Chapter Reveal: DOWN WE’LL COME, BABY by CARRIE AARONS is Releasing January 27th!@AuthorCarrieA @InkslingerPR

🖤 HAPPY TEASER TUESDAY 🖤

Down We’ll Come, Baby releases this Sunday, January 27, and to celebrate, Carrie Aarons is sharing the entire first chapter with you!

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Down We’ll Come Baby by Carrie Aarons

Releasing January 27

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Book Blurb:

Imogen

There is no way we can still love and cherish one and other.

When I married Theo Walsh, the rough, bearded townie who worked construction on my family’s summer house, I’d found my happily ever after.

That was before the fighting.
Before the jealousy.
Before the infertility.

We’ll be divorced long before death does us part.

But to secure my place in the family dynasty, there is just one more hoop I have to jump through. And I need him to do it.

Faking the marriage we once thrived in will gut me.
Especially with the secret I’m carrying.

Theo

I would have sacrificed for her until the end of time.

My job.
My home.
My happiness.

I’d given it all up to marry her. That’s how much I loved Imogen Weston, the daughter to one of the world’s richest families.

From the day we met, I’d done nothing but try to live up to the man she expected to be with. And now, I was done.

Sure, I’d complete this one final ask of hers, even if it destroyed me.

But I’ve made her promise the one thing that might save me. She swore that after she got everything she ever wanted, she wouldn’t look back.

I made my wife vow to leave me forever.

Chapter 1

Theo

I slept with my wife on our first date.

I’m not revealing this to brag or boast, or for you to infer anything from either of our personalities. It was just the simple fact that I knew from that first chance meeting, deep in my bones, that she would be the woman I’d spend the rest of my life with.

Honestly, I was never the kind of guy to get naked with a woman that quickly. If I were going for romance, which in Imogen Weston’s, the future Imogen Walsh, case I should have been … I would have laid out the red carpet. Flowers, picnics on the beach, candles, and gazing at the stars … my definition of dating was something out of a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. It’s just how you did things if you wanted to impress a woman.

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AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Author of romance novels such as Red Card and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the stories she dreams up, and the yoga pant dress code, much better.

When she isn’t writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, daughter and dog.

 

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Chapter Reveal: DUCHESS OF DECEPTION ( A Gilded Novel ) by New York Times Bestselling Author MARIE FORCE is Releasing January 29th! @MarieForce @InkslingerPR

Today we are sharing a chapter reveal from DUCHESS OF DECEPTION by Marie Force. This is Marie’s first historical romance title and is part of the Gilded series. It releases January 29th. Read chapter one from the book below.

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DUCHESS BY DECEPTION by Marie Force

Coming January 29!

Book Blurb:

In New York Times bestselling author Marie Force’s dazzling historical romance debut, the clock is ticking for a wealthy Duke who must marry by his thirtieth birthday—or lose his title…

Derek Eagan, the dashing Duke of Westwood, is well aware of his looming deadline. But weary of tiresome debutantes, he seeks a respite at his country home in Essex—and encounters a man digging on his property. Except he’s not a man. He’s a very lovely woman. Who suddenly faints at his feet.

Catherine McCabe’s disdain for the aristocracy has already led her to flee an arranged marriage with a boorish Viscount. The last thing she wants is to be waylaid in a Duke’s home. Yet, she is compelled to stay by the handsome, thoughtful man who introduces himself as the Duke’s estate manager.

Derek realizes two things immediately: he is captivated by her delicate beauty, and to figure out what she was up to, Catherine must not know he is the Duke. But as they fall passionately in love, Derek’s lie spins out of control. Will their bond survive his deception, not to mention the scorned Viscount’s pursuit? Most important, can Catherine fall in love all over again—this time with the Duke?

“…Force has crafted a masterpiece with the perfect amount of romance.” —Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly

PRE-ORDER IT NOW!

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AUDIO: Sample | Audible US | Audible UK | Audible AU

Chapter 1

London, May 5, 1902

“I cannot bear another minute of this charade,” Derek Eagan, the seventh Duke of Westwood, declared to his cohorts as they watched a simpering group of debutantes work the gilded ballroom. He tugged impatiently at his starched attachable collar and wished he could remove it and the tie that choked him without sending yet another tedious scandal rippling through the ton.

“What charade?” asked Lord Justin Enderly, his smile dripping with the charm that had endeared him to many a mother. “Watching nubile young things flit about with love and marriage on their minds?” As the second son of an earl, Enderly was much less desirable to the simpering debs than Derek, once again considered the Season’s top prize—and Enderly knew it, of course.

“All of it.” Derek gestured to the glittering scene before them in the Earl of Chadwick’s enormous ballroom. Surely half the aristocracy was in attendance at one of the Season’s most anticipated balls. Women in frothy gowns made of the finest silks and satins, dripping in exquisite gems. Men in their most dashing evening wear. “The balls, the gowns, the dance cards, the ludicrous conversations, the desperate mothers. I’ve grown so weary of it, I could spit.”

Aubrey Nelson, the American-born industrialist who’d humored his English-born mother with a second Season, nodded in agreement. “The pomp, the ceremony, the rules.” He shook his head. “I’ll be back in New York—or banished from polite society—long before I master them all.”

Unlike Nelson, Derek had been raised for the charade, but many of the rules escaped him, as well. “Utter drivel,” Derek murmured. “I’ve half a mind to compromise a willing young maiden and be done with the whole nightmare.”

“What’s stopping you?” Enderly asked, crooking a wicked eyebrow.

“I’d have to attempt to converse with her for the rest of my days,” Derek grumbled. His friends and the hangers-on surrounding them howled with laughter. “I’ve talked to every one of them and haven’t found one who interests me enough to pursue anything further.”

“Same as last year,” Enderly said.

“And the year before, and the year before that,” Derek said, the despair creeping in once again. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to find a wife. He would love nothing more than to have one person in the world who belonged only to him and vice versa. Not to mention he needed a wife, albeit for altogether different reasons. Yet he wasn’t willing to settle.

Each year he approached the Season with a new sense of hope, and each year, as the young women got younger and he got older, the disappointment afterward became more intense and longer lasting. This year, however, the bloody deadline loomed large, coloring his view of the Season’s limited options.

“This year’s group seems particularly young,” Enderly noted.

“Or perhaps we’re just getting particularly old,” Derek said morosely.

“No doubt,” Enderly said. As a second son he was under much less pressure to marry than Derek and enjoyed his bachelor life far too much to give it up before he absolutely had to. For that matter, everyone was under less pressure to marry than Derek, thanks to the damned deadline.

“Is there one among them who cares about something other than her hair or her gown or her slippers?” Derek asked. Was there one among them, he wanted to ask, who looked at him and saw anything other than his title, his rank, his wealth or the looming deadlinethat had filled the betting books all over town?

“They all care about their dance cards,” Nelson said dryly.

“Too true,” Derek concurred. “Speaking only for myself, I’ve had enough. I’m returning to Westwood Hall in the morning.”

“But the Season still has weeks left to go,” Enderly said in obvious distress. “You can’t go yet, Your Grace. What of your deadline? What will Lord Anthony say?”

“He would hardly care. He’s practically salivating, hoping I fail to marry in time.”

Whatever could your ancestor have been thinking, with such an utterly daft provision?” Nelson asked. “Enter into a ‘suitable state of matrimony’— whatever that is—by thirty or abdicate your title? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

Of course, he hadn’t, Derek mused. The colonists had left such barbaric practices behind in England. “I suppose he was out to ensure the bloodline. Instead, he placed a matrimonial pox upon each succeeding generation.”

“Is it even legal?” Justin asked.

“Probably not, but the previous dukes married young so it was never an issue for them, and I chose not to contest it with Anthony waiting in the wings drooling all over the duchy.”

What happens if you don’t marry in time?” Nelson asked.

“The title and all accompanying holdings transfer to my uncle and then later to Simon, who, as the heir, would also be required to marry post haste. That would truly be a travesty.” If anyone was less suited to a life of marriage, responsibility and duty, it was Derek’s happy-go-lucky first cousin and dear friend.

“Have any of your ancestors missed the deadline?” Nelson asked, seeming genuinely intrigued by the drama of it all whereas Derek was just weary—from thinking about it, dreading it and from imagining being married to a nameless, faceless woman just to preserve his title. He shuddered at the thought of shackles and chains.

“Not so far, and I have no desire to be the first. However, I refuse to pick just anyone in order to keep my title.” His ancestor’s efforts to ensure the dukedom had put Derek in a serious quandary. His thirtieth birthday was now mere days away without a female prospect in sight who sparked anything in him other than utter apathy, not to mention despair at the idea of having to actually talk to her for the rest of his life.

Naturally, the entire haute ton was captivated by Derek’s plight, but not a one of them gave a fig about his happiness or well-being. He would almost prefer to surrender the title than be shackled for life to a “suitable” woman who did nothing else for him but ensure his place in the aristocracy.

Almost.

With his deadline the talk of the Season, every available young maiden had been marched before him—more than once. Judging his prospects by what he’d seen of the Season’s available crop, he was in no danger of imminent betrothal. “What’s the point of hanging around when I already know that none of them suit me?”

“They don’t have to suit you, your Grace,” Enderly reminded him. “You only need one with the proper equipment to provide an heir—and a spare if you’re feeling particularly randy.”

“And you need her to say, ‘I do,’ by the sixteenth of May,” Nelson added with a wry grin.

“Don’t remind me,” Derek grumbled. Was it just him, or was it exceedingly warm tonight? Or was it the reminder of his coming birthday that had him sweating? Perhaps it was the rampant wagering that had him on edge. He’d lost track of whom among his so-called peers and “friends” was betting for or against the likelihood of his securing a suitable marriage before his birthday.

Derek never would’ve chosen the title he’d inherited at the tender age of six when his parents were killed in a carriage accident. Over the years since his majority, however, he’d grown into his role as one of the most powerful and influential men in England. He didn’t relish the idea of turning over his title and holdings to an arrogant, greedy, overly ambitious uncle who would care far more about how he was judged in polite society than he ever would about ensuring that their tenants had adequate roofs over their heads. Nor did Derek wish to see his cousin constrained by a life he had no interest in. Too many people depended on the dukedom to see it end up in the hands of someone who couldn’t care less about it.

A vexing debate for sure, especially since Derek often dreamed of shedding his responsibilities and taking off to see the world as he’d always wanted to do. But then he thought, as he often did, of his late parents. Since their deaths, he’d aimed to live his life in a manner and fashion that would’ve made them proud. Losing his title, especially to an uncle his father had despised, would not make them proud, so Derek would do what was expected of him because that was what he’d always done—no matter what it might’ve cost him.

“What of all your meetings?” Enderly asked.

“I had the last of them today with the Newcastle upon Tyne Electric Supply Company to pump some capital into their Neptune Bank Power Station. They’re doing some intriguing work with three-phase electrical power distribution.” The blank looks on the faces of his friends tampered his enthusiasm. Where he would absorb such information with obsessive attention to detail, he’d come to realize that others were less interested in the how of electrical lighting and other innovations. They were far more than content to fully luxuriate in modern conveniences without bothering themselves with the details. Electricity was making its way into wealthy homes and public buildings in town, but it would be a while yet before it made its way to the country.

“Wasn’t there another one?” Justin asked. “Something with brothers?”

Derek nodded. “I’ll be providing emergency financing to the brothers from America who believe they’ve found the secret to manned flight.”

“You can’t be serious,” Nelson said. “The Wright brothers?”

Derek nodded, used to his peers finding his investment decisions questionable at best. They couldn’t, however, argue with his results.

“Has everyone in America finally said no to them?” Nelson asked.

“I didn’t ask that. I simply wish to be a part of what they’re doing. I believe they will attain success, perhaps before the end of the decade.”

Nelson rolled his eyes. “It’s your money to throw away.”

“What’s next?” Enderly asked, his tone tinged with sarcasm. “Motorcars?”

“As a matter of fact, due to my involvement in Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company, I was asked to back a venture with Lord Austin and his brother that will bring production of motorcars to England in the foreseeable future.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Enderly asked with a smile.

One of the most annoying of that year’s debutantes, Lady Charlotte something or other, flashed Derek a suggestive smile full of invitation. As he’d learned early in his first Season, he didn’t make eye contact unless he wished to encourage attention, which he most assuredly did not.

“All you’d have to do is snap your fingers, and Lady Charlotte would say ‘I do,’” Enderly said.

Derek could have been mistaken, but it seemed as if his friend was enjoying baiting him. “If I’m going to shackle myself to a woman for life, she’s got to have more than the proper plumbing.” Derek tugged again on the collar that poked at his neck and the strangling tie. His valet Gregory had been rather rigid in his knot tying that night, as if he too were out to constrain Derek to his husbandly fate.

“What is it exactly that you seek, Your Grace?” Nelson asked with a kind smile.

“Damned if I know. I just hope I’ll recognize it when I see it, and I hope I’ll see it soon.” She was out there somewhere. He had no doubt of that. If only he knew where to look.

“You’re holding out for a love match then?” Enderly asked.

“I don’t necessarily yearn for the mess that accompanies a love match, but is it too much to hope for some intelligent conversation with my after-dinner port?” The utter despair of his situation came crashing down as he viewed the gay scene before him. “What in the world would I talk about to any of them?”

Apparently, neither of his friends could supply a satisfactory answer.

Enderly shifted with discomfort from one foot to the other. “What are your plans, Westy?” he asked softly, reverting to Derek’s nickname from their years together at Eton.

“I need to spend some time riding Hercules and thinking. I can’t think here. Just a few days, and then I’ll come back and bite the proverbial bullet.” He’d have no other option but to choose one of the young women flitting before him unless he wanted everything he had to slip through his fingers to an uncle who didn’t deserve it. But the thought of being stuck with a wife who didn’t suit him made him ill.

“You’ll be the talk of the ton,” Enderly declared, scandalized.

“Let them talk. I won’t hear it in Essex.”

“But it won’t be any fun without you, Your Grace,” Nelson said mournfully.

Enderly nodded in agreement. “Nor will the ladies flock about us with quite the same . . . ”

Desperation?” Derek asked with a grin. His friends laughed. As usual, they had kept this dreadful experience from being a total loss.

“Lady Patience will wish to visit,” Enderly said with an evil grin. “She’s apt to follow you to the country.”

“She won’t gain an audience with me even if she does give chase,” Derek said of the Duke of Devonshire’s daughter, who had pursued him with relentless determination. “She holds even less appeal than the others.”

“Why is that?” Nelson asked.

“She brays like a donkey when she laughs.”

“Ouch,” Enderly said, chuckling.

“I quite fear that no woman will meet the discriminating requirements of our dear, distinguished friend,” Nelson said to Enderly.

“That’s just fine with me,” Derek said, happier than he’d been in weeks now that a decision had been made. “I’d rather be a lonely commoner than be shackled for life to a ‘suitable’ braying donkey.”

***

Lord Anthony Eagan, son of a duke, brother of a duke and uncle to the current duke, reclined on a red velvet chaise and took a sip from his glass of port. Always on the outside looking in, just barely on the fringes of tremendous wealth and power. Thankfully, all three dukes had provided handsomely for him, allowing him the freedom to pursue his own interests.

But what interested Anthony, what seduced him more than anything else ever could, was the power of the title. When the Duke of Westwood entered a room, people noticed. Society noticed. No one paid much heed, on the other hand, to the duke’s second son, his brother, or his uncle. In the fifteen years he’d served as his nephew’s guardian, he had sampled a generous helping of power. Having to cede it to a boy just barely out of leading strings had been demoralizing, to say the least. The subsequent years had reduced Anthony once again to the fringes. He didn’t much care for the fringes, and he never had.

While Derek had stepped nobly and with infuriating independence into the position he’d been born to, Anthony had been relegated to watching and seething and planning. Now, on the eve of Derek’s thirtieth birthday, came opportunity. If Derek failed to marry by the sixteenth of May, the title would revert to Anthony, and he would finally be the Duke of Westwood. The way it always should have been.

And while he had come to grudgingly respect his nephew’s acumen with finance and his bearing among the haute ton, he disdained the boy’s inner softness. That softness, Anthony mused, would be his downfall, just as it had been his father’s. Perhaps it was because Derek had lost his parents at such a tender age or maybe it was the guilt that came from being the twin who’d survived the journey into this world. Regardless of the cause, Derek lacked the inner fortitude that Anthony possessed in spades.

Anthony wasn’t afraid to use that fortitude to gain what should’ve been his all along. Derek was supposed to have been in that carriage the night his parents had been killed. They had planned to dine as a family at a neighboring estate. No one had bothered to tell Anthony that the boy had been left behind in the nursery when he showed signs of fever.

No one had told him until it was far too late, until he’d been saddled with an orphaned young nephew and vast holdings to “oversee” until that nephew gained his majority.

The holdings were supposed to have been his. Instead, he became the steward rather than the duke. Instead, it was left to him to nurse his grief-stricken nephew through those dreadful months after “the accident.” Since another “accident” so soon after the first would’ve raised suspicions, he had nursed when he’d wanted to strangle. He’d mentored when he wanted to stab. If only the boy had been where he was supposed to be, Anthony would’ve had what was rightfully his for all this time.

Soon, Anthony mused. That softness within Derek wouldn’t permit him to marry for the sake of his title. Like the fool he was, Derek wanted more. The softness would be his downfall. Anthony was betting on it and breathing a bit easier after realizing that none of the Season’s debutantes had caught his discerning nephew’s eye.

Lucy Dexter, one of London’s most accomplished courtesans, crawled from the foot of the chaise to envelop him in soft curves and sweet scent. Silky dark hair cascaded invitingly over his chest.

“What troubles you tonight, my lord?”

“Nothing of any consequence.”

“You ponder the fate of your nephew and the duchy you covet.”

Anthony raised an imperious brow. “It is rather impertinent for you to speak so boldly of things that are none of your concern.”

Lucy’s husky laugh caught the attention of his recently satisfied libido. “How can you say such things are none of my concern when you’ve made them my concern by unburdening yourself to me quite regularly?”

The double entendre wasn’t lost on Anthony. Through the silk dressing gown he had given her, he cupped a bountiful breast and pinched the nipple roughly between his fingers, drawing a surprised gasp from her bow-shaped mouth. “If you speak of my concerns with anyone else, madam, you will quickly discover my less-than-amiable side, which I usually prefer to keep hidden from the fairer sex.”

Her blue eyes hardened with displeasure. “I believe I have proven my allegiance time and again over these many years, my lord. There is no need for threats nor less-than- subtle attempts at intimidation.”

She could quite ruin him. She knew it. He knew it. Power. He had given her far too much, he realized, and that was something he might, at some point, need to contend with. But certainly not right now, not when she was pushing his dressing gown aside to drop soft, open-mouthed kisses on his chest.

Anthony sighed with satisfaction, placed the empty glass on a table and buried his fingers in silky tresses. When she took his cock into the velvety warmth of her mouth, he closed his eyes and let his head fall back in surrender.

Power—the only commodity that truly counted. As she sucked and licked him to explosive fulfillment, it hardly mattered that he had ceded some of his to her for the time being. Before long, he’d have more than he knew what to do with. It was only a matter of time.

—————————-

AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold more than 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 Facebook, Twitter @marieforce and on Instagram. Join one of Marie’s many reader groups. Contact Marie at marie@marieforce.com.

 

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Chapter Reveal: A PLACE WITHOUT YOU, An All-New Emotional, New Adult Romance from JEWEL E. ANN is Coming January 2nd! @JewelE_Ann

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A Place Without You, an all-new emotional, new adult romance from Jewel E. Ann is coming January 2nd, and we have a sneak peek for you!

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The Law of Henna and Bodhi:

When love breaks, fall inward, fall together, and fall hard. Then let time pick up the pieces.

Everything feels temporary when you’ve experienced tragedy—until Henna Lane meets Bodhi at a music festival.

Young and spontaneous, they have a lust for seizing the moment, falling hard and fast.

When Bodhi is forced to leave without a goodbye, Henna thinks she’ll never get over him. But then she meets Mr. Malone, her sexy, new guidance counselor.

They are reckless.

They are forbidden.

When their secret is discovered, Henna has to choose between finishing school—banned from seeing Mr. Malone—or dropping out to follow her nomad dreams.

Henna chooses her dreams.

Over time, she learns that life is not a destination or a journey, some things are more than temporary, and the forbidden can never be ignored. But if she returns for him, will he still be hers?

A Place Without You is an emotional story of young love, shattered dreams, and impossible decisions.

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2AHhTNT

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Excerpt from Chapter One

His lips move. I stare at them for a few breaths before I realize he’s talking. My hand tugs out my earbud again.

“Sorry. Did you say something?”

“What are you listening to?” he asks in a voice as smooth as his Mediterranean eyes.

“That’s kind of a personal question. Like asking my underwear color.”

He grins. It’s all kinds of wicked. “Personal?” He shrugs. “I don’t know about that. Depends on the song … and the color.”

“Amy Shark, ‘Adore.’And red and silver polka dots.”

“Mmm …” He nods slowly. “Good choice.”

The song?” I bite the corner of my lower lip to control my grin.

“The underwear.”

My heart wakes up as if to say, “Whoa, is something going on here I should know about?”

“Wanna see mine?”

My eyebrows lift a fraction. “Your underwear?”

He digs his phone out of his front pocket. “Do I look like a perv? My song.”

Damn. He’s good. My tummy joins in on the little dance happening inside of me.

Twisting his wrist, he shows me his phone screen.

“Apocalyptica, ‘Nothing Else Matters.’ Hmm … that’s unexpected.” I let my gaze fall into his, a dangerous place to be. “You going to Coachella?”

He nods several times, glancing over the seats to the road before us. “I’m working there.”

Oh, cool. Doing what?”

He inspects my hair. I’d planned on changing clothes and doing something a bit more original with my crazy, dark auburn hair than a messy braid over one shoulder, but sushi dad took away my hotel room. Sexy stranger grins like either my question or my messy hair pleases him. “I’m an in-house tech—audio, lighting, video.”

Dear God, he’s the full package, especially when that grin of his grows as I continue to violate him with my eyes. Maybe it’s just the lollipop I had on my way to the hotel. Everything seems aesthetically pleasing when I’m a little high.

“So, I’ll know who to blame if the sound is a bit off while one of my favorite bands performs.”

“You’ll know who to thank when it isn’t.” He leans toward the middle of the backseat. I follow his lead because I’m curious if he smells as good as he looks. “But I get this feeling that in your state, everything will sound good.”

Ignoring his whispered accusation that I’m high, I sniff. “You smell like lemon.”

He sticks his tongue out, revealing a half-melted lemon drop.

I grin as we sit straight again. “Last year my mom brought back lemon drops from the Limoncello factory in Sorrento. They were amazing.”

Sucking more intensely on his sour goodness, he nods slowly. “I’m sure they were. Sadly, I don’t think my lemon drop was made in Italy.”

“That is incredibly sad.”

He chuckles. Is he laughing at me?

“Nice tats.” He nods to my arms.

Holding them out, I admire my art. “They’re henna, like me.”

“Like you?”

“Yes. My name is Henna. And these will be much more intense tomorrow.”

“Like you?” His teeth scrape along his bottom lip. It’s ridiculously sexy.

“Are you flirting with me?”

He chuckles. “We met less than five minutes ago. I have a little more tact than that.”

“Tact? Like asking the color of my underwear?”

He runs his hands over the legs of his jeans. Is he sweating? Am I making him sweat? That possibility gives me a whole other kind of high.

“I didn’t ask. You freely offered that information. Besides, I have rules about flirting.”

“Well, I despise rules, but you must share your rules anyway.”

“Never flirt with someone who is not sober.” He stares out his window like his rule is the end of our friendly conversation.

“Sober? Dude, this is as sober as I get.” Leaning forward, I shove down the waist of my shorts in back, exposing a long L-shaped scar.

He glances over, forehead wrinkled.

“If I sit too long or stand too long or do anything too long, life kinda sucks. But a little high can go a long way with making said life a lot less sucky.”

Sitting back, I exhale. Sexy stranger seems at a loss for words.

“Tell me, tech guy, do you have a name?”

The driver stops at the crowded entrance.

“Thank you,” we say while getting out of the car.

To read the rest of Chapter One, visit:

http://bit.ly/2r9bWU0

About Jewel:

Jewel is a free-spirited romance junkie with a quirky sense of humor.

With 10 years of flossing lectures under her belt, she took early retirement from her dental hygiene career to stay home with her three awesome boys and manage the family business.

After her best friend of nearly 30 years suggested a few books from the Contemporary Romance genre, Jewel was hooked. Devouring two and three books a week but still craving more, she decided to practice sustainable reading, AKA writing.

When she’s not donning her cape and saving the planet one tree at a time, she enjoys yoga with friends, good food with family, rock climbing with her kids, watching How I Met Your Mother reruns, and of course…heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, panty-scorching novels.

Connect with Jewel:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjeweleann/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JewelE_Ann

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BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jewel-e-ann

Stay up to date with Jewel by joining her mailing list:

http://www.jeweleann.com/free-booksubscribe/

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Release Blitz + Excerpt: A CHRISTMAS STAR by JUDITH KEIM is Now LIVE!@judithkeim @RABTBookTours

 

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Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date Published: November 2, 2018
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Two years ago, Noelle North’s then-fiancé left her waiting at the church on Christmas—her wedding day and birthday. She knows she cannot endure another holiday season at home in Boston. At the urging of four women at the assisted-living community where she serves as health director, Noelle decides to rent Seashell Cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida for the holidays. She meets Silas Bellingham, the cutest seven-year-old boy she’s ever seen, and his great-grandmother, Althea. Noelle discovers Althea’s caretaker has been abusing her and goes into action, ending up with the temporary care of both Althea and Silas. Becoming part of the Bellingham household has an entirely different series of challenges when it comes to Althea’s grandsons, Jake and Brett, who are having problems of their own with hotels to run and their parents missing in a plane crash. But after sparring with her, Silas’ father, Jake, realizes Noelle is just what he and his family need, and when she finds the perfect Christmas star for Silas, they both know he’s right.
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EXCERPT:

CHAPTER ONE
               On the Gulf Coast of Florida, Noelle North walked along the white, sandy beach that lined the shore like the fur on her slippers back home. The sun’s heat washed over her, hugging her with its warmth on this early December morning. She unzipped her light jacket and lifted her arms to the blue sky, welcoming the day with an embrace. She had a whole six weeks of freedom from work and her dismal life back home.
Her family had wanted her to stay in Boston with them for the holidays, but Noelle knew she couldn’t endure another Christmas of everyone feeling sorry for her. Two years ago, on Christmas Day, her fiancé, Alexander Cabot, had left her waiting at the church on her wedding day, while he’d taken off with another woman, his best friend’s wife. She’d wanted to die of embarrassment. Even now, thinking of that humiliation, a shudder shook her shoulders, and her stomach filled with acid.
               The one thing that had helped her keep going throughout the healing process was the conviction that she’d never fall for a glamour guy again. Besides, at thirty-two and with her grim track record with men, she was pretty sure she was destined to be single for the rest of her life. The thought didn’t bother her as much as it used to. Why should it? She had the freedom to come and go as she pleased, nobody was around to tell her what she could or couldn’t do, and evenings after a hard day of work at the New Life Assisted-Living Community were blissfully quiet.
               Noelle stopped walking and gazed out over the water. Waves rolled toward her in a steady pattern, greeting the shore with a kiss and pulling away like a shy child. Above her, seagulls wheeled in circles, their cries shrill in the stillness of the early morning. She watched as a group of sandpipers darted toward the water’s edge, dipped their beaks into the sand for whatever little morsel they could catch, and continued on their way, leaving tiny footprints behind.
               A flash of black caught her attention. She turned to see a big dog galloping toward her, yellow tennis ball in his mouth. She braced herself to greet him and then chuckled as the dog circled and ran right by her toward a small figure farther down the beach.
               She walked on, watching with interest as the dog ran into the water and came out again carrying the wet ball in his mouth. As she came closer, she saw that the person throwing the ball was a boy whom she guessed was seven or eight.
               The boy smiled at her as she approached.
“Your dog is a very good catcher,” Noelle said. “What’s his name?”
“Duke,” the boy said. The dog, hearing his name, came and sat by him.
“And what’s your name?” Noelle asked, thinking the boy with dark red hair, bright green eyes, and freckles was one of the cutest kids she’d ever seen.
“Silas. Silas Bellingham.” He studied her. “Who are you? And why aren’t you working?”
She grinned. “I’m Noelle North, and I’m not working because I’m on vacation for the next month or so.” She glanced around. “Are you here by the water on your own?”
“Naw. My great-grandmother’s over there. See?” He pointed to a woman sitting in a wheelchair on the porch of a sizeable house overlooking the beach.
               Noelle smiled and lifted a hand in greeting, but the woman didn’t wave back.
               “See you later,” the boy said and ran toward his great-grandmother.
               Noelle watched him go, thinking of all her friends’ children back home. Of the four women who had stuck together through everything since college, she was the only one who was unmarried and without children. She’d always wanted a large family, but that didn’t seem possible now. At her age and with no prospects of a husband in sight, she would be lucky to have even one baby.
               Trying to fight off depression, Noelle resumed walking. It was bad enough to have been dumped at the altar on Christmas, but that day was also her birthday. With a name like Noelle,  she’d always felt the holiday season was something extra special, almost magical, in her life. Until two years ago, that is. Now, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and especially Christmas music were nauseating to her.
               She walked on wishing her grandmother was alive. From an early age, she and Gran had had a special relationship. In fact, Gran was the reason why, as a graduate of Boston College’s nursing program, Noelle decided to specialize in caring for the elderly. She now headed the health program at an exclusive, assisted-living community outside of Boston. Over the past several years, some of the more active residents had become dear friends. Without them, she would not be in Florida.
               Noelle smiled at the memory of Edith Greenbaum confronting her with three of her closest elderly friends. “Now you listen here, young lady,” Edith had said with great earnestness, “it’s time for you to go somewhere, kick up your heels, and have a little fun. I was doing some research on the internet, and I’ve come up with the right place for you.”
               Shocked and pleased, Noelle had played along. “And where might that be, boss?”
               Edith and the other three women had tittered happily.
               “I’ve printed it out for you.” Edith handed her a sheet of information on the Seashell Cottage just south of Clearwater Beach in Florida.
               The minute Noelle saw the picture, she knew it was a perfect idea, the perfect place. Sitting on the edge of a broad expanse of white beach, a small, pink cottage beckoned to her.
With its painted clapboards, wide front porch, and two palm trees spreading shade nearby, it was everything she’d imagined in a beach getaway.
               “Thank you, Edith,” she’d said with meaning. “I’ll see if it is at all possible.”
               “You know we’re right, Noelle,” Edith replied kindly. “It’s time for you to move on with your life. If you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for us. We’re stuck here. But you’re not.”
               Tears stung Noelle’s eyes as she’d embraced each one. It was the perfect time of year for her to do as they suggested.
               Thinking of those dear women, Noelle’s spirits lifted and she began to run.
###
               For the second morning in a row, Noelle awoke and stretched, relieved to be away from home. She’d wanted to come to Florida in time for Thanksgiving, but her mother had put her foot down and insisted that Thanksgiving be spent with all four of her children at home. Noelle loved her parents and her three older brothers and their families. But being with them for Thanksgiving had convinced her it was right to come to Florida for the Christmas holidays. Chaos reigned when the whole family was together. Eight nieces and nephews between the ages of one and fourteen were enough to rattle anyone. Even her mother, Jen, went to bed as soon as she could after everyone else had gone, leaving Noelle to do the last-minute tidying.
               Noelle put on her fuzzy pink robe, padded into the kitchen, and turned on the coffee maker. Through the kitchen window, she saw that the clouds the weatherman had predicted were marring the blue sky and hiding the sun. Still, with ice and snow back home, the day seemed full of promise.
               She took her cup of coffee out to the front porch and gazed out at the water. A sense of peace washed over her. Edith had told her life was full of challenges, forcing people to grow and change. Thinking of the past two years, she realized she’d been stuck in a pattern of self-doubt and hurt. No man, she vowed, was worth it. Edith was right. It was time for a change.
               With a fresh resolve to enjoy each day free from the past, she went inside, changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and headed out to the beach. Though the air was cool, the sun felt warm on her face as she headed down the sand at a brisk pace.
               Along the shore, egrets were dipping their beaks into the shallow water, retrieving small, silvery fish. Noelle loved their long legs and the orange beaks that accented their white feathers. How long has it been, she wondered, since she’d taken the time to stop and study the beauty around her.
               A number of people, children included, were searching the sand at the water’s edge for seashells. Some of the more experienced searchers held net bags that sagged with the weight of their treasures. She understood how hooked some people could be on searching for the best and the most unusual shells they could find. Each shell was truly a gift from the sea.
               As she got closer to the part of the beach where she’d met Silas, she slowed. But neither Silas nor the dog named Duke was in sight. Sorry to have missed them, she walked on.
               When she reached the long, wooden pier that reached out into the water like a finger testing for coldness, she sat down on one of the benches at the end of it. For a while, she watched fishermen patiently waiting for a strike. She especially liked to watch the young boys and girls fishing. The hope on their faces was priceless.
               Yawning softly, Noelle headed back to the cottage. The sea air, sun, and freedom from home were working their magic on her body, relaxing muscles that had been tight too long.
               In the distance, she could see Silas and his dog playing on the sand. Picking up her speed, she headed toward them.
               Duke bounded toward her. His black paws pounded the sand in steady, eager beats. Wagging his tail, he stopped in front of her, tongue hanging out. Laughing, she patted him on the head. “Hello, Duke.”
               She looked up to see Silas running toward her, waving.
               Her heart filled at the sight of him. She’d hoped for a little boy just like him one day.
               “Hi,” said Silas, beaming at her. “You’re early today.”
               “Yes, it was such a beautiful morning I decided not to stay in bed. How are you?”
               He looked down, kicked at the sand, and looked up at her with a sour expression. “Mrs. Wicked is back.”
               “Mrs. Wicked?”
               He nodded. “She’s my Nana’s nurse. I don’t like her. She’s mean. She was on her break. And now she’s back.”
               “I see. Well, nursing can be difficult,” Noelle ventured to say, unsure what the real problem was in the house.
               Silas took hold of her hand. “C’mon! I’ve got to hurry back. I’m supposed to stay right in front of Nana’s house. If I don’t, Mrs. Wicked will be mad.”
               Noelle allowed herself to be hurried along.
               Standing in front of Silas’s great-grandmother’s house, Noelle studied the old woman.
Even from a small distance, she seemed bowed in spirit and fragile as she sat in her wheelchair staring out at them. Others might not recognize these signs, but from her years of experience with the elderly, Noelle was used to seeing this. On a whim, she turned to Silas.
“Let’s go say hello to your grandmother.”
“She doesn’t talk much,” Silas said with a note of sadness in his voice.
Noelle smiled. “That won’t matter. I bet she’s curious about me and might like a visitor.”
As they walked toward the front porch, a figure emerged from the house. Noelle observed the big-boned, broad-chested woman and guessed that this was the person Silas called Mrs. Wicked.
“There she is,” whispered Silas.
Pretending not to have heard, Noelle lifted a hand in greeting. “Hello!”
The woman did not return Noelle’s greeting and, instead, went inside.
Noelle climbed onto the porch, walked up to Silas’s great-grandmother, and held out a hand. “I’m Noelle North, a new friend of Silas’s. I thought I’d come to say hello to you.”
From among the wrinkles and the downcast look on her face, her blue eyes lit and a smile emerged. “I’m Althea. Althea Bellingham.” Noelle could see how beautiful the woman must have been and wondered what kind of injuries kept Althea in a wheelchair when there seemed so much life to her.
“She’s Mrs. Bellingham to you,” said the woman emerging from the house to stand behind Althea. Dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt, she scowled at Silas and turned her disapproval on Noelle.
“And you are?” Noelle asked, curious about Silas’ name for her.
“Betty Wickstrom,” the woman said with a challenging expression.
Noelle held back a chuckle. Mrs. Wicked seemed such an appropriate name. She turned to Althea. “Maybe someday Silas and I can get you out in the sun for a bit. He and Duke play a mean game of catch.”
Althea nodded and then glanced at Betty.
“She’s doing very well right where she is. Right, Althea? And now it’s time for her medicine. So say goodbye to her.”
Althea’s expression changed to one of defeat.
Silas, time for you to come into the house,” said Betty.
“No! I don’t want to go inside. I want to stay with Noelle. She lets me play with Duke.”
Noelle smiled at both women. “I’m happy to stay with him for a while longer. Will that is okay?”
“No!” said Betty.
As Althea reached up to touch Betty’s arm, her long-sleeved shirt revealed a bruise on her forearm. “Yes.”
“What happened to your arm?” Noelle asked as calmly as she could while suspicion rolled through her in a wave of unease.
Althea glanced at Betty.
“She’s fine, just a little clumsy, that’s all,” said Betty, waving away Noelle’s concern.
“You hit Nana there,” said Silas, moving closer to Noelle. “I saw you.”
“Why, you little … You know that didn’t happen. That’s where I helped her up from another fall.”
Silas clasped Noelle’s hand and shook his head. “Adults aren’t supposed to lie.”
Noelle knelt down in front of Althea’s wheelchair and spoke softly. “Althea, you can trust me. I’m a registered nurse who helps the elderly where I live in New England. Are you being hurt?”
Althea looked at Betty, turned back to Noelle, and nodded. Then she lifted her shirt. Bruises were everywhere.
Noelle scrambled to her feet and faced Betty, her hands fisted. The burning desire to attack the awful woman was almost overwhelming. Through gritted teeth, Noelle said, “I would suggest you pack up your things and leave now, Betty, or I’m calling the authorities.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” snarled Betty.
“I would, I can, and I will,” said Noelle, flexing her fists. The abuse of the elderly wasn’t new, but each time she saw an example, it made her sick to her stomach.
Noelle turned to Silas. “You stay here with your great-grandmother. I’m going inside to make sure Mrs. Wickstrom leaves.”
Mrs. Wickstrom placed her hands on her hips and glared at Noelle. “You can’t make me leave. You didn’t hire me.”
“If you don’t leave, I’m calling the police. I mean it. I’ve handled cases like this before,” Noelle said, well aware this really wasn’t her business. But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t let the abuse continue. The sight of those bruises felt like a punch to her gut.
“Okay then, I’m not leaving until I get paid,” said Betty.
Write down what you’re owed, and I’ll see that you get the money. That’s the best I can do under the circumstances,” said Noelle. “It’s the nicest offer you’re going to get because if it were left up to me, you wouldn’t get a dime. You’d get a jail sentence.”
“You have no proof that I did anything wrong,” countered Betty.
Noelle’s smile was cold. “Oh, but I do. I have two very credible witnesses and, if necessary, I’ll take photographs to show the authorities. Now, get your things, and I’ll escort you to your car.”
Noelle followed Betty inside and to a bedroom off the kitchen in the back of the house. She watched carefully as Betty hastily threw her things into a small suitcase. When she’d zipped her suitcase closed, she turned to Noelle.
“What are you going to do about it now?”
Noelle drew a deep breath. “I’m taking your keys to the house and escorting you to your car.”
“And then what?” sneered Betty. “Althea isn’t an easy woman to deal with. Too stubborn, too demanding for her own good.”
“We’ll see about that. Come on, let’s go.”
Noelle escorted Betty outside, wrote down the license number, and stood by as Betty threw her suitcase into the back of a small, blue sedan and climbed behind the wheel. After starting the engine, Betty gave her a middle-finger wave and took off with a roar.
Alone, Noelle stood in the driveway, breathing in and out in a calming pattern to slow her heartbeat. What in the hell had she done? She didn’t know Althea Bellingham. And now she was in charge of her until her family could find other help for her.
She went inside the house and out to the seaside porch. Silas was sitting next to the wheelchair, holding his great-grandmother’s hand. Althea was asleep in the chair. At the sweet sight of them, tears sprang to Noelle’s eyes.
“Hello,” she said softly to Silas. “Mrs. Wicked is gone. Come with me. I need your help.”
Silas followed her into the kitchen.
“Who do I need to call? Where are your parents?” Noelle asked.
Silas gave her a look that was so sad, Noelle’s heart clenched. “My dad is in New York. He’ll be back at the end of the week.”
“Do you have a phone number for him?”
Silas smiled and pointed to a printed list by the kitchen phone. “It’s the one on the top. His name is Jake.”
Noelle studied the mounted paper. Jake Bellingham’s phone number was listed at the top. She picked up the phone and dialed the number.
“The Bellingham Hotel New York. How may I help you today?” came a practiced, professional-sounding voice.
Noelle’s heart pounded with dismay. Bellingham Hotel? The family-owned hotels? “May I please speak to Jake Bellingham?”
“I’ll buzz his office for you.”
After a minute, a feminine voice came on the line. “Mr. Bellingham’s office. How may I help you?”
“Please, I need to speak to him. I’m a visiting neighbor calling from his grandmother’s house in Florida.” Noelle’s pulse sprinted at the idea of telling him what she’d done.
“Please hold, and I’ll see if he can take the call,” his secretary said.
A moment later, Noelle heard a deep voice say, “Jake Bellingham.”
Noelle swallowed hard. “Mr. Bellingham, you don’t know me, but I’m a new friend of Silas’s. My name is Noelle North, I’m a registered nurse visiting from Massachusetts, but not licensed in Florida, and I’m calling to tell you that I just escorted your grandmother’s caretaker out of the house for abusing her. I specialize in care for the elderly and recognize abuse when I see it. I did not call the police. I need to know what you want me to do next.”
“Let me get this straight. You don’t know me, my grandmother, or the woman who was taking care of her. Yet you had the balls to throw her out after, what, five or ten minutes in the house?  Is that it?”
“Yes,” said Noelle with a confidence she didn’t feel. “That’s about it. As I said, I am a registered nurse, so I’ve seen too many cases of abuse like this before. She has bruises on her arms and torso that are very telling.”
“Abuse? Really? Put Silas on the phone,” growled his father.
Noelle handed Silas the phone. “Your father wants to speak to you.”
Silas’s eyes grew round. He took the phone and listened, then he spoke in a series of staccato sentences. “Yes! I told you Mrs. Wicked was mean! Yes, I like her! Her name is Noelle and she’s here on vacation. Nana showed Noelle her bruises. That’s why.”
After a pause, Silas said, “Love you too, Daddy,” and handed the phone back to Noelle.
I had no idea this was happening to my grandmother,” said Jake. “I have you to thank for uncovering the situation. I’ve been mostly away for the last several weeks, and Althea never mentioned any problems with Mrs. Wickstrom. Nor did I notice anything like that. I’m sorry, but I can’t make it home for another few days due to some international legal problems. Can you stay with my grandmother and Silas until I can send someone else to take over for you? In the meantime, who can I call for references on you?”
“You can speak to anyone at the New Life Assisted-Care Community outside of Boston. I handle the health program there. I’m in Florida for a vacation, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not licensed to practice in Florida, and won’t be able to stay with your family for any length of time, and then only as a caretaker, not a nurse.”
“Until just this weekend, I promise,” said Silas’ father. “And if I can find a better service than the one I used for Mrs. Wickstrom, it could be for only a few hours. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you well.”
Noelle bristled. “You may be used to paying people to do your bidding, but it’s not necessary for me. I’ve done this because I care about others. Not to get your money.”
“Whoa! I didn’t mean … Forget it! I’ll be in touch.”
Noelle hung up the phone, still steaming from the notion that she and her work were for sale when she was just voluntarily helping to resolve a very tough situation.
“You’re going to stay with me now?” Silas asked, giving her a wide smile. “Maybe for a long time.”
“Just until your father can find a replacement,” Noelle said, not wanting to get Silas’s hopes up for something that wasn’t going to happen. She already knew she didn’t like Jake Bellingham.
About the Author

 photo A Christmas Star Author Judith Keim_zpskhgxygvr.jpg

Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people, she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
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A CHRISTMAS STAR

Chapter Reveal: THE WILDERNESS, ( Lavender Shores Book 8 ) by ROSALIND ABEL @IARTG @Jo_isalovebooks @isajones75 @LHNGBlog @rosalind_abel

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Will Epstein had it all—playboy good looks, wealth and prestige, and a gorgeous fiancé to costar with him on a reality television show. But that was years ago, before he was abandoned at the altar on national television. In the aftermath, Will’s world completely crumbled, leaving him humiliated, alone and lost.

Andre Rivera married his first love and lived a dream life until tragedy stepped in. His wife’s sudden death left him devastated and struggling to build a life for his young daughter. Being a pilot offers Andre a sense of freedom from Lavender Shores, but he feels trapped in his grief and unable to move forward.

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Rosalind Abel grew up tending chickens alongside her sweet and faithful Chow, Lord Elgin. While her fantasy of writing novels was born during her teen years, she never would have dreamed she’d one day publish steamy romances about gorgeous men. However, sometimes life turns out better than planned.

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Chapter Reveal: UNLOCKING SHADOWS ( Keys To Love #4 ) by KENNEDY LAYNE, Have a Peek before Release on September 18th! @KennedyL_Author @InkslingerPR

 

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Gwen Kendall spent ten years in the Navy and used the last four to create a life for herself she could be proud of away from the confines of her overprotective family. Being the only woman in the Kendall clan tended to be a bit overwhelming at times.

Chad Schaeffer had been hired on to help restore an old farmhouse for one of the returning Kendall siblings. He’d heard about the trouble the family had encountered and honestly didn’t want to go anywhere near their properties. He had a change of heart when he saw the most recently returned Kendall sibling stepping out of her car with a key in her hand.

Gwen had waited a very long time to have a place to call her own, just as she had waited for the right man to share her life. One night of seduction convinces her she’s found both, but someone wants to take it all away. It’s been said that old houses retain a piece of each person who has lived there, but she never counted on the dark shadows wanting a piece of her.

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Twelve years ago…

Hope.

How could an individual still have such an impractical yearning after facing such a malicious, unrelenting evil?

Emma Irwin still desperately grasped at the prospect that she’d be with her family soon. She’d tell them all about the things that people took for granted, such as how much she loved them. She’d apologize to her older sister for acting so childish and to her mother for not doing the dishes like she’d promised this morning. The simplest acts of kindness weren’t hard to perform, yet she’d never realized how selfish she’d been until just this moment.

Until she’d found herself in a situation that was her father’s worst nightmare.

Emma bit back another sob as the old wooden dock underneath her back jostled her from side to side in time with the storm. The gusting winds from the gale had churned up the lake, and the choppy waves were slamming into the weathered planks. Cold rain was descending from the black sky overhead, washing away her tears as if they never existed.

When a crack of thunder overhead was followed a second later by a streak of lightning, it was a harsh reminder that she was still alive.

Emma shifted so that her bound hands didn’t dig into the small of her back quite as badly. She struggled to free herself from the thick white zip tie secured tightly around her wrists, refusing to accept that she would die at the hands of someone she’d once trusted.

How could he do this to her?

The hard, half-inch wide plastic cut into her skin, a cruel reminder that she was at his mercy.

His muttered curses were drowned out by the torrential downpour, which served her well. He wouldn’t be able to hear what she was doing behind him.

The wooden deck jarred abruptly, providing her the momentum to roll forward. Her cheek scraped against the wet, rough plank as she leveraged herself to her knees. The cold rain had numbed her skin long ago, but that could easily have been from the terror that had flooded her system when she realized that a man she’d known her entire life was a monster.

“I’ll give you a family of your own.”

Emma screamed as he suddenly appeared before her. “Please,” Emma choked out, having strained her voice after he’d all but thrown her into the bed of his truck. “Please don’t do this. You know me. You know my family. I have a family.”

“You were unhappy.”

“I wasn’t,” Emma denied emphatically with a shake of her head, swallowing back the sob that rose in her throat. “I wasn’t unhappy. I love my family. I do. I always have.”

Emma could have continued pleading, but her frantic claims would have fallen on deaf ears. She began crying uncontrollably. He wasn’t hearing anything she said, and he’d even turned away to throw what looked like a pile of chains into a boat that wasn’t even his.

Her mind registered his horrific intentions, and she instinctively managed to scramble to her feet.

She ran as fast as she could despite of her wrists being bound, ignoring the rain pelting her face and the wind attempting to knock her off the deck and into the lake. She’d just learned to swim this past summer, but she’d done so with the use of her hands. She’d most likely drown immediately without being able to move her arms.

Adrenaline kept her moving forward, though she blinked furiously to clear her vision so that she could make it to land.

There!

Up ahead.

Headlights pulled into one of the cabins that Birdie rented out to fishermen or families on vacation. She instinctively began screaming, but the rumbling thunder overhead drowned out her cries for hope.

That didn’t stop her from trying again.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

“No, no, no, no.” He’d grabbed ahold of her wet strands of hair, yanking her back against him with such force that it knocked the air right out of her lungs. She couldn’t scream, and she couldn’t even cry. “I’m taking you home.”

Emma didn’t need to be told that she would die if he got her into that boat. She fought his constricting grip around her upper body, kicking and twisting in an attempt to free herself at all costs.

It was of no use. He was too strong, and the lights she’d seen were no longer there.

The hope she’d been holding onto had been doused by the rain and swallowed by the darkness of his soul.

“I’m taking you home where you belong, Emma.”

 

About the Keys to Love Series

Their homecoming wasn’t so welcoming. Four brothers and one sister each gave twelve years of their lives to serve their country and fulfill their family’s legacy of service. As each of them return to their home of record, they weren’t prepared for what awaited them—an unforgivable sin that has been hidden for twelve long years. Secrets and lies are concealed in the dark shadows of the very town they were raised in, and the Kendall family will have no choice but to rely on one another to unravel the sinister evil that they all hold the keys to unlock.

Missed UNLOCKING FEAR and want to catch up? You can grab the first book in the Keys to Love series for free now!

About UNLOCKING FEAR

A chance mishap with a sledgehammer was the sole reason a chilling nightmare was unleashed in Blyth Lake.

Noah Kendall’s grisly discovery left him in the middle of a murder investigation and a neighbor who knew more than she was willing to say. Reese Woodward had returned to town with dark secrets, and he was determined to unravel them. While evil lurks in the darkness, seduction burns between them…only time was their enemy.

Will her secrets destroy what they’ve built, or can he earn her trust before the killer strikes again?

Add UNLOCKING FEAR to your Goodreads list here!

Get your copy of UNLOCKING FEAR now!

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About Kennedy Layne

Kennedy Layne is a USA Today bestselling author. She draws inspiration for her military romantic suspense novels in part from her not-so-secret second life as a wife of a retired Marine Master Sergeant. He doubles as her critique partner, beta reader, and military consultant. They live in the Midwest with their teenage son and menagerie of pets. The loyal dogs and mischievous cats appreciate her writing days as much as she does, usually curled up in front of the fireplace. She loves hearing from readers–find out how to connect with her at www.kennedylayne.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram

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Chapter Reveal: OPPORTUNITY (Office Roulette Book 3 ) By USA Today Bestselling Author KENNEDY LAYNE Releases August 14th!@KennedyL_Author @InkslingerPR

The final book in Kennedy Layne’s Office Roulette trilogy, OPPORTUNITY, releases August 14th! You can read the first chapter below!

 

About OPPORTUNITY (Office Roulette #3)

Available August 14th

USA Today Bestselling Author Kennedy Layne brings you the thrilling conclusion to the Office Roulette trilogy…

Gareth Nicollet had been born into wealth, but he’d learned at an early age that money wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. Regrettably, he’d made a meaningful choice early on in his life that now threatened his future with the woman he loved.

Cynthia Ellsworth valued many things, but trust and loyalty were at the top of her list. She’d always known the man who shared her bed had secrets, but she never thought in a million years that he had the ability to destroy her career and her heart with a single blow.

Someone once said that greed was balanced by fear, but that wasn’t entirely true when there was nothing left to lose. Unfortunately, Gareth’s secret is the very reason the roulette wheel is spinning and Cynthia’s life hangs in the balance.

OPPORTUNITY releases August 14th – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of OPPORTUNITY

“Steve, you can’t order this gift for the client.”

Cynthia Ellsworth made her way across the trading room floor with her favorite pair of black high heels clicking precisely the way she wanted. She’d purposefully pulled them out of the back of her closet for this purpose. The designer shoes were like battle gear to her, and she needed all the ammunition she could get, today of all days.

“Why?”

“Did you really just have the audacity to ask me that?” Cynthia’s steel tone got Steve Lewis to turn around in his desk chair. She understood that he was busy and in the middle of the stock market’s opening, but that didn’t mean she would allow him to cut corners. The last thing this firm needed was to raise another red flag. “I can actually see those little black squirrels in your head running a million miles an hour on that treadmill. You’ve got less than zero chance of putting one over on me. You know the SEC rules regarding gifts, as well as our own compliance regulations. You’ll have to choose another gift with a lesser value.”

“The gift is only a few dollars over the usual acceptable tolerance.” Steve went back to monitoring his screens, as if her role here at Manon Investments wasn’t as esteemed as his. She’d already had a hell of a morning. This situation was something she could nip in the bud, which she fully intended to do. “Jerry and Darla are getting married next month. I’m sure you can figure out a way to skirt the rules.”

“Oh, really?” Cynthia asked, tacking on a bit of syrupy inference to her words. She was quicker than he was when it came to answering one of the many ringing lines. He came up short when she leaned down and managed to set the palm of her hand over the receiver before him. “I’m glad to see I now have your attention, Steve. In case you’ve forgotten, my role here as compliance officer is to protect the firm— unfortunately, that includes protecting you from yourself. So, you are going to pick another gift to give Jerry and his future wife or you’re going to pay for it out of your own pocket like any true friend would do under normal circumstances.”

Cynthia didn’t wait for Steve to acknowledge her request as she walked away.

Okay, it wasn’t a request, but she didn’t have the patience to draw out a heated debate knowing full well she would win in the end. Besides, she’d spent the past hour taking care of smaller issues that had risen this morning. She had more important things on her to-do list.

It was finally time for her to focus on the issue that had kept her up most of the night.

“Cynthia?” Marilyn called out from her seat behind the reception desk, preventing Cynthia from walking to her office. The older woman was in her sixties and the glue that held this company together. “Paul called in and said to tell you that he’s running a few minutes late.”

Of course.

Why wouldn’t Paul be running late today of all days?

The universe had been conspiring against Cynthia for the past eight months. She hadn’t known about that bit of treachery until yesterday, but it had been there all the same.

“Thank you, Marilyn.” Cynthia managed a smile, not wanting to take her bad mood out on the older woman. Steve had been another matter altogether. “Would you please let me know when Paul comes in?”

Marilyn nodded her response, but it was clear that she had something else to say. She leaned forward so that her words didn’t carry outside the large foyer. Cynthia’s stomach knotted, because now wasn’t the time for the mother hen to smooth over ruffled feathers. She was wasting her time.

Nothing could be said or done to ease Cynthia’s pride at being duped by a man she’d thought was better than the rest.

Gareth Nicollet had pretty much brought her to her knees, and she’d been the one to give him that power on a silver platter. Apparently, she’d even tied a bow around the fucking thing.

Why was it that the most important lessons were always the hardest to learn?

“You know that Steve is having a hard time.” Marilyn gave a rather sad smile, conveying the remorse that most of the employees were dealing with at the moment. Was it wrong that Cynthia didn’t care about any of them when her own heart had all but been ripped to shreds? “He’s just trying to—”

“Steve had an affair with his boss’ ex-wife, lied to his former colleague and friend, and then attempted to taint my reputation in front of the entire staff not even three weeks past.” Cynthia could go on and on about Steve’s behavior over the last month, but it would have been a useless endeavor. She was just grateful for the sliver of anger that pushed aside the hurt. “Look, you and I both know that Steve is most likely moving to London to work with his brother-in-law when Manon investments closes its doors. So save the drama. Honestly, I think that’s the wisest choice, but that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass to do as he pleases until that eventuality.”

Cynthia was saved from another lecture delivered by Marilyn when Laurel Calanthe and Grace Dorrance breezed through the glass entry doors from the elevator bank. Her two best friends must have gone downstairs to the café to caffeinate themselves, because Laurel was holding a smoothie in her left hand that clearly wasn’t hers. The woman was a coffee drinker through and through. She’d have an IV installed if it were medically possible.

“Looks like we’re just in time,” Laurel said with a tentative smile that was meant for Marilyn. “Cynthia hasn’t had her protein smoothie this morning. You know how she gets.”

“I’m standing right here in front of you,” Cynthia responded wryly, not wanting to get dragged into Laurel’s office for a pep talk that was only going to make things worse. “Remind me why we’re friends?”

“Because you have the keys to the gates of hell,” Grace called out without hesitation as she continued to walk toward Laurel’s office. “We wouldn’t want to be left standing out in the cold.”

“Come on,” Laurel encouraged as she handed over the smoothie. Cynthia’s stomach revolted, but she took the cold beverage anyway. “Let’s go into my office and walk through what you’re going to say to Gareth.”

“Marilyn, I’ll be in Laurel’s office. Please let me know the moment Paul walks through those doors.” Cynthia fell into step beside Laurel as they both slowly followed Grace down the corridor. “Laurel, I’ve already decided not to say anything to Gareth, and I don’t want to argue about it anymore. I’m dumping this entire situation into Paul’s lap later this morning before washing my hands of it. Then I can finally move on with my life.”

Cynthia didn’t miss Laurel’s quick glance toward the corner office door at the end of the hallway, so she most likely hadn’t heard a word that was said. Her friend’s revolted shudder was more than evident, but Cynthia couldn’t blame her after what had taken place.

“It’s probably a good thing we’re moving offices at the beginning of the year.” Cynthia hated that Laurel had to continually see the place where she’d found their boss— Brad Manon— murdered with his throat cut a little over three weeks ago. It couldn’t have been healthy to look at that view numerous times a day. “A fresh start is exactly what we all need.”

“What you need is to find out why Gareth Nicollet didn’t tell you the truth about being Brad Manon’s brother,” Grace interjected from her seat on Laurel’s credenza as she waited for them to cross the threshold. “None of us believe that Gareth is capable of murder, but he obviously kept his family relationship with Brad a secret for a reason. You need to find out why exactly that is.”

“No, I don’t.” Cynthia ignored the throbbing pain in her chest. She was a business professional. She had known better than to mix business with pleasure, but she’d done it anyway. Now it was time to pay the piper. “As I was just telling Laurel, I’m meeting with Paul the moment he sees fit to get his ass into the office today. He can make any decisions that need to be made regarding Gareth. I’m out.”

Cynthia reluctantly took a seat in one of Laurel’s guest chairs, crossing her legs and smoothing the material of her black skirt. When was the last time any of them had a conversation that didn’t involve any one of them or their colleagues going to prison?

Far too damn long, that’s when.

It was all Laurel’s fault. She just had to come into the office three weeks ago at some ungodly hour to grab some stupid files. Leave it to her to stumble upon Brad’s dead body and unknowingly set all their lives on a collision course for the deepest pit of hell.

It was times like these that unfortunate secrets were revealed and lives were ruined.

These days, it seemed like everyone and their uncle had something to hide.

The police certainly weren’t lacking for suspects in Brad’s murder. Almost every employee had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the gruesome act according to the record thus far. The changes in Brad’s personality over the years hadn’t gone unnoticed by many, and the man had basically become isolated in that corner office as a result of his own actions.

It only seemed fitting that he’d died there in a cell of his making, but Cynthia wasn’t known for her tact. She told it like it was, and she didn’t harbor any regrets.

Well, sometimes.

Very few.

Other colleagues weren’t so blunt, and that was part of the problem. It was hard to tell where people stood in the grand scheme of things. Not that they had to declare their allegiances, for fuck’s sake.

Take Paul Slater, for instance. He’d been Brad’s best friend and business partner. Over the years, Paul had spent more of his time out of the office persuading high net worth individuals to invest their money in Manon Investments than he had in the office dealing with Brad’s insolence over minor issues that could be mitigated by others.

Then there was Steve Lewis, the head trader she’d had to deal with a few minutes ago. He’d been having an affair with Meredith Manon and keeping that little secret from his best friend and colleagues, not that it was technically any of their business. Normally, no one cared who was sleeping with who, but when it involved the ex-wife of the once beloved boss… well, people tended to get their hackles up in situations like that.

Speaking of the recent ex-widow, it wasn’t like she was inheriting a fortune, considering Brad had been in massive debt at the time of his death. Still, the police always seemed to suspect the spouse… or ex-spouse, in cases like these.

Then there were the conflicting motives of Vern Roberts, Blair Holmes, Phil Colbert, Joshua Green, Marilyn Kent, Smith Gallo, the two ladies currently in this office, and quite a few others. As a matter of fact, all of those individuals were just some of the employees who met all three of the criteria to commit murder.

“You’ve been seeing Gareth Nicollet on and off for close to a year,” Laurel said, taking a seat in her desk chair as she set a sympathizing gaze on Cynthia. She didn’t bother to correct her friend by saying it had only been eight months. Her speaking would only drag out this conversation, but it did take all her effort not to snap at her friend. Both Laurel and Grace were only trying to help. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could ease the pain of betrayal Cynthia was currently suffering at the glaring omission manifested by the man she’d fallen in love with. “Your instincts are better than both of ours. You can’t tell us that you think Gareth is capable of murder.”

“I never dreamed he would deceive me, either,” Cynthia countered sharply, wincing when her anger slipped through her composure. She was fully aware that the employees of Manon Investments weren’t the only suspects the police had on their rather large list. And now it was she who was liable for adding another name to the catalog of suspects. “Look, I appreciate what you two are trying to do right now. I really do, but nothing can erase the fact that Gareth kept the truth from me from the very start.”

Cynthia didn’t even bother to bring Brad into the equation. Hell, the police were likely to include her name in the pool after discovering that Brad hadn’t seen fit to tell her that he was related to Gareth— a client, for that matter.

It was now official.

The throbbing in her temples had now become a full-fledged headache.

“In case you forgot, I was falsely accused of murdering Brad,” Grace said while sharing a concerned glance with Laurel. “Detective Nielsen arrested me in front of all my friends and colleagues. It was beyond humiliating. You coming clean about Gareth’s connection to Brad might very well lead the police to you. Don’t you realize your own situation? It gives both of you motive.”

Cynthia’s hands had been cold since yesterday, when she’d discovered Gareth’s lie in Brad’s personnel file. She must have stared in horror at that seemingly inconsequential piece of information for at least ten minutes before she’d accepted it as truth. As it stood, she didn’t need the added chill from the smoothie, so she set the plastic cup on Laurel’s desk before curling her fingers into her palms.

“I know exactly what Gareth’s omission has done to the both of us, but covering up for someone is exactly what got you arrested in the first place.”

None of them had been overlooked by Detective Nielsen.

Laurel was the first to be questioned, and not just for the reason that she’d found Brad dead in his office. She’d been having an affair with Smith Gallo, another employee and the man with whom she’d been competing in regard to partnership at the firm. Both of them had been under scrutiny, especially when the police discovered that Smith had been planning to leave Manon Investments in order to open his own hedge fund.

Neither Cynthia nor Laurel had known at the time that Grace had given a false alibi for the timeframe of Brad’s death. She’d lied to protect the man she was seeing— Rye Marshall— who just happened to be Manon Investments’ largest competitor.

The killer had obviously discovered Grace’s attempt to protect Rye, because a knife had been planted inside of her vehicle. An anonymous call had led the police straight to Grace’s doorstep— or in this case, to the offices of Manon Investments.

Whoever was responsible for Brad’s death was connected to all of them in some way or another, giving that individual the advantage. That specific detail told her that this wasn’t a circumstance to be trifled with, which was why she was washing her hands of the entire situation.

“Grace isn’t saying that you should lie.” That was exactly what their friend was suggesting, but Laurel ignored the obvious. “Having been in similar situations, we’re suggesting that speaking with Gareth before you talk to anyone else might be in both your best interests.”

“Similar situations?” Cynthia slowly stood, not wanting to take her anger out on the two people who had her back in this cutthroat business. She fully understood that her friends were trying their best to help her deal with the fallout of a relationship that never should have begun in the first place, but they were going about it the wrong way. “You seem to be forgetting something rather important, ladies. The men in your lives never lied to you about who they were. Now as I stated earlier, I’m dumping this police matter into Paul’s inbox and washing my hands of this whole problem.”

Cynthia sensed Gareth’s presence before either of her friends glanced toward the doorway in shock. She wasn’t sure how to explain it, but a blanket of warmth always came over her when he was in the vicinity. The fact that he could still have that effect on her after what he’d done gave her the internal fortitude to compose herself.

Hell would freeze over before she ever showed Gareth Nicollet that he still had the power to destroy her heart. Bracing herself, she straightened her shoulders before turning on the heels that had gotten her through many power struggles. Unfortunately, he gained the upper hand when he spoke first.

“Do you think it’s going to be that easy to get rid of me, Cyn?”
 

Missed MEANS (Office Roulette #1) and need to catch up? Get your hands on it now!

About MEANS (Office Roulette #1)

From USA Today Bestselling Author Kennedy Layne comes a sexy trilogy that involves greed, power, and the desire to do it all over again…

Smith Gallo has everything a man could ever want at the tip of his fingertips, except of course the woman he loves. To what lengths will he be willing to go to make his ambitions come true?

Laurel Calanthe is one successful stock pick away from making partner when she finds herself in desperate need of an alibi. There’s only one problem. The man who can save her from being arrested is her only competitor and the one who now holds her fate in his hands.

Greed is a powerful motivator in the game of making money, but desire can overcome even the strongest motive.

✦Amazon https://amzn.to/2JjW08T
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READ MY REVIEW:

MEANS REVIEW

About MOTIVE (Office Roulette #2)

The Office Roulette trilogy continues with an epic battle between blame and forgiveness…

Rye Marshall had it all—wealth, prominence, and the love of his life. But nothing lasts forever, and his perfect world came crashing down around him. When the dust settled, he found himself alone and starting from a clean slate.

Grace Dorrance had made many mistakes in her life, but one stood out above the rest—an epic ending to a complex and passionate relationship. She left her former lover’s life in complete ruins and tried her best never to look back at the wreckage.

Seconds chances are hard to come by, but even more difficult when Grace is arrested for a murder she didn’t commit. This gives Rye the perfect motive to forgive and forget, allowing for new beginnings. Unfortunately, someone’s playing a game of office roulette with everyone’s lives.

✦Amazon https://amzn.to/2xInhR5
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✦Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2xGBHkS
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2xDVAch

READ MY REVIEW:

MOTIVE REVIEW

 

About Kennedy Layne

Kennedy Layne is a USA Today bestselling author. She draws inspiration for her military romantic suspense novels in part from her not-so-secret second life as a wife of a retired Marine Master Sergeant. He doubles as her critique partner, beta reader, and military consultant. They live in the Midwest with their teenage son and menagerie of pets. The loyal dogs and mischievous cats appreciate her writing days as much as she does, usually curled up in front of the fireplace. She loves hearing from readers–find out how to connect with her at www.kennedylayne.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram

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OPPORTUNITY ( OFFICE ROULETTE #3 ) BY KENNEDY LAYNE IS COMING

Chapter Reveal: BUTTERFACE, A Sexy Romantic Comedy from USA Today Bestselling Author AVERY FLYNN is Releasing July 30th! @averyflynn @jenw23

 

Butterface, a fun and sexy romantic comedy from USA Today bestselling author Avery Flynn, is coming July 30th and we’ve got a sneak peek!

BUTTERFACE 2018-0627 Avery Flynn[169987]BC

Read the first chapter of Butterface today: http://wp.me/P2BIBX-11q

Synopsis

Looks aren’t everything.

It’s true. I’m not what most people would call “pretty” and, well, high school was rough. Fast forward ten years and life is good…

Until a bunch of jerks think it’s hilarious to put the “butterface” (AKA me) on a wedding Kiss Cam with the hottest guy ever—and that old humiliation hits hard.

I recognize him immediately. The hottest cop in Waterbury and totally out of my league.

But then he kisses me.

And we totally forget the room, the crowd, everything.

Then he tells everyone we’ve been dating for months.

Soon everything starts to feel too real, from adorable fights over “necessary” tools to fix my broken porch to surviving a free-for-all dinner with his six siblings to picking up where our last kiss left off.

But there’s something he’s not telling me about why he’s really hanging around, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with my mob-connected brothers.

Because this is not a makeover story, and Cinderella is only a fairy tale…

BUTTERFACE_PRE-ORDER-2[169986]

Pre-order your copy today!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ykgQEa

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/Butterface

iBooks: https://apple.co/2yo2dQd

Nook: https://bit.ly/2tmqf8m

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2K3Cn8U

Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2sSXjEL

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About Avery

USA Today bestselling romance author Avery Flynn has three slightly-wild children, loves a hockey-addicted husband and is desperately hoping someone invents the coffee IV drip.

She fell in love with romance while reading Johanna Lindsey’s Mallory books. It wasn’t long before Avery had read through all the romance offerings at her local library. Needing a romance fix, she turned to Harlequin’s four books a month home delivery service to ease the withdrawal symptoms. That worked for a short time, but it wasn’t long before the local book stores’ staffs knew her by name.

Avery was a reader before she was a writer and hopes to always be both. She loves to write about smartass alpha heroes who are as good with a quip as they are with their *ahem* other God-given talents. Her heroines are feisty, fierce and fantastic. Brainy and brave, these ladies know how to stand on their own two feet and knock the bad guys off theirs.

AveryFlynn[169988]

 

Connect with Avery

Website: http://averyflynn.com

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/avery-flynn

Mailing List: http://averyflynn.com/newsletter/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AveryFlynnAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/averyflynn

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Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/averyflynnbooks/

Join the Flynnbots: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Flynnbots/

http://averyflynn.com

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Book Blitz + Giveaway: HART OF DARKNESS ( The Hart Series ) by S.B. ALEXANDER @sbalex_author @XpressoTours


Hart of Darkness
S.B. Alexander
Publication date: June 12th 2018
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

The road to love is paved in the dark.

Former gang member Dillon Hart abandoned the streets to join the US Merchant Marines. He feels his life is finally on track until he returns home to discover that his sixteen-year-old sister is missing. With his younger brother in jail and his older brother living a life of crime, it’s up to Dillon to find Grace. After four years of searching, a phone call from a morgue gives him a lead that he can’t pass up. Enlisting the help of a cutthroat reporter may be his only hope.

Crime reporter Maggie Marx has just the right mix of grit and sex appeal to get anything she wants, even the darkest stories on the street. Growing up in a gang, she had her fair share of setbacks and obstacles. When Dillon Hart seeks her help, she’s more than ready to take down the street’s biggest enemy. Her actions could help her exact revenge or land her in the belly of the beast.

As Dillon and Maggie team up to search for Dillon’s sister, they aren’t prepared to find what lies ahead. One family is torn apart. Another is brought together. Hearts are shredded, secrets are uncovered, and love takes on a whole new meaning.

Intended for audiences 18+

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Link to read Chapter 1 in Hart of Darkness: CHAPTER ONE

 

EXCERPT:

I parked two blocks from a sea of red and blue flashing lights. I grabbed my bag, hopped out of my car, and ran up to the crowd that had gathered around.

I sidled up to an older lady. “What’s going on?”

She didn’t even look my way. Instead, she lifted up on her tiptoes to see over others’ heads. “Word is the cops are in a standoff with some gang.”

My internal radar was firing on all cylinders. “What gang?”

She clutched the robe she was wearing. “Not sure.”

I plowed through the throng to get a better view. Some protested as I wiggled my way up to a man in blue, whose name read Miladin on his uniform shirt. I knew some cops but not him.

Police cruisers and unmarked cars littered the street on the other side of the police barricade.

I flashed my reporter credentials. “I’m here to see Detective Ted Hughes.” I scanned the men in blue and some in plain clothes. Ted was tall, lanky, and sometimes hard to miss with his thick mustache that was similar to the actor Tom Selleck’s. I did another once-over and spotted Rick. He wasn’t as tall as Ted, but he was husky, compliments of the gym he lived at during his off-duty hours.

Officer Miladin narrowed his dark eyes. “Civilians are not allowed past this barrier.”

“I work for the paper, so let me through.” I knew working as a reporter held no clout to get me into an active police scene, but most cops knew I was close to Ted.

Officer Miladin stabbed a finger at another police barrier along the sidewalk in front of the brick homes that lined the street. “The media is over there.”

I didn’t budge from my spot. “You’re new. Aren’t you?”

Miladin’s voice dropped an octave. “I said over there.”

I huffed and decided it wasn’t worth arguing. Ted would only kick me out anyway.

I spotted Deidre, a news reporter for CBNT, a local station in the city. If anyone had a lead, it would be Deidre. She was relentless in her hunt to get the big story. I was about to make my way over to her, when a shot rang out through the humid night.

People screamed and scattered.

The cops took cover behind their vehicles.

I managed to duck behind one of many cars parked along the curb. The lady in the robe joined me, breathing heavily, while the crowd scattered to take cover.

Then silence ensued.

I slowly peeked through the car window, when the lady in the robe nudged me.

She pointed a red-painted nail toward the driveway of the house across from us. “Look.”

A girl with bold red hair darted from the back of the house, setting off the motion sensor.

Miladin, who had abandoned his position, edged along the base of the house and down the driveway. He said something into his radio, when the redhead climbed the chain-link fence.

Considering the girl was running, I suspected the cops didn’t have the house completely surrounded. Or if they did, then their attention wasn’t on the girl.

The crowd seemed to be holding its breath.

 

Author Bio:

S.B. Alexander is a bestselling romance author of the Maxwell Series. Her books are filled with stories that tug at your heart, and are filled with romance, drama, action and suspense. As much as she loves to write, she also loves to read. Some of her favorite authors growing up were Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe. She stills enjoy reading Stephen King. In fact, she loves most genres, although in the past three years she has gravitated toward the romance genre, which is when she started her journey to write her first book. Her motto: write what you love to read.

Aside from writing, she’s a huge sports fan, in particular, baseball. Since she hails from New England, she is a diehard Red Sox fan. She’s also a navy veteran and former math teacher, loves white powdered donuts, and handbags. Her husband calls her the bag lady. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing golf and hanging out with friends and family.

Facebook Fan Page / Facebook Reader Group / Twitter / Instagram / Amazon / Bookbub

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S.B. ALEXANDER

Chapter Reveal: UNLOCKING LIES ( Keys To Love Series Book 3 ) by USA Today Bestselling Author KENNEDY LAYNE @KennedyL_Author @InkslingerPR

 

We’re a little over a week away from the release of UNLOCKING LIES by Kennedy Layne – but you don’t have to wait! You can read the first chapter now. Check it out and be sure to preorder your copy!

 

About UNLOCKING LIES

A grim discovery in Lance Kendall’s home proved one thing—the residents of Blyth Lake had a serial killer in their midst. Now Lance had unintentionally put a target on his back. Worst yet, he’s made the only woman he ever loved known to a murderer.

A trip down memory lane with the man who’d broken Brynn Mercer’s heart wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done in her life, but their reunion was a slow burn of temptation that she couldn’t ignore.

Together, they will only have one chance to correct the past. Will the hidden secrets he uncovered threaten their love or solidify it for a future that has always been out of their reach?

Add UNLOCKING LIES to your Goodreads list here!

UNLOCKING LIES releases May 22nd, 2018 – preorder your copy now!

✦Amazon http://amzn.to/2rOa16E
✦iBooks http://apple.co/2sRUlCn
✦Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2k0VrpK
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2sRY2aV

 

 

Read the First Chapter of UNLOCKING LIES:

CHAPTER ONE

Twelve years ago…

Lightning streaked across the sky in multiple jagged forks overhead. The waning flash eventually morphed into an ominous rumble of thunder, creating a malevolent omen as it continued to sing its song throughout the collapsing resonance.

Emma Irwin bit back the sob that threatened to escape her throat, causing her breath to hitch.

She didn’t want to die today.

The hulking man standing in front of her abruptly lunged forward, causing her to cry out in alarm. She instinctively stumbled backwards and somehow managed to twist around without falling.

Emma ran for her life, and she didn’t look back.

There was only one path she could take that would lead her to safety. Under normal circumstances, she would have been able to navigate these woods like the back of her hand. Now? Terror flooded her bloodstream, making it nearly impossible for her to formulate a plan.

The thunderstorm above all but descended the forest into darkness after each flash. Without night vision, the footing amongst the roots crisscrossing the forest floor became treacherous. She had to keep an arm raised as she ran through the trees to prevent the low hanging branches from slamming into her face. Her hands were already bleeding from her previous fall, but fortunately, there was no pain as a result of the endorphins.

She couldn’t afford the distraction her pain would cause.

How could this be happening?

Emma wanted to stop and scream at him at the top of her lungs. She’d known him her whole life. She had trusted him, and yet she didn’t doubt that he would kill her with no more remorse than he would experience by putting down a game animal.

All she needed to do was make it to Seventh Street. If she could reach the edge of town, someone would help her.

Would anyone believe her? Was any of this even remotely plausible? She was a teenager. It was her word against…

Light!

The streetlamp was barely visible, but it was there ahead of her just up the gradual slope. The blazing beacon provided her hope.

The drizzling rain became more of a steadier stream the closer she got to the edge of the woods. Unadulterated fear kept up her forward momentum until her ankle boot slipped on a small pile of loose leaves.

Emma hit the ground so hard that her lungs emptied of any air that may have been left in her body after running so far at such a fast pace. She opened her mouth to drag in what oxygen she could, but her lungs seemed incapable of working. Her brain was screaming at her to get up and move or else she would die.

This was it.

She was going to die here, because she couldn’t overcome the fear.

Little by little, her straining muscles relaxed to the point where she was able to suck in a small measure of oxygen. It was enough to stop the flashing lights that had started to circulate in her line of vision. In their place, images of her sister began to materialize.

Would Shae miss her?

Emma didn’t want their last words to be those of hate. She’d said some awful things to her sister this afternoon all because Shae had gotten the car tonight.

“It’s not fair!” Emma screamed at her mom, stomping out of the kitchen and wishing there was a door to slam. All she wanted to do was hit something or someone. It didn’t help that Shae was coming down the staircase with an amused smirk on her face. “Why did you have to be the older one? How come you always get to be first?”

“I don’t know why you’re so upset.” Shae shrugged as if this night was no big deal. Emma bit her tongue as she passed her sister on the steps. Their mother was most likely listening to them in the kitchen, and the last thing Emma needed was to get grounded before the biggest bonfire of the year. “You get the car all week long while I’m at college. Besides, you got to use it last weekend.”

“No,” Emma argued, unable to stop herself. She spun around on the second step to face Shae, who had already reached the landing. “I only got to use the car on Friday night. Remember? You went into the city all day on Saturday.”

“I’m in college, Emma. I’m not allowed a vehicle on campus, so I should get the car two nights out of the week. Those days just happen to fall on the weekends.” Shae crossed her arms like she did when she was trying to make a point and look all mature. Just because she was in college didn’t mean that she was an adult. “What’s the big deal, anyway? You can have one of your friends pick you up. It’s safe that way.”

“Brynn’s car is in the shop, and you know that Julie doesn’t have access to one.” Why should Emma have to explain why she wanted the car? “You know what? Take the car. I don’t care anymore.”

“Good, because I am taking it. It’s my turn.”

“I hate you!”

A tear ran down Emma’s right cheek, though the rain washed it away. She didn’t hate her sister. Shae was everything Emma wanted to be.

Lightning lit up the sky overhead, illuminating her surroundings.

He was gone.

He was nowhere to be seen.

Emma was finally breathing again, though her heart was beating hard against her chest. She scrambled to her feet and did a full turn to scan her immediate surroundings. She was alone in the dark, but something told her he would appear out of nowhere her if she didn’t keep moving.

She took off once again for Seventh Street, relief washing over her as she finally reached the paved road. Not once did she think of slowing down her pace, though she did veer to the right so that she could follow the road that would lead her past the cemetery and toward the back end of town. She’d take the shortcut to her house from there.

It was then she saw the silhouette standing on the other side of the road blocking her path.

It was him.

That’s why he hadn’t come upon her when she’d fallen on the leaves. He’d somehow run ahead to cut her off before she could get home.

Emma had no choice but to run back toward the woods. There was no holding back the sobs that had been trying to escape. Why was he doing this to her? What had she done to him?

It was hard to see through her tears, but she ran blindly through the trees nonetheless. She didn’t follow any path, and she certainly never expected two arms to reach out of the darkness to save her. They embraced her warmly, and she even heard the soothing words that everything would be alright.

She was safe.

Emma broke down, holding onto the strong arms so that she wouldn’t sink to the ground.

“H-he’s coming,” Emma managed to say, trying to warn whoever had saved her. Was it Billy? Lance Kendall? Chad Schaeffer? It didn’t matter. “He’s right behind me and—”

Something was wrong.

Emma furiously blinked her tears away and looked up at her savior.

Only she was mistaken.

No one was here to save her.

All hope vanished. She didn’t understand how it happened, but the man she was running from hadn’t been the one standing in the middle of Seventh Street.

He’d been waiting for her in the shadows all along.

About the Keys to Love Series

Their homecoming wasn’t so welcoming. Four brothers and one sister each gave twelve years of their lives to serve their country and fulfill their family’s legacy of service. As each of them return to their home of record, they weren’t prepared for what awaited them—an unforgivable sin that has been hidden for twelve long years. Secrets and lies are concealed in the dark shadows of the very town they were raised in, and the Kendall family will have no choice but to rely on one another to unravel the sinister evil that they all hold the keys to unlock.

 

Missed UNLOCKING FEAR or UNLOCKING SECRETS and want to catch up? You can grab the first two books in the Keys to Love series now!

 

About UNLOCKING FEAR

A chance mishap with a sledgehammer was the sole reason a chilling nightmare was unleashed in Blyth Lake.

Noah Kendall’s grisly discovery left him in the middle of a murder investigation and a neighbor who knew more than she was willing to say. Reese Woodward had returned to town with dark secrets, and he was determined to unravel them. While evil lurks in the darkness, seduction burns between them…only time was their enemy.

Will her secrets destroy what they’ve built, or can he earn her trust before the killer strikes again?

Add UNLOCKING FEAR to your Goodreads list here!

Get your copy of UNLOCKING FEAR now!

✦Amazon http://amzn.to/2oDD6Tg
✦iBooks http://apple.co/2ouRvO6
✦Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2AYCo5e
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2odmleE

 

About UNLOCKING SECRETS
 

A grim discovery in Lance Kendall’s home proved one thing—the residents of Blyth Lake had a serial killer in their midst. Now Lance had unintentionally put a target on his back. Worst yet, he’s made the only woman he ever loved known to a murderer.

A trip down memory lane with the man who’d broken Brynn Mercer’s heart wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done in her life, but their reunion was a slow burn of temptation that she couldn’t ignore.

Together, they will only have one chance to correct the past. Will the hidden secrets he uncovered threaten their love or solidify it for a future that has always been out of their reach?

Add UNLOCKING SECRETS to your Goodreads list here!

Get your copy of UNLOCKING SECRETS now!

✦Amazon http://amzn.to/2orr78Z
✦iBooks http://apple.co/2mN73R5
✦Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2Hq3Cp7
✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2nrCOw6

 

 

About Kennedy Layne

Kennedy Layne is a USA Today bestselling author. She draws inspiration for her military romantic suspense novels in part from her not-so-secret second life as a wife of a retired Marine Master Sergeant. He doubles as her critique partner, beta reader, and military consultant. They live in the Midwest with their teenage son and menagerie of pets. The loyal dogs and mischievous cats appreciate her writing days as much as she does, usually curled up in front of the fireplace. She loves hearing from readers–find out how to connect with her at www.kennedylayne.com.

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