TEAM PLAYER, A Christmas Anthology featuring titles by LJ Shen, Kennedy Ryan, Adriana Locke, Mandi Beck, Emma Scott, Charleigh Rose, Ella Fox, Sara Ney, Meghan Quinn, Kate Stewart and Rochelle Paige is LIVE!
Empty inside, cold in his heart, Zef turned to whisky and drugs to fill the void.
Instead, he ended up with a prison sentence and a new determination to get clean and make something of his life.
Since his release, Zef has been on the road, finding his spiritual home with a traveling carnival and working as a motorcycle stunt rider.
Live fast, live hard, keep moving.
He doesn’t want to be tied down to anyone or anything. Fiercely loyal, the only people he cares about are his brother and his carnie family.
Until a crazy girl who’s run away to join the circus crashes into his world.
But now his old life is catching up with him, and Zef has to choose a new road.
A standalone story, and the last one in the TRAVELING SERIES.
I watched the flames leap and dance, sending a shower of sparks into the sky as one of the logs caught light.
Even though the daytime temperatures had soared into the nineties, it was considerably cooler now and everyone gathered around the circle of fire. It was a carnie tradition that went way back, signaling the end of another day.
Tonight was special because it was the penultimate night at this pitch, and our last chance to take it easy for a few days. The final night was always crazy busy because it was a jump day—which meant that all the roustabouts were taking down the carnival rides and packing everything back into the rigs, then driving through the night to get to the next town by morning, to set up for the following afternoon, when the whole cycle started over again.
In fact, the 24-Hour Man had already left. He was the guy who went ahead, signposting the way for the rest of us to follow. It may not sound important, but you don’t want fifteen eight-wheelers getting stuck or ending up driving down a one lane road to the wrong field.
So tonight was our night—our time to kick back, relax, and visit with other carnies.
“Bro, you look like someone just kicked your dog. What’s up with you? You’ve been a pain in my ass all week.”
Tucker left the others by the fire and squatted down beside me, ignoring the fuck-off vibes I’d been giving everyone else.
“What’s eating you, man? Tell Uncle Tucker all about it.”
Tucker was a year younger than me, but sometimes he acted like a teenager and spoke like a California surfer, if you ignored his Tennessee accent. We were all like that in the carnival—mongrels who didn’t call any place home, but everywhere was our kingdom and the road was our right.
He sighed when I didn’t reply and threw an arm around my shoulder.
“I know about Mirelle. Tough break, brother.”
I shot him an angry glance and he pulled a face.
“Mirelle called Aimee, Aimee told Kes, and well … you know how it goes.”
Yeah. I knew. Kes and Tucker were my family, my blood brothers—cut one, we all bleed. We didn’t keep secrets. And since Mirelle was Aimee’s best friend, I’d expected the news to circulate faster than it had. Perhaps she’d thought I’d tell them myself.
I should have, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want their pity.
“She wasn’t right for you,” Tucker said softly. “I like Mirelle, but she wasn’t going to make it as a carnie. She has roots and that big ole Puerto Rican family back on the East Coast.”
I knew he was right, but the sharp cut of disillusionment was hard to take. Aimee had lived out East and she’d followed Kes to the carnival; Tucker’s woman flew out to see him every couple of weeks. Why couldn’t that work for me?
I shrugged off his arm and stood up. I was ready to walk away when a thought stopped me in my tracks.
“Did she tell Aimee who the father is?”
“Yeah.” He stared down at the dirt, idly pushing his fingers through the tough, brown grass. “Some dude who teaches at the same school.”
Suddenly Kes rose to his feet. Everyone stopped talking and we all turned to face him.
He stood with the fire at his back, the flames dancing behind as he faced us. His people, his family.
“I’ve got some news I want to share with you,” he said. “Perhaps I’d better say that we’ve got some news to share with you.”
He smiled at Aimee as she walked to his side, her eyes glowing with love as she looked at him, and he slid his arm around her waist.
“We’re going to be parents. By January, there’ll be a new little carnie joining the family.”
Yells and cheers rose from the carnies around the fire, then Tucker called out,
“Oh my God! Does that mean you’ve been having sex?”
“No, it’s an immaculate conception, dufus,” I muttered, slapping him around the back of the head.
Aimee shot Tucker a look that said he’d be paying for his dumb joke later.
Everyone crowded around offering congratulations.
“A new little stunt rider for the family business?” asked one of the carnies.
Kes shrugged, his whole body lit with happiness as men slapped him on the back or shook hands, and women kissed him on the cheek. Aimee was surrounded with her own admirers, smiling and laughing, glowing with joy as she turned to look at Kes to hear his answer.
“Our kid can be whatever he wants.”
“So, it’s a boy?”
“Maybe. We don’t know yet.”
When the crowd around them thinned, I walked over to give Aimee a kiss on the cheek. Then I turned to Kes.
“Congratulations, man. That’s great news.”
“Thanks, Zef. I appreciate it. And I wanted to ask you—Aimee wants the baby to be Christened, something old school, you know? So I was wondering if you’d be Godfather.”
That was the last thing I’d been expecting. I wasn’t the kind of guy that a kid could look up to.
Kes read the doubt on my face and laughed.
“I’m going to ask Tucker, too. So the kid will need at least one Godfather who’s not completely crazy.”
I grinned at him.
“Well, when you put it that way … I’m the lesser of two evils?”
“Something like that.” His voice sobered. “So, will you do it? If anything happened to me and Aimee…” he swallowed, a flicker of fear on his face, “if anything happened, I’d want to know that I could count on you.”
“Fuck, man, nothing’s gonna happen to you!”
“Yeah, but it could. We both know … we know it could and … I need to you to say it, man. I need to know that you’d be there. If I hadn’t had Dono to take care of me and Con, I’d have been in a fucking foster home. ”
I rubbed my hand across of my face.
“Of course. Of course I’d do it—anything.”
I stuck out my hand and he shook it before pulling me into a swift hug.
I nodded, then asked the question that had been burning me since he’d made his announcement.
“Are you scared … about being a father?
Kes cocked his head to one side, thinking about it.”
“Nah, I couldn’t fuck it up as bad as Mom the alcoholic or dear ole dad who barely knew I existed, or cared. Anyway, I’ve got Aimee to keep me straight.”
He grinned and turned to accept more congratulations from other carnies.
I walked away, surprised by the emotions I was feeling.
Kes, a father!
That was some pretty serious shit. Coming on top of Mirelle’s news, I was feeling off kilter. I tried not to picture her with a guy who wore a collared shirt to work, some nice, safe townie who’d give her security. But she deserved that. She deserved more than a tatted up wiseass who jumped motorcycles for a living—a man with a criminal record who’d served time in prison.
Someone walked over my grave and a shiver ran down my spine. I’d cleaned up my act since then and I wasn’t ever going back.
And I meant what I’d said to Kes: if anything happened to him and Aimee, I’d take care of their kid. Fuck knows what kind of parent I’d be, but he’d asked me and I’d sure as hell try.
The breeze had picked up since sunset and I could see the tops of the distant trees swaying blackly against the rising moon.
The Ferris wheel was still and silent, a towering monument to man’s desire for mindless pleasure. It didn’t go anywhere, it didn’t do anything—except give the illusion of movement. And wasn’t that what the carnival was all about? Cheap thrills for a few bucks before moving on to the next small town. And yet, even with the existence of Netflix, tablets and smartphones, people still came, searching for a little of that stardust, that elusive magic, the freewheeling world of the carnies. Maybe that was what made it so unreal: we’d arrive in the half-light of dawn, and by the evening a world of bright neon and music erupted from an empty field. A few days of eating cotton candy and corn dogs, a few moments of adrenaline as you were whirled around the Tilt-A-Whirl or rode the bumper cars, and then we’d vanish in the night, leaving patches of flattened grass and an empty field.
I pushed my hands into my jean pockets and stared up at the moon as if it had called my name.
How many years did I have before my body broke down, before my knees or ankles or spine couldn’t take it anymore, when throwing myself through the air on 200 pounds of metal no longer seemed like a good idea? Then what? What would my life be then?
“The Cheyenne tell a story that the moon was held by a warring tribe, so a pair of antelope tried to rescue the moon and take it to a good village. But Coyote, the trickster, decides to make trouble and the antelope chase him. Coyote tosses the moon into a river each night, just out of reach of the antelope.”
I didn’t turn around as Ollo spoke.
“Is that supposed to mean something to me, old man?”
I heard his soft chuckle behind me, a wheezing hiccupping laugh.
“Nope, it’s just a story about the moon.”
“Great, thanks for that. Very educational.”
He sat down behind me, ignoring the obvious message that I didn’t want company.
I felt a soft tug on my pants leg as Bo started to climb me like a jungle gym, nestling into me and throwing his thin arms around my neck, chattering in my ear.
“Damn monkey doesn’t know when he’s not wanted,” I grumbled, supporting Bo’s tiny furry body as he snuggled into my chest.
Ollo laughed again.
“I’d say he knows exactly when he’s wanted. Capuchins are smart critters—smarter than most damn humans.”
I sighed, knowing I wasn’t getting any alone time tonight.
I sat down on the bone-dry dirt next to Ollo, smiling as Bo took his chance to go scampering off into the darkness. For a moment, I listened to him rustling in the tall grasses at the side of the swing-boats and I leaned against the canvas backdrop of the Ghost Train.
When I was a kid back in Georgia, I used to try and sneak in under the canvas without paying when the carnival came to town. Sometimes I made it, and sometimes I got dragged out by a hard-faced carnie and sent packing with a smack to the back of the head.
It didn’t matter how many times that happened, I always snuck back. I was fascinated by the mechanics, all of those big machines whipping you into the air or speeding around in circles. I hadn’t heard of hydraulics or knew anything about the physics of gravity, but I loved the dirt and grease behind the scenes, and the rides that made people laugh and scream.
Now, I could take a ghost ride anytime I wanted, but I never did.
I sighed, wondering if the carnival would ever feel magical to me again.
“Good news about Kes and Aimee—new life. A child will keep the carnival alive.”
I nodded, but I wasn’t sure that Ollo was right. It was a hard life, the traveling carnival, and many of the smaller outfits had shut down or gone out of business. I knew as well as anyone that there were no guarantees in life, but I hoped Ollo was right.
“Yeah, I’m happy for them.”
I watched a shooting star shimmer across the sky, wondering what the world had in store for me, wondering if fate was planning some new torture.
“She wasn’t right for you, Zef.”
Ollo’s voice broke and squeaked like a twelve year-old boy, although his body was no taller than the average seven year-old.
Ollo was a dwarf and had lived his whole life in a traveling carnival. He’d done every job from clowning to tumbling, fire-eating and fire-breathing to knife-thrower and rodeo rider, fairground barker to roustabout, and everything in between. He was old now; no one knew how old, probably not even Ollo, but he’d been with Kes’s family since the second world war, so he must be at least eighty.
He probably weighed no more than ninety pounds. I could have picked him up and tossed him over my shoulder without a problem, but I had too much respect for him to do something like that.
So I sat back and listened to what he had to tell me.
“You’re the second person tonight to say that Mirelle wasn’t right for me,” I said, my voice wry.
Ollo spit a stream of tobacco juice onto the hard-packed soil, aiming at one of the iron tent pegs.
“Are you surprised? Her family has uprooted once—she wasn’t going to do it again. Not for you.”
“Feel free to sugarcoat it!”
“Aw, is the big, tough stunt rider feelin’ sorry for hisself?”
I shook my head.
“Nah. Just pissed that she was seeing someone else and didn’t tell me.”
There was a long silence and in the distance I could hear the sound of Luke’s guitar playing.
“I had a woman once,” Ollo said softly. “Long time ago.”
His voice was quiet and it sounded like a confession.
“She wasn’t like me,” he said. “She was a townie, a petite lil’ thing. Delicate all over, tiny waist. Taller than me, of course. We were in Boise for the summer and it was the swinging sixties. She had long straight hair, golden brown, the color of corn. I was a rodeo clown in those days, and she’d come to see the ponies. We got talking and became friends. I’d wait for her to come for me at night. We’d hold hands and sit watching the stars from the top of the Ferris wheel. We fell in love.”
“Sounds … nice?”
“Yeah, it was. She was going to come with me at the end of the summer,” he chuckled quietly. “Run away and join the circus.”
“But she changed her mind?”
Ollo shook his head.
“I don’t know. One night, she didn’t come. I waited every night, knowing that soon we’d be moving on. I went to look for her. In the town.”
I stared up at Ollo’s stars, knowing that this story didn’t have a happy ending. I imagined how brave he’d have to be, leaving the carnies—his people—to go look for this girl among strangers, among townies.
“I didn’t find her, but her father found me. Gave me what they used to call a damn good beat-down, and told me he wouldn’t let a deformed freak like me near his daughter. I don’t know if she’d been sent away or whether she was locked in her room, listening to her father whip me with his belt as I kicked and screamed and tried everything to fight him off. I always wondered about that.”
My voice was quiet, shocked, and he was silent for a moment.
“You never saw her again?”
“Ah, but I did. Ten years later, we were in Boise again doing the northern circuit. By then, the music was louder and angrier. We were all trying to forget about Vietnam, and everything seemed a little wilder. Borders were breaking down, and even the townie boys were starting to wear their hair long. That’s when I saw her. She was with a rube and they had two kids—a boy and a girl, maybe seven or eight years old. They had her eyes, I remember that. She saw me watching her and she stared back. She smiled at me, then she turned and walked away.”
His voice disappeared, lost in memories.
“That was the last time I saw her. I never tried anything with a townie again.”
“What was her name?”
“Jeanie. Jeanie with the light brown hair.”
I heard the soft patter of Bo’s footsteps, and he appeared out of the darkness, his tiny body curling into Ollo’s arms as he chirruped quietly.
I watched Ollo stroke the soft gray-and-white fur.
“Am I supposed to take some deep meaning from that story?” I asked, hoping to lighten the mood.
Ollo coughed out a laugh.
“Nope, just a story about a boy and a girl under the stars.”
And then, as silently as he’d arrived, he stood up and walked away, Bo still cradled in his arms.
I leaned back against the canvas, thinking about everything he’d said. If I was honest with myself, I’d known from the start that me and Mirelle wouldn’t last, but it still stung that she’d obviously been with this other guy for a while. And that she’d picked someone who was the complete opposite of me.
I didn’t have any trouble hooking up with women who wanted a one-night stand with a biker carnie, but even I had to admit that had gotten old. And now Kes was married and about to become a father, and Tucker lived half the year with his woman in LA. Everything was changing.
I’d had a family once—Mom, Dad, and a little brother. I still had my brother, but he was a man full grown now, successful and living his own life. He didn’t need me anymore, and he definitely didn’t need the shit I’d brought to his door. It was better that I kept moving, kept those wheels rolling.
The other Daredevils were my brothers too, but now they all had partners and I was on the outside again.
Sometimes it felt so damn lonely.
I live in a small village by the ocean and walk my little dog, Pip, every day. It’s on those beachside walks that I have all my best ideas.
Writing has become a way of life – and one that I love to share.
As far as weeks went, this one was long and arduous. With Britta gone, the entire atmosphere was different. Dull and boring. But today she returned. Her voice filtered down the hall, warm and cheery as she greeted her colleagues. Moments later, she walked into my office, her smile bright, skin freshly bronzed. Although she was smiling, her beautiful almond eyes meant business. Closing the door, she sat opposite me and crossed her legs.
I raised my brows in amusement when she remained silent and expectant. “Good morning, Britta,” I began. “How was your leave?”
“Morning, Hawk,” she smiled, and I was reminded for the millionth time how much I missed it. “It was… refreshing and…” Her eyes gave me a subtle once over. Not subtle enough that I don’t notice. “New suit?”
Her lips pursed together before she responded. “It looks great on you.”
I smiled knowing her palms would be sweaty and her heart would be pounding. That was Britta.
“I’m happy you approve.”
She wiped her palms on her skirt and looked around the room. “Is the AC not working? I’m heating up here.”
I smiled to myself at how predictable she was. Using the controller, I lowered the temperature for her.
“So, what’s on your mind?”
“Game plan,” she said instantly.
She nodded. “Tomorrow… we need a game plan.”
I tapped my pen on my desk and watched her, curious. She watched me unfazed, waiting patiently for me to respond.
“Hawk, I need you to be serious right now.”
“I’m deadly serious.”
“Then why are you looking at me like that?”
“Like you’re looking into my soul.”
I didn’t know about her soul, but I would’ve liked a look under the blouse she was wearing.
“I assure you,” I said, dropping my pen on the desk and leaning forward. “I’m being serious. What do you have in mind?”
“I may be over Roman, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want revenge.”
I cocked a brow. “Revenge?”
She nodded, a smile slowly playing on her lips.
“Britta Valentino, what do you have in that mind of yours?”
“I want him to remember what he lost. I want to drive him crazy.”
This time, I nodded slowly, understanding the angle she was coming from.
She paused and waited on the edge of her seat for my response.
“Did Roman ever make you scream, Britta?”
She frowns. “Scream? Yeah, we only fought toward the end, though.”
I bite the corner of my mouth to stop the smile from taking over.
“That’s not the type of screaming I mean.”
This time as realization dawned, her eyes grew wide.
“That’s… that’s a bizarre question to—”
“I’ll take that as a no then,” I interrupted.
“I didn’t say that.”
“It’s written all over your face. A shame. I bet you’re a great screamer.”
When she isn’t writing, Melissa spends time with her husband and little Yorkie, Pocket.
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This New Adult Contemporary Romance is releasing Nov. 15th!
When he was there,
My soul finally breathed its air.
My steps became lighter,
My heart beat faster.
Having my spirit dance,
Along the broken edges
That would be soon,
Deemed our last chance…
Begging to hold,
He must have thought I was
A part of that mold.
Only breaking free,
Now caused this suffering…
ADD TO YOUR TBR ON GOODREADS:
“See ya, Katie.” He flashes me his grin right when the metal slams. The loud scream from his exhaust wakens his ride while I step back further. Giving him a small wave, I’m about ready to walk away when all of a sudden, I bump into someone.
“Oh, sorry,” I mumble then look up to see Claire smiling at me.
“That’s so nice. Motherfucker is actually dropping you off even though you own a beamer.” Her eyes move to his Blazer at the sound of Caleb’s exhaust blaring out of the parking lot.
“He stayed over last night.” Watching him as he takes off down the road, I feel Claire’s eyes burning a hole through the side of my head. My lip curls up, and I can’t help but tip my head at her.
“Shut the fuck up!” Claire squeals, clapping her hands, banging her chunky silver bracelets together. “He popped your cherry!”
“Claire!” Shooting my arm out, I yank down her wrist. “Shh…” Pressing my finger up to my lips, I quickly scan over my shoulders to make sure that no one around heard anything Claire said.
“What?” She waves her head to the side to brush back her hair. “Holy fuck, tell me about it!” Opening the doors, I keep my chin low but smile brightly while we walk in sync to my locker.
“I don’t know.” I shrug. “He came over last night.”
“Apparently came is the right word.” She laughs.
“Claire.” I snap my head at her but can’t help but laugh, too.
Rolling my eyes, I start working on the combination to my locker, Claire props her elbow up on the locker beside me.
“So, for real, how was it?” she leans in toward me and whispers. Not looking at her while I put my bag in, I’m able to breathe out, “Unreal…”
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Natalie Barnes was born in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan on a rainy, September Thursday. She grew up on the Bay Mills Indian Reservation in Michigan’s eastern upper peninsula.
Title: Forever Right Now
Author: Emma Scott
Release Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Tagline: “Ours isn’t a romance. It’s a love story.
Forever Right Now Blurb:
***STANDALONE new adult romance from the author of The Butterfly Project and the Full Tilt Duet***
Darlene Montgomery has been to hell and back…more than once. After a stint in jail for drug possession, she is finally clean and ready to start over. Yet another failed relationship is just the motivation she needs to move from New York to San Francisco with the hopes of resurrecting her dance career and discovering that she is more than the sum of her rap sheet. As Darlene struggles in her new city, the last thing she wants is to become entangled with her handsome—but cranky—neighbor and his adorable little girl…
Sawyer Haas is weeks away from finishing law school, but exhaustion, dwindling finances, and the pressure to provide for himself and his daughter, Olivia, are wearing him down. A federal clerkship–a job he desperately needs–awaits him after graduation, but only if he passes the Bar Exam. Sawyer doesn’t have the time or patience for the capricious—if beautiful—dancer who moves into the apartment above his. But Darlene’s easy laugh and cheerful spirit seep into the cracks of his hardened heart, and slowly break down the walls he’s resurrected to keep from being betrayed ever again.
When the parents of Olivia’s absentee mother come to fight for custody, Sawyer could lose everything. To have any chance at happiness, he must trust Darlene, the woman who has somehow found her way past his brittle barbs, and Darlene must decide how much of her own bruised heart she is willing to give to Sawyer and Olivia, especially when the ghosts of her troubled past refuse to stay buried.
Forever Right Now Excerpt:
“Who are you?” he demanded rudely, shifting the diaper bag higher on his shoulder while hoisting his little girl in his other arm. He was six feet of hotness in a rumpled suit, glaring at me with suspicion in his dark eyes.
“I…I’m your new neighbor?” It sounded more like a question; as if I needed this guy’s permission to live. I straightened to my full height. “I just moved in upstairs. I’m a dancer. Well, I was. Had to take some time off but I’m going to get back into it soon…ish.” I put on my friendliest smile. “I’m a massage therapist now. Just got my license and…”
My words died under Sawyer’s withering stare.
“A dancer. Fantastic,” he said bitterly. “Just what I always wanted. Someone leaping and thumping above me, waking my kid up and disturbing my studies at all hours of the night.”
I planted my hands on my hips. “I can’t dance in a dinky apartment, and besides…”
Words failed me again as the sharp planes and hard angles of Sawyer’s face melted when his daughter–I guessed her to be about a year old–suddenly clapped her small hand over his chin. Sawyer’s hard gaze softened, and his broad mouth turned up in a smile–a beautiful smile I was sure only his little girl ever got to see, and so full of love that for a moment I could hardly breathe.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2fRUBK8
Emma Scott writes romances with flawed characters, characters with artistic hearts: builders, poets, and writers of various makes and models. And love always wins. Always.
Where to Find Emma:
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4.5 ‘with tuna casserole the world is brighter’ stars.
My first reaction when I finished was that I some off highs and lows of a rollercoaster ride and I truly had to let this book settle for a bit. Finding the words for an Emma Scott book is always hard, near impossible if I’m being honest.
Her writing style is flawless and she captivates you with her storytelling. She lets you experience that two of the most unlikely people that are attracted to one another, that complement each other and I got to watch them fall in love.
Her words jump off the pages and wrapped themselves around my soul. With the beauty, with the grit, with the flawed characters. You’ll understand their actions or not but there is a reason to them. Each note for each city is hit impeccable IMO.
Even with Darlene facing an upward battle that smile always shone bright, it never dimmed. The emptiness she feels is palpable to the reader and that she has this need to fill that emptiness up no matter with what. Her journey is a tough one to read and even after so long be recovering there will be a time you hit rock bottom.
She is strong, persistent and gives life everything she has even if it will slip through her fingers. At times I wanted to go out drinking with her at others I wanted to slap her in the face. But most of all I wanted to hug her and tell her that people do care.
But moving to San Francisco are for change to be Darlene and not a former drug addict. Scary but right.
Sawyer Haas is drowning, he can see the finish line but it can’t get here quick enough. Being at law school and looking after his daughter Olivia. BTW awesomeness sweetness with the little lady there Ms. Scott. My hat off to you.
Getting back to Sawyer. He has walls built so high and lets no one in. He is admirable in his devotion to kids. All I can say
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And Sawyer is a real man but when it counts that he is about to lose everything he goes all in.
I love the dance that Darlene and Sawyer had. They were circling each other throughout the book and fighting it but in the end it couldn’t be fought. I loved that there was such a great chemistry build up between these two.
But not everything is good in Kate’s Corner what I didn’t like is that Darlene did tell the truth sooner and that Sawyer didn’t realise that everything is black and white, he should have known that more than anyone else.
I see so many possibilities with new characters getting a book. Cause the secondary characters were just as fleshed out at our main characters. Max in Seattle maybe? Jackson the sunny go lucky guy? The love for Ms. Scott’s books is real. The ending slayed me.
We’re less than one week away from the release of BURN FOR YOU by J.T. Geissinger, so we’re bringing you a sneak peek! Check out the excerpt below, watch the teaser trailer, and preorder your copy today!
About BURN FOR YOU (Slow Burn #1)
Available October 17th
The marriage is fake. But for a sassy chef and an arrogant billionaire, the sparks are real… Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux is rich, gorgeous, and unbelievably rude to the staff at Chef Bianca Hardwick’s New Orleans restaurant. Bianca would sooner douse herself in hot sauce than cook for Jackson again, but when he asks her to cater his fund-raiser, Bianca can’t refuse, knowing the cash will help pay her mother’s medical bills. Then Jackson makes another outrageous request: Marry me. The unconventional offer includes an enormous sum—money Bianca desperately needs, even if it does come with a contract—and a stunning ring.
The heir to a family bourbon dynasty, Jackson knows the rumors swirling around him. The truth is even darker. Still, he needs a wife to secure his inheritance, and free-spirited, sassy Bianca would play the part beautifully. Soon, though, their simple business deal evolves into an emotional intimacy he’s built walls to avoid.
As the passion heats up between them, Bianca and Jackson struggle to define which feelings are real and which are for show. Is falling for your fake fiancé the best happy ending…or a recipe for disaster?
Add BURN FOR YOU to your Goodreads list here!
Read an excerpt from BURN FOR YOU
This time it was me who froze in shock when our lips came together. It took him several long moments of gentle coercion with his tongue before I finally opened my mouth. When I did, it was on a soft groan that he stole when he inhaled.
He was so big, and warm, and hard everywhere, except for his mouth, which was like cotton candy. I melted into it. He slid his thumb under my ear, and I shivered. His fingers pressed into my scalp. When he sank his teeth gently into my lower lip, lightning flashed through me.
I fisted my hand into the scruff of his neck and pulled him closer.
Suck, slide, nip, repeat, feel your pulse in all the hidden places in your body. This kiss was cashmere. It was luxuriant. It was decadent, unhurried, sweetly delicious, like stretching out on warm sand and drinking a mai tai. His scent was in my nose: pine and musk and something earthy and fresh, the way the woods smell after it rains.
He made that masculine sound deep in his throat that I found weirdly thrilling and pressed his hand into the small of my back. It brought our lower bodies together and provided me with impressive evidence that Jackson Boudreaux was anything but nonsexual.
“Oh,” I breathed.
His laugh was soft and dark. “Yes, oh. Stop talking.”
I couldn’t catch my breath, but it didn’t matter because his lips were on mine again. Little puffs of air through my nose would have to sustain me.
His hand in the small of my back became the iron band of his arm around my waist. My nipples tightened. His heartbeat crashed against my chest. The kiss turned from slow and sweet to hard and hot, first melting me and then lighting me on fire.
He tangled his hand into my hair, pulled the clip loose that held it all in place, and let it fall to the floor. He made that sexy, manly noise again when my hair spilled into his fingers. I fought the urge to press my hips against his, then softly moaned in relief when he did it for me, one big paw cupped under my bottom. Yes, yes, yes, thrummed my heart, aching for more.
He broke away, breathing heavily. My eyes drifted open. He stared down at me with a look like he might devour me.
Good thing I was in the mood to be devoured.
See the BURN FOR YOU teaser trailer:
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.
Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, disturbingly sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language and very mature topics. Recommended for ages 18 and over.
But this was Dolly. The only person I’d ever given a shit about.
A slick tar pumped through my black heart as I thought of her. She was the blood that gave me life.
I had no idea what state I would find her in. Whether or not her fragile mind had been destroyed. Whether or not her glass heart had been shattered. No hope of salvation.
I had no idea if my only reason for living could be saved. I shook with venomous anger when I let my mind imagine the hell those sadistic cunts would have put her through in my absence. But Chapel’s words rang in my ears . . . Unleash the anger only on those who deserve it. Let it build within your heart like a well swelling with water . . . then unleash hell on those who took your freedom.
Opening my eyes, I breathed through my rage and silently rounded the corner . . . I stopped. There she was, sitting in a chair. I sucked in a breath and heard it rattle in my ears. Her hair. Her hair was pulled back into a long braid, the woven strands falling to her lower back. And she was dressed in black. Long, baggy sleeves covered her arms.
Motherfucking black. Dolly didn’t belong in black. Only color. Blue and white and gold and motherfucking pink.
I edged around the perimeter of the room until I faced her. My heart tore down the center and I had to hold back a loud snarl when I saw her curled up on the seat, a thick blanket over her thin legs and waist as she stared lifelessly out of the window. The window that overlooked the once-manicured lawns, now nothing but high-reaching weeds and too-bushy trees. I looked across at what she was watching, in the direction of what held her so captivated.
My heart was severed completely, the two parts of its flesh repelling the other, trying to escape the rage and pain and fucking consuming darkness.
She was staring at the spot where we used to play as kids. Where she had found me all those years ago, ripping the colorful butterfly apart in my hands. I moved into her line of sight, but her blue eyes didn’t lift to meet mine, just stared through me as though I wasn’t even there. I crouched down and studied her face. Porcelain skin. Full lips. Fucking perfection.
But there was no life left in her.
I had never felt fear before, but I imagined the sinking hole I felt dropping in my stomach was something like it. A sinking feeling that Dolly had gone to a place from which there was no escape, a prisoner in her own mind.
“Dolly darlin,’” I rasped, my voice fucking breaking.
Twenty-one. She was twenty-one and more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.
My living doll.
A strand of hair lay over her face. My fingers clenched and unclenched as I tried to force myself to touch her. But I couldn’t. I hadn’t touched or been touched in years. I didn’t know how to anymore. Allergic to human affection. Repulsed by the degrading feeling of touch.
I . . . I . . . I couldn’t.
As I opened my mouth to speak to Dolly again, a loud gasp sailed through the air behind her. I straightened, gripping my cane, to see a familiar old face appear. I watched, the sinking hole quickly replaced by dark satisfaction as the blood drained from her face. “Good Lord,” she whispered as I smoothed down my black cravat and vest.
I glared at the bitch. Leaning casually on my cane, I said, “More like Lucifer, I would think.” I nodded in her direction “To you, anyhow.”
Mrs. Jenkins swallowed and tried to back out of the room. “Ah-ah,” I tutted and shook my head. She immediately stilled, eyes fixed on mine.
“He . . . Heathan James . . . it’s . . . it’s not possible . . .” she stammered and ran her eyes over me. Every inch of me.
“Rabbit.” The bitch flinched at my correction. “I am Rabbit. The motherfucking White Rabbit. So never fucking utter that peasant name to me again.”
Her skin paled, and her eyes fell to Dolly sitting on the chair. Dolly still hadn’t moved. I shifted my grip on the box I had brought inside, about to hold it out to Mrs. Jenkins when she asked, “How are you here?”
I threw the box across the room. It landed right at her feet. “Dress her.”
“Wh-what?” Mrs. Jenkins asked.
I pointed to the box at her feet. “Dress her. It wasn’t a request.” Mrs. Jenkins shook as she picked up the box and moved to where Dolly sat. Dolly didn’t look at her either. Mrs. Jenkins opened the lid of the box and gasped again.
Her old, wrinkled eyes snapped up to mine. “No—”
Before she had even finished the sentence, I had reached into my pocket and pulled out my knife. I ran the flat side of the blade down my cheek. Slowly. Controlled. Watching her terrified gaze track my every move. “You’d best do as I ask, Mrs. Jenkins. My patience and tolerance for you appear to be at an all-time low.”
After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.
Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.
Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.
When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.
A stand alone psychological thriller.
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?
In the middle of a fierce snowstorm in Gun Creek, Nevada, seventeen-year-old Jennifer Thomas disappears without a trace.
The second girl in nine years.
Identical cases. Identical conditions. Only last time, the girl was found. Dead, stuffed in a well beside the creek that feeds the town’s water supply.
The killer was never found.
As the small town mobilizes and searches for newly vanished Jennifer Thomas, one suspect comes to the fore. But did he do it? Or is there something else at play? Something nobody could have anticipated?
For Jennifer’s friend Cassie Carlino, the worst is yet to come. As she pins MISSING posters to store windows and joins the search, she begins to suspect that Jennifer’s disappearance might be much closer to her than she could have ever imagined.
Lili quit corporate life to focus on writing and so far is loving every minute of it. Her other loves in life include her gorgeous husband and beautiful daughter, excellent coffee, Tarantino movies and spending hours on Instagram.
She loves to read almost as much as she loves to write.
★ ★ #ExcerptReveal & #PreOrder ★ ★
FOREVER DEVOTED by @CAHarms
#ContemporaryRomance / Crazed Devotion #2
Releasing Sept. 26th #KindleUnlimited
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Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2wEA0OR
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A stubborn man, an independent woman.
Oh how those two things clash.
Former Marine, Benjamin Keaton has a drive in him.
A strong willed nature to seek and conquer.
When he meets Elizabeth Berfield he finds out one thing and he finds out fast.
He has met his match.
She doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do, especially a man.
A battle of wills and a game of survival unfolds. Oh what a ride it is.
But Ben vows one thing,
He will be Forever Devoted to Liz. He will make her see that he is the man for her.
But will his determination be enough to convince her that he’s worth the risk?
Or will Liz do what she always does and remain headstrong and push away the one man willing to protect her heart.
ADD TO YOUR #TBR! http://bit.ly/ForeverDevotedTBR
★ ★ PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE ★ ★
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Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2wEA0OR
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2xOTQw9
“There is a tall, handsome and might I add dreamy hunk of a man waiting just outside for you.”
I tried not to laugh at the wide-eyed expression of the teenage girl standing in my doorway. She was awestruck apparently, and the way she was smiling had to cramp her cheeks.
“Did you get his name?” I asked, already knowing who it was.
Her smile faltered as she looked over her shoulder, then back to me. “I forgot to ask,” she said in a high-pitched voice. “I guess I was distracted.”
It was my turn to smile, “Believe me when I say I know exactly how that can happen.” She looked a little relieved. “His name is Ben, and you can send him in.”
With a nod, she stepped out and within seconds he appeared in the open doorway.
“Good morning,” he said as he moved in and sat on the edge on my desk. His large frame practically swallowed up the surface beneath him. “You avoiding me again?”
“No.” I leaned back and crossed my arms over my chest. “I’ve actually been busy.”
He watched me closely, as if I would somehow show him I was lying. Arching my brow, I remained in place and his smile grew wider. “Have lunch with me.” It wasn’t a request.
“Busy,” I replied, holding up the stack of papers on my desk and giving them a little shake.
“Dinner then. I’ll even bring it to you if you can’t get away.”
“What are we having?” I asked, still not yet agreeing.
“What do you want?” His eyes remained locked on mine as he gave me a mischievous grin. Ben and I had developed this little flirty game. In fact, we’d pretty much mastered it. I knew he wanted me, and I wanted him. That was never the issue. I just had to learn to get past my hesitance and fears of what could go wrong.
“Steak,” I finally said, ignoring the flutter in my stomach. “Seasoned vegetables and garlic roasted potatoes.”
“Can we forego the garlic? I kinda wanna kiss you later and I don’t want any excuses from you. If I add garlic into the mix, well, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.”
I couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up and spilled from me. “You’re insane.”
“For you, yes.”
As one of Hollywood’s hottest producers, Kristian Bowen is on top of the world. With the Quantum team is fresh off a clean sweep of awards season and looking ahead to the premiere of their new film, Insidious, Kristian’s life is exactly how he likes it, complete with a stable of willing subs to tend to his every desire. Until he attends the wedding of his friend and business partner Flynn Godfrey and meets AileenGifford, the close friend of Flynn’s new wife, Natalie. Since meeting Aileen five months ago, Kristian’s carefully cultivated life has changed in ways he never could’ve expected. Now Aileen and her children are moving to Los Angeles, and he’s not sure whether to be excited or terrified about his powerful feelings for the single mom…
Aileen is coming off the worst year of her life, spent battling breast cancer while taking care of two young children. When Natalie, Flynn and their other friends encourage Aileen to move to LA and work for Quantum, she jumps at the chance to give her family a fresh start. And with her off-the-charts attraction to Flynn’s business partner in the mix, the idea of living in LA becomes that much sweeter. Until everyone shows up to welcome her and the kids to their new home in LA—except Kristian.
He can’t avoid her forever, and when these two finally see each other again, sparks fly between the single mom and the producer with a past he’s kept hidden from everyone who matters to him. When that past rears its ugly head, will he run away from the woman he loves or turn to her for comfort in the storm? And will she prevail in convincing him that he can be himself, in every possible way, with her?
Kristian and Aileen’s long-awaited story is full of heat, heart and humor, as well as appearances from all the Quantum characters readers love!
Purchase Delirious now!
Kindle US | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google | Kindle CA | Kindle UK | Kindle AU
Order a signed copy from Marie’s store, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
M.S. Force is the erotic alter-ego of New York Times bestselling author Marie Force. All three books in her initial Quantum Trilogy were New York Times bestsellers in 2015, and the Quantum Trilogy became the Quantum Series with Rapturous and Ravenous, with more to come!
Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold nearly 3 million books, and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books, which has sold 1.5 million books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the slightly modified name of M.S. Force. All together, her books have sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide!
Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news.
Join Marie’s mailing list for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Follow her on Twitter @marieforce and on Facebook. Join one of Marie’s many reader groups. Contact Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to her new blog to hear the latest and greatest news, including giveaways and other great prizes. Go to the blog and enter your email address on the upper right-hand side.
Reader Groups: https://marieforce.com/contact/
Series: Smirnov Bratva #4
Author: TL Smith
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: September 21
A heart is something that should not be entrusted to me.
I will tear, crush, and destroy it with my very own hands.
Then back away with a smile on my face.
It’s who I am—a killer, a player, a joker.
But hers, I’m unsure about.
Do I want to rupture and rip it from her chest?
Or do I want to hold and capture it with my own?
Her scent invades me, it’s all I can smell when I wake up, and it’s fucking brilliant. Just as she was last night, even if it meant I had to shut up to taste her and to fuck her again. What a wild drug she fucking is.
“I can hear you thinking, stop it,” she grumbles into my arm as she sleeps. “Gosh, how are your thoughts so loud?” She moves to get away from me, but I pull her back then pin her beneath me. She doesn’t fight me, just smirks. “I need coffee,” she says.
“You need a breath mint,” I retort back, scrunching up my nose.
“Oh my God, you so did not say that. I’m meant to have sweet breath…” I blow into my hand to smell, “… no morning breath here. Gosh, you kill the buzz fast.” She wiggles underneath me, which in turn moves on my already hard cock. I could say it’s morning wood, but that would only be a half-truth.
“You want me to lie and tell you, you smell like fucking daisies?” I ask her, confused. She shakes her head. “I can see if you smell like daisies. There’s a particular area where I think you do.” I smirk while holding onto her hands, and then I drop lower as I drag my body down over on hers. She squirms, but she can’t do anything.
My lips touch her, barely, and she squeezes her legs tight, locking my head between them. I have to remove my hands from hers to push myself free.
“Anton.” The voice is loud.
Looking back up, I see Samara’s expression and want to laugh.
“Mama, just wait,” I yell in Russian.
Samara pushes back and off me, scrambles off the bed and looks around for her clothes, which are downstairs.
“I have your lady’s clothes, Anton. Is she still in there?”
English, my mother chose to speak English. Fuck.
“Yes, leave them at the door.”
“Bring her down.” I hear her footsteps walking away, and when I turn, I see Samara with her hands covering her mouth and a freaked-out expression on her face.
She starts shaking her head rapidly. “I am not meeting your mother.”
“I have a better idea, let’s spend all day in bed while I fuck you until you can’t move.”
“Are you insane? Your mother is here.”
I shrug my shoulders. “She was here last night when I brought you home.”
Her hands drop to her sides, and she looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. “This is your mother’s house?” I nod my head. “And you still live with your mother?” she asks, looking quite confused.
“Technically my father as well, but that piece of shit is always in Russia. My sister is here too, now that she’s no longer enrolled in boarding school.”
“Gosh, I don’t care… sneak me the fuck out of here now.” She pulls the sheet from the bed when she realizes she’s still naked and my eyes keep roaming.
“But I wanted to smell for daisies.”
“Anton, so help me God, I’ll bury you in the daisy bushes if you don’t get me out of here.”
I quirk an eyebrow at her—it’s her daisy bush I would love to be buried in.
“Not those ones, you perv, in the fucking ground.”
“I like it when you’re feisty with me,” I say, turning and opening the door to pick up her clothes, and that’s when I realize they are torn. Alyona walks out of her room, at that exact moment, with a few clothes in her hands and she walks them to me then smiles.
“Hi Sam,” she chimes, then walks off.
Closing the door, I hold both sets of clothes in my hand, the torn ones as well as Alyona’s.
“Why do you have two sets of clothes?” Samara walks up to me still holding the sheet in her hand in front of her as she reaches for hers, then realizes the same thing I did. She isn’t walking out in them. She looks up to me, her eyes have turned dark. They’re almost black as her anger builds, so I pass her the other set of clothing. She snatches them then walks away to my bathroom, slamming the door.
I guess that’s the end of my pussy patrol for the day.
USA Today Best Selling Author T.L Smith can be found in almost any chocolate store, eating all the chocolate. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her two kids and husband. Her favourite things to do is dancing, writing, reading and travelling the world. A lover for twisted words and things that make your heart pump. You can find her on the following links.