Series: The Awakening Series #1
Author: D.L. Hess
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 30, 2017
I look at him and my body reacts in a way that it never has before, even in the throes of passion. I look at him and I start aching so deep inside it takes all I can to think, to breathe, to speak. He’s like the brightest flame and it takes everything in me to resist its call.
I know that if I give in, I’ll get burned so deeply, there might be nothing left once I come out the other side.
But, god, I want to step into that flame.
Hollywood movie star Nate Stone only dates supermodels, movie stars, and socialites. So why can't he keep his mind off of diner waitress Tori?
Nate never thought he’d return to Boden, Louisiana. Running off to Hollywood after high school to make it big, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks meant to leave his hometown in the dust. But twelve years later he’s preparing to make his directorial debut—and Boden is the perfect place to shoot his film. But he gets more than he bargained for when he ends up at the local diner and discovers the best cup of coffee in town is poured by a pretty waitress who dominates his every thought and fantasy. Now all he wants to do is to return the favor and make those fantasies a reality…
Tori Wilson never thought she’d end up a small-town diner waitress, but a couple of bad decisions paired with an unforeseen tragedy left her with no choice. Now the shy baker spends her days clocked in at Boden’s Finewhile Diner, whipping up her famous cherry pies and serving her customers hot coffee with an extra side of sweetness, until one day, she finds People’s Sexiest Man Alive sitting in a corner booth. The powdered sugar flies as Nate uses all his tricks and charm to attempt to seduce the headstrong waitress into his bed.
A man like Nate could have anyone he wants—but somehow, for some reason that Tori just doesn’t understand, he wants her. But maybe, just maybe, being with Nate, even for a short time, will be worth the heartache when he’s gone.
People say that when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
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His gaze is hot, sensuous as it travels from my well worn black Converses across the curves of my body to my face.
Oh, god. Did he really just check me out?
If I didn’t know better, by the look in his eye and the upturn of his mouth, I would think he likes what he sees. There’s no way.
But still, my mouth goes dry, my nipples pebble tight in my bra. I can feel my core become wet and heavy, clenching tightly in anticipation.
He’s the sexiest man I’ve ever seen, and in that moment, I’ve never been more turned on in my life.
I can feel my hand shake as I reach into my apron to pull out my order pad. It’s that stupid detail that pulls me back into reality.
“Hi, I’m Tori and I’m taking over for Elizabeth. I see you already have coffee, is there anything else I can get you, sir?”
“One day, pretty Tori,” he murmured, “You’re going to let me in.”
He took a moment to sip his drink, letting that sink in before continuing, “I’m not going to deny that I want to fuck you. I can’t promise a future or that I’ll be some sniveling boyfriend who pines away after you once I go back to L.A. But I will say that I have plans for you if you say yes.
“I can promise you that I’m going to take you to new heights that you’ve never imagined. That I’ll make you feel pleasure so intense that you forget your name. I’ll fuck you so good, for so long that the only thing you’ll crave is my hands on your skin, my cock deep in your pussy.
“If you let me, Tori, I’ll open up a whole new world to you. I’ll make you fly.”
D.L. Hess picked up her first romance novel when she was ten years old. It was Judith McNaught’s Once and Always, and she spent all night hiding in the closet and reading. It left an imprint, an imprint she hopes to leave with you.
D.L. Hess grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and now goes between her hometown and Los Angeles. Her partner-in-crime is a nine pound Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix named Busby Berkeley who goes with her everywhere. D.L. Hess is an avid fan of cooking, traveling, and discovering new experiences. Her travel bucket list includes cruising all the major rivers in the world. So far, she has only hit two of them.
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Title: Third Wheel
An Elton Hall Chronicles Standalone
Author: Sarah Fischer
Publisher: Limitless Publishing LLC
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Christie Peters has her whole life mapped out for her.
She plans to marry her boyfriend. Pose for wedding pictures at the Plaza. Then take care of her future children while her husband fights for their country. She would be the perfect trophy wife…or not.
But then a new man walks into her life, and Christie takes a temporary break from perfection. Shane introduces her to a world filled with possibilities and unexplainable passion. She starts to doubt every decision she’s ever made.
But the deeper Christie falls into Shane’s world of underground, illegal street racing, her perfect world begins to crumble around her, and things aren’t as simple as they once seemed.
Christie has to choose. Is she willing to settle for safety and security? Because one thing is certain—if she decides to walk on the wild side, there’s no going back.
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Sarah Fischer works hard fighting the good fight one background check at a time. But before she got into the business of being nosey, she graduated with a degree in criminal justice and married the calm to her crazy. Then she had a health scare and needed heart surgery. While recovering, she finally had the time to write stories filled with passionate romance. In her spare time, she manages a review blog called, A Kiss At Midnight Reviews.
Series: Phoenix Rising #2
Author: Brynley Blake
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Steamy Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 28, 2017
Gemma Ward, an outgoing and strong-willed wedding photographer, goes through men like she goes through thongs, forever looking for a guy who can handle her. She’s about given up on love when she meets Declan, the sophisticated father of one of her clients. He’s perfect for her, if only she can convince him she’s not too young and inexperienced to meet his singularly erotic tastes.
Then, like an answered prayer, Walker Kincaid shows up, looking for a place to stay while he investigates allegations surrounding the death of his SEAL brother, Liam Prescott. If anyone can tutor her in the art of the kind of power play Declan wants, it’s Walker, her best friend and partner in crime since high school.
But what starts as friendly lessons in forbidden pleasure soon turns into something more…leaving Gemma to wonder if the lover she’s been looking for has been right in front of her all along.
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I linger at my bedroom door, suddenly nervous for some reason. It’s Walker, I remind myself. Taking a deep breath, I saunter out into the living room. Walker doesn’t notice me at first. His laptop is open, and he’s studying something intently, his brow furrowed with concentration. Then he looks up and our eyes meet, and suddenly the air feels like it does just before a summer thunderstorm—thick and silent and charged with electricity.
My heart stops as his gaze travels slowly over my body, and for a minute, I think he’s going to crack a joke, or say something about us having an early flight to catch or not having the right equipment, and I brace myself for the disappointment. But instead, he wordlessly pushes his chair back, gets up, and walks slowly over to where I’m standing.
“You just failed lesson number one.” His voice is deep and husky, and I suddenly find my stomach inexplicably fluttering.
“Oh?” My voice sounds ragged, and I take a deep breath, determined to sound like the confident, sexy badass that I am. Even if Walker is looking at me with a heat I’ve never seen before in those whiskey-colored eyes. “What lesson was that?”
He threads his fingers in my hair and tugs lightly, forcing my head back so I’m looking up at him. “The dominant is always in charge. That means I call the shots, and I decide when we start, not you. Although you do look pretty fucking amazing, so I’ll let it slide this time.”
“You’ll ‘let it slide’?” I say in mock outrage. I try to push him away with my hands on his chest, but he grabs them in his, and with one hand holding both of my wrists, he lifts them above my head and pins them to the wall. Holy fucking shit.
“This time,” he repeats, and for the first time, I can see why people react the way they do to him. Walker’s quietly authoritative tone is more intimidating than a hundred men raising their voices. “I can see this is going to be the challenge for you, Gemma.” His lips twitch, and humor sparks in his eyes. “You like to be in charge. You can’t let go, can you?”
“Yes, I can.”
He looks at me dubiously, eyebrows raised.
“I can!” I insist.
“Close your eyes.” His voice is soft, but it’s an unmistakable command.
“Just do it. Don’t think. Don’t argue.”
I know a test when I hear one. I close my eyes, wondering what he’s going to do. Long seconds seem to tick by, and then his lips brush over mine ever so gently. They’re warm and soft and fuller than I would have expected. It’s quick, barely even a kiss, just his lips grazing over mine, but the butterflies are back, their wings beating furiously in my tummy, and there’s an inexplicable heat searing through my veins.
I open my eyes to find his face mere inches from mine, his eyes wide with the shock that I’m sure is reflected in mine. What the hell was that? Then he clears his throat, releases my wrists, and takes a step backward, and the moment is past.
“Okay. We’ll continue tomorrow.” He turns to go.
“Wait. That’s it?” That can’t be it.
Walker turns around slowly and gives me a long, hard look, and I wish I could tell what’s going through that mind of his. Finally, he says, “You want more?”
“Hell yes, I want more. I want the whole thing. The sooner the better. Before Declan comes back. I want to know as much as I can before I see him again, so I know what to expect.”
He takes a step closer. “The whole thing? Are you sure about this?” There’s a slight edge to his voice.
“Absolutely positive.” His intense gaze never leaves my face, and I’m suddenly just the tiniest bit nervous. “Um, what exactly is the whole thing?”
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A lifelong reader with a taste for adventure, Brynley Blake writes the writes the kind of books she likes to read: steamy contemporary romances featuring smart, sassy heroines with a sense of humor and strong, dominant alpha males who love their women a little feisty. She loves rainy days, books, worn-in jeans, hot coffee, cold beer, red wine, exploring new places, and happily ever afters. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her cheering on her kids at their activities, hanging out with friends, or crossing things off her bucket list. She writes contemporary and erotic romance as Brynley Blake and Brynley Bush.
Title: Muscle Memory
Author: Stylo Fantôme
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 28, 2017
Her lips, the way she feels, how she moves against me. Her voice when she laughs, her eyes when she cries. Her soul connected to mine, for better or for worse, for all eternity.
I don't remember.
A blank face. Unrecognizable. The darkness and impenetrable fog, day after day after day. Who am I? And for that matter, who is she?
I can't remember.
Two sides to the same coin – one wants to remember, and the other wants to stay forgotten. Which side will win? Can he trust his heart to bring him back to her? Or will she stay lost in the fog forever?
I might never remember.
Warning: features adult themes
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Crazy woman from a remote location in Alaska (where the need for a creative mind is a necessity!), I have been writing since ... forever? Yeah, that sounds about right. I have been told that I remind people of Lucille Ball - I also see shades of Jennifer Saunders, and Denis Leary. So basically, I laugh a lot, I'm clumsy a lot, and I say the F-word A LOT.
I like dogs more than I like most people, and I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink. No, I do not live in an igloo, and no, the sun does not set for six months out of the year, there's your Alaska lesson for the day. I have mermaid hair - both a curse and a blessing - and most of the time I talk so fast, even I can't understand me.
Yeah. I think that about sums me up.
Summary from Goodreads
How can you fight your nightmares when they’re real?
Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?
Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.
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Usually when I stepped into someone’s dreams just after they’d fallen asleep, I didn’t arrive in an active dream so much as in a place of significance in their subconscious. The kind of place they’d have recurring dreams about. As a lucid dreamer, I didn’t have true recurring dreams—deliberately conjuring dreams of my favourite places didn’t count. But I was familiar with the concept. Jen had told me that, usually, those dreams she remembered contained elements of her family home. Brad often dreamed of his grandparents’ house, where he’d spent a lot of time as a child.
That was why, when I appeared in a brightly lit department store, I raised my eyebrows. Huh. First job, maybe? I stood in an aisle full of bags of confectionary: liquorice sticks, mixed lollies, chocolate drops. But everything was slightly off. When I focused on a rustling purple and yellow packet, trying to make out the brand name, the logo slid away from my gaze as if it didn’t want to be nailed down. Price tags were illegible: smeared or written in gibberish characters. And when I looked between the packages I didn’t see a backboard filled with mounting holes but sheer, impenetrable darkness.
The darkness gaped back at me.
With goosebumps shivering along the length of my forearms, I took a moment to prepare myself, sparing a thought and a shred of energy to conjure a set of trusty motorcycle leathers. I didn’t have any such thing in the real world, but in dreams I’d found they served quite well as armour against the barbs on a blight’s tentacles. A clear-faced, round helmet made me feel like an idiot but protected my eyes. I didn’t know for certain that there was a blight here, but something was definitely not right. Even if it was just a creepy manifestation of Daniel’s subconscious—even if he was indeed going crazy—it paid to be careful. Ephemera could still have teeth.
I crept towards the end of the aisle, leather squeaking faintly as I listened for the telltale bubbling hiss of a blight. Peering past a stand of round-bellied plastic animals stuffed with jellybeans, I saw a row of unattended registers to my left. To my right, clothes swayed in a breeze I couldn’t feel. In front of me was the store’s main entrance: the roller shutter was down, allowing only a vague impression of a darkened mall beyond.
Deserted apartment stores were bloody creepy. Even ones with the lights on. Still, this didn’t look like a place a blight had trashed. Brad’s had shredded the surface of his dream, tearing holes in walls and coating everything with a mess that would do a slimy Ghostbusters spectre proud. This store was creepy, sure, but trashed? No.
Like my thought made it happen, a corner of the store went dark as one fluorescent light, then another, went out with a pop and a tinkle of glass on tile. “What the…?” I whispered, looking up.
That was when I spotted the blight.
It hung upside down from the ceiling, somewhere above the menswear section, like a deranged bat a few feet wide and made of smog. Its tentacles were jammed deep into the rectangular ceiling tiles; the tiles themselves were slick with an oily coating of blight ichor that dripped downwards, spattering across a garish display of novelty ties that hurt my eyes.
“Gross,” I said, my voice somewhat muffled behind the helmet’s faceplate. The blight turned, rotating slowly until its stained yellow eyes glared down at me.
“Oneeiiiiroi,” the creature hissed.
Leander studied me from the other side of the trolley. I could see the shadows of fatigue under his eyes, which shocked me. Leander never looked tired. Cocky and self-assured? Yes. But tired? No. Not even when Ikelos had bound him with barbed wire. Despite his relaxed manner, increasing the hold of Daniel’s memory over the dream and destroying so many blights was draining him. And he was too proud to admit it.
I clenched my jaw and took a breath. I’d wanted to look for matches and maybe some reams of paper, but we didn’t have time. Another blight was about to hatch. “Alright.” I pulled several packets of nails down and tossed them onto the top of the trolley with a sick feeling. I’d seen enough news stories to know real-world lunatics packed their bombs with shards, to cause additional damage. “Can you get this up there, and then explode it?” I glanced at the nails. “From a d—”
The floor erupted beneath us.
Tentacles, each as thick as one of Leander’s well-muscled thighs, smashed through the floor. The blight hadn’t been as helpless as I’d assumed … and corruption hadn’t been the only thing it had been spreading. My cheek burned as a shard of floor tile sliced it, blood welling. The trolley tipped and I ignored the pain, lunging forward to steady it before its contents spilled into the sticky darkness below. Leander leaned over and gripped the frame, placing one hand on either side, his fingers brushing against mine as I let go. His grim gaze held mine for a moment, and then his wings pumped. Air washed over me as he lifted the overstuffed trolley into the air, towards the central body mass of the blight.
For a second I felt relief as he carried the improvised bomb above the thrashing tentacles. Then one of those tentacles slid around my waist, barbs as long as my palm tearing through the scorched armour of my motorcycle leathers. I gasped and prised at them with bare hands, trying to wiggle free but succeeding only in cutting my palms. Above me, the muscles in Leander’s back worked as he strained to haul the trolley upwards, ignoring the now-free baby blight buzzing around him like an oversized mosquito. He was dragging the bomb up there with brute force. Pain caused my vision to blur, but not before I realised he was going to ignite the trolley’s contents while he was holding it. The damned fool Oneiroi had no idea what would happen.
The tentacle dragged me towards the jagged hole in the floor. I didn’t look down, not wanting to see what awaited me. The wet smacking sound and the putrid smell were bad enough. Sweat beaded on my brow and I set my jaw against the pain, blinking to clear my vision, staring up at Leander.
He drove the end of the trolley into the breeder blight’s wet mass, leaning against the handle to brace it there as he conjured a spark in one hand.
The spark descended towards the makeshift bomb.
I cried out, using the last of my energy to fling a shield, a wall of force, between Leander and the trolley.
Fire and exploding chunks of meat raining down around me. My vision blackened, and I tumbled out of the dream.
Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat—despite being allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?
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Interview with Cassandra Page, author of Lucid Dreaming
Can you tell us a little about your Lucid Dreaming series?
The books tell the story of Melaina Armstrong, who is half human and half Oneiroi, or dream spirit. That had always been impossible, for rather obvious anatomical reasons; her birth caused a significant amount of consternation and raised a significant amount of interest—not all of it from benign quarters.
After discovering and defeating the individual targeting her in the first book, poor Melaina just wants to get her life back to what passes for normal in her world. Of course, things are never that easy.
Tell us a bit more about Melaina.
Melaina appeared in my head one day, almost wholesale, as I was driving home after work. She came stomping out of my subconscious complete with steel-capped boots and a nose piercing. I loved her instantly, and put my fantasy novel plans aside to tell her story instead. She is a university drop-out, a dream therapist and a fierce friend and daughter. I’m going to miss her.
Does that mean you’re not planning any more books in the series?
Not at this stage; Melaina’s story was always intended to be a duology. I have four or five other stories percolating away in the back of my brain, each of them clamouring to be told next. But I might be tempted to revisit her again down the track. I’ll never say never!
What is the favourite part of your writing process?
Finishing the first draft? I suppose that’s a bit of a cheat answer, so if I can’t say that then it’d have to be editing. Having something to shape and hone is so much fun, and comes much more easily to me since I’m also an editor in my day job.
My second-favourite part is writing the last few chapters of a book. I’ve drafted six novels now, and it’s always such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is also fun (for me)!
Are all your books set in Australia?
All five of my urban fantasy novels are—although part of the third book in my young adult trilogy, Isla’s Inheritance, also has a handful of scenes set in London and Edinburgh. I’ve considered setting a book entirely overseas, but there are several reasons I haven’t. One is that I’ve only ever been on one overseas holiday (to Scotland and Spain), and I didn’t think I could fake it. Another is that I’m acutely aware that I write in Australian English. Readers would be onto me faster than I could say “hey, mate”.
Besides, I love Australia and thought there wasn’t enough supernatural fiction set here, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is!
Title: If Ever
Author: Angie Stanton
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 21, 2017
Fiercely independent Chelsea Barnes has caught a rare break and been cast as the first non-celebrity on the hit show Celebrity Dance Off. Chelsea is coined ‘America’s Chance to Dance,’ but her partner planned on an A-lister, not a nobody.
Clashing with her partner, she’s ready to go home; but during an emotional dance, her heart-breaking past as an abandoned, homeless teen is revealed. Not only do the viewers fall in love with her, so does the flirty British guest singer, Broadway star Thomas Evan Oliver.
Tom is struck by this feisty girl who complicates his over-structured life, and pursues her in a romantic cross-country courtship until she’s voted off and joins him. Their sexy whirlwind love affair blossoms in New York as she navigates the big city and his exhausting eight shows a week, but most important, her scarred heart begins to heal. Perhaps happily ever after might be a possibility after all.
Angie Stanton is a life-long daydreamer who grew up with her hands on a book and her head in the clouds. As an adult, she’s put her talent to use writing contemporary fiction about life, love, and the adventures that follow.
Angie is the bestselling author of nine novels. Her work has been translated into French, German, and Bulgarian. In her spare time, Angie sneaks off to New York City to enjoy the best live entertainment experience--Broadway. She is a contributing writer to Broadway World is currently working on another Broadway-themed book.
Not many can say they were burned by fate. I’m the exception.
Scalded figuratively, emotionally, and physically… I have the scars running down my arm, ribs, and side to prove it.
The doctors have done what they can to heal me by smoothing the abraded skin using other parts of my body. But they can only do so much. Sometimes, what can’t be seen can’t be healed.
The fire that night took more than a pound of flesh. It obliterated my talent, beauty, and most importantly, seared the connection I had with the man I loved. Sure, it was me who pushed him away, but I had my reasons. I did what any woman would do in my situation. I gave up everything so that one day he’d find happiness and peace.
Now I’ve healed a bit on the outside, and on the inside, but I still crave the one I let go. To this day he looks at me with fire in his eyes, a heat so bright in his being he glows with it. I fear the light, the flames that could consume me whole. The problem now is, he’s not mine anymore. I just may have waited too long to fight for him, for us, for a future together.
There’s only one thing I can do. Let fate decide.
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Audrey Carlan is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She writes wicked hot love stories that are designed to give the reader a romantic experience that's sexy, sweet, and so hot your e-reader might melt. Some of her works include the wildly successful Calendar Girl Serial, Falling Series, and the Trinity Trilogy.
She lives in the California Valley where she enjoys her two children and the love of her life. When she's not writing, you can find her teaching yoga, sipping wine with her "soul sisters" or with her nose stuck in a wicked hot romance novel.
Author: Celia Aaron
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 25, 2017
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I rescued Sabrina from a mafia bloodbath when she was thirteen. Doing right by her became a priority for me, even while I was busy as the new head of the Philly syndicate. I sent her to the best boarding schools and kept her as far away from the life as possible. It worked perfectly. Until she turned 18. Until she came home. Until I realized that the timid girl was gone and in her place lived a smart mouth, a wicked imagination, and a body that demanded my attention. Who am I? I’m F*cked. Nice to meet you.
Celia Aaron is a recovering attorney who loves romance and erotic fiction. Dark to light, angsty to funny, real to fantasy—if it’s hot and strikes her fancy, she writes it. Thanks for reading.
Title: Return to Me
Author: Lilly Cain
Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Cover Designer: Candice Phillips Gilmer, Flirtation Designs
I love living by the water. There’s peace here with the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean right outside my window. Some people think I must be crazy, or at least find it lonely, living in my grandmother’s old house in the dunes of Five Island Cove.
But I’m not always alone.
Each year, when the weather warms, the seals return, and so does Cael. He makes me feel wild, like an ocean storm. He’s a man with magic in his soul and I’ll never give that up, no matter what laws we break or who we have to fight.
* * *
I can’t forget Anna. Even though the waves sing to me the song of the selkie, urging me to move on with my people, with my pack, the thought of her and the memories of the way she feels and tastes draw me back. My brothers never remember their human summer lovers, never worry about them when our kin travel to other waters.
I can never stop.
The elders have been watching me though. What will they do when they discover us?
It’s time to take a mate, but I want only my Anna.
But I fear the tide is changing…
Warning: This paranormal romance sizzles! There’s no cold water here, only heat and lots of it. Be prepared to long for a magic selkie of your own and look at seals in a whole new way!
“What do you think, we go hit the tables after we get done here? Get some practice in?” Connor grinned at her. She couldn’t help but grin back. Her big brother never seemed to run out of enthusiasm when it came to poker. They’d been standing in line for ten minutes, which wasn’t bad, but there were at least a dozen people ahead, waiting to register at The Princess Resort, Las Vegas. She shifted her shoulder bag. The thing weighed a ton, but she wasn’t about to put it down with Connor right beside her. Knowing him, he’d pick it up for her and then demand what made it so blasted heavy.
One manuscript, 347 double-spaced pages of love, lust and happy ending. Her manuscript. The thought made her want to do a little dance, right here in the lobby. Jenn Riley, author.
The line shuffled forward. Although there were three clerks on the hotel registration desk, getting checked in was taking forever. The place was huge, and the signs of the two ongoing events everywhere—the poker tournament she was playing in with her brother and his two friends and the romance writers’ conference taking place in the larger ballrooms and meeting venues. The writers’ conference she planned to secretly attend.
Connor and his friends had no idea she’d agreed to come with them when their fourth had broken a leg at his job, only because she could get to the writers’ con from the poker tourney simply by crossing the hotel lobby. Her brother had teased her mercilessly about her love for romance novels when growing up, and if he heard she’d written one…
She shook her head.
Connor frowned. “What, you jetlagged?”
“Uh, a little. I think I might just chill a little, grab a swim and some time by the pool. Soak up some desert heat,” she murmured distractedly.
Connor sighed but accepted her plan and then rambled on about the tournament, who he thought might be there this year, how tough they were. Like they hadn’t gone over it at home. And at the airport. And on the plane. She stifled a sigh. The team competition worked on points, each player in their own division, and Connor had a hundred strategies, or more, since he had a female player on his team this time and could enter the new division. She liked poker, loved it, really. It was fun and she was good, thus the invite when Connor needed a fourth. But what she wouldn’t give to go over and say hello to the authors gathering near the bar. They had to be authors. All women, gathered in circles, getting glasses of wine and talking about…what? Their new plot? Who had what book coming out next? She wet her lips and shuffled ahead in line.
Minutes later they were registered into adjoining rooms, Jenn in one and Connor in the other. His poker-partner buddies were apparently already checked into their rooms on the floor above. Connor texted them as Jenn watched a large screen to the right of the registration table. Conference information scrolled over the panel. She chewed her lip when she read the registration times for both events. Damn. Nearly the same time for both, and on opposite sides of the hotel. She’d have to catch the late registration for the writers’ conference.
She walked with Connor to the elevator. The noise as they passed the bar was amazing, the place abuzz with what had to be a hundred women, all chatting and laughing, drinks in hand. She let a little wave of jealousy slide through her. If she’d had a little more money, she would have been here on her own instead of with her brother. She’d be in there with those women, meeting and greeting and rubbing shoulders with the authors she read every night. Soon though. After two years of playing with her book, it was done. Her career as a writer was about to begin and her life was about to change.
She dropped off her luggage in the room, nice enough for a hotel this size but she wouldn’t have much time to enjoy it. Then it was off to explore and maybe meet up with the one author she did know at the convention, Nancy Clarke, a seasoned veteran of these events who helped with online pitch classes. It would be nice to finally put a face with the name.
She had more than one plan for the weekend, after all. Excitement zipped through her as she headed back down the elevator and detoured toward the pool. She had to at least say she’d seen it.
This trip was all about changing her life. Starting her writing career, placing high enough in the tournament to win the cash she needed to have the freedom to start her next novel without working.
She watched an older lady in an elegant pantsuit chatting with two younger women in suits near a large pool tent marked with the convention logo. Was that who she thought it was? Her heart beat a little harder. Hello, fangirl moment.
No way was she missing this opportunity.
She strode toward her—the Nora—and almost bumped into a young woman carrying drinks toward the tent. Jenn swerved, fought for balance, lost. At the last second, she threw her bag to the safety of a nearby lounger. It was the least she could do for her literary baby before she ended up in the deep end.
Unfortunately, she never had learned to swim.
A large, warm hand grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her to the surface. She struggled, a bit desperate to get out of the water, but more so not to drown in front of her idol. Seconds later she was unceremoniously dumped on the tiles beside the pool where she sputtered for a moment before she noticed the hands running over her body and moved to protest. Only she couldn’t quite catch her breath.
She looked up into a gorgeous set of big, blue eyes. Adrian D. Cooper. His serious, concerned expression heated her from cheeks to toes. As usual, he wore a baseball cap, and she fought the urge to flip it off and run her fingers through the dark brown curls underneath.
Dear Lord. Goal number three, alive and breathing. She’d wanted this man forever. Adrian had been her brother’s best friend since they were all kids, and he never seemed to look at her as anything other than little Jenny, the girl he’d hauled choking out of the pool when she’d gone under at age eight.
Some days she wondered if she’d ever really come back up. His blue eyes had sucked her in, and she’d caught herself drowning in them more than once. She’d fallen in love with him, and although he’d rescued her from the water, he’d never acknowledged the fact she needed more.
“I’m okay.” But she stopped trying to brush his hands aside. Maybe it wasn’t too late for CPR. A little mouth to mouth.
“You sure? Seems like we’ve been here before.”
“Well, we have. Sure we couldn’t have a little kiss like last time?” God. How did she let these things slip out of her mouth? But at least the flirtation had made him smile. So beautiful.
“I don’t think you need resuscitation this time. You seem pretty conscious to me.”
“Yeah.” His gentle put-off hurt a bit, like it always did, but there was a touch of heat in his eyes beyond the amusement. Maybe there was hope.
There was a crowd gathering. Why did this sort of thing always happen to her? When she tried to sit up, he backed off enough to let her. “Just a little surprise dip.”
“You don’t swim.” But he gave her a hand up. And when she shivered, he grabbed a towel from a shelving unit only a few steps away and wrapped her up, his hands gentle.
And if she leaned into him just a little… Was she so weak? Probably.
“Thanks.” Jenn glanced around. Nora was gone—thankfully—but her bag was safe at the side of the pool on the lounger, and she snatched it up. Thank God for small things.
He threw the towel around her shoulders and tried to take the heavy shoulder bag from her.
“I’ve got this, thanks,” she mumbled and hung onto her bag. He, of all people, wasn’t getting his hands on what was inside.
He tugged harder, pulling the weight from her for a moment—determined to be the gentleman, of course, a result of his Southern childhood and one of the things she’d always loved about him. She pulled back, and they wrestled for a moment over the heavy bag until Connor, who she hadn’t noticed standing nearby, broke out in huge guffaw. She and Adrian had had a casual rivalry for years, another topic Connor loved to tease her about. She gave the bag one more tug and settled it on her shoulder, throwing Jenn off balance and nearly knocking into a lady passing by. All she needed was another trip into the pool. Adrian gave her a look and took her elbow, then led her back inside the hotel. She did her best to follow without stumbling.
If he read even a page of her book, he’d know exactly who it was about. And more, he’d see those nights when they’d laid in the grass watching stars as teens in a whole other way. She didn’t want that, not exactly. She’d had years watching him and wanting him, but she wouldn’t change that sweet time a bit. She just wanted…more…now.
The elevator was as packed as the rest of the hotel. She squeezed close to his six-foot-three frame until she could feel the heat coming off him. The soft scent of his cologne, woodsy and masculine, caught her. He looked fantastic yet casual in his jeans and button-down shirt. She, of course, now looked like a drowned rat.
Great. How was she going to reach goal number three when she still reminded him of that eight-year-old girl?
* * *
Damn, she looked good. This was going to be a very long weekend. Her wet clothes clung to her like skin, showing every curve and even the tight points of her… God. He needed to keep his head down and zipper zipped and concentrate on the game. Jenn was not for him. Never mind that she’d somehow not only grown up over the last few years, but she was his type, perfectly. Five-foot-seven or so, and curvy. Straight, dark brown hair, brown eyes and full lips. Mmm, she had an ass he would like to take in his hands and--
“Ooof.” The elbow to his side caught him by surprise.
“Wake up, bud.” Connor laughed at him. “Long flight?”
“Ah, not bad.” The flight in from Nevada had been a lot shorter than theirs from Texas. Jenn had a pretty blush running down her cheeks and neck, across her collarbone. Why again had he promised himself not to touch her?
“Thanks for saving Jenn again. How’s your mom?” Connor’d had a fondness for Adrian’s mother since they’d all grown up on the same street and his mother’s cookies had saved the boys from near teenage starvation. Or at least imagined teenage starvation.
His mom. There was the reason he’d promised he’d keep his distance from Jenn. Right.
The elevator doors opened, and another couple somehow squished on, although they seemed to be headed down rather than up. Clearly they didn’t give a crap about the tight quarters, but a bead of sweat slipped down the back of his neck as Jenn was forced to press against him, the curves of her ass thankfully resting against his hipbone rather than the rapidly hardening length of his cock. Thank god for the towel between them. All he needed was wet pants, and he’d be right back in high school.
Yup, lots of cold showers ahead.
A moment later, and they were standing in front of her room. She opened her door and they trooped inside. Connor walked over to the adjoining room and opened it. The door to his side was already wide open and he strolled into his room.
“Hmm…?” He’d taken a seat on her bed, where her shoulder bag was making a dent in the thick duvet. What was in that thing, rocks?
“I said, would you mind giving me some alone time? I need to change my clothes and crash for a while.”
Adrian gave her a look. She didn’t look tired. But he never knew with Jenn what she might be up to next. Then again, she might need rest. She’d never tried to get rid of him before. God, had she seen his hard-on? There was a time when she’d wanted him, they’d even shared a kiss before she went off to university, but he’d known better than to act on any impulses around her, and he’d thought she’d understood why. His stomach pitched into his shoes. Her girlish crush had meant more to him than he’d ever let on, maybe even to himself. That she’d wanted him even when he had been a jerk teenage boy had always made him feel better when things were crap in his life at home. But a crush was different than the lust-fest he had going on in his pants. Time to man-up. “All right, if you’re sure you’re okay. But registration starts pretty soon. And Connor wants to get a few warm up rounds in, size up the competition.”
“I know. Not a problem.”
Adrian walked through the door separating the siblings’ rooms. Connor nodded at him. “Ready?”
“Jenn’s not going. She’s gonna rest for a bit.”
“Seriously?” Connor looked incredulous, echoing Adrian’s surprise. Connor shrugged. “Let’s get going, check out the tables.”
Adrian glanced back at Jenn. She’d grabbed her tote bag and was looking at something, not paying any attention to him. Her growing up was for the best. He shut the door and joined Connor in the hallway. They walked together to the elevator and caught a lift down to the lobby. Connor had been his friend for years, their tight bond formed when Adrian had moved with his mother to a house two doors down in the same small town in Texas. They’d needed a fresh start after his father had left them in Alabama with little more than the house mortgage, three months of unpaid bills, and a few hundred bucks in the checking account.
The friendship had lasted after Adrian moved to Nevada for work. Emails, calls and regular visits, plus the poker tourneys kept them from drifting apart like other childhood friends. That, and the fact that Adrian couldn’t help but fall a little in love with their perfect family – mom, dad, sister, brother, and God only knew how many aunts, uncles and cousins. It was only his mom and his younger brother on his family tree. No need to add a father whose family was apparently made of assholes.
The elevator dinged, and they stepped out to the lobby, still crowded with people. The poker tournament took place on the left side of the hotel, in conference rooms managed by the casino half of the business. As they headed in that direction, Connor’s steps grew faster. Adrian grinned. Cards had always been Connor’s thing, while Adrian preferred sports and video games. Jenn had gone for books when she wasn’t goading her brother and her brother’s friends. The girl liked to tease. But to give Connor credit, he’d never shut his sister out and Adrian had enjoyed the time they’d all spent together. With only two years difference in age, Jenn had done her best to keep up with them in sports, and Connor had brought her along on movie nights and to local street parties. She’d fit in, and Adrian had found out she was pretty fun—for a girl.
They headed down the corridor to a second open area with a small bar and coat check. The small foyer split to the left into the main casino with its crashing noise and flashing lights of a few hundred slot machines, or over to the right, where the concert and banquet rooms lay. Since this was their third time at this hotel for the tournament, they knew the way and headed to the tournament rooms to take a look before registering.
As usual, a number of players had arrived early, and impromptu games were set up at several tables. Other, older players stood casually around and studied the hands and faces of those they would soon play against. There was serious money involved; the tournament held pots to be won at several levels. By registering as a group, the four wouldn’t play against each other unless they made it into the final three games, but even if they didn’t get that far, they could win more than enough in various, min tournaments that happened at the same time. The multiple ways to win made the trip worthwhile.
For Adrian, it wasn’t about the money. He had enough, made plenty for his lifestyle and to send home to his mother. She’d never have to work three jobs supporting his brother as she had helping him through school with no help from their deadbeat dad. Now he had a role in a gaming company as a successful marketing advisor. So it wasn’t about the kitty. Adrian came to be with Connor and the other guys. Seeing Jenn was a bonus, even if it was a bit of a strain. He wanted her, but indulging in an affair was out of the question.
What had happened to his mother would never happen to Jenn. She needed more than a few stolen days.
“Check out Brad, over there with the blonde.”
Adrian scanned the room until he caught sight of their fourth group player. He sat at a table near the front of the room with two other players and a house dealer. He had his arm draped over a bored-looking blonde’s shoulder while he gestured with his cards. Brad was another old friend, but he really hadn’t managed to grow up much, from what Adrian could tell. He still chased every woman available.
Adrian laughed. “That’s Zoe Stratton he’s leaning all over. She’s going to wipe his ass with his cards and send him home to mommy.”
“The man has no clue. She’s a professional player, wonder why she bothered to sit in?”
Adrian shrugged. They looked over the crowd, finding a few more players they knew and some of the heavy hitters they’d be lucky to sit with. It was great to be back, talking the game with Connor. Connor lived for the cards, but it was about the game more than the gamble. No betting problems for him. There were more women walking about than usual, probably drawn in by the special women’s only tourney, an idea the casino supported heavily in an attempt to draw in video coverage from the major networks. More women meant more publicity. Jenn would fit right in and kick butt; she was more than a decent player and had beaten him a number of times.
“Shit. They’re opening up registration early. Let me text Jenn.” Connor pulled out his cell and tapped the screen.
“Sorry, sir, no phones in the tournament area.” A security officer had walked over the minute Connor had pulled his cell from his pocket. He grimaced and put the phone away.
Adrian shrugged. “I’ll go text her from the hall. She could be asleep though. She said she needed to crash.” He gave the guard a nod and walked out of the room. Players packed the hall and the small lobby, so he headed for the larger bar near the main lobby and entrance. Might as well kill two birds with one stone and get a couple of bottles of water while he was out.
He’d almost made it through the bar door when a flash of color caught his eye. A lady with a pink suit and a large brimmed hat with a long feather. A bit of overkill, there. But right beside her… He blinked and looked again. Yup, right beside her was the supposedly resting, too-tired-to-go-out Jenn.
Lilly Cain is a wild woman with a deep, throaty laugh and plunging necklines. She is a great lover of all things sensual—perfume, chocolate, silk! She never has to worry about finding a date or keeping a man in line. She keeps her blond hair long and curly, wears beautiful clothes and loves loud music. Lilly lives her private life in the pages of her books.
All of the above is a bit of silliness. :) Lilly lives in Atlantic Canada, although she spent eight years in Bermuda, enjoying the heat and the pink sands. She returned to her homeland so she could see the changing of the seasons once again. When not writing she paints, swills coffee and vodka (but not together) and fights her writing pals for chocolate (true story).
When not living up to her pen name, Lilly is a single mom who loves reading and writing, dabbling in art and loving and caring for her two daughters. She loves romance and the freedom erotic fantasy provides her imagination. She loves the chilling moments in her novels as much as the steaming hot interludes. Her stories are an escape and a release, and she hopes that they can give you that power, too.
Title: Sexiest Dad Alive
Author: M Clarke
Genre: New Adult
Cover Designer: Regina Wamba at Mae I Design & Photography
Photographer: Shauna Kruse
Models: Josh McCann & Daughter
Sexiest Man Alive: http://amzn.to/1STGSSp
Sexiest Couple Alive: http://amzn.to/2iJT07C
Sexiest Dad Alive: http://amzn.to/2jLJItJ
Life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes you have to fight for happily ever after. And sometimes you just have to let go.
It was a simple offer.
I invited Isla to rent a room in my five thousand square foot home. Plenty of rooms and plenty of space. But the second she moved in, I knew I was in trouble. I could handle wanting her when there was distance between us, but once we started to play house, all my pent up desire started knocking down walls.
That was my first mistake of many.
The private investigator I hired to track down my ex found her not far from where I live. I should have locked my past behind me, but something urged me to find her. I’m glad I did. But our union left me with a situation to be reckoned with.
When a new fire is lit and old flames rekindle, one will have to burn out.
The decisions I’ll have to make won’t be easy.
No matter what I choose, my heart will break.