Apr 29, 2015

*Release Blitz* Step Sister Devotion The Complete Series by Eve Cates

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Title: StepSister Devotion: The Complete Series
Author: Eve Cates
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: April 29, 2015
 
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Synopsis
Forbidden love between a stepbrother and a stepsister. Told from the male point of view. 18+ due to sex scenes and language.
 
She had me at the word ‘Run’.
 
I first met my stepsister, Abigail Dorset at a wedding – my father had left my mom and married hers; I went there expecting to hate her. Instead, I found something much worse…I found my soul mate. It was in the form of a girl who looked just like Snow White, and just like in the fairy tale, there was a wicked stepmother who would do everything in her power to keep control over her daughter’s destiny. Being a Dorset meant you have to marry into the right gene pool and appear to be of the highest moral code. Abigail’s life was mapped out the day she was born. I was seen as bump in the road – a deviant boy who needed to be avoided at all costs. So my stepmother kept us apart…or so she thought…
 
From the moment we met, Abigail and I knew there was something – some invisible force that makes two people want the one thing they can’t have. But we wanted it anyway. Over the years, we would fight and lie, sneak and hide – we’d hurt those around us in our need to be together in whatever way we could. But most of all, we’d hurt each other and we’d hurt ourselves, all in a bid to figure it out and find a way to finally be together because every day we spend apart feels like dying. A life with love is magical. Without it, living is torture.
 
Follow Sebastian Hawke and Abigail Dorset as they embark of a journey of love and devotion, kept secret, spanning years. Watch, as it drives them together and tears them apart before bringing them together again, older and wiser, ready to find a way – to do whatever it takes – because being apart from the one person you were born to love, isn’t an option.
 
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Excerpt
Standing on the edge of the pool, I roll my shoulders and twist at the waist, loosening up before leaning forward and diving. The cool wet surrounds my body as I jet through it, rising to the surface and dragging my body through the water, lap after lap up and down, quieting my mind that never seems to stop thinking, harassing me with the voices of doubt and negativity, all telling me I’m worthless and I don’t belong. They tell me I’m a deviant. And maybe I am... I’m not who they think I am. I’m not what they think I am. They don’t even know me. As I swim, I try not to think about my dad and his lack of caring – his lack of confidence in me. I try not to think of the life we had before he traded in happiness for material possessions. Faster and faster I swim, my arms and legs, churning through the water as my chest heaves with the effort. I focus on the ache of my body. The breath as I hold it in my chest. It’s always so much harder to be calm here. I don't know why he preferred this, even with all the stuff around; it's the loneliest place I’ve ever been to. And in the quiet, my mind wins. Reaching the end of another lap, I roll my body to change directions and rocket off the side of the pool, propelling myself under the water. Just as I'm about to rise to the surface, a vision appears beneath me. It all happens so fast that it takes a while before my brain catches up with what’s happening, and I swear I’m seeing things. But then a pair of lips press against mine, shocking me into reality as I’m faced with a set of amused blue eyes. I jerk backwards in surprise and plant my feet, standing up in the center of the pool. My chest heaves from exertion and surprise as I wipe my hand over my face and watch as Abi emerges from the water like the lady of the lake, so fucking stunning as she rises from the water, water pouring from her body, running between her round breasts that are covered with only the smallest pieces of blue fabric. My fucking cock twitches and the word ‘deviant’ flashes in my mind as I force myself to look away and keep my hands by my sides, when all I really want to do is grab her by that dark hair and kiss that giant smile on her face. "What are you doing here?" I ask immediately, using aggression to cover what I’m really thinking. “You’re never here at the same time as me.” She shrugs and pulls her long hair over her shoulder, wringing out the water. It runs down her breast and my eyes follow the stream. Did I just growl? "School's out, and I’m not doing summer courses when this is the last summer before college. I want to have a bit of fun for a change. But it’s nice to see you too. It's only been four years, brother." My brow furrows. "Don't kiss me then call me brother." She grins. "Why? It's not like I stuck the tongue in." She uses her hand to nudge me playfully in the chest and I catch her by the wrist, holding her hand against me as I look into her eyes while mine burn with a long held desire. “Because right now, I’m not feeling very brotherly toward you.” Her mouth drops open and she lets out a tiny gasp. It’s so fucking sexy that I immediately picture her doing that with my face buried between her thighs. My thumb slides up and down her wrist as her hand presses against my chest, able to feel the increasing rhythm of my heart and the rise and fall of my rapid breathing. Slowly, my eyes absorb the sight of her; taking in the changes of her face, her curves, her hair… I get that same tightening in my guts that I did when I first met her. Time hasn’t lessened my reaction to having her in front of me. But now that I'm older, I know exactly what it is. And I know it's not the way I should be feeling around my stepsister. Deviant… My eyes drop to her mouth and the most powerful urge to grab her and bite those plump lips of hers, assaults my mind, and I have to release her hand and look away to force it out of my mind or I’m going to lose control and do just that. It would be stupid. We’re out in the fucking open. What am I doing? “Just. Don’t,” I say, my frown returning as I step away. “You shouldn’t have come.”  
About The Author
Eve
Eve Cates is a twenty-something author of contemporary erotic romance. She loves all things naughty, demanding men and difficult situations (pass the popcorn please). Her first series, StepSister Devotion, will be told in four parts, releasing via Kindle Unlimited. Eve has loved writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and penned a note to her imaginary friend 'Pok'. Accused of being a 'dreamer' as she grew, she's taken that notion and turned her daydreams into stories to delight and satisfy her readers. When she isn't writing, you'll find her at home with her husband, four children, and two dogs.
 
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Apr 28, 2015

*Cover Reveal* Look After Us (Look After You 2.5) by Elena Matthews

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Book: Look After Us
Series: Look After You #2.5
Author: Elena Matthews
Expected Release: Late Summer
Cover Designed by: Okay Creations

Synopsis:

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The road to true love isn’t always easy… but through all the heartache, Ava and Ashton have somehow made it through—coming out of the other end even stronger.

Madly in love and engaged to be married, Ava is finally getting her happy ever after.

But it seems Ashton’s brother, Tyler, will beat Ashton down the aisle. When he decides to tie the knot, he asks Ashton to be his best man. Not one to miss his baby brother get married, he and Ava drive to Texas to join in the festivities.

Everything is perfect.

Until Ashton’s past threatens to destroy everything.

Ava’s jealousy rears its ugly head as Ashton’s ex-girlfriend hangs on his every word. Even though she knows Ashton loves her, she can’t help but feel insecure, especially since she’s convinced that Ashton’s first love is karma in disguise, waiting to take her happiness away.

As tempers flare and tears fall, Ava knows she’s overreacting.
Or is she?


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About The Author
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Receptionist by day, author by night, Elena Matthews is from Manchester, United Kingdom, the home of Manchester United, Media city and of course, Coronation Street. When Elena isn’t writing, she can be found with her nose in a book or watching guilty pleasures such as Gossip Girl, developing a rather unusual liking to Chuck Bass. And when she isn’t doing any of those things, you can often find her on Facebook, obsessing over Kellan Kyle, book boyfriend extraordinaire

Elena spent three years of her life at Salford University studying media production, to decide she no longer wanted to pursue a career in the media. Instead, it took her another two and half years to realise her calling. Writing. Now she lives and breathes her writing. She even had to tell her colleagues at work whenever she is found daydreaming at her desk, it’s because she is conversing with her characters.

Stalker Links


Other Books in the series

Look After You


Look After Me


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*Release Blitz* THE STORY OF LANSING LOTTE by L.B. Dunbar

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Title: The Story Of Lansing Lotte (Legendary Rockstars #2)
Author: L.B. Dunbar
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 28, 2015
 
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Synopsis
I get it. I’ve heard the jokes. My name sounds like some medieval character who was a hero. Hell, my best friend’s named Arturo King. Ring any medieval bells? But this is my story and I’m no hero. I also get the jokes. Lancelot is a play on the words lance and lot, and a lance refers to a sword, which is a euphemism for dick. What does a man do with his dick? He fucks. A lot. So if my name is Lansing Lotte, I must be “fucking lot.” Get it? Fucking a lot? Which I’m not saying I don’t, that’s not the point. Another reference to something sexual. Get my point? Huh, I made a punny. But again this is my story, and I haven’t done anything funny. In fact, I’ve killed three women, and only one of them I loved. Yeah, that’s right? Not laughing now. It’s not funny. And I’m definitely no fucking hero.
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Character Introduction: Lansing Lotte
Paisley Belle reporting for Guitar Central. Today’s interview is with Lansing Lotte, guitar hero for the award winning rock band, The Nights. Despite the recent tragedy for The Nights, I was able to sit down with Mr. Lotte in a small coffee shop down the street from his historical home in New York City. Perkins Vale, drummer, and Tristan Lyons, bass guitarist, will be joining us soon, but with the few private minutes alone, I begin my inquiry.

Let’s start with how you got into music?

L: My mother was the most instrumental in my introduction to the guitar. Pardon the pun. She was what you’d call laid back, a naturalist, almost hippy-like. Music surrounded us and she eventually taught me to play on a 1931 Gibson L-I Flattop. I still have that guitar all these years later.

Speaking of family, we understand you’ve had a rather unusual upbringing.

L: (growing fidgety) I don’t typically talk about it, but yes, Vivian DuLac is not my natural mother. Yes, I did inherit Logres Construction.

Lansing remains silent for a moment, reflective, and I decide to move on.


Tell me about your nickname: The Lady Killer.


L: (flinches at first, but then relaxes, pushing his longer bangs off his forehead) Yeah, well, I’m okay with the ladies (a sly crooked smile begins and those blue eyes sparkle), but I’ve been known to make a few mistakes, break a few hearts. Maybe one too many. (sighs).

Broken hearts, what about being a hero?

L: (sitting up straighter and continuing to fidget with the coffee cup in front of him) I wouldn’t say I’m a hero. I did what anyone would do. I have…a connection…to the little girl. I needed to get to her.

(Raising my eyebrow) A connection, how?

L: (smiling deeper) It’s a long story (laughs).

Well, tell me the story of the band. How did you all come together?

L: I met Arturo when we were teenagers; he’s two years older than me. It was a fight over a girl (he looks away for a moment).  Anyway, met Perkins in the woods one summer. We just sort of clicked. He’s a natural on the drums. Met Tristan after Arturo went to college. We just gel, a band of brothers.

(I soften my tone) And speaking of brothers, how are you all holding up with the news of Arturo?

L: What news?

Well, the recent events surrounding Arturo and his…

L: There is no news. All we know is Arturo was in an accident. I’m sure you’ve seen the images. Graphic. Disturbing. But we are still hoping for the best. He’s been spotted sporadically, but we don’t have any definite leads. What we do know, is if Arturo King were dead, we would all feel it. Our connection is that strong. If one goes, we would know it.

In an attempt to change directions, I ask: How is Guinevere DeGrance?

L: Why?

I’m taken aback for a moment and then he continues.

L: I apologize. Guinevere is holding up the best she can. Obviously this has all been quite a blow to her. She’s been through a lot, but she’s a strong woman. She’ll make it through this. She has me. She has the band. We are all there for one another.

There for each other, but who is there for you, specifically? (winking)

L: (seeming to relax). Someone amazing is there for me.  I didn’t see her coming, but she means everything to me. She’s changed my life, literally. It’s a new chapter for me, and I’m looking forward to where this will lead (smiles deeply).

I can feel the exciting energy for his unspoken new love interest, but I decide not to pry further.

Okay, can you comment on your world tour being cancelled?

L: We had to cancel. We won’t continue without Arturo, so we decided to wait. The fans have been understanding. We are still working on finishing the album, and looking forward to a release tentatively in August. We appreciate everyone’s support for Arturo and we are certain he feels the love they keep sending out to him.

Anything you want to say to your fans?

L: We love you. Thanks for your support. We’re sticking together, no worries.  You can keep up to date with all things The Nights on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/737318906359166/

At that point, a beautiful blonde woman and a little girl dressed in a ladybug costume enter the coffee shop. Lansing’s attention shifts immediately and the little girl waves to him. He winks at her and she giggles in response. I don’t miss that his eyes wander up to the woman who waits patiently in line for coffee, not acknowledging him. The weight of the Lady Killer’s attention must be too much, because she turns toward us, and slowly smiles at Mr. Lotte. I’ve seen that look before on a few ladies of society. This one definitely has more-than-a-crush on the rock star sitting before me, but I can tell by the look on his face, he feels the same way about her.

There’s no sign of Perkins Vale or Tristan Lyons, but I can’t wait to get the nitty-gritty on the quiet member of the band, Perkins. That giant drummer has some secrets, and I can’t wait to learn them next.

Paisley Bell, Guitar Central. 2015
 
About The Author
LB
L.B. Dunbar loves to read to the point it might be classified as an addiction. The past few years especially she has relished the many fabulous YA authors, the new genre of New Adult, traditional romances, and historical romances. A romantic at heart, she’s been accused of having an overactive imagination, as if that was a bad thing. Author of the Sensations Collection, Sound Advice, Taste Test, Fragrance Free, Touch Screen, and the upcoming Sight Words, she is also author of the Legendary Rock Star series, beginning with The Legend of Arturo King. She grew up in Michigan, but has lived in Chicago for longer, calling it home with her husband and four children.
 
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Apr 27, 2015

*Release Blitz* The Voyeur Next Door by Airicka Phoenix


Title: The Voyeur Next Door
Author: Airicka Phoenix    
Genre: NA Contemporary Erotic *Warnings: Strong sexual content & language. (18+ Only)* Release Date: April 27, 2015
Hosted by: Lady Amber's Tours
Blurb:
He lived next door. Alison Eckrich was an expert at being invisible. Having been raised by a mother who saw only flaws, she had learned long ago to watch and never participate. Until him. He was gorgeous from what little she could make out through his bathroom window and he awakened things inside her she had always been told was wrong. But she didn’t care. She was addicted. Gabriel Madoc was no stranger to the cold sting of betrayal. His broken heart had left him hard and bitter and that was how he liked it. Until her. She was a vision in the soft twilight. Everything about her called to him. It didn’t even matter he couldn’t see her face. He wanted her. The rules were simple: No names. No faces. No attachments. They both had what the other needed so long as they never broke the rules. But what will happen when the mystery is unveiled and they both come face to face with the truth and each other? Is what they shared in the cloak of darkness enough to keep them together, or will reality tear them apart? FB Release Party: https://www.facebook.com/events/808116989263187/

Chapter One

Ali
“God, baby, I need you inside me so bad…” My husky moan fogged the glass, obscuring my view of the deep fried and smothered in chocolate goodness just one creepy glass lick away from being all mine. “But I can’t let you control my life anymore.”
The pimply faced adolescent on the other side of the counter fidgeted uncomfortably, clearly disturbed by my affections, and possibly the drool marks I was leaving on his pristine display case.
“Ma’am?”
Giving the pastry one final glance of longing, I turned to him. “Just tea. Decaf because I apparently hate myself.”
Still looking nervous—maybe he was afraid I would start making out with the register next—he punched in my order, muttered off my total and then scurried off to grab me a pretty white cup and fill it with hot water. I set my money down and waited, all the while casting furtive peeks at the Boston cream pastry eyeing me back with a seductive, chocolaty glaze that all but whispered all the ways it could make me feel muy mucho goodo because that was how all my dirty fantasies started—with my food sounding like Antonio Banderas.
My water and teabag were set on the counter and nudged towards me the way lions were fed at the zoo—with a long stick poking their meals in under a steel cage door. Only the stick was his finger and the counter was the only thing keeping him safe from my all out crazy. My money was swept into a sweaty palm and tossed carelessly into the register. The drawer was slammed shut. Then there was nothing left for me to do but leave. Yet my weakness took that moment to nearly win; I started to open my mouth to order the pastry anyway, to portray that fuck it attitude I only pretended I possessed. But who was I kidding? It would never be just the one and my ass could do without the extra pounds.
Dejected, I took my disgusting drink and shuffled off to find a table somewhere within the air conditioned heaven. No one wanted to sit outside when it was hot enough to fry bacon. But most of the tables in the small café were full by drone-eyed squatters slumped over their laptops and cappuccinos.
Bastards.
Moving quickly down the line leading all the way to the door, I bee-lined for the only available table out on the shaded patio. My scalding water sloshed in the cup, but stayed stubbornly within the confines of the ceramic.
The moment I shouldered open the doors, I knew I’d made a mistake getting tea; it was just too damn hot.
I glanced back over my shoulder at the line. Nope. No way was I standing in that death trap a second time, not even for a Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, which was what I had originally gone in to get, except the beautifully athletic woman ahead of me had ordered a soy, low fat, no foam, something-something-something latte and the guilt had been too much. When the boy had fixed me with those judgy little eyes, I had balked and let myself be swayed by peer pressure and shame.
Resigned, I went to the table and sat. I stuffed my purse into the seat next to me and wondered how to drink my tea without sweating to death. I started by dropping my teabag into the water and watching as dark tendrils escaped and tainted the clear liquid. I adjusted my glasses as they began to slide down my sweaty nose and squinted at all the blinding brightness around me.
The café sat in the middle of a semi busy street catering mostly to restaurants and coffee shops and the occasional art studio. I wasn’t normally a coffee drinker and art made no sense to me, but I liked people. More importantly, I liked watching them … secretly … from a very great distance so as not to have to interact. People fascinated me. The things they did half the time made me question just how much chemicals and hormones really went into our food. But the problem with the artsy part of town was that it was very shiny. Everything gleamed. There were lights everywhere and everyone was dressed in bold, flashy colors that hurt the brain.
Me, in my long black skirt and baggy blouse melded with the décor. I could never pull off bold and sexy. Hell, I couldn’t even pull off one of those. Most days, my face would be lucky to see makeup, just because it was time taken away from something less pointless. No guy that didn’t require coke bottle glasses would ever look in my direction twice. Everything about me was all the things most men never noticed in a woman, unless they were into lobotomizing their dates. I just didn’t have the right looks to get men excited. It was a fact I had come to accept. Me and my lowly little decaf cup of tea.
“Rats!”
The exclamation was followed by the ripping sound of paper and the thud of things striking pavement. I twisted around in my seat just as an elderly man dropped down next to his torn bag of groceries. Pedestrians flocked around him, parting like the Red Sea to avoid stepping on him, or his things. But no one stopped to give him a hand as he scrambled to scoop items off the ground.
Abandoning my untouched drink, I hurried from my seat and dropped down next to him. My hands closed around a bag of apples, a tray of fresh chicken breasts and several cans of corn. I hugged them to my chest as he dumped his armload into the torn paper bag.
“Here,” I said, pulling the bag to me and emptying my things inside as well.
There was a stalk of celery and a carton of eggs that had upended on the sidewalk. I managed to salvage the celery. But the eggs had already begun to sizzle against the concrete.
“I think your eggs are toast,” I told him, stuffing the celery into the bag. “Or fried eggs, I guess.”
The man sighed. “Figures. That’s what I get for getting them free range eggs for about ten dollars more.”
It was a struggle not to laugh at the disgruntled huff.
“I think I have a plastic bag in my purse,” I said instead. “We might be able to fit all of this into it.”
Taking the bag from him, I walked back to my table and dragged my purse over. I opened the first pocket and rummaged inside.
The man shuffled up beside me and whistled. “Now, I’ve seen some crazy purses women carry around, but that right there is a doozy.”
My purse really was unique. When I first found it, it had only had the one big pocket and the one tiny pocket sewn into the inside. By the time I finished with it, it had about twenty pockets in various shapes and sizes and they all carried something. I had everything from a tiny sewing kit, to a paperback novel nestled inside. There were packets of tissue, gum, a small set of screw drivers, several zip ties, different sizes of Ziploc bags. and even a flashlight. I had everything a person could possibly need for just about any occasion. Because of all that, the bag was actually kind of heavy, which came in handy if I ever had to hit someone, which hadn’t happened yet, but I was hopeful.
“I like being prepared,” I told him. “Here we go!” Shaking out the plastic bag, I slid the paper one into it and held it out to the man. “There you are.”
The man squinted at me with one brown eye. The other one was screwed shut against the sun and he had to cup a gnarled hand over his brows to see me properly.
He had to be in his late seventies with big, child-like eyes and a kind face that immediately made a person like him. What little hair he had was combed over the wide bald patch on his head and looked as fine as a baby’s. His frail body was tucked into a pair of beige trousers and a checkered top that was buttoned all the way to his throat.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
Still holding the bag, I smiled. “Alison Eckrich.” I held out my free hand. “Everyone calls me Ali.”
He took it in a surprisingly firm handshake. “Earl Madoc.” He let my hand go and squinted some more. “Listen, Ali, you wouldn’t mind helping an old man get his groceries home, would you? My arthritis is just killing me today.” He rubbed his contorted hand, working the stiff muscles with a grimace deepening his wrinkles. “I live about a block down that way. I would pay you for your troubles.”
I waved away the offer. I was done with the whole fresh air thing and would have probably gone home anyway. Walking him would have been no skin off my nose, especially since he was walking in the same general direction.
I grabbed my purse, threw the strap around my shoulders, and took up his bag of groceries once more.
“Lead the way, Earl.”
Offering me a kind smile, he started forward at a shuffle-limp, like his right leg had been injured at some point and hadn’t recovered properly. I wasn’t sure if that was the case, or if it was just age, but I wondered why he didn’t walk with a cane if it hurt him as much as it seemed to. I didn’t ask. I figured whatever the reason was, it was his business.
We walked in silence for several steps and stopped at the lights.
“So what do you do, Ali Eckrich?” Earl asked as the lights changed and we started across.
“I am currently between jobs,” I replied around a tight curl of my lips. “I just moved here, so actually I’m kind of still looking.”
“No kidding.” He scratched his jaw dusted with a fine layer of white bristle. The sound reminded me of sandpaper. “Where did you move from?”
“Portland, Oregon,” I answered.
Earl’s eyes went wide. “An American!”
I laughed. “No, I was only there for school. I’m originally from Alberta.”
“What did you study?”
I pulled in a breath that smelled of fried hotdogs from the cart we passed and asphalt from the construction crew working on the roads a street down.
“I have my bachelor’s degree in business administration.”
Earl whistled through his teeth. “That’s fancy.”
“Four years,” I confessed.
“And they didn’t teach that here at the schools in Canada?”
I laughed at that. It was the same comment I got from my sister when I initially got accepted to the University of Portland. But at least she had known the real reason behind my need to get as far away from home as possible. Earl didn’t need to and I didn’t need to tell him.
“It was a growing experience,” I said, using my fall back response to most things.
“So you’re good with the books and things of a business.”
I shrugged. “Yes, and marketing and finances.”
“Interesting.” He scratched his jaw again. “Do you know anything about filing?”
“Filing?”
“Organizing,” he corrected.
I had to shrug at that. “I guess. Depends on what it is.”
We turned a corner and started down Pine Street. For a split second, I almost stopped, thinking I was inadvertently leading the poor guy back to my house. But Earl kept shuffling onward and I hurried to keep up.
“I just moved to this street,” I said. “My apartment is further down.”
“Yeah? My grandson did, too,” Earl said.
I started to ask where, when Earl veered left, hobbling his way towards a large, badly painted building that was impregnating the whole street with a powerful stench of motor grease, metal, and sweat. The rusty sign bolted over the trio of wide garage doors spelled, Madoc Auto Body Repair. The bay doors were all open to the bright afternoon. Two were empty. The middle one had a car hoisted on a lift. A man in a blue jumpsuit stood in the trench underneath with a handheld work light.
“It’s all right,” Earl called out to me when he realized I wasn’t following him. “This here has been in the family for near four generations.”
Curiosity perked, I knuckled my glasses back up the bridge of my nose and shuffled after him. Up close, the smell did not improve.
The man beneath the Pontiac banged on the underside of the car with a wrench; the sound swallowed the hum of jazz spilling from the boom box perched on the red toolbox next to the car. I watched him even as I followed Earl up a set of stairs built into the side of the garage, leading into what appeared to be an office cut out of gray stone slabs. It was impossible to tell what was hidden beneath the towers of paper that were layered over every available flat surface. There was another set of doors straight across, painted a harsh yellow that led to what looked like stairs going up. Earl stopped at the bottom, gripping the railing bolted into the side and leaned against the wall, his face flushed.
“The kitchen is straight up,” he panted slightly. “I’d show you, but that heat just about did me in and I can’t trust myself on them stairs right now.”
Concerned by the sheen of sweat glistening across his brow, I tossed a frantic glance over the room. I caught sight of a swiveling chair poking out from beneath the papers and hurried over to it. The wheels grated against the concrete as I shoved it to where Earl half slumped against the wall.
“Here.” I guided him into it. “Why don’t you sit down and I’ll get you some water?”
Earl smiled at me. “You are such a sweet little thing.”
“Will you be okay if I run up?”
He waved me away as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
Not wanting to leave him alone for longer than I had to, I hurried up the stairs, grocery bag in tow. At the top, I paused as the loft-style space came into view. The layout was straightforward with a bedroom set in one corner beneath a grand, bay window. At the foot of it, was a sitting area equipped with a leather sofa, recliner and TV. Across from that was a kitchenette and a bathroom on my right. I moved towards the kitchen. I ran the tap and occupied myself by shoving the groceries into the fridge while I waited for the water to get cold.
“Who are you?”
The pack of chicken breasts slipped out of my hands with my undignified squeak of fright and hit the top of my sandaled foot. I whirled around to confront the sudden explosion of words from behind me. The booming voice was male, but it was the volume of it, the sheer weight behind the sound that prickled the skin along my spine. My hand trembled as I fidgeted with my glasses, shoving them back into place so the dark, blurry shadow looming mere feet away could come into focus.
I wasn’t blind. I could see most things without my glasses. They just weren’t very clear. Everything had a fuzzy hue around the edges. Kind of like a smudged pastel painting, exaggerating the shapes and size of people.
This guy was not exaggerated.
No less than seven feet with a frame that was clearly stolen from some lumberjack catalogue, he stood blocking my escape. I mean, I could have maybe done some crazy ninja lunge over the counter, but that probably wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I stood there, slack-jawed, staring at the mountain man glowering back at me with a suspicion one would normally reserve for diamond thieves and those bitches who steal all the bikes at the gym just to sit and talk to each other.
He wore flannel, which only made my lumberjack theory all the more plausible. It was undone over a white t-shirt and form fitting jeans that hugged his lean legs the way I kind of wanted to. The hems fell over battered and really ugly boots that needed an incinerator to put them out of their misery and were frayed around the cuffs. His chest strained beneath the thin material with every breath and my gaze was drawn to the hard squares cut of his breast plates and along the wide lengths of his shoulders. The sleeves on the flannel were rolled up his toned forearms and barely concealed the raw muscles underneath.
Definitely a lumberjack.
Shit the man was hot. Screw Boston cream pastries. I’ll take two of him.
“Hello?”
Blinking, my eyes shot up to the head attached to that delicious body and my steamy fantasy bubble popped.
Thick, black hair covered his jaw and mouth in a beard. His hair was the same shade of ebony and hung uncut around his ears and over the collar of his flannel. From amongst all that hair, I could just make out piercing, intense gray eyes.
“Really?” I blurted in clear disappointment, my brain and mouth having lost communication at some point.
It was his turn to blink in surprise. He leaned over and snapped the faucet off with a smack of his palm.
“What?”
There was no helping it. My whole day was officially ruined and it was his fault.
Okay, I had no problem with men with facial hair. Sometimes, it was even hot. But not when it looked like he was going for a yearlong expedition through the Himalayan Mountains, or planned to live with bears out in the wilderness. There was a reason trimmers and razors were invented. And … Goddamn it! The dude was too hot for that shit.
“Are you lost?” he demanded when I could only stand there and silently judge him.
“I don’t know! Maybe you could loan me a compass!” I shot back. “Or a hatchet.” So I was just being crazy and I almost couldn’t blame him for his confounded scowl. I took a deep breath. “I’m Ali,” I said calmly and rationally. “I—”
“Gabriel?” Earl limped up the stairs, clutching tight to the banister until he was at the top. He looked better, I noted. The flush was gone from his face and he wasn’t panting. “I didn’t know you were here.”
Gabriel turned to the other man.
“Really?” I was amazed at how much that single question sounded like mine, full of indignant disapproval. “She’s not even half your age.”
I had not seen that coming.
“Whoa! Wait. What?”
I was ignored.
“Why do they keep getting younger?” he demanded of Earl. “You’re going to break a damn hip … again, and I’m going to have to listen while you explain to the doctor how you broke the fucking thing … again! You’re eighty years old, Grandpa!” Gabriel then rounded on me. “He’s eighty years old!”
“Dude!” I began, putting both hands up to ward off the craziness he was spewing. “I am not tapping that.” I winced and shot Earl a sheepish smile. “No offense.” I went back to glowering at Lumberjack. “So his hip is perfectly safe with me.”
Gabriel looked me over. Actually looked me over with a disbelief that was astounding. Did I have old man hooker stamped to my forehead, or something? Like seriously? I was insulted … and then he added salt to my injuries.
“I guess,” he mumbled. “Did he forget to return a book, or something? I didn’t know the library did house calls.”
How. The. Fuck. Did I go from being a hooker, to a librarian in the span of two seconds?
“Ali was kind enough to help me with my groceries,” Earl piped in before I could kick his lovely grandson in the family jewels.
Swooping down, I hefted up the pack of chicken still lying at my feet and shoved it into his gut with all the force in me. His grunt of pain was only mildly satisfying.
“I accept apologizes in written form only,” I growled through my teeth. “I like to file them under Fuckhead.”
With that, I stomped around him and started for the stairs.
“Ali, wait.” Earl hurried after me, and I only stopped for him. Otherwise, I was ready to make my grand exit, stage left. “Don’t mind Gabriel. His mother drank while she was pregnant.”
“Grandpa!”
He ignored his grandson, which amused me. I was really beginning to like Earl. Enough to sleep with him? Uh, no. But definitely enough to want to give him a high five.
“I still owe you for helping me with my groceries.”
I shook my head. “Really it’s fine. I have to get home anyway and continue the job hunt. But it was wonderful to meet you.”
“Actually!” Earl grabbed my hand before I could leave. “That’s exactly what I want to do.”
I frowned. “You want to help me job hunt?”
“Yes and no,” he answered with a chuckle. “We need someone with your expertise here at the shop and you need a job. I think we can help each other out.”
“What are you doing, Grandpa?” Gabriel demanded.
“I’m getting this place an administrative assistant,” Earl retorted. “Someone who knows how to do the books and filing, because apparently you got my brains when it comes to paperwork.”
Gabriel scowled. The guy was a professional scowler. I could tell. He was very good at his job.
“We’re doing fine,” he grumbled.
“Have you seen the office, Gabriel?” Earl countered. “I found a form the other day dating back to when the shop was first opened. We need the help.”
Gabriel seemed to chew this bit of information over, possibly literally. His face-bush kept twitching. Either that, or some unsuspecting rodent had made a home beneath that jungle.
“Fine. I’ll call someone,” he replied. “There has to be an agency, or—”
“Why when Ali’s right here?” Earl said, waving a hand at me.
Those smolderingly gray eyes darted to me and narrowed even further if possible. “You met the girl two minutes ago. How do you know she’s any good? Besides, she barely looks old enough to be out of school.”
Yeah, this guy and I would never be friends. He made me want to stab him, repeatedly, with something pointy and rusty. That didn’t make for very good friendship.
“I graduated with my bachelors last year,” I informed him sharply. “And spent the last ten months interning at one of the biggest ad companies in Portland. Trust me, I am very good at what I do.”
“And I am a very good judge of character,” Earl added. “I like Ali and since this is still my shop, I’m hiring her.”
Gabriel stared hard at his grandfather. “That’s not how this works. You need references and—”
“I’m not an idiot, Gabriel!” Earl snapped. “I’ve been doing this since before you were born. But she’s the one I want.”
It didn’t even dawn on me that I had just accepted a job at a garage. At that moment, all I wanted was to rub it in Gabriel’s smug little face. Then it hit me.
“Wait, you’re giving me a job?”
Gabriel threw his hands up. “Observant.”
I opened my mouth to tell him I was ten different belts of crazy and not afraid to use all of them on him if he kept pushing me, but Earl touched my arm.
“If you want it,” he said kindly. “It might not be all fancy, but you can start tomorrow. Bring your papers and Gabriel will go over them.”
With that, and a pat on my shoulder, he shuffled back down the stairs, leaving me alone with Mountain Man.
“Are you sleeping with him?”
Unbelievable.
“I don’t sleep with men to get what I want, Jack,” I snapped. “I’m perfectly capable of getting through life without offering my taco to every man that walks my way.”
That seemed to silence him. He watched me like I was some endangered species that just made no sense. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I wasn’t there for his approval. I certainly didn’t want it.
But, at the same time, I did need a job. After three months of unemployment, my savings had begun to grow a happy family of dust bunnies and I didn’t know when I would get another offer like that. Besides, it would only be temporary. I could watch my mouth and temper for a few months.
Gabriel turned his full attention on me, which meant not just his eyes, or his head, but his entire body so we were facing off. I hated that he was taller than me. Pretending to be a bad ass took extra effort when you were stuck glowering at a beautiful man chest.
“My grandfather is eighty years old,” he told me again in a deep, quiet tone. “He’s trusting of pretty faces, but I’m not. I may not have any say in who he hires, but that sure as hell won’t stop me from booting you out of here if I smell even a hint of foul play.”
“What exactly do you think I’m after?” I wondered. “And what exactly does foul play smell like?”
His gaze roamed along my frame, taking in everything from the chipped, purple nail polish on my toes to the messy knot that was my hair bun. I wasn’t sure which of that irritated him more, because his frown never shifted. He seemed to disapprove of all of me.
“Look,” I said, struggling to keep my calm when all I wanted to do was throat punch the guy for making me feel about two inches tall with just a look. “I get it. You think a woman doesn’t belong in a garage.”
“You’re right,” he said evenly. “That’s exactly what I think.”
It took me a full second to peel my jaw off the floor.
“That is the most sexist thing I have ever—”
“Do you know what women are, Ali? A liability,” he went on, ignoring my irate sputtering. “They come into a place and destroy it with the two ton bag of drama they heave around. I don’t like drama. And I don’t like trouble, which is exactly what you are.”
Any other time, any other person and I would have taken that as a compliment. As it were, his condescending bullshit pissed me off.
“And how am I trouble?” I bite out with all the composure I could scrounge up. “Is it the glasses, because I can vouch for their character?” His eyes narrowed, but I didn’t give a shit. “You know, this is why women don’t feel comfortable bringing their cars in to get checked, because of assholes like you who treat them like they’re braindead and unworthy of a fair exchange. You think just because we’re women and may not know as much about vehicles as men that we’re somehow less superior to you. Well, you know what, Jack, you can keep your fucking job. I wouldn’t work for you, with you, near you if you paid me in gold bricks.”
Whirling on my heels, I left.
I walked out of the garage without running into Earl. I briefly wondered if I should find him and thank him for the generous offer that I needed to decline, but thought better of it. I needed to get away from that asshole before I did something I might not regret later.
My apartment was a two block walk from the garage, tucked behind a towering wall of spruce trees. It sat nestled on a slight incline surrounded by Victorian homes and other smaller apartments. Mine was one of the older structures. The red brick was faded and chipped in places and the windows were the enormous panes used in lofts, but the rent was cheap and I liked the view.
The building itself had originally been two separate structures with six stories each. At some point, someone had connected the pair by a wall on either end, leaving a narrow gap in between that opened into a courtyard that was never used because realistically, it was a squished alley someone spruced up with flowerboxes. I could easily leap from my balcony into the apartment across the way … if I was Cat Woman, or a burglar. As it were, I was neither and had no desire to leap into an empty apartment. But the thing I did like to do was occasionally stand by the terrace doors and watch the lives of the people in the other building. As a person who lived on the sixth floor, dead center, I had the perfect angle to see most of what was going on in the other suites. Call me crazy, or a pervert, but most people in my position would do the same, especially since there was nowhere else to look, except to maybe count the bricks on the building. My neighbors were much more interesting.
I have always liked watching. I like seeing how people interact and behave alone and in groups. I like wondering what they’re talking about and what they’re thinking. As a child, I was the lone kid on the playground, the one that said nothing, but stared at the others as they ran and played. I was okay with that. I never cared that I wasn’t picked for teams, or asked to play skip rope. While I wasn’t some creepy shut in that liked collecting strands of my classmate’s hairs to make dolls, I didn’t go out of my way to make friends either. I still don’t. Friends are great, except I never know what to do with them. I see other people and it all seems so natural. They laugh and talk and make plans to talk and laugh some more at a later date. I would probably throw a fry at them and hope they were distracted enough not to notice me running away.
So I stayed home. When I did have to interact, I did so cautiously and tried not to make any sudden movements. Occasionally, I could even have full on conversations with people without anyone getting hurt. But I liked my solitary life. I cherished it even.
My apartment was designed by someone with no concept of measurements. Everything was done in extremes. The living room was barely big enough for a sofa, while the only bedroom was enormous. The kitchen was small, but the single bathroom could fit an entire Russian circus. The closet in the hall could have doubled as a second bedroom if it hadn’t been so narrow, while the pantry in the kitchen could barely hold a stack of towels. I was only thankful no one ever came to visit me or it would have been hard to explain why my bedroom was in the living room and why my living room was in my bedroom, or why all my food was in the closet down the hall near the bathroom and my towels were in my kitchen. It all worked fine for me, but I knew it wasn’t normal.
Tossing my keys and purse onto the glass table I kept by the front door, I kicked off my sandals and made my way into the bedroom. It was a short walk down a minute hall that split off in three separate directions. Right to the kitchen. Left to the living room and bathroom, and straight for the bedroom. My toes curled in the plush carpet that extended from wall to wall. Underneath it was the scarred hardwood that came with the place. But after a week of waking up to use the bathroom and having to tiptoe on what felt like a sheet of ice, I said screw it and splurged on a carpet. Best investment ever.
My bedroom was my favorite spot in the whole place and it showed. It was designed for comfort and easy access to everything. My queen sized bed faced the TV I had mounted over a glass set of shelves holding my DVD player and surround sound. On one side of the bed was my mini fridge. The other held an end table with a lamp and the remotes to the TV. The terrace doors were on the other side of my bed, draped in sheer curtains. On the opposite side of the room, against the wall that separated the bedroom from the kitchen was my vanity. Everything was within reach.
I stripped. I rarely saw the point of being dressed at home. There was no one there to judge me for the way I looked, or what shape I was in. It was my place of sanctuary. Plus there was something liberating about eating a cup of pudding completely naked.
At a little after six, I drew on a robe, turned off the TV and wandered into the kitchen for a bowl of something. My pantry consisted mostly of things that could easily be warmed, cans of soup, microwavable dinners, the occasional canisters of squeeze cheese. I lived for one person. Me. If I wanted to cook a full meal, I had the luxury of running to the grocery store, grabbing the items and coming home. But those desires were rare. As it were, I grabbed a bowl of cereal and made my way to the terrace.
Seven o’clock was when my neighbors came home. It was when the dark windows lit up and life happened on the other side of the glass. I treated seven o’clock the way soap opera junkies treated their favorite sitcoms, with reverence and excitement.
The steel hoops embedded into the curtains hissed as I dragged the sheer drapes across the metal rod. I propped the glass doors open to the muggy evening and leaned a hip against the frame.
It was still fairly bright out. The sun was just making its final descent behind the buildings, but the narrow notch of space that I considered my little world had shadows slinking their way across the bricks. The lights from the other apartments were sharper, brighter, casting the figures inside into edgy silhouettes.
There were eighteen apartments. Each floor had three windows stamped into the side. I had given each one a name, which periodically changed as the occupants did. For example, in the three months I’d lived there, no one had ever rented the apartment adjacent to mine so that had come to be known as the Empty. Levels one, two, and three were impossible to see into from my sixth floor view. So that left me four, five and six. Four was iffy. I could only see about six feet into their apartments. But five and six were gold and that was where my favorite people lived.
Window one, top row: Old Man and Young Girl I had assumed for the first three weeks were father and daughter. So. Not. I learned that the hard way while eating spicy curry and nearly dying when he heaved the girl against the glass and started fucking her.
Window two, top row: Empty.
Window three, top row: Crazy Jungle Couple who fought like piranha’s over fresh meat and made love just as intensely. They were better to watch than WWE on pay per view. I always had popcorn ready for when they got home. It was impossible to tell how the night would end.
Window one, second row: an Asian Couple with Little Girl. Watching them made me nostalgic for my own family, but then the girl would cry and throw things and that feeling would go away.
Window two, second row: Slutty Blonde with copious number of lovers. That week, she was banging the occupant of window three, second row, Handsome Dark Haired Dude with a beer belly but a seriously massive cock.
Row three was full of families.
Window one, row three: Single Mother with Little Boy. I would occasionally see him sitting at the window with his hand held game, munching on carrot sticks.
Window two, row three: Man and Woman with Twin Ghost Daughters. I was convinced those two girls were from The Shining. Creepy little shits. Every so often, I would look down and they’d just be standing there … staring back. Not blinking. It made it even creepier that they were both extremely pale with dead eyes and long dark hair. I shuddered every time my gaze roamed over their window.
Window three, row three: Large, Hairy Man with a deeper love of microwavable food than me, who spent a large portion of his time in his recliner watching football. I had a feeling he was a gambler, simply from the fits he’d always have when his team lost. It was irrational. But then what did I know about men and sports? Maybe he just had rage issues. Yet that didn’t explain why he’d get on the phone immediately afterwards and shout at whoever was on the other end. But that also could be explained. Maybe he had a friend somewhere else equally pissed and the two were venting to each other.
The fun was always in the guessing.
That evening, only three of the windows lit up. Old Man and Hopefully Not His Daughter came home first. She sauntered into the living room, tossed her bright, pink purse down on the sofa and flopped down next to it. Old Man ambled his way into the kitchen and yanked open the fridge.
No fucking tonight, I thought, shifting my gaze to the other two windows.
The Ghost Girls were back in their lacy, purple dresses, white stockings and jet black hairs. They stood shoulder to shoulder with their backs to the window. Their dad was hanging up their matching red coats in the hallway closet. Mom wasn’t home yet. She was a secretary, or a lawyer. She didn’t get home until about eleven, stooped over like her briefcase was filled with bricks.
The third window gave me a start. The presence of the pale, golden glow took my brain a full minute to process and even it knew something wasn’t right.
Window two, top row: wasn’t empty. There was movement behind the curtains. There was light!
“Holy shit!”
Cereal bowl abandoned on the glass table next to the terrace doors, I stepped further onto the balcony. My fingers curled around the cool metal railing and I leaned in as far as I could without forgetting my not Cat woman notion and making the lunge over.
But as quickly as all the excitement had started, it sparked in surprise when the light flicked off and there was nothing. My gaze darted from the windows to the glass doors, waiting like an eager little puppy begging someone to throw the fucking ball already.
Nothing happened. The lights remained off. Stillness continued.
My gaze narrowed as I straightened. “All right,” I mumbled to the silence. “You win this round, but tomorrow…”
I let my promise linger into the night as I stepped back into my apartment.



Airicka Phoenix is a hopeless romantic with a dark imagination and an incurable addiction to chocolate. She is also the author of several novels written for young adult and new adult romance readers who like bad boys, hot kisses and a gritty plot. Airicka prides herself in producing quality material her readers can fall in love with again and again.
When she's not hard at work bleeding words onto paper, Airicka can be found cuddling with her family, reading, watching TV shows, or just finding excuses to avoid doing chores.
To find out about upcoming books, teasers, giveaways and more, join her newsletter or check out her www.AirickaPhoenix.com!:

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DAY 4 ♥ Brenda Novak Read for the Cure of Diabetes

Sweetx3_4DAYS  
Releasing May 1, 2015 and will be available until June 30, 2015 ONLY!
 
Make a difference while you read! All proceeds from the sale of Sweet Talk, Sweet Dreams and Sweet Seduction will be donated to the Diabetes Research Institute via Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research.
 
In 2014, the boxed set curated by Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research (title A SWEET LIFE), raised almost $100 000. This year we’re back for a second helping, and you can indulge, too! Priced at only $9.99, these fascinating limited edition collections feature some of your favorite New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors...
 
Extended Book Summary and Excerpt from INDECISION
By: Elisabeth Grace (Sweet Seduction Box Set)
Jackie Davenport will try anything once, especially in the bedroom. Anything except falling in love. She lives a carefree existence packed full of fun, but free from emotional entanglements and that’s just how she wants to keep it. When she meets the new police officer in town, she’s unable to deny the connection between them. His over confidence and bullish ways grate on her…still she can’t help but find herself falling into his bed AND falling for him. Jamie McTavish is man enough to admit that he probably didn’t make the best first impression when he met the 911 Operator. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still sizzling sexual tension between them. He’s a man of action and he’s not content to sit on the sidelines until Jackie works out her issues. But trying to tame this tiger might be too big of a challenge for even him.  
EXCERPT
I dropped my hands to my side. “Are you arresting me?” I asked, dumbfounded. “Relax. I’m going to pat you down to make sure you don’t have anything I need to be concerned about and then I’m going to conduct the sobriety test.” Un-fucking-believable. This was unreal. Never in my life. I held my tongue as I stomped over to the trunk, faced it, and placed my palms on the hot metal. “Is there anything on you I should know about? Any drugs, needles, paraphernalia?” he asked in a way that indicated he’d administered one of these on more than a few occasions. “Of course not,” I clipped. He came to stand behind me. I couldn’t see him, but his presence this close to me was like a magnet drawing me to him, and I found myself wanting to back up into his hard body. He crouched down and why, oh why couldn’t I get the image of him putting his face between my legs out of my head? Like I’d let this asshole touch me. When his hands circled my ankle, I sucked in a breath and fought the urge to bring my feet together to ease the ache in my center. He slid his hands up my leg and I swore I heard a small groan escape his lips. My skin was tingling with awareness as his warm hands passed over me. Stopping short of the V of my thighs, he repeated the action on my other leg, moving just as slowly from the bottom to the top. His hands then landed on my bare skin at my waist, and the sensation spread until it concentrated in my core. As his hands slid up to just below my breasts, I heard his breathing grow ragged behind me, and I had to fight the urge to press back into him. Damn, what was wrong with me? “Find what you’re looking for, officer?” I asked with way more huskiness and way less ire than I’d intended.  

Macon Excerpt & Ally Excerpt from LUSCIOUS
By: Lexi Blake (Sweet Seduction Box Set)
23959495  
MACON Excerpt
Macon watched the new girl. He couldn’t help himself. She was luscious. Like a chocolate soufflé. She would require very careful handling in order to bring her to fruition. One wrong move and a woman like that would fold, wilting or falling away, or simply telling him to fuck off. He really didn’t want her to tell him to fuck off. Ally. Allyson Jones. She had dark hair and a curvy figure that filled out her black slacks and white dress shirt in a way no one else on the waitstaff managed. She bent over, collecting the menus. That was the singular juiciest backside he’d ever seen. It was fucking spectacular, and he could feel his cock hardening. It was not helpful to his current work situation, but he still couldn’t force his eyes to move. It was like they were laser focused on that lush ass. He moved the pastry blender over and over, forcing the ingredients to mix into something new. Butter, flour, sugar, shortening, salt, and ice water. His perfect piecrust. Simple and yet so complex since he’d learned it required something beyond merely following the recipe. There was a harmony required most people never figured out, a certain Zen that came with giving over to the dish, allowing it to be what it would. “Don’t let that sit too long.” Timothy Gage looked down his patrician nose at the bowl. “We have reservations for a hundred tonight. If that crust isn’t perfect, I’ll see you go back to washing dishes.” Macon took a deep breath and forced himself not to correct his obnoxiously pretentious boss. He’d never washed dishes. When he’d been hired at Top, he’d been brought in as a garde-manger, prepping salads and helping with small plates. That had lasted two weeks. Then one day the chef’s brother had walked in. Ian Taggart was a massive slab of muscle with a taste for lemons. Timothy didn’t do requests. He was an artiste, or at least that’s what he called himself. He was mostly an asshole who took himself way too seriously. Sean Taggart, the man who owned Top, had tried to talk his brother into being reasonable. Macon had quickly made a lemon pudding. He’d moved from salads to assistant pastry chef that day, and he was also Big Tag’s hookup. The big guy’s wife had been pregnant at the time and mad about coconut. He’d made coconut cookies, cream pies, and cakes for the lovely Charlotte. It was good to be needed. It was good to make something that made someone else happy. “That is one hot piece of ass.” Timothy leaned against the wall, his eyes on Ally. There were times he really didn’t like the man. All the time, really. He was full of himself, but he was also trained by some super-fancy school in Paris. Sean had introduced him as a big deal and explained that Macon could learn a lot from him. So far he’d really learned that Timothy liked to duck work and take all the credit, and he drank on the job. Ally looked up and her dark eyes caught on his. He hoped he wasn’t staring like a crazy stalker guy, but it was hard to look away. She smiled and joked and he could still feel the aura of loss that surrounded her. He wanted to know what made her seem so sad at times, like there was a wall between her and the world. He wanted to tell her she didn’t need that wall. It was a stupid idea. He couldn’t take care of himself much less anyone else, so he’d kept his distance. Still, since the moment she’d walked through the doors, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her.  
 
ALLY EXCERPT
Ally dropped off the new menus. They changed nightly because Sean Taggart liked to use fresh ingredients. Top was farm to table. He negotiated with local farms for whatever he could, and as far as Ally could tell he was one hell of a chef. She’d been raised on whatever her mom had a coupon for, but she’d discovered she really liked sea bass and polenta, and god she could eat risotto all day. And Macon’s pastries. Oh, Timothy the Ass took credit, but she watched Macon work. Macon made the fluffiest crust, the richest chocolate mousse. He was also the damn dreamiest man she’d ever seen, and she wasn’t a woman who used the word dreamiest lightly. In the few weeks she’d worked at Top, she would swear she’d gained ten pounds. After service was over, staff got to eat. She’d had some of the best food of her life here. She’d also had some really good times. She’d thought she only ever fit in with her mom and Ronnie, but this place was starting to feel like home. “Hey, you. I heard we’re going to Deep Ellum after work tonight.” Deena took the menus and placed them in the basket by the hostess station. She was an infinitely competent woman in her early thirties, with a ready smile and a warm personality. She kept the front of house running like clockwork. “Tell me you’re coming with us. We need to dance.” Oddly, the idea of going clubbing held no appeal. She was young and single and had no ties to anyone, and yet all she wanted to do was have a place to go to with a TV and a warm bed and a Macon Miles to cuddle up against. Damn it. She couldn’t think that way. Macon was the target. Macon was the only one who could tell her what really happened to her brother. The report didn’t make sense. She knew the Army could cover up deaths, and she was sure that was what happened with Ronnie. Had Macon killed her brother? Somehow she didn’t think so. She certainly didn’t want to believe it. She’d walked into Top with the full intention of confronting him. She’d meant to sit down with Macon and force him to talk to her. Then she’d actually seen him. When she’d knocked on the back door, he’d opened it. He’d wiped his hands on his apron and given her the sweetest smile she’d ever seen, and when he’d asked what she needed her brain and her mouth hadn’t worked at all in sync. She’d stumbled and told him she was looking for a job, and she’d started waiting tables that night. How would he feel if he knew she had an ulterior motive? She promised herself every single night that she was going to tell him the truth, and every night she put it off. Now she was in too deep. She was caught in a trap of her own making.  
 
Excerpt from WHEN WE TOUCH
By Brenda Novak (*Bonus* Harlequin Mira novella to be included in Sweet Talk Box Set)
cover
Shit. She’d gone too far. She’d merely wanted him to respect her as someone equally capable of making that choice. Instead he’d called her bluff. Suddenly feeling the need to backpedal, she searched for a good excuse. “I would, but...you’re not the right kind of guy for my first hook-up.” “Are you kidding?” he said. “I’m the perfect guy. And I’m volunteering.” “That’s kind of you, but...it wouldn’t be...smart.” “Define smart.” “We wouldn’t gel. We’re not...compatible.” “Because...” She swallowed hard. He knew he appealed to women, knew she was no exception. What would he accept that would allow her to save face? “I’d be a boring partner for a thrill-seeker like you.” “That’s like saying you have to wash your hair,” he said flatly. “If you’re stepping up your game, you’re really going to have to do better.” “It’s not as lame as you’re making it sound.” “It’s worse. Face it. You’re all talk.” “No, I’m not,” she said. “Think of the women you’ve been with. The variety. The experience. I’d be...meat and potatoes when you’re used to caviar.” “Olivia?” It wasn’t hot outside. As a matter of fact, it was a bit chilly. Yet she was sweating. “Yes?” “Why don’t you let me decide what turns me on?”

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From New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster comes a new, sweet and sexy wedding romance, PROMISE MY LOVE, the follow-up novella to DESTINED FOR LOVE (The Bradens).

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