Chapter Reveal

Blood Enemy by Mina Carter Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

Coming June 27th
 
 
 
 
 
Feral doesn’t do babies. Or pixies. So when someone dumps a pixie baby of all things on his doorstep, he does the only thing he can think of. He tries to palm it off on someone else. Unfortunately his neighbor is out of town, leaving her sister, Tessa, to house-sit. Her single and disturbingly attractive sister. Which leaves Feral with a couple of problems, especially when a bunch of pixie ninja wannabes break into the place and try to steal the baby. Does he turn his back on the pixies, a race he’s always hated… or will Tessa cast her own spell on the strong, silent-type Kyn Warrior?

Chapter one

There was a baby on his doorstep.
Feral stood in the open doorway of his apartment and looked down at the small bundle with confusion. Wrapped in a pale-yellow blanket, one pudgy arm and leg had escaped from the folds to punch and kick with enthusiasm. Gurgles filled the air, bursting with baby satisfaction and happiness. Whatever it thought it was fighting, in its mind it was obviously winning.
He scrubbed a hand over his shorn head. What was a baby doing on his doorstep?
“Well, hello little…actually, what the hell are you?” he murmured. “And how did you get out here?”
He squatted down to pick it up. It took three attempts. His large hands weren’t the right shape to pick up something so tiny. Lifting the squirming bundle carefully, he glanced up and down the corridor, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever had knocked on his door.

Nothing. Zip. Nada. Not surprising. Even if someone had been lurking in the shadows, the near six and a half feet of bare-chested kyn male who’d opened the door would have scared them off for sure.
Then the smell hit him.
Pungent and forceful, it stripped several layers off the inside of his nose like a gallon of paint thinner. Recoiling, he wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Fuck, are you supposed to smell that bad, mate?”
He looked at the baby in surprise, settling it into the crook of his arm. He didn’t really want it so close, not smelling as foul as it did, but he couldn’t leave it alone on the floor.
“Okay, let’s see who you are then.” He reached out to move the edge of the blanket covering the baby’s face and then froze. His lips peeled back from his fangs.
Its hair was bright pink.
Which meant two things: one, the baby was male, and two, it was a pixie. They were the only species Feral knew of with such weird hair colors.
“You just had to be a bloody pixie, didn’t you?” He glared up and down the corridor again. Still no one.
He sighed heavily. There was no point standing out on the doorstep like a spare prick at an orgy. A chill ran up the hallway and he looked down at the baby. He couldn’t leave it out here, even if it was a pixie. It would freeze to death.
He stepped back into his apartment, hooking a bare foot around the door and kicking it shut before wandering into the main room. Coming to an abrupt stop in the middle of the open area, he frowned. What the hell did he do now?
It was one of his rare nights off, so he wasn’t dressed for company. A pair of ripped, faded jeans hung off his hips and his feet were bare. Alone as he was, he hadn’t bothered with a shirt. And he’d already had a couple of beers, make that a lot of beers, so he couldn’t drive. Which left him with a problem. A small, baby-shaped problem.
He looked down, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips as the baby opened its eyes and blinked at him. Its wide, bright eyes were peacock blue.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got any suggestions as to what we should do?”
The baby just looked back and smiled the toothless, gummy smile of the very young. Feral had to admit, for a pixie, he was cute. The sort of cute that women went gaga over. The baby was also more placid than he’d been led to believe babies were. As the thought wandered through Feral’s mind, though, the baby’s face crumpled.
“WwwwwwwuuuuaaahhhHHHHHHHHHH!”
The cry started off low, but then swelled and grew in volume, like an old-fashioned air raid siren. Feral had only ever heard them in films, but now, he held an appreciation of what it must have been like in London during the Blitz. It seemed impossible someone so small could make so much noise. But he was, threatening to pierce Feral’s eardrums with the sheer volume.
“Shh…shh…shh, it’s fine. Everything’s fine!” He jiggled the baby a little, trying to calm it down, but this action only released fresh waves of the foul stench emanating from the diaper.
It wasn’t fine. It was so far from fine it beggared belief. He must really have pissed the fates off at some point for them to dump a baby on him… a pixie baby no less, when his dislike…no, his hatred of pixies was well known. Perhaps he’d kicked kittens or puppies in a former life or something.
Out of ideas, he strode across the room to the breakfast counter. The apartments on his block were open plan, with the kitchen and dining room leading into the main living space. Bathrooms and bedrooms were separated by the narrow excuse for an entrance hall.
He located his cell behind a couple of empty beer bottles and flicked it open. Vixen would know what to do. His partner of several years, and a mother herself, she’d know what to do with a baby. If he was lucky, she might even offer to look after the child for him.
Here’s hoping, he thought, hitting speed dial for Vixen and lifting it to his ear.
“Hi, you’ve reached Vixen’s phone…”
“Crap,” Feral swore as his patrol partner’s voicemail cut in. He’d forgotten Vixen’s mate, Kalen, had taken her out of town for the weekend. A second honeymoon since Vix had been eight months pregnant, and the size of a house, during their first.
“Fuckit.” He flicked the phone shut and tapped the edge of it against his teeth. Then he realized the terrible wail had stopped and he looked down in surprise. Peacock blue eyes were fixed on his cell.
“Oh, you like this, huh?” He smiled and waggled the phone. The baby watched it, tracking the movement. Feral frowned—he didn’t know they could do that until they were older. He shrugged. He must be mistaken. The little man was tracking the phone like a hawk.
Pudgy fists emerged from the blanket and made a grab for the sleek silver case, fastening around it and wrenching the thing from Feral’s grasp. He chuckled, an expression that turned to horror the next instant as the baby stuffed it into his mouth.
“No no no… Not good, not food!” he exclaimed as his phone was used as a teething ring.
“Give the phone back to Feral. There’s a good little boy,” he coaxed and worked to get a finger between the baby’s mouth and the phone. But the slobbering little thing had formed an unbreakable seal and he couldn’t even get his smallest finger in. He hissed in frustration, looking at the baby in confusion as he tried several different angles. It was no good. His hands were too big, more accustomed to battling rogue vampires than dealing with tiny babies.
Finally, he managed it, sliding his finger down the side and popping the phone free. He grimaced as his finger and the phone came away covered in baby slobber, and he held the phone up in triumph. A furious squeal tore the air while little fists struggled and pummeled the air.
“WWWWWWAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”
“Shit. Here.”
Feral stuffed the phone back in the baby’s mouth, silencing the squeal as quickly as it had started. Great, so what did he do now? He had no clue how to take care of a baby and had no time to learn. He needed to do something about the smell soon as well because it was getting worse.
Diapers. He needed diapers. But what sort, and where could he get them from? Disposable ones would be fine—he wasn’t all earth-momma like the woman two units down. He often saw her in the basement with laundry loads of white diapers.
His eyes widened. A woman with children. Even better, she had pixie blood. Once you’d seen one pixie woman, it was easy to spot them. Which meant he wouldn’t have to explain why the baby was sporting what looked like a bad dye job.
Grinning, he did an about face. Sliding his feet into a pair of heavy boots, he trudged out the door in search of salvation.
***
The tub of ice cream in the freezer was calling Tessa’s name. Chocolate fudge brownie—her favorite comfort food. After the crap day she’d had, she didn’t care about the extra calorie load. Fresh from the shower and swaddled in one of her sister’s huge toweling robes, she padded into the kitchen to collect the tub and a spoon. She didn’t bother with a bowl. Instead, she just pulled the lid off and dug in, right there in front of the freezer.
“Mmm…” She moaned in pleasure as the first taste of the chocolatey, gooey treat hit her tongue. The stresses of the day melted away, aided by the long, hot shower she’d just had and the taste of the ice cream. A little taste of her childhood. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the freezer.
Today had been the day from hell. Working in a busy logistics office meant everything had been put on hold when the trunk shipments had been late, throwing the whole day into disarray. It also meant Tessa didn’t get to leave until late. Considering she’d been on duty since 6 a.m., it hadn’t impressed her.
Finally, she’d been able to escape, a long weekend ahead of her. But even then, she hadn’t been finished. She’d agreed to house sit for her older sister Lisa, who was off for a break with her hubby and the twins. So, it had been a mad dash home to throw whatever she needed into a weekend bag and then a breakneck drive over to the apartment to catch Lisa before she left to get the usual “remember to feed the fish” chat. Lisa was only a couple of years older than Tessa, but anyone would think she was Methuselah the way she carried on.
Now though, all was calm. Tessa had waved Lisa and James off, twins already asleep and packed up in the back of the car, a little over an hour ago. Just enough time to unwind over a glass of wine as she watched the evening news and take a long, hot shower.
She just loved the shower here. A power unit, it had a setting that felt like needles bombarding her skin—thousands of tiny, dull pinpricks that took her breath away and felt wonderful after the day she’d had. She’d stood there for a full five minutes under the spray before even reaching for the shower gel.
Opening her eyes, she dug the spoon into the ice cream again, tucking the tub into the crook of her arm as she headed through to the main room. Flopping down in the middle of the comfortable sofa, she rooted around for the remote, spoon in mouth. It was there somewhere, she just needed to find it and then she’d be all set. The player was loaded with tonight’s choice of chick flick movie, one she’d been looking forward to watching for weeks but just hadn’t found the time to see. Now, she had the time. This weekend was all about her and relaxation. Lots of relaxation.
“Ahh, there you are.” She recovered the missing remote from under one of the scatter cushions. Her sister was obsessed with the things. Either that or they were breeding in here.
Sighing in satisfaction, she spooned more ice cream into her mouth as she flicked the player on. She curled her legs up under her and settled herself into a more comfortable position as the opening credits rolled. Life didn’t get much better than this.
Rap, rap, rap.
“Damn it.” She looked over her shoulder, but the knock on the front door continued as she stared. Who was that? Had to be a cold caller, she decided. A total control freak, Lisa would have let all her friends know she was going to be away. Which meant it had to be someone who didn’t know Lisa or James. And if it was, perhaps they would go away if she ignored them.
Rap, rap, RAP.
No such luck, the hammering got worse. Tessa sighed as she contemplated moving, flicking pause on the remote and freezing the scrolling text on the TV screen.
“This had better be good,” she grumbled under her breath as she put the tub on the floor, drove the spoon into the melting ice cream with a vicious stab, and then got to her feet. It had better be good…and quick, since she had a major fan-girl thing for the actor in the movie. The quicker she got back to ogle his toned and sculptured bod, the happier she’d be.
She grumbled under her breath all the way to the door, her bare feet silent on the wooden floor. Ever security-conscious, she threw the chain over before she opened it a crack.
“Hello?” That was as far as she got. The sight that met her eyes stopped any further comment in her throat.
On her doorstep was the most handsome, ripped guy she’d ever seen. Her eyes started at the middle of the broad chest, noting the heavily toned muscles as they moved outward. A long way outward. The guy was huge. And tall. Her eyes flicked upward. He had to be well over six feet. Made her feel kind of dainty, which wasn’t something Tessa got to feel very often.
He was also carrying a baby.
She blinked in surprise. Okay, this was one situation she wasn’t used to facing. Drop-dead gorgeous men did not appear on her doorstep with babies. They didn’t appear on her doorstep at all, with or without babies.
“Sorry, can I help you?”
“You might just save my life.” His voice was a low rumble that took Tessa’s breath away. The sort of sound that did things to her insides on a very primitive level.
“Um, okay?” she managed, dark eyes flicking to the bundle he carried. Then a slight breeze in the corridor, someone must have opened a door down the way, carried the unmistakable scent of a dirty diaper.
“Hmm, not being funny… but you might want to change the baby before you take it out visiting,” she suggested. And maybe put a shirt on, she added mentally. Although, she was enjoying the view. What kind of a father was he, though, bringing his baby out with a dirty diaper?
“That would be the problem.” He shifted the baby in his arms and smoothed the edge of the blanket down. Tessa caught her breath at the color of its hair.
It was bright pink, a color she’d only seen in the full-blooded members of her mother’s family. He looked at her and smiled, the merest hint of fang showing. “As you can see, it’s not mine. Someone just left it on my doorstep and I haven’t a clue what to do with it.”
He was a vampire.

The knowledge stunned Tessa for a moment, almost as much as his appearance on the doorstep had, and fear hit her system like a bullet. As she watched, he shifted on his feet a fraction and the light fell across the marks across the left side of his face and body. Her breath left her lungs in a rush.
“You’re a kyn warrior,” she exclaimed in relief, glad she hadn’t opened her door to a rogue vampire.
Even though the small amount of pixie blood flowing in her veins protected her from being turned into a vampire, rogue vamps were more interested in the high from a kill than turning their victims. And they generally didn’t use a baby as a decoy. They were more into breaking the doors down to get at their victims. A baby would be little more than a macabre snack.
“Live and kicking…name’s Feral,” he introduced himself, grinning a little. The small expression curved his full lips, transforming his rather cruel features…features made starker by the shaved hairstyle… from merely gorgeous, to devastating.
“Tessa, pleased to meet you,” she replied on automatic, silence stretching between them.
*
“So,” Feral continued, “you going to help me out here? The little guy…he’s really beginning to smell bad…” He watched her, hope coiling in his chest. When she’d first opened the door, his heart had sunk. She wasn’t the woman he remembered in the laundry.
However, she was a pixie. He could see the slight glamour clinging to her, making her appear more human. On second inspection, there was also a faint family resemblance to the woman with the diapers. Younger sister maybe? He tried that route.
“I remembered your…sister?” He smiled, a cautious edge in his voice as he hoped he’d gotten it right. Women could be funny about ages. Relief shot through him as she nodded.
“I remembered your sister has kids, so when I found him, I came ‘round to beg mercy…and a couple of diapers.” He grinned as he tried his hardest to be charming and personable. She only had to look at him to see he wasn’t a baby sort of guy. Practicing for making babies, yes. Dealing with the result, no.
Come on, sweetheart, say yes.
His silent plea seemed to work, her coffee-cream eyes flicking over him again. Feral shivered, the look like a caress over his skin. His nipples tightened as a thrill shot through him. She stepped back and released the chain.
“Come on. Bring him in and we’ll get him cleaned up,” she ordered, her voice brusque. Feral stalled, not used to being ordered around… no that was a lie. He was used to being ordered around. Vixen did it regularly, as did their boss Marak, the current kyn monarch. But both Vixen and Marak weren’t people one would want to piss off in a hurry while this woman was, well, tiny. And curvy to boot—the figure the shapeless toweling robe hinted at was enough to make his mouth water.
He followed her into the living room, looking around the plush interior and dismissing it just as quickly. It had all the hallmarks of expensive interior design and was about as interesting as the back of a cereal box.
“Come on. Let’s have him down here then.” She dragged out a changing mat from its hiding place behind the sofa, plopping it on the floor as she glanced at him. “The diapers will be a bit big, but it’s better than leaving him dirty. Can you take his diaper off while I get a fresh one?” She arched an eyebrow, obviously doubting his ability to carry out even that simple task.
“Of course.”
He kneeled to settle the baby in the middle of the changing mat. He could do this. But for such a small, little thing, it took virtually every part of Feral’s body to make sure he was placed carefully on the mat.
“Look, mate, you aren’t making this easy you know,” Feral muttered, trying to get his nose as far away from his hands as he could without turning his head or being on the other side of the room. He’d managed to remove the diaper, but he hadn’t been prepared for what it contained.
He grimaced as he considered the contents, not sure what he was supposed to do now. He’d watched Vixen change her little daughter, Marianne, more times than he could remember, and she’d always made it look easy. Grabbing a wipe, he tried to remove the sticky mess on its ass and quickly found out it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“What the fuck is this stuff?” he muttered, not managing to clean it off but just smear it around more. “Fucking industrial glue?”
He heard a stifled giggle and found the little pixie woman watching him. At the sight of her, he sucked in a hard breath. She was utterly beautiful. He’d known she was a pixie, and he’d thought he could see through her glamour to what lay beneath, but now he realized the truth. He could see the glamour itself, and the potential of what lay beneath, but nothing more.
Now though, she’d stripped the glamour away and he could see her true appearance. And it was stunning. Exotic, feline-cast eyes dominated a small heart-shaped face, with a tiny button of a nose and full lips he ached to taste. Her chin was small but delicate and the arch of her slender neck, half hidden by the mass of dark curls, made both his cock and his fangs ache. One look and he wanted her in the worst way, under him as he drove both his fangs and his cock into her soft sweetness.
“Just where I like to see a man,” she quipped, “on his knees. Come out of the way. You’re just making it worse.” She shooed him away and then knelt in front of the baby, who was taking advantage of the moment to try and flip himself over. Reaching a hand out, she stopped him just before he managed it and tapped his nose playfully.
“Oh no you don’t, handsome,” she chuckled, catching his ankles in one hand and cleaning him up with the other. Her movements were swift and efficient and within a few seconds, the baby was cleaned up with a fresh diaper on him. Feral blinked, unsure how she’d managed it so quickly. Magic, obviously.
“There we go, all clean and dry. Aren’t you a clever little man?” She fastened his top as he wriggled again, doing his best to escape. Grinning, she caught him, his chortles filling the room as she tickled his sides.
Smiles wreathed her face and Feral bit back another surge of lust. He wanted her. Badly. She wasn’t his normal type. Kyn women tended to be tall, slender and pale whereas she was petite and curvy, with dark warm hair and eyes that reminded him of chocolate. But he didn’t care. Everything about her called out to him. Unaware of his attention, she tickled the baby again, running her fingers along the soles of his bare feet as she reached for his trousers.
“He’s a gorgeous little thing,” she commented. “So, he was just left on your doorstep?”
“Yeah, about half an hour ago. Was a bit of a surprise…usually I just get pizza delivery,” he chuckled, shrugging a shoulder. “Not the domestic type.”
“Pizza? I didn’t think vampires ate?” She flicked a glance up at him while she finished dressing the little one. Picking him up, she handed him over. “Here, hold him for a moment while I clear this lot up. Hey…what’s this?”
A piece of paper fell free of the yellow blanket as she picked it up. Reaching down, she recovered it from the floor as Feral watched, jiggling the now clean-smelling baby in his large arms. It was a sheet from a reporter’s notebook, crumpled and folded into quarters. She smoothed it out and frowned at the words scrawled on it in a hasty hand.
“What’s it say?” He shifted closer, peering over her shoulder. The scent of shower gel and warm woman enveloped her, causing a shiver to run down his spine. He really needed to get laid if just being close to a woman stirred up a reaction like that.
She shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s an old fae script, I think… This is more Lisa’s kettle of fish than mine. Some of it I recognize,” she pointed out a word in the middle, fingernail tapping the paper lightly. “This is the word for Morrigan. Oh, shit!”
She looked up at him, eyes wide.
“What? What is it?” Feral frowned, brows raised.
“He…the baby…he’s a Morrigan. There’s a fae prophecy about a male Morrigan… The only male Morrigan.” She swallowed, visibly shaken. “When he grows up, I think he’s going to be a god.”

Mina was born and raised in the East Farthing of Middle Earth (otherwise known as the Midlands, England) and spend her childhood learning all the sorts of things generally required of a professional adventurer. Able to ride, box, shoot, make and read maps, make chainmail and use a broadsword (with varying degrees of efficiency) she was disgusted to find that adventuring is not considered a suitable occupation these days.

So, instead of slaying dragons and hunting vampires and the like, Mina spends her days writing about hot shifters, government conspiracies and vampire lords with more than their fair share of RAWR. Turns out wanna-be adventurers have quite the turn of imagination after all…

(But she keeps that sword sharp, just in case the writing career is just a dream and she really *is* an adventurer.)

The boring part: A full time author and cover artist, Mina can usually be found hunched over a keyboard or graphics tablet, frantically trying to get the images and words in her head out and onto the screen before they drive her mad. She’s addicted to coffee and would like to be addicted to chocolate, but unfortunately chocolate dislikes her.
 
 
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Trusting You and Other Lies by Nicole Willams Blog Tour

 

 

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USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams delivers a seductive summer romance worth swooning over. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins.

Phoenix can’t imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years–do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better?
On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum–the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he’s impossible to figure out–and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he’s promising Phoenix a summer she’ll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?

 

It felt like hardly any time had passed at all before the bike slowed when we made it into Flagstaff. Callum took a sudden turn that led away from the main part of the city, and we weren’t on that road long before it opened up into a parking lot.
My arms tightened around him when I scanned the parking lot. Other than the bike’s headlight, I couldn’t make out any-thing else.
“Okay, we’re stopped now. Think you could ease up your death grip on me before you crush my liver?” He parked the bike and turned off the engine.

It was so quiet out here. Scary quiet. “Where are we?” I loosened my grip, but I didn’t let go.
He glanced at me over his shoulder. “Don’t you like a surprise?”
“Not when I’m in the middle of some dark parking lot late at night.”
Callum fought a smile. “It’s barely eight. Not quite the witching hour.”
An owl hooted from somewhere in the woods. I jumped. “Where the hell are we?”
He stopped fighting his smile. “The Lowell Observatory. Perfectly safe and nonthreatening, I swear.”
“What are we observing?”
Callum waited for my arms to drop at my sides before sliding off the bike. “Pretty much anything you want to up there.” He tipped his head and looked up at the sky.
My head followed. “The stars? That’s what we’re going to be looking at?”
“Stars, moons, planets. Take your pick.” He helped me undo the helmet’s chin strap after I fought with it on my own for a few seconds. “This is one of my favorite places.”
“In Arizona?”
“Anywhere,” he answered, pulling a small flashlight from his pocket and turning it on. He pointed it in the direction of a sidewalk and started toward it, making sure I was close beside him.
“How many times have you been here?” I asked.
“I come a few times every summer, more when I was coming here with my family.”
I kept my focus on the light in front of us. With that bright beam, the black didn’t seem so thick around us.
“So are you into astronomy?” I asked.
“You could say that.” When another owl hooted, I didn’t leap out of my boots. This time I barely flinched. Callum’s presence calmed me. “But I didn’t know it the first time I came. I only started getting into astronomy a few years ago.”
“Why did you first start coming here?” We were getting closer to what I guessed was the observatory, but nothing about it screamed tourist attraction.
“It was Ben’s idea, I guess. He knew about the trouble my brother was getting into at home and that I was following in his footsteps. He has this freaky way of looking at a person and knowing what they’re feeling or what they’re thinking. Those first couple of summers at camp he used to be able to take one look at me and know when I was about to do something I’d probably regret.” He paused and shook his head. “I really hated Ben at first.”
“And now you love him.” I nudged him as we approached a doorway.
“And now I respect him. I appreciate what he’s doing and why he does it.” He turned off the flashlight and held open the door for me.
“So your mom would bring you here to look up at the sky and your problems were solved?”
He chuckled softly. “That’s what Ben tried to sell. He said there was nothing like looking up at the universe to make my problems shrivel into nonexistence.”
“Is that doubt I’m detecting in your voice?”
“That’s I- know- better- from- experience in my voice.” Callum
waved at a lady sitting behind a counter at the front and led me inside. It was dark in here, too, which made me shift a bit closer to Callum. “Ben tried really hard to sell me on the perspective thing, but, I don’t know, looking up at the stars or thinking about the size of the universe didn’t make my issues seem any smaller or less significant. They were still the exact same size when I walked out of this place.”
“Then why did you keep coming back?” I asked as he stopped behind the biggest telescope I’d seen in real life.
“Because it got me out of my head, you know?” he answered immediately. “It got me to focus on something else for a while, and even though I’d leave here with the same problems I walked in with, they felt more manageable. More like I could handle them.”

I hadn’t expected him to open up like that. That was becoming a trend when it came to Callum. One minute he came off as the most closed- off person I’d ever met, and the next he could spill his guts. “And then you fell in love with the stars,” I said, watching him as he looked through the telescope, making a few adjustments on the dials.
“And then I did.” He made one last adjustment before motioning me to look. Even though it was dark, his eyes were glowing. I’d seen him in his element this summer, but never like this. If this wasn’t passion, I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen it.
“So you’re saying this place has played a totally insignifi-cant role in your life?” I smiled at him as I moved up to the telescope.
“Completely insignificant.” He stepped aside to give me room to look.
I wound my hair around one shoulder, closed one eye, and leaned over so I could peek through the eyepiece. I could have been looking at a star just as easily as I could have been looking at a planet or a moon. I didn’t feel my problems drifting away from me by the masses, disappearing into the Milky Way, but just like Callum had said, somehow they felt less overwhelming. Less powerful.
The longer I stared up there, the stronger I felt down here. “I get it,” I whispered after another minute, feeling like the entire universe was staring back at me as I gazed into it.
He took a step closer. “I knew you would.”

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

 

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

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Vegas Heat by Erika Wilde Release Blitz

 

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Vegas Heat, a series of sexy STANDALONES from Erika Wilde is now live!!!

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Game of Chance

A former Marine and Las Vegas vice cop, Nathan Fox has seen it all and then some. Heading up security for the Onyx Casino is tame compared to his dark past, but it’s not his only job. Working for the Reliance Group is his real passion project. His current case: a missing woman. His mission: to find her. Easy enough, until he finds himself tangled up with sexy Nicole Hutton, a stubborn—and stunning—journalist who’s nosed her way into his investigation . . . and into his dirty, erotic fantasies.

Resisting Nicole is impossible, and he soon discovers that in this dangerous high stakes game of chance, falling in love is the greatest risk of all.

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Take a Chance

The son of a con-artist, Sean O’Brien learned the hard way that living by your own rules comes with a price. After a brief time behind bars, Sean is now ready to live an honest life, and pay for his past mistakes, and he’s fortunate enough that a member of The Reliance Group sees Sean’s potential for good and gives him a job at the Onyx Casino.

Zoe Russo has met all types of men on the Vegas strip. But when Sean pays a visit to her boutique, she’s certain her luck has changed for the better. They share an immediate, irresistible attraction, and for the first time in her life she’s found a man she thinks she can trust. But when Zoe stumbles onto the truth about Sean and his reasons for pursuing her, she can’t help but question everything they’d shared. Are his feelings for her real, or has she been a fool once again? Until now, nothing has prepared her for the thrill and risk of taking a chance on love.

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Last Chance

As the Executive Casino Hostess for The Onyx in Las Vegas, Valerie Downing is always on the lookout for the night’s biggest winners. When she spots a man―one of the sexiest she’s ever laid eyes on―generating huge excitement at the craps table, she knows she’s in luck. Her goal: To make sure the high rollers stay at her hotel, and that any further gambling is invested right back into the casino. His aim: To enjoy some other “perks” that Valerie might have to offer…

Turns out Chase Pierson is already a VIP guest who happens to be working with Valerie’s boss on a top-secret mission for the Reliance Group―one for which she too has been recruited because of her psychic abilities. But Valerie, bold and gorgeous as she is, is first and foremost a professional. No fraternizing with Onyx clientele is her motto…except this hard-bodied, infuriatingly charming client is tempting her to break all the rules.

LAST CHANCE contains light paranormal elements (heroine has psychic abilities)

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Meet Erika Wilde

Erika Wilde (aka Janelle Denison) is the USA Today bestselling author of over 50 contemporary romances for multiple print publishers.

 

Connect with Erika Wilde

Sign up for Erika’s Newsletter at: http://smarturl.it/ErikaWildeNewsletter

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Erika’s Website: www.erikawilde.com

Cover Reveals

Brick by Charlie Lee Cover Reveal

BLURB

My Sin. Her Redemption.

 

I’m the man your momma warns you about.  The one you never want to meet in a dark alley.

I fight and protect me, mine, and my own. Take a bullet for anyone I love. No damn job is too gruesome for me. And I’m the most loyal motherf*cker you’ll ever encounter.

 

I live on the wrong side of the law, and I’m damn proud of it. It’s rooted deep in my soul, stems from the scars of my past.

 

A pool of blood, a lifeless woman, and a missing child lead me into chaos, smack dab in the middle of it.

 

Why?

 

To protect what’s mine. Life has never had perfect timing. My sins and her redemptions are about to collide, leaving me changed forever.

RELEASING AUGUST 3, 2017

 

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Free in Kindle Unlimited

 

ABOUT CHARLIE LEE

 

Charlie Lee is the alter ego of USA Today Best Selling Authors HJ Bellus and Kathy Coopmans. The two friends come together to bring you their darker side of the romance world!

 

 

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New Release

Love Sex Music by Michelle A. Valentine Release Blitz

Blurb

Fame can disappear in an instant…

Fortune is a fleeting fantasy…

Laz Rawlings had them both, until he lost it all…

Laz, a former world-famous music producer screwed up everything thanks to his rock-n-roll lifestyle, but he’s been given an opportunity to prove his genius in the music industry wasn’t a fluke, and he’s hell-bent on not letting history repeat itself. But that’s proving difficult when the young singer he’s tasked with grooming has become the object of his every desire.

Life has been an uphill battle for Aundrea Newton, so when a sexy, tattooed stranger hand delivers her dream of a music career, she’s skeptical. Nothing ever comes easy, and she knows Laz has the power to crush both her career and her heart with his undeniable sex appeal and charismatic swagger.

When the line between mentor and student blurs, both begin to question what’s more important: Love, sex or the music.

**STANDALONE. No Cliffhanger** 

 

 

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About Michelle A. Valentine

New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author Michelle A. Valentine is a Central Ohio nurse turned author of erotic romance and New Adult novels. Her love of hard-rock music, tattoos and sexy musicians inspired her BLACK FALCON series.

 

 


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Uncategorized

The Sergeant’s Protection (Brother’s In Blue Series #3) by K. Langston New Release!

k4k1

The Sergeant’s Protect (Brothers in Blue Series # 3)

by K. Langston

Release Date: June 22, 2017

 

synopsis

SIX BROTHERS

EACH HOLDING A DIFFERENT BADGE OF THE LAW

EACH SWORN TO SERVE AND PROTECT

protection: a person or thing that prevents someone or something from suffering harm or injury

Sergeant Justin Cunningham just completed one of the most dangerous missions of his life, facing off with a notorious drug cartel. Blood was shed and sacrifices were made, but the risk had been worth it because there he found Selena Del Marco, the drug lord’s daughter, who possessed an endearing innocence that could not be tainted.

Not even by the corruptive world she lived in.

Trapped beneath her father’s iron fist for most of her life, Selena often dreamed of escape but would never attempt it for fear of his deadly wrath. After all, watching how her mother died would forever haunt her.

However, her prayers were answered one fateful night and with it came freedom and protection.

Now she can finally start building a life of her own, and as the days pass she longs for Justin to be a part of it. But right when things begin looking up, a new danger lurks, exposing a secret that will turn her newfound life upside down.

 

ADD to your TBR: http://bit.ly/2nDsG30

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00011]

 

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excerpt

 

My shoulder hurts like hell but it’s worth the throbbing pain to finally hold her this close. I’ve been dying to do it since I found her in that filthy basement. I can’t explain it. The way she makes me feel inside.

Something has shifted.

Something that wasn’t there before.

I’d been born with an instinct to protect but I’d never had a feeling quite like this. The irrefutable need to not only protect this beautiful, lost creature but claiming her seems almost as peril. It’s what had me leaping in front of that bullet to save her. It’s what has me desperate to hold her right now. Because if I look at those supple lips for another fucking minute, I’m going to possess them in a way that already scares the shit out of me.

Selena pulls away to meet my gaze once more. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” she asks, dragging her fingers beneath her wet eyes.

“I’m good,” I tell her and she smiles shyly.

That tug in my chest grows stronger, my cock twitching with the curl of her lips. The greedy bastard hasn’t let up either. Not since she was bent over me in a pool of my own blood, begging for me to hang on. She thought I was dying, I thought I’d died and gone straight to heaven. Now she’s sitting here in front of me, looking broken and lost and the only thing I can think of is burying myself so deep inside of her nothing bad can ever touch her again.

“The nurse brought me some clean clothes earlier. Would it be okay if I took a shower?”

“Yeah, do whatever you need to do. I’m not going anywhere.”

She giggles and the sound trickles down my spine in a wave of heat. “I won’t be long,” she reassures me. “Do you need anything before I go?”

I shake my head and, almost reluctantly, she eases from the bed. She retrieves the small plastic bag on the couch then walks into the bathroom, shutting the door quietly behind her. When I hear the water switch on, I sink down farther into the bed, exhaling loudly.

Closing my eyes, I do my best not to think about Selena naked in the shower or the fact that she’ll be staying with me at the ranch. A knock sounds before Reid pokes his head inside.

“Hey, I was hoping you would be awake. How’re you feeling?”

“Sore as fuck.”

He walks closer to the bed, taking a seat next to me, looking tired and haggard.

“How’s Cassidy?”

He blows out a long breath, relaxing back in the chair. “She’s going to be okay. They’ll release her in a few days. Bodie came by to talk to her.”

Bodie is Cassidy’s brother and Reid’s former best friend. They thought he was murdered six years ago but turns out he’d been hiding out in Mexico, working for the DEA and infiltrating Del Marco’s cartel.

“How’d that go?”

“I’m still pissed but I gotta find a way to make peace with this shit, for Cassidy at least.”

“You’ll find a way.”

“When are they letting you out?”

“Sometime in the morning,” I answer.

“You call Mom and Dad?”

“Not yet. I’ll wait until I get home. If I call now she’ll be on the first flight out here.”

He nods. “She’ll be pissed when she finds out later.”

“I’ll deal with it. I got other shit to worry about. I’m taking her back to Pop’s with me.”

“You think that’s a good idea?” he asks, eyeing me.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, for starters, she’s the drug lord’s stolen daughter.”

“Dead drug lord.”

“You really want to get technical right now? Not to mention, she’s only nineteen.”

“What does her age have to do with it?”

“Nothing. Listen, I just think you need to take a step back and look at this. You really have no idea the trauma she has been through and how much help she will need. Hell, you need all the help you can get right now, too. I just think you should tread carefully.”

“You think I don’t know that?” I snap, my patience wearing thin.

I see his point but I don’t care either. She needs help, and I want to be the one to give it to her.

Reid stands up. “I’m just looking out for you, brother. Let me know when they release you.”

I nod then he turns to leave.

Once the door shuts, the bathroom door opens. “Is everything okay?” she asks. Her dark hair hangs loosely around her shoulders, damp from the shower.

“Yeah, why?”

“I thought I heard someone in here and you sounded upset.”

“Reid stopped by, brother shit.”

She nods.

“I always wanted a brother or a sister,” she says sadly, sitting down in the chair next to me. “Is he your only sibling?”

I shake my head. “Hardly, I have five brothers and a pain in the ass sister.”

Selena beams, her smile making the room brighter. “I would love to hear about them.” She tucks her feet into the chair next to me, leaning in closer.

Goddamn, that voice, soft and sweet, her sexy Spanish accent curling around every word. Her eyes are locked firmly on mine, and I suck back a shot of air, clenching the sheet covering me. I know I should listen to my brother. I should be careful with her, not only because of what she’s been through but because she’s so young and vulnerable, and far too pure for the likes of me, but I can’t let her go.

And something in my chest tells me I never will.

 

k3

authors-other-books

 

k4

 

*****FREE*****
The Officer’s Promise (Brothers in Blue #1)
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The Detective’s Trust (Brothers in Blue #2)
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Book Tours

Scored by Marquita Valentine Blog Tour

 

 

v2

 

Title: Scored

Author: Marquita Valentine

Publication Date: June 20th, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Scored, a sexy all-new STANDALONE from Marquita Valentine is available now!!!

Dallas Drake has a big salary and an even bigger…ego…and he’s not afraid to use either of them to his advantage. As infamous as he is attractive, Dallas has all the equipment necessary to bring home the win.

 

The first time I met him, I was in handcuffs.

The second, he saved me when I fell off a ladder.

Now? Now we’re working together to plan a charity event.

I may not be interested in what Dallas has to offer, but as the game goes on, I’m becoming more open to his passes.

Is he looking for the win, or just determined to score?

v1

Excerpt:

 

The one good piece of advice my mom gave me concerning men is that their egos are huge yet fragile and it takes the delicate, yet strong touch of a woman to handle them.

Leave it to a man I know only by reputation to drive that point home.

Dallas sits in my office, an ice pack on his lip and the back of his head. To be nice, and since it was my fault he’s in pain in the first place, I’m holding the one on his head, so he can have at least one hand free.

“Sorry,” I say for what has to be the tenth time in the past twenty minutes. “I didn’t get to explain myself before, but I wasn’t laughing at you…well, it was at you, but not your pain. Pain is not funny. When I fell out of a tree and broke my wrist at the growth plate, I laughed the whole way there because that’s the only way I could deal with the pain. Finley didn’t order to me stop either.”

Dallas glances at me, his normally warm eyes icy. “Not sure how that helps.”

“Hopefully, it lets you know that I’m not laughing all willy-nilly.”

Willy-nilly,” he mutters. “Who says willy-nilly?”

“I do, and to be honest, you’re not that soft. It actually hurt to fall on you.”

He arches a brow. “You weren’t exactly a pile of feathers.”

“Yeah… that’s not helping either.” I take the ice pack away and gently inspect the back of his head. “There’s a tiny,” he hisses, “bump here, but um, I’m sure if you go to the doctor that you’ll get fixed up in time for your next game.”

“You do realize that if I have a concussion, I can’t play this week.”

Slowly, I shake my head. “I didn’t know that.” Now I feel even worse for freaking out when I fell off the ladder. The dang thing is only three feet off the ground. I wasn’t falling to my death or into a pit of snakes.

I shiver.

Pushing away the thoughts of snakes and pits, I focus on Dallas. Although, I plan on making it up to him, I do need to say something about his sneaky ways.

“This could have been avoided altogether if you hadn’t sneaked up on me.”

His jaw works. “I spoke to let you know I was there, so I wasn’t sneaking up on you.”

This time, I’m the one arching a brow. “Next time, do you mind waiting until you’re standing on the ladder with me, or I don’t know… wait until I’m done with said ladder before scaring me to death?”

Dallas tosses the ice pack on my desk. “I guess you have a point.”

He’s agreeing with me? From my Google snooping, or Snoogling as I like to call it, everything about Dallas screams he is a cocky, confident man who has been known to argue with a referee a time or two. Then again, according to the article I read, Dallas argued with the ref over not throwing a flag for unnecessary roughness due to player being tackled after the whistle was blown. That kind of behavior, the other player’s, I mean, is considered very poor sportsmanship and worth some sort of penalization.

So maybe he was right to argue… and maybe I’m wrong to assume the worst about him. Even Finley says he’s not that bad, which for her is practically an endorsement.

But not for us to date—I’m not that stupid.

Or am I…?

“Is there any way I can make it up to you?” I ask. Yes, that is a hopeful tone in my voice. I do want to go out with him, try something new, and see what happens. Besides, it’s not like he’s going to ask me out again. That ship has sailed based on his grumpiness.

“Have drinks with me tonight at 451,” he says.

The ice pack I’m holding plops onto his head, and he grunts. “Sorry. Dang it.” I grab the pack and toss it onto my desk, where it slides precariously close to the edge. “Yes, I’d love to have drinks with you. My treat, of course, since I’m the cause of your injury and… you can send me any outstanding bills.”

“Why would I do that? You didn’t make me try to save you, and I sure as hell could have finessed my approach better.”

“Drinks only, then?”

“Appetizers, too. My treat.” His infamous grin curves his lips. “Don’t want you to think I’m trying to take advantage of you due to an empty stomach.”

So smooth. I eye him. “You might want to get your head looked at first because I’m pretty sure that alcohol and concussions don’t play nice together.”

He salutes me. “Will do.”

I fist my hands on my hips. “Did you come by here to see me, or to see the event space?”

He bites the unbruised side of his lip. “Would it bother you if I said both?”

My stomach flips at his answer. “No. I like honesty.”

“Then you’re going to love this,” he says with a serious look in his eyes that is in direct opposition of his tone, “because I need you to help me win a bet so a fellow teammate can get some mentoring.”

Intrigued, I reach across my desk and drag my office chair around. The floor is smooth and the feet have wheels, so it’s relative easy to do. Plus, I’m pretty sure Dallas is checking out my butt right now and I kind of like it.

Plopping down, I cross my legs and lean forward. “Tell me more.”

“You might not like it,” he warns.

“Do we have to kill anyone?”

His brows shoot up to his hairline. “No, but it’s kind of scary and insulting that you’d go there first.”

“Had to be asked.” I shrug.

 

v4

 

 

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v5

 

About the Author:

Marquita Valentine is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Holland Springs and Boys of the South series.

Since first taking the plunge in July of 2012 to self publish, Marquita Valentine has appeared on the Top 100 Bestselling Ebooks Lists on iBooks, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes&Noble. She’s been called “one of the best new voices in romance” (Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews) and her books have been accused of being “a sexy, fun, and slightly addicting contemporary read” (The Book Queen).

When she’s not writing sexy heroes who adore their sassy heroines, she enjoys shopping, reading, and spending time with her family and friends. Married to her high school sweetheart, Marquita lives in a seriously small town in the south with her husband, two kids, and a dog.

 

Connect with Marquita:

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Book Tours

Tycoon by Katy Evans Blog Tour

e1

 

Tycoon by Katy Evans
Publication Date: June 20th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Tycoon, an all-new standalone from Katy Evans is available now!!!

He wasn’t always this rich. This hot. This difficult.

Aaric Christos was a guy who protected me. Wanted me. Maybe even loved me.

That man is gone.

In his place is the most powerful real estate tycoon in the city.

He’s a cold, ruthless, aggressive businessman.

The only one who can save me and my startup from ruin.

It takes every ounce of courage to put my pride aside and ask for his help.

I didn’t expect him to offer it easily.

And he doesn’t.

Instead, he vets me harder than he’s vetted anyone.

Don’t invest in what you don’t know, he says.

He’s assessing every piece of me, to the point I’ve never felt so bare.

I yearn for the boy I once knew, whose touch once craved me.

Putting it all on the line will be worth it, I tell myself.

Until I realize—too late—that some risks are not worth taking.

 

e2

Excerpt:

 

I hop off the train and walk several walks to his building.

It’s a brownstone in Park Avenue, one of the most elite of the elite spaces in town.

My lungs feel a little bit overworked from awe as I head up the steps to the double doors, grateful that I came dressed to kill in a little black dress, a jacket, and pumps. Simple, but effective.

See, I may be feeling a little awkward, but at least I don’t look it.

I’m greeted by his maid. She’s dressed in black and white, her hair drawn back in a neat bun, her expression stoic and formal as she leads me down the hall to a gorgeous study.

I catch my breath when I notice all the books and shelves.

It’s like a reader’s paradise in here. There’s a sleek chrome bar, a modern mahogany glass-topped desk, and two huge whiskey-colored leather chairs that almost swallow me up when I’m instructed to wait in one.

I drum my fingers, inhaling the scent of leather and wine, remembering a guy I knew with his mechanic navy-blue uniform, black streaks on his jaw, his big nose always the first thing you’d see, which was a pity because he had beautiful eyes and a really sinful pair of lips.

He’s living in luxury now. Wow. Good for him.

I hear footsteps approaching and the little hair on my arms prick at attention. My head turns as a tall, dark figure steps into the room, and the most intimidating guy I’ve ever seen enters and crosses the room toward the desk. He walks like he’s the shit…his strides proud and composed, elegant and powerful.

Christos, I hear myself breathe in surprise.

He’s so tall now…six three, at least. Dirty-blonde hair, gold-green eyes, chiseled jaw, and a gorgeous profile.

All in black, he looks very much a New Yorker.

He’s wearing a black jacket, black pants, and a black turtleneck beneath the jacket…

           I stare at him, my jaw hanging a little bit open. The man is….all man. Testosterone. Muscles. Height. Width. My chest hurts all of a sudden because I realize…

The boy you knew is gone.

I force myself to stand. “Thank you for seeing me.”

He heads to the bar to pour two drinks, then he prowls over, takes the whiskey leather chair across from mine and leans forward, pushing a glass of cognac with one finger across a small table, toward me.

And he waits.

In silence.

But my stomach dips as if he’d said something ultra-sexy and decadent.

“You might not remember me, I’m sorry to be reaching out like this,” I say, nervous.

“What do you want?”

There’s a pleasant shiver as he speaks. Recognition of his voice, even though it’s far deeper than I remember.

“I was told you sometimes invest in startups.”

“I’d say more than sometimes.” He raises his eyebrows as if I should’ve done my homework better.

Ugh, Bryn! Focus! Be SMART! Make yourself and your business irresistible! A silence settles as he eyes me, slowly setting his drink down as he leans forward and finally, unexpectedly, smiles. At me.

It’s just a smile.

But the world tilts under its impact.

“Hello, little bit.” Amusement touches his gaze as he tilts his head and watches me. “You know, I’d think you’d have grown up the ten-plus years since I last saw you. At least an inch.” He leans back in his seat, seemingly displeased. Wow, this guy is not the lanky kid I knew once. This guy oozes danger.

           Every ounce of “boy” is gone. Oh God. For a moment I wish that we could go back in time and I could discuss my startup with the guy I knew before.

           But time travel is not really my talent, and it seems like I have yet to see if I even have any special talents at all—depending on what this guy thinks.

“I grew two in width,” I shock myself saying.

He laughs then, his eyes drinking me in openly.

“Shame on you, you’re not trying to see if it’s true?” I ask him, frowning now.

He shrugs casually, his lips curved at the corners. “I can’t help it. Something has to have changed.”

“Why?”

“Because nothing good ever lasts. Even you, little bit.” A smile touches those unforgettable gold-green eyes.

A shiver runs through me. Because…

Christos recognized me.

“I can tell you’re as incorrigible as ever.” I shake my head, but I’m smiling, truly just relieved that he recognized me.

“I try to be,” he purrs dangerously.

I’m feeling warm all of a sudden. I can’t believe I’m staring at him so much, but it’s like I cannot take my eyes away. He looks achingly familiar, but at the same time, so different I cannot help but stare and track the differences in his features. The way his jaw squared out even more, the way his body filled out with hard, lean muscles that shift and ripple beneath his expensive designer clothes. I cannot believe that this is a guy I knew once.

He seems to silently be taking in my changes too, his keen stare allowing me to see that he seems to approve of it all. Even the dress I’m wearing. “You changed enough for the both of us,” I blurt.

“Really. How so?” he asks.

“You grew into your nose.”

“Really?” He chuckles as if despite himself.

“Width and height too. Quite a bit,” I add.

“Anything else,” he prods, one eyebrow rising.

“You learned how to dress.”

He looks down at his black suit. “This old thing?” He grins, then shifts forward, sobering up. “What can I do for you, Bryn? Considering I’m rather surprised to see you here, I’m eager for you to satiate my curiosity.” His stare becomes keen.

“So am I. I didn’t expect to be here,” I admit, and for a moment when I look into his eyes, all I see is someone I’ve seen before. Someone who belonged in my life long ago. “You know when you had that misplaced crush on me and told me one day I’d know what it felt like to throw pebbles at someone’s window wanting them to open? I’m sort of throwing rocks here.”

“Not to sing me a love song,” he says flatly, his eyes shuttering.

“No. Well, you know that was never….I mean…” Don’t bring up your rejection of him, Bryn! “It’s for something better. Business.”

“Go on.”

“I knew that’d get you.” I smile privately. “So it’s true your love is money now.”

“She gives back what I put in. Though her ass isn’t as juicy as I like,” he says nonchalantly.

“Wow. No matter how polished you look, your mouth is still as crude as ever.”

“Thank you,” he purrs, his eyes grinning at me.

I laugh. Then I sober up and realize he’s waiting for me to speak. “I’m looking for money for my startup,” I say.

“How much.”

“One hundred thousand.”

“I don’t invest less than a million.” He twirls his whiskey in his glass, eyeing the liquid.

“Well then, I’ll ask for a million.”

He raises his brows, setting his glass down. “It’s not how much you want to ask for, it’s how much the company’s worth.” Eyebrows up, he skewers me with a cold, intimidating look.

“It’ll be worth more than a million, trust me,” I bluff.

“Good for you. Except…” he leans back with a rustle of clothes, every athletic inch of his black-clad body flowing sinuously like a feline with the move, “considering that has yet to happen and I’ll need to trust you on that, my trust needs to be earned.”

This version of Christos is even more intimidating than the old one, unfortunately.

I try to hide it, keeping my voice as level as possible. “How does one earn your trust?”

“I’d tell you if I were interested, but I’m not exactly sure that I am.” He eyes me as if debating in silence.

This guy is the only guy in the world that unnerves me in this way, and I can’t seem to slow the fast pounding of my heart in my chest as I try to remember what I came here to say.

“I have a full presentation for you. I’m not taking no for an answer.” I reach into my briefcase.

“Darling. Are you ready?”

I start at the female voice and glance at a gorgeous woman striding into the study. Christos continues looking at me as he stands and reaches for the cell phone the woman extends out.

“We’re done here,” he answers her as he pockets the phone, his gaze remaining on me.

“I’ll wait for you in the car.” She leans up and kisses his jaw, her hands proprietary on his chest, then sends me a woman-to-woman claiming look, before she swishes away, all glittering jewels and lean body.

There’s a silence as he approaches, and for a second all I can hear is the sound of a toilet flushing, taking my only opportunity with a possible investor away.

“I’ll think about it,” he says.

“Christos.”

“I said I’ll think about it,” he says from the door.

“Please do,” I say as he exits the room.  I cup the sides of my mouth, “I’ll be back tomorrow. Same time?” I say jokingly.

I’m surprised when I hear footsteps returning. He pauses when our eyes meet. “I’ll make contact,” he says, raising his eyebrows meaningfully, “If I’m interested in hearing more.” He nods. “Nice to see you, Bryn.”

“Nice to see you. Christos.”

Well, that went sort of awful.

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Katy Evans is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her debut REAL shot to the top of the bestselling lists in 2013 and since then 9 of her titles have been New York Times bestsellers. Her books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages across the world.

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