𝙐𝙎𝘼 𝙏𝙤𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙗𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙨𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙆𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙎𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙨, 𝙏.𝙈. 𝙁𝙧𝙖𝙯𝙞𝙚𝙧, 𝙗𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙚𝙬 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙡𝙤𝙜𝙮 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙞-𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪’𝙧𝙚 𝙜𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙡𝙤𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙖 𝙗𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙨𝙮 𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙠𝙨 𝙪𝙥 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙡𝙚𝙚𝙫𝙚.
PERVERSION, book one in the all-new Perversion Trilogy is coming September 25th and we have the first sneak peek for you!
Love is supposed to be magical.
Ours is suicidal.
The first time I met Emma Jean Parish,
she conned me into taking her p*ssy.
When she was sixteen,
she manipulated me into giving her
her very first kiss.
At eighteen she gave me 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔.
She’s a con artist.
I’m a criminal.
I use her.
She manipulates me.
The attraction between us is explosive.
When it detonates
we could both wind up dead.
PERVERSION IS BOOK ONE IN THE PERVERSION TRILOGY
BOOK TWO: POSSESSION
BOOK THREE: PERMISSION
Pre-order your copy of PERVERSION today!
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2LAHwpP
Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/PerversionTMF
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/perversionGR
When I was younger, I fell in love with magic. I learned every card trick there was from library books and unmasking magic TV specials. I used to put on shows for Gabby that included escaping from complicated knots and trick handcuffs. But what’s magic besides a sleight of hand?
It’s a lie.
And lying is what I’m damn good at.
My ability to spin a tall tale or two lead to stealing wallets and conning people into taking stray pets for the thrill of it. Now, I’m using it to earn for Marco. The thrill is there, but it’s muted, hindered, lost under his pile of mounting threats.
The inside of the casino smells like stale cigarettes, spilled beer, and burnt coffee. We’re not supposed to be in here. It’s Bedlam territory. But that’s also why it’s perfect.
It isn’t like anyone would recognize us here.
We’ve made friends with a few of the cocktail waitresses by giving them a small cut, and they don’t ask questions or ring any alarms when they see us working. I’ve also been straightening my hair over the last few years since my crazy curls stand out like a reflector on a dark highway. I’ve dyed it a few shades darker than my normal honey blonde to help blend in.
Tonight is starting off well. Gabby and I are working a con we’ve run a few times before.
Gabby walks away, her long dark hair swooshing behind her. She gives me a nod as she passes me by on the slot machine I’m pretending to play. She’s just faked losing an expensive engagement ring at another slot machine. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she frantically looked around for it, then loudly announced a thousand-dollar reward would be waiting at the casino cage for whoever returned it.
She is flawless. She should be an actress. And in another life, she would be.
But we don’t live in another life.
We live in Lacking and belong to Los Muertos.
Our lives are not our own.
A few people casually look around the area, then return to their machines when they don’t find the ring Gabby was ranting about. They won’t either. Because it’s not there.
It’s go time.
I strut over to the area Gabby just left and put a dollar in the machine. While the wheels spin, I pretend to pick up the dime store ring I already have in my hand. By the time the machine dings to tell me I’ve lost my dollar, I’m turning the ring over, inspecting it like I don’t have half a dozen more just like it in my drawer back at the apartment.
“Would you look at that?” I mutter to myself loud enough so others around me can hear.
A man in an Adidas jumpsuit with a potbelly taps me on the shoulder. “I’ll take that. I saw the woman who dropped it. I’ll go return it to her.”
Liar. You just want the reward.
“That’s so nice of you,” I say. I hold it out, about to drop it into his hand when I pull it back. “I bet there’s a reward for something this valuable.” I start to walk around the man. “I’ll take it up to management. Maybe, they know…”
“Here,” the man says, holding up a hundred-dollar bill. “Take this. I’ll take it to her. I just…you know, as I said, I want to make sure it gets back to the right person.”
You’re not even a good liar.
Sometimes, it’s just too freaking easy. And this scam wasn’t even an Emma Jean and Gabby original. We saw it a long time ago in a movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Doesn’t anyone else watch movies?
I shrug and pass him the ring. Plucking the bill from his hand, I tuck it into my bra. “Thanks,” I say before quickly making my way toward the large glass front doors. It’s Thursday. Marco’s money is due in two days, and we’re short this week.
I walk slowly and wave goodbye to the valets with a smile on my face. “Any luck, tonight?” One asks me.
“I think so,” I answer with a smile. Once I’m down the sidewalk and out of view, I scramble to the side of the casino where I kick off my heels and change from the sequined dress I’d stolen from a dry-cleaner into a pair of cut-off shorts and my yellow Keds.
Now, all I have to do is wait for Gabby.
I don’t have to wait long.
“Run!” Gabby yells, darting from the doors of the casino with two large men wearing tight black security t-shirts close behind. Running from security is terrifying enough, knowing that we’re running from members of the Bedlam Brotherhood kicks it up a notch.
I grab my backpack and sling it across my shoulders. I move as fast as I can until I’m running right alongside her. We race through the gates, cross the street, narrowly avoiding being hit by two cars. We duck into a hole in a fence and run through one backyard after the other.
“One of those cunt waitresses must have tipped them off!” Gabby says, through shallow breaths. She’s barefoot in a black mini-dress hiked up to her ass to give her long legs room to run. Her long thick hair is wrapped around her face, sticking to her mouth.
We hit the sixth backyard. Without another word, we separate behind a clothesline. We’ve mapped out this escape plan a thousand times, but this is the first time we’ve ever had to use it.
When I make it into the central part of town, to the Los Muertos/Bedlam border, I can no longer hear the shouts of the security guards. I lost them.
Hopefully, Gabby did, too.
I use a tower of stacked-up wooden pallets on the sidewalk like a ladder to scale a concrete wall, then drop down into the alley.
I grow more panic-stricken the longer I wait for Gabby. I bite the inside of my lip, pacing back and forth along the high wall. The Bedlam Brotherhood runs the security at the casino. If they catch her and find out who she is? Or worse? Who her brother is? They’ll… I shake the thought from my mind. She’ll be fine.
She HAS to be fine.
Please be okay, Gabby. Please.
I’m trying to catch my breath and pull myself together when I hear a clink echo through the alley as if someone dropped some spare change, followed by the sound of something heavy dropping to the asphalt.
“Gabby?” I ask into the darkness. Thinking it’s her, relief washes over me like rain on a barren desert.
My only answer is the flickering of a fluorescent light mounted high on the roof’s edge of the adjoining building. And the hiss of what sounds like a cat behind a dumpster.
I walk over and peer around it. “Gabby? Are you hurt? Say something!” I whisper-shout.
Someone moves from within the shadow. “Get out here, Gabby. We’ve got to go before Mar…”
The light flickers again, for just a second. That second is all I need to see that the someone slowly stalking toward me is not Gabby.
It’s a man…twice my size.
“Who are you?” I ask, shuffling backward as the man cloaked in a black leather hood emerges from the shadows. The front of his jacket is open. Underneath, he’s shirtless, covered in a sheen of sweat, and more tattoos than visible skin all the way up the front of his throat. His muscled chest and abs flex with each step he takes. The hood shadows most of his face, but when the lights flicker again, yellow eyes glow from within.
And they’re locked on me.
My ‘save your ass’ mode kicks in.
The man is blocking the only exit. My only other chance of escape is to scale the same wall I used to drop into the alley.
I keep moving backward as he approaches until my back hits the wall. I look left and right for something to use to climb on.
There’s nothing but emptiness.
My stomach sinks, but surrender is not an option.
I swallow hard as the alarm bells scream in my head for me to run. Somewhere. Anywhere.
There’s nowhere to go!
My legs tremble. Fear crawls like a million spiders along the backs of my legs. I push myself further against the wall as if I can squish the feeling away, but it’s useless.
Fear consumes me. Swallows me whole.
He continues toward me. As he gets closer, I realize it’s not just sweat glistening on his skin. There’s something else splattered across the tattoos on his chest and on his stubbled jaw.
It almost looks like wet paint.
My breathing stops when he’s close enough that I can make out the tattoo on the front of his throat.
A bleeding black rose.
The symbol of the Bedlam Brotherhood.
I’ve heard stories about Grim. The man in the hood. The executioner for Bedlam. They were all terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying as the reality of coming face to face with the man himself.
“We didn’t do anything,” I blurt. “I mean, we did, but it wasn’t a big deal. I’ll…I’ll give the money back. Just tell your men not to hurt my friend. It was all my idea. Let her go, and you can take me.”
“Who the fuck are you?” he asks. His voice is so thick and deep I feel it more than hear it. Shivers erupt all over my body.
He raises his arm, revealing a long curved blade.
For the first time in my life, I can’t seem to be able to hide my fear with my wit or sarcasm. My throat tightens. I can’t swallow, never mind speak. I’ve lost my words completely, along with my nerve.
The man’s blade drips red onto the pavement from the serrated tip.
Every fear response I didn’t even know I had runs rampant. I’m holding my breath. My muscles tense as if running was still an option. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck prickle my skin as they stand on end. I raise up to my tip-toes and push back, trying to make myself disappear into the wall.
I glance from the knife back to his chest, then back again. The splatters across his skin?
It’s not fucking paint.
Before I can process what the hell is happening, he switches from slow-stalking mode into hyper-speed, pinning my wrists above my head. His hard, bloodied chest pushes against me, smearing blood across my white tank top, forcing the back of my head to connect roughly with the wall.
“I’ll only ask you this one more time. Who the fuck are you?” His low guttural growl rattles my bones.
His unblinking, angry, golden eyes lock onto mine. Without the fluorescent light, they’re more golden brown than a glowing yellow. As much as I want to, I can’t look away. He could be the last person I ever see.
The thought is just the spike of adrenaline I need.
“Let me go,” I say, finally finding my words. I try and jerk my wrists from his grip with no luck. I’m trapped. My fear and anger rise to the surface, but I shove it back down. Fear won’t get me out of this situation, so it will have to wait for its damned turn.
He digs his rough fingers into my skin. “Answer me. Who the fuck are you?”
The bite of pain only makes me angrier. I throw his question back at him. “Who the fuck are you?”
He glances down at my rapidly rising and falling chest before pinning me with his stare. The corner of his mouth tugs up in a half-smirk.
“So much confidence for someone who’s trembling,” he says with an amused glint shining in his demonic eyes.
I shrug. “Maybe, I’m just not a fan of enclosed spaces,” I say through gritted teeth.
“You didn’t answer me,” he says.
“Why do you have blood all over you?” I answer him with yet another question. “You know, if you were committing some kind of crime back there, you should be more careful. I recommend a bleach bath and death by fire for your clothes the first chance you get. If it’s self-harm, I’m sure there’s a helpline you can call.”
He cocks his head to the side. His nostrils flare. His face is only inches away. I can feel the heat from his body against mine. His cool breath flutters against my neck.
I’ve never been this close to a man before. My trembling grows. My inner thighs shake sending a rippling wave of something very unfamiliar coursing through the center my body. I try and press my legs together to stop it from happening again, but when he uses his knee to wedge my legs apart, caging me in even further, it only grows, uncoiling from within like a slinky being pulled apart at the ends.
I swallow hard as the stubble of his jaw presses against my neck.
“Name,” he demands, his voice raspier than before.
I shut my eyes tight for a beat, trying to gain composure, control, something that will help me as I try and reason my way out of this. “Listen, I didn’t see anything,” I blurt. “That is if you did anything. I’m not going to call the police if that’s what you’re worried about. I wouldn’t anyway, even if I saw something, which I didn’t.”
His brows knit together in a harsh line. “Why?”
His question confuses me.
“Why wouldn’t you tell the police?”
Because Marco owns them.
“Let’s just say that I haven’t exactly been a model citizen myself tonight. Let’s face it. If the police around here weren’t being paid not to do their jobs, half this town would be locked up.” I take a deep, shaky breath. “Especially people like us.”
He stills. There’s no more talking. Only heavy breathing and a battle of wills. He releases one of my hands. I think he’s reaching for his knife. My blood turns cold. I can feel my face pale as my heart starts beating as faster and faster as if it wants to get in as many as possible before the end.
I’m surprised when he doesn’t go for his knife. Instead, his hand travels slowly down my chest into my cleavage.
“No, don’t!” I say, but it’s too late, he’s already yanked on my locket.
“Please just give it back, and let me go,” I plead. Feeling like it’s my real heart he’s torn from my chest. “It’s the only thing in this world that means anything to me. Besides my best friend, it’s all I have.”
I hate the desperation in my voice, but it’s the truth.
He’s silent for a moment. He raises his arms. I flinch, raising my arms over my face defensively. But when nothing happens, I lower them, just in time to see him push back his hood, revealing his face.
“Why?” I ask, closing my eyes knowing full well that the only time a criminal reveals himself to a witness is right before they take them out.
“Look at me,” he demands, holding my face in his hand.
“No!” I say, shutting my eyes tighter.
“Look at me!” he bellows. He’s on me again. This time, he holds my head in his large rough hands. “Open your fucking eyes so you can see me.”
With no other choice than to get my head squished like a turtle under a car tire, I do as he demands. Opening my eyes, I blink through the haze, and when it clears, I’m met with tousled, medium-length, light brown hair, slicked back on the top, shorn close to head on the sides. His nose is slightly crooked like it’s been broken a few times before. The stubble on his square, defined jaw is a few days over needing a shave. A jagged scar runs through his chin like an angry white lightning bolt.
He’s the most fucking beautifully terrifying man I’ve ever seen.
He’s searching my eyes for something, but I don’t know what.
“Why?” I ask in a whisper.
His hands release mine, but he doesn’t step back. He leans in closer, speaking against my cheek in a rumble of a whisper. The strange feeling from earlier comes back as a zap of electricity bouncing around my insides looking for somewhere to ground.
I’m breathing heavy. Our lips are so close, almost touching. He slides one hand off my face, snaking it around my neck, pulling me closer. He starts to answer in a rumble of a whisper, causing goosebumps to rise on my already prickled skin. “Because I want you to see the face of the man who’s just—”
“Where the fuck are you?” calls Gabby from the other side of the wall. “I lost them!”
The moment, whatever it is, is now broken. The man releases me so suddenly I brace myself against the wall to keep from falling. I turn my head toward her voice.
“Gabby!” I shout back.
My heart is beating out of control. Out of habit, I raise my hand to my chest, seeking familiar comfort.
I look up. The man in the hood is gone.
And so is my locket.
About the Author
T.M. (Tracey Marie) Frazier never dreamed that a single person would ever read a word she wrote when she published her first book. Now, she is a five-time USA Today bestselling author and her books have been translated into numerous languages and published all around the world.
T.M. enjoys writing what she calls sexy‘wrongside of the tracks romance’ with morally corrupt anti-heroes and ballsy heroines.
Her books have been described as raw, dark and gritty. Basically, what that means, is while some authors are great at describing a flower as it blooms, T.M. is better at describing it in the final stages of decay.
She loves meeting her readers, but if you see her at an event please don’t pinch her because she’s not ready to wake up from this amazing dream.
Connect with T.M. Frazier
For Text Alerts: TEXT “TMFRAZIER” TO 77948
*Standard text messaging rates apply*
Ms. Romance believes in true love and soul mates. Mr. Reality believes love is a term humanity has assigned to the primal instinct to procreate. She believes in fate—he in chance. She knows there’s one right person for everyone—he knows there are multiple ones. The two writers couldn’t be more polarized on relationships. They’re professional rivals, and philosophical antagonists.
For eight years, their battles have been fought with words and ink. That changes when they apply for the same position at the World Times and find themselves face-to-face for the first time. Brooks isn’t the sour-faced, antiquity of a man Hannah pictured. And Hannah isn’t exactly the middle-aged shrew with cat hair on her housedress that Brooks imagined either.
In lieu of competing for the promotion traditional ways, the two writers are presented with playing the leading roles in a social experiment unlike any before. Can a person be tricked into falling in love? Can a relationship be crafted under the right string of circumstances? Hannah knows the answer. So does Brooks.
Agreeing to the terms, the two set out on a three-month dating experiment, live-streamed for the world to watch. All Hannah has to do to win is not fall in love with the narcissistic brute. All Brooks has to do is get the starry-eyed dreamer to fall in love with him. Both are so confident in their philosophies, they expect the challenge to be easy.
With the world watching, Brooks and Hannah will be forced to confront their beliefs and conclude, once and for all, who’s right. The answer is one neither of them saw coming.
“So?” His head lowered toward mine. “Have you fallen in love with me yet?”
A single-noted laugh escaped from me. “No. Sorry to burst your bubble.”
“You know it’s only a matter of time.”
“Before our three months are up and, lo and behold, I haven’t fallen madly in love with you?” I said. “Yeah, I know that.”
He held out my glass of cider, scooting closer. “Am I really that offensive?”
“Taken as a whole, no, you’re not. But taking this whole set-up into account, along with your beliefs that love is for weak-minded ninnies, then yes. You really are so offensive.”
A half smile emerged. “What do your readers think about this whole thing?”
“My readers definitely don’t want me falling for you,” I answered.
“But your readers love romance, and some handsome, roguish fellow taking your hand in a park while you’re dressed in a white dress is the definition of romance.” Right then, Brooks’s hand covered mine where it was resting on the blanket.
Instead of stiffening or whipping away, I found myself relaxing under his touch. The camera’s presence screamed at me from the corner of my eye.
“My readers believe in finding the one.” My hand slipped from beneath his. “Not the one who takes your hand and pretends to like you so he gets the promotion.”
“Who says I couldn’t be your one?”
I laughed. “Even I don’t need to run the numbers to know that has about a one-in-an-impossible chance of happening.”
Brooks slid his glasses onto his head, his eyes unapologetic in their stare. “You and me? You couldn’t see it?”
“Not even a little.” I had to look away. “When it’s right, you know it. You feel it.”
Brooks’s head shook before he took a drink of his cider. “I admit, it’s a nice idea. But don’t you feel it inside? The realization that it’s just not true?” He stared out at the park and the people in it.
I gazed with him, trying to ignore that pit opening up in my stomach. “I’d rather spend my life chasing a dream than swallowing a cruel reality.”
“You’d rather spend your life lying to yourself than being honest?” Brooks asked.
“I don’t think any of what I believe is a lie. Soul mates, unconditional love, happy endings—it’s all real.”
“Fairy tales,” he muttered under his breath. “So explain why a marriage dissolves after twenty years because of fifteen minutes of indiscretion.”
Reaching for my glass, I answered, “It wouldn’t have if he kept it in his pants.”
He blew out a sharp breath. “No, that’s like saying twenty years, our kids, our house, our finances, everything is worth less than that fifteen minutes of fucking.” His arms threw out, his tone rather impassioned. “That’s not unconditional love. That’s the very conditional kind.”
“You’re right. It is the conditional kind. On the part of the one who engaged in the fifteen minutes of extra marital . . .” I just caught the cameraman’s hands flailing before I said, “Screwing. That was one-sided unconditional love, and that never works in a relationship.”
One of his brows rose. “That’s a convenient explanation. But I’ll stick to my beliefs that all of that unconditional love junk is worth its weight in bullshit.”
I shot the cameraman an apologetic look—so much for keeping this date in the PG realm. “Then how do you explain the couples it has worked for? The ones who live a long, happy, committed relationship together.”
“I call it a case of two determined people willing to overlook each other’s weaknesses and not be hell-bent on changing or fixing the other, who’ve figured out a way to laugh at themselves, forgive easily—not to mention often—perfect the fine balance of selflessness and selfish, and on top of that, won the relationship lottery.” Brooks clinked his glass against mine before finishing what was left of his cider. “That’s how I explain that.”
I blinked at him. “Wow. Don’t hold back or anything.”
“That’s just half of it.”
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.
An all-new emotional and romantic standalone from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carly Phillips is coming July 10th!
Fall for the missing Ward sister…
Juliette Collins is privileged and isolated from the world by her over-protective father. She thinks she knows the truth about her history until a file in her father’s safe reveals she has sisters she never knew about. A family she’s never met. Betrayed, she realizes there’s a life waiting for her outside the walls of her daddy’s New York City penthouse and Juliet is determined to live it. Against her father’s wishes, she heads to a small beach community to meet her siblings… and finds herself way out of her depth instead.
In the personal protection business, Braden Clark thinks nothing of taking on a job to watch over a city girl in town for the summer. If her father wants to know his daughter is safe, it’s no problem and an easy way of earning a paycheck. Except Braden doesn’t count on falling for the sheltered Juliette. Watching her experience her firsts, getting an apartment, finding a job, meeting up with her lost sisters, soon Braden’s brand of protection becomes a little too personal. He’s mixing business with pleasure and lying to a woman he’s coming to care deeply about.
Sexual attraction burns bright between them and Braden is by her side as she finds herself, her family, and what it means to love… but what happens when she discovers his secret? That he’s been paid to watch over her all along?
A Standalone Novel
“What are you doing?” The first hint of true panic since he’d been found out sliced into her father’s voice.
He rushed over, placing a hand on her suitcase. “Juliette, no. We can work this out. I want to make this right.”
“You can’t.” The damage was done by withholding information about her family.
“Be reasonable before you storm out. You’ve never been away from home alone. Never held a job. What are your plans?”
“And whose fault is that? You’ve kept me dependent on you, but now it’s time for me to be an adult. To meet my sisters and live my own life.” She closed her suitcase and zipped it around before turning to face him. “I can promise you, I will be perfectly fine.”
“I only ever had your best interest at heart. You have to know that.” He stepped back, a defeated expression on his face. “Would you consider taking a bodyguard?” he asked. “Someone to watch you from afar?”
She snorted at that. “No. I’m an adult and it’s time you started treating me like one. I’m taking the summer for myself. I’ll decide what happens at the end of August. Until then, please respect my privacy.”
He hesitated, then perhaps seeing the determination in her expression, hearing the certainty about her decision in her voice, he lifted a hand and stepped back. “Fine. I’ll expect to hear from you. Often.”
She shook her head. “Sorry, Dad. You’re not telling me what to do anymore.” She hesitated, knowing he had a bad heart and not wanting to upset him more despite how hurt and angry she was. “I know you love me,” she said, voice softening. “And I love you, but it’s way past time for me to be on my own.”
“So be it.”
She narrowed her gaze, surprised at his capitulation. She’d expected him to turn his chilly anger on her, but he was letting her go without too much of an argument.
Relief and excitement filled her soul. She was going to meet her family, experience everything she’d missed out on, and finally, live her own life.
For herself and nobody else.
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Start the Series of Standalones Today!
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Meet Carly Phillips:
Carly Phillips is the N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels, including the Indie published, Dare to Love Series. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.
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Today we are sharing an excerpt for SLOE SCREW by Nazarea Andrews. Sloe Screw is an adult contemporary romance, standalone novel, and it is the third book in the River Street Bar series. Check out the blurb and some teasers for the book below. The book releases on July 12th!
You can sign up for Nazarea’s newsletter for exclusive details.
SLOE SCREW by Nazarea Andrews
A Standalone Contemporary Romance
(River Street Bar series, #3)
Vivian Fitzpatrick is a big dreams girl stuck in a small town.
She likes her job, and she adores her friends, but there’s a tiny part of her that still wants adventure. Wants all the unfulfilled dreams to come true. She still wants to base jump and skydive and do everything her ex-boyfriend said she was too chicken-shit to do.
Which is probably how she ends up moonlighting for a phone sex line.
Matteo Soto is just trying to figure out how to live again.
A bomb in Iraq left half his unit dead, and Matteo broken. He puts on a good act–the rookie at RCPD, taking care of his dead best friend’s family. But it feels too much like going through the motions, too much like marking time.
He needs a reason to get up in the morning.
She needs to feel alive.
Taite is snarling when she stalks in with my lunch a few hours later, and I eye her warily. No one has gotten shot or run into a burning building, so— “Gomez pissing you off?”
She bares her teeth at me, and I smile.
“I know your daddy taught you to play nice with others,” I tease.
“Dad hated getting new partners,” she scoffs.
I laugh, a throaty thing. “It’s only for the day, Tay. You can handle one day away from Miguel.”
She gives me a skeptical look. “Last time he was away for a day, he ended up a hostage in that bank robbery on Fifth, remember?”
I wince. She’s not wrong.
“That was a complete misunderstanding,” Miguel whines, coming over to loop an arm around Taite’s shoulders. She relaxes a little, leaning into him briefly before she elbows him in the gut. “And Crispin was a very nice bank robber.”
“We need to have another talk about befriending perps,” Taite mutters.
I laugh and look up—
And freeze. In the doorway stands a man, tall with dark hair and piercing green eyes. His half smile looks a little confused as he watched Miguel and Taite.
“Oh! Vivi, this is our new officer, Matteo Soto. Matteo, this is Vivian Fitzpatrick, our dispatcher and all around goddess. If there’s anything you need to know, she’s the best person to ask,” Miguel says, beaming at me.
“She’s also brilliant—so don’t play cards with her—and fun as hell, so definitely drink with her,” Taite adds with a smirk.
I point a red fingertip at her and narrow my eyes. “You behave. Don’t scare away fresh meat.”
Matteo laughs, and it’s husky and warm, stroking down my spine and making me want to purr.
“I like calculated risks,” he says, grinning at me.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nazarea Andrews (N to almost everyone) is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. Which means she writes everything from zombies and dystopia to contemporary love stories.
When not writing, she can most often be found driving her kids to practice and burning dinner while she reads, or binge watching TV shows on Netflix. N loves chocolate, wine, and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids.
N is a self-professed geek and enjoys spending her spare time lost in her favorite fandoms and can often be found babbling about them on social media.
She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, spoiled cat and overgrown dog. She is the author of World Without End series, Neverland Found, Edge of the Falls, and The University of Branton Series. Stop by her twitter (@NazareaAndrews) and tell her what fantastic book she should read next.
Nick sat in Twickenham’s South Stand, the ground empty, floodlights dimmed. He closed his eyes, remembering being here as a young kid, watching his heroes play, dreaming of doing what they did, playing for England. He rubbed his tired eyes, despair weighing him down. It was all so long ago. But fast forward in time and here he was again, sitting in the same place.
He’d achieved what he set out to do—there should be no regrets. But it was so damn hard to let go, so hard to unplug.
Rugby lads were tough men, and Nick felt frustrated by his inability to suck it up and get a grip.
Ren-shaw! Ren-shaw! Ren-shaw!
He could still hear the fans cheer and sing. He could hear the studs from thirty pairs of boots echo through the tunnel as the players walked out to the field, the coach giving his pre-game speech, the victory song being sung after and drums thundering as the team celebrated.
All memories he’d never forget.
I’ll never replace this. Rugby is under my skin, it’s in my blood, it flows through my soul.
A place like Twickenham brought back so many emotions. He knew that every player went through the transition, wondering what was next, but that didn’t make it any easier.
The underlying question had to be answered in his own mind: if I’m not Nick Renshaw the Rugby star anymore, who am I? What’s my purpose?
If he was honest, not knowing who or what he was, it scared him.
I can’t let Anna see me like this.
But Nick was too late.
Anna didn’t know what she’d find. She didn’t know if Nick would want her there.
Making her way toward the South Stand, she saw him.
He was sitting in the shadows, elbows on his knees, staring out at the empty stadium, staring out at the silent turf. His gaze was distant, lost in the past, and Anna wondered what he was seeing, what he was hearing. Did the echoes of long gone games ring in his ears? Was the roar of a long lost crowd making his heart pound with ghostly reminders of past greatness? Was he seeing the moment that he stole the ball from the air and ran half the length of the field to score his most famous try? Was he reliving the moment when 82,000 fans leapt in the air, chanting his name?
For a moment, she studied his profile: the nose that had been broken twice, but still retained its fine outline; the strong chin, covered now with a neat beard; moonlight casting shadows across his sharp cheekbones.
His stillness frightened her and he seemed so lost, so very far away.
She walked toward him, her nerves jumping, and sat by him, stiff and silent. He knew she was there, she could tell by the gentle tilt of his head.
And then, without looking at her, he held out his hand toward her, and she took it, gratitude and relief filling her eyes with tears.
His skin was cool, as if he’d been sitting here in the dark for a very long time.
They continued in silence for several more minutes, simply sitting, their hands joined.
She waited for him to speak. And waited, and waited, her heart sinking a little more with each second that passed.
“I missed you,” she said, at last.
Not just today. I’ve missed you so much for so long.
Breathe, an all-new second chance romance from Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips is coming May 15th!
Fall in love with the Wards…
From troubled teen to successful general contractor, Jake Nichols turned his life around from his time in foster care. Divorced and single, he juggles his time between his daughter and his work. Next on his agenda, a new project that is his chance to prove his worth at the job he loves. Except he never anticipates that the only girl he’s ever loved and lost as a teen is now a grown and beautiful woman in charge of the project.
Phoebe Ward has survived and conquered a painful past that includes foster care and becoming a teenaged mom. She wants nothing more than to focus on the present but it’s hard when she looks into the eyes of her son, knowing she’s tried and failed to find his father. She’s resigned herself to raising him alone with the help of her family… Until a client meeting brings her face to face with her first love. A boy… now a sexy man she thought she’d never see again … and the father of her child.
So many years have gone by and both of their lives have changed drastically. Will they be able to put the past behind them and find the second chance they both deserve?
A Standalone Novel
“Hello?” Phoebe called out.
“In here!” a masculine voice said, sounding like it came from the far side of the house.
She followed the sound and noticed a man talking on the phone, his back to her. He was tall, well built, muscles defined, as she took him in from behind. And what a behind he had, a tight ass in his faded jeans.
She ogled the sight shamelessly, her gaze traveling up his lean waist and broad shoulders. His dark hair was short and the jet-black color she preferred on a man. He wore a light blue button-down, sleeves rolled up, revealing sexy forearms.
And then he turned to meet her gaze, giving her one raised finger to indicate he needed another minute on the phone. Except she wasn’t paying attention to the gesture, because one look at that handsome face, more mature than she remembered but just as good-looking, and she froze.
Vivid blue eyes widened at the sight of her in return.
She wasn’t just looking at a stranger, she was staring into the shocked eyes of her son’s father, a man she hadn’t seen since before she found out she was pregnant.
“Jake?” she whispered, unable to comprehend the fact that she was standing in the same room with her first love. Her first everything.
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Meet Carly Phillips
Carly Phillips is the N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels, including the Indie published, Dare to Love Series. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.
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Are you ready for your first look at Cameron McGregor? Check out an excerpt of MELT FOR YOU by J.T. Geissinger below! Preorder your copy now and get your hands on him when MELT FOR YOU publishes May 15th!
About MELT FOR YOU
A wallflower gets seduction tips from a playboy athlete—until love changes the rules.
Socially awkward Joellen Bixby has a date every Saturday—with her cat, a pint of ice cream, and fantasies of the way-too-handsome Michael Maddox. She’d give anything to win over the unattainable CEO of her firm, but how can she when she blends in so well with her cubicle? The answer may be closer than she thinks.
Cameron McGregor is a cocky, tattooed Scottish rugby captain who just moved in next door. He’s not Jo’s type—at all—but the notorious playboy is offering to teach the wallflower everything he knows about inspiring desire. Though a lot of women have rumpled Cam’s kilt, Jo is special. Far from the ugly duckling she thinks she is, in Cam’s eyes she’s sharp, funny, and effortlessly sexy. Now, thanks to him, Jo is blooming with confidence and has the man of her dreams within reach.
Unfortunately for Cam, he’s just helped to push the woman of his dreams into the arms of another man—and now he’s in the fight of his life to keep this beauty from getting away.
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Read an Excerpt from MELT FOR YOU
“Remember to breathe,” he whispers.
“Just kiss me already,” I whisper back, surprised by how much it sounds like a plea.
“Your eyes are still open.”
I immediately shut them.
His soft laugh sends a thrill up my spine. “If only you were that obedient all the time, lass.” He lightly nips my lower lip, a dark, delicious little promise.
My hands. What do I do with my hands? They’re flattened against his chest again, but that seems lame, so I slide them up around his neck…and discover his hair. Good lord. Thick, glossy strands of hair slide like silk between my fingers. It’s longer than any of the men’s at the office, much longer than Michael’s, past the collar of his shirt, dark and waving, exquisitely soft.
As his tongue slowly begins to probe my mouth, I tug on all that gorgeous hair, forgetting I’m not supposed to be enjoying this.
I arch against him, softening, expanding, breathing deeply through my nose as the kiss deepens and begins to burn. I wasn’t kidding when I said he was experienced. He knows exactly what to do, how to get my blood sizzling and my heart hammering and all the pornographic images of him nude and splayed out like the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received pulsing like neon signs inside my head.
My nipples tighten. There’s a new heaviness between my legs, but it’s not him, it’s me, flushed and aching, every pull of his lips sending a spike of heat to that hollow space inside me that I’m becoming acutely aware of, its muted little howls of need.
I break away to check in before I lose myself completely and choke him with my prehensile tongue. “How’m I doing?” I mumble, flushed and out of breath.
His eyes drift open. Hot and dark, they pin me in place. “Jury’s still out,” he says, his voice thick. “Need more evidence.”
His mouth. I will drown in the pleasure of his mouth. I’ll die on this sofa and Mrs. Dinwiddle will find my body, fingers and toes chewed on by the poor starving cat.
The kiss grows decadent. Sinful. I moan, a desperate sound rising from the back of my throat. It has an interesting effect on Cam.
His entire body goes stiff.
He takes my head in both hands, breaks the kiss, and turns his face away. He breathes raggedly for a few moments, his nostrils flared and his jaw like granite. With his fingers pressed into my scalp, he says roughly, “You can’t make noises like that.”
Oh God. I sound like a warthog. A donkey. A trained pig, snuffling through the underbrush in search of truffles. “Okay.”
The humiliation in my voice makes his eyes slash to mine. “It’s not bad. It’s just…distracting.”
He slightly shifts his weight, and things are clarified.
I bite my lip so hard I might have drawn blood. My heart is a hummingbird beating frantically against a cage. I whisper, “You said you wouldn’t get aroused.”
He looks at my mouth like a warlord looking over a kingdom he’s just seized. “I lied.”
A kiss again, dangerous, like standing at the edge of a cliff and looking over, shifting dirt and rocks tumbling beneath your feet. My fingers twist in his hair. His hands move my head, left or right, however he wants it, a throbbing pulse like drumbeats in my ears. I’m so turned on I feel frantic, unstable, like I might break out of my own skin.
Caterpillar becoming butterfly. Chrysalis shed, wings outstretched, wind beneath my belly. Caught on an updraft. Beating, beating, flying free.
He breaks the kiss, suddenly, shatteringly, the separation like breaking glass. Dizzy, I whimper at the loss of his mouth.
“Fuck. Joellen. Fuck.”
He’s panting, his voice a desperate rasp. He radiates heat like a furnace. Even his hands on my head are hot, burning right through my skull.
With his scent in my nose and his heat wrapped around me and his heart pounding against mine, I’m somewhere else. I’m someone else. A gypsy, casting spells. A sloe-eyed singer in a smoky jazz club. A femme fatale in a film noir, all knowing smiles and long legs and a throaty voice with an edge like a purr.
“Don’t stop,” I say in my new voice. “You taste so good.”
He stares right at me, his eyes intensely aglow. Tiger eyes. Wolf eyes. The eyes of a predator about to pounce on his meal.
He growls, “You like the way I taste?”
There’s a challenge in the question. Other than his ragged breathing, he’s so still, every muscle tensed.
I come back to myself abruptly, all at once aware of how far this little experiment has gone, how dangerously close it is to the point of no return, and the cat up on the kitchen table eating the remains of Cam’s dinner from his plate.
Oh shit. My face floods with heat.
I’m not a gypsy. I’m not a femme fatale. I’m an awkward, lonely woman sitting on the lap of the most famous athlete on the planet, making an utter fool of myself.
About J.T. Geissinger
A former headhunter, J.T. Geissinger is the author of more than a dozen novels in contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense.
She is the recipient of the Prism Award for Best First Book, the Golden Quill Award for Best Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, and is a two-time finalist for the RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America®. Her work has also finaled in the Booksellers’ Best, National Readers’ Choice, and Daphne du Maurier Awards.
Join her Facebook reader’s group, Geissinger’s Gang, to take part in weekly Wine Wednesday live chats and giveaways, find out more information about works in progress, have access to exclusive excerpts and contests, and get advance reader copies of her upcoming releases.
Series: Constellation #2
Author: Jennifer Locklear
Cover Designer: Jada D’Lee Designs
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 17
He’s older, sophisticated, and harboring secrets.
She’s intelligent, beautiful, and emotionally numb.
On the surface, advertising executive Jack Evans has it all. Blessed with striking good looks, a thriving career, a stylish wife, and an adoring daughter, he’s still struggling with personal turmoil. And when his wife abruptly leaves, it’s up to Jack to care for his child alone while picking up the pieces of his broken past.
While doing so, Jack is drawn to the up-and-coming executive, Kathleen Brighton. She’s stunning and intuitive—and everything he needs now that the divorce is finalized. As he falls for his sexy colleague, Jack worries that Kathleen may not be able to handle the chaos of his life. Will Jack escape the mistakes of his past to capture the future he deserves?
I don’t remember how long I stared at the dresser drawer that once held Kathleen’s lingerie. But it was a while.
Eventually, I left my bedroom to join my ex-wife and our daughter for dinner. I went through the motions of the mealtime ritual, but my thoughts and concerns about Kathleen distracted me. I hadn’t heard if she’d arrived in Denver and was aware of her absence.
Despite our strained relationship, it was comforting to know I could see her at the office. As painful as our growing separation was, I’d held out hope for us. Since returning to work, I’d planned to seize every opportunity to nurture our love and find a way back into her arms. But now that she had gone to Colorado, there was nothing to look forward to.
I left my untouched dinner on the plate. I offered Allison an expression of regret and packed up my uneaten food for lunch the following day. I helped with the dishes, and when there was nothing left to do, I stepped outside and took a seat on the swinging bench I’d once shared with Kathleen.
At the beginning of the summer, we’d sat in this spot together and talked about Allison. I remembered with heartache how Kathleen promised me she would never interfere with my family. She never wanted to cause trouble between Allison and me. As far as I was concerned, Kathleen had kept her promise. The reason I was sitting there alone was because I hadn’t followed her example.
I leaned forward, placing my elbows on my knees and resting my face in my palms. I missed Kathleen. I’d missed her for weeks, but with her away from Bend, I no longer felt whole. I worried she was gone for good. I hadn’t experienced fear like this since the day of Heide’s accident. I hadn’t grieved like this since my father died. I didn’t know how to win Kathleen back, but I didn’t want to live the rest of my life without her.
“Jack?” Allison’s soft voice at the same moment she rested a light hand on my shoulder startled me. Consumed in my own emotions, I hadn’t noticed her approach. I sat bolt upright and realized I was crying. It wasn’t something I was prone to, and I brushed a hand over my eyes to remove the evidence.
Allison sat next to me, angling her body toward mine. When I dropped my hand back to my lap, she cradled it in her own. It was a touch, a fit, I remembered well. It wasn’t the hand I was desperate to hold; nevertheless Allison’s offer of comfort was welcome.
We sat still, adjusting to the moment. I couldn’t make eye contact with her. Instead, I distracted myself by looking at the recognizable outline of the Big Dipper.
“What’s the matter?” she finally asked.
I hesitated to answer.
“Please,” she persisted. “Let me help. Don’t shut me out anymore.”
I blinked, thinking of my past actions and Kathleen’s need to secure a peaceful future.
“It’s Kathleen,” I confessed while continuing to watch the stars. “I’ll understand if she’s the last person you want to talk about.”
“Will things be all right between the two of you?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Last weekend was the first time I’d seen her since we were in Portland.”
I looked at Allison. “Where did you see her?”
“Here. She drove you to the house. You were drunk, so I asked her to take you to her place until you sobered up.”
“Oh? I don’t remember that.”
“You were passed out in her car, so that’s not surprising.” Allison’s grip on my hand tightened just a bit.
I waited to hear what she would reveal next.
“She asked me why I left you.”
“What did you tell her?”
“Nothing, because the question means one of two things. You either haven’t told her why, or she doesn’t trust the information you gave her. Knowing you the way I do, I’m certain it’s both.”
I thought long and hard about Allison’s conclusion. If there was anyone capable of understanding both my mind and Kathleen’s, it was my ex-wife. I looked at her and took the leap of faith.
“She thinks I want you back.”
Allison leaned back as confusion flashed across her face. “Who gave her that idea?”
Allison’s eyes grew wide. “You?”
Jennifer Locklear lives in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. She married her high school sweetheart, Morgan, in 1995. She is the mother of two children, a son and daughter.
Jennifer enjoyed creative writing as an adolescent, but set aside her favorite hobby to concentrate on college studies, career and family. In 2010, she rediscovered her passion for writing when her husband recruited her to edit his own stories. They co-authored and published their debut novel, Exposure, in 2014.
Since 2000, Jennifer has been employed in fundraising and development for a non-profit organization. She has been a contributing reviewer for the “Bookish Temptations” book blog and is a founding moderator of “Argyle Empire,” an approved fan site for author Sylvain Reynard.
She also enjoys participating in charitable activities, both locally and online.
Constellation is Jennifer’s first solo novel.
Series: A Brett MacLean Duet #1
Author: JM Walker
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 7
It started without trust. Passion. Lust. An all-consuming need; that was all we had in the beginning.
Lies. Betrayal. Deceit. We moved past it all and fell in love anyway.
Over ten years later, with a family of our own, our little world was perfect. Happy.
But then that happiness faded away when she came into our lives.
No control. No power. Just heartbreak and unwanted submission.
We were forced to our knees at the sight of her. The words falling from her lips were like nails digging at our soul because we knew.
We would have to go through hell to get out of this.
And even then, I wasn’t sure if it would be enough.
Our world ended when she came into our lives. No control. No power. Just heartbreak and unwanted submission. We were forced to our knees at the sight of her. The words falling from her lips were like nails digging at our soul because we knew there was no way out of this.
It wasn’t her fault. None of it was. She was a lowly pawn in this fucked up world we called life. There was nothing any of us could do but wait.
Ever since I was a small boy, I had made it my mission to be in control of everything around me. My career. Women. Sex. Money. Alcohol. I strived to be an asshole so no one could get into my heart.
And then she appeared.
Short. Blonde, curly hair. Deep blue eyes that looked into my very soul and knew my secrets before I ever told her.
Evvie Neal was my one, my only.
I tried so hard to be in control when really, she was the Master and I was the ever-willing slave. She captured my heart, reached inside my chest and brought it back to life just by the sound of her laugh.
But as soon as we were happy, as soon as we let our guard down, the foundation of our love cracked.
We worked damn hard for it and I would do everything in my power to build up the walls of our love and make her happy again.
Even if it meant leaving.
J.M. Walker is an Amazon bestselling author who loves all things books, pigs and lip gloss. She is happily married to the man who inspires all of her Heroes and continues to make her weak in the knees every single day.
Cover designer: Okay Creations
Release date: May 1, 2018
As the bus approaches my stop on the Lower East Side, I raise the hood of my black sweatshirt. Anonymity is key in my neighborhood—particularly as a lone female walking at night.
All I want is to leave my crime-ridden shadow of a home in New York City. I’ve done everything I can to keep my head down and focus on my studies. College is my only goal; love has never been on the map…
That is, until my sister brings me to an underground fight, where I meet a gorgeous and mysterious man: Vincent.
He is the ghost in my shadows, showing up to feed me pieces of his upper-crust life, then evaporating into darkness until his next visit. I’m falling hard and fast. How can I trust him amidst the depth of his secrets?
Vincent may be even more dangerous than the dark world I’m trying to escape.
“Carlos is out,” she says in a rush. I look at her face, feeling my stomach sink. She’s playing with the hem of her shirt and glances at me nervously. Finally, her gray-blue eyes bore into mine, and I know that she’s gearing up to tell me some serious shit.
With trembling hands, I put down my coffee mug. “Tell me.”
“Yeah. Well, I heard he made bail—” She stops, clearing her throat. “I also heard that he’s, um, angrier than usual.” She stands, bringing the rest of the carafe of coffee to the table and pouring more into my cup.
I lick my dry lips. “What do you mean?”
She moves to the edge of her seat, pushing sugar my way. “Well, I was on the stoop yesterday. It was my day off. I was hanging out with everyone and listening to Mr. Samson talk about a new jazz club that recently opened up in Harlem. We were all getting high with someone’s hash, shooting the shit—”
“And?” I raise my eyebrows, waiting for her to get to the point.
“Juan came over, and sat with me.” She slightly shifts her head to the side and presses her lips together. “Well, he told me that Carlos is out now. And, he’s been talking shit all over town that he and you have some unfinished business. Juan wanted to tell me because he’s scared for you. I know he’s an annoying little shit, but after he heard…” her voice trails off.
I blink once, twice, three times.
“There’s more,” she says on an exhale. “Apparently, he hooked up with some girl last night. Beat the shit out of her. Ms. Santini from Three-A was on her way to work and stopped to drop off her trash by the dumpsters. Apparently, she heard a moaning sound. When she saw the girl, her clothes were torn. She was beaten up and started bawling about Carlos…”
My head gets dizzy, but I force myself to hear every detail. “An ambulance took her away, but she was in pretty bad shape.”
I want to ask more questions, but the terror has a clamp on my throat.
“I think you need to stay close to me for a while, okay? The Snakes are getting more aggressive. They want the Blue Houses as their own territory, and it looks like they’re trying to instill some bigger fear on the streets.” She drops her gaze. I know she’s afraid. Every girl in the Blue Houses probably heard the story by now.
“Yeah. Okay. I’ll make sure Angelo knows I need to leave before it gets dark out.”
“Good idea. We need to sync our schedules so you aren’t walking alone at night. I’m gonna talk to some other people and try to get their schedules down so that everyone has a buddy or something at night. I’m sure when everyone hears about this, we won’t be the only ones who are scared.” I nod my head and stand up mechanically, rinsing my mug and walking to my room to digest the new information. After grabbing my stuff, I check my purse to make sure that my gun is still inside. I lock myself in the bathroom and load and unload the gun a few times, reacquainting myself with the weapon. If Carlos comes, I’ll be ready for him.
Getting to work, I let Angelo know the details of what’s new with Carlos. He’s angry and continues to tell me that I shouldn’t be so stubborn and I need to let the Borignones get involved. But I refuse. I still don’t want any debts to my name. I’ve made it this far, and I believe I can wait it out a little longer.
Work passes in a blur. I’m convincing a girl to sell her diamond ring while Angelo sells the two violins and a Cartier watch to an elderly couple who want to buy something for their grandchildren.
When the day is done, Angelo insists on calling a car to take me home. I sigh deeply, knowing that the driver will be one of Angelo’s associates. But considering the fact that Carlos is out of jail, I’m not going to complain. I nod my head and take his ride in the name of safety.
I get in the huge black Escalade and see a massive man sitting in the driver’s seat. Swallowing hard, I remind myself that he’s not an enemy, but on my side. He drives me right up to my building and I gingerly walk out, my shaking hand inside my purse, gripping my gun. I’m scared as hell, but it makes me feel a modicum of control. The driver enters the building with me and steps into the elevator as well.
We reach the fourth floor when I tell him he can go. “I can get into my apartment fine now.” He nods his head wordlessly and re-calls the elevator to bring him back downstairs.
I get up to my door without incident and let out the breath I was holding while I pry my fingers off my gun. “I’m okay,” I say out loud, turning my head and letting my gaze run up and down my hallway. It’s empty. I pull out my key and step forward onto my threadbare Welcome mat when I feel like I’ve kicked something. I look down, confused at what’s on the floor. It must be Janelle’s sweater that she dropped on her way out. I bend down to pick it up and freeze.