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WHEN DARKNESS AND LIGHT COMBINE, DESTINED SOULS WILL IGNITE . . .

Connected since childhood.
Two souls: one dark and one pure.
Bracing to take the greatest step of all.

River ‘Styx’ Nash loves his woman. Ever since he met Mae at the fence of the cult that had kept her captive as a child, he has never loved anyone else. He loves her black hair, her pale skin and of course, her ice-blue ‘wolf eyes’.

Since Mae came crashing back into his life, his only wish has been to marry her; finally to make her his wife. But now the wedding is booked, and only weeks from forever having Mae by his side, a lifelong problem is plaguing him.
He wants to marry her; he has never wanted anything more . . .
. . . if only he could speak the words and declare it to the world.

Salome ‘Mae’ Nash’s life had been filled with heartache and pain . . . until, at age eight, she met a strange dark-haired boy from the outside world. Years later, and reunited with her great love, Mae is ready to solder her heart to his. Finally, Mae is getting ready to marry her man. But her fiancé has become withdrawn. Something is deeply troubling him.
But Mae has no idea what.
Or what to do to help.

Can Styx open up and conquer his deepest pain? Or will the infamous Hangmen Mute allow his fears to overcome his love for Mae and watch their much-anticipated wedding crumble to dust?

Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains explicit sexual situations, offensive language and mature topics. Recommended for age 18 and over.

***I Do, Babe: A Novella (Hades Hangmen #5.5) is to be read AFTER Damnable Grace (Hades Hangmen #5)***

 


“Mae,” Bella whispered as I walked from the changing room and stood on the elevated plinth opposite my friends and sisters. The mirror was behind me, but I did not yet dare look at my reflection. I glanced at Bella sat beside Ruth, her mother-in-law and Rider’s mama. Her eyes were filling with tears as she stared at me. Her hands were in front of her mouth.
“Do you like it?” I ran my hand over my pronounced stomach.
Bella nodded. “You are perfect,” she whispered. Ruth nodded in agreement.
I looked at Maddie. “Madds?”
She smiled warmly. “You are beautiful, Mae, this dress only enhances that. But this gown could not suit you more if you tried.”
“Styx will love it,” Lilah said and held Grace tighter on her lap.
“You look like a Disney princess,” Grace said.
A hand came down on my arm. I turned to see Beauty behind me. “You ever gonna look in the mirror, darlin’?” She smiled. This boutique belonged to a friend of Beauty’s, and Beauty had practically organized my wedding for me. I was clueless where to even begin.
“You look good, Mae.” I smiled at Letti as she sat uncomfortably on the couch. She had told me she was here to support me, but she had no opinion in such matters as wedding dress shopping. Or anything girly, she’d said affectionately.
“Turn, honey,” Lilah said and I nodded my head. I had no idea why I was so nervous. I knew that Styx loved me and I loved him. I felt as though I had been waiting for this day my whole life. That I had been waiting for the day I finally cemented him as mine. Forever mine, and me forever his.
Closing my eyes, I turned, allowing Beauty to guide me. “You ready?” she whispered. I pulled up the image of Styx in my mind. Me in his arms as we lay in bed. His large tattooed arms holding me close as we spoke. His voice gruff and deep. Then I pictured us laughing. The infamous Hangmen Mute of the Hades Hangmen, so different with me than with anybody else. To others he was aloof, silent, and menacing. But to me, he was loving, caring, and the most beautiful soul in the world.
The other half of my heart.

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

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BLOG TOUR, REVIEW AND EXCERPT – Damnable Grace by Tillie Cole

 

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Synopsis

EVEN THE BROKEN, THROUGH LOVE, CAN FIND GRACE…

Secrets never stay hidden.

The burden of guilt never lifts from the heart.

Born and raised in The Order of David, Sister Phebe knows nothing but cult life. Head of the Sacred Sisters of New Zion, Phebe was groomed from childhood for one purpose: to seduce. Prized as a harlot, as a New Zion whore, Phebe is taken from the doomed cult by Meister, the notorious leader of the Aryan Brotherhood. Taken as his possession. Taken to be the woman who will obey his every sexual demand. Under his heavy hand, Phebe finds herself in a place much worse than she could ever have imagined… with absolutely no one to help. And no glimpse of hope.

Xavier ‘AK’ Deyes is content with his life as Sergeant-At-Arms of the Hades Hangmen. Leader of the infamous ‘Psycho Trio’ and ex-special ops sniper, AK knows how to fight. Experienced in warfare and schooled in military operations, AK is vital to the Hangmen. When his Vice President needs help retrieving his missing sister-in-law, Phebe, from a Klan-funded trafficking ring, AK volunteers to go in. AK remembers the redhead from New Zion. Remembers everything about her from the single time they met—her red hair, blue eyes and freckled face. But when he finds her, heavily drugged and under Meister’s control, her sorry condition causes him to remember more than the beautiful woman he once tied to a tree. Saving Phebe forces hidden demons from his past to return. A past he can never move on from, no matter how hard he tries.

As AK fights to help Phebe, and in turn she strives to help him, they realize their secret sins will never leave them alone. Kindred broken souls, they realize the only way they can be rid of their ghosts is to face them together and try to find peace.

Despair soon turns to hope, and damaged hearts soon start to heal. But when their deep, painful scars resurface, becoming too much to bear, the time comes when they must make a heavy choice: stay forever damned; or together, find grace.

Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, disturbingly sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language and very mature topics. Recommended for age 18 and over.

 Excerpt

“Well?” Ky asked.
Tanner ran his hand over his head. The brother hadn’t attended one of our cookouts or slutfests in weeks. Not that he ever entertained himself with sluts—still too hard for his piece of pussy down in Mexico. He’d been busy trying to track down Meister. Unlike most of the white-power shit Tanner and Tank grew up with, this Meister was untraceable and off the grid. As much of a computer whizz kid as Tanner was, Meister was proving to be one slippery fucking snake to pin down.
“Gotta be honest, I didn’t think I was anywhere close to finding anything on this prick.” Tanner nodded toward Tank. “We knew of him, of course. I knew he had dealings with my father and uncle, just never met him myself. He’s Aryan Brotherhood, but works closely with the Klan. And there’s nothing on him. No email traces, no invoices, no texts. Nothing.”
I gritted my teeth and glanced at Styx, who was listening closely. Ky wasn’t originally gonna tell the prez about the plan to get Phebe, because of his fucking wedding, but that didn’t last long. Styx knew something was up with his VP. He read him like I read Flame and Vike. So Ky fessed up, and Styx was all for the plan. He’d had to push his wedding back by a month anyhow to get the pastor Mae wanted to conduct the ceremony, so he had time to kill.
“But you found something?” Ky translated as Styx signed.
Tanner sighed, the black circles around his eyes showing how hard the brother had been working. “I got something.” He shook his head, and my blood ran cold. I knew whatever he had found wasn’t good.
Tanner opened the file in front of him and threw a photograph toward the prez. Styx looked at it, then gave it to Ky. “Some middle-of-nowhere ghost town?”
Ky passed the picture around. Vike handed it to me, and I studied it. It was an aerial shot, and the picture was grainy, but from what I could make out, it was just a huge piece of land scattered with decrepit old buildings.
I passed the picture along. “Fucker owns this?”
Tanner faced me. “Yeah, or at least his father did. He’s dead now, but the deeds are still in his father’s name. Been in the family for decades. Took me a while to trace it.” He shook his head. “Meister is notorious among the Klan. Right, Tank?”
“Yeah,” Tank agreed. “Never met him either, but we’d all heard of him. Prick has been mobilizing for years for the race war they think is coming. Real serious, Oklahoma-City-bomb shit. From what we’ve heard, the guy has a one-track mind when it comes to advancing the white race. You think Hitler was fucked up? Well, imagine if he had a kid who was one built motherfucker, with a fucking carbon copy of his psycho mind; and you’ve got Meister. Fucker ain’t even German. Just wishes he was, spouting German phrases around like he’s born and bred Berlin. Delusional asshole.”
“This ain’t gonna be easy,” Tanner finished, looking at me, Vike, Flame, Hush and Cowboy. It was the five of us who had agreed to go looking for Phebe. Hush and Cowboy nodded at me to let me know they were still in.
“So he’s in this ghost town?” Ky asked, translating Styx’s sign language again. “If so, we’ll all just go in and get him, make the fucker talk and tell us where he’s got Phebe.”
Tanner sat forward. “He ain’t just living in the ghost town or hiding out. That’s where he has his enterprise.”
“Enterprise?” Ky echoed. It was his own question this time.
Tanner nodded. “From what I can tell, it’s a fucking brothel. Members of the Aryan Brotherhood, Klan, or Klan sympathizers, can go there for a night or a few days at a time.” Tank shifted uncomfortably next to him. “Ain’t sure, but I’m thinking it ain’t just getting your dick sucked and fucked. It’ll be real fucked-up shit. If Meister’s reputation is anything to go by, we would be walking into an organized, armed hellhole.” Tanner’s eyes darkened. “I get the Klan has a reputation for being full of backward rednecks. I ain’t gonna lie—growing up, most of my father’s cronies were that way. Thick as fuck and couldn’t do shit without screwing it up. Skinheads, lower-ranked soldiers, you know?”
“But there were some members that weren’t,” Tank continued. He cast an embarrassed glance at Tanner. “We weren’t, for starters.”
Tanner nodded. “It’s not the norm, but some of us were good. Smart, strong fighters, or just outright fucking psychos. The skinheads and rednecks are the foot soldiers. The likes of us, the likes of Meister, are the fucking SS. The planners, leaders, the generals—the ones who believe in the cause so much that they’re fucking lethal with what they’ll do, what they’re capable of. Meister is true Aryan Brotherhood; he’s preparing for war. He’s the real fucking deal.”
“And now he’s in our neck of the woods to stir up shit?” I asked.
Tanner nodded. “Comes from northern Texas. Never moved our way before. But the Klan are building day by day, joining forces with other white supremacist gangs—like the Brotherhood—and with the shit that’s on the news twenty-four-seven, blacks and whites at each others throats, he’s moved to the headquarters.” The brother’s jaw clenched. “To my father and uncle, who’ll be protecting him from being found out by the feds.” He sighed and ran his hand down his face. “From what I can figure out, this ghost-town brothel of his has only existed in the last year or so. He’s looking to fund something.”
“They ain’t dealing guns?” Cowboy drawled. “I thought that’s what Rider said the contract with the cult was for?”
“Rider was sure it was guns. At least it was when he was dealing with the Klan—it was all about arms. The Klan was selling them on and taking a cut.”
“His fucking twin,” Hush spat. “He changed the arrangement, didn’t he? When Rider was locked up in cult prison?”
“Think so,” Tanner said after a few seconds of silence.
“Then what the fuck are they dealing? What was Judah giving them if not Israeli guns?”
“Women.”

 

 Whitney’s 4.5 Star Review

I never liked MC romance until I read Tillie Cole. I just couldn’t deal with the lifestyle and the way it was portrayed (whether or not it was authentic) and had no desire to read them. Then a guy name Styx and his group of rough, at times violent, but loveable guys showed up.

Five books in, I still get drawn into each book in this series more than the last. While I do have my favorite (#FlameWhore), I’ve had a special place in my heart for all of the Psycho Trio since book one. With AK’s story, we get to dive into the ex-military sniper’s past and just what turned him into the man he is now.

He and his love interest Phebe’s story is a wild ride of violence, suspense, heartbreak, love and self-forgiveness. Like Tillie’s other books in the series, it’s not easy to read. Themes of drug abuse, rape, torture and violence are woven into the story. I don’t often care for books with such detail but the author’s ability to create a sense of hope and redemption for her characters keeps it from being overwhelmingly dark for me.

I adore series like the Hangmen because each book builds on the last (yes, you must read in order) and while each book wraps up a story, it also gives clues into the next. Even though AK and Phebe are the main characters, honestly, my favorite parts of the book were still Flame and Maddie and their role with Ash. I cried, of course but they were tears of relief and happiness for these characters.  Phebe’s reunion with her sister and Grace was particularly moving.

Any fans of this series will find this a welcome addition to their Hangmen collection and I can’t wait for the next book! Not quite sure whose story it will be but I have some theories!

About the Author

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

Author Links

 

 

REVIEW – The Hot Shot by Kristen Callihan

 

the hot shot AN

 

TheHotShot Amazon-2First we were friends. Then we were roommates. Now I want more…

What can I say about Chess Copper? The woman is capable of bringing me to my knees. I know this about five minutes after getting naked for her.

No one is more surprised than me. The prickly photographer my team hired to shoot our annual charity calendar isn’t my usual type. She’s defense to my offense, a challenge at every turn. But when I’m with her, all the regrets and darkness goes away. She makes life fun.

I want to know Chess, be close to her. Which is a bad idea.

Chess is looking for a relationship. I’ve never given a woman more than one night. But when fate leaves Chess without a home, I step up and offer her mine. We’re roommates now. Friends without benefits. But it’s getting harder to keep our hands off each other. And the longer we live together the more I realize she’s becoming my everything.

Trick is… Now that I’ve made her believe I’m a bad bet, how do I convince her to give this player a true shot at forever?

 

 

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Excerpt- CHESS

Grumbling, I toss on some black lounge pants and my oversized Tulane t-shirt and head to the drugstore.

My head throbs by the time I get there, and my insides are writhing. I rest my hand against my lower stomach and grab a basket before calling James to complain.

“I swear,” I tell him as I grab a bottle of painkillers. “It’s like this entire day has been cursed.”

He snickers. “Curse. Get it? Curse?”

I roll my eyes, even though he can’t see me. “Laugh it up. Meanwhile, it feels as if someone is playing Battleship in my uterus.”

“Poor Chessie bear. At least we know why you were in such a foul mood.”

A flush washes over my cheeks. “Yeah.” Lie. Lie. Lie. A tub of salted caramel gelato makes its way into the basket.

“Tell me you’re getting some gelato,” James says.

I smile. “Just grabbed it.”

“Salted caramel?”

“You know it.”

I find the feminine products aisle and search for my brand. “I’m going to go home, take a long bath with my gelato, and forget this fucking day.” Forget Finn. “And then I’m going to go on Amazon and buying a freaking year’s supply of tampons so I don’t have to make these kinds of emergency runs anymore.”

A low, deep chuckle rumbles from behind me, and all the tiny hairs lift on my arms.

“But you’ll still need your gelato,” a familiar—fuck me, seriously?—voice points out.

My insides swoop even as my cheeks burn.

“Who is that?” James asks in my ear.

I slowly turn on one heel. “The plague,” I say, glaring up at Finn Mannus’s smiling face.

“From asshat to plague.” Finn scrunches up his brow. “I’m not sure if that’s a step down or a tie.”

“Who is that?” James nearly yells now.

I don’t take my eyes off Finn. “I’ll call you back.”

James’s squawks of protest cut off as I hit the end button.

“Are you stalking me, Mannus?”

Finn a rests his hands low on his lean hips. “Having a healthy amount of conceit myself, I have to admire yours, but no, buttercup. My buddy Woodson lives a few blocks away. It’s poker night. I’m stocking up on beer.”

It’s only then I notice a twelve pack tucked under his other arm.

“And tampons?” I ask, with a pointed look around the aisle we’re standing in.

“Not tonight,” he says easily. “Though we used to keep a pack of them back in college. Light flows were perfect for stopping up bloody noses.”

A snort escapes me. “Now there’s a visual.” Somehow, I’ve taken a step closer to him. He’s freshly showered, the golden brown strands of his hair still damp at his temples. And I wonder if he’s just come from the gym or practice. “So back in college you went and bought these tampons?”

“Nah,” he says with a cheeky smile. “I’d ask one of the girls hanging around to get me some.”

“Of course you did.” My nose wrinkles with annoyance.

“Give me a little credit, Chess. I’d buy them now if I had to.”

“Hmm…” I eye him, trying not to return his smile. If only because it’s more fun when he teases. “So why are you in this aisle now, if not for potential nosebleed needs?”

“That’s easy.” He steps closer, a warm wall of muscle and clean scent. “I heard your voice.”

For a second I just blink. “You recognized my voice?”

His gaze darts over my face as if he’s trying to get a read on why I’m gaping at him. “Not to be…ah…rude, but you’re loud when you talk on the phone.”

“Yeah, but… You recognized it.” We’d only just met. It occurs to me that I’d recognized his both times he’d snuck up on me. Then again, his voice is distinctive, flowing like hot honey when he’s relaxed or hammering down like iron to rock when he’s taking command of a situation.

A soft flush of pink tints the tips of his ears. If I wasn’t staring at him, I might have missed it. He shifts his weight. “Was I not supposed to?”

“No. Yes.” I shake my head and laugh. “I don’t know.”

He grins then. “You’re cute when you’re flustered.”

“I’m not flustered.” I am.

 

THS1

 

Whitney’s Four Star Review

*Note this is book four in the Game On series and the timeline runs somewhat concurrently with Dex’s story. However, this can be read as a stand alone. You’ll just get a little more out of the characters if you read in order.

The Hot Shot was a little like a shot in the dark for me. I’ve looked forward to it since I’ve liked all the books in this series but neither Chess nor Finn have had big roles in any of the previous books which I think was cool because I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about who these characters were or how they should act.

I adored Chess’ character from the time she was introduced. She’s tough, doesn’t take attitude from anyone, she’s a little on the reclusive side but still fun. I think her independence really shined through and I like that she had a hard time being vulnerable when her life when to heck in a hand basket. The way she handled the football players during the photo shoot scenes had me cracking up and those were probably my favorite part of the book.

Finn is a pretty great hero. His kind heart mixed with his playfulness won me over despite the fact that he’s kind of a jerk initially (not too much though!). He just guards himself and doesn’t want to be close to anyone who might be trying to use him. He excels at flirting with Chess and I loved their banter and their friendship. Actually, I loved that I could really feel their friendship before they became romantically involved. I don’t mind insta-love in books usually but it’s always nice when a couple can spend time as friends and really get to know each other first.

I had two other distinct moments in this book that were my favorites BUT I can’t really discuss them as they be kind of spoilery. I will say that one leads to Finn and Chess becoming roommates and the other involves and ex of Finn’s that made me want to hug the snot out of Chess and be her best friend.

Kristen’s writing is fast paced and there are a few slow parts but they don’t last long. The chapters flow well and though I thought the ending was maybe a little rushed, I was happy how things turned out. I’m hoping the author can squeeze a few more books out of this series with a couple of remaining football players!

If you’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series, then you’ll like this one too. If you haven’t read the others then anyone who enjoys NA and/or sports romance will love this series!

About the Author

KCauthor

Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal , best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

WEBSITE / FACEBOOK / TWITTER / AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

RELEASE BLITZ – Damnable Grace by Tillie Cole

 

Amazon / Barnes and Noble

 

Synopsis

EVEN THE BROKEN, THROUGH LOVE, CAN FIND GRACE…

Secrets never stay hidden.

The burden of guilt never lifts from the heart.

Born and raised in The Order of David, Sister Phebe knows nothing but cult life. Head of the Sacred Sisters of New Zion, Phebe was groomed from childhood for one purpose: to seduce. Prized as a harlot, as a New Zion whore, Phebe is taken from the doomed cult by Meister, the notorious leader of the Aryan Brotherhood. Taken as his possession. Taken to be the woman who will obey his every sexual demand. Under his heavy hand, Phebe finds herself in a place much worse than she could ever have imagined… with absolutely no one to help. And no glimpse of hope.

Xavier ‘AK’ Deyes is content with his life as Sergeant-At-Arms of the Hades Hangmen. Leader of the infamous ‘Psycho Trio’ and ex-special ops sniper, AK knows how to fight. Experienced in warfare and schooled in military operations, AK is vital to the Hangmen. When his Vice President needs help retrieving his missing sister-in-law, Phebe, from a Klan-funded trafficking ring, AK volunteers to go in. AK remembers the redhead from New Zion. Remembers everything about her from the single time they met—her red hair, blue eyes and freckled face. But when he finds her, heavily drugged and under Meister’s control, her sorry condition causes him to remember more than the beautiful woman he once tied to a tree. Saving Phebe forces hidden demons from his past to return. A past he can never move on from, no matter how hard he tries.

As AK fights to help Phebe, and in turn she strives to help him, they realize their secret sins will never leave them alone. Kindred broken souls, they realize the only way they can be rid of their ghosts is to face them together and try to find peace.

Despair soon turns to hope, and damaged hearts soon start to heal. But when their deep, painful scars resurface, becoming too much to bear, the time comes when they must make a heavy choice: stay forever damned; or together, find grace.

Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, disturbingly sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language and very mature topics. Recommended for age 18 and over.

 About the Author

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

Connect with Tillie

 

 

 

RELEASE BLITZ AND EXCERPT – The Hot Shot by Kristen Callihan

 

the hot shot AN

 

TheHotShot Amazon-2First we were friends. Then we were roommates. Now I want more…

What can I say about Chess Copper? The woman is capable of bringing me to my knees. I know this about five minutes after getting naked for her.

No one is more surprised than me. The prickly photographer my team hired to shoot our annual charity calendar isn’t my usual type. She’s defense to my offense, a challenge at every turn. But when I’m with her, all the regrets and darkness goes away. She makes life fun.

I want to know Chess, be close to her. Which is a bad idea.

Chess is looking for a relationship. I’ve never given a woman more than one night. But when fate leaves Chess without a home, I step up and offer her mine. We’re roommates now. Friends without benefits. But it’s getting harder to keep our hands off each other. And the longer we live together the more I realize she’s becoming my everything.

Trick is… Now that I’ve made her believe I’m a bad bet, how do I convince her to give this player a true shot at forever?

 

 

AMAZON | iBooks | B&N | KOBO | Paperback

 

Excerpt- FINN

 

She sits quietly as I eat, and shakes her head when I offer her a sandwich section. Because I’m hungry, and because I don’t like the idea of her having to wait for me to eat, I wolf down my food. The brownie follows with a few, quick bites.

Wiping my hands on a napkin, I set the plate and empty can on a side table, and then let out a contented sigh. “Thanks. I needed that.”

Her smile is small and quick. “I should have fed you as soon as you got here.”

“I’m good now.”

Chess braces her hands on the seat and leans forward to watch her feet as we slowly rock the swing. Silence descends, thick and awkward, and for the first time in her presence, I’m at a loss for words.

I don’t know this girl. Not really, and yet I’ve inserted myself into her life with a determination I usually reserve for winning games. Except I have no endgame here. I told her I want to be friends. But how does that work for us?

Our friends and lives couldn’t be any more different. Parties for me are self-congratulatory events, filled with people whose one focus seems to be bolstering my ego, followed by me searching for a quick hookup. And my friends are all part of football in some way. We talk football or sports. It’s a narrow focus life, but it’s my comfort zone. That chafes too, knowing I live a life that seems wild and free to outsiders but is actually small and structured on the inside.

The silence has stretched too long. I should go. But I don’t move. If I go, I know it will be the end of whatever this is. Embarrassment will have me avoiding seeking her out again. Likely, she’ll do the same. And that will be that.

The knowledge sits like a stone on my chest.

“I’m sorry about my friends,” Chess says. “They can be uncomfortably brazen.”

“So can mine.” I shrug. “Your friends are…fun.”

Her lips pull tight. “They can be. But they were definitely giving me—and by extension—you shit tonight.” She bites her bottom lip. “I don’t think they know what to make of you.”

“So I wasn’t imagining things.”

“’Fraid not.”

The novel sensation of being a fish tossed into the wrong pond grows. I’ve taken away Chess’s fun by coming here, and I’m sorry for it.

“I shouldn’t have asked you to come here,” Chess says in a low voice.

She’s only echoing my thoughts but the stone sitting on my chest pushes harder against my ribs.

Chess makes a small sound, as if she’s trying to laugh but can’t. “Parties suck when you arrive halfway through and don’t know anyone.”

“I know you,” I point out quietly.

She turns and the porch light illuminates her face. Green eyes met mine and hold, as a slow, true smile curls over her cherry lips. Something inside of me shifts and slides. I want to kiss Chester Copper. Haul her onto my lap and make out with her like we’re teenagers hiding out at our parents’ party. But that’s not what she invited me here for.

“I wanted to see you,” she confesses in that husky morning voice that goes straight to my cock. She turns away and stares out into the darkness. “It’s weird, you know? But hanging out with you was so unexpected it kind of felt like I imagined the whole thing.”

I know exactly what she means. My hand settles next to hers, close enough that our pinkies touch. That small point of contact sparks along my skin, makes me want to move closer. I hold steady because I don’t trust myself not to act. “I wanted to see you too,” I tell her. “It’s been a long fucking day.”

I hadn’t planned to admit that, but it feels good to tell her.

Chess eases back against the seat and then curls her fingers over mine with a light squeeze. The unexpected touch holds all my attention. It’s nothing more than a simple offer of comfort, and here I am twitching in my seat as if she’d cupped my dick instead. I’m in so much trouble here because this woman is getting to me in ways I don’t know how to navigate. But I don’t pull away. Not one fucking chance of that.

Chess speaks, pulling me attention back to our conversation. “So tell me about it.”

I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me to tell them about my day. Likely, no one ever has.

So I do. And with every word that leaves my mouth, a little bit more of my stress eases. No, I don’t yet truly know Chess. And yes, our lives are different. But there’s no way I’m ending this. Because when it’s just her and me, everything else falls away. I’m not going to let myself forget that again.

 

THS1

 

KCauthor

Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal , best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

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COVER REVEAL- Surprise from Tillie Cole’s Hades Hangmen series!

 

 

That loud scream you just heard?  That’s me yelling from Texas about how freaking excited I am for this surprise from Tillie Cole!  — Whitney

Pre-order for only 99c

 

I Do, Babe: A Novella (Hades Hangmen 5.5)

 

WHEN DARKNESS AND LIGHT COMBINE, DESTINED SOULS WILL IGNITE . . .

Connected since childhood.
Two souls: one dark and one pure.
Bracing to take the greatest step of all.

River ‘Styx’ Nash loves his woman. Ever since he met Mae at the fence of the cult that had kept her captive as a child, he has never loved anyone else. He loves her black hair, her pale skin and of course, her ice-blue ‘wolf eyes’.

Since Mae came crashing back into his life, his only wish has been to marry her; finally to make her his wife. But now the wedding is booked, and only weeks from forever having Mae by his side, a lifelong problem is plaguing him.
He wants to marry her; he has never wanted anything more . . .
. . . if only he could speak the words and declare it to the world.

Salome ‘Mae’ Nash’s life had been filled with heartache and pain . . . until, at age eight, she met a strange dark-haired boy from the outside world. Years later, and reunited with her great love, Mae is ready to solder her heart to his. Finally, Mae is getting ready to marry her man. But her fiancé has become withdrawn. Something is deeply troubling him.
But Mae has no idea what.
Or what to do to help.

Can Styx open up and conquer his deepest pain? Or will the infamous Hangmen Mute allow his fears to overcome his love for Mae and watch their much-anticipated wedding crumble to dust?

Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains explicit sexual situations, offensive language and mature topics. Recommended for age 18 and over.
***I Do, Babe: A Novella (Hades Hangmen #5.5) is to be read AFTER Damnable Grace (Hades Hangmen #5)***

 


Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.
Author Links

 

 

 

BLOG TOUR – Twist by Kylie Scott

 

 

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twistFrom New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott comes the second sizzling stand-alone novel in the Dive Bar series!

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot bearded bartender Joe Collins only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, fascinating, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman—except that she lives across the country. Soon they’re emailing up a storm and telling each other their deepest, darkest secrets…except the one that really matters.

When Alex pays Joe a surprise visit, however, they both discover that when it comes to love, it’s always better with a twist.


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Whitney’s 3.5 Star Review

After having loved Dirty (book one in this series), I will admit to being slightly disappointed by Twist. I still enjoyed it as you can tell from my rating but it does move rather slowly around the middle of the book. However, I encourage to keep reading because the end is worth it!

Alex decides to surprise the guy she’s been chatting with online with a little visit and things don’t go as well as she had hoped. Joe’s been keeping a few secrets but once he’s face to face with Alex, he wants to work out their friendship. Yes, friendship. Joe isn’t looking for a girlfriend and certainly not a long distance one.

And while Joe is the last guy Alex thought she’d ever be attracted to, she can’t help but slowly fall in love with the sweet (and rather hairy, she thinks) and steady bartender/carpenter. There’s a lot of back and forth between these two but when things finally get hot… whoa! Things go from pretty cool to scorching in zero to sixty. Then things slow down again.

Honestly, the drama with the side characters is what kept me reading. And because of that, I do recommend you read Dirty before Twist so you’ll know what’s going on in the background. I’m not sure who will get a book next, maybe Eric?? There are also some great lighter moments that had me chuckling and my very, very favorite Kylie character, Mal, makes an appearance (and of course, he steals the scene!).

So even though this book didn’t wow me, I am a Kylie Scott devotee and will definitely read the next story in this series.

 

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kyliescottimageKylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. You can learn more about Kylie from http://www.kylie-scott.com/

 

 

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BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW- Ain’t He Precious by Juliette Poe

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Ain't-He-Precious-FOR WEB-newWelcome to Whynot, North Carolina, population 3,872. It has one stoplight, one bar, and the one-and-only Trixie Mancinkus.

Eleven years ago, Trixie graduated Harvard Law, turned down a job offer from one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston, and headed home to Whynot to open her own firm. Not only did she leave behind the big city, but she also left her boyfriend of three years. And just so we’re clear… that would be me.

So what am I doing in Whynot at this very moment? It seems Trixie needs help with a legal case and for some insane reason, she called on me for assistance. I’ve been in town for five minutes, and I’m every bit as out of place as I feel. Trixie is all sweet, southern curves to my tailored suits and high-priced haircuts. It’s a culture clash of north versus south and about the only thing we have in common is our physical attraction to each other.

But I have a new motto since coming to Whynot: When life hands you lemons, all you need is a little sex and sweet tea to make things better.

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Aint he precious teaser .png

Excerpt

Over lettuce wraps, I let her vent more about her brother but I only let this go on during the appetizer. Once our entrees arrive, I insist we change the subject. She’s not calming down, only getting more worked up, and diversion has always worked best with Trixie.

“Raleigh seems to be a nice town,” I say conversationally in an effort to get her relaxed.

She rolls her eyes at me because as much as I know how to “handle” her when her temper is spiked, she recognizes the fact that I am indeed handling her. Apparently, she finds it adorable. She cuts a piece of her orange chicken and gives in to my attempt to switch the conversation. “It really is. It’s spread out so you don’t have that overwhelming big-city feel, but you have all the luxuries a big city affords like museums, professional sports, fine dining, etcetera.”

“Overwhelming is an interesting choice of words,” I observe. “You didn’t feel that way in Boston, did you?”

I’m surprised when her cheeks turn a bit red. Her voice is reluctant when she admits, “Yeah… it was a bit too much for me.”

My mouth hangs open as I stare at her. How could I not know that? We had made plans to live in Boston, and there was a time when she was completely on board.

“I’m sorry,” she blurts out. “I know what you’re thinking… Why would I have even considered all those plans we’d made if I felt that way?”

“Got to admit… this is a bit surprising to hear.”

Trixie puts her fork down and levels her gaze on me. “Ry… I loved you. And I loved Cambridge. It was small and well… comfortable. It wasn’t small like Whynot, but it reminded me of home a bit. But honestly, I was only considering staying there in Boston because of you. I didn’t like it at all. Too many people. Too much concrete and glass. Too much noise. It’s just not me.”

“You should have said something a lot earlier than you did,” I reprimand her quietly. I can’t help feeling a bit angry over this revelation, because who knows what would have happened had we had some honest discussions about where we wanted to go that could suit both of us.

“Would it have changed anything?” she asks me bluntly. “You were set on Boston. You wanted that job at Hayes Lockamy. You worked your ass off at Harvard and the clerkships to get that job offer. It was everything to you.”

“It wasn’t everything,” I tell her sharply.

“Maybe not,” she retorts. “But it clearly meant more than me. As I recall, I asked you to come to Whynot to practice, and I got a resounding ‘no’ to that offer.”

“You sprung that on me at literally the last minute, Trixie,” I say angrily. “After I’d accepted the job offer at Hayes Lockamy. You didn’t give me any time to process any of it.”

“And you didn’t bother to try to talk me into staying,” she snaps.

“Seriously, Trix,” I say in exasperation. “I’ve been here two days, and I’ve watched you in your element. You were born to live here. This is where you’re supposed to be. Being a small-town lawyer in Whynot surrounded by your close-knit, if not nutty, family is what brings you joy. Are you seriously trying to infer that you would have left all of this to stay in Boston with me if I’d just tried to talk you into staying?”

“No, what I’m saying,” she sneers at me as she leans across the table but I don’t miss the light sheen of tears in her eyes, “is that you and I clearly weren’t meant to be, and we’re both better off for making the choices we did.”

Now that hits me hard, right in the middle of my chest, and I have to resist the urge to rub my knuckles over my breastbone to ease the pain.

Trixie merely pushes up from her chair, grabs her purse, and practically runs out of the restaurant.

“Shit,” I mutter as I stand up. I grab my wallet, take out enough money to cover the meal and tip, and toss it down on the table.

I jet out of the restaurant, scan the area, and see Trixie walking quickly toward her car. I wouldn’t put it past her to jump in it and drive off without me, so I break into a fast trot to catch up with her. My hand latches onto her elbow just as she reaches her car, and I spin her to face me.

“What the hell, Trix?” I ask her with frustration, anger, and a little bit of self-loathing that I let the conversation get so out of hand. I’ve always been the mild-mannered one between the two of us, knowing how to deftly control and sidestep her temper so it doesn’t get the better of her.

Or me.

I brace, expect her to rail and rant some more. Instead, she launches herself right at me, making a tiny hop to throw her arms around my neck. Her mouth comes to mine hard as one of her hands grips into my hair, fisting it tight.

Jesus Christ… stars wink in my vision at the feel of her mouth on mine, so long forgotten and yet completely familiar all at once. I don’t think—just act. My arms band around her tight, hauling her body to mine. I push her back into the side of her car, tilt my head, and I kiss her back with every bit of longing and regret that she seems to be mutually feeling in this moment.

 

WritingAs

Whitney’s Three Star Review

Ain’t He Precious is the first novel by Sawyer Bennett’s ‘sweeter’ alter ego, Juliette Poe. I’m a huge Sawyer Bennett fan so I really wanted to give this a try since I’m also a fan of sweet, southern romance.

The story is set in Whynot, Georgia, a town of colorful and odd characters including Trixie and her crazy family. Although educated in the big city and qualified for a high paying corporate attorney job, she chooses to come back home and set up a small law practice to help the townsfolk she loves. But in leaving the city, she also left her heart behind with Ry.

Ry is pretty irresistible. He’s sweet, sexy and loyal and all of that becomes obvious when he drops everything and heads to Georgia to help out the former love of his life with a case. Clearly these two are not done with each other but they’ll have to figure out a way to make their differences work for them and not against them.

Sadly, I didn’t quite get as much out of this book as I wanted. Although I enjoyed the characters, they fell a little flat to me and a lack of emotion on my end and in the story left me feeling a little disconnected. There were definitely some funny and light moments that had me smiling and that saved the story from being boring. There was some great chemistry between the characters and the sex scenes are pretty much fade to black which is fine with me but for those Sawyer fans out there, be warned!

There are a few POV chapters from Trixie’s grandfather which I found awkward and unnecessary. I think I get why the author included them but I’d rather have had more of the main characters. Some of the legal parts also bothered me. And while it probably won’t bother 90% of the other readers out there, it’s one of my pet peeves.

All things being equal, I did enjoy parts of the story despite the things that I didn’t care for. I am definitely curious about Trixie’s siblings who will also get stories and I plan to read the next book and hope that I can get more connected to the characters as the series moves along.

 

AuthorPhotoJuliette Poe is the sweet and swoony alter ego of New York Times Best Selling author, Sawyer Bennett.

A fun-loving southern girl, Juliette knows the allure of sweet tea, small towns, and long summer nights, that some of the best dates end sitting on the front porch swing, and that family is top priority. She brings love in the south to life in her debut series, Sex & Sweet Tea.

When Juliette isn’t delivering the sweetest kind of romance, she’s teaching her southern belle daughter the fine art of fishing, the importance of wearing Chucks, and the endless possibilities of a vivid imagination.

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BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW – Tortured by Nicole Williams

 

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When he left for a twelve-month deployment, she knew it would feel like forever before they saw each other again. She didn’t realize how right she was.

When Lance Corporal Brecken Connolly gets taken as a POW, Camryn hopes for the best but steels herself for the worst. In the end, steel was what she needed to survive when he didn’t. She moves on the only way she knows how—gilding herself in more steel.

Years go by.

She builds a new life.

She leaves the old one behind.

Until one day, she sees the face of a ghost on the news. Brecken seems to have risen from the dead, but she knows she can’t perform the same miracle for herself. While Brecken was held in a torture camp for the past five years, she’s been trapped in her own kind of prison. One she can’t be freed from.  

The man she mourned comes back to join the living, but the girl he wanted to spend his life with isn’t the same woman he comes back for. Brecken isn’t the same person either. The past five years have changed them both. While he’s determined to put the pieces back together, she’s resolved to let hers rot where they shattered.

Broken or not, Brecken wants her back. He’ll do anything to achieve that. Even if it means going against the warden of Camryn’s personal prison—her husband.
“It’s been six years. Everything’s changed. I have. You have.” My eyes lifted. “Why? Why are you trying to win me back?”
He exhaled, his lips parting. “I’m going to win you back.”
When his hand slid around the bend of my waist, winding behind my back, I jerked. His touch was different tonight, hungry, determined. My head clouded, blocking out reason or letting it surface to the top, one or the other.
“I married him,” I whispered even as my hand found his chest.
“But you belong to me.”
My eyes closed as he bowed me against him. I wasn’t sure how two bodies that had been as broken as ours could be so strong when joined. “How do you know?”
“I can see it in your eyes. Every time you look at me.” His other hand lifted to my chin, tipping it until our eyes connected. His brow rose slowly, like I was proving his point right that very moment.
“That’s a confident statement.” My voice shook, but my body felt steady. Unwavering.
“It’s the truth.”
My chest was moving so hard, it brushed his with every breath. What was I doing? Where had I found myself? The man holding me had died only to be resurrected six years later. It was too late, but it wasn’t over.
No matter what, Brecken Connolly and I would never be over.
“Twenty-six days,” I said slowly. “That’s all I have to give you. That’s all I have to give. Four weeks. Once he’s back, you know the way it has to be.”
His face broke, but his hold didn’t budge. “It’s not enough.”
My fingers curled into his shirt, looking for some way to hold on to him. “I know.”
His other arm suddenly looped around me and he lifted me off the ground, his grip going around my backside when my legs tied around him. “But a fucking eternity wouldn’t be enough either, so it’ll just have to do.”
He carried me through the sand and up the stairs of the cabin, then he propped me against the wall so he could open the screen door. Something slipped out of my mouth when he flexed his hips into mine.
“Told you it wasn’t a morning issue,” he whispered in my ear, but I could hear the smile in his voice. “Just a Camryn one.”
He made the same motion with his hips, applying a little more friction this time, causing a louder sound to echo from my lungs.
Opening the screen door as silently as he could, he carried me inside.
“You can set me down, you know?” I whispered.
“I know,” he said, his arms tying tighter. Once all of the lights were off, the cabin closed up for the night, he padded down the hall.
“You know where you’re going?”
His head nodded beside mine. “I’ve always known.”
My hands went behind his neck. His skin was warm and familiar. “And where’s that?”
He exhaled against my skin as he closed the bedroom door. “Toward you.”
He set me down once he’d untied my legs from around his waist, and he took a few steps back. He stared at me for a moment then reached for the lamp on the dresser.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Turning on the lights.”
I watched him flip on another. “Why?”
“Because I want to see you. Because I want to watch your face as I move inside you. Because I want to see your skin flush when I make you come.” He flipped on one more light, then all of his attention turned to me. “Because I want to see everything.”
My heart took off as I imagined being intimate with him with every light in the room on. My body wasn’t the same one he’d left. It had carried a burden; it bore the scars of a shattered soul and a broken body. “I don’t want you to see me. Not like that. In the dark, you can imagine the way I was before.”
When I reached for the closest lamp to switch it off, he stopped me. “I don’t want to imagine.” His hand curled around mine, guiding it away from the lamp. “I want the real thing. I want the real you.”
“You’ve seen my body. You know what I look like beneath all of this.” I motioned at the fresh clothes hanging off of me, covering me from my wrists to my ankles to my neck.
“When I look at you, I see beauty and strength, and the one person in the world who gives me a reason to live and a reason to die.” He drew me to him, his face creased in lines of concentration. “That’s what I see when I look at you.”

 

Whitney’s Five Star Review

 

Brecken and Camryn’s story is an emotional roller coaster. It’s pretty obvious from the synopsis that this book is full of angst and I think I lost count how many times I cried.

Although it’s a bit predictable, the strength of the characters and their love story made this book feel fresh and fast paced. My heart broke over and over for the main characters for all they lost and all they have to overcome to having a prayer at an HEA.

The story isn’t actually quite as dark as I thought it might be though there are some parts that hard to read regarding torture and domestic violence. I thought the author did a very realistic portrayal of what many women go through and are willing to put up with because they don’t know another way. And for all those judgy people out there who think this isn’t real, you are WRONG! Domestic violence is a huge problem and though Camryn is fictional, I applaud the strength she finally has later in the book. Yes, her character was frustrating but again, it was worth the read to see her growth.

Brecken is pretty amazing, just like all of Nicole’s men. This is probably tied for my favorite stand alone from Nicole and he is most of that reason. His strength, his fierce love, his stubbornness… he’s a beautiful character.

I’m a sucker for young love/second chance romance and this book will definitely give you all the feels! Highly recommended.

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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RELEASE BLITZ – Ain’t He Precious? by Juliette Poe

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Ain't-He-Precious-FOR WEB-newWelcome to Whynot, North Carolina, population 3,872. It has one stoplight, one bar, and the one-and-only Trixie Mancinkus.

Eleven years ago, Trixie graduated Harvard Law, turned down a job offer from one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston, and headed home to Whynot to open her own firm. Not only did she leave behind the big city, but she also left her boyfriend of three years. And just so we’re clear… that would be me.

So what am I doing in Whynot at this very moment? It seems Trixie needs help with a legal case and for some insane reason, she called on me for assistance. I’ve been in town for five minutes, and I’m every bit as out of place as I feel. Trixie is all sweet, southern curves to my tailored suits and high-priced haircuts. It’s a culture clash of north versus south and about the only thing we have in common is our physical attraction to each other.

But I have a new motto since coming to Whynot: When life hands you lemons, all you need is a little sex and sweet tea to make things better.

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Catfish

 

Excerpt

Suddenly, my pole jerks in my hands, and I instinctively snap the tip upward into the air. I feel something catch as the pole bends in an extreme arc.

“Holy shit,” I exclaim as I sit up straighter in the boat.

“That’s a big one,” Pap says, and Trixie laughs with delight. “Now… keep the rod up and reel it in.”

I plant my feet hard on the bottom of the boat and crank my catch in. My heart is racing because I don’t know what’s on the other end of the line, but it feels massive. I reel and reel and reel, watching as the end of the line in the water comes closer to the boat. I see a flash of grayish-brown thrash at the top of the water before the fish dives back down deep, but I keep cranking that spinner.

Pap sets his pole aside, grabs a net, and leans forward, balancing himself with a hand on the edge of the boat. I give another mighty heave on the spinner’s handle, and the fish comes to the surface.

“Oh, my God,” Trixie practically shrieks with excitement as her feet come off the edge of the boat. She leans closer to me. “He caught Ol’ Mud. I was knee high to a grasshopper the last time someone managed that.”

Pap grunts in acknowledgment, scooping the net into the water under my catch. He proceeds to pull it up, and in it is the biggest, ugliest fish I’ve ever seen in my life. Not that I’ve seen many up close and personal. I mean, I went snorkeling in the Cayman’s once, but those were all brightly colored fish with long, flowing tails. This thing is indeed the color of mud, with enormous eyes that seem to be rolling and long whiskers sticking out from around its mouth.

“What the hell is that thing?” I ask in horror.

“That’s a flathead catfish,” Pap says as he hauls him in and carefully maneuvers him out of the net with practiced efficiency. He pulls the hook out of the corner of the fish’s mouth and then holds him up for me to see.

The fish is massive and thrashes in Pap’s hands, but he grips him firmly before pushing him my way. “Want to hold him?”

I recoil slightly. “Um… no, but thank you.”

Trixie snickers behind me. “Oh, God… ain’t he precious?”

Pap snorts but doesn’t give me too much shit. “Suit yourself. Take a picture, Trixie.”

I turn in my seat and watch Trixie pull her phone from her pocket. Pap scoots closer to me and holds the damn fish up over my shoulder—which, in addition to fish, smells like mud too—and chuckles, “Smile for the camera, city boy.”

Trixie holds the phone out, grinning as she takes a picture of Pap and me as he holds that slimy, nasty-looking catfish. I know my manhood took a bit of a ding with my refusal to hold it, and I can’t say I’m thrilled that Trixie thinks I’m precious, but screw it… not going to apologize for my failure to bond with that smelly thing.

To my amazement, Pap leans over the side of the boat and slides it gently into the water while murmuring, “Until we meet again, Ol’ Mud.”

“You let it go?” I ask incredulously. While the thing was scary looking as all get out, I’ve eaten catfish before and it’s delicious. I have also witnessed Catherine’s cooking firsthand, and I bet she’d do heavenly things to that fish. Besides… I thought that’s what you did in the south. You hunted shit and you ate it.

“Ol’ Mud’s been in this lake for years,” Trixie says by way of explanation. “He’s rarely been caught, but we always release him. He’s like an icon around here. The fact that you caught him, and in the morning, is amazing.”

“Really?” I ask, a small pattering of pride thumping in my chest.

“Flathead’s normally sleep during the day, usually down under lake debris,” Pap explains. “They’re easiest to catch at night, but I don’t think Ol’ Mud’s ever been caught in daylight hours, right, Trix?”

“Right, Pap,” she says and then winks at me. “We might turn you into a southern boy yet, Ry.”

 

 

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AuthorPhotoJuliette Poe is the sweet and swoony alter ego of New York Times Best Selling author, Sawyer Bennett.

A fun-loving southern girl, Juliette knows the allure of sweet tea, small towns, and long summer nights, that some of the best dates end sitting on the front porch swing, and that family is top priority. She brings love in the south to life in her debut series, Sex & Sweet Tea.

When Juliette isn’t delivering the sweetest kind of romance, she’s teaching her southern belle daughter the fine art of fishing, the importance of wearing Chucks, and the endless possibilities of a vivid imagination.

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