Cover Reveal: Hearts of Fire by L.H. Cosway- Spin Off of Six of Hearts

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We are excited to share with you the cover reveal for HEARTS OF FIRE, the spin-off book to L.H. Cosway’s AMAZING book Six of Hearts, which tells the story of Jack McCabe, Jay Fields’ long lost, presumed dead brother. This is a standalone romance scheduled for release on March 9th.

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Synopsis

The Circus Spektakulär is proud to present Jack McCabe: Fire-breather, knife-thrower, risk-taker.

My uncle lied. I never died.

I breathe fire, eat the poison that almost killed me.

Crowds come to see me night after night. Men for the spectacle, women for the thrill. I’m an oddity to be stared at and desired. With each flame I spit, I risk my life.

I wear scars on my body that will never go away, but the scars inside my head are far more difficult to overlook.

My brother doesn’t know the truth, and if I have it my way, he never will.

Life was going exactly the way I’d planned until Lille came along. She wanted to run away with the circus, have an adventure, but this world was never meant for her.

I try to keep her safe, because she doesn’t know the dangers that are out here on the road. She doesn’t know the monsters that lurk behind the bright lights of the ring. In truth, I could be considered one of them.

We were fashioned from different cloths, never intended to mix. So I watch her. I try not to touch, even when her eyes invite me.

Join us in the Spiegeltent and let us give you a show. Allow my Lille to draw a picture for you in paint and sweat and skin.

The truest love is always the hardest to let in.

 

Excerpt

Before I knew it I was standing and a spotlight had landed on me, alongside Jack’s dark, indecipherable gaze. I stood frozen for a moment, uncertain of what to do. Then Marina was calling me to the stage and my feet were moving, one after the other, the traitorous bastards.

Jack held his hand out to me when I reached him and I placed my palm in his. Without realising it, I’d given him my right hand, my dominant hand, and also the hand that had been burned. When he gripped it, I hissed in a tiny breath at the sting.

“Sorry,” he murmured, but he didn’t sound sorry.

“It’s okay,” I replied as he led me to an upright wooden panel. Taking my shoulders in his big, warm hands, he gently situated me against it, my back flush with the wood.

“I hope you’re good at holding still,” he said and his breath hit the side of my neck.

“Why?” I practically whispered. He was incredibly handsome, even more so now that I was seeing him up close, and I felt a little drunk on it.

The edge of his mouth twitched, like he was holding back a smile. With one hand braced above my shoulder, he leaned in as he replied, “Because, blondie, I’m gonna be throwing knives at you, and I’d really hate to make you bleed.”

Again, he didn’t sound like he meant what he said at all. And I didn’t think there was a single pore on my body that wasn’t tingling. I remembered items number three and four on my list: Have sex with a stranger and do something dangerous. Perhaps if I could get Jack McCabe to do me, then I could kill two birds with one stone.

I hadn’t noticed before, because I was too busy staring at him, but there was a belt attached to the wood. I stood there as Jack took it and buckled it extra tight around my waist. He gave it a firm tug once he was done and smirked. I’m not sure why, but the action caused me to tremble. I think he noticed, too, because his eyes grew darker, if that was even possible.

Surprising me, he placed his flattened out palm to my belly. I had to try my hardest to concentrate on his words rather than the fact that my libido (the little slut) was willing his hand to move lower.

“This is your core. Visualise it. Focus on it. Keep your body in this exact position and everything will be fine.” There was the tiniest edge of a smile tugging at his lips and it made me wonder if he was enjoying this, if maybe he was trying to make me nervous.

Sucking in a breath, he continued randomly, “You smell like turpentine.” Then he drew up to his full and impressive height and walked to the other side of the stage. I knew I smelled like turpentine, because I often used it to clean my paintbrushes and sometimes the smell got into my clothes. That wasn’t the part that preoccupied me, that part would be the fact that he’d taken the time to smell me, and I didn’t know if I should be weirded out or turned on.

Okay, so I knew which option my libido was going for.

 

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AboutTheAuthor
LH Cosway

L.H. Cosway has a BA in English Literature and Greek and Roman Civilisation, and an MA in Postcolonial Literature. She lives in Dublin city. Her inspiration to write comes from music. Her favourite things in life include writing stories, vintage clothing, dark cabaret music, food, musical comedy, and of course, books.

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READ THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!

Six of Hearts

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carly headshotNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips has written over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels that today’s readers identify with and enjoy. After a successful 15 year career with various New York publishing houses, Carly is making the leap to Indie author, with the goal of giving her readers more books at a faster pace at a better price. Her Serendipity books will still finish up in January/February 2014 via Berkley as planned. Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. She’s a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. You can find all information about Carly at her website and other social media sites …

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Happy Release + Giveaway : Leon’s Way by Sunniva Dee

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Leon’s Way

By Sunniva Dee

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Synopsis

***This is an edgy New Adult novel—with soul and meaning. It is 18+ because of the uncensored language and the explicit love.***

Stunning club owner Leon keeps his world on a tight leash. He subdues his past by means of deviant sex, his martial arts, and his motorcycle. But when destiny throws him curveballs at the hands of a beautiful employee and a dying tormentor, he loses his precious control.

******

I’m Leon, number one object of Deepsilver’s rumor mill. Owner of student hotspot, Smother.

Since I was sixteen, the world has been mine. I do everything—
My way.

Every co-ed in town clenches her thighs over me, but most don’t fit the bill. See, I like my girls broken . Once I detect my shade of don’t-give-a-shit damaged, I fight hard, I fight dirty, and I don’t give up until—
I conquer.

Drunk fathers and frequent beatings don’t merit attention, but when my despicable dad starts the process of croaking, I’m forced to remember. Thus, the downward spiral begins: my latest broken-girl turns the tables on me and splits. My hot-as-hell employee, Arriane, throws me the curve ball of a lifetime. And suddenly—
I’m out of control.

But at the center of my chaos, she exists. Always close, always sweet, and so beautifully fu*king… wholesome. She represents everything I’ve shied from in a woman. Still—
I crave her.

I’m Leon, and I don’t deny my cravings. Just—this girl is not surrendering. So here I am, fighting harder. Fighting dirtier. And goddammit all, I will—
Conquer.

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Excerpt

1) This is my bar. My party.

And she’s mine.

My girlfriend’s eyes shine with happiness and relief. Only she isn’t beaming at me. She brushes my hand off her thigh and stands up on her barstool, waving. Smiling a beautiful smile she has never graced me with.

I look past the partiers on my club’s terrace, following her focus. I ignore the colors of the sky, the explosions from the New-Year’s fireworks, and detect him as easily as she did.

Dominic stands at the top of the stairs like some chick-flick hero.

He wrestles to get past Jason, one of my bouncers. Dominic’s eyes are trained on my—my—Pandora with so much fucking emotion I want to jab them out.

“Oh no, you don’t,” I grind to Pandora when she hops down to meet him. I’ve fought too hard to let this happen. In a few minutes, a new year starts, and she’s in it, goddammit, with me; she’s not taking off with another man.

How the hell did he get into Smother in the first place? My bouncers are useless! One simple task I laid on them tonight: don’t let Dominic in.

Pandora started out as a challenge to me. I knew I’d snagged her late, that she had a history with the pretty-boy. But he’s labeled “Perfect Dominic” on her cell, which is the very reason why she’s with me and not him.

Yeah, Pandora and I, we are the same. We’re each other’s brand of screwed-up, and guess fucking what? I’m not about to let her forget. I never lose, and I control my world with the precision of a puppeteer, but—

The strings are fraying.

My dolls aren’t obeying.

Behind me, my second-in-charge, Christian, calls my name. He doesn’t recognize me, not now that I shove my girlfriend past the counter and use her body to crash through the door to the storage room.

I barely register Pandora’s eyes going huge with terror. Her fear…. it’s beyond the kind I get off on. She’s panicking—but so am I.

Because she can’t. Fucking. Choose. Him.

My mind blurs. Then, it checks out. The glittering rainbow of colors in the sky means squat when a sole shade of red tinges my vision.

“Leon! What the hell are you doing?” Pandora shrieks.

I am primal. A warrior. A caveman. I thrust her hard against the shelves. I am a wolf biting down on her neck, silencing her.

“I’ll fix this, Pandora—I’ll be right back,” I growl. Then I close the door behind me. Lock, lock her in and pocket the key. She’s going crazy in there, wailing for me to open—pleading—

Soon, I can’t hear her because I have charged past Jason, and I’m at Dominic’s throat. “You!” I shout. “You little shit. I will destroy you!”

 

2) The man I’ve loved for years is going ballistic. Books, glasses, and candles ricochet off the walls and crash to the floor. The low growl contained in his throat unleashes as he hurls his stereo at the window, making the glass panes shatter on impact.

“She fucking left me for him!”

He spins and locks on me. When Leon stares at you, he consumes you. He traps you in a small, flustered vacuum where he’s all that matters. “Leon… you’ll be okay,” I begin, but my voice trembles.

I can’t wrap my mind around this meltdown. Nothing ruffles him, nothing surprises him; in all my years at the club, I’ve never seen fissures in the marble of my boss’ beautiful façade. With the exception of his girlfriends, everything he touches remains orderly, and yet he’s losing it so completely right now.

This state he’s in… It doesn’t rock my need to be there for him. I—

Am always close.

He’s my love. My unreciprocated love, because I am just Arriane, his left hand, the favorite bartender. Not one of the dolls he breaks.

Leon’s chest lifts and sinks with his turmoil. “I’ve never worked to keep someone the way I did with her. Fuck, I did everything I could while all he needed to do was barge into Smother. He fucking stole her from under my nose!” Angry tears glitter, drifting over surreally blue irises.

“Stole?” He’s delusional.

 

3) I am the devil. What did she ever do to deserve this? She’s my employee and an innocent bystander who’s nothing like my usual contenders.

Still, I prowl up over Arriane on the mattress, the way I’ve done with countless women before. Straddling her, I’m on all fours, dipping down just enough to blow lightly on her mouth, making her gasp.

I have no excuse for acting like this. I can’t claim to be drunk on this aftermath of a New Year’s Eve. No, I just can’t deal with what happened earlier tonight. I want to forget how I lost my shit, the way I rebuffed Pandora’s lack of commitment to me.

Arriane’s hair is midnight-black like mine. It’s long and so silky it shines even in the dim lighting of my bedroom. First, I slide the simple black hairband out of her ponytail. Next, I fan her mane out over my pillow.

“You should wear your hair down more,” I tell her, and the small hump on her throat lifts in an anxious swallow. I draw back for an instant, studying her.

“You like it?” she murmurs. She seems surprised.

I slide a glossy lock between two fingers and watch it spill back to the pillow. “Of course I do. It’s fucking beautiful.”

Three years ago, I was running low on employees, and in walked this girl, this sweet twenty-year-old who needed money. Like most people in the college town of Deepsilver, Arriane came here for her degree. Only she doesn’t come from an affluent family, and tuition is expensive. Since then, she’s worked more at Smother than she has studied. Whenever I need someone, I turn, and Arriane is there, ready to pick up the slack. Beautiful, loyal Arriane.

“Your eyes are violet,” I state, because I hadn’t noticed before; she works for me, and I don’t get involved with my employees.

“Yeah,” she whispers. “No one else in my family—” she starts, but then I lick her lips and she gives off a quiet moan. I like that sound.

 

 

4) Curiosity kills cats I hear, and I’ve died a million deaths over the years. Now, I’m ready for the slaughterhouse—for a new sort of death, a tougher, harder death.

I should not have come upstairs.

Should not have been with him.

Should not have insisted on going all the way.

My heart skips. I dress quickly and slink into the living room. Leon has cleaned everything up. The room is as tidy as it was before his breakdown hours ago. A blanket covers the broken window, and I’m sure he’s already called the installers.

In the kitchen, fresh coffee steams from the coffeemaker. A plate covered with cling wrap waits on the table. It has my name on it.

“I’m sorry,” the note begins.

“I’m sorry I took advantage of you, Arriane.” I blink over treacherous, stupid tears, because the words hurt and I’m the one who should apologize. I took advantage of him—his desperation. I start reading again.

“I’m sorry I took advantage of you, Arriane. It will never happen again.”

I finish the breakfast spread he’s made for me. Pour coffee into a mug. My heart’s still alive when I walk down the stairs and into the bar with my cup in hand. I don’t consider the damage the New Year’s crowd did to my decorations. Spilled beer and half-dried cocktails glue me to the floor, trying to keep me from his office. My shoes stick and rip free from the floor, alerting Leon of my proximity. I lose courage. I want to go home and postpone this.

“Arriane?” Leon’s voice sieves out so softly. Like we’re different now.

I inhale. Riip to the office slowly. Hurry with the last steps before I can change my mind. Then I peek in through the half-open door.

“You called?” I say, swallowing. I haven’t showered yet and smell of us. I have the early shift at work today, and I forgot to tie my hair back into a ponytail. Lord knows where the hairband is—I don’t. Slowly, I edge my face behind the thick sheet of my hair. His scent on me teases, causing a jab to my heart. Woodsy cologne, sex, and wrongness.

 

 

5) No one yells as loudly as Ingela. No one. I puff out a breath and start getting dressed. A single wall divides the kitchen from my bathroom, and seriously, if she whispered my name, I’d hear her.

“Still here,” I breathe out as a test.

“Well, you’re taking forever, and Cam has a question for you! Come out!” she screams.

Whatever question our fellow bartending colleague has, we both know it has to do with hairy triangles and that the answer is, and should always be, “no.” I’m also pretty sure he doesn’t want her to ask me because they all think I’m the runner-up boss at the bar. Even Ingela, only she has no respect for authority. The staff as a whole has decided it must be a cultural thing. We’re starting to believe everyone in Northern Europe has this as a birth defect.

I’m impressed with how well Leon handles Ingela. A month ago, she appeared at Smother with blue eyes shining and a wide smile lighting her face. “I’m Ingela, I’m an international exchange student, and I like your bar, so I shall work here,” she had explained. “I need a job because I’m totally, totally broke.”

I don’t ask, but my guess is she’s in the country on a student visa. Leon must be taking his chances with the IRS by paying her under the table.

Thankfully, Ingela’s little phone chat is over by the time I’m out of the bathroom.

“You missed out.” She nods, her signature broad grin in place. Short honey-blond bangs hop over her perfect eyebrows as she speaks. “Cameron is…” she frowns, thinking. “Heell—hellar—” Then, she cops out and goes, “Funny.”

“Hilarious?” I suggest, and she smacks her hands together.

“Yeah! Hilarious.”

“So, not ‘rude as hell’ or ‘gross?’”

Ingela cups her mouth with a palm, laughing. “Oh yes, uh-huh! He called just to be gross with me.”

I’m not surprised—at either of them. Ingela grabs the last piece of whole-wheat toast with liver pate and shoves it into her mouth. With the other hand, she ruffles the short layers of hair brushing her neck. “I have class first, but I’ll be at work in…” she checks her watch, “bah, when I get bored. Or soon anyway. I’ll take the campus bus—the Silver Line. It drops me off by Smother.”

“Okay, so you won’t be late?” I ask.

Ingela dons washed-out jeans peppered with holes. Tall and skinny, the stereotype of a Scandinavian girl hikes her odd little backpack up on a shoulder and strides to the door. “Never.” She bats her lashes.

 

6) Leon is a private man, and I shouldn’t pry. Still, sometimes when you don’t think, you jump in. And I?

I can’t let him hurt alone.

I take the steps over to the tall table he sits at with his accounting. I don’t stop until my hand touches his cheek.

“Leon?” I ask, my heart slowing with worry.

He sucks in a breath at my touch, thick lashes dropping. Lightly, he bends into my palm and I feel it, the stubble I dream of. It pricks like kitten-paw-soft cacti against my skin.

“What’s wrong?”

I expect him to brush me off, get up. Become his business-self. Give me a low, clear order I can carry out for him.

But Leon’s knees slide apart, making room for my body. His hands scoot around me, pulling me into him, and something shifts in my womb even though it’s probably too early.

His sigh is so heavy. Arms spread over my back, fingers pressing into flesh, fanning upward until a fist curls around my neck. The pinch is painful as he nudges me closer, bending so he can delve in against my throat.

“Just family stuff scrambling my brain,” he whispers. Can he hear my heartbeat? It’s fast, insistent. Hopeful. When I dare to move my arms from their frozen, low-slung sides, it’s to link them into his embrace. He turns my face to him and kisses me, first chastely on the mouth, until I open and he deepens the kiss.

He finds bare skin under my shirt, and as we make out, he forces a hand into the crack at the top of my jeans.

I let him.

I want him happy.

Not thinking, I lift a foot up on the railing of his barstool as he scoots out on his seat enough to leave only fabric between us. He puffs a grunt into my ear. “Wait, let me…” he begins but trails off in favor of action. Deft fingers undo my jeans button and unzip my fly. “Much better. I couldn’t get to you.”

I gasp when his fingers find my entrance from behind, easing in, showing both of us how quickly I heat for him.

“Sweetie, the guys will be down any minute—”

Leon cuts me off with a stinging slap on my ass, ending his violent caress with a firm grasp on the butt cheek he spanked. “Trust me.”

I do. I—

He holds me while he fingers me.

The boys laugh at the top of the stairs. “Nah, I’m good,” Christian rumbles. “Got my Shannon—she keeps me busy. But go for it. They say once you go threesome, you’ll never want to go back.”

Cameron howls with laughter, their high-five ringing down to us. “Damn, that’d be awesome. Gotta find me some chicks who’ll be into it more than once. I mean how ’bout forever, am I right?”

If I hadn’t been drowning in Leon’s world, I’d roll my eyes again at Cameron.

“Sure, and marry both of them. In different states before you all move to a third one,” Christian helps.

You. Are. A. Genius,” Funny-Cam bursts out. “Or in a different country! Sweden.”

“Ingela, huh?” Christian asks.

“Yeah, I might’ve suggested it to her. She said I was, and I quote, ‘gross.’”

Christian’s reply is dry. “Go figure.”

 

7) Jason is being particularly dense tonight. I’ve shown him three times how I want the new ropes to work outside the entrance to Smother, but he keeps opening them so the line becomes shorter and less organized. I show him again.

I move on to Tom, Jason’s gym rat friend, whom I hired as a bouncer over a month ago. The man still hasn’t gotten the part where my exes need to stay clear of the club. I cross my arms and tip my chin up so I can stare down at him despite his hulk-sized stature.

“Tom. I realize there are a few to remember, but when they ask for me—and in particular when they claim to be my girlfriend—there’s no way in hell it’s not one of them, okay? Even if Jason isn’t nearby and can verify your suspicion, just send them off.”

Tom crinkles a freckled brow, thinking. “But what if they’re not lying? I wouldn’t want to send the lady off if she really is your girlfriend, Boss.” His worry lines smoothen, indicating that he’s satisfied with his reply, and I remind myself that I didn’t hire him for his ability to flex brain muscle.

One of the new bartenders, Jen, waves from the dance floor. Once she has my attention, she points at two guys shoving at each other while dancing couples give room around them. I nod once. “Jason. Fight inside.”

“On it, sir.” He plods off, on a mission.

I pull in a breath, getting ready to explain the self-explanatory in regard to girlfriends. “Tom, did any of the girls you let in last night look like Arriane?”

“Boss? No…”

“Here’s the deal. Unless I tell you otherwise, Arria is my only girlfriend. Anyone else is fucking lying. Understood?”

Tom blinks. “Yes sir.”

“Good. Now, assist Jason with the jerk-offs inside, and I’ll keep an eye out here in the meantime.”

Tonight’s sad as hell. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad Arria obeyed and stayed at her apartment with Ingela after yesterday’s scare with the ER visit, but I’m not digging her absence. There’s no happy hips wiggling and tempting me behind the bar counter, no sweet smile whenever I zoom in and catch her attention, and no stolen squeezes.

 

8) I change immediately, even bind my hands. At the moment, gloves defeat the purpose for me, but a little tape never hurts. I’ve got my system. I know what works. Besides having kinky-ass sex, this and my bike are the only things that calm me down. Bare-chested and in black dojo pants, I rage into the heavy bag.

The music from the club thunders through the floor, but I need more, so I shove in a CD before I continue. The collision between the tunes downstairs and my own death metal make me want to break into a crazy laugh.

I don’t, though, because I’m spending my energy on this. For every punch, I visualize my father’s face when I took him down at sixteen. The shock, the bruises, the blood I left him with. The fucking cracked collarbone.

Something surges in me at the thought—I force everything else away.

I tear into the medium bag. Tear at it, tear at it—killing the damn thing like I wish I’d done to him. The mirror tosses back my glistening shape.

What evil god let him survive the stroke?

I snarl out my disappointment, joining the chorus of ugly roars from the stereo, and I don’t stop, don’t stop killing him until a hand touches my shoulder. I freeze, because not even here, in my sanctuary, am I less than one step from control.

My chest rasps with need for oxygen. I realize I have none left, and my lungs can’t pull it in fast enough. In the mirror, I see her, small, scared, watching me gulp down air. She’s smothered in this music that’s straight from hell, the opposite of anything she represents, and the baby—

Shit, the baby can’t be hearing this!

I bound to the stereo and power it off. From below, a ballad slinks into our bubble, and I stare at her, wordless.

Enormous eyes flicker with compassion. With slow, tentative steps, she narrows in cautiously, like I’m the frightened one. I cover my face with my hands. Shut her out. Move back into the corner I’m in.

“Sweetie,” she whispers.

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Author Bio

 

Sunniva DeeI write New Adult fiction with a paranormal twist and don’t shy away from romance and heart-wrenching passion when necessary.

I moved from Norway to the United States in 2001, and the first awesome five years I spent in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. Then I read “The Book,” aka Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which spurred my husband and me to move cross country to beautiful Savannah, Georgia.

I’m currently on my seventh year in the Deep South, where I enjoy the heat and the humidity. Besides writing, I spend my time with our “petting zoo” as in an opinionated parrot, a herd of cats that are experts on keyboard shortcuts, and puppies that…uh, bark.

I hold a Master’s degree in languages, with concentrations within literature and linguistics. I taught at college level for a decade before settling in as a graduate adviser at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Writing is my passion, my joy, and my addiction. When I’m not writing, I read.
Shattering Halos is my debut novel, and its standalone sequel, Stargazer, is due out later this year.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

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Author Spotlight – J.S. Scott

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J.S. Scott is a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of erotic
romance. She’s an avid reader of all types of books and literature.
Writing what she loves to read, J.S. Scott writes both contemporary
erotic romance stories and paranormal romance erotics. They almost
always feature an Alpha Male and have a happily ever after because she
just can’t seem to write them any other way! She lives with her husband
in the picturesque Colorado Rockies.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

BillionaireObsession

 

91d5Y-hgPSL._SL1500_*****A NY TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER****
GENRE: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Once a serial trilogy, The Billionaire’s Obsession is now complete with a bonus story in this complete collection about Simon and Kara.

This complete collection of The Billionaire’s Obsession includes:
Mine For Tonight
Mine For Now
Mine Forever
Mine Completely

Heart Of The Billionaire ~ Sam and Maddie’s story is now available on Amazon.

Down on her luck, nursing student and full-time waitress Kara Foster gets a massive blow to her already desperate financial situation that will surely find her living on the streets. Needing nothing less than a miracle to save her, Kara gets rescue from an unknown, unlikely and overwhelming source. Billionaire Simon Hudson makes her an offer that is impossible to refuse, but terrifying to accept from a man that she’s never met. Will the handsome, alpha billionaire really be a solution to her problems, or will he end up being a major complication and a danger to her emotional sanity?

Reclusive billionaire Simon Hudson would rather be behind a computer creating computer games than rubbing elbows with the elite and he knows exactly what he wants…until he meets Kara Foster. Something about Kara touches Simon in ways he’s never experienced and definitely doesn’t like. For over a year, Simon watches over Kara, but stubbornly refuses to admit his desire to possess her, not even to himself. But when she ends up in a situation that could very well be her destruction, Simon steps up to help her, not realizing that in saving Kara, he might very well be salvaging his own soul.

(This is a erotic romance. It contains graphic language, very steamy love scenes and lots of emotion.)

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91DV9RHgpML._SL1500_Heart Of The Billionaire (The Billionaire’s Obsession ~ Sam)

Sam and Maddie are here!

Billionaire Sam Hudson has pretty much lived his life with no apologies because he tries never to do anything that he’s sorry about…except for what he had done in the past to Dr. Madeline Reynolds. Many years and regrets later, Sam meets up with Maddie again by chance; his brother Simon is marrying Maddie’s best friend and the two of them are forced to be civil. But Sam wants to be more than polite, and he wants another chance to make things right, so he offers Maddie a bold proposition, an offer he knows she’ll have a very hard time declining even though she hates him.

Dr. Madeline Reynolds adores her best friend Kara and her fiancé Simon, but being forced into the company of Sam Hudson, because they are both in Simon and Kara’s wedding, is pure torture. She’s hated Sam for years, but when he offers her a bargain, something near and dear to her heart, she’s torn between her dislike for the man and the offer of something she’s always desperately wanted. Once, Sam Hudson nearly destroyed her, but Maddie discovers that sometimes things aren’t always what they appear to be. Is Sam really a devious heartbreaker, or is there something more to him beneath the surface?

Can two people with so many years of hurt between them learn to trust each other again?

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91YRXnJSkbL._SL1500_Billionaire Max Hamilton thought he was finally starting to find contentment, more than two years after losing his wife Mia in a tragic drowning accident.

He’d been reunited with a sister he hadn’t realized existed. Finally he had family again, a reprieve from the pain and loneliness that had haunted him since his devastating loss. Yeah…he was as happy as a man could be, considering he had lost the other half of his soul and most of his heart when fate had torn his wife away from him.

Or so he believed…until the day he rescued a mysterious woman in the park, a female who somehow had managed to reignite a part of him that he thought was long dead…
Suddenly, Max’s protective, dominant, possessive male instincts flare to life, leaving him at a loss as to how lightning could possibly strike twice in one lifetime. Is he truly being given another chance at real happiness, or would it be dangled in front of him, only to be taken away once again?

Find out by reading The Billionaire’s Salvation, Book 3 in The New York Times Bestselling series, The Billionaire’s Obsession. This is a complete contemporary erotic romance novel with no cliffhangers!

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91JVcp74iXL._SL1500_With his professional football career over due to a tragic accident, billionaire Kade Harrison takes on the task of solving a mystery for his brother-in-law and friend, Max Hamilton. Without his former career to fill every minute of the day, Kade’s looking for something to challenge him–now that he’s lost the career that had meant everything to him. But what starts out as a simple favor soon becomes a whole lot more than he bargained for when the woman he’s seeking slips away from him every time he gets close to finding her. When Kade does finally corner her, things start to get even more complicated. Asha Paritala is nothing like he expected, and the female he had tracked down as a favor for Max soon becomes a woman he wants for his very own, a woman who makes protective and highly predatory instincts he didn’t know he had flare to life inside him. Kade soon discovers that he wants Asha’s total surrender to the desire and passion that vibrates intensely between the two of them, but he also wants her trust, the one thing Asha’s history makes it difficult for her to give. Can Kade convince her that some things are worth risking it all?

Caught between two worlds, Asha Paritala is homeless, broke and damaged from a life of abuse and neglect. Born of an American mother and an Indian immigrant father, Asha was raised as an Indian woman by a foster family after the death of her natural parents when she was little more than a baby. She’s spent her entire life under the control of others until finally breaking free two years earlier, and she’s determined to keep her freedom, even if it means she has to struggle to survive. But when she meets Kade Harrison, her resolve is tested. After Kade helps her through a bad situation, she finds herself beginning to trust Kade as she’s never trusted a man before. Kade is everything she always thought a man should be, but can she lose herself in him completely when she knows she’s damaged and confused. And is it really possible that she could be a lost sibling to two people like Max Hamilton and Maddie Hudson? Asha is tempted by the possibility of family, and the irresistible lure of a man like Kade Harrison. Can a woman caught between two cultures, so flawed and so backward, really reach out and take what she wants, or will the instinct to run from the pain of her past destroy the hope of happiness for her future?

Find out if two broken souls can heal each other in The Billionaire’s Game, book 4 of The Billionaire’s Obsession series!!

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913bgCqlXaL._SL1500_After four years of working for “the billionaire boss from hell” Ally Caldwell thinks she finally has her life on the right track. Her fiancé is out of dental school, ready to go to work at a thriving practice, and it would finally be her turn to go back and finish her college degree. Unfortunately, her carefully planned future crumbles when she finds out that her fiancé, the man she’d nearly killed herself to help get through school, has been cheating on her. With her wedding looming in the near future, Ally’s blindsided, realizing she’d never even knew the man she’d been planning to marry. Suddenly, her carefully organized life is turned upside down, and not one single thing is turning out the way it was supposed to happen. Even her boss, Travis the Tyrant, is beginning to act differently, throwing Ally into an even more confused and chaotic state of mind. Travis, the one man who she’d always counted on to be a jerk, was now the guy who actually steps up to try and help her straighten her life out again. Unfortunately, she doesn’t much care for his highhanded arrogance or his methods of “helping.” Ally wants to hate Travis. It makes her life so much simpler to fight with him than to admit to the combustible chemistry growing between the two of them. But as she begins to see more and more of the real Travis beneath his dark façade, she can’t seem to resist the dangerous lure of their unlikely attraction.

Billionaire Travis Harrison does everything he possibly can to repair the Harrison name after a scandal nearly destroyed his family years ago. He makes sure he keeps himself and his actions in check, his emotions buried under a thick layer of ice. Only his secretary and assistant, Alison Caldwell, makes him come close to losing his carefully constructed image. The obstinate female keeps shoving him closer and closer to the edge of sanity every single day. But when he finds out about her fiancé’s betrayal, his protective instincts roar to life inside him, making him want to ensure she’s never hurt again. The only problem is…Ally doesn’t want his help, and the infuriating woman does everything she can to push him away, even as the two of them are swept into an undeniable passion that neither of them can possibly ignore. Before long, Travis finds himself in ruthless pursuit of something much more important and elusive than just a business deal.

Can these two very different, very stubborn people actually be meant to be together? Find out if Travis and Ally can let down their defenses and surrender to a love so powerful it will rock them to the depths of their souls in Billionaire Undone, Book Six of The Billionaire’s Obsession series.

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91oxCWoJZML._SL1500_My name is Hope Sinclair, and I’m a liar. I’ve deceived everyone, including my own brothers, in an effort to hide what I do and who I really am. It’s not that I don’t want to be honest, but I really have no choice.

I thought I was strong, that I was doing fine, until I saw Jason Sutherland last New Year’s Eve, and he stripped me bare in more ways than one. Jason is everything I want, but a man I can never have. We’ve known each other most of our lives, but I’ve avoided him since I turned eighteen because I know he’s dangerous to me, to my façade.

Turns out…I was right. After our night together last New Year’s Eve, I haven’t been able to forget him, or the way he set my body on fire. I crave Jason like an addictive drug now, that fateful night haunting me still.

Is my One Night With a Billionaire going to be my downfall…or my salvation?

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91nGWCsOMCL._SL1500_Jason Sutherland is a billionaire investor who has it all: good looks, billions of dollars, and every expensive toy a man could ever want. What he doesn’t have is the one thing he wants the most: Hope Sinclair. Unfortunately Hope, the little sister of his best friend, was off limits. But when he finds out that she’s getting married, he decides that he’s staking his claim before it’s too late, and it will take more than a little deception and risk to accomplish his goal. Hope could end up hating his guts, but after spending one forbidden night with her that he can’t forget, he knows he has to try to make her his forever.

Hope Sinclair was born into money, but being rich has never made her happy. The one thing she wants is a man to care about her and not her bank account. The closest thing she’s ever found to real happiness was the magical, passionate night she’d spent in the arms of Jason Sutherland…until that night turned into heartbreak. So when he unexpectedly comes back into her life in the strangest of ways, Hope is determined to resist her attraction to him.

Thrown together by Jason’s deception and with their passion still burning hot, can the two of them survive after the billionaire is unmasked?

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91hJPuSzUbL._SL1500_Book 7 of the NY Times & USA Today bestselling The Billionaire’s Obsession Series.
Billionaire Untamed: The Billionaire’s Obsession ~ Tate

Pre Order:

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91qxT8e0wbL._SL1500_Called an eccentric beast by the citizens of Amesport, Maine, handsome billionaire Grady Sinclair stays isolated in his mansion on a private peninsula. The arrangement suits Grady just fine—until an angelic woman rings his doorbell, awaking his long dormant passion with her fearlessness. All he wants is to make the fiery blonde his forever. But will he have to become the monster everyone thinks he is to get his Christmas wish?

Emily Ashworth is desperate. The Youth Center has been robbed of all its money, and as the director, she has to find a way to give the town’s needy children the Christmas they deserve. With nowhere else to turn, she ventures to the mansion of a mysterious billionaire to ask for help. Warned to expect a beast, Emily is shocked to find Grady Sinclair a handsome and passionate man. Is this misunderstood billionaire just a lonely soul who needs the gift of love for Christmas?

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Review: The Charlotte Chronicles by Jen Frederick- The Jackson Boys Series- Book 1

the charlotte chronicles blog tour

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The Charlotte Chronicles

The Jackson Boys Series- Book 1

Spinoff of Woodlands Series

By Jen Frederick

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Synopsis

Charlotte and Nathan were supposed to be forever. They grew up together. Their families were intertwined. Charlotte was Nathan’s first love. Nathan was Charlotte’s first everything.

Until they weren’t.

How do you hold on to the person you know in your heart you are supposed to be with when everything and everyone in the universe is telling you it’s over?

How many times does a heart break?

When is enough…..enough?

How long is forever?

Buy: Amazon / Barnes and Noble / ITunes

Excerpt

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But when I close my eyes, I can see him—and me. I can see me pressed up against the mirror in the bathroom, my hands making starfish prints as I brace myself against his thrusts. I can hear his harsh breathing, his commands to come, come now, Charlotte. There was that passage of time that felt endless when he was between my legs, licking me softly and leisurely as if there wasn’t anything in this world that gave him more pleasure than helping me find my own. I touch myself, but it’s useless. My body wants one thing: Nathan Jackson.

I’m on fire and the ache of want is so acute it’s like a knife in my chest. I’ve had multiple surgeries, chemo treatments, radiation but that’s nothing compared to what I feel now.

Time and distance had dulled my pain and that my desire and love for Nathan had actually started to ease only to be stoked into high, hot flames by his reappearance in my life.

He is the poison and the antidote.

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5 star

Michel’s Review

I was really excited for The Charlotte Chronicles to release.  I have been a huge fan of the Woodland Series by Jen Frederick.  The Charlotte Chronicles features the children from the characters in The Woodland series.

It is very hard for an author to go beyond a series that has characters that captured the readers hearts.  Somehow readers seem to shy away from “the happily ever afters” to the real lives.  The Charlotte Chronicles proves that the Woodland characters kept their happily ever after and matured into an unbreakable relationship.  They built a strong family unit and strengthened life time friendships. They can be very proud parents because their children are the best of them plus have their own unique identities. Now it is time for these children to shine!

Charlotte, Nathan , and Nick have grown up together.  They know everything about one another.  As they begin to mature and start making their own lives in high school feelings begin to change.  For Charlotte and Nick it is a deeper bond of friendship.  For Charlotte and Nathan it is the blossoming of love.  Just as they are discovering their love for one another and trying to figure out how to make their new found relationship work, life intercedes and throws them into a devastating tail spin.  This time it isn’t something that their parents can fix, it isn’t something they can control, and it is something that will separate them permanently.

Nine long years of separation can change people, especially teenagers maturing into adulthood.  Charlotte and Nathan have both grown as individuals and started their adult lives.  They both have established careers that are on opposite sides of the spectrum in the professional fields.  The lives are on very different paths.  The one thing that has always stayed the same is their love for one another.  Even though their lives have changed, they no longer are in contact, and it seems as if they have moved on, the hearts still belong to one another.

This book is an emotional journey in so many ways.  The reader gets to experience Nathan and Charlottes lives from the beginning.  They get to experience the growing pains, the highs and lows in life, the insecurities that go along with maturing, the wonders of first love, the heartbreak of losing love, the fear of dying, the joy of finding the once in a lifetime love, and finding the courage to make the ultimate commitments in life.  They were lucky to find one another again after all the heartbreak and devastation.

Nathan and Charlotte did not have an easy road to travel.  They were lucky they had wonderful families and friends to support their journey.

Nathan and Charlotte earned every tear, every smile, and every sigh.  They captured my heart.

I hope that Nick Jackson will find his road to follow.  I can’t wait for his book!

woodlands-series

The Woodland Series

Undeclared

Amazon / Barnes and Noble / ITunes

Undressed

Novella

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Unspoken

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Unraveled

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Author Bio:

 

jen frederick bioJen Frederick lives with her husband, child, and one rambunctious dog. She’s been reading stories all her life but never imagined writing one of her own. Jen loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at jensfrederick@gmail.com

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

 

the charlotte chronicles cover

Review: Glitter and Grit by Jessie Evans- Lonesome Point, Texas Series- Book 4

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Glitter and Grit

Lonesome Point, Texas Series – Book 4

By Jessie Evans

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Synopsis

A sexy small town romance from New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jessie Evans

This ride is going to last a lot longer than eight seconds…

Female professional bull rider, Reece Hearst, graduated from the school of hard knocks. With honors. Because life is like bull riding–when it sends you to the dirt, you do whatever it takes to get on your feet, even if you have to crawl. Like when officials stripped her of her rodeo queen title on the basis of vicious gossip years ago and not even her father would believe her side of the story. Reece could have stayed in the dust, wallowing. Instead, she fixed Lonesome Point in her rearview, joined the pro circuit, and never looked back. But now a serious injury threatens to end her career and she’s back in Lonesome Point, living next door to the family that once made her life a living hell.

After multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and his father’s death, all Grayson Parker wants is to get his family’s cattle business back in the black and live a quiet life. But the return of Reece Hearst opens old wounds, throwing his ordered world into chaos. Grayson was serving overseas when Reece was a teenager and can’t believe the girl he once knew has grown into a heartbreaker as hardened as she is beautiful.

Grayson finds a kindred spirit in wounded Reece and soon longs to be the man to show her that there is life after pain and loss. But can two people as damaged as Reece and Grayson find their way to happily ever after? Or will the scars on their hearts forever keep them apart?

Lonesome Point Texas Series:
LEATHER AND LACE
SADDLES AND SIN
DIAMONDS AND DUST
Twelve Dates of Christmas: The Ballad of Lula Jo
GLITTER AND GRIT
CHAPS AND CHANCE (2015)
ROPES AND REVENGE (2015)

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5 star

Tracey’s Review

Grayson Parker’s return home to Lonesome Point isn’t exactly a happy homecoming. Not only is he having to work to rebuild his family ranch, he’s also taking care of his sister, Layla, who has come back home to escape an abusive marriage. Reece Hearst, hometown girl and rodeo star, is hiding from some things herself, and hopes that a quick trip back to the town she couldn’t wait to leave will give her the respite that she’s looking for. When Reece approaches him in a bar on Christmas Eve looking for some no-strings fun (the kind that he hasn’t been interested in for a very long time), Grayson can’t help but be intrigued. Reece is like no woman he’s ever met, and the sparks are flying like crazy in no time.

Each time I read the newest book in the Lonesome Point, TX, series by Jessie Evans, I think it’s the best one yet. Every single time. And, whichever book it is, it IS the best, every single time. I have fallen in love with each of her strong and sexy cowboys, with each spunky heroine, that inhabit this little town in Texas. Jessie has created characters that touch the heart, that draw me, as a reader, in, and keep me turning the pages until I’ve taken in every word. GLITTER AND GRIT, Jessie’s latest Lonesome Point book, continues the trend, in such a wonderful way. Grayson is probably one of my favorite of Jessie’s men to date. He’s honorable, strong, committed to those that he loves, and not afraid to go after what he wants. Reece, too, is her own person. She’s gone through a lot, and is afraid to form deep bonds because of it. Seeing her evolve into a woman willing to take on her demons and emerge not only victorious, but free to grow into a woman able to forgive and love, is absolutely heartwarming. Grayson and Reece both have baggage, and some heavy stuff at that. Uncomfortable issues are raised in this book, things that are all too present in the real world, but, in typical Jessie fashion, the darkness is conquered with love. There is humor, seriously hot sexy times, witty banter, and the kind of love that makes my toes tingle because it’s just SO wonderful. Talk about ‘feels,’ this book is full of them.

Jessie has raised the bar with each new book, so I’m waiting to see what’s next for Lonesome Point. I’m really hoping that Layla and Cole get their book next, because the seeds were sown in GLITTER AND GRIT, and I’m definitely ready to see where those two go. No matter which book is next, though, it can’t come soon enough. 5+ ‘get this book and read it now’ stars.

About Jessie Evans

7302050New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jessie Evans, gave up a career as an international woman of mystery to write the sexy, contemporary Southern romances she loves to read.

She’s married to the man of her dreams, and together they’re raising a few adorable, mischievous children in a cottage in the jungle. She grew up in rural Arkansas, spending summers running wild, being chewed by chiggers, and now appreciates her home in a chigger-free part of the world even more.

When she’s not writing, Jessie enjoys playing her dulcimer (badly), sewing the worlds ugliest quilts to give to her friends, going for bike rides with her house full of boys, and drifting in and out on the waves, feeling thankful for sun, surf, and lovely people to share them with.

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Cover Reveal- The Pact by Karina Halle

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The Pact

By Karina Halle

Release Date- Early 2015

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Synopsis

*The Pact is a standalone, contemporary adult romance*

It all started with a pinky swear…

Linden McGregor is tall, rugged, and gunslinger handsome; a helicopter pilot with a Scottish brogue and charm to spare. He’s also one of Stephanie Robson’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as she’s known him.

Beautiful, funny and an ambitious businesswoman (with one hell of an ass), Stephanie Robson is one of Linden McGregor’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as he’s known her.

But some relationships can’t be boxed, can’t be classified, can’t be tamed.

Back in their mid-twenties and tired of the competitive hit-or-miss dating scene of San Francisco, Steph and Linden made a pact to marry each other if neither one of them are in a serious relationship by the time they hit thirty.

It sounds like fun and games but as the years to thirty tick past and lovers come and go out of their lives, the pact becomes larger than life.
Sex is inevitable. Friendships are tested. Hearts are on the line.

The pact is about to change everything.

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The Prologue

The (*unedited*) Prologue:
*Please note: this prologue is unedited, and subject to change.*

Prologue

“So, do you want to get married?’”

I’m so wrapped up in in what went wrong with my date tonight that I barely hear what Linden is saying. And that’s saying a lot because he usually has my rapt attention no matter what’s going on. I guess tonight’s dinner with Mr. Assface was just too much for me. I mean, what kind of guy wears an ascot and picks his nose in front of you?

“Steph,” he repeats in his light Scottish brogue and I finally tear my eyes off the bubbles in my beer to look at him. Sometimes he makes me wonder why I even bother looking at anyone else, he’s just that fucking handsome.

He’s also my best friend. And I’m pretty sure he just asked me to marry him.

“What?” I ask, trying to make sure I heard him right.
He grins at me. I wish he wouldn’t. Sometimes his smile rips the air from lungs. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s messy, violent and abrupt and I wish it wouldn’t happen because, fuck it, I like breathing.

“I said, do you want to get married?” he says and I’m realizing that perhaps some extremely important conversation has gone on without me knowing about it. Also, Linden…marriage…these things don’t exactly gel together.

“Uh,” I say, and I wish I didn’t feel the heat creep onto my cheeks. “Get married? To you?”

He shrugs and takes a sip of his beer in his easy-going fashion. The bar is dead quiet at this time of night except the music, Faith No More’s aggressive King for a Day that James always puts on when the night is over and he wants people to leave.

James, the owner of The Burgundy Lion, my ex-boyfriend and Linden’s best friend, is puttering about, cleaning up the tables and shooting passive-aggressive looks at the group of four who is gathered in the corner, the only other people left in the bar at ten minutes to closing.

“Yeah, to me,” Linden eventually says, casually, as if we are deciding which movies to see this weekend. “But I also meant in general.”

I stare at him for a few beats. He looks self-assured as always, rubbing his fingers along the length of his beard as he stares at me right back. Linden and I are close – as close as you can be for a purely platonic man and woman scenario. But even so, we’d never really discussed topics like this. Our shitty dating lives, yes. But marriage and the future, what we really wanted from life? No.

“Let me get this straight,” I say but I can’t find the words to continue. I take in a deep breath. “You’re asking me to marry you?”

He sighs and sits back in his chair, one strong forearm hung over the back, his fingers toying with the ends of my newly dyed jet-black hair.

“Baby Blue,” he says, his own personal nickname for me stemming from the fact that when we first met, I had blue hair the color of Caribbean waters. “Tell me about your date again.”

I give him a look. “I’d rather not, cowboy.” My nickname for him since he has the chiseled looks and furrowed brow of a young Clint Eastwood. Also, sometimes he’s a bit of a chauvinistic asshole as most stereotypical gunslingers can be.

“Right. And I’d rather not get into why the last five dates of mine ended with me jerking it in the shower.”

Pleeeeeease don’t make me think of you jerking it in the shower, I think, or things are going to get really inappropriate, really fast. At least in my head. Then again, my head is usually always inappropriate. It’s like a Pintrest page of hot, barely dressed men 24/7 up in there.

“And so,” he goes on, forcing my attention back his words and not naughty images, “don’t you start wondering if this is going to get any easier? You’re beautiful, smart, I’m beautiful, smart,” he pauses and smiles to himself, “obviously. We’re turning twenty-five this year…what if we have to keep dealing with this? All this shit, never going anywhere.”

I raise a brow, not really sure what to do with this side of him. Is he pulling my leg or being genuine? He always has that dickish smirk not matter what kind of shit he’s saying and he’s pulled the rug out from under me more than a few times.

“Well, I like to think my life might take more of an optimistic path,” I tell him.

He smiles and nods. “And it should. It really should, I mean look at you.”

Look at me? I think, wondering what exactly he sees.

“But what if the planet is full of fucking morons? Then what…” he trails off and looks around the bar before he leans in and only then do I look close into his dark blue eyes and see that he’s drunk. “We’re good for each other. You know this makes perfect sense.”

I don’t know what I think. “You’re drunk, Linden.”

“I’m a man with a plan.”

“Since when have your life plans ever involved marriage?”

He shrugs and runs a hand through his thick, mahogany hair. “You may be one of my best friends, Baby Blue, but you don’t know everything about me.”

“Apparently not.”

His mouth quirks up into a half-smile. “But when we’re married there will be plenty of time for that. Also, sex.”

Okay, now I can see this is kind of a joke for him, as most things in life are. “What if I never want to get married?” I point out, putting the image of us having hot, sweaty sex out of my mind.

“When have I ever waxed on about marriage or babies or life plans?”

“Never,” he admits. “But it doesn’t mean you don’t think about it. Why else would you always be dating?”

“Because I like to get laid.”

He laughs. “Another reason why we’re a perfect match.”

I purse my lips, staring at him. I think I need another drink.

Linden reads my mind. He gets up off the bar stool and walks behind the bar. James isn’t paying attention and even if he was, he wouldn’t say anything. Linden and I were twenty-one, James twenty-three, when the three of us first started working at The Burgundy Lion. Linden and I eventually went on to bigger and hopefully better things, while James ended up buying the place. There’s still a bit of an employee mentality for us – I don’t think James has ever charged us for a drink.

Linden takes two bottles of Anchor Steam out of the fridge and slides them to me. It’s our annual autumn heatwave in San Francisco and Linden has the sleeves of his rumpled grey dress shirt rolled up, showcasing his strong, tanned forearms and the Charles Bukowski quotes he has tattooed on the insides. He’s wearing a pair of khaki knee-length shorts that highlight his toned ass. On his feet are his worn black Keds that I think he’s had ever since we first met, but it suits him.

If it’s wrong to occasionally ogle your best friend, I don’t want to be right.

“So what do you say?” he asks as he sits back down beside me.
“You’re actually serious?”

He nods and nudges the beer towards me. “Drink up and then maybe you’ll say yes. I have to say, you’re bruising my ego a little bit here.”

“That’s not a bad thing,” I tell him and I mean it. Linden McGregor is funny, kind, smart, handsome and ambitious. He’s got a BA in business and is almost done getting his helicopter pilot’s license. He’s one hot package that any girl would be lucky to snatch up.

But he’s also egotistical, cocky, arrogant and a player. It’s hard to get any real emotion out of him other than intensity – he’s got this way of looking at you, at life, like he’s trying to spear you alive. He lives his life on the selfish side, can be passionate about something (or someone) one minute, then indifferent the next. He’s a complicated guy and one that I am honored to call my best friend.

Yet, marriage – hell, a relationship – is a whole new ballgame when it comes to him and not one I’m ready or willing to play. Yes, I think he’s gorgeous, yes the way he looks at me sometimes does foolish things to my stomach, yes I have often thought about sleeping with him.

I mean, more than I should.

But this kind of agreement wouldn’t work.

Luckily, I know Linden is just joking around.

I take a long sip of my beer, making him sweat it out a little bit, push my thumb into that bruise on his ego, before I nod and say, “Fine.”

“Are you serious?”

“I guess so?”

He smiles broadly enough for those secret dimples to pop up. “You’ve made me a very lucky man, Stephanie Robson.”

I roll my eyes. “We’ll see about that. With any luck, we’ll both be in serious relationships by age thirty and I won’t have to entertain the thought of doing your laundry for the rest of my life.”

“Or doing me,” he adds with a wink which only prompts another eye roll from me. “Pinky swear on it. You know I don’t break those.”

And it’s true, he doesn’t. Maybe he’s more serious about this than I thought.

I swallow and hold out my pinky finger. He swiftly wraps his around mine, his skin hot and soft to touch.

“If neither of us are in a serious relationship by the time we are both thirty,” he says, looking me so dead in the eye that I can’t help but hold my breath, “then we agree to marry each other. Agree?”

I find my voice. “Agree.”

He then pulls my hand toward his mouth and kisses the top of it. Even more air is taken from my lungs.

“I think I just made the best back-up plan ever,” he says, his lips moving against my skin before he lets go of my hand and picks up his beer instead, clinking it against mine. “To us.”

I mouth the words but they don’t come out.

“Damn, it took them forever to leave,” James says as he comes over to us. “How many times can I say ‘we’re closing soon’ before they get the hint.”

“Maybe you oughta start pulling a gun out,” Linden says. “Or better yet, start singing.”

“Shut up,” James tell him. “I sing back-up once and I never live it down.” Linden and James used to be in a local band together, with Linden on vocals and lead guitar and James on bass but although they were good, they weren’t really good enough to keep going. San Francisco has a pretty competitive indie scene.

“Oh guess what?” Linden says, his eyes sparkling.

“Do I dare?” James asks with a sigh as he moves behind the bar to start wiping down the counter for the millionth time.

“Steph and I are getting married,” he says brightly.

James pausing and looks up at me to gauge Linden’s validity. “It’s true,” I say, though it doesn’t sound sincere.

“What?” he asks, now looking at the both of us. I want to say there isn’t a hint of hurt threading his brow but I can’t be sure. Sometimes I forget that we used to be lovers, which is kind of ridiculous. It was only a few days after I started working at The Burgundy Lion, when James and I hit it off and ended up dating for a year. Linden was his best friend and that’s how I got to know him.

Obviously the break-up was fairly amicable because James and I are still good friends, but when it came down to it, I broke up with him and though he acted like it was more or less mutual, I always wondered if I’d hurt him more than I thought.

“You know I like my back-up plans,” Linden goes on. “So we made a pact. If neither one of us are in a serious relationship when we hit thirty, we get married.”

James blinks at us before tucking a strand of his shaggy black hair behind his ears. “This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

Linden raises his chin. “Aw, don’t be jealous, man.”

James scoffs. “I’m not jealous. The two of you in a marriage? World’s pickiest woman with the world’s biggest manwhore? Yeah, have fun with that.”

“Hey,” I say indignantly. I’m not that picky.

But Linden takes no offence. “Oh we will. So why don’t you pop open some champagne to celebrate with us?”

James gives him a pointed look. “Are you the one buying?”

He shrugs. “It’s our pre-engagement present from you.”

James sighs heavily, like he has some weight on his shoulders, but concedes. He always concedes to Linden. “Fine,” he says, and brings out a bottle of sparkling wine from the fridge. It pops open with a flourish and he pours it into mason jar glasses.

We cheers to the pact once again and then lapse into our normal conversation about the latest bands, movies, TV shows, hockey (James and Linden are huge fans of the San Jose Sharks).

I sip my drink and can’t help but feel the slightest bit relieved. In five years, all the dating and the strife could be over. In five years, there’s the tiniest possibility that I could marry my best friend.

I wonder if five years is long enough to change my mind.

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Author Bio:

Halle HeadshotWith her USA Today Bestselling The Artists Trilogy published by Grand Central Publishing, numerous foreign publication deals, and self-publishing success with her Experiment in Terror series, Vancouver-born Karina Halle is a true example of the term “Hybrid Author.” Though her books showcase her love of all things dark, sexy and edgy, she’s a closet romantic at heart and strives to give her characters a HEA…whenever possible.

Karina holds a screenwriting degree from Vancouver Film School and a Bachelor of Journalism from TRU. Her travel writing, music reviews/interviews and photography have appeared in publications such as Consequence of Sound, Mxdwn and GoNomad Travel Guides. She currently lives on an island on the coast of British Columbia where she’s preparing for the zombie apocalypse with her fiancé and rescue pup.

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