Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Young Adult on August 3, 2017

Title: The Way It Hurts

Author: Patty Blount

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Pages: 352 pages

Format: Paperback and Digital

Print ISBN: 978-1-492632-788

Digital ASIN: B06XR172ZD

 

Synopsis

There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there’s only one way to set things right…

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program–and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and snaps a photo of her in costume that he posts online with a comment that everybody misunderstands. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.

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Advanced Praise for The Way It Hurts

“Blount writes authentically; both protagonists’ voices are distinct. The author explores the rapidly consuming world of social media and how it affects relationships online and in real life. A relevant read and must-have for all YA collections.” – School Library Journal

“THE WAY IT HURTS draws our attention to the joy, heartache and confusing contradictions that arise as we try to find our place in the real world and the virtual one.” – Kimberly Sabatini

Elijah and Kristen’s personal evolutions through the novel, along with their chemistry, feel as authentic as the conflicts they face. A genuine plot filled with steady tension that will keep readers hooked.” RT Book Reviews

“This book sensitively covers topics such as sexism, handicapping conditions, communication, and ageism. Agency is also shown when Kristen says she wants to pursue studying in a conservatory rather than continue in the band and the three young men acknowledge her wish. Talking about what bothers us rather than trying to guess another person’s feelings is demonstrated through the actions of the characters. The characters’ issues are eventually resolved through hard work and understanding, making this an interesting and informative read. School Library Connection

Excerpt

Elijah took my hands. “Okay, look. Maybe you’re right. Maybe these people are taking this whole battle thing way too seriously. If you’re scared, then we’ll stop. No more posts except for appearance information.”

“So no more battle of the sexes, no more make Kris scream?”

He held up his hand. “Swear to God.”

“Okay.” I sighed in relief. “You’d really do that?”

He leaned closer and repeated the vow. “I promise, Kris.”

And just like that, I forgot why I was mad at him. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even blink because I was afraid he’d let go. This was the part of him I adored. I clung to him for a long moment, and when his gaze drifted to my mouth, I wondered if—hoped—prayed—he’d finally kiss me.

And then, Etta’s voice suddenly spoke inside my head. “Well, my God, darling, it’s the twenty-first century. What on earth are you waiting for? You can kiss him.”

I could. Yes. Yes, I could just lift my head and lean in and kiss Elijah Hamilton like it was a normal, ordinary occurrence.

Right. Like kissing Elijah Hamilton would ever be ordinary?

I’d watched him kiss that girl at the mall and was sure I’d memorized all the steps in his routine. He’d move in, grip my face between his hands, run his thumb along my jaw, and finally, glide his arm down around my body, pulling me against his own, all the while, peeking through his lashes to see if I enjoyed it.

I wasn’t sure when I decided—even what made me decide. I just touched my lips to his and waited.

It took a second or two. But then there was a sudden, tiny squeak from him, and I felt the pulse in his wrist leap under my fingertips.

And then, his hands were in my hair, angling my head just the way he liked it, his tongue brushing against mine, so soft it might have been my imagination…except imaginary kisses were never so intense. He kissed me like I was a song he wrote, lips wrapped around every word until it hummed with hidden meaning and promise, and his hands held me the way they held his guitar—like the music would stop if he let me go.

Copyright © The Way It Hurts by Patty Blount 2017

About the Author

Native New Yorker Patty Blount is the award-winning author of several critically acclaimed internet issues novels for teens as well as a few adult contemporary romances. She is inspired to write by such greats as Judy Blume, JK Rowling, and Gayle Forman. In fact, Judy Blume is the reason Patty elected to write under her real name…so she’d appear on shelves next to her idol. Patty adores writing; she’s written everything from technical manuals to song lyrics (see THE WAY IT HURTS, coming August 2017). Patty wants you to know she loves chocolate…really, really loves chocolate.

When not crushing on actors Gilles Marini or Sam Heughan, Patty can be found sitting in traffic somewhere on the Long Island Expressway, listening to audio books or talking wildly to herself about plots and characters. Prone to falling madly in love with fictional characters, Patty suffers frequent broken hearts when they all invariably prefer the heroine to her… go figure. When she’s not writing, Patty loves to watch bad sci-fi movies and live tweet the hilarity, and scour Pinterest for ideas on awesome bookcases. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that, sadly, lacks bookcases.

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Giveaway

Patty Blount is offering one (1) lucky winner a $50 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

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Posted in Book Release, Dystopian, excerpt on August 3, 2017

Title:  Interpretation
Author:  Dylan Callens
Publisher:  Cosmic Teapot Publishing
Word Count:  60,000

Synopsis

Carl Winston awakens to find his son, Liam, screaming with fear. Trying to understand why, Carl tries to soothe him. Neighbors gather in front of Carl’s apartment to help – until they see him. The crowd cowers back, afraid of this monster.

Carl runs. His life of luxury is ripped away. Forced beyond the city limits, Carl sees a land bereft of life. Traveling in search of answers, his quest comes to a sudden halt when he collapses. As darkness shrouds him, a figure hovers from above.

Traveling along the same route, Eva Thomspon finds Carl and nurtures him back to life. Together, they continue the journey, finding out that their lives have too much in common to be a coincidence. As their affection for each other deepens, an unknown nemesis attempts to remove their only source of happiness – their love for each other.

Interpretation is a dystopian fiction that explores hope and happiness in the bleakest of conditions and what happens when it’s torn away.

Excerpt

Carl closed his eyes and tried to laugh at himself.  Barely a squeak left his mouth.  What was he thinking, trying to enter this godforsaken wasteland by himself with no supplies?  Still on his back, he dreamed about opening a bottle of Ocean Surge.  Wet bubbles danced against his tongue, bathing his taste buds with refreshing fruit-infusion – small bursts of happiness made his lips sing an ode to joy.

But forget that fantasy; sulfur-ridden tap water would be just as good.  Carl knew the taste would not equate, but its effect would invigorate.  Carl smiled, his eyes wide open, staring into the dimming sky, into the nothingness that surrounded him.  Gulp after glorious gulp of imaginary liquid until he couldn’t keep up, showering his face with it until a puddle formed around him.  That puddle turned into an ocean and Carl sank to the bottom, his faint breath weakening further.  The light grew dimmer.  He tried to reach up, to reach out of the depths of his hallucination, but his arms felt too heavy, as if the pressure at this depth couldn’t be overcome.

A shadow hovered over him.  Carl tried to speak to it, but words didn’t make sense.  The shadow spoke back with a meaningless, muffled slur.  Water entered Carl’s mouth, nearly choking him.  Nonetheless, the delicious wet felt so good, like ocean refreshment in every bottle.  That was the slogan, right?  Carl laughed or cried, he couldn’t tell.  For all he knew, he was dead.  The shadow grew, saying something that he couldn’t work his mind around.  Darker. Darker.  Clock, what the hell was that clock song?  Darker. The shadow drew nearer.  Or maybe it was the darkness.  It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, And was always his treasure and pride… Ah yes, there it is.  But it stopped short – never to go again – When the old man died.  That’s the one.  Darkness.

About the Author

Dylan Callens lands cleanly. That would be the headline of a newspaper built with an anagram generator. And although Dylan is a Welsh name meaning god or hero of the sea, he is not particularly fond of large bodies of water. His last name, Callens, might be Gaelic. If it is, his last name means rock. Rocks sink in the sea. Interestingly, he is neither Welsh nor Gaelic, but rather, French and German. The inherent contradictions and internal conflict in his life are obvious.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, paranormal, romance on August 2, 2017

Third in Ashlyn Chase’s light paranormal romance series featuring hot dragon shifters. No one would believe that lovely Lt. Kristine Scott of the NY Fire Department is an actual dragon, but there’s no denying the flames that ignite when she meets firefighting phoenix shifter Jayce Fierro.

Synopsis

One Boston Phoenix + One New York Dragon = Scorching Heat

You think it’s tough being a dragon? It’s a piece of cake compared to being a phoenix shifter. Dragon shifters just have to worry about accidentally setting their stuff (or a loved one) on fire. A phoenix can rise from the ashes, but then they have to start over…as if growing up once wasn’t tough enough..

Meet Lt. Jayce Fierro of the Boston Fire Department, and Kristine Scott of the FDNY. A long distance relationship could never work—especially not with the secrets they’re keeping. But when Kristine lands herself in a blaze of trouble, she’s in no position to turn down Jayce’s help. Even if it means letting down their guards…and giving in to their sizzling attraction.

Boston Dragons:

I Dream of Dragons (Book 1)

My Wild Irish Dragon (Book 2)

Never Dare a Dragon (Book 3)

AmazonB&NiBooksBAM

Excerpt

The rest of the dinner went well. In fact, Kristine was surprised by how well it was going. She hadn’t dated a guy like Jayce in a long time. Their connection seemed to be almost instantaneous. It was just too bad he was a firefighter—and lived three hours away as the Acela train flies. Actually, a quick plane ride would reduce the commute to only an hour and a half, but the hassle and time it took to go through security would make the trip even longer.

Walking down the wide sidewalks of Times Square, hand in hand, sure made her feel as if the trip might be worth the hassle. His hand was warm and rough. For once she wasn’t concerned that hers were the same way. No hand cream could stand up to a firefighters’ routine. Wet gloves, rough weather, unbearable heat… All of that detracted from the soft, supple skin she longed for.

They had decided over dinner to visit the top of the Empire State Building. Jayce had never been there before, and Kristine had only visited with friends—never a date. It was supposed to be romantic. She’d never understood why. Probably because her cynical ex-boyfriend thought it was hokey. As she glanced over at Jayce, he glanced back, and they smiled. One thing she wasn’t seeing in him was a city dweller’s pessimism. Its absence was a refreshing change.

Eventually, they arrived at their destination, and as luck—or the stars aligning at the right moment—would have it, they stepped into an elevator with no one right behind them. The doors whooshed closed while they were still alone.

She spun toward Jayce with a hand over her mouth. “I guess that wasn’t very nice of me. I probably should have waited.”

He stepped right into her space. “I’m glad you didn’t.”

As the elevator began to ascend, he leaned in and captured her mouth with his firm lips. She looped her arms around his neck, and he pulled her close. She immediately opened her mouth, and their tongues found each other and swirled together. Kristine wasn’t at all sure her light-headed feeling was due to the elevator traveling so fast. Unfortunately, she felt as if she were falling instead.

Don’t think about it. Whatever happens happens… She seemed to have found a new mantra. She heard the ding of the elevator doors opening, and they were greeted by chuckles and a wolf whistle.

“Yeah, yeah…” Jayce said, but he was grinning and holding Kristine’s hand as they made their way off the elevator.

When they spotted a space at the building’s edge that was fairly deserted, they walked over to it with no hesitation.

“You’re not afraid of heights, I guess…” Jayce said to her.

She laughed. “I’d be in deep trouble if I were.” Not only was she a firefighter in a company that specialized in high-rises, but she was a full-fledged, fire-breathing, wing-soaring dragon. She could hover at this height and enjoy the view.

Speaking of enjoying the view…

Jayce turned his back on the dazzling city lights and kissed her knuckles as he stared into her eyes. She felt as if her insides were melting. A deep shimmer in his eyes must have been reflecting the lights. Or not. His eyes seemed to glow for a moment, and then he quickly turned back toward the city.

She took her first good look at the city lights as well. Dear Lord. At last she realized why people thought this place was romantic. At night, so many lights against the velvet black sky were more beautiful than Christmas. Some even seemed to twinkle like stars. Below, white headlights and red taillights trailed through the landscape, but the sounds of the city were far away.

A chilly breeze ruffled her hair. Jayce enveloped her in a side hug. If she felt a chill, it was forgotten in favor of his warm, strong body alongside hers. Everywhere they touched, merging heat radiated through her. Wow. How she’d missed this! Or had she ever had this feeling?

Good Lord, Kristine… Get ahold of yourself!

“So, Jayce… What do you think of the view from up here?”

He turned her toward him and said, “I think the view right in front of me is as beautiful as it gets.” Leaning in, he delivered another toe-curling kiss, and she realized she was a goner.

About the Author

Ashlyn Chase describes herself as an Almond Joy bar. A little nutty, a little flaky, but basically sweet, wanting only to give her readers a scrumptious, satisfying, experience.

She holds a degree in behavioral sciences, worked as a psychiatric RN for several years and spent a few more years working for the Red Cross. She credits her sense of humor to her former careers since comedy helped preserve whatever was left of her sanity. She is a multi-published, award-winning author of hot, humorous paranormal and contemporary romantic comedies.

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Giveaway

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Western on August 1, 2017

Title: Tougher in Texas

Series: Texas Rodeo #2

Author: Kari Lynn Dell

Pub Date: August 1, 2017

ISBN: 9781492632009

Synopsis

He’s got five rules

And she’s aiming to break them all

Rodeo producer Cole Jacobs has his hands full running Jacobs Livestock. He can’t afford to lose a single cowboy, so when Cousin Violet offers to send along a more-than-capable replacement, he’s got no choice but to accept. He expects a grizzled Texas good ol’ boy.

He gets Shawnee Pickett.

Wild and outspoken, ruthlessly self-reliant, Shawnee’s not looking for anything but a good time. It doesn’t matter how quickly the tall, dark and intense cowboy gets under her skin—Cole deserves something real, and Shawnee can’t promise him forever. Life’s got a way of kicking her in the teeth, and she’s got her bags packed before tragedy can knock her down. Too bad Cole’s not the type to give up when the going gets tough…

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My Favorite Fictional Cowboys – Serving Up the Eye Candy

You won’t find a lot of classically beautiful women or men in my books, and even when they are (I’m looking at you Delon, in Tangled in Texas) I shy away from putting a huge amount of emphasis on looks as the basis of attraction. Sure, we all get our heads turned by a pretty face, and my characters definitely notice the fit of a good pair of jeans, but lasting love comes from being irresistibly compelled by who a person is, down deep in their bones, and shared interests and values that are expressed in actions, not just sweet words.

However, I am not averse to an occasional heaping helping of eye candy, which is exactly what you get in the king of country music’s one and only shot at acting, the movie Pure Country. Yes, I know. There’s a reason directors weren’t beating George Strait’s door down afterward—as he’s happy to admit—and the plot is a wee bit thin in spots. But the music is outstanding and the roping scenes are absolutely true to life, including the fact that George is a roper so that was him on that really nice sorrel horse. Who cares if he can act? I’m happy to just settle in with my popcorn and pretend he’s aiming those Aw, shucks smiles at me.

And then there’s Maverick, either the 1950’s television series starring James Garner or the 90’s movie with Mel Gibson. Talk about some killer smiles, and both versions are a boatload of fun as card shark Bret Maverick finagles himself into and out of constant trouble. I know we’re not supposed to swoon over Mel Gibson anymore but I’m giving this one a pre-implosion exemption because it also stars my favorite Native American actor, Graham Greene, who steals every scene as the chief whose tribe survives by conning white men who want a taste of the older, wilder west, and Jody Foster as a charming, faithless, conniving woman who I want to be when I grow up.

And now an excerpt from Tougher in Texas, in which Shawnee inadvertently gives Cole a real eyeful.

***

Shawnee hauled the gray horse around to face her yet again and they both paused to take a few heaving breaths. Sweat dripped from her eyebrows, soaked the strands of hair that escaped the wad on top of her head, and ran down to make muddy tracks in the dust coating her neck and arms. She was puffing like a freight train from alternately chasing and dragging the colt.

Then something caught his eye and he tried to stampede.

Shawnee swore, dragged him to a stop, and shot a glare over her shoulder. Cole Jacobs stood, arms folded on the top rail of the gate, his canine minion planted beside his feet.

“What?” she snapped.

“It’s almost eight o’clock.”

“So?”

“We run tonight’s stock through the arena at eight.”

The gray whinnied and sidled toward where his buddy was dozing on the other side of the fence. Shawnee yanked him around to face her. “I’ll get out of your way as soon as Butthead here settles down and pays attention.”

“It’s almost eight o’clock,” Cole repeated, his voice sharpening with impatience.

“You can’t wait half an hour?” She scrubbed at her sweaty forehead with the back of one grungy hand. “It’s not like it’ll get that much hotter.”

His face took on the obstinate, ain’t-gonna-budge look that invariably goaded her into saying something rude so he’d get all stiff-necked and walk away. Yeah, she knew Cole had legitimate issues. Join the worldwide club.

“We always work the stock at eight,” he said.

“And what, they turn into four-legged pumpkins at the stroke of nine?”

He scowled so ferociously his brows pulled into a single dark line. “I have a schedule. I like to stick to it.”

“I’ll be sure I’m out of your way in the future.”

He just stood there, glaring at her. The dog glared, too.

Shawnee matched their heat and turned it up a few kilowatts. “I’m not leaving this arena until I’m done.”

The furrows around his mouth deepened. “We can’t work around you.”

“Then wait.” The gray tried to take advantage of her distraction. She jerked on the line to set him straight, then turned her glare back to Cole. “You of all people should know that when a horse picks a fight, you can’t quit until you win. Otherwise, you’re just teaching him to be an asshole. If you want to speed things up, take Butthead over there to the trailer where this mothered-up son of a bitch can’t see him.”

“I thought that one was Butthead.”

She blew out a loud, exasperated breath. “They’re all buttheads when I get them. As soon as they stop being buttheads I sell them, so there’s no sense wasting time with names.”

Cole frowned, probably debating whether to bodily remove her from the arena. No doubt he could, but she’d get in a few shots in the process. Finally he gave a single, curt nod and turned to untie the other horse and lead it away, Katie marching along beside him. Christ. Even his dog had a stick up her ass.

Shawnee glared after them for a couple of beats, then gave the gray her undivided attention. “It’s just you and me, fleabag, and you don’t even want to know how long I can keep this up.”

By the time Cole came back, she had sweated out another gallon of fluids, but she had the horse trotting passable circles. She stepped out and flicked the line. The gray paused, then swung around to circle the other way. Intensely aware that Cole was watching every move, she worked the horse back and forth, made him stop, face, back a few steps, then start again.

Showing off, just a little.

Satisfied, she stopped the gray, brought him around to face, then walked up to rub his dripping forelock. She could feel sweat running down the crack of her ass, soaking the seat of her jeans. “Next time, you’ll know better.”

The gray dropped his head and whuffled as if in agreement.

She turned toward the gate and found Cole staring at her as if he’d never seen the likes of it. His eyes remained glued to her as he stepped back and swung open the gate.

“Thank you for your patience,” she said sweetly, tossing him a mocking smile as she passed.

“Shawnee?”

“Yeah?”

“You should change shirts before you run into anybody else,” he said, then strolled into the arena, closing the gate behind him.

She glanced down. Her white T-shirt was soaked through with sweat, her nipples clearly visible through equally soggy white spandex. Damn bargain rack sports bra. She considered being embarrassed, then shrugged. Wasn’t like it was the first time someone had seen her in a wet T-shirt, and she wasn’t even dancing on a bar.

Then another thought struck and she huffed out a self-deprecating laugh. She’d been so sure Cole was in awe of her mad horse-training skills, and the whole time he was just staring at her tits.

She laughed again and started for her trailer, keeping the horse between her and a trio of committeemen chatting in the shade of the grandstand in the interests of public decency. Then again, they were good tits. They’d put a smile on more than one face. She should probably share the joy whenever possible, while she still had them. That shoe could drop at any time, especially now that she’d made it past thirty.

Cole, though—she shook her head. She’d figured him for the kind to toss her a towel and order her to cover up instead of hanging around to enjoy the view.

Huh. He might be human after all.

 

About the Author

Kari Lynn Dell is a ranch-raised Montana cowgirl who attended her first rodeo at two weeks old and has existed in a state of horse-induced poverty ever since. She lives on the Blackfeet Reservation in her parents’ bunkhouse along with her husband, her son, and Max the Cowdog, with a tipi on her lawn, Glacier National Park on her doorstep and Canada within spitting distance. Her debut novel, The Long Ride Home, was published in 2015. She also writes a ranch and rodeo humor column for several regional newspapers and a national agricultural publication.

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Giveaway

Three bundles of the first three Texas Rodeo books (Reckless in Texas, Tangled in Texas, Tougher in Texas)
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Posted in Book Release, excerpt, romance on August 1, 2017

Synopsis

Prince Diego Navarro is the “spare” to his brother’s “heir”. While Raoul performs his crown prince duties with the appropriate sense of nobility and poise, Diego’s garnered a bit of a reputation as a playboy – despite the good he does behind the scenes with his favorite charities.

But when tragedy strikes and his sister-in-law is killed in a car accident, Diego knows it’s time for the playboy to step up. If not for his brother, then for his niece and nephew, who now find themselves without a mother.

Which is where Rose Walters comes in.

Rose isn’t intimidated by money or glitz. The veteran nanny has worked for the rich and minimally famous, but a manor house is no comparison to a castle… or the handsome princes who live there. However, the worst thing she could possibly do is fall for the gorgeous playboy with a surprising heart of gold. He’s a prince; she’s the help. He lives in the tabloids; she loves her privacy. But when her two darling charges start to play matchmaker, Diego and Rose don’t stand a chance.

The Playboy Prince and the Nanny is the first book in Donna Alward’s royal duology.

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Five Surprising Facts about Diego Navarro

  1. His best friend is an Irishman (Ryan) who occasionally lends his security talents to Diego’s endeavors. Ryan also has a younger sister, Brenna, whom Diego will never date unless he wants to have his legs broken.
  2. He has a degree in European History, which he rarely uses, and a keen mind for bargaining, which he uses frequently when managing the Navarro stables and polo stock.
  3. Despite being part of a centuries-old patriarchy, he’s a feminist and has a foundation dedicated to the education and training of African women to provide for themselves and their families.
  4. His favorite dessert is sticky toffee pudding.
  5. He loved his nanny, Mariana, dearly. When Rose arrives at the palace to care for his niece and nephew, he sees the same qualities he loved in Mariana: kindness, compassion, discipline, affection. What he doesn’t see: their difference in status.

Excerpt

From CHAPTER ONE

The noise and hubbub in the West Sussex pub was so deafening that Diego nearly missed the silent flash of the Breaking News banner across the TV behind the bar.

But he saw it out of the corner of his eye. Frowned. Turned his head away for a moment, then felt a queer lift in his gut, like something was very, very wrong.

“Diego. Hey, Diego.” His pal Ryan elbowed him in the arm. “Shite. You’d better look at this, mate.”

He turned back to the screen and the lift in his stomach dropped to his feet.

The headline scrolled along the bottom of the screen. White words against a blue background, innocuous compared to the aerial view of the scene. He didn’t need to read the banner to recognize the mangled car, one of the black limousines his father insisted they ride in when home in Marazur. If there was any doubt, it was banished by an up-close shot of a small red and yellow flag with the green coat of arms hanging limply from the front corner of the crushed vehicle.

“Diego.” Ryan’s voice was gentler now, his hand resting on Diego’s arm rather than elbowing him roughly. “It’s not your da. Or your brother.”

Diego dragged his gaze to the flash along the bottom of the screen. No, it wasn’t his father or his brother. There was no need for Diego to worry about them, or who was next in line for the throne. But tears stung his eyes as he read the names: Cecilia Navarro. Mariana Cortez.

His sister-in-law, and the nanny to his niece and nephew.

His phone buzzed. It had been doing that all night and he’d chosen to ignore it, wanting to avoid another argument with his father and spend the evening kicking back with his friends to celebrate the start of the UK polo season. Now he felt unbearably guilty as he pulled his mobile out of his pocket and looked at the screen.

Lucy, or rather, Princess Luciana. His half-sister, who he knew was visiting Marazur right now on one of her biannual trips. He took a deep breath, then hit the talk button. “Give me two seconds to go outside where it’s quiet,” he said loudly.

Leaving the gruesome news report behind, he pushed himself away from the bar and weaved his way through people until he reached the door. Outside, the English spring evening was gentle and mild. He closed his eyes and let out a breath.

“How bad is it, Luce?”

“Bad.” In that one word he could tell she’d been crying. Oh God . . .

“Ceci?”

“Gone, Diego.” Her voice caught on a sob. “Mariana too.”

For once the news had it right. His sister-in-law and Mariana—the nanny to his niece and nephew. His heart stuttered. He’d hoped there’d been a mistake. The paparazzi couldn’t be trusted with the truth, as he well knew. What a time for them to be right.

“The children?” he asked as he said a silent prayer that they hadn’t been in the car. He couldn’t think about Max and Emilia too much; he kept them at the edge of his mind and heart right now. The thought of losing them was terrifying and he steeled himself against the emotion.

“Bruised. Scared. But alive.”

He let out his breath, felt a sob escape, and gulped it back. He couldn’t lose his grip.

“We tried calling you for the last hour,” she said. “Your brother . . .”

His brother would be a wreck and expectedly so. His wife had just died. Perhaps a lot of royal marriages weren’t based on love, but Raoul’s had been. He’d doted on Ceci and the kids. Mariana, too, had been like part of the family. Hell, she’d been with the palace since . . .

Since Diego and Raoul had lost their own mother nearly twenty-five years ago. Mariana had raised them. She treated Raoul and Ceci’s children like grandkids. Grief struck him, sharp and sure, a painful ache around his heart. Mariana had been family.

“I’m sorry,” he replied, pressing the fingers of his left hand to his temple. Those were two words he said often when it came to his family. Now, though, he really meant them. “I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

“I know you will,” she said gently. Of the whole family, Lucy was the one who was easiest on him, who understood him best. Maybe because she hadn’t been raised in Marazur. It afforded her a clarity that others didn’t have. “I’m so glad I’m here right now. Papa . . .” Her voice broke again.

“Is Brody there with you?” Lucy and her family made their home in Canada, on Brody’s ranch, but visited often. Right now Diego found himself beyond thankful that she was there now to help his father and brother navigate the next few days. Papa would know what to do . . . he’d been here before.

A man shouldn’t have to face this kind of tragedy more than once in a lifetime.

“Brody’s here. He’s looking after Alex now so I can be there for Raoul and Papa.”

Lucy would be keeping everyone cared for and fed and nurtured, because that’s what she did. Diego rested his shoulders against the brick wall of the pub and sighed. Raoul, the crown prince, the responsible ruler-to-be, fair and just. Lucy, the mothering figure who cared for the family’s simpler but no less important needs. And then there was Diego. Where did he fit? In the stables. At parties. In fast cars.

In other countries. With firm admonishment to not be an embarrassment to the family.

“Diego?”

“I’m here. I’m going to go, though, Lucy. I need to make travel plans. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

“What should I tell Papa and Raoul?”

“Nothing. I mean, just tell them you were able to reach me. I’ll look after the rest.”

There was a pause and Diego wondered if his sister was making that terrible disapproving face he hated or if she was simply emotional.

About the Author

A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love.

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Posted in Christian, excerpt, Giveaway, Romantic Suspense on August 1, 2017

CHASING SECRETS

Elite Guardians, Book 4

by

Lynette Eason

 

  Genre: Romantic Suspense / Christian

Publisher: Revell

Date of Publication: August 1, 2017

Number of Pages: 336

Scroll down for giveaway!

Intensity. Skill. Tenacity.

The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.

When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan’s life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her—and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories—and the depths of the heart—Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit.

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Praise for the Elite Guardians Series

“A thrill ride from the first page until the last.” —RT Book Reviews, top pick, 4½ stars for Always Watching

“Witty dialogue and a simmering attraction will have readers flying through this tension-laced thriller.” —Family Fiction on Without Warning\

“Fast, furious, and flirty, Lynette Eason’s relentless suspense barely gives her readers time to catch their breath.” Relz Reviews on Moving Target

Prologue from Chasing Secrets

By Lynette Eason

Rock Moran Castle
County Mayo, Ireland, 1991

Five-year-old Aileen Burke crouched in the small hidden room in the big castle she called home. Terror caused her little heart to beat in her chest like the wings of a hummingbird. More gunshots rang out and Aileen ducked her head and covered her ears. She pressed back into the warm body behind her. “Mam,” she whispered. “I want me mam.”

“Shh, child, yer mam canna be here. I’ll keep ye safe. Just don’ say a word.”

Aileen shuddered and clamped her lips shut. She’d seen the big red stain that grew on the front of her dad’s chest after the man with the gun had yelled at him. It had scared her, so she’d run to her favorite hiding place. The place where Nanny Iona had found her and crawled inside with her.

“Da’s hurt, Nanny, that bad man shot him. He’s bleeding.” She kept her voice low, barely above a whisper, as the screams and shouts and loud noises echoed around them. “Make it stop, please.”

“Shh, say no more.”

Aileen fell silent. Tears leaked from her eyes, and someplace deep inside her, she knew she would never see her dad again.

A loud thud just outside the small door made her jump. More screams raked across her ears and she shuddered. Nanny’s arms tightened around her and she felt the woman’s lips touch the edge of her forehead. “May the God of peace bring peace to this house,” she whispered.

The siege seemed to go on forever as the castle, her home, shook with violence. She must have fallen asleep, her ear next to Nanny’s heartbeat, because the next thing she knew Nanny was shaking her, whispering that they needed to go. “Close yer eyes, leanbh. I’m goin’ to carry you out of here. Promise me. Promise ye won’t look.”

Aileen didn’t answer and Nanny opened the small door that was barely big enough for the woman. If she’d been any bigger, Aileen figured she’d have gotten stuck just like her dog Henry did when he tried to come in the doggy door. Her mam had had to open the door and pull him out, then her da had made the door bigger for Henry. But no one had been able to convince Henry to use the doggy door after that.

She yawned. She wanted to go back to sleep, but mostly she wanted her mam and da. But Da was hurt . . .

Aileen swallowed the lump in her throat and grimaced at the gritty feeling. She tried to be brave. She wished she’d gone to school today. She was supposed to have gone on a field trip to the zoo with all of her friends, but Nanny had kept her home because she had a little fever and a sore throat. Aileen had been very upset about missing the trip, but when Nanny had brought her chicken broth and let her watch her favorite cartoon with a promise to take her to the zoo as soon as she was well, Aileen had cheered up and then fallen asleep.

And then the loud bangs had awakened her and scared her. She’d heard running footsteps, mean shouts, and lots of bad words. So she’d hidden.

Nanny slipped past her and out the door. She turned and held out her hands. Aileen let Nanny help her out of the hiding place and pick her up. “Close your eyes, love.”

Aileen obeyed. Her nose twitched. Her home smelled funny. Bad. Like the time her dad had killed a deer and let her watch him dress it. She hadn’t liked it then and she didn’t like it now. But she kept her eyes shut.

Nanny moved quickly, her steps sure and steady. “Are yer eyes closed?” she whispered.

“They’re closed, Nanny, they are.”

Nanny walked and Aileen bounced against her shoulder. The woman pressed a hand against the back of her head and shoved Aileen’s nose into her neck. Too hard. She couldn’t breathe. “Can I open them now?”

“Not yet.” Nanny’s voice sounded thick, like she had something in her throat and was trying to talk around it. “Not yet.” Nanny’s chest heaved and Aileen heard her sniffle. She struggled against Nanny’s hold and broke free. She leaned back to look at Nanny in spite of Nanny telling her to keep her eyes closed and was shocked to see her face wet with tears. “Nanny, I want me mam.”

Nanny renewed her grip on the back of her head and pushed her back into her shoulder, trying to keep her from seeing. “Don’t look. Don’t look.”

But Aileen struggled free of the hold and looked. She saw her da on the floor, the stain on his chest still a bright red, his eyes empty yet staring at the ceiling. “Da! Da!” She reached for him, but Nanny was moving her farther and farther away.

Leanbh, don’t look, don’t look.”

“Daddyyyyy—!”

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice, Deadly Reunions, and Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching, Without Warning, and Moving Target in the Elite Guardians series.

She is the winner of two ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. She lives in South Carolina.

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Grand Prize:

Booklover Basket (18 items including a coffee mug, retro library memo cards, coffee & tea, delicious snacks) & Set of the Elite Guardians Series

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Personal library kit & Set of the Elite Guardians Series

Second Runner-Up:

$10 Barnes & Noble gift card and Set of the Elite Guardian Series

August 1 – August 10, 2017

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Posted in 4 paws, excerpt, mystery, Sale on July 31, 2017

Title: As the Liquor Flows
Author: Angela Christina Archer
Publisher: Long Valley Press
Genre: Historical Romance (Sweeter/Lower Heat Level)
Pages: 256
Publication Date: March 19, 2016
ISBN: 978-0692660546

Synopsis

Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed, and the day Evelyn Ford will never forget.

With the untimely death of her parents and the loss of their only income, Evelyn, and her brother, Frank flee to a make-shift hovel built in Central Park.

After Frank mysteriously goes missing, bare cupboards force Evelyn to seek employment anywhere she can find work, even if that means working at a burlesque theater.

Catching the attention of Don Vincent Giovanni, a Kingpin in the New York mafia, Evelyn discovers that Frank is serving time in prison for running hooch and he owes Vincent a lot of money. In order to pay off her brother’s debt, Evelyn is thrown into the world of mobsters and bootlegging.

Between running hooch all over the city of New York and trying to save her brother, Evelyn finds herself drawn to Max Catalano, Vincent’s Consigliere. Even with secrets of his own, he’s the only one she can trust when she entangles herself in the middle of the New York mafia crime wars.

The book is on Sale for $0.99 from July 31 – August 4

Read my 4 paw review here

Excerpt

“Does it matter if I am doing all right or not?”

“It matters to me.”

Nervous energy itched through my skin.

It mattered to him?

“I don’t know how I’m supposed to stay here,” I said, ignoring his admission. “Any one of those bullets could have hit me by accident and a . . . a young man lost his . . . the three of you murdered him.”

“I never hit him. I never hit any of them. I shot in his direction, but it wasn’t my bullet that killed him.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I know. I’m trained to know.”

“Well, I don’t care. All I care about is getting out of here. I’ve to get out of here. I’ve got to get away from Vincent and this house and whatever business that he’s involved in.”

I shoved past him and his arms wrapped around my waist. His shoulders towered over mine with an intense strength, and yet, a concerned passion and honesty that left me gasping for breath, He drew me into him. My heart thumped hard. My body trembled in his arms.

“You know you can’t leave.”

“How am I supposed to just pretend that nothing is wrong?”

“You pretend for Frank’s sake. You pretend to keep him alive and to keep you alive.”

Two truths I already knew, and yet, didn’t want to admit to myself. I wanted Vincent to pay for what he’d done to my family. I wanted him to sit in a prison cell behind iron bars like Frank, whose crime wasn’t even one-tenth as horrific as the crime he committed yesterday. I wanted him to squirm as he sat in a courtroom and listened as a judge sentenced him for murder.

Yet, no matter how much I wanted it, I knew the Kingpin, the boss of bosses, the powerful Vincent Giovanni would never see one ounce of punishment.

“I don’t know how I can,” I whispered.

Without any ounce of hesitation, his hands slid up my neck, cradling my cheeks. His body so close to mine, he pressed into me, weakening my knees. His lips brushed against my forehead for a moment, giving me a soft kiss before they traced down the side of my temple. His hot breath warmed my skin.

I closed my eyes and held my breath.

He jerked away from me, shaking his head as though someone had slapped him.

“I’m sorry, Evelyn. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“It’s all right,” I whispered, fighting my disappointment.

 

About the Author

Angela lives on a ranch with her husband, two daughters, and many farm animals. She was born and raised in Nevada, and grew up riding and showing horses from hunter jumper, English equitation, western pleasure, trail, and halter. While she doesn’t show anymore, she still loves to trail ride her paint horse, Honky. In December of 2007, she and her husband moved to Oklahoma.

From a young age, she always wanted to write a novel. However, she never believed she could write anything well enough for a publisher to even consider her. Every time the desire flickered, she shoved the thought from my mind until one morning, in 2009, she awoke with the determination to follow her dream.

In December 2014, Angela launched Long Valley Press.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Spotlight on July 28, 2017

Synopsis

Rhianwyn of the Caderyn is conflicted about giving up a warrior’s life to become a wife and mother, but her love for her new husband is enough to at least make her consider it. However, with the conquering Gaians moving ever closer to her homeland a peaceful life may no longer be an option, for Rhia or for any of her people. With rival tribes, old suitors, and the dangerous General Lepidus to contend with, Rhia soon finds her new family in unprecedented danger, and her choices now must be about more than just herself…

Wildcat is set in a fantasy world inspired by Iron Age Wales and Imperial Rome. The story is that of a young tribeswoman facing a war that sees her people humbled by the expanding Gaian Empire. Forcibly married into a Gaian family, she has to cope with multiple personal tragedies, learn to adapt to an alien society, and save her people from further subjugation by the ambitious Gaian generals.

Excerpt

‘Taran!’

Rhia screamed the War God’s name with joyful rage as hot blood spattered on her face. Rhia was small and the Gorvic was big, but already he was doubled over and on his knees thanks to the axe she’d left imbedded his stomach. At first his hands had clutched at the haft, trying to drag the weapon from her grip or else pull it from his wound, and for a moment Rhia had lost her balance. But then she’d simply abandoned her axe and grabbed a fistful of blonde hair, yanking his head back hard before her knife opened his throat. Bright red now sprayed both on Rhia and on the grass below, and the young woman felt the thrill of battle rise up in her like a flood, erupting from her mouth in another bellowed warcry;

‘Taran!’

The Gorvic’s body jerked and twisted in her grip and she let go the hank of hair, leaving the dying man to collapse to the muddy ground. When they’d arrived at Broken Stream the fields had been nothing but a vibrant green on both sides of the water. Belenos had been shining overhead when the two warbands first faced each other across the little ford, and the stream had been clear and bright and gurgling merrily along its way.

Now the sky was overcast and warriors from both sides lay dead or dying all around. The ground had been churned up into a treacherous mire of mud and the stream was now tainted by the blood of wounded fighters. The scene might have been another world entirely, somewhere far away from the tranquil valley it had been this morning. Though the change in the image was as nothing to the change in the sound of this place.

This morning Broken Stream had known little noise but the trickling of the waters and the singing of the birds. Then the Gorvicae had come and they and the Caderyn had traded insults and boasts, jeers and challenges, and the air had been alive with the voices of warriors, all daring each other to attack first. Then the two sides had charged, and the insults and challenges had changed to warcries and screams, and the sound of iron meeting iron and of iron meeting flesh had combined to fill the valley with the dreadful song of battle.

And Rhia loved it.

She cast her eyes around to find another Gorvic to fight, her eyes wide and almost feverish, her hands shaking in anticipation. This was her first battle, the first time she had fought for her people, and the fear she’d felt before it had melted away into something like lust as she sought out another victim for her long knife and narrow axe. Remembering that the latter weapon was still lodged in a Gorvic’s stomach, she crouched down and began working it free of its fleshy prison, all the while looking around her at the carnage.

Even with her limited experience Rhia could tell the Caderyn had all but won, and she screamed out in wordless triumph as her axe came free of her enemy. She held the weapon high above her head as she looked around the bloody field. Nearly all the Gorvicae were fleeing back across the stream, only a few dozen still fighting of the two hundred who’d come here this morning. Rhia saw Caderyn fighters encircling the few who were still refusing to run away, and her breath caught in her throat as she took in the long iron swords and rigid white hair of their warrior elite. They were the Gadarim: The Mighty.

The finest of the Gorvicae fought with their hair twisted into spikes and bleached blindingly white with lime and Rhia knew that, like the Gadarim of her own people, the patterns on their skin were made of more than simple woad. Rhia, like every warrior on that field, had painted her body with swirling shapes of bright blue, to attract the favour of the gods and inspire terror in her enemies. Twin snakes writhed up her arms from wrist to shoulder, one of them continuing up her neck and around the ear to cover her cheek. She was liberally sprinkled with blood and grime by now and sweat and struggle had caused much of the warpaint to smudge or fade, risking the chance of the gods losing sight of her in all the chaos. The men of the Gadarim had no such concern.

Though they had painted over them before the battle to make them brighter, the spirals and whorls on their bodies had been tattooed there to shine forever, ensuring that Taran and Mabonac would never lose sight of their most favoured warriors. For the most part only their faces had mere woad to decorate them today, the honour of permanency there being reserved for the greatest of fighters. Rhia wondered for a wistful moment if she might know that honour someday but she shook her head at the foolish notion. Female Gadarim were a rare thing. Instead she settled for looking around for some more Gorvicae to kill. She spotted one, a lad of about her own years, who seemed torn between running back across the stream and running forwards to where the Gadarim fought. She decided to make his mind up for him.

What member of the Caledon tribe are you?

Click on this link to find out!

About the Author

JP Harker is the pen-name of James Thomas, an obsessive martial artist and a committed geek of various types, who apparently didn’t drive his fiancée mad enough with those things and so took up writing fantasy books as well. A proud Welshman with just enough Saxon in him to make things interesting, James hails from glamorous Glamorgan where he currently works in the exciting world of hospital admin.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Science Fiction on July 16, 2017

Synopsis

An amnesiac named Carter, must come to terms with the world as it is. A world where with a simple injection of the Virtus formula an ordinary individual can become extraordinary. With the Virtus formula super strength, flight, even teleportation is possible.

Now Carter has been tasked with hunting down the man who has stolen this secret formula. Carter puts himself in harm’s way to retrieve the Virtus formula and learn more about himself. As he starts to learn more about himself, Carter begins to question the world around him and those closest to him.

Because when you don’t know who you are, you don’t know who to trust.

Excerpt

There were people doing exercises and there were some that were fighting each other. Each and every one of the men and women in the room looked physically fit and disciplined. I looked around until my eyes settled ahead of me on a large tan tank. A muscular African American man stood in front of it. He had a very short hair cut almost having no hair. He wore a casual silver combat vest and dark blue track pants. He was taller than me by at least four or five inches standing around 6’3 or 6’4. The Doctor stopped suddenly then turned toward me indicating that I should look in front of him. He pointed at the tank once and it moved a few inches forward while lowering its gun to the man’s chest. It was a couple feet away yet he stood there calm and completely still.

“What’s going on Doctor, that man…he’s not going to get shot is he?”

The Doctor glanced at me with a seemingly uncaring look which didn’t match up with his earlier smiles but was much closer to that look of disdain in the room earlier.

“Don’t worry about that, he can handle himself much better than most men can, watch and you’ll understand completely.”

I took my eyes away from the Doctor and focused them on the man. I was scared for him. I wasn’t sure what atrocity I was about to witness, but it didn’t look like it was shaping up to be anything, I’d just walk away from or he would either for that matter. The tank set itself while the man exhaled deeply before taking a deep breath.

“Now!” He yelled in a deep commanding voice.

He didn’t have to ask twice because the tank cannon fired. The front of the cannon exploded with smoke as the round launched toward the man in a matter of seconds. It hit him and exploded with smoke and fire.

Chapter 2

I stared wide eyed at the scene while my body trembled for a moment, but I quickly regained my composure, how, I am not sure. The smoke began to clear slowly, there was a figure standing exactly where the man had been standing. It looked like a person except it was coated in a silver metal, the entirety of its body covered in some type of casing. The silver slid away from its hands and feet turning into a silver colored liquid before vanishing and revealing the man that stood there before. The man exhaled again but slower. This was just before turning his head to look at me.

He had a confident look in his eyes which I felt the need to return with a look of my own. Which either did the trick or made me look scared because he reacted by smirking slightly before turning his attention forward and heading toward the tank. The Doctor was staring at me which unnerved me slightly but I didn’t show it on my face, at least I didn’t think I did.

“So Carter are you impressed.”

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. He grinned slightly which irritated me a little. I closed my mouth, cleared my throat and tried again.

“What the hell…WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” I yelled.

The Doctor’s look turned into a grin which caused me to unconsciously take a step back, almost like prey reacting to a predator.

“What you just witnessed is how the world works. Men and women who are at the peak of what we call humanity. Through scientific methods we’ve unlocked abilities far beyond normal human beings that allows this organization to exists and thrive. Humans beings that are no longer just human but something much, much more they are…Super Human.”

About the Author

My name is Adeleke Kayode.  Writing is my passion. Something I wouldn’t have discovered if it wasn’t for my brother. He told me I couldn’t write a story so I took out a notebook and pencil that day and began writing.
And now I’m here. By taking that notebook that day I started something and learned something about myself. As I wrote and brainstormed. And changed things within the story I noticed that I was really enjoying it.
I loved the idea of creating my own story, characters, worlds. And now I want to be able to share some of those characters, stories and worlds.

 

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight, Western on July 15, 2017

Title: Last Chance Cowboys: The Outlaw

Author: Anna Schmidt

Series: Where the Trail Ends, #3

ISBN: 9781492613022

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

Genre: Historical Western Romance

Synopsis

“‘Someone like me?’ Is that how you see me, Amanda? As someone people should fear?”

“I don’t know what to think,” she said. “One minute you seem so dangerous, and the next you’re sweet and caring and…”

He took a step closer, his eyes sweeping her face. “And which do you want me to be?” His voice was low; it sent shivers down her spine.

“Both,” she whispered, and lifted her face for a kiss.

Amanda Porterfield longs to experience real adventure. So when she’s offered a position in bustling Tucson, she leaps at the chance despite unknown dangers—dangers like the mysterious Seth Grover.

As an undercover detective working to stop a gang of outlaws, Seth can’t afford the distractions a woman like Amanda inspires. Yet when the fiercely intelligent beauty is thrust into the middle of a heist gone wrong, Seth will fight for a future that may never be theirs…even if it means risking everything he holds dear.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

Excerpt

Amanda fought her attacker with all her might, ineffectually flailing away at him with both fists. Then, realizing her nails and teeth were better weapons, she raked his neck even as she bit down hard and got a mouth filled with the taste of her attacker’s leather glove for her trouble. She struggled to free herself from his solid, muscular body pinning hers to the ground by straddling her. She went completely still, hoping to surprise him, but he hauled her to her feet, leaving her hat in the dirt and her hair falling free of the pins she’d used to hide it under the crown of the Stetson.

She took some pride in the realization that she’d put up enough of a fight to leave the man breathless. On the other hand, he was practically “Amanda?” Seth Grover was breathing hard and staring down at her, one hand touching her breasts, which were heaving noticeably after the exertion of the fight.

“Explain yourself, Mr. Grover,” she demanded as she planted both hands flat on the solid wall of his chest and shoved him away. He let go, but the sound of fabric ripping told her he’d taken the top couple of buttons of the shirt with him. When she saw his eyes riveted on her exposed skin, she covered herself with crossed hands and felt heat race through her body. “Well?” she hissed, aware that they were standing outside and anyone might pass by or hear them.

“I thought…are you following me, Amanda?”

“Do not flatter yourself, Seth. Miss Jensen might keep tabs on you, but your comings and goings are of no interest to me whatsoever.” She dusted off the seat of her pants, then realized she’d once again exposed herself to him by letting go of her shirt front. “A gentleman would avert his eyes,” she said, “or at the very least offer a lady the cover of his coat.”

He chuckled. “Have to say I’m not much a gentleman, ma’am, but if you’re feeling a chill…” He shrugged out of his coat and draped it over her shoulders, allowing his hands to linger there until she stepped out of reach.

“Thank you.” She bent to retrieve her hat and slapped it against her thigh as she’d seen her father, brothers and the cowboys at the ranch do more times than she could count. The gesture made her feel tougher and taller at the same time. She shook her hair back from her face and planted on the hat, tugging at the brim until the fit was snug. “I’ll leave your coat outside your room. Good evening, Seth.”

“I’ll walk you back.” He fell into step beside her. “Shall we take the street or the alley?”

He was mocking her. She remained silent but picked up the pace.

“Oh, then we’re going to race back?” He matched her step for step, an easy feat given his long legs.

“Will you please…”

He took hold of her arm, forcing her to stop walking. “I am not leaving you alone, Amanda. You shouldn’t be out at this time of night.” His tone bordered on patronizing. He sounded like her brother Jess, and that irritated her.

“Why do you care?” she snapped and meant it to be a challenge, but found that she really wanted to him to tell her. “You hardly know me.”

He was still holding her upper arm. She could feel the heat of his fingers through the coat and realized that he’d removed the leather gloves. While she processed this thought, he led her to a small lane that passed between the pharmacy and the milliner’s shop. There he took hold of her other arm and pulled her closer.

She was sure he planned to kiss her. She was also sure that she had never wanted anything in her life quite as much as she wanted to find out what kissing Seth Grover might be like. Here at last was the true adventure she’d come to Tucson to find.

“Listen to me, Amanda. You’re looking for trouble, and I won’t always be around to make sure you don’t find it, so fair warning. You need to stop these midnight wanderings. You need to stop getting yourself dressed up to look like a boy. You need to…”

So, kissing her was clearly the last thing on his mind.

She wrenched herself free of his hold. Not that he fought to hold on. “I can take care of myself,” she muttered as she massaged her arms, wanting him to believe he had hurt her when in fact his touch had been firm but gentle.

“Really?”

“Really,” she snapped, and started to walk away.

He caught her hand, and then before she knew what was happening she was pressed up against the side of the building by the length of his body. He had his other hand over her mouth again—this time without his glove. His skin smelled like leather, though. She struggled and he tightened his hold on her. His face was so close she could feel his breath, hot against her cheeks.

“Wake up, Amanda. You are no longer residing on your family’s ranch where no doubt you had others looking out for you. You are alone here in Tucson, and you need to take care.”

Amanda had no idea what came over her. Maybe she just wanted him to stop telling her what she already knew. She cupped his face with her hands and kissed him.

 

About the Author

Award-winning author Anna Schmidt delights in creating stories where her characters must wrestle with the challenges of their times. Critics have consistently praised Schmidt for her ability to seamlessly integrate actual events with her fictional characters to produce strong tales of hope and love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She resides in Wisconsin. 

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Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a copy of the previous book in Anna Schmidt’s series, Last Chance Cowboys: The Lawman!

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