Pretend You’re Safe (The Agency #1) by Alexandra Ivy-a review

PRETEND YOU’RE SAFE (The Agency #1) by Alexandra Ivy-a review

Pretend You're Safe / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo /

About the book: Release Date August 29 , 2017

First came the floods. Then came the bodies. The victims—strangled, then buried along the shores of the Mississippi—have finally been unearthed, years after they disappeared. He remembers every satisfying kill . . . each woman’s terror and agony. But there’s only one he truly wanted. And fate has brought her within reach again . . .

Jaci Patterson was sixteen when she found the first golden locket on her porch. Inside were a few strands of hair wrapped around a scrap of bloodstained ribbon. Though the “gifts” kept arriving, no one believed her hunch that a serial killer was at work. Now Jaci has returned home . . . and the nightmare is starting once more.

Back then, Rylan Cooper was an arrogant deputy sheriff convinced that Jaci was just an attention—seeking teen. It was a fatal mistake. There’s a murderer in their midst, someone determined to settle old scores and keep playing a twisted game. And it won’t end until Jaci is his forever .


REVIEW: PRETEND YOUR SAFE is the first installment in Alexandra Ivy’s contemporary, adult THE AGENCY romantic, suspense series. This is security and IT specialist Rylan Cooper, and twenty seven year old pastry chef Jaci Patterson’s story line.

Told from several third person perspectives including Rylan and Jaci PRETEND YOU’RE SAFE follows the hunt for a serial killer. With the recent deluge of rain, the rapidly rising waters of the Mississippi gave up her secrets with the missing and the dead. When a bloated body and a severed skull are discovered floating in a farmer’s flooded field Jaci Patterson’s mind begins to wander to the past to a time when s number of local women went missing, and several golden lockets with a few strands of hair would appear on her door step. Fast forward to present day, and the terror begins anew when her estranged mother’s housekeeper goes missing, and a new locket appears from out of the blue. Enter Rylan Cooper- back home from sunny California, visiting his aging father- and the man with whom Jaci will fall in love. What ensues is the rekindling friendship and relationship between Rylan and Jaci, and the search for a killer as Jaci is once again targeted by a unknown man.

PRETEND YOU’RE SAFE is a slow building story of intrigue, romance and suspense. Rylan is a protector; a man who is desperate to protect the woman he loves but also a man who knows he must atone for sins of the past. Years earlier, a then arrogant deputy sheriff, Rylan ignored the panic and emotional fall out of the innocuous threats against Jaci’s life but with the uptick and resurgence of a similar MO, Rylan knows that to ignore Jaci could be fatal in more ways than one. The $ex scenes are limited but seductive although the attraction between our leading couple is low key and felt somewhat awkward. Jaci struggles with her attraction to the man who ignored her earlier fears and warnings.

There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including Sheriff Mike O’Brien, his office assistant Carol, local artist Nelson Bradley; Jaci’s estranged family including half-sister Payton, half-brother Christopher, step-father Blake Hamilton, and mother Loreen Hamilton. We are also introduced to Rylan’s father Elmer Cooper , as well as a number of townsfolk, neighbors and nosy busybodies.

PRETEND YOU’RE SAFE is a thrilling and passionate story line. The premise is intriguing and keeps you guessing until the very end.

Copy supplied by Netgalley

Reviewed by Sandy


Hard Run by Sheryl Nantus – a Review

Hard Run by Sheryl Nantus – a Review


Hard RunAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM

When Skye Harris shows up on the Devil’s Playground’s doorstep asking the Brotherhood for help with a gang taking over her hometown, it’s time for Finn Storm to step up. The bikers might be tough but he’s tougher – and armed with Brotherhood tech and a warrior’s heart he’s going to get the job done, no matter what or who stands in his way.

The one weak spot in his plan is in his heart––Skye gets under his skin like no other woman has and she’s not going to let him take all the danger on his shoulders alone. But when she’s caught in the crossfire Finn has to decide whether to follow his heart or his carefully crafted plan to not only clean up the town but heal his soul.




Hard Run by Sheryl Nantus is book two in her Delta Force Brotherhood series.

Skye Harris wants revenge! Her one mission in life is taking care of her younger brother Robby. since their parents were killed in an accident when they were younger. She has sacrificed a lot to get him through life and keeping him in one piece.  They struggle to make ends meet and keep their head above water.  That’s when Robby makes the wrong decision.

Trying to get some extra money, he does a side job for a local MC gang. When it doesn’t end well, Robby ends up in a coma after being attacked and forced with an overdose of heroin.  Skye has one thing on her mind… revenge!  When one of the nurses from the hospital hands her a Delta Brotherhood card and tells her to come see them. Skye heads to Vegas and enters a club called The Devil’s Playground.  Not knowing what to expect she soon finds The Brotherhood.

Finn Storm is a member of the Delta Force Brotherhood.  He has been on multiple deployments but nothing has his him quite as hard as the life his mother turned to while he was away. A twisted back led her to seek treatment, which led to pain killers and everything  escalated from there. When the doctors told her no more pain meds, she took to the streets to find her fix. Finn’s mother dies of an overdose before he can get to her. This is how Dylan knows that Finn is the perfect person to take on Skye’s job.  But while Skye is out for death, The Brotherhood shows her the way to get revenge legally.  The moment Finn sets his eyes on Skye he knows that she will be a handful. 

The chemistry that forms between Skye and Finn is combustible!  I couldn’t wait for Finn’s story it, and it did not disappoint! If you love suspense, drama, intrigue and hot blood boiling romance this book is for you!  Fast paced- especially when Finn infiltrates the MC gang.

I loved Skye’s strong will and her fight that led her to the Brotherhood. I believe even without the Brotherhood she would give as good as it gets! But when she meets Finn and realizes that it’s ok for her to be happy too – everything changes. Will Finn survive what he is heading into to protect her? 

Finn Storm is a strong willed military man.  He has suffered in his own life, things he keeps locked away, but can one woman change that for him. Could she hold the key to release his heart?

Hard Run was such a warm, sweet, loving story! Absolutely can’t wait for the next one! 

Reviewed by Erin

Copy provided by Publisher



Take to the Limit (Unbroken Heroes #4) by Dawn Ryder-Review & Excerpt

TAKE TO THE LIMIT (Unbroken Heroes #4) by Dawn Ryder-Review & Excerpt

Take to the Limit / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 29, 2017

They are part of an elite unit. On task. Off grid. These are the men of the Shadow Ops task force.

Holding out for a hero

A hardened military machine, Bram Magnus is a tough, combat-ready, all-American hero who never surrenders. But the one thing he can’t fight? His smoldering, intense attraction to his girlfriend’s younger sister. He’s always kept his feelings locked deeply down. But when his girlfriend betrays him the night before he ships off to Afghanistan, Bram has one chance to show the woman he’s resisted for years that he wants her as fiercely as the first day he saw her.

Ever since her older sister first brought home the soldier with steely hard muscles and piercing eyes, Jaelyn has wanted Bram, and when her sister casts him aside the night before he leaves, Jaelyn can’t resist one steamy hot kiss with him. But danger is not far behind, and even as a deadly enemy hunts them, their relationship only grows more explosive. It’s all Bram can do to keep Jaelyn safe, but with a threat this powerful, will they pay the ultimate price for their passion?


REVIEW:  TAKE TO THE LIMIT is the fourth installment in Dawn Ryder’s contemporary, adult UNBROKEN HEROES romantic, suspense series focusing on an elite Shadow Ops team. This is US soldier Bram Magnus, and accountant Jaelyn Sondor’s story line. DEEP INTO TROUBLE can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from previous story lines is revealed where necessary although some of premise continues and is interconnected to earlier reads. Bram is brother to Zoe Magnus (Dangerous to Know #1).

Told from numerous third person perspectives including Jaelyn and Bram TAKE TO THE LIMIT is a romantic suspense story line that focuses on the building relationship between Bram and Jaelyn, and the threats against our hero, when the woman with whom he is falling in love, is targeted by someone from his past.

Bram Magnus was about to be deployed for another tour in Afghanistan when the woman he was seeing was caught with another man. Bram wasn’t too worried as he had his eye on someone else-Jaelyn Sonder’s-his ex-lover’s little sister. Six months would pass before Bram would come face to face with the woman who starred in all of his dreams. But return to civilian life came with a number of complications including a vendetta from the past; a psychotic former soldier; and threats to the woman with whom he was falling in love. What ensues is the building romance between Bram and Jaelyn, and the fall out when Jaelyn becomes prey in a game of power, vengeance and betrayal.

The relationship between Bram and Jaelyn is one of immediate attraction but the attraction is tempered by Bram’s involvement with Jaelyn’s older sister LeAnn. For six months Bram will ‘write’ to our heroine in the hopes of building something special upon his return but Jaelyn will never receive the letters, and is completely unaware of Bram’s feelings and love. The $ex scenes are intimate and intense, without the over the top, sexually graphic language and text.

There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including brothers Saxon (Ginger Boyce) and Vitus Hale (Damascus Ryland), Shadow Ops section leader Kagan , Agent Dare Servant, Bram’s father Colonel Bryan Magnus , Jaelyn’s sister LeAnn Sonders, and their grandfather Milton Sonders who is not without some surprises of his own. The requisite evil has several faces and connections to our hero and Shadow Ops Teams. Dare Servant’s story line is next in CLOSE TO THE EDGE (February 2018).

TAKE TO THE LIMIT is a fast paced story of political intrigue; the power struggle on Capitol Hill, and the betrayal of the men who served their country. The premise is entertaining, engaging and gripping; the characters are dangerous, dynamic, colorful and passionate; the romance is intimate and intense. The back and forth between points of view is manic; the whip-lash affect may be too frantic for some readers as the story line relentlessly jumps between characters without so much as a break or introduction. TAKE TO THE LIMIT is an exciting, story of romance and suspense where danger follows on the path to power and control.

Reading Order and Previous Reviews
Dangerous To Know
Dare You to Run
Deep Into Trouble
Take to the Limit
Close to the Edge (February 2018)

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Sandy


EXCERPT courtesy of St. Martin’s Paperbacks


Rick Sullivan liked the scent of blood.
And the taste, too.
His mouth was full of it and he only spit it out to intimidate his opponent.
Let him see how much he liked bleeding …
Around them, the guards were shouting. They had their hands hooked into the battered fencing that served as a cage for matches. There was money on the table, lots of it, folded around the rungs of the wire while he and the prisoner across from him fought.
One of the guards fired off a shot from his gun at the ground to get them fighting again. Sullivan waited for his opponent to lunge at him before he twisted and brought his fist up into the underside of the man’s jaw. There was a crunch and a gurgle as the bone broke and the man went down.
The guards roared. Some with victory and others spouted profanity. Sullivan absorbed it all, taking note of who had won money on him. Information was the real thing he was after, not the scraps the guards would give him for providing them with entertainment.
Still, later that night, he sipped at the tequila he’d won and smiled at the woman between his knees. Mexican jails were shit holes, but that just meant there were loopholes for him to slip through.
Carl Davis and Tyler Martin could bet that Sullivan would be slipping out of the jail they’d left him to rot in. No one double-crossed him. Martin was going to learn that even all of his Secret Service agents wouldn’t make a difference. Because when a Sullivan came for you, there were only two choices: make your peace with God or placate the devil.
He enjoyed the idea of seeing Carl Davis beg for his life.
But he fucking loved the thought of killing him.
* * *
America …
The party was winding down. At least the first phase was.
Somewhere around ten, the toddlers were sleeping and mothers were gathering up the last of the swim towels. You could feel the vibe changing. The carefree demeanor that had presided during the day was being overshadowed by the darkness and the cravings it somehow granted permission to. The summer weather was perfect for it, negating the need for layers of clothing. As soon as darkness was added, people shifted closer to each other and ventured deeper into the shadows.
Bram Magnus leaned against the house, the stucco still warm from the heat of the day.
Or maybe it was from his temper.
A couple moved further off into the darkness, unaware that he was watching. The way the female looked around before taking a few more steps into the night, it didn’t take a genius to deduce what sort of party they were in the mood for. There was a flash of trim thigh as her short dress flipped up with her hurried steps, a sultry sway to her hips that was unmistakable. She leaned in closer to her companion, his fingers tightening around the curve of her hip before he slid his hand further down until he was gripping her thigh beneath that short skirt.
LeAnn let out a husky laugh. Bram recognized it, which pissed him off.
The problem was, he realized he was mad over the fact that he’d always known LeAnn’s feelings for him didn’t run deeper than lust.
“Jesus…” A bag of trash hit the concrete but Jaelyn surprised him by controlling the rest of her emotions. Her eyes flashed wide but returned to normal faster than he’d have given her credit for. He’d never pegged her as having much nerve. But she stared back at him, steady as could be.
Impressive …
“I’m sorry, Bram, I didn’t see you.”
Jaelyn’s voice trailed off as she heard a soft laugh and recognized it as her sister’s. Bram watched her face, wanting to know if she knew what her sister was about. Jaelyn turned toward the sound and frowned.
“Your sister is busy,” he informed her dryly.
“But you’re her boyfriend … oh, never mind.” She bent to pick up the trash bag but only made it halfway there before straightening. “Look … I’m really—”
“Sorry? Don’t be,” he said with a shrug. “Better this way.”
“I can’t see how.”
His temper was sizzling, and another soft laugh drifting on the night breeze turned up the heat. “It’s simple enough. I’m shipping out at daybreak, and it looks like I’m doing it as a single man. No strings attached.”
She started to bite her lip. There was something on the tip of her tongue; he watched her contemplate whether or not to voice it.
“Yeah, that’s your MO, isn’t it? Always playing it safe.”
He knew he was being a dick by saying that. Pushing her away with a cutting remark because … well, the flat truth was, there was something about her that made him feel less than worthy.
Her eyes narrowed as she sent a harsh look straight at him.
“If you’re trying to show a contrast between the way I live my life and the way you show up here whenever you want to feel like you have a relationship … you’re damned right I’m the opposite of what you and LeAnn have been doing,” Jaelyn informed him. “For the record, I don’t call it playing it safe. I call it having integrity and not using my grandfather’s home as a place to get your fix of family love while you invest nothing of yourself.”
Direct hit.
Bram felt his lips curving slightly in response. She was kicking his ass and doing a good job of it.
Her eyes narrowed as she took in his grin. She let out a snort and reached for the bag of trash again. “Fine. Hope you and LeAnn are deliriously happy with your … relationship.”
LeAnn and her lover had moved off into the night. Bram found it suited him because Jaelyn was far more interesting.
He wanted a fight and was being an ass. But a flare of hunger entered her eyes, deflating his initial surge of temper. It left him poised on the edge of something volatile, something he felt like he’d known had been simmering inside him but had been ignoring. For all the right reasons, of course, but tonight, there was a boundary missing between them. That knowledge set something loose inside him.
“Your sister seems to have vacated the post of being my girlfriend, so you won’t have to worry about seeing me again.”
The trash bag dropped once more. Jaelyn faced off with him like she didn’t notice that her head barely reached his chin.
“Are you really torn up about…” She gestured toward where LeAnn had gone. “It’s not like you put a ring on her finger.”
“Your sister doesn’t want a ring weighing her down.”
“No shit,” Jaelyn retorted.
Bram chuckled.
Jaelyn rolled her eyes. “Right, you think I don’t cuss. Know something? I don’t give a fig for your opinion. You were using LeAnn as much as she was you. At least I won’t have to worry about you showing up and messing with my grandfather. He thinks the world of you, and you’re just here to get your fix. Judge me as you will, but I see through you.”
He’d been cussed out by the best—seasoned brass and underworld thugs—but there was something about her Lucy Ricardo insults that shamed him.
“You’re not a prude after all.”
“You’ve got nerve.” She made a scoffing sound and sent him a glare. “Know something? Just because I think sex should be more than physical doesn’t make me a prude. My grandparents loved each other. Maybe you’ve just never seen how amazing that looks, but I have and I’m not settling for”—she was gesturing at him—“for what you’re clearly willing to settle for. I am going to find a man who curls my toes and—”
He pushed away from the wall and wrapped his arms around her. He was being presumptuous at the least, a huge prick at the worst, but the flicker of heat in her eyes drew him to her. Maybe it was plain old desperation to cling to the living before he shipped out to a place where life was cheap and easily smashed.
Like hell it was that simple …
Whatever had broken free inside him was growing, stretching, as it gained freedom. It was hungry and needy, as well as uncontrollable.
Bram trapped her arms at her sides, sliding one hand up her spine to capture her nape before claiming his kiss. He needed to hold her, needed her to feel his strength. A soft gasp got muffled between their lips as he pressed a deep kiss against her mouth. He forgot what his intentions were when the taste of her swept through his brain, knocking his better judgment out cold.
The only thing left was the feel of the woman in his arms. The way her lips moved beneath his, the way her body curved to fit against his, was mind-numbing and exhilarating at the same time. She was warm and soft, and he teased her lips with a sweep of his tongue because he needed to know what she tasted like. The thin, summer dress she wore was nothing but a frail barrier between her hard nipples and himself. He slid his hand around and cupped one breast, feeling its weight, and brushing his thumb over the puckered tip. The soft sound she made snapped him back into focus.
What the fuck was he doing?
He opened his arms, fighting that thing inside him with every ounce of self-discipline he had. All he wanted was to press her against the side of the house and keep pressing until he was deep inside her.
God … he craved her …
Jaelyn staggered back a pace, her respiration agitated, her eyes wide.
That was why she tasted so good. She was everything pure, everything his hands were too dirty to touch.
She was waiting … and he was a damned bastard for touching her when she was pure and he was a hell of a long way from it himself.
“I had no right to do that.” But he wanted to do a whole hell of a lot more.
His jeans felt too tight, his cock swollen and demanding. Her taste clung to his lips as he forced himself to walk away before he lost his grip on his discipline.
Before he took what he wanted …
“Hold it right there, Bram Magnus.”
Surprise made him stop. The husky sound of her voice was something he’d never heard before. Or expected to.
But he liked it. Liked it a hell of a lot.
He turned to face her and felt his arousal spike when he found her standing only a pace from him. There wasn’t a hint of outrage on her face, only a glimmer of something in her eyes which promised him hell.
He liked the look of that, too.
“Kisses…” She closed the gap between them, captivating him with the way her hips swayed. She stepped up to him and settled her hands on his chest. “… aren’t meant to be one-sided.”
She stroked him, moving her hands up and over his collarbones to his neck. It was slow, so damn slow he wasn’t sure he could remain still but it was worth the effort. Her touch sent shivers down his spine, the kind he hadn’t felt since he’d been a raw youth in the troughs of his first love.
Back when he’d believed in love, that was.
She believed in love, though. He saw it glittering in her eyes, and it threatened to buckle his knees.
“Always shared, Bram … it’s called … making love.”
When her hand reached his head she rose onto her toes to complete the kiss but he was still too tall. She gently pulled on his neck and he had no problem complying with her demand.
Shit, he could take orders from her all night so long as she was touching him.
This time their kiss was sweeter but not because it was slower. It was in the way she explored his mouth, teasing him with soft pressure while tracing his lower lip with the tip of her tongue before thrusting shyly inside. That was his undoing. He wrapped his arms around her and captured her neck so he could turn her head to suit his desire. The kiss became hard and blistering hot. Control vanished as he fit her against him, pushing her back into the shadows and against the warm stucco of the house. He ravished her mouth with his lips and tongue. She moaned, the little sound pushing him further over the edge as she arched up against him, pressing against his cock and trembling when she felt the hard proof of his desire.
He pulled his head back, stroking her back as he detected the ripple of reaction. Her eyes were wide, her lips open as she panted.
“I shouldn’t have started this,” he said.
“Well, I’ve decided to finish it.” She surprised him with how determined her tone was. Her fingers fisted into his shirt, pulling a handful of his chest hairs in the process. The little tingle of pain intensified the moment, feeding the savage side of his nature that was all too close to the surface.
“Shut up.” She surprised him again—actually, stunned was a better way to put it. She was the sweet sister. The family-supporting, apron-wearing sibling who always embodied the model of a good girl.
But there was one hell of a woman hiding inside her.
He cupped her jaw, holding her head in place as he studied her gaze. It was hot enough to blister him, giving him a peek at the woman he’d never taken the time to notice she was.
Hell, maybe he’d ignored it because he’d been stupid enough to chase her sister. A hundred missed opportunities flooded his brain as he watched the way her face turned sultry with the help of her lips still wet from his kiss.
She kissed him again. There was nothing shy about it. Their mouths met with a hunger that curled his damned toes as she pressed up against him from knees to chest without a hint of hesitation.
And then, she was gone, slipping along the side of the house while he was lost in the moment. He blinked and pushed off the stucco in a flash only to find her watching him with her hands propped on her hips and a very confident little smile on her lips, while her hard little nipples pushed out the soft jersey of her dress, proving she was every bit as turned on as he was.
She was stunning in that moment.
“Good-bye, Bram Magnus.”
She reached for the bag of trash again but he nabbed it before she got a grip.
“You’ll see me again, Jaelyn. Count on it.”
* * *
“Count on it…”
Jaelyn heard Bram’s words ringing in her ears as she made it back into the laundry room.
Ha! You mean after you ran for your burrow …
God, why couldn’t she feel as confident as she wanted to be? It was such a stupid twist of reality that a person could be so sure of how they wanted to be and yet when faced with an epic uprising moment of hard, blunt reality like the one she’d just encountered, her damned emotions would liquefy.
He wouldn’t be coming back.
She needed to get real about that fact and fast, before the feelings he’d unleashed inside her settled into her bones.
Yeah, she cussed.
And it felt like Bram Magnus was a really good reason to lay out some mental profanity as she found herself having to force her fingers to release the doorknob.
It was over …
And it was better that way …
Okay, logically it was way wiser to be in the house, even if it branded her a frightened little rabbit, than … well … she shuddered as her mind was all too happy to offer up what she might be doing with Bram.
Hell, he’d curl her toes alright.
Yeah, and leave you at the crack of dawn …
Jaelyn ended up laughing at herself as she made it back into the kitchen.
He was a true man-animal.
Seriously cut and hardened and untamed.
And she was jealous. It was true.
But no one had it all.
Getting a taste of him would be epic but it would haunt her, too.
Life was just a bitch that way. Bram wanted to play midnight games, sure enough, but he wouldn’t be sticking around. Man-animals like him prowled.
The word suited Bram so very well. There was a way about him that just drove her insane with curiosity. Both for the feeling of him against her and the need to know him. She’d been itching to tell him off for a while because of the way he seemed so detached.
Ha! You think you can save him …
He wasn’t a baby bird.
She snorted and realized she was looking out the kitchen window.
Bram didn’t need to be brought in for protection from the night.
But she did.
Oh, it wasn’t that she thought she would go to hell if she indulged in sex. If that was the case, she was damned already for how often she masturbated. She had a healthy sex drive, that was a fact.
But there was something more in life.
She’d seen it in her grandparents and in a few of her friends who had met their soul mates.
Bram would laugh at that idea.
And then again, maybe that made her just a little sick to her heart to think he wouldn’t understand something like soul mates.
You’re back to wanting to save him …
Yeah, but she was in the house, so, safe for the moment.
Safe from yourself …
It was the logical thing to do.
So why did it suck so bad?
* * *
“Need a hand?”
Bram jerked around, earning a smug little grin from Dare Servant. The Shadow Ops agent was halfway concealed in the dark, positioned so he could see anyone coming toward them.
“Your knees look a little unsteady, Magnus.”
Bram lifted one foot off the ground and sent a kick toward Dare. It was crotch level, perfectly executed, and controlled so that he stopped just a couple of inches shy of the target.
Dare snickered at him and shrugged.
“I don’t need a wingman.” Bram joined Dare in the shadows.
“Saxon Hale didn’t ask for your opinion,” Dare replied as they walked across the lawn toward a car. “You might have noticed he’s the team leader.”
Bram opened the passenger side door and got into the car as Dare slid behind the wheel and turned the key.
Dare looked over at him. “The Raven is dead but Tyler Martin and Carl Davis are very much alive and looking for retribution.”
Dare looked at the traffic as he pulled the car away from the curb.
“One could hope Tyler and Carl have learned their lesson to leave the Hale brothers alone.”
“Don’t count on it,” Dare replied. “Tyler Martin sold us out for his position with Carl Davis. Tyler isn’t going to leave a loose end like us dangling.”
“Saxon Hale’s Shadow Ops team is more than a loose end,” Bram remarked. “We’ve kicked Martin’s ass three times now.”
“All the more reason for Saxon to send me along to sidekick around with you.” Dare made a turn and headed for the interstate on ramp. “Real shame about your cheerleader girlfriend there.”
Bram only shrugged and looked out the window.
“The sister though…”
Bram snapped his head around and held a finger up in warning.
Dare Servant ignored it.
“A little bit of a dick move there on the side of the house…”
“I know that,” Bram said with a grunt.
“Still, it looked like it worked out in the end. She knows how to make a move.” Dare let out a low whistle. “Wouldn’t have guessed that by the way she takes care of that old man.”
“You sound like more of a dick than me,” Bram said. “There’s nothing wrong with being devoted to family.”
“You’re doing your best to run away from yours.”
Bram glared at his fellow agent. Even with his attention on the traffic, Dare noticed.
“Just calling what I see,” Dare said. “You’re playing with our teams because it gets you out from under Daddy’s shadow.”
“There’s more than one way to do that,” Bram said to defend himself.
“Right,” Dare responded back. “Like taking another tour in Afghanistan?”
“Kagan hasn’t offered me a badge,” Bram said. “I was there in New Orleans with you and the Hale brothers going against the Raven. Don’t expect me to sit around waiting for a formal position to be offered. I’ve given Kagan a nice long sample of what worth I bring to his Shadow Ops teams.”
“No argument,” Dare replied seriously. “Which is why you have a wingman.” He cut Bram a look. “Don’t want you to get waxed because Tyler knows your habits and decides to lay you out in the city morgue to make sure the rest of the team knows he’s still coming for us. Or even just to let us know he’s watching. He’s that sort of a prick.”
Bram took the reprimand. He’d stepped right back out into the light and he knew better. Dare was politely reminding him that he couldn’t sit on the fence. Shadow Ops teams weren’t for weekend warriors. He’d played the game. He’d been dabbling his fingers in the murky underworld of classified missions since he’d come face-to-face with Saxon Hale when the man was assigned to investigate Bram’s family.
It was an odd arrangement, to be sure, and maybe part of Kagan’s hesitation in offering him a badge was due to the fact that Bram hadn’t made it clear what side he wanted to be on.
Army or Shadow Ops.
He wanted the badge. But it meant choosing a life that was separated from the one he’d known. It didn’t mean he couldn’t have happiness. Saxon Hale had a wife, as did Vitus Hale. Both married women they’d met through missions. Hell, his own sister was married to a Shadow Ops agent.
But they’d followed their men into the world of changed names and no contact with their previous life. For the Hale brothers, their wives had already been victims of fate. Their choices stolen by circumstance and underworld thugs like the Raven.
Bram should never have gone back to the Sondors house. Dare was right but it was Jaelyn’s words that stung. She’d called it right on the money. He’d gone there looking for a taste of home.
That fabled thing deployed soldiers dreamed about when they’d been scared so long it felt normal.
He’d wanted to see Jaelyn making her grandfather’s coffee and wearing an apron that made her look like a prude when she was anything but. And maybe, just maybe he’d been daring her to tell him off for the way he was playing games with her sister, LeAnn.
He grinned. She’d done that. sure enough.
Dare let out a grunt. “Don’t look like that, Bram.” The Shadow Ops agent sent him a long look. “I like having you on the team. Don’t go getting attached to a woman.”
“She left me in the yard.”
“I noticed.” Dare pulled into the parking lot of a house. It was quiet and normal looking. Just the kind of place Shadow teams liked to use as operation centers. “Let her go. Kagan will offer a badge soon enough.”
Inside the house two junior agents were working at computers. They looked up and nodded as Dare entered. He was their team leader at the moment. Kagan was giving Dare a little room to stretch his wings. It was touching in a way, because five paces into the living room Bram realized Dare had set them to tracking him—
To watch his back when he’d been too stupid to realize he was crossing back into the open. His relationship with LeAnn was something that could be traced.
Sure was.
And yet, as he finished showering and lay down on a bed in one of the rooms, he just couldn’t quite swallow the idea of never going back.
He needed to.
He pulled a picture from his wallet and looked at it for a long time.
He was a dumb ass. Shit for brains.
The picture was of LeAnn and Jaelyn. He’d never taken the time to contemplate why he was carrying around both of them.
He should have.
LeAnn might be fine with an open relationship but Jaelyn had been right about her grandfather and the way Bram had been showing up to get a taste of normalcy. Milton Sondors was crusty and happy-go-lucky all the time. It was kind of nauseating in that way a sweet old man could be. Damn if it didn’t tickle Bram to be around him.
Yeah, well, that was an excuse to be around Jaelyn, too.
He realized the truth as he forced himself to put the picture on the side table.
He’d been drawn to her.
He was taken in by her dedication to her family, which might be confused with being subservient by someone dim enough not to see that she was the backbone of the family.
He needed to leave her behind. Let some guy who hadn’t gone off and played dangerous games find her. He needed to leave the picture behind when he left in the morning.
* * *
Mexico …
“I want out of here.”
The guard only gave him a bored look. Rick Sullivan smiled at him. “Fine. Just thought you were the type of man who would like to profit from an opportunity. One I can make for the right man. A friend.”
“What opportunity do you speak of?”
Ricky moved closer to the man. “You could make a lot of money betting against me in the next fight.”
The guard’s eyes narrowed as he caught on. “With your record, the odds are very much in your favor.”
“Every man loses once in a while,” Ricky said. “Law of mathematics. At least, that would be how you explain the fact that you bet against me, when everyone knows my record.”
The guard was considering it. Rick enjoyed watching the way the guy rolled it around his brain. Hell, Ricky just loved knowing he was dicking around with the man’s principles. Some people were so damned much fun to mess with.
“It would be very hard to get you out of prison. Yours is a sentence of life.”
“So, I’ll make sure I don’t lose until I’m bloody enough to be taken down to the doctor. Share a little of your winnings with him and slip me out with the dead. I won’t stick around for anyone to know I’m still alive.”
The guard was weighing his options. He just might toss Ricky in the hot oven in the middle of the yard during the afternoon heat, but it was a risk worth taking. But messing with him, when there were plenty of other prisoners who would provide entertainment. The guy knew Ricky could earn him money but only if Ricky was in condition to fight.
That was really all it took to get what Ricky wanted from a man like the guard. He had to weigh the options and make sure the one Ricky wanted was the better deal. Tyler Martin might have paid someone to toss his ass in jail for life but that someone wasn’t this guard. This guy hadn’t gotten a slice of the pie Martin paid with. Rich men like Martin never learned that if you left your dogs too hungry, they’d turn on you if someone offered them more meat.
“You have a deal. Next fight.” The guard shot him a sneer. “Double-cross me and I will make you wish you were dead.”
Sullivan contained his glee. The guard wandered on, leaving him hugging the victory close. Tyler Martin thought he was safe in Washington, DC. Along with that prick Carl Davis, who was about to be elected president. They’d sold Ricky out, used him to do their dirty work, and left him to rot.
Big mistake.
Because he was alive and that meant he could do more than survive, he could thrive.
Step one was to get out of prison. Ricky popped his knuckles and made a fist. He punched the concrete wall, smiling at the pain and chuckling when his flesh began to harden against it.
Absolutely perfect.
* * *
His watch started chirping.
Magnus rubbed a hand over his eyes. The room was lightening with the approach of daybreak. His watch started its second cycle, and he turned his wrist so he could silence it. He sat up, rejecting the urge to close his eyes for a few more minutes.
But his discipline faltered when he found the picture facing him. Jaelyn was smiling, and even the sight of LeAnn didn’t bother him as much as the idea of leaving the picture behind.
He knew he should.
He went toward the bathroom, hoping a shower would sober him up enough to cowboy up and get on with what needed doing.
Six months later …
Jaelyn sat up, the bed squeaking. Her forehead was dotted with perspiration and her nipples were hard beneath the old T-shirt she’d worn to bed.
She was a rotten sister.
A horrible excuse for a human being.
But that didn’t erase the memory of Bram Magnus’s kiss from her mind or the feel of his hands from her body. She lay back down, frustrated with the way her dreams tormented her. It was a torment because the man hadn’t contacted her even once since that night. After six months, even the excuse that he was in a war zone wasn’t holding water anymore. She just wasn’t his type. Which made her madder, because he was the type of man she’d never forget the feel of. He’d known exactly how to touch her, kissing her with a skill that still had her dreams full of him.
She snorted and punched the pillow but it didn’t improve her mood any. She wanted Bram to come home to her, she wanted to know how much hotter the passion could get between them. She wanted …
Yeah, right.
It wasn’t going to happen.
It was exactly what she deserved for jumping her sister’s boyfriend the second she could. Karma was a bitch. Just because her sister had it coming didn’t make her crime any less awful. Considering the circumstances, he didn’t owe her squat. He was likely relieved he didn’t have to deal with her.
Bram had never noticed that she watched him. There had been plenty of times she’d considered that a blessing. But there was still part of her that wanted him to notice the way she watched him.
Hell, what girl wouldn’t?
He was hard-bodied and focused in a way that curled her toes when he looked her way. She would swear she could feel a buzz in the air when he walked into a room. He was a man-animal with solid principles who made a woman feel like there was nothing on his mind except her.
So she’d jumped on her opportunity to taste him. It hadn’t been the brightest thing she’d ever done.
Yeah, but she’d loved every second of it …
For a moment she grinned, like a kid with a handful of cookies.
“Intimacy” was no longer a word with a definition floating around in her brain. It was a hard, pleasure-packed action. One she was hungry for more of.
Shit … they’d only kissed …
Yeah, well, it seemed to be enough to keep him firmly in mind half a year later.
And there was no way she was ever getting more.
Still, she found herself unable to truly regret it.
Sometimes, it was best to live in the moment before it got away.
Cobra Fire Base, Afghanistan
“You got a girlfriend?”
Communications Specialist Gideon had a hopeful gleam in his eyes. He waited for Magnus to answer with an intensity that was slightly edgy. His eyes brightened but otherwise he held perfectly still, like he was setting a trap and waiting for the right moment to pounce.
“I got a girl.”
“Yeah?” Gideon hit his knee and leaned closer. “Can I see her picture? Blonde or brunette?”
Magnus slid the firing pin back into his rifle, keeping his mouth shut while he ensured his weapon was in prime condition. Inattention could translate into a flag-draped coffin being sent home to his father, or wherever his father was at the moment, anyway. He could sure as hell bet it wasn’t home.
Gideon was a civilian, one making big bucks to put his neck on the line in a hot zone. The guy was a typical subcontractor. One who marketed his degree to the military and was getting his student loans forgiven in the process. Sure, he was making the dough but he could care less about any duty, which left him going stir-crazy while Bram and his men were on a mission.
“You like them curvy or thin? Your girl got tits or melons?” Gideon pressed him.
Bram shot him a warning glare. “She’s a lady. Mind your mouth.”
Gideon offered him a sheepish grin. “I get it. Nothing better than a good girl to keep your dreams peaceful, so long as she knows when to be naughty.” He waved an open hand between them. “Where’s her picture? Come on, buddy, share the wealth. The chicks only wait for you uniform jockeys. I’m shit out of luck until I get back stateside.”
Gideon sat down on the bunk next to him, his face too bright with excitement for Bram’s comfort. Hell, the guy’s lips were wet from being licked. There was lonely and then there was too lonely. Bram lifted one hand and pointed to his temple. “I keep it right here. Private.”
Gideon’s face darkened. His lower lip actually began to protrude just a fraction of an inch before he curled it back toward his teeth.
“How come you don’t have a picture?” Suspicion coated his voice along with disappointment. “If she’s waiting for you, why don’t you have a picture?”
The cot shook when he stood. Bram finished reloading his weapon before lying back and taking up the spot Gideon had sat on. He placed the rifle across his chest with a hand resting gently over the trigger guard.
Gideon sniffed before shaking his head. “You don’t have a girl waiting on you.” His voice turned grumpy, and he shuffled his feet against the floor. “You’re not alone, buddy. No need to lie about it. Lots of us don’t got a girl. Why did you think I wanted to look at yours? You didn’t need to jerk me on like that. It’s just not right to mess with a fellow comrade. Maybe I ain’t a soldier but my ass is still on the line…”
Gideon moved off, still grumbling. Bram crossed his booted feet at his ankles and ignored his frustrated comrade.
Gideon was right, Jaelyn wasn’t his girl. But that didn’t keep him from dreaming about her.
Right or wrong didn’t really matter at the moment. Jaelyn kept him alive. She was the water for the dried-out parts of his soul. Without her, he’d watch that last part of his civilized personality evaporate and drift off into the sand surrounding him.
His lips pressed into a firm line as he swept the area once more before closing his eyes. He didn’t sleep much. It was a good habit to adopt in Afghanistan. But there was more than fear of impending attack that kept his eyes wide open for eighteen hours in a row. Every time he closed them, Jaelyn was waiting for him. Her dark eyes, framed by inky long lashes. The memory of the way her body moved beneath a summer dress, her hips swaying under a thin layer of cotton. Sultry and seductive with its feminine sway. She didn’t employ any practiced method of seduction; she just flowed like a woman. Just the memory enchanted him.
And turned him on.
His cock twitched as her laughter floated through his brain, its silver tinkle sending blood toward his rising erection. Reaching into his shirt pocket, he pulled out a folded photo. Cupping his hand around it, he kept it cocooned away from the eyes of the rest of his comrades. It was like looking through a window into life. He was stuck in the desolate desert and right there, sitting on his palm, was a frozen moment of springtime. Just looking at it was like feeling the spring breeze hit his face, carrying away the harsh desert heat. He could smell the fresh grass, practically feel its satiny smooth blades gliding between the toes of his bare feet.
Jaelyn wasn’t waiting for him. The girl in the photo looking at his camera only had a smile of friendship on her face for him. He kept the picture of her and her sister as a reminder of just how big of a fool he’d been.
He hadn’t lied to Gideon. It was more a matter of declining to admit what an idiot he was. Jaelyn wasn’t waiting for him because he’d been too stupid to notice what a treasure she was when he had been close enough to touch her. Afghanistan changed that. It was the kick in the ass he needed to recognize what really mattered in a girl.
Woman, actually. Right there was the difference. Jaelyn was a woman, one who didn’t waste time on games. She’d been right there and he’d been too much of an idiot to recognize her for what she was.
He saw it now. The memory was eating him alive but he preferred that to being alone.
His cock was hard now. Stiff with longing as his lips rose into a hint of a grin while he continued to let his memories of Jaelyn parade through his mind. He rationed the time he let his guard down, only allowing himself a few moments before he slept to indulge in his mental obsession.
In those few, private moments he allowed his mind to enjoy the sweet anticipation of the day he’d be able to show her how much he’d learned since leaving her.
He wrote her letters she hadn’t answered but he was still going to pen another one tomorrow. He had no way of knowing if the mail got to her. A low grunt escaped his lips. He was reaching. His buddy Mercer got his letters just fine. Still, he wasn’t going to let the lack of response bug him. Quitting wasn’t in his vocabulary.
He would write another letter tomorrow.
Tucking the picture back into his shirt pocket, he made sure to button it to keep the photo secure. He patted it, and heat spread through his chest as he fantasized about her dark hair being spread out over him.
His cock throbbed behind his fly and his lips curved up higher. Anticipation might be good, but the moment he touched American soil, he was going to search out Jaelyn and live his dream. Reach out and touch it … touch her. Dig in his heels and court her like she deserved for not running around with every guy the way her sister did. He’d been the stupid one who was too immature to notice the gem sitting in front of his nose. He knew better now, felt the newfound knowledge rippling through him like a river.
Court her … That was what he was going to do. With flowers and carefully planned dinners and every sappy thing he could think of or find in a book to help him plan. Until then, he’d write to her and he’d picture her reading his letters and smiling because he took the time to reach out to her.
Yeah, he had a girl and he was going to show her just exactly how much she meant to him very soon.
* * *
It wasn’t right.
Some guys just didn’t understand the bond necessary to survive in a war zone. If a guy wouldn’t share the picture of his girl with another guy who didn’t have one, he couldn’t be trusted.
Gideon watched Bram strip off his vest. A ripple of relief crossed his face but it vanished a second later when the stench of his shirt hit his nose. Gideon grinned. Damn officers liked to think they were so much better than a normal guy like him but they stank just as bad after a few days without a shower. Gideon waited. He was good at waiting. Better than most guys. His mamma had always had some mean-assed boyfriend sleeping with her while he was growing up, and they were always quick to take a swing at him if he woke them up before they were ready to get out of the sack. So he’d learned to be quiet. Real quiet, like a ghost. He knew how to watch and wait for the perfect time to get what he wanted.
He stared at the vest lying over the half wall that served as a shower stall. There was a neat row of them on the east side of the base. Large hoses were secured to four-by-four rough wooden beams. They curled around to spray down into the stall. A hastily laid concrete slab with a drain set in its lowest point completed the bathing faculties. Bram’s boots appeared, along with the rest of his clothing. He stripped down quickly, ignoring the fact that his bare ass was on display. There were no female personnel at Cobra Fire Base. If you wanted to wash off the stink of the desert heat, you did it right out in the open.
Bram reached up to pull on the chain to release the water. It cascaded over his face in a white, frothy spray. He stared up into it and shook his head when the water hit his face.
It was time.
Moving across the sand, Gideon approached the showers. Water splashed down onto the concrete but he ignored it. Bram wiped the water from his eyes and looked at him out of reflex. Gideon began mimicking the motions of stripping down to bathe. Bram dismissed him, reaching for a bar of soap that he started to work over every inch of his skin from the top of his head down.
Gideon ignored the itch from his own skin. He stood close enough to the vest to finger one pocket. The snap opened with a tiny pop. Bram tugged on the chain, raising his face upward once more.
In a swift motion, Gideon pulled the small picture out of the pocket. He tucked it inside his own vest before the water stopped flowing. He had to wait to look at it. But it would be better that way. He licked his lower lip as excitement began to twist through him.
“You showering or what, Gideon?”
Bram eyed him with water still streaming down his face.
“Yeah, just thought I saw a bogey.”
Bram jerked his head around, scanning the horizon. Gideon began stripping. He draped his own vest over a stall and couldn’t resist giving it a little pat. Sweet anticipation spread its warm glow through him. She was his girl now. Because he’d been slick enough to steal her picture, that made her his. A man got to keep what he stole, that was one of the oldest laws on earth. Gideon reached up for another chain and yanked it hard. Cool, life-giving water covered him. He kept the pressure on that chain for a good minute, enjoying the fact that he could take a shower when there were people just over the rise who were worried about getting enough to drink.
He didn’t feel sorry for them. Didn’t waste his time on anything that didn’t have to do with him and what he wanted. Nothing else mattered.
Life wasn’t fair, so there was no reason for him to be.
* * *
Mexico …
They’d buried him in a shallow grave. Sullivan woke up gasping. When he sucked in a breath, he got a face full of burlap from his shroud. He could smell the dirt he was lying under and strained to move it. He fought for his life, struggling against the hold the earth had on him. He broke free with a snarl, clawing at the burlap and ripping it as two of his fingernails went with it.
He fucking loved the pain because he was alive to feel it. His entire face hurt like Satan himself had kissed it and that made Sullivan laugh. Yeah, the devil didn’t want him in hell, at least not just yet. He crawled out of the hole and happily kicked the dislodged soil back into place. A rough cross was hammered in at the top of it.
Ricky turned his back on it and walked away from the lights of the prison. His lip was split but he started to whistle as he went because he was on his way to happiness.
Vengeance was going to make him very, very happy. Tyler Martin was going to regret leaving him for dead. And while he was extracting what was due him, Saxon Hale, Vitus Hale, and Captain Bram Magnus owed him plenty for getting Carl Davis pissed off at him.
Yup, it was payback time.
Time for the devil’s due.
“Hurry up, Jaelyn!”
LeAnn stomped into the kitchen with the grace of a truck driver. Her candy-pink miniskirt swishing over her thighs didn’t look sweet or innocent. Neither did the scowl on her sister’s face. LeAnn always knew how to make the male population squirm and she enjoyed doing it, too. But it was an act, one that wasn’t employed behind the closed doors of the house.
“Can’t you iron faster? It’s preliminary tryouts today, and there is going to be a line a mile long. I could lose my spot if I’m not there to defend it.”
Jaelyn held up the iron and a puff of steam rose between her sister and her. “By all means, show me how it’s done.”
LeAnn instantly changed her demeanor. Her face brightened with a soft smile designed to coax. “Oh, Jaelyn, you know I’m a complete flop when it comes to making things nice. I’ve got to shine…”
“I know it’s important. Two minutes, if you want it done right.”
Jaelyn pressed the iron back down onto the little white top spread out on the ironing board. There was a hiss and another puff of steam. Her sister smiled and turned around to look at her face in a wall mirror. LeAnn lifted one perfectly manicured finger, expertly smoothing out her eyeliner on her bottom lid.
Her makeup was perfect. The sort of thing you saw staring out of a magazine. Of course, that made sense. There were dozens of the things stacked up in the house, and she invested serious time in makeup classes. Jaelyn could admire the dedication, even if she didn’t see the personal value in doing it herself.
But they were alike when it came to their taste in men.
Jaelyn felt the sting of guilt as she lifted the little top off the ironing board. LeAnn grabbed the top and inspected it with a critical eye, then a rare, genuine smile crossed her lips. “You’re the best, Jaelyn.”
For a moment, time shifted, returning them to when they’d been kids and best friends. Just a blink, though, and there was a scamper of high heels on the entryway tiles. Her sister stopped long enough to shrug into the top before she opened the door to vanish down the walkway in a cloud of perfect hair.
“She’s an alien.”
“Morning, Grandpa.”
Her grandfather lifted a gray eyebrow at her. His lips were pressed into a hard line of disapproval but he shook his head, dismissing the matter. He made his way to the coffeepot and poured himself a mugful. He looked at her over the rim through the rising steam.
“I refuse to accept that any kin of mine can run out my front door without even saying good morning to me,” he drew a long sip from the coffee and shook his head. “Nicest thing I can say is, that girl must be alien spawn. I’ve got to be succumbing to old age for letting her live under my roof while she treats me like I’m already dead.”
Rolling her eyes, Jaelyn reached for a skillet. “She’s just impulsive. LeAnn loves you.”
It was a weak excuse but Jaelyn didn’t want to admit to her grandfather just why she let LeAnn walk all over her.
Guilt. It was chewing a hole in her.
Cracking an egg, she dropped it into the heating pan. It sizzled while her grandfather glared over the rim of his coffee mug at her. His face might be wrinkled by time but his gaze was still keen and cutting into her.
“Don’t ask,” Jaelyn advised him.
Adding two more eggs to the pan, she tried to let the promise of breakfast distract her grandfather.
“Does that mean the date didn’t go well?”
No such luck.
“It didn’t go … bad…,” she muttered. Unless she wanted to admit that Richard Sherlot’s kiss didn’t even curl one of her toes.
Not even a tingle, actually.
“That young man was put together rather nice.”
Jaelyn pointed the spatula at him. “The deal was, I’d go on the date. I did. A postmortem discussion was not included in the agreement.”
Jaelyn fluttered her eyelashes and held on tightly to her poker face. Her grandfather’s eyes twinkled, the finger aimed at her beginning to wave back and forth. Jaelyn shrugged.
Slipping the eggs onto a plate, she delivered it to the table in front of her grandfather with a flourish.
“You should be out where the boys can chase you instead of cooking for me.”
“I need to check the rolls.”
Jaelyn grabbed a dish towel and wrapped it around her hand. Her grandfather grunted and she opened the oven door to avoid the conversation, ducking out of the way as heat escaped. She gave her full attention to the cinnamon rolls bubbling on the center rack of the oven. She didn’t need to see the look on her grandpa’s face, didn’t need to hear him tell her to find a boy.
She didn’t want a boy. Disgust blossomed inside her, disgust for her own fascination with someone who wasn’t going to be thinking anywhere near as much about her. It had just been a kiss … God, she was pathetic.
She should have slept with Richard just to get her fascination with Bram out of her system.
Except that the entire idea made her feel like a quitter.
She wanted to fall in love and have amazing sex, not just sex. Was it too much to ask?
Jaelyn shook her head to clear it, earning a grunt from her grandfather.
“Kenny Gardener has a couple of boys. I’ll give him a call and—”
“One more word about setting me up and I won’t make the icing,” Jaelyn warned, looking over her shoulder at her grandfather. He narrowed his eyes at her. “One blind date a month is my max.”
“You play rough.”
She allowed her hand to hover over the power switch on the mixer. The icing ingredients were already carefully measured and waiting for the whipping blade to cream them together. Her grandpa only got home-baked rolls on the weekend because during the week she kept him on a strict low-fat diet. His eyes were bright as a boy’s on Christmas morning as the scent of hot sugar and cinnamon filled the air.
Fine, she was being rotten again but every girl had her limits. She flipped the switch and the mixer started up.
The phone rang, too. Her grandfather nabbed it.
“Why yes, Richard, Jaelyn’s here … she was just telling me about your date … Nope, it’s not too early at all.”
Milton smirked at her as the icing came together and he held the phone out to her.
She knew the look. Her grandfather looked sweet and innocent, but she’d learned to play hard from him. Seriously, Milton could sweet-talk a gang of old ladies into shining his shoes. She took the phone because she knew when she’d been one-upped.
Milton beamed and used the opportunity to cut himself a huge slice of cinnamon roll twist that he happily slathered with icing. Coffee mug in hand, he carried his prize toward the living room table as he winked at her and Richard started talking.
She really needed more coffee.
* * *
“Mail call.”
Bram kept his gaze on his tablet but his attention wasn’t on the information being displayed. Men were pouring out of their tents and work areas, high-tailing it on the double to where letters and packages were being handed out.
He was waiting, too, eager, poised, needy.
He was practically drooling like a dog waiting for a bone. Just one damned meatless bone to prove he wasn’t invisible.
The private finished off his bag of mail without calling Bram’s name.
What did he expect? He’d jumped on her the second her sister tossed him aside. A girl like Jaelyn wouldn’t settle for a guy who thought of her as a consolation prize.
He forced himself to focus.
He would still write her another letter.
* * *
LeAnn climbed into her car Monday afternoon and frowned. The mailman was blocking the driveway. Clicking her fingernails against the steering wheel, she watched him stuff a folded bundle of sale circulars into the mailbox. With a rattle, the mail truck moved on to their neighbor’s box.
Backing up, she stopped at the curb. Getting out of the car she pulled the mailbox open. The letters were all sitting inside the circulars. Flicking through them, she pulled out the ones addressed to her. A little huff passed her lips as she found one with an overseas stamp on it.
Magnus. Captain Bram Magnus who had been overseas so long the man seemed to have forgotten whose boyfriend he was. LeAnn scowled at the letter. It was addressed to Jaelyn again.
She took it anyway and closed the mailbox. Climbing back into her car, she tossed the letter onto the passenger seat. Punching on her music, she merged into the traffic.
Boyfriends did not dump her.
Oh, she’d read every one of his letters to little Jaelyn. Each one made her madder than the last. He was hers. No boyfriend of hers was going to do one thing for any girl except her, and that included her sister.
Especially since little Jaelyn wasn’t as innocent as she put on. Magnus had penned such a nice apology for kissing her. LeAnn was the one owed an apology and she was going to get what she wanted.
Actually, what she really wanted was to … well … she couldn’t grasp the right word for it. In some part of her brain, she realized Jaelyn deserved a guy like Bram. But that made her realize maybe she didn’t.
She clicked her fingernails and pressed the accelerator down.
She wasn’t going there. Nope. Life was hard and sharp edged. It wasn’t her fault and she wasn’t going to spend her time apologizing for playing hard in order to get what she wanted. Men did it all the time. Even Bram. He’d show up anytime he wanted attention, expecting her to be there, and she had been. But she wasn’t going to miss out on life while he was away.
He certainly wasn’t. Nope. Bram was earning his position and so was she. There was no way she was going to be shamed into becoming a groundhog that waited for spring to show up.
Cobra Fire Base
Gideon licked his lower lip. Sneaking a final look around, he unsnapped his vest pocket. Shoving two fingers into it, he felt the worn edge of the picture. Excitement sent adrenaline pumping through his veins. His hand actually shook when he pulled the picture free.
“Hot damn.”
His voice was raw and his mouth went dry. Behind his fly, his cock filled until it was hard.
“Sweet little pair of pussycats.”
The captain was a bastard for not sharing.
Gideon stroked the picture with the tip of his index finger. But which one belonged to the captain?
Gideon peered at the photo until he noticed the way the pretty girl had her skirt raised up to show off some thigh.
Got you.
He pushed the picture deep into his pants pocket.
Yeah, he knew which one. Because he was smart. Smarter than the idiots wearing uniforms. Maybe they got the glory but he was getting the paycheck. A man with money could get any girl he wanted, no matter who took her picture to war with him.



Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose – Review & Giveaway

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose – Review & Giveaway


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Monster in the ClosetAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository

A mother is dead, and now her killer hunts the child that witnessed the brutal crime…

Private Investigator Clay Maynard locates missing children for clients, but has nearly given up hope of finding his own daughter, cruelly stolen from him by his ex-wife twenty-three years ago.

Equine therapist Taylor Dawson has chosen to intern at Daphne Montgomery-Carter’s stables so that she can observe the program’s security director – her father, Clay Maynard. Trying to reconcile the wonderful man she’s getting to know with the monster her mother always described, Taylor never expects to become the target of a real monster, the man who murdered the mother of the little girls she works with at the stable. Neither does she expect to fall for Ford Elkhart, Daphne’s handsome son, who is dealing with his own demons. As family and friends gather for a wedding, Taylor starts to imagine a permanent life in Baltimore.

But not if the real monster gets to her first…




Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose is a fantastic romance suspense story line.  I was not sure what to expect, as I have read only one of her romance suspense books, and none in her Baltimore arc within this series.  Monster in the Closet read very well as a standalone, as the author deftly gave us enough information on the other characters, who made appearances and had their own stories. 

Taylor Dawson, our heroine, has just started working at Daphne Montgomery-Carter stables, for the Healing Hearts with Horses program, where she works as a therapist for problem children.  Taylor has another reason for coming from California to take this job.  She wants to meet the man who is the security director, Clay Maynard, and learn about him.  Before Taylor’s mother passed away, she told her daughter the truth about the father she never knew.  Taylor had spent all of her life fearing her father, who was supposed to be an abusive man, only to find out it was all a lie. Now she travels from her home in California to take this job in Maryland to discover for herself, what her real father was like and what she has missed not knowing him. 

Clay Maynard has been searching for his long lost daughter unsuccessfully for 23 years.  Clay has a great life in Maryland, wonderful and loyal friends, a wife he loves and a daughter.  When Taylor’s new boss, and Ford, calls him to the ranch, Clay will come face to face with the daughter he has been searching for most of his life.  This is an amazing story of family, secrets, friends and a slow build romance, which plays a major part of this story.  But the real story that drives Monster in the Closet, is a murder mystery, where an 11 year old child, Jazzie comes home from school to find her mother dead, and while she hides, she sees that her estranged father is the murderer.  We see this from the beginning, and know who the evil murderer is.  But Jazzie doesn’t talk, and no one knows she was at the scene at the time of the murder.  Detective Fitzpatrick suspects that Gage Jarvis killed his wife, but he cannot prove it, as Jarvis has an alibi.  When a few people are murdered, Fitzpatrick knows Jarvis murdered those people to keep his secret, but he cannot prove it. 

When Taylor is working at the ranch, she has the ability to reach out to the young children, and one morning Janie Jarvis, the younger sister of Jazzie, is riding a horse with Taylor’s help.  When they get ready to leave, Jazzie hugs Taylor and thanks her for taking care of her younger sister.  Everyone was thrilled that this was a breath through.  But the police know they need to protect Jazzie, in case her father finds out she was there and can identify him.

What follows is an intense exciting adventure; with Gage Jarvis willing to do anything to make sure no one can identify him.  Taylor is put in the middle, as when Jarvis does find out that Jazzie recognizes him, he thinks she told Taylor.   All hell will break loose, with Clay, Ford, and Taylor becoming injured.  All the people that are part of the ranch, police members who know the Maynards and Montgomeries come forward to help find the murderer before he kills the young girls and Taylor. 

A sweet romance builds between Taylor and Ford, who is the owners son.  I really liked them together.  The family atmosphere and this romance were just enough to release some of the tension of the case.  Karen Rose has written a wonderful suspenseful thriller, with a nice blend of family and second chances.  Monster in a Closet is one of the best suspense thrillers I have read this year.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher



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Disorderly Conduct (The Academy #1) by Tessa Bailey-a review

DISORDERLY CONDUCT (The Academy #1) by Tessa Bailey-a review

Disorderly Conduct / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 29, 2017

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

Police academy cadet Charlie Burns can’t believe his luck when the gorgeous blonde he meets in a bar murmurs those magic words: “Nothing serious, ’kay?” Mind-blowing, no-strings sex with Ever Carmichael—it’s the holy grail of hookups for a guy who’s too busy following in his law enforcement family’s footsteps to think about getting serious. Charlie’s all about casual…that is, until Ever calls it quits and his world tilts on its axis.

Ever knows that when you control the relationship game, you can’t get played. But for the first time, she wants more than short-term satisfaction. Step one: end her fling with commitment-phobic Charlie. Step two: sacrifice herself to the ruthless NYC dating scene. Yet everywhere she turns, there’s Charlie, being his ridiculously charming self. No online match or blind date compares to the criminally hot cop-in-training, but they’re over. Aren’t they?

If love is a four-letter-word, why does the idea of Ever seeing someone else tie Charlie up in knots? Now he’s desperate to win her back…and a little date sabotage never hurt anyone, right?


REVIEW: DISORDERLY CONDUCT is the first installment in Tessa Bailey’s contemporary, adult THE ACADEMY erotic, romance series focusing on a group of three New York police academy cadets (Charlie Burns, Jack Garrett, Danika Silva). This is twenty three year old cadet Charlie Burns, and twenty two year old caterer Ever Carmichael’s story line.

Told from dual first person perspectives (Charlie and Ever) DISORDERLY CONDUCT focuses on the reluctant relationship between police cadet Charlie Burns, and caterer Ever Carmichael. Ever doesn’t do relationships-thirty days, no more, no less- and the men in her life are nothing more than a distant memory. Her grandmother’s ‘Mistress Manifesto’, a guideline for all of the Carmichael women demands all women to remain independent, never let the arrangement last past one month, and choose only unavailable men, keeping Ever from ever prescribing to a happily ever after with anyone. Meeting Charlie Burns has our heroine throwing caution to the wind until the moment she realizes that Charlie is a man, like herself, who doesn’t want anything beyond the present. What ensues is the building love between Charlie and Ever, and the fall out when Ever realizes that she wants something more than Charlie is willing or able to give.

Charlie Burns believes that he must sacrifice his own happiness for the ‘job’. Growing up in a family of men married to their jobs Charlie knows that being a police officer means the family comes second, and anyone left behind becomes collateral damage, and for this reason Charlie is unwilling to take a chance on love or anything more than a one-night stand. Ever Carmichael watched her mother’s life implode, going from one man to another, never longer than the designated thirty day, and our heroine is determined to live out her life, on her mother’s terms, one man at a time.

The relationship between Ever and Charlie is one of immediate attraction; a no-strings attached relationship that finds our couple seeking something different when the expiry date of their affair begins to trickle down. The attraction to one another is palpable; their numerous separations are heartbreaking and painful. Charlie’s need for Ever is overshadowed by his inability to commit to something more but saying that his questionable behavior and obsession with our story line heroine is cringe-worthy and disturbing in light of his upcoming future on the police force. The $ex scenes are intimate, intense and seductive.

We are introduced to Charlie’s best friends, roommates and fellow police academy cadets: Jack Garrett, who struggles with his need for alcohol; Danika Silva, a woman who has caught the eye of the police academy instructor Greer Burns; police chief Xavier Burns; Ever’s roommate and business partner Nina ; as well as Ever’s mother who slowly begins to understand the potentially damaging advice long adhered to by the Carmichael female line. Jack and Katie’s story line is next in INDECENT EXPOSURE.

DISORDERLY CONDUCT is a story of mistaken beliefs; of one man’s determination to sacrifice love and family for a successful career; and one woman’s need to follow in her mother’s footsteps, however ill-conceived and emotionally barren. The premise is energetic; the characters are passionate and sassy ; the romance is provocative and heartbreaking.

Copy supplied by Edelweiss

Reviewed by Sandy


Bring the Heat (Dragon King #9) by G.A. Aiken – Dual Review

Bring the Heat (Dragon Kin #9) by G.A. Aiken – Dual Review


Bring the HeatAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository

HE SAYS . . .
I, Aidan the Divine, am . . . well, divine. My name was given to me by the Dragon Queen herself! I’m a delight! Cheerful. Charming. And a mighty warrior who is extremely handsome, with a very large and well-hidden hoard of gold. I am also royal-born, despite the fact that most in my family are horrendous beings who don’t deserve to live. And yet, Branwen the Awful—a low-born, no less—either tells me to shut up or, worse, ignores me completely.

SHE SAYS . . .
I’ll admit, I ignore Aidan the Divine because it annoys him. A lot. But we have so much to do right now, I can’t worry about why he keeps staring at me, or why he always sits so close, or why he keeps looking at me like he’s thinking about kissing me. We have our nations to save and no time for such bloody foolishness . . . no matter how good Aidan looks or how long his spiked tail is. Because if we’re going to win this war before it destroys everything we love, we’ll have to face our enemies together, side by side and without distractions. But if we make it out alive, who knows what the future will hold . . .

Sandy’s Review

BRING THE HEAT is the ninth full-length installment in G.A.Aiken’s adult DRAGON KIN fantasy romance series focusing on a group of Southland dragon shifters and their mates. This is Aidan the Divine, and Branwen, the Awful’s story line. BRING THE HEAT can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from previous story lines is revealed where necessary although I recommend reading the series in order for history, cohesion and character back stories. There is an ongoing threat against Queen Annwyl and the ‘abominations’-the powerful offspring of the dragon and human matings.

Told from several third person points of view including Aidan and Branwen BRING THE HEAT focuses on the upcoming war threatening Queen Annwyl the Bloody, and the children known as the ‘abominations’. A rather larger group of dragon-haters known as the Zealots has targeted the human Queen in an attempt to destroy that which they fear-the unknown. When several dragons, and the Queen go missing from the most recent battle, Branwen the Awful is charged with protecting her cousin and royal offspring, Keita the Viper, as she prepares to do battle with a potential threat of a different kind. Enter Aidan the Divine, a dragon warrior and member of the Queen’s most terrifying army known as the Mi-runach who is tasked with escorting Branwen and Keita on a journey towards another possible war. What ensues is the building relationship between Branwen and Aidan, and the inevitable battle between the dragons, the gods, the witches and the demons.

BRING THE HEAT is a story line that follows several converging paths with a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including many of the previous story line couples and characters, as well as their growing families of gifted offspring. Talwyn, Talan and Rhiannwen, otherwise known as the ‘abominations’ continue to slowly come into their powers but it is Gwenvael and Dagmar’s hatchlings that may be a bigger surprise going towards the future. With the introduction of more extended kin, cousins and family, as well as the growing number of ‘hybrid’ offspring, I suspect many more story lines focusing on the Dragon Kin and threats to their less than idyllic family dynamics.

G.A.Aiken uses humor, sarcasm, playful banter, and witty one on one repartee between the characters as she takes the reader on a journey into the fantastic. Her world building is colorful, energetic and vast-you can feel the emotional highs and lows, the anxiety and excitement as the war kicks into high gear, threatening everyone and everything in its’ path. There is plenty of bloodshed and violence wrapped in a comforting blanket of family, kinship and ….fun! If you haven’t read G.A.Aiken’s DRAGON KIN, what are you waiting for? And, for even  more fun, check out her Pack, Pride and new Honey Badger shifter series written under the pen name Shelly Laurenston !!


Barb’s Review:

Bring the Heat by G.A. Aiken is the 9th book in her fantastic Dragon Kin series.   I could not wait to start this book, and made sure not to be interrupted.  If you read G.A. Aiken/Shelly Laurenston, you will understand what I mean.  No one writes wildly fun, crazy, exciting & stories about Dragons/Wolves better than Laurenston/Aiken, as despite all of the crazy insanity and violence, she has us laughing all the way.  I love Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken.  So I dare anyone to interrupt me when I read her books, as I want to savior every single moment, even reread certain parts immediately.  Now to my review.  🙂

Bring the Heat is an exciting continuation and climax of the ongoing war with the Zealots and the evil villains, Chramnesind & Vateria that have been part of the main background storyline for the last few books.  Brannie (Branwen the Awful) and Aidan (the Divine) are our couple in this book, and as usual with Aiken’s heroes, they were a hilarious and awesome duo that despite Aidan’s feelings for Brannie, she was determined to not see him other than as a friend.  Aidan’s two sidekicks (Mi-runach) played a big part (wild & crazy) in this book, as did Kachka and her two Daughters of the Steppes cohorts.  Beside Brannie, Aidan, the other main character in Bring the Heat was definitely, Keita (the viper), who just about stole the show.   However, the best part is we get to see all, and I mean all of our favorites from the previous stories; Annwyl, Izzy, Dagmar, Rhiannon, Talith, Fearghus, Gwenvael, Bercelak, Eibhear, Morfyd,

With the bloody war in full force, and the Zealots given powers by the evil god Chramnesind to eliminate the dragons & human hybrids; the Dragon Queen’s armies and those helping are suffering terrible losses and Annwyl is missing.  Brannie and Aidan managed to free themselves from the rubble and are eventually sent on a separate mission to help Keita, much to their dismay.  It was pretty funny at Brannie’s reaction that Keita was indeed the dangerous protector of the throne, not the annoying fop she thought she was.  I really enjoyed seeing Keita use her powerful skills to kill the enemies, as we got to see more of what she can do. I also continue to adore the crazy insane Annwyl, who despite being human, seems to be able to defeat her enemies, even demons with her powerful rages.

This was an amazing and pulse pounding adventure for all to survive the Zealot onslaught, pull together to stop the evil god, find Annwyl, and win this horrible war.  The romance between Brannie and Aiden was fun, but at the same time, as much as I liked them, I didn’t feel the overall bonding that I did with the previous couples. 

This is a hard review because it is difficult to explain the world, dragons, the humans, abominations, etc, and why we are laughing all the way within all this violence.  Of course, I am loving every moment.  I will say this over and over,   I love Shelly Laurenston (aka Aiken), as she can do what no author can do…make me laugh through so much of the book, and keep me intensely engrossed in the story. If you have not read the Dragon Kin series, you are missing a fantastic ride, written by a fantastic author, G.A. Aiken (aka Shelly Laurenston)


Copies provided by Publisher




Adeline (Lady Archer’s Creed #3) by Christina McKnight-Review, Book Tour & Giveaway

ADELINE (Lady Archer’s Creed #3) by Christina McKnight-Review, Book Tour and Giveaway

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Lady Archer’s Creed #3
by Christina McKnight
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Genre: adult, historical, romance

Adeline / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo iBooks

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 29, 2017


Everything changed for Jasper Benedict, the Earl of Ailesbury, the night his family died in a tragic fire—the same fire that left him disfigured. Now, his scars have given him the name the Beast of Faversham. But when he stumbles upon a damaged carriage during a tempest, the beautiful woman inside reminds him of the man he wishes he could be: free of his past, and able to love.


When her carriage breaks down outside Faversham Abbey, this is just the most recent in a long series of misadventures for Miss Adeline Price. Her beauty hides a fatal flaw: she’s quick to judge, and rarely looks beneath the surface. But the longer she’s around Jasper, the more she begins to want to be better—someone deserving of him.

But when it comes time to reunite Adeline with her family in London, will Jasper believe that she sees not his scars, but the good, honorable man he is?



4.5 out of 5 for this reader folks!

Before I get into the review of this story, I just want to start it by saying that this is the first time I have really disliked a main character and then had my mind changed due to fantastic writing. Now I can honestly say I love this main character and really fell in love with the author for having such an impact on my change of mind. This really took me by surprise.

Adeline by Christina McKnight is the third book in her “Lady Archers’ Creed” series and a small disclaimer here, I did not read the first two books in this series yet, but you can bet I sure will be. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything with regards to this book, but I always like knowing the back stories that have happened, so I can imagine the experience of this read would of been that much more enjoyable. Again, I didn’t feel like I needed it! This series is a historical drama, set in London, so be prepared for the typical rights and wrongs of society and behaviour, true to it’s time.

Our main man is Jasper Benedict, Earl of Ailesbury. Jasper is called “The Beast of Faversham” by “polite” (ya right!) society due to being badly scarred and disfigured by a fire that killed his family when he was a child. Jasper carries a heavy heart and guilt ridden soul as he blames himself for their deaths, and let me tell you society certainly does not ever let him forget and/or heal from this tragic event. Jasper is understandably cynical, has a hard time trusting, and bitter/sad. That being said, he is deep down an exceptional man with a very lovely heart.

Adeline Price is our leading lady and yes, she is the character I really didn’t like all that much. I can’t call her snotty or bitchy, but something just didn’t sit right with me where she is concerned. She is considered quite beautiful, but I believed her to be a little superficial (maybe this is why I didn’t care for her). She is returning home after a time away when her carriage breaks down and is assisted by Jasper.

So this book is somewhat of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. However, I found that it was Adeline who did more changing than Jasper did as the beast. Jasper takes her home after rescuing her, and before we know it, Adeline is introduced to a rather intriguing and enticing side to Jasper that she just very well may fall in love with. Jasper however has a hard time believing that any woman could see beyond his scars.

Adeline did a complete change in this story. She seriously bloomed into a compassionate and understanding woman very capable of healing a man who really deserves to be healed. Maybe she had it in her all the time, but as the pages flipped she became more likable, and then I honestly, by the end, believed she is the perfect woman for Jasper.

This is a quick read and absolutely excellent. My only complaint would be the timing. I found love happened a little too fast which took away a little from the believeability. That being said, it hardly made a difference as the characters and story really drew me in.


Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Rachel T

Adeline Teaser

About The Author

Christina McKnightChristina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.

Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

You can visit her online at the following places: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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So In Love (Ribbon Ridge: Love on the Vine #3) by Darcy Burke-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

SO IN LOVE (Ribbon Ridge: Love on the Vine #3) by Darcy Burke-Review, Excerpt and Giveaway

So In Love Banner

Ribbon Ridge: Love on the Vine #3
by Darcy Burke
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Genre: adult,contemporary, erotic, romance

So In Love / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo / itunes

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 25, 2017

After a hot hook-up on New Year’s Eve, Crystal Donovan plans to avoid Jamie Westcott, which could be difficult, given the size of Ribbon Ridge. But she’s only there a few days doing research on the town’s history then it’s back to her glam life in LA. When his family holds the key to unraveling a century-old mystery she has to seek him out—and the sparks are still flying.

Jamie Westcott works his ass off to repay his college loans, which doesn’t leave much time for other commitments. Crystal’s a perfect fling: she’s fun and sexy and, best of all, they have little in common and she lives somewhere else. Only, the more time they spend together the closer they get, despite their intent to keep things casual.

When everyone learns Crystal sold a screenplay exposing the dark secrets of Ribbon Ridge—and Jamie’s family—she becomes the town pariah. Jamie won’t leave and Crystal can’t stay—can love show them another way?


REVIEW: SO IN LOVE is the third and final installment in Darcy Burke’s contemporary, adult LOVE ON THE VINE erotic, romance series focusing on the Westcott brothers of Ribbon Ridge. This is twenty seven year old, economics graduate and vintner Jamie Westcott, and thirty two year old, PA/ budding screen writer Crystal Donovan’s story line. The LOVE ON THE VINE series is a spin off from Burke’s Ribbon Ridge series. We were first introduced to Jamie and his brothers (Cameron and Luke) in You’re Still the One (Ribbon Ridge #6). You do not have to read the original series to follow the premise of SO IN LOVE but I recommend reading You’re Still the One for some backstory about the brothers and their new winery business.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Jamie and Crystal) SO IN LOVE follows the building relationship between vintner Jamie Westcott, and PA Crystal Donovan-a relationship that began with a New Year’s Eve one-night stand, and Crystal’s reluctance to get involved with a man five years her junior. Ribbon Ridge is a small town where everyone is connected through family or friendship, and Crystal’s connections to Ribbon Ridge place our heroine on the committee researching the historical significance of the small town she has yet to call home. While Jamie Westcott intends to pursue Crystal Donovan for something more than a one-night stand, Crystal uncovers some disturbing history that places Jamie’s family in the middle of a controversial era in the settling of Ribbon Ridge. What ensues is the growing love between Crystal and Jamie, and the fall out as more of Jamie’s family history comes to light.

There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including Luke and Kelsey (So Right #2), and Cameron and his wife Brooke (So Good #1), both Jamie and Crystal’s parents and siblings, Crystal’s best friend Alaina Pierce (The Idea of You /Ribbon Ridge #4), as well as a large number of the Archer clan from the original Ribbon Ridge Series.

The relationship between Crystal and Jamie is one of immediate attraction but Crystal struggles with the five-year age difference, as well as the possibility of a long-distance relationship that is rarely successful. Jamie’s personal life is shrouded in rejection and loss; Crystal struggles with memories from the past, and a history she is reluctant to reveal. The $ex scenes are intimate, seductive and passionate.

SO IN LOVE is a timely, story of controversy that somewhat mirrors the political and volatile unrest in today’s American society. While our heroine uncovers a dark and violent past in Ribbon Ridge’s history, the connections to our story line hero are personal and potentially embarrassing to the people he loves. The premise is entertaining and engaging; the characters are spirited and encouraging; the romance is challenging and intense. SO IN LOVE is a revealing and surprising conclusion to Darcy Burke’s LOVE ON THE VINE series.

Reading Order and Previous Reviews
So Good
So Right
So In Love

Copy supplied by Netgalley for review

Reviewed by Sandy

So In Love Teaser


“Never have I ever been to a party with Prince Harry.” He drank.

She pulled her feet down and sat straight up, leaning forward, in one fluid, whiplash movement. “Shut. Up.”

“Well, not with him, but I met him. Nice bloke.”

“Okay, that is way better than any famous person I’ve met.” Her gaze softened. “Is he as tall and gorgeous as I think?”

Jamie chuckled. “I have no idea. How tall and gorgeous do you think he is?”

“Super gorgeous.” She slid him a glance that clearly said, “duh.” Propping her feet back up, she settled into the couch once more. “And he’s six inches taller than me. And nine months older. In other words, we’d be perfect for each other.” She sent him another look, this one full of self-mockery. “I’ve been planning our wedding since I was ten. Just ask Alaina.”

“Well, it seems you ought to meet him then.”

She bolted upright again. “You could make that happen?”

“Probably not. Sorry. Anyway, I think he has a girlfriend now.”

She slouched back with a dejected sigh. “I know.”

“I’m six-one,” Jamie said, recalling the prince was maybe the same height or just slightly taller. “Not nearly as good looking though.”

Crystal tipped her head to the side and studied him. “You’re no Prince Harry, but you’re cute.”

“I’ll take that. Your turn.”

“Let’s see… Never have I ever made out with a celebrity.” This time she took a drink.

“You going to kiss and tell?” When she shook her head, he prodded for more information. “Just making out?”

She peered at him over the top of her glass. “How naughty do you want to take this game?”

Her sultry look heated his body once more. “If you recall, I was all for the stripping part. In fact, there’s been a disappointing lack of that.”

A smile teased her lips. “I see. Honestly, if it wasn’t so cold out, I’d suggest a dip in the hot tub. I think that’s uncovered at least.”

“Can it be too cold if the water is over a hundred degrees?”

“Good point. But I don’t have a suit.”

“Neither do I. Never have I ever gone skinny dipping.” He sipped his beer. “In a hot tub.” He drank again. “With a hot blonde.” This time he didn’t drink but simply stared at her in open invitation.

“She pulled her feet from the table and rose from the couch. “There are towels in the locker room. Give me a head start.”

About the Author

Darcy BurkeDarcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, and three Bengal cats. Visit Darcy online at and sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter at, or like her Facebook page,




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