desperately needs—unless she’s clever enough to snag a story on the famous Rockford James. But when she falls for her subject’s brother, she’s caught between a rock and a hard-muscled cowboy. What will happen when Mason finds out who she really is?
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“Looks like your ‘new friend’ has arrived,” Vivi said, a note of amusement in her tone.

Mason ignored his mom, too busy trying to quell the flurry of sensations that had just taken off in his gut. He pushed out the front door, pausing on the porch to steady himself as she parked her car next to his pickup. His border collie, Theo, raced up to greet her as she stepped from the car.
Tess had on a simple tank top and shorts, but her hair was loose and curled around her shoulders, and when she pulled off her sunglasses and smiled up at him, she took his danged breath away.
He sauntered down the porch steps, trying to act casual since he knew full well that his mother and brother would have their faces plastered to the kitchen window.
A grin broke out on his face as he approached her. Forget the food at the barbecue. Tessa Kane looked good enough to eat.
She took a step forward, and without thinking, he grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the barn. “Come on, I want to show you something,” he mumbled.
“What is it?” she asked as they stepped into the cool shadow of the barn.
He turned to face her, suddenly feeling awkward and shy. “Nothing. My family was just watching us, and it felt weird saying hello to you while they stared at us through the window.”
She smiled. “Understandable.”
He rubbed his hand along the back of his neck. “And also, I’ve had something that’s been bugging me all night, and I thought if I could take care of it right off the bat, we’d just get it out of the way and it wouldn’t be between us all afternoon.”
“Oh…kay. This sounds serious. What is it?”
“It’s about that kiss I gave you…”
Her eyes widened, then she shook her head as she stared at the ground next to his boots. “Oh yeah, that. Of course. You were probably worried that I would get the wrong idea. Or that I would think this was more than just a casual date. I know you just asked me to help with the busybodies, and that I’m just a stand-in. I get it.”
What the hell was she talking about?
“No. It’s not anything like that.” He lifted her chin, tipping her face up to his. “I just feel like maybe it wasn’t my best work.”
A grin tugged at the corners of her lips. “Oh.”
“I think if I had another chance, I could do better. You know, make it a little more memorable.”
She shrugged, looking up at him through her lashes. Her voice was soft, barely above a whisper. “I thought it was nice.”
“Darlin’, I never want a woman to think a kiss I gave her was ‘nice.’”
A sly grin crossed her face, and she pushed her shoulders back and took a step closer. “In that case, I think you’re right.” She lifted her hands and rested them on his chest. “You’d better try again.”
He swallowed, the heat of her hands warming his chest.
She scrunched the folds of his shirt into her fists. “I’m ready when you are.” Her voice lowered, taking on a breathy tone. “But if you’re going for memorable, you’d better make it a good one.”
Holy shit. Flashes of heat darted down Mason’s spine. And through his groin.
He loved the way she looked shy one moment, then her eyes flashed with the spark of a dare the next. He couldn’t figure this woman out, but he liked her.
There was more to Tessa Kane than he’d imagined, and it would seem that she’d just thrown down a challenge. And he was up for it. If the tightening in his jeans were any indication, apparently in more ways than one.
He pulled back slightly, just enough to gaze down into her face. A light glaze of shimmery gloss coated her lips, and her cheeks were pink with color. She stared up at him, her expression holding a mixture of fear and anticipation.
He knew the feeling.
Then she pulled her bottom lip just slightly under her front teeth, and he didn’t know anything—except that he wanted that pretty, pink mouth.
Keeping one arm around her waist, he reached up with the other and slid his hand along her slender neck, feeling her pulse race under his thumb. He held her gaze, his eyes not leaving hers as he cupped her cheek in his palm.
Her lips parted, anticipating his kiss, and his own pulse galloped through his veins.
“Comin’ in hot,” he warned as he tilted her face the slimmest degree, then leaned in and lightly grazed her lips with his.
She tasted like spearmint and vanilla and something else—something that made him feel the same way he did on a warm summer night when the air was perfect, the stars were out, and the sweetest peace would settle in his soul.
A quiet sound escaped her lips, a cross between a moan and a sigh, as he pressed another soft kiss against her lips.
And it was about the sexiest sound he’d ever heard.
Her hands tightened the grip she had on his shirt, and he couldn’t hold back a grin.
“You said to make it good,” he murmured against her lips.
“Is that all you got?” she whispered back, her voice husky and breathless.
Aw hell. Now all bets were off.
***
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 with her husband, two dogs, and a parakeet that loves to tweet to the oldies, in the mountains of Colorado.

CHASING SHADOWS excerpt & giveaway with Catherine Bybee

Avery’s head shot up at the sound of a female voice calling her name.

“Lori?”

Oh, damn…

When Lori was at their table, Avery detached from Liam’s side and stood for a hug. “What are you doing here? Where’s Reed?”

Lori eyed Liam while she answered the questions. “Reed’s on his way down. We’re going out to dinner. Wanted a drink first.”

What were the chances of Lori excusing herself before Avery was forced to make an introduction?

Lori reached out a hand toward Liam. “I’m Lori.”

Liam stood; a broad smile matched his broad chest. “Liam Holt.” Once he released Lori’s hand, he pulled out a bar stool. “Sit, we just ordered drinks.”

Avery wanted to elbow his ribs.

Instead, she smiled.

Liam signaled for Nikki.

“Liam, huh? Avery hasn’t mentioned you.”

He pulled Avery’s chair closer to his and waited for her to sit. “We haven’t known each other long.”

Lori sent a questioning look to Avery. Instead of adding to Liam’s explanation.

“I’ve known Lori for a few years. We live in the same building.”

“What do you do, Liam?”

Small talk … is that what this was going to be?

Lori signaled Reed when he walked in the door. “This is my husband.”

Avery laughed. “You love saying that, don’t you?”

Lori nodded.

“They’re newlyweds,” Avery explained.

Once again Liam stood when Reed approached the table.

“Look who I found,” Lori said.

Reed kissed Avery’s cheek. “I haven’t seen you here in a while.”

“That’s because you two never come up for air,” Avery teased.

“This is Liam … Avery’s friend.” Yeah, Lori wanted more details.

The men shook hands.

“Have I ever met one of your friends?” he asked.

Avery glared. “Smooth, Reed … really smooth.”

Lori nudged her husband’s arm. “Stop teasing.” She turned her focus on Liam. “Avery keeps her private life private.”

Avery tried not to flinch when Liam placed a hand over hers. “I’ve figured that out recently.”

“How did you two meet?” Reed asked.

Avery said “the gym” at the same time Liam said “a bar.”

Lori’s lawyer radar spiked. Avery saw it in her eyes. “Those two things are worlds apart.”

She caught Liam’s hand and squeezed.

“The first time I saw you was at Pug’s Bar. I approached you at the gym.”

“I knew it. That was you at Pug’s. How did you figure out where I worked out?” She’d been asking herself that question for over a week.

“That wasn’t hard. Leslie had a gym bag.”

“Who’s Leslie?” Lori asked.

Avery didn’t look away from Liam. “A friend. So your job at the gym wasn’t on accident?”

“I might have approached Brenda about a side job so I could meet you.”

Avery’s jaw dropped.

“Who’s Brenda?” Reed asked.

“The owner of the gym,” Avery and Liam said at the same time. “How did you know I was there on Tuesday and Friday nights?” She wasn’t sure if his actions were exciting or scary.

“Appointment book. Brenda’s office is always open.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Lori placed a hand between the two of theirs. “You see Avery in a bar. You search out a location of her gym, follow her to it, get a job there, and now you’re both here having drinks?”

Liam offered a brief, unapologetic nod.

Lori grabbed Avery’s hand. “How well do you know this guy?”

Avery liked the gleam in Liam’s eyes. “He’s safe.”

“What he just described is a little too close to stalking for my taste.”

Reed placed a hand on Lori’s shoulder. “Simmer down, Counselor. If Liam had an ulterior motive, he wouldn’t have told us all that.”

“I wanted to meet you,” Liam said. “

Yeah, well, you’ve met her.” Lori wasn’t happy.

Nikki showed up with Avery’s and Liam’s drinks.

“My usual, Nikki,” Lori told her.

“Hon, our reservations are in thirty minutes. Maybe we should go.”

Lori looked at Reed like he was crazy. “We aren’t leaving him with her. He could be a sociopath.”

Liam smiled, his eyes crinkling with amusement. “I’m not.”

“That’s what they all say.”

Avery put a free hand in the air. “Chill, Lori.”

Avery realized that her other hand had somehow ended up back in Liam’s. His thumb stroked the underside of her wrist in a strangely calming way.

“Do you want a drink, Reed?” Nikki was still standing there, watching the four of them.

“No, thank you. We’re leaving.”

Lori pushed back her chair. “We’re going to talk about this later,” she warned Avery. “And you … just so you know, I’m an attorney, and my big, burly husband here is in private security. He has even bigger friends.”

Liam reached into his back pocket and removed his wallet. From it, he pulled out what looked like a business card. “I have nothing to hide.”

Lori glanced at it briefly before Reed snatched it from her fingertips. “C’mon. Let’s leave them to their date.”

Liam stood again and shook Reed’s hand before he ushered Lori out of the bar.

“That was intense.”

“My friends are protective.”

“Understatement.”

“You really went through all that just to meet me?”

Liam picked up his cocktail for the first time. “Worked, didn’t it?”

Avery let loose his hand and lifted her glass to his. “Yes, it did.”

***

Avery Grant doesn’t date. Her first marriage was a mutually beneficial contract that gave her the financial freedom she needed to step away from her controlling parents. Wealthy and single, the last thing she’s looking for is love sneaking in to mess up her life plans. And after a brutal attack, she’s determined to never be vulnerable again, even if the new man in her life helps her feel safe.
Mesmerized from the moment he sets his eyes on Avery, Liam is driven to learn everything about this tough, sexy, challenging woman. Breaking down her defenses won’t be easy, but Liam refuses to be pushed away. All he needs is a tiny crack in Avery’s armor to wiggle his way into her heart.
But when a terrifying lie about her attacker’s fate comes to light, Avery’s past returns to haunt her. Now she’s willing to put herself in danger to get the answers she needs. That means jeopardizing the best thing that’s ever happened to her: Liam.

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New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than five million copies and have been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.catherinebybee.com

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

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905789.Catherine_Bybee

LOVE CAN BE~ A Literary Collection about Our Animals Review-- Net proceeds to animal charities

 

 Love can be, and sure enough is, moving in all things, in all places, in all forms of life at the same snap of your finger.”—Woody Guthrie
 

 


Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie said it first and best. This new anthology of poems and prose, Love Can Be: A Literary Collection About Our Animals, is proof of what love can be, as thirty acclaimed authors join together to champion life in all its forms. This is their gift to the world, not just the artistry of their words, but their vision of an extended community that includes cats, birds, frogs, butterflies, bears, dogs, raccoons, horses—a full-out menagerie of being that enriches us all.

This broad-hearted vision comes with responsibility, and that responsibility speaks to the mission of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, publisher of the book. The Kirkpatrick Foundation will donate all net proceeds of sales of this volume to animal charities in Oklahoma as well as honoraria donated to the contributors’ selected animal charities.

Authors featured in the collection are Julia Alvarez, Blake Bailey, Rick Bass, P. C. Cast, Wayne Coyne, Kim Doner, Delia Ephron, Reyna Grande, Joy Harjo, Amy Hempel, Juan Felipe Herrera, S. E. Hinton, Brandon Hobson, Dean Koontz, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jill McCorkle, Teresa Miller, N. Scott Momaday, Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Orlean, Ron Padgett, Elise Paschen, Diane Rehm, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Wade Rouse, Alexander McCall Smith, Lalita Tademy, Clifton Taulbert, Michael Wallis, and Mary Logan Wolf.

Special contributions include:
* “The Cat,” one of the final original poems by the legendary Ursula K. Le Guin.
* A memorial tribute to Sudan, the last male white rhino, by former U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
* An essay by noted novelist Alexander McCall Smith, who celebrates the whimsical link between baboons and opera.
* An essay on love, grief, and resilience by Peabody Award–winning journalist Diane Rehm.
* A classic, “Jubilate,” by Joyce Carol Oates. (synopsis from Amazon)

My thoughts, 4 stars
Love Can Be: A Literary Collection about Our Animals is a limited edition that consists of poetry, stories, memorials, and reminiscences by a wide ranging group of authors about animals. All net proceeds go to various animal charities.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this collection. Most are bite sized and one or more could be read during a lunch hour, or while waiting on/for whatever or whomever.
The stories that stood out for me, and yes-made me smile through tears (which isn’t ideal at work) were:
Dogly Prayers and Wishes by Jill McCorkle. Yep, made me cry while remembering my own past special dogs who came at just the right time, like lil angels.
Dog Memory by Susan Orlean really made me cry as it reminded me of my most recent loss, Tommy.
And last, but certainly not least, The Emperor Maxie by Diane Rehm. Who hasn’t loved an ornery cantakerous pet?
Whether you buy to help out the charities, because you love animal stories or know someone who does, or any combination thereof, one or more of the offerings is sure to touch your heart.

Paige Tyler's WOLF RISING excerpt & giveaway

The dayroom was big enough for the whole SWAT team to fit, as well as their extended pack, which was a good thing, since it was growing in leaps and bounds. In addition to the two couches and coffee table, there were beanbag chairs and a sweet big-screen TV. Since it was the holiday season, there was also a Christmas tree with all the trimmings. Brooks gestured to one of the couches, then sat down beside her.

“I’m glad we got a chance to talk in private,” Selena said. “I wanted to ask if you got injured in the rescue but wasn’t sure if I should bring it up in front of everyone else. I know guys can get embarrassed when women ask questions like that around other men.”

He was so distracted by the sexy curve of her hips as she crossed her legs that he almost missed what she’d said. “Injured? Nah.”

“You weren’t? Huh.” She frowned, confusion clouding her eyes. “There was so much blood on my clothes, not to mention the floor, and when I realized it couldn’t be Pablo’s, I naturally assumed it was yours.”

Brooks’s first instinct was to say nothing. That was the standard response anytime someone outside the Pack saw something they shouldn’t. But Selena looked so distressed, he had to tell her something.

“Oh, you must mean these.” He gestured at the freshly healed scars on his forearm from both the small bullet hole up near his elbow and the larger incision he’d gotten when Trey had dug Pablo’s bullet out of him. “I cut myself on a piece of glass picking you up. It was nothing.”

Selena studied the scars, her eyes narrowing a little before she looked back at him. Brooks had no doubt she was trying to figure out how scars that looked like they were a week old could possibly have produced as much blood as she’d had on her clothes. When she stared him straight in the eyes for several long moments, he wondered if this was what her students felt like when they’d been caught lying. He held his breath, sure she was going to call him on it.

But instead, she nodded and broke eye contact. “I’m glad it wasn’t anything more serious. You could have gotten shot shielding me like that.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. “It was nothing. I was more worried about hurting you. I slammed into you pretty hard. I didn’t break anything, did I?”

Selena shook her head. “No breaks, thank goodness. The doctor was worried I might have gotten a concussion, though. He could be right. My head was a little wonky last night for sure.”

“Wonky?” It was his turn to frown. “What do you mean? Should you be out of the hospital?”

Brooks subconsciously moved closer, his heart beating faster at the thought that he’d hurt her. He was half a second away from sweeping her up into his arms and hauling ass for his truck to take her to the hospital.

Selena must have read his mind, because she stopped him with a smile and a gentle hand on his arm. “I’m okay…really. I’ll admit my heart rate was all over the place when I was there, and I had a fever nobody could explain, but thankfully, everything went back to normal. As it turns out, the doctor decided my symptoms weren’t related to anything physical.”

“What was it then?”

She took her hand away from his arm as she shrugged. “He seemed to think I’m dealing with post-traumatic stress.”

A part of Brooks was relieved Selena wasn’t physically injured, but at the same time, he was worried. PTSD wasn’t anything to mess around with. He’d known a lot of good cops who’d lost their jobs, their families, and sometimes more because they’d gone through a rough situation they’d never been able to get past.

“Have you thought of talking to someone about it?” he asked.

She sighed. “You sound like my principal and vice principal. They want me to talk to somebody, too. In fact, they’ve essentially kicked me out of my class for the rest of the week, so I can take time off to recover. Whatever the heck that means.”

“Selena, this is serious,” Brooks said. “Someone tried to kill you. It’s normal to be affected by something like that. Normal to feel confused, scared, and freaked out as hell. It’s also completely normal to sit down and talk with someone about it.”

Her shoulders sagged. “I know. And to be honest, I am a bit freaked out by everything that happened—the parts I can remember anyway. But honestly, I’m not sure who I’d even talk to about something like this. I don’t know if I could walk into a therapist’s office and open up to someone I’ve never met. My grandmother is the only family I have left, but I don’t want to worry her any more than she already is after what happened yesterday.”

Selena thought a moment. “I suppose I could talk to my priest, but he’s such a gentle soul that I’m not sure I could bring myself to tell him all the things I was feeling in the classroom when Pablo was waving that gun around.”

“You could always talk to me,” he said softly. “I mean, I know you just met me, but at least you don’t have to fill me in on all the details, since I was there with you. And I do a pretty good job of listening, if I do say so myself.”

That gorgeous smile returned. “Well, since it seems like I have the rest of the week off whether I want it or not, maybe we could get together and talk over lunch?”

“Lunch would work,” he agreed. “But how about dinner instead? If you’re comfortable with that, I mean.”

Selena didn’t answer. Crap. Had he completely misread the situation? It hit him then that he’d never even considered the possibility she might have a boyfriend…or a girlfriend, for that matter. But then he heard her heart thump a little harder and realized she was definitely intrigued by the suggestion.

“I’ll consider dinner,” Selena said slowly, her lips curving in a surprisingly sultry way. “But only if you come to my place.”

Brooks certainly didn’t mind going to her place, but he was a little taken aback by the invitation. Then he picked up a very distinct scent filling the room. Damn. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear she was getting aroused. Which immediately got him going, too. The image of him humping her leg came roaring right back.

Down, boy.

“Are you good in the kitchen?” he asked.

Selena gave him a look that suggested she knew exactly what she was doing to him. “I’m good in every room of my place.”

He chuckled, loving the unexpected flirty banter, especially when her face heated up, making him think she’d been more shocked by the words than he had.

“Well, in that case, dinner at your place it is. Tonight work for you?”

She hesitated, and again he was struck by the idea that this wasn’t the way she normally behaved. But then she took a deep breath and nodded her head. “Tonight sounds good. Eight o’clock?”

“Perfect.”

They talked a little while longer…and flirted a bit in between exchanging phone numbers, too. Every once in a while, he’d pick up the tantalizing scent of her arousal.

But now, it was mixed with the one he’d picked up when he’d first walked into the admin building. He tried to get his head around the amazingly complex aroma. It was equal parts delicate flowers, exotic spices, and something feminine and uniquely Selena.

He couldn’t believe how different her scent was today from yesterday. It was almost like he was smelling a different woman.

But no matter what Selena smelled like, Brooks couldn’t deny how strongly her scent affected him.

Some of the guys in the Pack had experienced this sensory sensation before, and in every case, it involved stumbling across The One.

Did Selena’s amazing scent mean she was his soul mate, a woman he’d known for all of thirty minutes?

His head spun at the idea. Not because he didn’t believe in the idea of finding The One. It was simply that he’d never expected it to happen. He’d tried a long-term relationship once, and it had failed spectacularly. After that, he’d stopped trying.

But if Selena was The One, that would all change, right?

He was still wrestling with those thoughts when Selena stood up. “I’d better get to the store and pick up some stuff for dinner if I’m going have everything ready by eight.”

“You know you don’t need to do anything fancy, right?” He flashed her a grin as they walked to the door. “I’d be happy with another tray of brownies.”

Selena laughed. “You know, I think you mean that.

But putting together a good meal isn’t work for me. I love to cook. It’s what I do for the important people in my life. Like you.”

Brooks gazed down at her, suddenly robbed of speech. Selena slowly ran the tip of her tongue over her lips, leaving a moist sheen behind that made his gums tingle as his fangs threatened to slip out. He leaned in to kiss her, when suddenly, the door jerked open.

Brooks shot out a hand and caught Selena before she could fall, but that didn’t keep her from blushing as Khaki and Rachel stood there with knowing looks on their faces. There were some introductions, a few apologies, and a lot of laughter as Selena got her feet back under her.

Neither of them spoke as Brooks walked her to her car. When they got there, Selena opened her door before turning to him with a smile.

“I’ll see you tonight.”

The urge to kiss her was still there, but he held himself in check and returned her smile instead. “I’ll be there.”

As Brooks watched Selena’s car disappear down the street, he replayed the moment right before Khaki and Rachel had opened the door and interrupted them.

The thought of Selena’s luscious lips had him thinking about all kinds of things a couple normally didn’t do on a first date.

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Just when he’s found The One…he might lose her.
SWAT Officer Jayden Brooks doesn’t believe there’s a soul mate out there for him—The One. But when he saves high school teacher Selena Rosa from a hostage situation, he knows he’s in big trouble. Her scent is irresistible.
Selena finds the big cop irresistible, too. In fact, the buttoned-up teacher gets a little carried away—during a steamy make-out session, she bites him. Turns out, the traumatizing events at the school triggered her werewolf gene. Fangs and claws are appearing and her aggression is out of control. The change is happening, and Selena doesn’t understand.
It’s going to take everything Brooks has to pull her back from the edge…and ultimately win her heart.
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RECKLESSLY EVER AFTER excerpt & giveaway w/ Heather Van Fleet

 

 

Gavin St. James 

After the hell I’ve been through in the Marines—in life—there’s nothing I crave more than routine, stability, peace. Until McKenna Brewer walks into my life.

She’s impulsive, fiery, tempting as hell, and everything I dGavinon’t need. But when she offers me a night of no-strings-attached passion, I can’t resist.

When our night together has unexpected consequences, I can’t help but think this might be the perfect opportunity to show McKenna just how much I want her.

The only problem? She doesn’t do forevers. But forever is exactly what I need with her.

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A knock sounded at my door. Followed by a very unexpected voice.

“Kenna?”

I jerked up in bed at the noise, scrambling for my pants on the floor. “Uh, just a minute.” Oh my God.

Oh. My. God.

Gavin? He was here? In my house?

Just outside my freaking bedroom door, at that.

“Breathe, Kenna,” I reminded myself as I looked in the mirror to check for possible drool lines.

Once assured that my condition was, well, semi-presentable, I inhaled through my nose once more and opened the door, blinking quickly at what I saw.

Gavin, just like I thought, but with Stargazer lilies in hand.

“Hi,” he said shyly, those dark lashes of his batting lazily against his cheeks.

“You…me…flowers?” I’m pretty sure I was speaking gibberish. Apparently, swoon-sucker me didn’t have the ability to say coherent sentences. Never had I been incapable of words to the point where I stuttered like an idiot. But, there again, never had I been wooed by Gavin St. James.

“They’re lilies.”

He cleared his throat, his green eyes as bright as the leaves with the flowers. I died a little inside at the sight.

And believe me when I say, it was the best way to go. “They’re beautiful.”

“The, um, florist said they mean I missed you. I asked her.”

Heart? Meet belly.

I smiled widely at the gesture and urged him inside. When it came to romance, a man asking for the meaning of flowers before purchasing them was pretty much a woman’s dream. Or at least mine.

The door clicked shut behind me as I turned to face my new guest. There was something incredibly intimate about having him in my room. A step in a direction I wasn’t sure I was meant to take…until that moment.

“Did I wake you?” he asked. “Your sister let me in. Said you were in here.”

Hand in his shorts’ pockets, chin to his chest, Gavin looked downright adorable. His cheeks were pink, barely visible under his beard, and beneath his dark lashes, he stared back at me as though I was a certified goddess.

“No, I, um… I’ve been awake for a while.” I ran my hand over the front of my shirt, then winced at the tiny bulge there. When I looked up, I found him at my dresser, his eyes flitting over the framed pictures of me and my sister, and me and Addie.

“Um, so, wanna do a late lunch or early dinner?” He turned to face me, his back to my mirror and dresser. One of his hands was on the nape of his neck, rubbing feverishly, the other still held the flowers.

Feeling like an idiot for not taking them earlier, I stepped forward and pulled the bouquet from his hands. He smiled as I settled them against my chest, and I heard him chuckle when I pressed them to my nose and inhaled.

“Lunch, huh?” I tipped my head back to look up at him when I was done, licking my lips.

He nodded, eyes twinkling as he stared at my mouth. For a big, bearded, muscular marine, this guy had a secret, softy heart when you got to know him.

“I’m pretty tired.” I teased, setting the bouquet on the dresser. “Kind of had a long night.”

“Someone keep you up late?” His brows lifted in suspicion, but I saw the twitch of his lips all the same.

“Maybe I kept that person up late instead.” I closed the distance between us, our chests just a foot apart.

His lips pulled up in an easy grin. Gavin had the type of presence that always managed to suck me in, no matter what kind of mood he displayed. It was engaging, the way he spoke to others. Short, brief, to the point. And it turned me on in more ways than I could count. I’m pretty sure his lack of communication bothered him more than it did anyone else. But the fact of the matter was, I liked how he was. How he acted. Gavin knew what he wanted, though it took him some time to get what he wanted. In a way, he reminded me of a tiger: slow to pounce, but all claws and bite once he took his prey. That occasional shyness he exhibited only complemented—not to mention complicated—his ways, making him more intriguing.

I’m not sure if I’d ever figure him out completely, but I was going to have a damn good time trying.