Eighty-One Nights by Georgia Cates ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Beautiful, penniless American girl meets handsome, wealthy Scotsman.

Sounds like the beginning of a fairy-tale romance?

It’s not.

This story begins with a contract.

And an exchange of money.

A lot of money.

An angel perches nervously on one shoulder.

A devil lounges smugly on my other.

And even that dark little bastard is leery of what I’m doing.

Maxwell Hutcheson wants the girlfriend experience.

All of it.

And I’m going to give it to him.

I’m not supposed to enjoy being his whore.

I’m also not supposed to fall in love with him.

But I do. Both.

When our contract expires, I will walk away.

Because I have to.

But he’ll always have a piece of me.

I’ll mask my sorrow with a smile.

I’ll hide my love with indifference

… all while it’s killing me softly.

A fairy-tale romance.

It isn’t mine to have.

And this man I’ve come to love so dearly isn’t my happily ever after.

About Eighty-One Nights:
While the characters from Eighty-One Nights are entirely new, their storyline is a combination of fresh material and carefully selected themes, scenes, and settings from The Beauty Series, The Sin Trilogy, Dear Agony, and Indulge. This is intentional. I chose some of my favorite elements from previous releases and interjected them into Hutch and Lou’s story. Let’s call it a “story fusion” between our old favorites and new material. This work was briefly released under a pen name and was titled The Girlfriend Experience.

***  RELEASES APRIL 9, 2019  ***

Brady watches the server’s arse as she walks away. “Tell me what kind of lass that you’re looking for and maybe I can help you find her.”

“I don’t have any particular physical characteristics in mind. I just want to look at her and… feel something.”

“Feel what? A stauner?” Brady can be such a dobber sometimes.

“I can get a hard-on by myself. I’m talking about a connection. I want to be drawn to her.”

“Answer this for me, Max. Do you want to hold her hand or fuck her?”

“I’d like to do both actually.”

Brady twists in his chair. “There are two kinds of Inamorata women—those who fuck and those who don’t. Look around. Some of the women have a pink rosebud pinned to their left shoulder. It’s a symbol meaning that they are willing to fuck and don’t mind being asked to do so. No pink rosebud, no pussy.”

I hadn’t considered that possibility. I guess that I thought they’d all be willing to have sex for money.

“You might want to keep an eye out for a rosebud while you’re looking for this lass that you want to connect with. Because your cock won’t be making any kind of connection with her if she’s not wearing a rosebud.”

I believe that my choices were just narrowed down significantly; many of these women are missing a rosebud.

“Two Tomatins,” the server says as she places our drinks on the table. “Can I bring you anything else?”

“That’s all for now. Thank you.”

Brady holds up his glass. “Here’s to you finally getting out again. And getting shagged.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

We toss back our whiskies and I look around, searching for that special woman who catches my eye. I quickly realize that I’ll never find what I’m looking for by sitting in the dark corner all night. “Come on, let’s do this.”

Brady and I talk to many women over the next two hours and I become discouraged. This gala is my only chance at finding a woman who will be agreeable to my terms, but no one stands out as a contender.

With each passing minute, tonight’s search is looking more and more like a failure. What a fucking disappointment. I was so sure that I was going to find what I was looking for.

“Now here is the woman that you must meet.” Brady takes her hand, kissing the top.

“You’re looking lovely as always.”

The woman looks at me and smiles. “Always such a charmer.”

“Max, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Cora, the beauty and brains behind Inamorata.”

Long blond hair. Brown eyes. Flawless teeth and smile. Perfect cosmetics. She looks midforties, but I’d bet that she’s older and does a great job of pulling off the look of a much younger woman.

“This is my best mate, Maxwell Hutcheson.”

She holds out her hand and I choose to go with a simple handshake, leaving off the kiss. “It’s a pleasure.”

“How very nice it is to meet you, Mr. Hutcheson. I hope that you’re finding everything to your liking this evening.”

“I’m enjoying the gala very much. Thank you for extending an invitation for me through Brady.”

“It was my pleasure, but your arm is empty, Mr. Hutcheson. Have you not found an inamorata to suit your taste?”

I should choose my words wisely; I don’t want to insult this woman. “Brady and I have spoken to many beautiful and interesting women tonight. I’ve found it difficult to choose one.”

“I’d like the opportunity to change that. Would you be willing to tell me what you’re interested in? I’m certain that I can assist you in finding the perfect inamorata for your needs.”

I don’t see the point. Not a single woman in this room stands out to me but if she wants to try, then let her. “I’m looking for a three-month arrangement with a woman who is willing to remain completely innominate to everyone within my world except me.”

“Obscurity is my specialty, Mr. Hutcheson. I have someone in mind, but she’s fresh out of training. Is that something that you’d be open to trying?”

“Actually, inexperienced is preferable.” I want a true girlfriend experience with this woman. It would be a turnoff if her actions were robotic, as though she’s simply going through the motions like so many times before.

“I have the perfect inamorata for you. She’s brand new so you’d be her first client. The girl is beautiful, intelligent, interesting—the whole package. How does that sound to you?”

Sounds like a definite contender if she lives up to what Cora promises. “I’d like to meet her.”

Cora gestures to the back of the room. “Right this way.”


Georgia resides in rural Mississippi with her wonderful husband, Jeff, and their two beautiful daughters. She spent fourteen years as a labor and delivery nurse before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author and hasn’t looked back yet.

When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her music and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.

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Fool Me Once by Nicole Williams ~ Sarah A’s Review

Second chances are for kids, diets, and shelter pets—not for relationships. Especially not one like Chase and Emma’s.

Before he was writing chart-topping hits and smashing record sales, Chase Lawson was Emma’s childhood friend and first love. They promised each other forever, but forever expired at eighteen, when he landed a major record deal and left Emma and their hometown behind.

Ten years later, he shows up at their high school reunion with a proposition she can’t refuse. Six months. Seven figures. He gets a chance to clean up his reputation, and she gets the means to restore the old family farmhouse. It’s only for show—hold hands in public, kiss for the cameras—but boundaries blur behind closed doors.

It isn’t long before Emma feels her resolve slipping, crushed by the shadow of the boy she grew to love in the man selling out stadiums of present. Can Emma resist one of the most irresistible bachelors in the world? Or will she fall for the same man twice?

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
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Some things weren’t meant to be. That’s what I told myself for the thousandth time when I caught sight of my ex with his newest flame.
“You’re too good for him.”
“Way too good for him.”
My childhood friends, Brooke and Sophia, assured me as they circled in tighter.
“I don’t know why I decided to come to this thing,” I muttered before finishing what was left in my champagne glass.
“Maybe because a ten-year high school reunion only happens once in a lifetime?” Brooke spun me around so the happy couple wasn’t in view, while Sophia dashed off to grab another glass of champagne.
“You know what? A hysterectomy is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing too, but I’m not going to sign myself up just because.” I checked the time, my shoulders falling when I did. Barely an hour in and I already felt like this experience had extinguished whatever patience was left in my person.
“Just be thankful you didn’t waste any more time on a guy like that. Chalk it up to experience and move on.”
“And look at the line of men I have to move on with?” I motioned at the area in front of me; it was empty. “I should have been smart like you and Sophia and gotten married young to some nice, hard-working local boy.”
“Would you stop? You’re twenty-eight. It’s not like you’re horizontal and decaying,” Brooke put her hand on her hip, leveling me with a serious look.
“No. I’m decaying vertically”—I tapped the corners of my eyes, where I’d detected the early stages of crow’s feet earlier this summer—“practicing for my future as a cranky old spinster.”
“You girls talking about me behind my back again?” Sophia reappeared with a fresh glass of champagne, practically ramming it into my hand.
“Please. We prefer to direct our insults to your face.” I winked at Sophia as we clinked our glasses.
“That’s a sign of true friendship,” Brooke toasted before we all took a drink.
“Hey, ladies, this isn’t homeroom. Break it up and dance already.” Rob, Brooke’s husband, popped up beside us, ringing his arm around his wife’s neck.
“I hate this song.” My nose curled as I stayed planted in place.
The three of them headed toward the dance floor as Sophia made a face at me and said, “It was eleven years ago. Time to let it go, girl.”
Brady, her husband, joined her for a dance.
“Not likely,” I said under my breath, taking in the party from my spectator seat on the sidelines.
Almost everyone had made their way to the dance floor, singing at the tops of their lungs. I didn’t know how anyone could stand to hear this song after it had been played nonstop on the radio the past four months.
Jesse, another of my good friends, settled beside me. “Do you think he’s going to show?”
“There aren’t any cameras or fancy awards, so unlikely,” I grumbled.
“Ever since the accident, it seems like he’s been keeping a low profile anyway.” Jesse waved the bird at my ex, who was too busy lodging his tongue down his dance partner’s throat to notice. “I still can’t believe Chase was that drunk. I mean, blowing a point two isn’t for the faint of heart, and I don’t remember him drinking at a party even once when the rest of us were being rebellious teenagers.”
I rolled my eyes at my friend, who had this concerned expression as though Chase was the victim. “There was also the bit about him plowing his truck into a parked car and getting arrested.”
“Fame and money really ruin people.” Jesse clucked her tongue. “That’s why I’m so grateful to live paycheck to paycheck and have good friends who babysit for free at the drop of a hat.” Jesse nudged me. “Thank you again for last night. Johnny and I had a really nice night. Adult conversation, dinner that wasn’t some variation of mac n’ cheese, and I got to wear earrings without fear of having them ripped out by grabby baby hands.”
“They were perfect angels for me, as always.” I smiled at her. “And you’re welcome. Any time.”
“How are you?” Before I could even attempt to give the bullshit answer, Jesse added, “For real?”
“I’m okay. Learning to accept I might be happier alone than the alternative.” My eyes had wandered to a certain couple moving in such a way that made clothes seem pointless.
“You haven’t met the right one.”
“Because the right one isn’t out there.” I wound my arm around hers, hoping that would be the end of the conversation.
My friends cared, and that’s why they felt the need to dissect my every relationship-gone-wrong, but the last thing I wanted to do was detail my failures in the romance department. Especially with three friends who were happily married and starting their own families.
“Of course he’s out there. You can’t give up hope.”
I lifted my glass. “In my fourteen years of dating, I’ve been cheated on, lied to, broken up with over a social media messenger, heartbroken, ditched for an eight-figure record deal, and proposed to by seven African princes.” My gaze dropped to my bare left ring finger. “I have just enough hope left to say yes to the next prince who asks for my hand.”
Jesse shook her head. “He’s out there. And when you agree to marry him, it better be me you call to be your maid of honor.”
“Deal.” I clinked my nearly empty glass to hers, which was already empty. “Whatcha drinking? My treat for the relationship counseling.”
“A screwdriver.” She handed me her glass. “Hold the alcohol.”
“Wait. What?” It took me two seconds of confusion before my eyes dropped to her stomach. “Number three?”
Jesse’s hand lowered to her stomach. “All four and a half months of him or her.”
My face lit up before I threw myself at her, winding my arms around her as much as I could with two glasses in my hands. “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you guys.”
“Thanks, friend. I don’t know what I’m going to do with three in diapers, but I guess I’ll figure it out.”
“Are you kidding? You’ll more than figure it out. You are, like, the best mom ever.” I planted a kiss on her cheek before backing toward the bar. “I’m going to get some drinks to celebrate. Virgin screwdrivers coming right up.”
Jesse flashed a rock and roll symbol, biting her tongue. I chuckled before turning around so I didn’t run into someone or something. With the three glasses of champagne I had in my all of five-foot-four frame, it was an Easter miracle I was still upright.
I’d just made it to the bar when a chorus of cheers reverberated through the room. Jason Gallagher had probably stripped to his skivvies and was doing the moonwalk like he used to do every last day of school from the time we hit middle school.
But then I heard a familiar name being called out, practically chanted.
Good god, no. My luck wasn’t that bad.
Oh, wait.
Setting the empty glasses on the counter, I slowly turned around, praying I was mishearing the name still ringing through the reception room.
I saw him right away, as though my eyes were trained to find him in a crowded room. I hated that they still followed that habit.
There he was, Chase Lawson, the legend himself, sauntering into a high school reunion in the same small town he’d waved farewell to eleven years ago.
My stomach knotted as I scanned the nearest exits.
“What can I get you?” The bartender interrupted my mini panic attack.
“Um . . .” I tried to remember a simple drink order. It was difficult with two ex flames in the same crowded room. “Two screwdrivers.” I fumbled with the bills inside my leather clutch. “Two virgin screwdrivers.” I remembered right as he was about to pour in the vodka.
“So two orange juices?” He gave me a look that suggested I was even more unhinged than I thought. He shook his head when I held out a twenty. “On the house.”
“Thanks.”
I grabbed my OJs and hugged the perimeter as I made my way back to where I’d left Jesse. Except she’d been pulled onto the dance floor by her husband and was way too close to Chase and his ever-present following of fawning females for my comfort. Making a last-minute decision, I ducked through the half-open door leading outside.
“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” I said to myself before taking a sip of one of the orange juices. It wasn’t like I’d had to travel or rent a hotel—Jericho High was a whole four miles from my family’s farm—but I doubted I’d feel more inconvenienced if they’d held it on some iceberg in the Arctic.
Following the walkway toward the small pond tucked behind the reception hall, I settled onto the first bench I came across. My feet were killing me thanks to the weapons of torture I’d selected for tonight. My feet were used to boots, not four-inch strappy heels. But according to Sophia, our town’s resident fashion maven, the royal blue heels were exactly what my scarlet cocktail dress was in need of. We’d all felt really high class rolling into Tulsa a couple weekends ago to hit the mall for our reunion digs, but some articles were better suited for hangers than bodies. Mine in particular. I’d never in my life had to work so hard to take a full breath.
Once I’d torn off the shoes I had plans to drop off at Goodwill tomorrow, I sat back, made my best attempt at relaxing, and stared at the sky. It was overcast, but a few stars were popping through the thick clouds. How many times had I stared at that sky as a young woman, spinning plans that would never come to fruition? Dreaming dreams that would never connect with reality?
Too damn many, that’s the closest I could get.
I’d had plans to travel, to visit every continent before I had kids, and I’d barely made it to a handful of bordering states since. The upside was that I wasn’t going to be a mother anytime soon, if ever, so I still had plenty of time to visit those continents.
“Is this where the Anti-Social Club meets?”
I flinched so hard, I wound up with the majority of two cups of juice on my lap. Add the dress to the Goodwill pile. “Turn around. Go away.”
A low-timbered chuckle. “You always had a way with words, Em.”
My head whipped over my shoulder. “Uh-oh. No. You do not get to call me Em.”
Chase flashed one of his infamous smiles, the one that had made him a hit with the ladies before his face had been plastered across billboards, magazines, and screensavers. It was the part-smirk, mostly-smolder grin. Right dimple set. Cobalt eyes flashing. What Celebrity Instagrammers had labeled the underwear-incinerator.
But not these underwear. Chase Lawson had no sway over the condition of my underwear anymore.
“Okay, Emma.” The sound of Chase’s boots connecting with the pavement made my teeth grind together. In a different life, I’d loved the sound of his boots as he moved closer. “Is this seat taken?”
“Yes.” I slammed the empty glasses on the bench, lifting my eyebrow at him.
“Sorry about the dress,” he said when his eyes dipped to the wet circles dotting my stomach.
“Of all the things to apologize for, my dress is not high on the list.”
His smile stretched. “I’ve missed having someone around whose primary language isn’t bullshit.”
“Is that meant as a compliment?”
“Obviously.”
Inhaling, I twisted in my seat so my back was angled toward him. No matter how many pieces of confetti Chase Lawson had diced my heart into when he left me, it wasn’t safe for any red-blooded woman to stare at him face-on at this close of a distance. Not unless she was in the market for a heartbreak.
“How have you been, Em—Emma?” He caught himself, but from his smirk, the slip had probably been intentional.
“Amazing.” I breathed through my mouth when a familiar scent hit my senses. I couldn’t believe he still wore the same cologne. It seemed like I should have had some kind of proprietary right over it since I was the one who got it for him on our first Christmas together.
“How amazing?”
“Amazingly amazing.” When I caught him glancing at my left hand, I tucked my hands beneath my legs.
“Good to hear.”
I bit my cheek, wondering if I could figure out a way to time travel to freshman year when I’d agreed to be Chase Lawson’s date to homecoming. Even the fourteen-year-old version of me had known getting involved with Chase was equivalent to playing a game of Russian Roulette. She hadn’t heeded the warning, but she’d at least acknowledged it.
“If you’re looking for your fans, you’ll find them back in there.” My thumb hitched over my shoulder. “I know you can’t go more than a few minutes without being worshipped or else you risk spontaneous combustion.”
“Please. I can go a good ten minutes without being worshipped now. I’ve matured.” I heard the smile in his voice, but damned if I was going to check for it. That was the one-hundred percent smirk one.
“What are you doing out here?” I asked. “We both know you’re the center-of-the-crowd type, not the wallflower who sneaks off to be alone.”
From the corner of my eyes, I saw him slip his hands into the pockets of his snug jeans. Another Chase Dawson trademark—close-fitting jeans to better emphasize an agreeable rear and an even more agreeable swell around front.
“A person can change,” he said, his shoulders lifting. “A person does change when all day, every day they’re surrounded by people and noise.”
My eyes lifted. “Must be difficult making all of that money from all of those adoring fans.”
“I’m not going to be able to say anything without you twisting it, am I?”
A wave of exhaustion came over me as though twenty-eight years of life had decided to catch up to me all at once. “I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Could have fooled me.”
I chipped away at the fresh pale pink polish on my nails, a nervous habit. It was the first manicure I’d had in years, and it hadn’t survived twelve hours. “Why did you come back?”
His head tipped toward the reception hall. “It was the ten-year reunion.”
A huff escaped from my mouth. “Please, you left this place and haven’t so much as spared a second thought for anything or anyone here. And some lame reunion in the Best Western ballroom is the can’t miss event of the summer?”
He rubbed the back of his neck in a familiar way. Used as a stalling measure when he was trying to figure out what to say and how to say it, it was a display I was all too acquainted with.
“I came back from one reason.” He slowly angled in my direction. When he let out a breath, his gaze all-intentional, my chest seized.
“Me?” I screeched, at the same time choking on a laugh. “You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’ve been waiting here, on pins and needles, for you. Keep on strutting back to that fancy Nashville estate of yours, because the only part of you I still want is the cautionary tale.”
Chase’s hand rubbed his jaw, his smile unmistakable despite his efforts to erase it. “I didn’t come back for you,” he stated, promptly bringing a flush to my face.
Of course he wasn’t there for me. The seventeen-year-old version hadn’t expressed any qualms ditching me as an up-and-comer; the twenty-eight-year-old country icon certainly wasn’t back to rekindle anything.
“Sorry to burst your bubble, even though I can tell you’ll be all torn up knowing that,” he said.
“Good to hear you still have a knack for sarcasm.”
He crouched beside the bench, staring at the dark pond. I was more concerned with checking the shrubs and shadows for any signs of the paparazzi he seemed to attract wherever he went. Literally, everywhere. Some dude had managed to snap a picture of Chase through his Tennessee estate’s bathroom window, fresh from the shower and shaving. The thirst for Chase Lawson had gone from parched to panting in one intimate image.
“I’ve got a new album that just dropped,” he said. “A whirlwind tour kicking off next week. I’ve had a bit of a public image problem this past year, and my PR team assured me that getting back to my roots will help shift that.”
My fingers snapped. “I knew this had something to do with the media. By the way, where is the camera squad tonight?”
“Somewhere. They’re always around.”
“I’m sure you really hate all that attention,” I chided, wondering how much more I had to throw at him before he’d move on.
“I came back because I need to clean up my image and do some damage repair to my reputation.” He went back to rubbing the back of his neck. “Now that I’m here with you, and you sort of accused me of being here for you, a crazy idea popped to mind.”
“I’d like to recommend you keep this idea to yourself,” I suggested, but he was already talking.
“If I had my old high school girlfriend with me on tour—rekindling an old flame with a small-town country girl—how could that not clean up an image?” He motioned at me. “You’re exactly what I need to show fans I’m getting my life back on track. A wholesome, down-to-earth girl who gets up at five to water the horses instead of going to bed at that hour after drinking the town dry.”
My head whipped in his direction, finally looking at him to determine if he was being serious. My god, he was.
“Not a chance in hell,” I said, enunciating each word slowly.
Chase didn’t blink. “Even if that proposition was tied to a sum of money?” When I opened my mouth to argue, he added, “A large sum?”
“My principles aren’t for sale.”
He shuffled a little closer, still kneeling. Damn. He was just as attractive in person from three feet away as he was on the cover of Rolling Stone. My stomach knotted again, but this time for a different reason.
“I don’t want to buy your principles.” One brow lifted. “Just six months of your time.”
For a minute, I sat there silently, part hypnotized by his presence, part contemplating his ridiculous offer. There were few people I disliked more than Chase Lawson, but I also had big plans for my future. Plans that necessitated money.
“How much?”
My head shook when I heard my question out loud. What was I saying? What was I actually contemplating doing?
“One hundred thousand a month,” he replied.
My hand curled around the arm of the bench. “Six hundred thousand dollars?” I shrieked, giving him a look like he was crazy.
“Fine. Six months. One million dollars.” He exhaled. “Final offer.”
My hand was dangerously close to ripping the handle from the bench. “One million dollars.”
My mind raced with everything I could do with that money. Restoring the farmhouse the way I’d dreamed, turning it into a quaint B&B with an agrarian twist. Spoiling my parents with a fancy cruise and a new farm truck. Finally getting to travel to some of the places I’d only imagined through the pictures of a magazine.
All it would take was six months with Chase.
It wasn’t exactly an easy decision, but it wasn’t a hard one. I’d given two years of my life to him already, and it had cost me more than I’d been prepared to pay. This time, he’d be the one paying for it. One million dollars to be exact.
I couldn’t answer quickly enough. “Deal.”

Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY 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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We Shouldn’t by Vi Keeland ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Bennett Fox walked into my life on one hell of a crappy Monday morning.

I was late for the first day at my new job—a job I’d now have to compete for even though I’d already worked eight years to earn it, because of an unexpected merger.

While I lugged my belongings up to my new office, a meter maid wrote me a parking summons.

She’d ticketed a long line of cars—except for the Audi parked in front of me, which happened to be the same make and model as mine.

Annoyed, I decided to regift my ticket to the car that had evaded a fine.  Chances were, the owner would pay it and be none the wiser.

Except, I accidentally broke the windshield wiper while slipping the ticket onto the car’s window.

Seriously, my day couldn’t get any worse.

Things started to perk up when I ran into a gorgeous man in the elevator.  We had one of those brief moments that only happened in movies.

You know the deal…your body lights up, fireworks go off, and the air around you crackles with electricity.  

His heated stare left me flush when I stepped off the elevator.  

Maybe things here wouldn’t be so bad after all.  

Or so I thought.

Until I walked into my new boss’s office and met my competition.

The gorgeous man from the elevator was now my nemesis. His heated stare wasn’t because of any mutual attraction.  It was because he’d saw me vandalize his car. And now he couldn’t wait to annihilate his rival.

There’s a fine line between love and hate—and we shouldn’t cross it.  

We shouldn’t—but straddling that line could be so much fun.

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Figures.

It was the gorgeous guy I’d seen in the elevator. And here I thought we’d had a little spark.

Bennett Fox grinned like he’d already been named my boss and extended his hand. “Welcome to Foster Burnett.”

Ugh. He wasn’t just good looking; he knew it, too.

“That would be Foster, Burnett and Wren, as of a few weeks ago, right?” I iced my subtle reminder that this was now our place of employment with a smile, suddenly thankful my parents had made me wear braces until I was nearly sixteen.

“Of course.” My new nemesis smiled just as brightly. Apparently his parents had sprung for orthodontic care, too.

Bennett Fox was also tall. I once read an article that said the average height of a man in the US was five-foot-nine-and-a-half inches; less than fifteen percent of men stood taller than six feet. Yet the average height of more than sixty-eight percent of Fortune 500 CEOs was over six feet. Subconsciously, we related size to power in more ways than just brawn.

Andrew was six foot two. I’d guess this guy was about the same.

Bennett pulled out the guest chair next to him. “Please, have a seat.”

Tall and with gentlemanly manners. I disliked him already.

During the ensuing twenty-minute pep talk given by Jonas Stern—in which he attempted to convince us we weren’t vying for the same position, but instead forging the way as leaders of the now-largest ad agency in the United States—I stole glances at Bennett Fox.

Shoes: definitely expensive. Conservative, oxford in style, but with a modern edge of topstitching. Ferragamo would be my guess. Big feet, too.

Suit: dark navy, tailored to fit his tall, broad frame. The kind of understated luxury that said he had money, but didn’t need to flaunt it to impress you.

He had one long leg casually crossed over the other knee, as if we were discussing the weather rather than being told everything we’d worked twelve hours a day, six days a week for was suddenly at risk of being in vain.

At one point, Jonas had said something we both agreed with, and we looked at each other, nodding. Given the opportunity for a closer inspection, my eyes roamed his handsome face. Strong jaw, daringly straight, perfect nose—the type of bone structure passed down from generation to generation that was better and more useful than any monetary inheritance. But his eyes were the showstopper: a deep, penetrating green that popped from his smooth, tanned skin. Those were currently staring right at me.

I looked away, returning my attention to Jonas. “So what happens at the end of the ninety-day integration period? Will there be two Creative Directors of West Coast Marketing?”

Jonas looked back and forth between us and sighed. “No. But no one is going to lose his or her job. I was just about to tell Bennett the news. Rob Gatts announced he’ll be retiring in a few months. So there will be a position opening up for a creative director to replace him.”

I had no idea what that meant. But apparently Bennett did.

“So one of us gets shipped off to Dallas to replace Rob in the southwest region?” he asked.

Jonas’s face told me Bennett wouldn’t be happy about the prospect of heading to Texas. “Yes.”

All three of us let that sink in for a moment. The possibility of having to relocate to Texas shifted my mind back into gear, though.

“Who will make the decision?” I asked. “Because obviously you’ve been working with Bennett…”

Jonas shook his head and waved off what I was beginning to question. “Decisions like this—where two senior management positions are being merged into one office—the board will oversee and make the final determination of who gets first pick.”

Bennett was just as confused as me. “The board members don’t work with us on a daily basis.”

“No, they don’t. So they’ve come up with a method of making their decision.”

“Which is?”

“It’ll be based on three major client pitches. You’ll both come up with campaigns on your own and present them. The clients will pick which they like best.”

Bennett looked rattled for the first time. His perfect composure and self-assuredness took a hit as he leaned forward and raked long fingers through his hair.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. More than ten years, and my job here comes down to a few pitches? I’ve landed half-a-billion dollars of ad accounts for this company.”

“I’m sorry, Bennett. I really am. But one of the conditions of the Wren merger was that due consideration be given to the Wren employees in positions that might be eliminated because of duplicity. The deal almost didn’t go through because Mrs. Wren was so insistent that she not sell her husband’s company, only to have the new organization strip away all of Wren’s hard-working employees.”

That made me smile. Mr. Wren was taking care of his employees even after he was gone.

“I’m up for the challenge.” I looked at Bennett, who was clearly pissed off. “May the best woman win.”

He scowled. “You mean man.”

★★★★★

We hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of We Shouldn’t!

 

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Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. With more than a million books sold, her titles have appeared in over fifty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in fourteen languages. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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Memento Mori by Lexi Blake ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Six men with no memories of the past
One leader with no hope for the future

A man without a past

Jax woke up in a lab, his memories erased, and his mind reprogrammed to serve a mad woman’s will. After being liberated from his prison, he pledged himself to the only thing he truly knows—his team. Six men who lost everything they were. They must make certain no one else gets their hands on the drugs that stole their lives, all while hiding from every intelligence organization on the planet. The trail has led him to an unforgiving mountainside and a beautiful wilderness expert who may be his only hope of finding the truth.  

A woman with a bright future

River Lee knows her way around the Colorado wilderness. She’s finally found a home in a place called Bliss after years lost in darkness. The nature guide prefers to show her clients the beauty found in the land, but she also knows the secrets the mountains hold. When she meets Jax, something about the troubled man calls to her. She agrees to lead him to the site of an abandoned government facility hidden deep in the forest. She never dreamed she was stepping into the middle of a battlefield.

A love that could heal a broken soul

Spending time with River, Jax discovers a peace he’s never known. Their passion unlocks a side of himself he didn’t even know he was missing. When an old enemy makes his first move, Jax and River find themselves fighting for their lives. But when his past is revealed, will River be caught in the crosshairs of a global conspiracy?

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES August 28  ***
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“This place is beautiful,” he said when she hesitated.

She nodded but didn’t move from her seat. “I love it here. I went to college in Denver, but I always missed this place. When I was younger, my dad had a house in Creede. He started the business there, but when he could, he moved us out of town. My dad was a loner, I suppose. Creede has a population of four hundred and Dad thought that was way too many people.”

“I know the feeling. I lived in London for a while. That was definitely too many people.” He kept his tone even. It was odd. Now that he was here, that hunger he always felt was tempered by her fear. He’d thought he would take anything offered to him, but he couldn’t having met her. If the blonde had offered herself up, he would have turned her down. Over the two hours they’d sat in the booth, eating fried food and drinking beer, he’d figured something out. Some people were more special than others. River was special. He should be more cynical. He could hear Damon Knight telling him to be cautious, but he couldn’t make himself do it. Perhaps it was the fact that he didn’t have a long well of history to draw from and to teach him that this was likely a mistake.

It didn’t feel like a mistake.

“Wow. I’ve never been farther than Kansas City.” She still wasn’t moving and her voice had taken on a tremulous tone.

His heart constricted, and it was surprisingly easy to not listen to his dick. His dick was pleading with him to get aggressive. His dick was trying to convince him that if he could get inside her, she would accept him.

Yeah, he wasn’t going to listen to his dick.

“If you’ve changed your mind, I can call my brother to pick me up. I have a phone and so does he. His number is programmed in. I don’t want to scare you. I had a good time talking to you tonight. It was one of the nicest nights I’ve had in a long time.” Ever. It was the best night ever. It was the first night he felt normal, though he wasn’t exactly sure what that word meant. Comfortable was a better one. That tight feeling in his chest had eased as he’d sat in the booth with River and Tucker and Heather.

Although he’d hated lying to her.

She finally turned, looking at him. Her eyes shone in the moonlight. “You mean that, don’t you?”

He wanted to touch her. He’d had to force his hands not to move toward her all night long. The most he’d allowed himself was to have their hips and shoulders touch as they’d sat next to each other. He’d decided it had been a good thing he’d sat next to her because he was fairly certain he had a case of Big Tag’s crazy eyes, and she would have seen them had he sat across from her.

“I do mean it. Please don’t get me wrong. I want you. I would like nothing more in the world than to take you into that cabin, lay you out, and make a feast of you. I want to kiss you and when I say that I don’t merely mean your lips. I want to put my mouth all over your body. But more than I want that, I want you to like me.” It was important somehow. He wouldn’t see her after tonight, but he couldn’t stand the idea that she was afraid of him.

Everyone was afraid of him. Everyone he knew was waiting for his powder keg to blow, but he’d sworn to himself earlier in the evening that it wouldn’t blow around her. He would protect her even if it was only for one night.

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.

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Until We Are Gone by Gia Riley ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Until We Are Gone, an all-new Standalone Emotional Romance by Gia Riley is coming July 30th!!

I wanted a family with Cash.

We had dreams –building a house, kids, a dog, and, yes, even the white picket fence.

Or so I’m told.

I don’t remember anything about my husband. Not the wedding or the vows we shared.

The past ten years were erased and with time, they’re supposed to come back.

But this isn’t your typical case of amnesia

What if I’m not supposed to remember?

What if I was meant to forget?

Maybe I don’t want my old life back.

Because if the accident hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have uncovered the truth.

Losing my memory wasn’t tragic.

Losing my memory was fate.

The man grabs my hand and laces his fingers with mine, careful not to jostle the IV. Nothing about his hand is familiar, and I’m left wondering if it’s okay to be touching at all.

“Who are you?” I ask him, wondering why he still hasn’t told me his name. If he’s someone who saved me, then I want to know. I need to know. “Are you the pilot?”

He sucks in a breath, and the tears flow harder down his cheeks. There’s a long, uncomfortable pause, and he barely blinks.

A few seconds later, he clears his throat and says, “Cash. I’m Cash. Your husband.”

I search his face for anything familiar. A dimple. A wrinkle. Maybe a freckle. But nothing about him triggers a single memory. I should feel more than this. I should have love for the man I married. I’m not sure how long ago, but we exchanged vows. Vows I don’t remember. And I’m sure I wore a white dress, probably my dream dress, and I don’t even know if it was made of lace or satin. My first Holy Communion dress was an expensive chiffon, and I hated that itchy material, so I’m sure it couldn’t have been chiffon.

Cash brushes his finger down the side of my face, chasing away a tear. I didn’t realize I was crying.

“I think I want to be alone,” I whisper.

He pauses and then lets go of me.

I wait for him to say something, but he just tucks closed fists into his pockets and stares at the floor.

 Author Gia Riley has been in love with writing romance since high school when she took her very first creative writing class. From the small but mighty state of Delaware, she’s a country girl at heart, traveling back to her roots in Pennsylvania as often as she can.

While New Adult and Contemporary romance have been her passion, she’s dabbled with more erotic plotlines lately, enjoying discovering the sexier side of love with each story she pens. After all, she’s a lover of all things romance – a firm believer that everyone deserves their

happily ever after no matter what it takes to get there.

When she’s not writing, you can find her roaming the aisles of Kirkland’s, up to her elbows in Play-doh, or trying to hunt down spoilers for her favorite reality television show.

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Freed by Carly Phillips ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

An all-new emotional and romantic standalone from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carly Phillips is coming July 10th!

Fall for the missing Ward sister…

Juliette Collins is privileged and isolated from the world by her over-protective father. She thinks she knows the truth about her history until a file in her father’s safe reveals she has sisters she never knew about. A family she’s never met. Betrayed, she realizes there’s a life waiting for her outside the walls of her daddy’s New York City penthouse and Juliet is determined to live it. Against her father’s wishes, she heads to a small beach community to meet her siblings… and finds herself way out of her depth instead.

In the personal protection business, Braden Clark thinks nothing of taking on a job to watch over a city girl in town for the summer. If her father wants to know his daughter is safe, it’s no problem and an easy way of earning a paycheck. Except Braden doesn’t count on falling for the sheltered Juliette. Watching her experience her firsts, getting an apartment, finding a job, meeting up with her lost sisters, soon Braden’s brand of protection becomes a little too personal. He’s mixing business with pleasure and lying to a woman he’s coming to care deeply about.

Sexual attraction burns bright between them and Braden is by her side as she finds herself, her family, and what it means to love… but what happens when she discovers his secret? That he’s been paid to watch over her all along?

A Standalone Novel

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“What are you doing?” The first hint of true panic since he’d been found out sliced into her father’s voice.

“I’m leaving.”

He rushed over, placing a hand on her suitcase. “Juliette, no. We can work this out. I want to make this right.”

“You can’t.” The damage was done by withholding information about her family.

“Be reasonable before you storm out. You’ve never been away from home alone. Never held a job. What are your plans?”

“And whose fault is that? You’ve kept me dependent on you, but now it’s time for me to be an adult. To meet my sisters and live my own life.” She closed her suitcase and zipped it around before turning to face him. “I can promise you, I will be perfectly fine.”

“I only ever had your best interest at heart. You have to know that.” He stepped back, a defeated expression on his face. “Would you consider taking a bodyguard?” he asked. “Someone to watch you from afar?”

She snorted at that. “No. I’m an adult and it’s time you started treating me like one. I’m taking the summer for myself. I’ll decide what happens at the end of August. Until then, please respect my privacy.”

He hesitated, then perhaps seeing the determination in her expression, hearing the certainty about her decision in her voice, he lifted a hand and stepped back. “Fine. I’ll expect to hear from you. Often.”

She shook her head. “Sorry, Dad. You’re not telling me what to do anymore.” She hesitated, knowing he had a bad heart and not wanting to upset him more despite how hurt and angry she was. “I know you love me,” she said, voice softening. “And I love you, but it’s way past time for me to be on my own.”

“So be it.”

She narrowed her gaze, surprised at his capitulation. She’d expected him to turn his chilly anger on her, but he was letting her go without too much of an argument.

Relief and excitement filled her soul. She was going to meet her family, experience everything she’d missed out on, and finally, live her own life.

For herself and nobody else.

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Carly Phillips is the NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels, including the Indie published, Dare to Love Series. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.

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Saving Beck by Courtney Cole ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Reminiscent of the beloved novels by Mary Kubica and Jodi Picoult comes a chilling portrayal of a son’s addiction and its harrowing effects on both him and his mother from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole. SAVING BECK releases July 17, 2018. Check out the teaser below, and pre-order your copy of SAVING BECK today!

There comes a time when offering your life for your child’s doesn’t work, when you realize that it’ll never be enough. 

The cold needle in his warm vein was a welcome comfort to my son at first. But then it became the monster that kept us apart. 

Heroin lied, and my son believed. It took him to a world where the last year didn’t happen, to a place where his father was still alive. What Beck didn’t understand was that it couldn’t bring his father back from the dead. It couldn’t take away his pain, not permanently. 

You think it can’t happen to you, that your kids, your family, will never be in this situation. 
I thought that too. But you’re wrong. 

Step into our world, and see for yourself. 
Watch my golden boy become a slave to this raging epidemic. Watch me try and save him. 

Drug addiction comes with a price. 
Trust me, you’re not equipped to pay it. 

Don’t miss this heart wrenching, evocative, yet hopeful novel—it will leave you forever changed.

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES JULY 17, 2018  ***
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The hospital is a beacon of light and hope as we pull in. I barely remember to put my car in park before I jump out and I leave it in the middle of the lane, the tires wrenched haphazardly toward the curb.

“Ma’am, you can’t park there,” a guy in a security uniform says with his fake badge, but I don’t answer. I toss him my keys and push my way to the doors, and that’s when I see him.

My son.

They’ve pulled him out of the ambulance, and he’s so still, so white. He’s got the body of a man and the face of a boy, and he’s got vomit in his hair. One hand dangles over the edge of the gurney, orange flecks dripping from his fingers to the floor, but no one notices, no one cares.

“Beck,” I breathe, and he doesn’t open his eyes. “Beck,” I say louder, as loud as I can. His mouth is slack, but he’s not dead, he can’t be dead because someone is pumping his heart with her fist. She’s running next to the gurney, and she’s pounding on his heart, making it beat.

“Coming through,” she yells at the doors, and there is a team of people working on him. They’re frantic, and that’s not good.

I chase after them, through the emergency room, through the people, but someone grabs me at a giant set of double-doors, the gateway to the important rooms.

“You can’t go in there,” a nurse tells me.

“That’s my son,” I try to tell her, but she doesn’t care. “Beck,” I scream, and I try to see through the windows, but I can’t because he’s gone. “I love you, Beck. Stay here. Stay here.”

The nurse grasps my arm, and I can’t stand anymore. My legs are tired and the adrenaline… it numbs me. I collapse beside her and she tries to hold me up, but she can’t… I’m on the ground.

My face is wet, when did I start crying?

“You have to save my son,” I beg her, my fingers curled into her arm. I stare into her eyes. Hers are green, ringed with blue, and she looks away. Something about her seems so familiar, something about those eyes.

“We’ll try, ma’am,” she says uncertainly. It’s the uncertainty that kills me. “We’ll do everything we can. I’m going to take you to a quiet room, and give you a blanket. Is there anyone I can call for you?”

I shake my head. “No. I already called my sister.”

“Okay,” the nurse says quietly and her name tag says Jessica. She takes me to a waiting room, a quiet private one, the ones they use when the outcome might not be good. I know that because I’ve been here before.

I swallow hard and she puts a cup of coffee in my hand.

As she does, she pushes a stray hair out of her face and her bracelet catches my eye. A simple chain with a silver dolphin on it. I’ve seen it before.

“You were here the night my husband was brought in,” I realize slowly. “Weren’t you? Do you remember me?”

It was a year ago. A year, two months… I check my watch… six days and twenty-two hours ago. Of course she doesn’t remember me.

But Jessica nods.

“I’m so sorry about your husband,” she tells me now, her voice quiet and thick. “I swear to you, we did everything we could.”

“I know,” I tell her. Because I do. The accident was so bad, there’s no way anyone could’ve survived. Except for Beck. He lived. But Matt...his injuries were insurmountable. That’s what the doctor told me that night.

I stare at the door, and this is the same room and that is the same door, and this is the same blue-tiled floor. For a minute, I’m back in that moment, and the doctor is coming in. I’d waited for hours and his face was so grave and I knew, I knew, before he could utter a word.

I shook my head because I didn’t want to hear what was coming next, but he spoke anyway.

Matt’s injuries were insurmountable, he’d said. We did everything we could.

But everything wasn’t enough, and my husband died.

“Is it a different doctor tonight?” I ask suddenly. “I need a different doctor. One who can save my son.”

I know it’s illogical. I know it was never the doctor’s fault, but it doesn’t matter because Jessica is nodding. “It’s a different doctor tonight,” she tells me. “Dr. Grant, and he’s very, very good.”

“Okay,” I whisper. “Okay.”

“If you need anything, you tell me,” Jessica says and I can see that she means it. She likes me. Or she feels sorry for me. It doesn’t matter which. I nod and she’s gone, and I’m alone.

Just like I was a year ago, and just like that night all I can do is pace.

I’m a caged mama wolf and there’s nothing I can do, but I know that if I stop moving, Beck might die. My energy is attached to his energy. I have to move. It all depends on me.

So I walk in circles.

I walk six paces, over the six white tiles, then I turn, taking three steps over the blue. I tread back six paces over the white, and then turn again, taking three more over the blue.

I will not stop, Beck. I won’t fail you. I won’t.

It becomes rhythmic, and I match my breaths with my steps. I’m a machine, a time-keeper, a being made of clock-work as I walk in circles, marking time. Every step I take, Beck is still alive. I feel it in my heart. It’s all up to me.

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Impossible Vastness of Us and the On Dublin Street series comes a heartfelt and beautiful new young adult novel, set in Scotland, about daring to dream and embracing who you are. Don’t miss THE FRAGILE ORDINARY releasing on June 26, 2018, and get a sneak peek of the book below!

I am Comet Caldwell.

And I sort of, kind of, absolutely hate my name.

People expect extraordinary things from a girl named Comet. That she’ll be effortlessly cool and light up a room the way a comet blazes across the sky.

But from the shyness that makes her book-character friends more appealing than real people to the parents whose indifference hurts more than an open wound, Comet has never wanted to be the center of attention. She can’t wait to graduate from her high school in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the only place she ever feels truly herself is on her anonymous poetry blog. But surely that will change once she leaves to attend university somewhere far, far away.

When new student Tobias King blazes in from America and shakes up the school, Comet thinks she’s got the bad boy figured out. Until they’re thrown together for a class assignment and begin to form an unlikely connection. Everything shifts in Comet’s ordinary world. Tobias has a dark past and runs with a tough crowd—and none of them are happy about his interest in Comet. Targeted by bullies and thrown into the spotlight, Comet and Tobias can go their separate ways…or take a risk on something extraordinary.

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Hearing and feeling Tobias’s heart beat beneath my cheek was the most wonderful feeling in the world. Despite my worry for him and for Stevie, I couldn’t help but feel happy as the boy I loved slept in my bed with his arm around me.

The morning sun woke him around nine in the morning. He groaned and then grew still, maybe realizing I was curled up against him. For a moment I tensed, fearing he was going to regret everything he’d said last night.

Instead he trailed his fingers down my arm. “You awake?” his voice rumbled above me.

I smiled, liking the tingles that bubbled and fizzed in certain parts of my body at the mere sound of his voice. “Yeah.”

“What time is it?”

I told him.

“Crap.”

“What?” I asked, sitting up as he reached across the bed to where his phone lay on the bedside table.

“Stevie and my mom.” He cursed again as he flicked the screen. “They’ve texted and called a bunch of times. I better call my mom back first before she calls the police or something.” He pressed the screen and held the phone to his ear. “Mom,” he said almost immediately. “I’m fine.” Tobias scowled. “I’m a big boy…no…no, I didn’t…I’m with Comet…” Streaks of color appeared high on his cheeks, surprising me. Tobias rarely got embarrassed. “No, we just fell asleep…yeah…I’m on my way.” He hung up and gave me an apologetic look. “I have to go.”

At his beleaguered tone, I placed a reassuring hand on his arm. “She’s your mum. It would be weird if she wasn’t worried you didn’t come home.”

“Yeah, whatever.” He shook his head and got off the bed, leaving me to frown at him.

Tobias seemed to be in a continually bad mood with his mother. I wish I had the guts to tell him to talk to her about why he was so mad, but I didn’t want to push too hard too soon on such a delicate subject.

“I’ll go appease her,” he said, slipping his trainers on. “Then come back?”

I opened my mouth to agree and then remembered my promise from the night before. “I’m going over to Vicki’s this morning.”

“Right. How about I meet you outside the Espy around three o’ clock?”

Relieved and delighted that he not only didn’t regret saying what he had last night but that he wanted to see me again so soon, I grinned and got off the bed. Tobias gave me that boyish smile of his and I reached for his hand, needing to touch him.

He squeezed mine, a solemnity entering his gaze. “I want to invite Stevie to meet us. I’m hoping that together we can talk him out of this bullshit. When it was just me I wasn’t getting anywhere, but he cares about you. Maybe he’ll listen.”

I nodded, loving him even more for wanting to help his cousin. “Definitely. If we let him know we’re here to help him through everything with his mum but that we can only do that if he walks away from Dean and the drugs…maybe he’ll see sense.”

I hoped.

Tobias hoped, too. I could see the turmoil in his eyes and I wanted desperately to be able to take it away.

It was as I was leading him from my bedroom to the front door that I heard the hallway floor creak behind us. I turned ever so slightly, catching sight of my dad in my peripheral. Ignoring him I hugged Tobias goodbye and waved him off down the garden path. I closed the door and turned to face my father. He stood frowning at me in his pajamas, a cup of coffee in one hand, a piece of toast in the other.

“Did that boy stay over?” he asked, sounding incredulous.

His tone suggested I’d done something wrong. I stiffened. “Yes.”

Dad took a step toward me, glowering now. “Don’t you think that’s something you should run past us first? You’re only sixteen, Comet.”

“Almost seventeen.” I bristled. How dare he suddenly play the parental card! Just when I was happy and didn’t need him, he wanted to stick his nose in where it was not wanted! A fire lit inside me and swept out of me before I could control it. “And let’s not play the concerned parent act, Kyle.” I strode toward my bedroom and shoved open the door. “You don’t get to decide which parts of my life you want to take an interest in. Having a kid? Kind of an all-or-nothing deal.” I stepped inside, gripping the door in my hand as I sneered at him. “You decided long ago it was nothing for you. No changing your mind now.” And with that I slammed the door in his shocked face.

Samantha Young is the New York Times,  USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of adult contemporary romances, including the On Dublin Street series and Hero, as well as the New Adult duology Into the Deep and Out of the Shallows.  Every Little Thing, the second book in her new Hart’s Boardwalk series, will be published by Berkley in March 2017. Before turning to contemporary fiction, she wrote several young adult paranormal and fantasy series, including the amazon bestselling Tale of Lunarmorte trilogy. Samantha’s debut YA contemporary novel The Impossible Vastness of Us will be published by Harlequin TEEN in ebook& hardback June 2017

Samantha has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award 2012 for Best Author and Best Romance for On Dublin Street, Best Romance 2014 for Before Jamaica Lane, and Best Romance 2015 for HeroOn Dublin Street, a #1 bestseller in Germany, was the Bronze Award Winner in the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2013, Before Jamaica Lane the Gold Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2014 and Echoes of Scotland Street the Bronze Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2015.

Samantha is currently published in 30 countries and is a #1 international bestselling author.

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SALT by Mara White ~ Chapter Reveal

Salana Livingston did everything right, from taking her multi-vitamin to kneeling before bed to say her prayers every night. She followed the path her parents had planned before she was born, never questioned the role until the day a bus-load of sweaty kids from the Bronx got dropped at her parent’s horse farm.

Tiago Alcazar knew a life of hard knocks. An incarcerated father, a missing and strung-out mother who left him to rely on his aged grandmother for most of his life.

Tiago runs the mean streets of the neighborhood that raised him, living hand-to-mouth, everyday a gift, if he can just make it.

Burdened by a world that only wants to see her as perfect, Salana finds her greatest confidant in a boy society has labeled as worthless. Their paths cross too many times for their stubborn hearts to deny the connection, but can the delinquent and the debutant defy the odds and overcome the social constructs that condemn them?

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CHAPTER ONE

Tiago

“I’m telling you, homie! As soon as this bitch-ass arm heals we’re going back to Connecticut. You got the code for the garage, we roll out a Lamborghini and we’re set for life mother fucker!” They were sitting in Chico’s living room. The air was hot and sticky circulated by only a lazy ceiling fan that was covered in years of greasy dust and the dangling remnants of some bygone party streamers. They’d ordered a pizza and demolished the whole thing. Chico was only gaining more of gut rendered immobile by his collarbone break. He had pizza sauce on his tank top. A real gem. A catch—this kid. But the horse ranch trip, the fall, and Tiago’s ride home from the princess were still high on their list of the most exciting things to happen that summer. They rehashed it all, spilling the details to their friends.
“I don’t want to steal her car. I liked that chick,” Tiago said in weak protest. He flipped through the channels now that Chico’s mom had gone out to get groceries and relieved them from endless Telemundo. He left the television on a basketball game and did his best slam dunk swoosh leaping up from the couch.
“Mano, we won’t be stealing from her really if you think about it. That’s her parent’s car—not hers. And what the fuck would she care, she’s got so much money anyway? We’d be doing them a favor taking one of those off their hands.”
“That’s pushing it, Chico. Why don’t we just steal a different car from someone else in the same neighborhood?”
“Cause you got the code for her garage fuck face! Jesus Christ!” Chico hit his forehead exaggeratedly. “How many cars can one family even drive?”
“What you don’t have the guts to break in?”
“Neither do you, bitch. Can you help me take my shirt off so I can take a shower?”
“Fucking baby, you are on your own for that shit cause you stink. Check you later. I gotta go home and check on my Ma anyway.”
“I’d help you if it was the other way around!”
“Never will be, cause I ain’t fucking stupid, bro!” Tiago punched Chico hard in the arm that wasn’t in a sling. He got up and threw the remote at Chico’s belly. “I’ll fucking go if you park that shit downtown and the fuck away from my building. I’ll drive it, but I don’t want to sell it.”
“Deal!” Chico said, smiling triumphantly. Tiago wasn’t giving him a bath. He had to draw the line somewhere.

The tickets for the metro north just about cleaned them out. There must have been irony in the deal, spend all your money on transportation to go steal something that could help you get around and then sell it to make money. Tiago was so nervous his sweat stunk, Chico however, was riding on cloud nine, already ticking off the list of things he was going to buy in his head. Tiago would buy a washing machine for his grandmother, so she wouldn’t have to lug laundry down to the corner, or wash it in the tub with her arthritic hands like she sometimes did.
“’Mijo, there was no laundromat when I was growing up. My mother scrubbed the clothes on a board in the yard, hung it to dry on a line between two trees.”
“Look at your hands, Ma. You not even sixty but your hands are eighty. That’s why.” He kissed her on the cheek and grabbed his book bag off the back of the chair. “I’ll be home late, don’t wait up.”
Tiago had spent countless hours in school daydreaming about being able to provide for his grandmother. Visions of washing machines with a red bow on top, a new refrigerator that didn’t drip or smell. He never imagined what he’d get for himself, just fantasize about the amenities that would make her life easier.  
“Shit, this train is huge. The seats look like couches!” Chico couldn’t play it cool to save his life. The kid was green as fuck, not a seasoned car thief. The only thing Chico was good at was remembering stats on baseball cards and eating everyone under the table.
“Bro, we’re trying to not call attention to ourselves, you hear me?” Tiago sat down by the window, the uneasy feeling creeping through his belly. They stuck out like sore thumbs with the evening commuters. Everyone in suits and blazers, reading newspapers, scrolling through stocks on their phones. How could they pull off a car theft with so many witnesses? Every single one of these jerks would remember them. Nobody who looked like them was on their way to Connecticut. Tiago’s gut felt heavier with each mile gained toward their destination. How fucked up was it that they were gonna go after the girl who’d been so kind to them? Rip her off in return? No wonder people branded them as thugs, maybe that’s what they were.
They filed off the train with a million commuters, it was nearing dark when they arrived and everyone rushed to the park and ride lot to get home to their families. Must be nice, Tiago thought. A house and a car, back yard and people acting happy you came home, a jumping dog, kids with spelling tests to show you. Probably a fucking pool to swim in. He’d seen it in the movies and on TV. That wasn’t what happened in his neighborhood. Broken families were the norm, functional ones, the exception. At least half of his friends were being raised by their grandparents. A parent in jail, addicted to drugs, never made it to the States, was plain old down-on-their-luck, were the stories he heard on his block. Domestic violence, child abuse, neglect—those were the cuts that tore families apart.
The park and ride lot emptied just as fast as the train to leave Tiago and Chico standing under the bright sweep of street light looking caught in the headlights. Tiago started walking toward the street and Chico followed him. He had a good sense of direction and he knew Salana’s house, her estate, was walking distance from the train station. Walking distance in a town where nobody walked. Again they stuck out like strobe lights ambling along the side of a residential street with no fucking sidewalk.
“These people probably gonna call the police on us just because of how we look. Probably got cameras set up.”
They walked for twenty minutes, the houses bordering the streets becoming more and more opulent, the gates taller, the security tighter. Tiago recognized Salana’s house as soon as they neared. Not because he’d cased the place to steal, but because he’d wanted to see her again, to return to the spot under different circumstances. He’d imagined himself as her boyfriend countless times in his head.
“It’s this one up here with the all the lights on. How we gonna stay hidden when they got that place lit up like a stadium?”
“We crawl on the border and then stand up and sprint to get to the garage.” Chico flicked his cigarette and the cherry bounced on the street and spewed sparks. The kid had watched too many action flicks.
“Bet the fucking gate is wired,” Tiago said. He was getting cold feet.
“We move fast. That way if we trigger the gate, by the time they get there to check it out, we’re basically already in the garage with our pick of cars.” Tiago thought Chico was being unrealistically optimistic. Grand Theft Auto had inflated his ego to carjacker extraordinaire, when in reality the most he’d ever stolen was a handful of cash out of the collection plate at church. Their luck peaked in the unexpected arrival of a car, it’s lights looming larger out of the darkness. The driver signaled and pulled into Salana’s driveway. A young man stuck his head out and said something into the intercom. He smiled like a million bucks and Tiago already hated him. Fucking Hitler haircut, first car—a Tesla. But what really made him want to smash the guy’s head in was the idea of him touching Salana, her laughing at his jokes. Tiago would fight with bloody fists for her, that douche would throw his money in the air as a distraction and start crying before someone even hit him.  
The boys crouched and ran, slipped through the gates right before they closed. As they approached the house, it became apparent they’d crashed some kind of party. The half-moon driveway was crowded with parked cars, not a Ford or a Toyota in sight. The sickest cars Tiago and Chico had ever seen. They stared openly, the lighted up mansion, the driveway turned car showroom. Drake was sounding from a top of the line stereo reverberating through the walls and bursting forth into the still night and the silence of the suburbs. They were slow to process that this was real life. Sure they’d seen it in music videos and placed themselves in the role of protagonist in plenty of daydreams, why not? Honey’s with string bikinis, pouring out label Champagne into the hot tub, the ice and gold, the cars, the clothes, the sunglasses that cost as much as their family’s annual food budget. But that was fantasy and this was someone’s real life.
“Salt is a fucking pimp, bro. She’s straight up balling that bitch,” Chico said, jaw on the floor.
“Good. They won’t even miss the car,” Tiago said. His voice was full of rancor. He felt jealously swim in his bloodstream—toxic—like the sewage that overflowed into the Hudson during a rainstorm. He strutted across the brightly lit, meticulously manicured lawns like a boss, pimp limp fired, repping the dignity of who he was in the face of this great wealth.
“Yo, Tiago, wait up!” Chico yelled. Chico’s ambling limp was real on account of his one arm still braced in a sling and useless. They were a ramshackle crew. No guns, knives or experience, just hood attitude bolstered by the accomplishment of seeing the task this far through—they’d made it to Connecticut, it was worth something.
Tiago’s hair stood on end and nerves seesawed in his stomach. He wasn’t afraid, but rather on high alert, excited, reckless and ruthless, ready to take someone down just for looking at him the wrong way. A car door slammed and Chico and Tiago both froze. A tall blond guy in a sweater vest looked at them inquisitively.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked. The guy threw his joint to the ground. Tiago could smell the sweet burn of weed, but to his seasoned nose he could also tell it wasn’t good. Not like the premium he could get these rich kids. Sell it for more, take them all for a ride and then roll around in cash like a dog in mud from the profits.
How the hell would they pull off taking a car now? Tiago didn’t even know what they were there for anymore. What if they missed the last train back to the city? Would they sleep in the station like bums? And what if they got arrested? His grandmother wasn’t capable of making a trip all the way to Connecticut to bail him out for trespassing.
“Salana around?” Tiago asked the guy staring them down. The way the words took a bite out of his heart made him realize stealing cars was pretense all along. He’d only wanted to see her, to stroke her blonde hair, to rub his nose against her little one and have his insides turned out. But if he had to break the law to see her, he would.
“It’s her fucking party. She know you’re coming?”
The guy was wearing loafers. He had to answer to a guy wearing loafers and a sweater vest. A fucking asshole Mr. Rogers was what he was.
“Dude, what are you doing?” Chico screeched at him. Tiago’s pants felt heavy, his kicks impossibly clunky, he couldn’t remember if he’s put on cologne or deodorant for that matter. His shirt was clean, but it was old and suddenly felt so cheap to have Billionaire Boy’s Club emblazoned across the front of his chest, when he was in the presence of the real Billionaire’s Club. It didn’t help that the guy stared at them like unsavory rats that had wandered across his clean pasture.
“Can you get Salana for us? Tell her we’re in the garage when she gets a chance?”
“Why don’t you wait here,” the guy said quickly texting on his phone. Tiago walked toward the garage anyway; he couldn’t stand to be scrutinized by the judgmental mother fucker anymore.
“Ti, bro. I swear to fucking God you lost your mind!” Chico said as Santiago disabled the alarm on the garage. There were cameras, two he could see plainly right over the door. “Let’s bounce. This is crazy,” Chico said. He didn’t want to go to jail he liked his mother’s cooking too much. He loved sitting in the sun and playing basketball in the park for twenty-three hours a day as opposed to one. “I’m out!” Chico said, turned on a dime and ran.
“Ditch me, why don’t you, when the going gets tough?” Tiago wanted to scream, Unleash the hounds! But he wasn’t so mean he’d want his friend to pee his pants.
Tiago decided to go through the motions. He chose the Rover for the resale ease and value. It was unlocked and the door opened smooth like honey. All the keys were in the lockbox by the door, just as they had been when Salana did it all in front of him. Like a temptress, like an invitation to take one.
Here’s the big red juicy apple. I know you’re starving. Bite it!
There was something about the feel and smell of brand new that was extraordinarily pleasing, that gave an air of authority and power without doing a thing. Wealth and pipe dreams of attaining it could be as addictive as a drug and probably just as dangerous. He was about to slide into the driver’s seat when someone grabbed him from behind. He cursed, angry at himself for having let his guard down. One held him back against the car, while the other, the blond, knocked his fist into Tiago’s face, hitting him just below the nose. Not a trained fighter, just beginner’s luck that he made contact. It was a weak punch but it landed and stung like a bitch. Tiago heaved his shoulders forward to throw off the one he couldn’t see. The taste of blood in his mouth made him vicious and he landed a punch right in Vest and Loafer’s gut that promptly knocked the wind out of him. Tiago was used to fighting dirty and street. He’d been in scuffles on the corner since first grade. The boys in Connecticut had never taken a real beating.
“Call the police!” the guy shouted at his friend.
“Don’t fucking call the police!” Tiago responded almost casually. “Why call the cops? Because we hit each other? Come on! Don’t be a pussy.”
“Then get the fuck out of here right now! Leave!” Loafer’s feathers were ruffled, his face was red and his hair disheveled.
“Did you tell Salana like I told you too, bitch?”
“I’m right here,” she said. Salana walked into the garage and put her hand on Loafer’s arm.
“I just wanted to talk to you,” Tiago said. “Alone.”
He wiped his hand across his mouth, it felt warm and burned. There was blood on the back of his hand and he spat blood on the floor gaining a look of fury from the handsome boys.
“Brandt, just go. It’s fine, I know him.”
“If you fucking touch her, you’re a dead man,” Brandt pointed his finger at Santiago like his threat carried weight. Tiago spat again. “Piece of shit, thug,” Brandt muttered as he turned to go.
Once alone, the silence between them rose up and expanded like leavened bread in an oven, filling even the dark corners and the ceiling above them. They stood ten feet away from one another and took the other in. Tiago clenched his fists and Salana watched blood drip from his split lip. She cut across the space first and grabbed his chin so as to better inspect his face.
“You’re bleeding,” she said. “Come inside, we can put something on it.”
“Give me a minute to cool down so I don’t kill your friend, Salt.”
“Why did you come here, Tiago? You should have at least called.”
“To steal a car. You let me see that code. It was an invitation I couldn’t resist.”
She crossed her arms across her chest and looked relatively unaffected by what he said.
“Take one if you want, but I’m sure there will be repercussions.”
“Naw, when I got here, I realized what I really wanted was to steal you instead.”
He saw her pupils dilate. He heard how her breath caught in her chest. He felt tingly all over like he might pass the fuck out at her feet after one bitchass punch.
“Come on, let’s get your face cleaned up.” She took his hand and led him around the side of the huge estate.
“We’ll just go downstairs and that way we can avoid Brandt and the others.” Salana punched in another code and allowed Tiago to see it. He felt like he had to memorize those numbers because they were symbolic of her letting him in. Seeing those numbers meant something. Code for: trust. Cipher for: I accept you just as you are.
He followed her down a sweeping staircase and into what looked like a basement entertainment room. A pool table, leather couches, a full bar and a fireplace. Basically a space he and his friends would sacrifice their left nuts for. Salana flicked on stained-glass low hanging lights in the basement room which was bigger than his entire apartment.
“The bathroom is right there, I’ll grab the first aid kit.”
The lights rose by themselves as he stepped into the bathroom, a room so spotless and sparkling it nearly strained his eyes. Salana’s life looked like a Hollywood set whereas his looked like a public service announcement for the dangers of drug use. He ran his hand underwater to wash off the blood.
“Sit up here,” Salana said, patting the counter sink. She ran a white washcloth under warm water and brought it to his lip. “I’m sorry he punched you,” she whispered as she dapped at the gash.
“Probably deserved it,” he said through the towel. “What’s the occasion for the party?”
Salana squirted some ointment on her finger and brought it to his upper lip.
“Oh, my friend Justine’s birthday. She’s upstairs. My parents are in Europe so everyone decided to come here.” She tried to touch the bleeding gash and Tiago grabbed her wrist. She stopped and made eye contact.
“You’re so fucking fine, Salt. I can’t stop thinking about you. I wouldn’t steal from you. I just wanted to see you.” His grip on her wrist was tight, because his confession felt important. He usually let a girl know he was into her with body language, lingering hands and soft words in her ear, but with Salana he told her as if he were in the confessional. “I like you and I don’t know what the fuck to do about it.”
Who knew honesty could feel like getting run over by a steam roller. Cracking your head open and letting the rabid butterflies escape to fly upwards in a swarm. It was almost too much for him. Butterflies? They were bats and he was a goner.
Her lips were parted and she stared intently at his face. Her blue eyes flared with emotion and his searched her face for even a hint of reciprocation. “I know it ain’t even possible. I just wanted to let you know how I felt, and shit.”
“I—” was all she could get out
“You can go back to your party, back to Branch. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
Salana blinked and her eyes were filling with tears. She closed them and leaned into Tiago. He caught her face in his hands and his lips found hers. The kiss was so soft and ghostly like a whisper—almost nothing—until it wasn’t and then, it was real, it was perfect, it was fucking everything.
She gasped when he took her whole mouth, prying open the seam of her lips with his tongue. Tiago kissed like a carnivore. Wolf-mouth. No rich-pansy orthodontist’s dream. He came from real life. His cut was the ghetto. He kissed projects and food stamps and lives that were cut short. He kissed give.it.all.to.me.now because punk-ass-bitches steal what doesn’t belong to them. His hands went to her hair, soft like silk and cool like the flip side of a pillow. He wanted to eat her, make a meal out of her flesh and touch the raw center of her heart after he’d consumed her.
“Fuck,” he whispered into her mouth. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
His dick was already hard, pressing against his jeans with an urgency that was painful. He’d blow his load from her tongue alone like a fucking kid looking at a Hustler under the covers with a flashlight.
“God, I want you so bad,” he lamented. Was he kissing for the first time? No, but it fucking felt like it.
His fingers speared through her hair cupping her ears and the back of her skull as he devoured her mouth and pulled her to him, registering nothing, only desperate for more. Tiago hopped down from the counter, scooped Salana up and placed her where he’d been. Jerking her forward by the hips he brought her flush with his erection. Salana opened her eyes wide suddenly, the blue piercing right through him. Her eye contact sent a surge of power to his groin. He leaned into her again and thumbed her nipples through her white cotton shirt. Salana tipped her head back and mewled. The heat coming from her center made him lose control. He couldn’t stand how erotic she looked, head thrown back, nipples tipped to the ceiling and her long hair almost touching the sink behind her. His blood smeared on her full lips made his stomach muscles clench with something forbidden and primal.
“Stop,” she said still kissing him. “Stop!” she pushed at his chest this time and he backed all the way up to the wall.
“Fuck, I’m sorry. Shit, Salana. I’m sorry, I lost control.” His longing was so fierce that kissing her felt like survival. He was the hunter, she was the doe. He didn’t want to kill her, but he wanted to make the damn shot even if it killed him in the process.
She shook her head and wiped at her mouth with her fingers.
His chest heaved like he’d been running, but he was standing there in her bathroom, palms upturned like a fucking idiot. That kiss meant the world to him.
“I’ll show myself out. I shouldn’t have come.”

Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.

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Mister Tonight by Kendall Ryan ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

From New York Times bestselling author Kendall Ryan comes a standalone romance about a swoony single dad and the new neighbor he falls for.

Last night was the most embarrassing night of my life.

I was THAT girl.

You know, the highly intoxicated chick celebrating her thirtieth with her two best friends—the ones who are happily married. And the more I drank, the more I wanted to do something reckless to celebrate.

By reckless, I meant the sexy and alluring man dressed in a business suit standing near the bar. You know his type—tall, dark, and handsome. I was sure he was out of my league, but I’d had just enough alcohol that things like that no longer seemed to matter. I’m not fat, mind you, but you can tell I like French fries, so there’s that.

He took me home and I enjoyed the hottest birthday sex of my life, well until it came to a screeching, and rather unwelcome halt.

There’s nothing quite like being interrupted mid-ride with a little voice asking:
“What are you doing to my daddy?”

Just kill me now…… or so I thought.

Come to find out the man I rode like a bull at the rodeo is my new landlord.

***  PREORDER ~ RELEASES JUNE 18  ***
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fucking loved it. The idea of a man devoted to his kid had them panting for days. But casual, no-strings hookups? To them, me being a dad screamed one of two things: I was either an irresponsible asshole who couldn’t properly wrap it up, or I was a total commitment addict trying to lure them in with my adorable four-year-old child in need of a new mama. Either way, it usually didn’t go over well. But so far, Kate was handling it fine.

Then she crossed the room toward me, and a single thought pervaded my brain.

Fuck, she’s sexy.

All those curves and her throaty laugh, coupled with her confidence? I was a total sucker for a confident woman who knew what she wanted.

“Happy birthday,” I whispered, placing my hands on her waist and drawing her in close.

Just because this would most likely be a one-time thing didn’t mean I wanted to rush through it. Quite the opposite, actually. I wanted to savor and enjoy every minute of this. Starting with the perfect kiss.

“It’s almost midnight,” she murmured, her lips just inches from mine.

Placing one hand on her cheek, I guided her mouth to mine, sealing my lips over hers in a slow, soft kiss.

She responded perfectly, opening her mouth in a silent invitation for my tongue to slide against hers. My hands found those curves wrapped under that black fuck-me dress I’d been admiring, and God, she felt even better under my palms than I could have imagined. Soft and warm and so inviting.

I pressed one more slow kiss to her lips and pulled back to study her reaction. I rarely did this kind of thing. Having her here was surreal . . . and really fucking turning me on, knowing what was probably about to happen.

“Can I get you something to drink?” I asked, slipping my hand around her waist. If she’d changed her mind or wanted to slow things down, I wanted her to know that was fine too.

“I can think of other things I’d rather be doing with my mouth,” she replied, her voice low and sultry as she ran her fingertips over my chest.

God, I love a woman who knows what she wants.

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen titles, Kendall Ryan has sold over 1.5 million books and her books have been translated into several languages in countries around the world. She’s a traditionally published author with Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins UK, as well as an independently published author. Since she first began self-publishing in 2012, she’s appeared at #1 on Barnes & Noble and iBooks charts around the world. Her books have also appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than three dozen times. Ryan has been featured in such publications as USA Today, Newsweek, and InTouch Magazine.

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