CASH by Cassia Leo ~ COVER REVEAL

From New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo comes a scorching hot romance about overwhelming passion, dangerous bets, and family loyalty.

When the board of directors at the Billionaire Club gives Cash Westbrook one last chance to clean up his act, he takes a hard gamble on Kara Langley, the blackjack-dealer-slash-card-counter who rocks his world with a fiery one-night-stand. All he has to do is get her to agree to a little bet.

Okay, a big bet.

If Kara pretends to be Cash’s fiancée and spends the weekend with him at a corporate retreat, successfully convincing the board he’s ready to settle down, he will give Kara one million dollars.

Kara can’t believe her luck. She’s spent the past year, since her father’s diagnosis, struggling to pay his bookies and medical bills. The last thing she needs is to get involved with another gambler. Especially one who runs the hottest casino in Vegas and has a reputation as bad as Cash Westbrook.

If her father’s bookies catch her with Cash, they might accuse Kara of holding out on them. If she wins the bet with Cash, she can pay her father’s debts, pack their bags, and head to Texas for an experimental treatment that may be her father’s last hope.

But she doesn’t expect to find herself falling for Cash. And when it comes to love, all bets are off.

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New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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Raise Your Game by Cassia Leo ~ COVER REVEAL

He rejects her application for a promotion.
She copes by having drunken wall-sex at the company party…with him.
Now he has her right where he wants her.
And he’s going to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

From New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo comes a sexy, laugh-out-loud romance of epic proportions.

Logan Pierce is our new CEO and he needs me as much as I need him.

Logan has thirty days to save Close-Up magazine from bankruptcy. And he needs me to pretend to be his wife at a couples’ retreat, where Logan and I will attempt to snag an exclusive celebrity interview that will revive our readership. If I can help him save Close-Up, he’ll inherit his father’s publishing empire and I’ll get promoted to editor, with a very healthy raise.

Logan has thirty days to prove to his father that he’s not just a bad boy womanizer. And I have seven days to prove my investigative journalism skills to Logan at a couples’ retreat meant to revive the sex lives of dissatisfied married couples.

This raise is going to cost me.

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New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

Facebook | Website | Twitter | Newsletter | Instagram | Club Cassia 

Wedding from Hell: Part 3 by JR WARD

The Wedding from Hell, Part 3: Exclusive Excerpt of Consumed is the final part of J.R. Ward’s The Wedding From Hell ebook serialization. Don’t miss this exclusive teaser to her upcoming standalone romantic suspense, CONSUMED (available in October 2, 2018). See why “Consumed takes it to a whole new level” (Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

About CONSUMED:

From the creator of the #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm.

Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed…

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse blaze changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn’t believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again—until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the commonwealth, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

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Harbor Street and Eighteenth Avenue
Old Downtown, New Brunswick, Massachusetts

Box alarm. One-niner-four-seven. Two engines and a ladder from the 499, responding.

Or, put another way, Anne Ashburn’s Friday night date had showed up on time and was taking her to a show. Granted, “on time” was the precise moment she had sat down for a meal at the stationhouse with her crew, and the “show” was a warehouse fire they were going to have to chorus-line for. But if you judged the health of a relationship on its constancy and whether it brought purpose and meaning to your life?

Then this firefighting gig was the best damn partner a woman could ask for.

As Engine Co. 17 turned the corner onto Harbor with siren and lights going, Anne glanced around the shallow seating area of the apparatus. There were four jump seats behind the cab, two forward- facing, two rear-, the pairs separated by an aisle of gear. Emilio “Amy” Chavez and Patrick “Duff” Duffy were on one side. She and Daniel “Dannyboy” Maguire were on the other. Up in front, Deshaun “Doc” Lewis, the engineer, was behind the wheel, and Captain Christopher “Chip” Baker, the incident commander, was shotgun.

Her nickname was “Sister.” Which was what happened when you were the sibling of the great Fire Chief Thomas Ashburn Jr., and the daughter of the revered—falsely as it turned out— Thomas Ashburn, Sr.

Not everybody called her that, though.

She focused on Danny. He was staring out the open window, the cold November wind blowing his black hair back, his exhausted blue eyes focused on nothing. In their bulky turnouts, their knees brushed every time the engine bumped over sewer access panels, potholes, manholes, intersections.

Okay, okay, she wanted to say to fate. I know he’s there. You don’t have to keep reminding me.

The hardheaded bastard was a lot of things, most of which carried terms you couldn’t use around your grandmother, but he knew she hated the “Sister” thing, so to him, she was Ashburn.

He’d also called her Anne—once. Late at night about three weeks ago.

Yes, they had been naked at the time. Oh, God . . . had they finally done that?

“I’m gonna beat you at pong,” he said without looking at her. “Soon as we get back.”

“No chance.” She hated that he knew she’d been staring at him. “All talk, Dannyboy.”

“Fine.” He turned to face her. “I’ll let you win, how about that?”

His smile was slow, knowing, evil. And her temper answered the phone on the first ring.

“The hell you will.” Anne leaned forward. “I won’t play with you if you cheat.”

“Even if it benefits you?”

“That’s not winning.”

“Huh. Well, you’ll have to explain to me the ins and outs of it when we’re back at the house. While I’m beating you.”

Anne shook her head and glared out the open window.

The first tap on her leg she ascribed to a bump in the road.

The second, third, and fourth were obviously—

She looked back at Danny. “Stop it.”

“What?”

“Are you twelve?” As he started to smile, she knew exactly where his mind had gone. “Not inches. Age.”

“I’m pretty sure I peak more like at sixteen.” He lowered his voice. “What do you think?”

Between the sirens and the open windows, no one else could hear them—and Danny never pulled the double entendre if there was a risk of that. But yes, Anne now knew intimately all of his heavily muscled and tattooed anatomy. Granted, it had been only that once.

Then again, unforgettable only had to happen one time.

“I think you’re out of your mind,” she muttered.

And then they were at the scene. The old 1900s-era warehouse was a shell of its former useful self, sixty-five thousand square feet of broken glass panes, rotting beams, and blown-off roof panels. The outer walls were brick, but based on the age, the floors and any room dividers inside were going to be wood. The blaze was in the northeast corner on the second floor, billowing smoke wafting up into the forty-degree night air before being carried away by a southerly wind.

As Anne’s boots hit the ground, she pulled the top half of her turnouts closed. Her ponytail was up high on the back of her head, and she stripped out the band, reorganized the shoulder length, and cranked things tight at her nape. The brown was still streaked with blond from the summer, but she needed to get it trimmed—so all that lightness was on the chopping block.

Of course, if she were a woman “who took care of herself,” she’d get it highlighted through the winter months. Or so her mother liked to tell her. But who the hell had time for that?

“Sister, you sweep the place with Amy for addicts,” Captain Baker commanded. “Stay away from that corner. Danny and Duff, run those lines!”

As Captain Baker continued to bark orders out, she turned away. She had her assignment. Until she completed it, or there was an insurmountable obstacle or change of order, she was required to execute that directive and no other.

“Be safe in there, Ashburn.”

The words were soft and low, meant for her ears alone. And as she glanced over her shoulder, Danny’s Irish eyes were not smiling.

A ripple of premonition made her rub the back of her neck. “Yeah, you, too, Maguire.”

“Piece’a cake. We’ll be back at pong before ten.” They walked away from each other at the same time, Danny going around to the stacks of hoses in the back, her linking up with Chavez…

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J.R. Ward is the author of more than thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are more than fifteen million copies of her novels in print worldwide, and they have been published in twenty-six different countries around the world. She lives in the South with her family.

BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW – Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

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Dr. Strange Beard, an all-new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Penny Reid, is available NOW!

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Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak

Ten years after Simone Payton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe Winston remembers everything—every look, every word, every single unrequited second—and the last thing he needs is another memory of Simone.

Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be . . .

Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but if she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.

But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor . . .

Dr. Strange Beard is a full-length romantic comedy novel, can be read as a stand-alone, and is the fifth book in the USA TODAY bestselling Winston Brothers series.

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Download your copy today!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2KqqV41

iBooks: https://apple.co/2twGVeA

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/DrStrangeBeard

Nook: https://bit.ly/2LwwIKa

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2yU5zdo

Google Play: https://tinyurl.com/y76ze2x4

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2LXgohE

Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2KvoGwA

Excerpt:

“Simone, this is not one of our adventures from when we were kids. This is not finding Blithe Tanner’s cat. These men are murderers, drug dealers, thieves.”

“I know.” Boy oh boy, did I know. I didn’t want to be here anymore than he did. I was frightened. Yet allowing Roscoe to be taken on his own hadn’t been an option. “I can handle myself, and I can provide backup for you, if you need it.”

Roscoe gripped my shoulders. “Nothing can happen to you, do you understand?” His words were emphatic, his gaze disoriented, desolate, frantic. “If anything happens to you, I’ll . . .” He swallowed, apparently unable to finish the sentence.

My heart twisted to see him like this. I wished there were some way to show him what I could do, what I was capable of, so he would stop seeing me as a liability.

Well, why can’t you?

“Huh.”

Now there was a thought.

Stepping out of his grip, I walked backward to the other side of the room and took a deep breath. “Okay. Come at me.”

He blinked. “What?”

“I want you to come at me.”

“Simone,” he seethed.

“Come at me, bro.” I did that little movement with my fingers, my palm turned upwards. “Come at me or I’ll start singing again.”

“I’m not doing this.”

“Fine.”Frustrating. “I’ll come at you.”

He stood there, features set, looking raw.

Moving quickly forward, staying light on my feet, I faked right and then went left, hooking him behind the back of his leg, catching his arm to twist behind his back, and sending him to the ground—face-first—with a thud.

I winced as he grunted, my knee at the base of his spine, his arm restrained behind his back. “Sorry! But you wouldn’t listen to me.” Leaning forward, I whispered in his ear, “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

Roscoe’s back and shoulders rose and fell with an expansive breath, like he was about to respond, but in the next moment he’d spun his legs to the right, leveraged my knee on his back to throw me off-balance, and slipped his wrist from my hold.

In my defense, my grip had been lax as I was purposefully trying not to injure him.

The next thing I knew, Roscoe had me pinned to the ground, air knocked out of me, him hovering above, and my gun digging into my ribs beneath my shirt. He’d been careful to subdue my legs, likely so he wouldn’t end up with a bruised ballsack.

His stare more probing than angry—which I took as a good sign—he said, “I didn’t teach you that. Where’d you learn that?”

Even though I was still coughing, I smiled and rasped, “Since college, take judo.”

He nodded faintly, his eyes moving between mine, looking concerned. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“No.” Endeavoring to catch my breath, I said, “I took it easy on you because I didn’t want to hurt you either, but I’m an asset, not a liability.”

“You’re definitely an asset.” Roscoe frowned, his gaze dropping to my mouth. “And a distraction,” he said, his voice rough.

“I’m a distraction?” I asked, my words still breathy.

I bucked, but he held me fast.

“Yes. . .” His stare turned inward. “You are most definitely a distraction.”

Even though I’d had plenty of time to recover and we’d been holding still for close to a minute, I was still breathing hard. This might have been because of my lingering irritation. Or, maybe it was because the length of Roscoe’s lean body was lying on mine. He held my hands on either side of my head, our faces even, his mouth just inches away.

Was it insane that I hoped he kissed me?

Yes?

No?

Let’s go with no.

He gave me his eyes again and I saw something there, a battle. He looked undecided, at war with himself, straining against something I couldn’t see.

“Roscoe?” I whispered.

Roscoe closed his eyes, and I thought he was going to let me go, but in the next second his lips descended, capturing my mouth in a tender kiss.

I moaned.

I kissed him back.

That’s what one does when Roscoe Winston kisses one. Moan and kiss. Repeat. Because not doing so would be a travesty.

His hold on my hands slacked, his fingers seeking and threading with mine. He settled his hips between my legs, his form relaxing. The weight of him was different now, warmer somehow. At least I felt warm. I also felt cherished as his tongue sought mine, again tenderly, stroking, causing my abdomen to twist and tighten into delicious knots.

He broke the kiss and a protest died on my lips as his mouth trailed down my jaw to the sensitive skin of my neck, sucking, licking, savoring me. What had felt warm and cherishing heated, and my hips tilted reflexively as he nibbled on my ear, cradling his rapidly growing erection.

We both gasped as his hips rocked in an answering yet inelegant movement. It felt perfect and essential in the moment.

“Oh God.” His hot breath spilled against my jaw, a ragged sigh. “What are we doing?”

“I don’t know, but don’t stop.”

Whitney’s Four Star Review

Ah, Dr. Strange Beard. Aka Roscoe. Let me back up. Ah, Penny Reid. Probably my favorite author and the Winstons are one of my all time favorite series.

That being said, this book is maybe by least favorite. I still enjoyed it a lot. A lot, a lot. But I just didn’t absolutely love it. The time hop at the beginning, which I was expecting, just felt awkward. For a lot of the book I just felt I was missing something even though I wasn’t. I guess I love these characters so much and think of them as my fictional family that missing out on five years just felt wrong. I totally understand why the author did it and I agree it was needed. I mostly got over it the more I read but it still just never felt quite right.

The only other problem was that I didn’t connect as well to Roscoe and Simone (mostly Roscoe) as I have with the other characters in the series. Roscoe is amazing, so sweet, so caring, and totally imperfect. He’s a bit more spoiled than his siblings and being the youngest has a much different outlook on his family than we’ve seen before. So while I really did love him, I just didn’t connect as well. Simone was a little easier, especially the more I read. She’s got an amazing mind and her inner monologues were great. The reality of how she felt about Roscoe was fun as we watch her struggle and then finally realize she loves him.

All the glimpses of the other characters were very special moments. For previous fans, you can see who has kids and kinda catch up with what’s been going on. There are some real shockers around a few family members that will lead directly into either Billy’s book or Cletus and Jenn’s cozy mystery series. A few smaller/side storylines are left open for this purpose, including the parts about *gag* Darrell *gag*. Cause yeah, he plays an integral role in this book.

I’ve seen this being marked as a stand alone and to be honest, I completely disagree. While technically Roscoe and Simone’s story begins and ends here, there is a long backstory which builds more and more as the series goes on. This book is definitely NOT where you want to start the series. If you don’t want to read them all, at least start with Beard Science and read from there. Although I 200% starting with Beauty and the Mustache and then reading all the books in order.

Dr. Strange Beard has a lot of tension, a fair amount of angst (I did cry a bit around the end), some danger, and since it’s Penny, some laughs as well. This book felt more serious than some of the others but the author’s signature charm and style is still abundant. If you’ve loved the series, this is definitely a must read. Even if you don’t love it as much as the others, you’ll get some valuable info leading into Billy’s books and catch up with your favorite family!

 

Enter the Giveaway!

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Meet Penny Reid:

Penny Reid is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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Connect with Penny:

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

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lakzsD

Twitter: @ReidRomance

Mailing List: http://pennyreid.ninja/newsletter/

www.pennyreid.ninja

 

Wedding from Hell: The Reception by JR WARD

The Wedding from Hell, Part 2: The Rehearsal Dinner is the exciting second adventure in J.R. Ward’s three-part ebook serialization: The Wedding From Hell. This exclusive prequel to her upcoming standalone suspense, Consumed (available in Fall 2018) takes us back to the night steamy arson investigator Anne Ashburn and ‘bad boy’ firefighter Danny Maguire will never forget.

The Wedding From Hell, Part 2: The Reception: As the wedding from hell continues, Anne and Danny find themselves walking the delicate balance between professional distance and explosive attraction. Will the desire they feel last through the night and change their lives? Or are they doomed to part after one night of passion?

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Saturday, October 31

T minus 2 hours ’til blastoff

St. Mary’s Cathedral, New Brunswick, Massachusetts

Anne Ashburn had never had veil envy, as they called it. As a young girl, she had never pictured herself walking down an aisle in a white dress, ready to be rescued by a knight-in-shining-armor groom who was going to take charge and take care of her for the rest of her life.

Nope. Anne had wanted to fight fires like her father and then her brother. Even though she no longer respected the former, and had a strained relationship with the latter, she’d wanted to pull on turnouts and strap an air tank to her back and breathe canned air as she ran into open flames dragging hundreds of pounds of charged line with her. She’d wanted to rescue grandmothers, and children, and people who had succumbed to smoke inhalation. She’d been ready to cut open crumpled cars and drag broken bodies out of wreckage at the sides of highways. She’d been determined that the extremes of cold winter nights, hot summer days, physical exhaustion, and mental fatigue would never keep her from doing her job.

So, yup, the old fashioned Mrs. degree had never held any fascination for her. There was no way in hell she was going to be like her mother, living a derivative, nineteen-fifties version of life, nothing but a pretty blow-up doll that was expected to cook, clean, and cut the yapping.

On that note, as she pulled into St. Mary’s parking lot and looked up at the great cathedral’s stained glass windows and lofty spires, she decided it made sense that not only was she not the bride, she wasn’t even a bridesmaid.

Like the rest of the crew down at the 499 firehouse, she was a groomsmen in the impending nuptials of Robert “Moose” Miller and Deandra—what the hell was her last name anyway? Cox. That was it.

Anne was thinking groomsmen was a role she might as well get used to. Not that Duff, Emilio, Deshaun, or any of the other men she worked with were settling down anytime soon.

Especially not Dannyboy Maguire.

Right on cue, a Ford truck entered the parking lot, the late afternoon sun flashing across its windshield.

As Anne’s heart kicked in her chest, she was tempted to hustle in the side door of the church—but she had never been one to run from a challenge.

Danny was more than just a challenge, though.

And okay, fine. So maybe she had already run out of his way at least once: Last night, at the rehearsal dinner, she’d positively bolted after he’d made that speech of his.

I never believed in love . . . I thought it was just a word, a title folks gave to daydreams and misconceptions about destiny, a lie folks told to themselves to make them feel solid in this imperfect, unreliable, and mean-ass world.

Now I know it can happen between two people. And it doesn’t have to make sense because it’s not about logic. And it doesn’t have to have good timing because forever is like infinity, without beginning or end. And it doesn’t have to be defined because truth is like faith—it just is.

So, let’s toast to love.

He’d looked at her while he’d spoken. He had been talking . . . to her . . . in that slow, deep voice.

Everybody else had toasted Moose and Deandra. But Anne had known it hadn’t been about them. Danny, ever the ladies man, king of the one-night stand, he who shalt never be tied down . . . seemed to be suggesting not just that he’d had a change of heart.

But that he might have given his own to Anne.

Unless she was misreading everything? Then again, they had kissed the night before that. In her living room. While riding an adrenaline high after they’d saved a life in an alleyway.

And lips-to-lips had been better than good, the rare circumstance when reality had improved on a fantasy. After two years of attraction and sizzle and unacknowledged heat, that which had been pushed under the rug was exposed now. And there was no going back.

Especially as she felt the same way.

So hell yeah she had bolted out of that restaurant. The second she had been able to get up from her chair, she had hit the exit and left Danny without a ride home.

He’d called two hours later. He’d been in a bar, probably

Timeout where the crew always went, the noise in the background loud and raucous.

She had not answered. He had left a short message, but not called again.

Anne just wasn’t sure what to do. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There were plenty of things she wanted to do to him, with him, on him—all of which were naked and erotic and not necessarily only horizontal.

Refocusing, she watched Danny’s truck pass by. From behind the wheel, he looked over at her.

She waited for him to find a space and get out, and as he walked across to her, she tried—tried—not to go sixteen-year-old girl at the sight of him in a tuxedo.

#epicfail

He was very tall, over six feet five, and he was built hard and muscular, his shoulders so wide, his chest so broad, his waist the point of the inverted triangle of his torso. His jet-black hair was still damp, and what sunlight there was in the mostly cloudy sky flashed blue in its depths. He was freshly shaven—his cologne reaching her nose even before he stopped in front of her—and his eyes were that brilliant blue that had always arrested her. Irish eyes.

But they were not smiling.

For a man who was rarely serious, he looked positively grim, and she frowned.

“You okay?” Stupid question. “I mean—”

“Yeah, no. I’m fine.”

Standard answer for firefighters when they were in pain. And she wondered if it had to do with that speech of his, and what she could have sworn he had been telling her.

His eyes shifted off to the side and then his mouth got thinner.

“And here’s the blushing bride.”

A stretch limo entered the parking area and made a fat turn toward the back door of the cathedral. When it stopped, its driver got out and went to the rear door.

Seven all-in-pink, spray-tanned, body-glittered, and blond-streaked women got out one by one, a clown car of bridesmaids who were such carbon copies of each other, it was like they had been ordered out of a catalogue.

And then the white dress emerged.

Deandra, Moose’s intended, had her blond-streaked hair—natch—piled up on her head in an organized, sculpted waterfall of curls. Her veil was a gossamer fall over her tiny waist and her big skirt, and the shimmer of crystals across the bodice and down the front and sides of the gown made her look like a princess.

Provided you didn’t catch her expression.

She was sour as an old woman with gout and shingles. In spite of the fact that she was supposedly marrying her true love, she looked downright nasty as she snapped at the driver, glared at her maid of honor, and yanked her skirting up to march into the back of the church.

“Wow,” Anne muttered. “That’s a happy bride.”

“Whatever. They’re on their own with this dumbass idea.”

“Did you happen to talk to Moose last night?” she blurted.

“As in out of this? Or would that be considered tacky given it was less than twenty-four hours before the priest hit the altar with them.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “He’s bound and determined to ball-and-chain himself. Personally, I’d be running in the opposite direction.”

And then there was silence between them. Tension coiled up quick, and as Anne’s temples started to pound, she decided it was going to be a long night, just not for the reasons she’d assumed at the beginning of the weekend.

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J.R. Ward is the author of more than thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are more than fifteen million copies of her novels in print worldwide, and they have been published in twenty-six different countries around the world. She lives in the South with her family.

NEW RELEASE – Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

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Dr. Strange Beard, an all-new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Penny Reid, is LIVE!  It also happens to be one of my top reads of the year!  — Whitney

DRSB_LARGE

Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak

Ten years after Simone Payton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe Winston remembers everything—every look, every word, every single unrequited second—and the last thing he needs is another memory of Simone.

Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be . . .

Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but if she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.

But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor . . .

Dr. Strange Beard is a full-length romantic comedy novel, can be read as a stand-alone, and is the fifth book in the USA TODAY bestselling Winston Brothers series.

LIVE02

Download your copy today!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2KqqV41

iBooks: https://apple.co/2twGVeA

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/DrStrangeBeard

Nook: https://bit.ly/2tJQl5F

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2yU5zdo

Google Play: https://tinyurl.com/y76ze2x4

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2LXgohE

Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2KvoGwA

Meet Penny Reid:

Penny Reid is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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

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Twitter: @ReidRomance

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Wedding from Hell by JR WARD

Don’t miss #1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward’s three-part ebook serialization: The Wedding From Hell. This exclusive prequel to her upcoming standalone suspense Consumed (available in Fall 2018) takes us back to where it all started between arson investigator Anne Ashburn and ‘bad boy’ firefighter Danny Maguire. The Wedding From Hell is a sexy standalone novella that sets up Consumed’s storyline, leaving fans hungry for more and dying to snatch it up.

It’s a classic recipe for disaster: Take one bridesmaid who thinks pink is the root of all evil, mix with a best man who’s hotter than a four-alarm fire, add in their explosive sexual attraction, a nightmare bridezilla, two cat fights, and an emergency call, and you have the wedding from hell.

Experience the sizzling start of Anne and Danny’s intense relationship. Is this the start of something good…or just an erotic one-night stand that rocks their world, but must never be repeated?

FREE ~ BUY NOW

Thursday, October 29

T minus 48 hours ’til blastoff

College Row, New Brunswick, Massachusetts

Because women are not frickin’ groomsmen! That’s why she can’t be in the goddamn wedding!”

As Anne Ashburn walked in the back door of the shotgun apartment, that happy little explosion was not only what she’d expected all along, it also offered her the out she’d been praying for. And it was probably the one and only time she was ever going to agree with the bride.

Not about the role of females in bridal parties, but that Anne wasn’t going to be in the “goddamn wedding.”

Everyone standing in the kitchen turned and looked at her: Deandra Cox, the impending wearer of the white dress; Robert “Moose” Miller, her exhausted fiancé and Anne’s fellow crew member down at the 499 fi rehouse; and . . . Dannyboy Maguire.

Who was the only one she really noticed and, for that reason, the person she refused to look at.

Too bad Danny always made an impression. Like most firefighters, he was in great physical shape, his big body thickly muscled and ready to snap into motion in an instant. With his heavy arms linked over that chest and his long legs crossed at the boots, he was leaning back against the chipped countertop, his too-blue stare missing nothing. He was fresh from a shower, his glossy black hair wet, and Anne tried not to picture him naked under the spray, his tattooed torso arching as he rinsed the shampoo out of his—

She put her hands up to stop herself as much as the argument. “Look, I don’t want to cause any problems. I’m happy to step aside—”

“And now I have one too many bridesmaids.” The bride-to-be refocused on her intended. “My count is wrong. You wait until two days before the wedding to tell me this when you know I’m not going to like it, and now my count is off!”

As the groom focused on the linoleum floor, it was impossible not to picture a wax version of the couple on a multi-tiered cake: Deandra in skinny jeans and that tight cashmere sweater, her dark hair streaked blond, her body cocked forward like she was going to throat-punch the man she was going to marry; Moose in his New Brunswick Fire Department T-shirt, all broad-shouldered and bearded around the face, easing back like someone with the flu was about to sneeze in his face.

Ah, true love.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Moose muttered. “Anne’s a member of the four-nine-nine crew, and everyone else is with me.”

“She’s a girl.” Deandra pointed at Anne. “It throws off everything.”

“I really don’t want to cause any problems.” Anne put her hands up again. “So I’ll just be in the congregation. It’s perfectly fine—”

Deandra’s glare swung Anne’s way. “The count is still wrong. And my friends have already paid for their dresses. They were a hundred and twenty dollars apiece.”

And that’s my cue to go, Anne thought. Moose may have volunteered for this, but no one else had or needed to—

“I think women can be whatever they want.”

As Danny spoke up, everyone looked at him—including Anne, who suddenly felt shades of what Deandra was throwing out.

Don’t you dare, she mouthed at him behind the bride’s back.

Danny just shrugged like he’d thrown on a pantsuit and was channeling Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton all at once. “I mean, Deandra, you’re above all that sexism, aren’t you? No one’s going to tell you what’s right and wrong for your own wedding. You’re more secure than that.”

I am going to kill you, Anne vowed. “I think Deandra wants things done properly for her only wedding.”

Danny frowned in pseudo-confusion. “So you’re saying it’s okay to have a double standard for men and women? That’s a shocker given how you are at the station. I thought you believed in equality.”

“I do,” Anne snapped. “But this isn’t about equality.”

“You sure? I don’t know how you can support traditional gender roles when it comes to a wedding ceremony at the same time you defend the right for women to be firefighters, cops, and on the front lines in the military.”

“Spare me someone who’s never been in a dress having an opinion about women’s issues, okay?”

“I’m just pointing out that you don’t want women out of dresses.”

“It’s her wedding.” Anne jabbed a finger at Deandra. “She’s the bride. She gets to say what’s right and wrong for her, and she does not need some man telling her what to do.”

“Even if I’m defending the rights of women?”

“Until you grow a set of ovaries, you can shut the hell up about our rights!”

As Anne’s voice ricocheted around the kitchen, she realized that she’d marched right up to Danny—and that Deandra and Moose were watching the two of them in total stillness.

She cleared her throat and took a step back. “Anyway, Deandra’s made up her mind. And I support her decision.”

Deandra’s eyes narrowed on Danny, and something about the way the woman looked at him didn’t seem right.

“Actually,” the bride said, “maybe she should be in the wedding party.”

Anne prayed her expression stayed neutral. “Don’t compromise your vision on my account.”

“I won’t.” The woman stared at Danny. “Fine. Let’s put her in a tuxedo like the rest of the men. She can walk my sister down the aisle, just like a man should. Her shoulders are too big for a gown, anyway, and that way my count stays the way it should.”

Anne rolled her eyes. Let’s hear it for girl power.

“So it’s settled,” Deandra said with a tight smile. “You need a tux. Unless you already own one.”

For a moment, Anne waited for somebody to argue with the woman. Like Moose. But he was clearly done falling on swords over the wedding details, and Danny had just gotten what he wanted so he wasn’t going to say a damn thing.

And the truth was, after how many years of fighting fires with these men, they were her brothers in all but blood. Even though she thought Moose had lost his ever-loving mind marrying this beautiful but sour woman after knowing her for a matter of months, Anne was still going to stand up for the guy if he wanted her to—and he did. He’d asked her down at the stationhouse specifically.

“Where did you guys rent your suits?” Anne said to him.

“Tuxedoes,” Deandra corrected.

The groom blinked like he’d forgotten how to speak English. Then again, he’d been doing that a lot at the firehouse lately. “You’re actually going to wear one?”

“What the hell do I care?”

“Yes, she is wearing one,” Deandra cut in.

Danny spoke up. “I’ll go with you. I know where the place is.”

J.R. Ward is the author of more than thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are more than fifteen million copies of her novels in print worldwide, and they have been published in twenty-six different countries around the world. She lives in the South with her family.

Break by Cassia Leo ~ CHAPTER REVEAL

A humorous and heartbreaking second-chance stand-alone romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Shattered Hearts Series.

For six years, she was the only one. My best friend. My kitten. My world. Then, I broke us by getting caught in a web of lies.

Hard to believe, after everything we’d been through, I could do what I did to her… in front of 600,000 people.  I doubt she’ll ever believe I did it because I love her.

Three years later, my music career is booming. I have a movie deal in the next comic book reboot. And now the only parent I have left has been given a death sentence. I have to go home, but going home means facing what I did to her.

***   BREAK is available for preorder on all retailers. It will be available for purchase on all retailers for ONE DAY ONLY, July 26, 2018. After July 26th, it will only be available on Amazon. You do not need to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription to purchase BREAK on Amazon.   ***
AmazoniBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Prologue

Charlie

Then

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I would say a picture is worth a lifetime of words, since a single photograph can change your entire life.

When I was fourteen, a chubby girl in my freshman Spanish class attempted suicide after her former boyfriend posted a naked photo of her on MySpace. It was the scandal of the school year. I publicly expressed my disappointment with the way my fellow classmates were body-shaming her. Privately, though, I judged that girl. I couldn’t help but wonder… Who would be foolish enough to trust a teenage boy with nudes?

 

* * *

 

Just ten more minutes. Don’t pass out yet. Just hold on for ten more minutes.

I repeat the words over and over in my mind, like a mantra. Just ten more minutes and I can go home, drink a gallon of NyQuil, and sleep away this dreadful flu.

The art gallery just off the Sonoma State campus is small, but not quaint. Situated in the middle of 4th Street in Santa Rosa, among an eclectic mix of upscale and fair trade shops, the gallery has a wall of windows facing south. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t eighty-two degrees outside and the gallery’s air conditioning wasn’t working.

I loosen my black scarf and swallow the saliva pooling in my mouth as the urge to vomit begins to overtake me again. Closing my eyes, I take a few deep breaths as I attempt to quell the sensation.

“I’m sorry. I just need a minute,” I say to my professor as we move onto the next photograph in the exhibit.

If I knew, when I chose to be an art major, that I’d have to do my final exam — a solo show using selected pieces from my photography portfolio to tell a story — in an overheated art gallery, while secretly popping Tylenol every time my professor turns his back on me, I might have seriously reconsidered my dream of being the next Annie Leibovitz. Or I might have chosen a major where I could take my final exam in an air-conditioned lecture hall. At the very least, I’d rethink my brilliant idea to wear a scarf today.

My attempt to look like an artsy-fartsy ballerina — in my lucky black scarf, baby-pink bateau-neck top, black skinny jeans, and pink ballerina flats — and my refusal to request a postponement of the solo show the moment I came down with the flu, will be my downfall. No matter how hot it gets in this gallery, I can’t take off my lucky scarf. Therefore, I predict, if I don’t get high marks on this final, I’m going to drop dead on the high-gloss marble floor.

I trail behind Professor Healy like a baby duckling, answering his questions about lenses, exposures, and filters while trying not to stare at the Florida-shaped birthmark in the center of his bald spot. The show is supposed to tell a story, and the only story that matters in my world is the story of Ben and me. The exhibit begins with images of the beach, where Ben and I first met, then moves through a collection of places we’ve visited together. With Ben’s fame becoming such an issue these past few years, most of the pictures depict secluded landscapes: sparkling lakes, rocky coves, and misty forests.

As I discreetly wipe the sweat trickling down the back of my ear, my phone vibrates in my hand. I quickly slide it into my back pocket as we approach the picture I took of the Sky-house.

The Sky-house is a hollowed out Redwood tree near the forested campsites of the Bodega sand dunes, just steps away from where my boyfriend Ben Hayes and I grew up next door to each other in Bodega Bay, California. The Sky-house was Ben’s hideout before it became ours, and we promised we would never reveal the location to anyone. He approves of my use of the photo for my final, but I’m supposed to destroy the evidence after my solo show. We named our tree the Sky-house because you can look straight up through the hollow trunk and see the sky.

Also, because it was fun to play “house” in there.

I wish Ben was here. He would kiss my forehead and tell me everything was going to be okay. Afterward, he’d take me home and make me some instant ramen — because he couldn’t make chicken soup if his life depended on it. Then, we’d cuddle on the couch to watch Futurama until falling asleep.

Oddly enough, I didn’t get my usual good morning text from Ben today. He must have been up late and decided to sleep in. But he knows today is my show. It’s not like him to forget to wish me well before a big test.

As Professor Healy examines the photograph of our hideout from various angles, my phone begins vibrating in my back pocket — nonstop. One pulse of vibration after another, like a phone call that keeps ringing or when one of my Instagram pics goes viral and my notifications are blowing up. But I haven’t posted any pics on social media in a few days. I’ve been too busy preparing for the show.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

Maybe my voicemail isn’t working. Or maybe the mailbox is full. I’m notoriously guilty of letting unchecked voicemails pile up.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

The vibrating continues for what feels like at least five minutes straight, but is probably only a couple minutes. I finally pull the phone out of my pocket and apologize to Healy for the interruption. Glancing at the screen as I reach for the power button, I see a long list of Instagram mention notifications on my lock screen, and my heart drops along with my jaw.

 

2 min ago: @charleywinters have you seen this, girl?

2 min ago: lmao. @charleywinters just got dumped in front of 600K people. #sorrycharley

2 min ago: @charleywinters More like millions of people! This is gonna be news.

1 min ago: @charleywinters Don’t pay attention to these assholes. You didn’t deserve this. #sorrycharley

1 min ago: so fucked up. can’t believe @officialbenhayes would do something like this to @charleywinters #sorrycharley

1 min ago: @charleywinters don’t pretend you haven’t seen this post. @officialbenhayes is too good for you. #byefelicia #sorrycharley #actuallynotsorry

1 min ago: haha! so true! Why doesn’t @charleywinters get that bump on her nose fixed? #sorrycharley

 

“Charlotte, are you listening?”

I suddenly understood why Ben didn’t text me this morning. I can literally feel my blood pressure dropping. My entire body feels cold and light as a feather, like I barely exist.

The room begins to spin as I look up from my phone screen. “What?” I murmur as Healy’s red, bulbous nose comes in and out of focus.

I unlock the phone as my professor’s voice murmurs in the background of my consciousness. Tapping the Instagram app, then a recent notification, I’m taken to a picture of Ben riding a motorcycle on the beach at sunset. Sitting on the back seat, with her head thrown back in gleeful laughter, is a blonde I recognize right away. A blonde the entire world could probably recognize.

The caption on the photo reads:

@officialbenhayes to new beginnings. #instalove #newlove

MAY 11

I blink as Professor Healy steps around me so he’s facing me straight on.

“I asked, ‘How long is the exposure on this picture?’” he glances at the label beneath the frame then turns back to me. “The one titled ‘Sky-house.’ You’ve achieved a stunning depth of field with this lens. How long is the exposure? Based on the softness, I’m guessing it’s at least a thirty-minute exposure, since it doesn’t appear to be motion-blurred or out of focus or over-exposed.”

I open my mouth to speak, but only word comes out. “Exposed.”

“Charlotte, your face is blood-red. Are you all right?” he says, grabbing my elbows.

I shake my head, still unable to speak as my phone continues to vibrate in my hand.

“Oh, dear. Let’s sit you down. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen,” he says, placing a hand on the middle of my back to guide me toward a gold velvet tufted bench about ten feet away.

“Do you need some water?” the gallery curator, a middle-aged woman with dark hair as glossy as the marble floor, asks.

I shake my head again as I sit on the bench. “No,” I whisper, reaching up to pull off my lucky scarf.

“Are you sure? Do you mind if I feel your forehead?” the woman asks gently.

I nod this time, closing my eyes and flinching slightly at the sensation of her cold hand on my face.

“Oh, my God. You’re burning up. I’m calling an ambulance,” she says, setting off to find a phone.

“Wait,” I call out, holding up my still-vibrating iPhone. “I have a phone… Here. Take it. I don’t want it.”

As she walks toward me, I can’t help but think about that chubby girl in my Spanish class. We are kin now. Today will be known as the day a single photograph changed my life.

The curator is a couple feet away from me when I lose my grip, dropping the phone on the floor as I pass out.

 

 Chapter One

Charlie

Now

 

Social media is a blessing and a curse. It can be used to galvanize support for important issues, like shedding light on social injustice. It’s the best resource we have for sharing inspiring art and funny memes. On the other hand, social media has also become a means to pass judgment on people before they can defend themselves. The court of public opinion delivers its justice swiftly and without remorse.

I killed all my social media accounts about two and a half years ago. I’d rather be a nobody than a cog in that kind of machine. My friends, however, have started to question my commitment to this philosophy.

The yellow glow from the streetlight pours in through the glass storefront, illuminating Michelle’s cinnamon skin as she hits the switch on the wall to dim the lights inside The Dunk seafood restaurant. Her silky black hair is pulled up tightly in one of those high ponytails that always make me wonder if she’s secretly walking around all day with a massive headache.

Michelle works as the general manager at The Dunk, because her dad doesn’t trust anyone else to run their family business. After locking the entry doors, she slides her jangling gaggle of keys into the front pocket of her black waist-apron and begins wiping down the tabletops.

I stand up from the table nearest the register, to stretch my arms and legs. Every Tuesday through Sunday, from eight p.m. to eleven p.m., I sit at this table to keep my best friend company while she closes up the restaurant. Sometimes, I help her clean so we can get out of there faster. Mostly, I use the time to edit photos on my laptop while chatting with Michelle.

“Is there any chili left?” I ask, closing the lid on my MacBook.

Michelle makes a mean chicken and white bean chili. Her mom, Monica, started making it for me when we were kids, when she realized I couldn’t eat their original chili recipe because it contained pork sausage. It was one of the rare times my mother’s Jewish heritage resulted in the creation of a culinary masterpiece.

Michelle grabs a clean towel off the shelf under the counter and heads toward the dining area. “Julio! Pack me a quart of chili, please!” she shouts toward the kitchen.

“Okay, Mitch!” the cook shouts back.

“Want to hit the beach tomorrow?” I ask as I slide my laptop into the snug foam compartment of my waterproof travel case.

Michelle sprays lemon-scented cleaner on the table next to mine and nods. “Fuck yeah. I need a beach day,” she replies, then sinks down into the seat across from me. “Which one?”

“Portuguese?” I reply, closing my laptop case and taking a seat again.

Michelle slides her phone out of the pocket of her blue skinny jeans, her top lip curling in disapproval. “Portuguese Beach is so crowded in the end of June.”

“Not on Monday mornings. We can get there early to get a good spot, then book it when it starts getting too crowded in the afternoon.”

She shrugs. “That’s probably better. It’s not like I need a tan.”

Every time Michelle references her skin color, it makes me sad. It reminds me of the one time she let down her guard and admitted to me how she hated the way people treated her differently in the summer, when her cinnamon-brown skin became a rich coffee-brown. We all have things we hate about ourselves, physical features that feel more like betrayals than assets. For me, it’s the bump in my nose I inherited from my Jewish mother. For Michelle, it’s her skin color. For our other BFF, Allie Kim, it’s her slanted eyes. Maybe that common thread of self-hatred is why we’ve been best friends since elementary school.

I pull my phone out of my pocket and text Michelle a single, lonely poop emoji.

She looks up from her phone screen. “If you need to release the chili demon, just go. You know you don’t have to ask to use the restroom.”

I smile as I let out a fart. “Not necessary when I can let it out right here. I just wanted you to look up from your phone.”

She rolls her eyes as she understands this reference. “You have to dump him. Stat. That guy gives me the creeps.”

The “him” Michelle is referring to is Tyler Bradford, the son of Mayor Tom Bradford, whom I had started dating four months ago. Tyler has an annoying habit of texting me emojis to get me to look up from my phone when we’re hanging out. Michelle and Allie do not like Tyler. To be fair, I don’t know if I even like him. But in my opinion, being alone during the summer is worse than being alone during the holidays. If I do dump Tyler, it will be in September or October.

“He’s not that bad,” I say, opening up my bank account app to check my balance for the tenth time today, a new and disgusting habit I acquired recently.

Michelle looks up from her phone again and cocks an eyebrow. “The guy nicknamed you his ‘little oyster.’ He’s a creep.”

The smile on my face vanishes when I see my account balance. “Ugh. I need some new clients ASAP.”

Michelle’s face softens. “Are you in trouble? Like, are you not going to be able to pay your phone bill, or something?”

“It’s not that bad… yet. But I definitely need to figure out a way to bring in more clients or it’s R.I.P. Winters’ Weddings.”

She turns her attention back to her phone, types something, then turns the screen toward me. “Maybe if you put your photos on Instagram, like this girl, you’d get more business.”

I stare at the Instagram profile for a girl named Elizabeth Messina, who Michelle follows on Instagram. “Yeah, and maybe if I hadn’t failed my final exam, I’d have a degree I could use to get a job.”

“You didn’t fail your final. You refused to retake it,” she replied as casually as if she were commenting on the weather.

“Really? This again?” I reply, my voice climbing an octave. “You’re saying I was supposed to fight my way past the sweaty paparazzos so I could give a solo show of pictures depicting the places where my boyfriend and I had sex? The boyfriend who dumped me on Instagram?”

Her eyebrows shot up as she looked up from the screen. “I’m just saying that maybe you could have chosen some different pictures and hired a bodyguard to get you past the paparazzi. If you really wanted the degree, that stuff shouldn’t have stopped you.”

I shook my head. “You know what happened the last time I tried to create another Instagram account.”

I narrowed my eyes at her, telepathically willing her to remember the time I created a new profile for Winters’ Weddings. A client named “Isla” messaged me on Instagram and booked me to do her engagement shoot at a nearby vineyard in Sonoma. She even paid the fifty-percent deposit. When I got to the vineyard, I parked my car and entered the barn, where we planned to meet. “Isla” and her friends were there with their cell phone cameras at the ready to record my reaction to a cardboard cutout of Ben down on one knee proposing to Becca Kingsley, the pop singer he dumped me for. I vomited on the straw-covered floor and ran to my car.

I shook my head when Michelle didn’t acknowledge this catastrophe. “Forget it. I’m not arguing about this again.”

“You’re the one who brought up your cash flow problems. I was just offering social media as a solution. A little self-promotion can’t hurt, you know? And yet you still shoot me down, as usual. Anyway, we both know that’s not what this is about.”

“What are you talking about?”

She purses her lips. “I’m talking about that gigantic chip on your shoulder. It’s been there since Hunter’s graduation last month.”

My eyes widen. “Are you kidding me right now? Are you accusing me of being jealous of my little brother?”

“There’s a difference between bitterness and strength. You’ve gotten more bitter with every year that passes since you and Ben broke up. If you’re not careful, you’re going to push away the people who helped you get through that shit-storm. Which is sad, because we’re the ones who actually love you.”

I lower my gaze and take a deep breath to tame the angry lion inside me. I also try not to think about Ben, but the tattoo on my wrist makes that impossible. Michelle is pretty strongly implying that what Ben did to me indicates he’s obviously not one of the people who actually loves me. But after three years, I still look at the tattoo on the inside of my left wrist and wonder if that’s true. Could Ben have been pretending to love me for all those years?

I lay my hand over my wrist to cover the words “I love us” written in Ben’s handwriting. He has a matching tattoo on the inside of his left wrist in my handwriting, if he hasn’t attempted to get it covered up. During the four years that Ben and I were officially together, and the few years before where we hid our relationship from our families, we only got into one huge fight that almost tore us apart. Almost.

I remember vividly how I told Ben I loved him, but I didn’t think I was secure enough to be with someone famous. He told me I had nothing to feel insecure about. “I don’t like myself without you. Actually, sometimes I think you’re the only thing I like about myself. I love you, Charley, and I’m not ashamed to say I love you more when you’re mine. I love us.” After that, “I love us” became our slogan. I cringe inside as I remember how we joked about trademarking the phrase.

“Let’s change the subject,” Michelle says, probably reading the signs in the painful expression on my face, the signs my mind has wandered into the dark corner where I hide my memories of Ben. “If you don’t want to do social media — which I totally understand — then, maybe all you need to do is figure out what’s worked in the past, you know, to generate business.”

I lean my head back and sigh. “I feel like this is the hundredth time we’ve had this conversation. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“Because I love you,” she replied casually. “Okay, I remember when you were booking wedding shoots more than six months in advance because you were so busy. When was that? Two years ago? Maybe you were doing something back then that you might not be doing now.”

I shook my head. “That was pretty much right after the breakup, when I first started the business. When people were still googling ‘Charley Winters ugly cry’ a thousand times a day. Bookings have steadily decreased since then.”

Michelle winces at my reminder of the time a paparazzo published a video of me ugly-crying while talking to my mom in our backyard shortly after the breakup. The video went viral and, at its peak, the phrase “Charley Winters ugly cry” was Googled more than 800,000 times in one day. The video is still on every celebrity gossip channel on YouTube. I don’t have the emotional fortitude or the money to hire a lawyer to force Google to take it down.

Michelle stands up and rounds the table so she can wrap her arms around my shoulders. “The only good thing I can say about Benjamin Hayes is that he’s smart enough not to show his face around here anymore. I hope he gets antibiotic-resistant chlamydia and his dick falls off.”

I laugh a little too hard and another tiny toot comes out. “I don’t think that’s how chlamydia works.”

“I’m still holding out hope. And you really need to stop eating so much damn chili,” she says, giving my shoulders one more squeeze before she sets off toward the back of the restaurant. As she rounds the counter, she glances back at me and flashes me a beaming smile, which quickly disappears as her eyes become fixated on something outside.

I glance over my shoulder toward the storefront and a flicker of intense pain fires through every nerve in my body when I see Ben standing on the other side of the glass.

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

Facebook | Website | Twitter | Newsletter | Instagram | Club Cassia 

BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW – Only Him by Melanie Harlow

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MHOnlyHimBookCover5x8_MEDIUMOnly Him, an all-new sexy and emotional second chance romance from USA Today bestselling author Melanie Harlow is available NOW!

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Sometimes your first love deserves a second chance…

He was my first crush, my first kiss, my first everything.

But I’m not a lovesick teenager anymore, and I’d never let that cocky troublemaker break my heart again.

So when he shows up out of the blue asking me to have dinner with him “for old time’s sake,” I say I will. After all, it’s been twelve years, and I’m stronger and smarter than I was back then.

Except…he still does something to me. He’s got those eyes that make me weak, those hands that drive me wild, and a body I can’t resist—especially once I see the tattoos. It doesn’t take long for our trip down memory lane to go from sweet to sizzling.

We’re just as good together as we were back then—better, even—and I’m willing to give the only man I’ve ever loved another chance.

But he’s got to tell me the truth.

* * *

All I wanted was to see her again. Tell her I’m sorry. Make her smile.

Okay, that’s a lie. I wanted to do more than that—a lot more. But I know she’s better off without me, and I promised myself I’d behave.

Except I’ve never been much good at keeping promises…or my hands to myself when I’m around her.

I can make her laugh, I can make her cry, I can make her body surrender to mine in ways that neither of us could have imagined back then. I can—and I do—love her more than she’ll ever know.

But I can’t tell her the real reason why I’m here.

And I can’t stay.

OnlyHim-AN

Excerpt

Maren glanced back at me, more puzzled than ever, but she started up the cement stairs. I couldn’t take my eyes off her legs in front of me. Her calf muscles were insane from all the ballet training. I remembered how flexible she’d been and felt my dick start perking up.

“In addition to all the history I just gave you,” Aiden said, his voice echoing off the walls, “this hotel was also the site of a certain prom a few years back.”

All of a sudden, Maren stopped moving and looked down over her shoulder at me. “No way.” The stunned, joyful expression on her face was worth every penny I had to pay to make this happen.

Goose bumps rippled down my arms inside my jacket. I smiled at her.

Her jaw dropped, and she continued up the stairs. At the top, Aiden moved ahead and opened the door to the rooftop. “Ballrooms were not available tonight, but when Dallas asked if you could have the roof to yourselves, I had to admit no one had booked it. In fact, no one has ever even asked to book it.” He laughed.

Maren stepped over the threshold onto the rooftop. “Dallas is definitely one of a kind.”

The three of us moved away from the door, and I saw the table that had been set for us, complete with white linens, flower centerpiece, and candlelight. Luckily, the air was warm, and the wind was soft. The sun was still setting beyond the skyline to the west, and to the east the Detroit River was visible; a little to the south was the Ambassador Bridge, and beyond the river, Canada. The view was breathtaking on all sides.

After turning around in a full circle, Maren looked at me with shining eyes. “Dallas. This is incredible.”

“You’ll have your own server for the night, and he should be up shortly,” Aiden said, checking his watch. “I should get back downstairs. Dallas, you have my cell if you need anything. Maren, good seeing you again, and I hope you enjoy your evening.” He gave us a smile before heading back to the stairwell door.

As soon as he was gone, Maren turned to me. “I cannot believe you did this.”

I shrugged. “I felt pretty bad when you said you’d missed the prom because of me. I figured I owed it to you.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes, which were filled with tears. “You didn’t, but whatever. I’ll take it.” Opening her purse, she hunted around in it for something. “God, I don’t even have tissues. I didn’t know you were going to make me cry.”

“No crying allowed at the prom. And I hope it’s okay I’m wearing jeans.”

“It’s fine.” She sniffed and closed her purse. “I’m not that dressed up either.”

“You’re perfect.” Our eyes met, and the air between us suddenly felt full of hope and possibility. In any other circumstance, I’d have kissed her.

But I couldn’t do that tonight.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Reaching into the inside pocket of my jacket, I pulled out a wrist corsage. “Sorry if it’s a little smashed. I had to get rid of the plastic container to hide it from you.”

She giggled and held out her arm. “That’s okay. It’s beautiful.”

“Good.” I slid the elastic band with three deep red roses attached to it along with some other green stuff onto her wrist. “I told the lady at the florist to make it a prom corsage. Pretty sure she thought I was crazy. Or creepy.”

“You might be crazy. But I love it. Thank you for this.” Then she rose up on tiptoe and pecked my cheek. When she lowered her heels, she stood there for a moment, her hand on my arm, her mouth so close I could have simply tipped my head down and my lips would be resting on hers.

My heart stumbled over its next few beats. I wanted to do it so badly, but I’d promised her I’d behave. I’d promised myself I’d behave. There were so many reasons why I shouldn’t be here tonight, standing so close to the only girl I’d ever loved, tempted beyond reason by her legs and her lips and her laugh and her eyes and her ability to make me feel like I fucking mattered in the universe.

What was the right thing to do?

If only—

The door from the stairwell opened, and we moved apart.

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ONLY HIM SECOND CHANCE AN TEASER

Whitney’s Four Star Review

Only Him is a great second chance romance and although it’s part of a series, it can be read as a total stand alone.

The previous book featured Emme, and our heroine is one of Emme’s sisters, Maren. Maren was the kind of hippy, healthy, sister and I loved getting to know her. All of the sister scenes really stole the show for me. I don’t have sisters and I don’t know if the author does but it feels like she captured a real relationship here.

Dallas is Maren’s first love from high school who disappeared and returns to her life suddenly for what was supposed to be a very brief catch up. But of course, their off the charts sexual tension wins and the back and forth ensues. I won’t go into plot details but Dallas has issues and although some of his actions got on my nerves, he did win me over and successfully stole my heart by the end.

The end of the book makes all the angst worth it.  Watching these two fall in love again or rather realizing they are still in love was heart warming.  And the author ALWAYS has amazing side characters.  We get some appearances by old favorites and a few new ones as well.

As always, Melanie’s writing is witty, fast paced and intriguing. She sets the scene really well for all of her settings without being overly detailed and I always love her female characters.

I think I *might* be the most excited for the next book! Can’t wait to see Melanie work her magic again.

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About Melanie

Melanie HarlowMelanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.

Melanie is the author of the AFTER WE FALL series, the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.

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One Small Thing by Erin Watt ~ Sarah A’s Review

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

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Up until the last maybe ten pages of One Small Thing I was prepared to write an amazing review on how redemptive and healing this book was.  I was completely involved in Beth and Chase’s story of love, forgiveness, and trust.  However, the end was so dissatisfying and abrupt; it ruined much of the joy I had while reading the rest of the story.

Beth won me over from the off; she seemed to be so alone despite being surrounded by people who cared for her.  She was angry and sad and had been so isolated by the way her loved ones were protecting her.  When she started acting out, I was 100% there for it.  I was pretty impressed by how she’s handled herself, as I’m not sure I’d be able to rein my anger in as well as she did in the same situation.  I also appreciated how much she grew and realized other people’s opinions weren’t as important as what she knew to be true.

I wanted to not like Chase, much for the same reasons as Beth wanted, but it was impossible.  He was so much more than his past, what the general public thought about him, and what he gave himself credit for.  Chase broke my heart with the way he continued to punish himself for something he’d never intended to happen.  Once he finally began to accept the connection he felt with Beth, I nearly sighed in relief because I could feel the weight of the world begin to shift slightly off his shoulders.

One Small Thing was a poignant story of those precarious years immediately before adulthood, that time when you need to be your own person yet are still firmly under the control of the adults in your life.  It’s a story of looking deeper than the surface, beyond the preconceived notions, to the heart of a person and believing in them because of the goodness found there.  It was a story about learning to compromise without sacrificing your needs and when to stand-up against the things you can not abide.  I was impressed with how much this story had to say about the human condition and how fallible even the most cautious and concerned people can be.

I do have one major wish for this book, and that would be the lackluster ending.  For the entirety of the novel we had a huge workup to a fabulous – if somewhat predictable – climax, then we had no real resolution to any of it.  There was an awkward aside in the final chapter I think was supposed to satisfy my need for healing and closure, but it just felt like an afterthought.  To me, it seemed like the authors weren’t sure how to balance the essential healing the characters deserved with the poignancy of the rest of the story and decided the synopsized ending was the best option.  I just know the greatness of the rest of the book was lost in those last few unsatisfying pages.

Erin Watt has been hit or miss for me.  Most of their earlier books are so beautiful, so consuming, I wasn’t able to refrain myself from absorbing every word at an alarming rate. However, their later pieces seem to be missing the magic they’d captured in those first several stories.  I had really thought One Small Thing had recaptured that enchantment, but it didn’t quite make it there.  I only hope to see them return to their roots and deliver more of those captivating stories that won me over, to begin with.

Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors linked together through their love of great books and an addiction to writing. They share one creative imagination. Their greatest love (after their families and pets, of course)? Coming up with fun–and sometimes crazy–ideas. Their greatest fear? Breaking up.

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