Leave The Night On by Laura Trentham – Review, Excerpt, Tour & Giveaway

Leave The Night On by Laura Trentham – Review, Tour & Giveaway

 

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Leave The Night OnAmazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Books-a-Million / IndieBound

Description:
Love, betrayal, and sweet revenge–life in Cottonbloom is about to get a whole lot hotter . . .

Sutton Mize is known for lavishing attention on the customers who flock to her boutique on the wealthy side of her Mississippi town. So when she finds a lace thong in her fiance’s classic cherry-red Camaro, she knows just who she sold it to: her own best friend. In an instant, Sutton’s whole world goes up in flames. . .

Wyatt Abbott has harbored a crush on Sutton since he was a young kid from the other side of the tracks. He witnessed Sutton’s shocking discovery in the Camaro at his family-owned garage–and it made him angry. What kind of man could take lovely, gorgeous Sutton for granted? But then Sutton comes up with an idea: Why not give her betrothed a taste of his own medicine and pretend that she’s got a lover of her own? Wyatt is more than happy to play the hot-and-heavy boyfriend. But what begins as a fictional affair soon develops into something more real, and more passionate, than either Sutton or Wyatt could have imagined. Could it be that true love has been waiting under the hood all along?

 

Review:

Leave the Night On by Laura Trentham is the 4th book in her wonderful Cottonbloom series.  Leave the Night On reads very well as a standalone, with brief appearances from the earlier leading characters.   I wasn’t sure what to expect, as we knew little about the Abbots.  Wyatt Abbott owns ¼ of the family  garage and restoration business, and he loves restoring old cars.  Sutton Mize brings in her fiancée’s classic Camaro to have a full restoration done as a wedding present.  The Abbott Brothers are excited to start their new restoration project, which will open them up for more business, with wealthier clientele.

Wyatt welcomes Sutton, remembering her from high school, when he had a secret crush on her.  But they have not seen each other in years, as she is from the wealthier Mississippi side of Cottonbloom, and Wyatt and his brothers are the from the blue collar Louisiana side.  When Wyatt takes the car, he makes sure that everything is empty and to Sutton’s shock, he finds expensive dinner receipts and a lace thong under the seat.  Sutton recognizes the thong, as it came from her boutique, where she sold it to her best friend.  Wyatt sees Sutton’s shock and realizes that her fiancée has been cheating on her.

What follows is a wonderful fun story line, where Sutton will ask Wyatt to help her get revenge on her ex- fiancée by being her new boyfriend.  He of course accepts, as he feels bad how she was treated, and wants to help and protect her.  He knows there could be no future for them, since they are from different backgrounds.  Slowly, as they both begin to spend a lot of time together, going to her gala’s and family dinners.  Wyatt was the perfect person for Sutton to get over her ex, as he opened her up to another life of having fun and enjoying things; and also making her that much more stronger and independent.   I loved Wyatt and Sutton together.  They made a great couple, with great chemistry.

While they try to fool Sutton’s Ex and her best friend, there are other things happening that blends into the story.  We meet all the Abbotts, including the aunts and the other 3 brothers.  The only brother I did not like was Ford, who only cared about himself and had no interest in working on the cars.  Ford gave Wyatt such a hard time, which made him even more unlikeable.  I am sure at some point in this series; we will get his story and eventually his redemption.  All the other characters we got to meet were great and I look forward to finding more about them.

Laura Trentham once again gives us a wonderful story, great characters, fabulous couple, heartwarming small town atmosphere, and a sweet wonderful romance. You should be reading this series, and I can’t wait to return to Cottonbloom.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

excerpt

Sutton stared at the lace concoction. From La Perla’s fall collection. Fine Italian lace. Ridiculously expensive for something so small. A special order with the addition of a small embroidered heart to sit at the owner’s hipbone. Oh yes, she was acquainted with the underwear but not intimately acquainted. She’d ordered them through Abigail’s Boutique, but not for herself. She was too practical.
Wyatt Abbott shook them even closer to her face, obviously expecting her to take them. The thought of touching the lace made her shrink against the driver’s door, and she fumbled for the handle, finally finding it and yanking. The door opened and her momentum sent her to the shop floor on her butt. Her skirt bunched around her thighs, probably high enough for Wyatt Abbott to see her simple cotton pink panties from Victoria’s Secret. The fact they weren’t white was the wildest she got. She’d even waited for them to go on sale. With a bruised ego and bottom, she scrambled up. Wyatt hadn’t moved. His mouth was parted, still in a slight smile, the panties dangling from his fingers. Instead of the roil of emotions gaining steam inside of her, she concentrated on his hands. They were rough-looking and callused. The nails were short but lined with grease. And they were big. They built things. Fixed things. Put things back together. A darkness came over his face, clouding his earlier good-humor and giving him an edge of danger she hadn’t sensed through his teasing. Instead of getting out of the car from the door, he stood up on the passenger seat, stepped to the driver’s seat, and hopped next to her, the black lace of her betrayal dangling in his hand. “What’s the problem?” he asked. A jackhammering noise from the other bay filled the space so she didn’t have to. The crazy thing was that she had sensed something wrong. Something had been wrong pretty much since she and Andrew had gotten engaged.
She’d tried to put it down to nerves or how busy they both were with work. But the truth was she’d been dragging her feet with the wedding preparations. Between the two of them pulling away, the distance had grown until only an echo of what had drawn them together remained. The hum of a motor and the flash of sunlight on metal drew her attention to the open bay door. Her best friend, Bree Randall, stepped out of her BMW coupe dressed in heels, grey slacks, and a sleeveless silk shell, the pink contrasting beautifully with her dark brown hair and ivory complexion. She was a lawyer for Cottonbloom, Mississippi’s city government and had been Sutton’s best friend since first grade. No way could Sutton smile and pretend everything was fine. She grabbed the front of Wyatt’s coveralls and looked up at him. The boy she remembered had been too cool and a borderline jerk, teasing her incessantly, almost to the point of tears. The man was still too cool, yet something new lurked behind his ease. She hoped it was akin to kindness. Bree drew closer. Stuck between a devil she knew and one she didn’t, Sutton took a chance. Her voice was hoarse and begging and she didn’t care. “Get me out of here. Please.”

Without taking his eyes off her, he called out, “Yo, Jackson. Could you put the lady from the Beemer in the waiting room? Tell her Miss Mize isn’t feeling well and stepped out back for some fresh air.”

If his brother answered, she didn’t hear him. Wyatt put a strong, stabilizing arm around her shoulders and guided her around various pieces of equipment and mechanical parts to a door tucked away at the back of the shop floor. She stepped outside, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. The freshness of the air counteracted the bile rising in her throat.

Her knees wobbled as the stark reality of the situation and the fallout took shape in her mind. She glanced at the man by her side. What was Wyatt Abbott thinking right now? Probably that she was borderline psychotic.

A huge red barn sat behind the shop, and they passed from sun back into shadows. A body-sized punching bag twirled from a high beam as they passed by. That explained why the arm at her back was so solid. Her heels tapped on the wide-planked floor. The smell of weathered wood was overlaid by something sweeter. Honeysuckle, maybe.
No hay was stored in the Abbott’s barn. Two tarp-covered cars, the bottom curves of their tires the only part visible, formed a path to the back where a scratched up leather couch and mini-fridge sat.

“Sorry it’s so dusty in here. We like to keep the doors open if the weather’s nice because of the views and cross breeze.” He took a blue towel from his back pocket and wiped off a section of the couch, leaving yellow streaks of pollen. Getting a little dirty was way down on her list of worries and she plopped down, wrapping her arms around her stomach and leaning over so her forehead nearly touched her knees.

“You want a Coke or tea or something?”

She raised her head enough to see his big hand holding out a bottle. He shifted back and forth in his black work boots, the hem of his coveralls ombrèd black to grey with grease.
“It’s a little early for whiskey, but I’ve got that too if you’d rather.” He sounded so worried and unsure, she straightened, took the Coke and pressed the cool plastic against her cheeks and neck.

“You must think I’ve gone batty.” She rarely drank alcohol and never whiskey, but for a moment she considered it as a viable option, even though it was still technically breakfast. It was five o’clock somewhere, right?

“I think something really bad happened,” he said. “I’m not sure what, but I suspect it has something to do with the restaurant receipts and the underwear.”

“Oh God. The receipts.” Her mind hadn’t even circled back around to those, but everything notched into place like a puzzle whose missing piece turned up stuck on the bottom of a shoe covered with chewed up old gum and bug guts.
His late nights working. Breaking dates at the last minute. His distraction. How long had it been since they’d shared the same bed? Two months? Three? She’d put it down to the natural progression of a committed relationship and the busyness of their lives, assuming things would be better once they were living under the same roof.
“I’m a moron.” Tears crawled up her throat and choked off her feeble attempt of a laugh.

She closed her eyes wishing she could teleport herself back under the covers. The cushion sagged next to her, and she tipped towards him, her shoulder bumping his biceps. A moment passed before his arm came around her shoulders, and they sank back into the couch together.
She turned her face into the space between his neck and shoulder and took a deep breath, desperately trying to get a handle on her out-of-control emotions. Pain was to be expected, but the flashes of fierce fury took her by surprise.
Easygoing and nice and cheerful were bandied about when people passed compliments her way. At least, she’d always taken them as compliments. Now she wasn’t so sure. Maybe all those things were code words for weak and gullible.

Another breath. She concentrated on Wyatt’s warmth and scent. So different from the expensive cologne Andrew wore. Wyatt smelled like pine trees and the garage. His dark, almost black hair, tickled her nose. A tear slipped out and she wiped it away with the heel of her hand.
“You want me to go get your friend?” His chest vibrated against her, deep and rich.

Friend? She didn’t want to examine the other half of the betrayal. Worse than Andrew cheating on her was who he’d been getting down and dirty with. Her best friend. No. A friend wouldn’t sleep with her fiancé behind her back while helping her plan the wedding with an enthusiasm that oftentimes exceed her own.

Sutton ransacked her brain for moments she could point to and say Aha! but none came to mind. Bree had been supportive and helpful over the last few months. Lies. How many lies had Sutton accepted as gospel truth? A few more tears escaped along with a ragged breath.
Wyatt made a humming sound that was distinctly uncomfortable, and he pulled away. “Let me—”

She grabbed his coveralls. “No. Don’t you get it? That was her thong.”

He shifted to face her. “Is identifying underwear in a single glance your superpower?”

Despite her life crashing down, a shard of humor sliced through the shock, and her lips twitched. “Expensive underwear. The heart on the panties matches her tattoo. A special order.”

“You fiancé and your best friend?”

Put like that, she felt even dumber. “My life has turned into a cliché.”

“It’s a cliché because of how often it happens. Nothing for you to be ashamed of. It’s them that should feel like chickenshit.”

“You don’t understand how people like to talk.”

“I understand, alright. I just don’t care what people say.” The defiant edge in his voice spoke of his own pain and sorrows, but right now she only had room for her own. He was quiet for a moment. “You want me to get rid of her?”

Sutton sank back and took a swig of Coke, the burn bringing a different, more welcome, sort of tear to her eyes. “I need to talk to her. Confront her.”

“Yeah, but not hurt and crying. You need to prepare. Get mad then get even.”

His advice made her sit up straighter. She’d been raised to smooth feathers, not ruffle them. Her mother had taught her how a smile and pleasant word could diffuse most situations. The lessons had contributed to her business success but hadn’t done her personal life any favors. Another whip of red-hot fury flayed her heart.
“She’s my ride back over the river.” Her voice sounded even and strong, her anger a mast to cling to amid the wreckage.

“I can be your ride.”

“But you have work to do.”

The look he cast her was full of disbelief. “You’re not going through with the restoration, are you?”

The Camaro, the red harbinger of her ruin, had already slipped her mind. She didn’t even like the stupid car. Her daddy and Tarwater senior had hatched this surprise over a round of golf with Ford Abbott after she’d confessed she couldn’t think of anything to give Andrew as an engagement present. Only when her daddy had anted up half the money had she agreed. Their “go big or go home” mentality had seemed a ridiculous waste to her.
Dear Lord, her family. What would her daddy say? As a long-standing judge, he was sort of a colleague of Andrew’s. She closed her eyes and rocked forward and back on the edge of the couch.

“What if I’m overreacting?” If only this was a bad dream. Yet, did she really want that? An undercurrent that felt vaguely like relief trickled through the anger and humiliation and doubts.

“About which part, your fiancé cheating or who he was cheating with?” Wyatt stuck a hand into his pocket, came out with the thong and tossed it on her lap.

She leapt up and brushed it off as if she were Miss Muffet and it was a venomous, hairy, black spider. She kicked at it with the toe of her shoe. The red heart mocked her from the black lace. Yet the little girl who’d shared her pimento cheese sandwich with Bree every day during kindergarten wanted to be wrong.

She sank back down to the edge of the couch, feeling like she was shoring up the situation with Scotch tape. “There could be a reasonable explanation. Like she and Andrew went to lunch and for some reason she had them in her purse and they fell out. Maybe I’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion.”

“Maybe.” He shrugged. She appreciated the fact he wasn’t calling her on her BS excuses even though his face was the definition of skeptical.

“You sure you don’t mind giving me a ride?” she asked.

“I’ll get rid of your friend and take you home. That should buy you some time to figure things out. Confront her on your terms.”

Her initial impressions of Wyatt Abbott were from the viewpoint of a preteen girl. Back then, she’d been self-conscious of her skinny arms and legs and flyaway hair, and whenever she’d come to the garage with her daddy, Wyatt had made it his mission to tease her mercilessly.
What was he now? On the surface, she’d label him a good old boy. Fun, flirty, simple. Except, his gray eyes were anything but. Not flat like shale, but ready to spark a fire like a flint. Raw emotions provided a sharp awareness. Her memories of him urged her to be cautious with her trust, yet his jaw was set and his shoulders were rolled forward as if ready and willing to go into battle.

“Why?” she finally whispered.

“Why what?”

“Why are you being so nice to me? You hated me as a kid.”

“Hated you?” He stuffed his hands into his pockets and tipped his head enough to shutter his intensity of his eyes. “I never hated you, in fact . . .” He shook his head.

“In fact what?”

“Not important. Simply put, unlike your fiancé and your friend, I’m not an asshole. If you don’t need me—”

“No, I do need you.” She stood but misjudged how close he was. They weren’t touching, but she could feel his heat and appreciate his strength. “I just . . .”

Wyatt Abbott was handsome, but even more potent than his looks was an intangible confidence and ease with himself. The man probably talked a different woman out of her panties every weekend. Would he cash in on her humiliation for a good story to tell brothers and drinking buddies? Did it even matter? Whether it was him or someone else, rumors would rush through the town like their river after a storm

Insecurities pinged between her head and heart, the message clear. Protect yourself. But surely, she could at least trust him to get her home. “I would really appreciate a lift home.”

He chaffed her arms like a coach might comfort a little kid after a loss. “It’ll be okay. You wait here while I handle your friend, okay?”

She nodded, and he strode back toward the garage. Highlighted in a shaft of sunlight, he hesitated at the metal door they’d ducked through and glanced behind him. A zing of warning—or premonition?—skittered down her spine.
Her life had been spun into chaos, yet in that moment, she felt connected to Wyatt in a way that terrified her. Then he disappeared, and she waited to discover out if her trust had once again been misplaced.


 

About the Author pink

 

Laura Trentahm II

SaveAn award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. The first two books of her Falcon Football series were named Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. Then He Kissed Me, a Cottonbloom novel, was named as one of Amazon’s best romances of 2016. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

Social Links:
Facebook / Author Blog / Twitter@LauraTrentham / Author Website / Goodreads

There are two giveaways below:

 

Giveaway pink

Laura’s publisher is graciously offering a paper copy of LEAVE THE NIGHT ON to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe:

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

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9. Giveaway runs from August 5 to August 8, 2017

 

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NOTE: The Reading Cafe is NOT responsible for the rafflecopter giveaway. If you have any questions, please contact the tour provider (publisher).

Laura Trentham is doing for a beach bag prize pack with Cottonbloom books!

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A New Leash on Love by Debbie Burns – Promotion Excerpt & Giveaway

A New Leash on Love by Debbie Burns – Promotion Excerpt & Giveaway

 

A New Leash on Love STARRED review(1)

 

 

Title:A New Leash on Love
Series:Rescue Me #1
Author: Debbie Burns
Pub Date:July 4, 2017

A New Leash on Love

First in a fresh contemporary romance series from award-winning debut author Debbie Burns.

Every heart has a forever home.

Megan Anderson loves the animals at her no-kill shelter. She’ll do anything for them—even go toe-to-toe with a handsome man who’s in way over his head. She’ll help him sort out his troubles, but getting too close to an adorable puppy’s human counterpart? Been there, done that, got burned.

When Craig Williams arrived at the local shelter for help, he didn’t expect a fiery young woman to blaze into his life. But the more time they spend together, the more he realizes it’s not just animals Megan is adept at saving—she could be the one to rescue his heart.

Soon, Craig and Megan find that the magic of unconditional love can do anything…even lead to their forever home.

Amazon
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Chapters
Indiebound

NOTE: The review for A New Leash on Love will post on July 4th.

 

excerpt

 

[Craig] stood in Megan’s kitchen, watching her twist a mass of wavy hair up into a knot, leaving lone strands clinging to her neck, and he felt it again. His world was full of women who would be less complicated. Women who wouldn’t tie up his core and make him ache until his lungs seemed to scrape against his ribs.
What was he doing? He’d sworn to himself he’d stay away, but he’d driven here as if on autopilot rather than waiting for another time to give her the silly little present. Being with her was a mistake, even under the pretense of friendship, when he knew she wanted him as much as he wanted her. He’d make a bigger mess of a disaster.

She was unpacking groceries and making small talk he couldn’t process. Pulling out a colander, she filled it with fruit and washed it in the sink. When she turned off the water, she looked his way for the first time since he’d followed her inside carrying her packed-full reusable shopping bags.

“You okay?” She wiped her wet hands on her hips. “You look, I don’t know, confused.” She grinned suddenly and made air quotes as she continued. “Is it your lack of domesticity? Did I blunder by bringing you into my kitchen?”
Craig shook his head, surprised by the laugh that erupted from his chest. “No, you didn’t blunder.”
“Good, because I’m going to let you put together a plate of cheese and fruit while I take a shower. And don’t think that’s anything special because I always shower after I work in the kennels. I hate smelling like bleach and God knows what else.”
He felt his tension easing away as she spoke. He could do this. He could handle being with her. Tonight at least. A salve for wounds so raw he couldn’t ignore them any longer.
Megan pointed to one of the bags. “There’s fresh bread in that one. And crackers in the cupboard if you prefer.” She walked over to a cabinet beside the fridge and made a ta-da gesture as she opened it to reveal a latticed assortment of wines. “You can choose the wine, if there’s any you can stomach. I’m sure you don’t know any of the brands because they’re all under eight bucks a bottle.”
“Funny,” he said, “but most likely true.”
She shrugged, clearly unoffended. “Make yourself at home. I won’t be long.”
Under the watchful gaze of the cat that had scratched him, Craig pulled the rest of the contents from the bags after she left, then searched through cabinets and drawers to find a cutting board, a plate, and a knife.
By the time he’d chosen the wine, opened it, and laid out a decent-looking arrangement of cheese, fruit, and crackers, Megan was back, filling the small room with the scent of shea and lavender. She was dressed in a long-sleeved Henley and lounge pants, her hair still dry but free again. It was full, wavy, and beautiful, and made him want to lose his hands in it.
“Impressive.” She eyed his plate and cocked an eyebrow. “So there’s more to Craig Williams than marketer and entrepreneur extraordinaire.”
“You forgot abandoner of dogs.” He leaned back against the counter, trying not to focus on the small patch of skin between the rim of her shirt and the elastic-waisted pants that would be very easy to slide off.
“I didn’t forget. I’m officially forgiving you for that. And excuse the pants,” she said, noticing the direction of his gaze. “But your little slate came with the call for friendship, and there’s nothing like a pair of look-I’ve-added-ten-pounds cozy pants to meet that call, if you want my opinion. That and they’re comfortable.”
He passed her a glass of the wine. “As long as they’re comfortable.”
“Ha, are they that bad? On second thought, don’t answer that.”
“I won’t, but for the opposite reason of what you’re thinking. After asking for friendship, I don’t want to come across as if I’m hitting on you.”
A blush lit her cheeks as she sipped the wine. “Okay then. So, since you made the first course, I’ll get busy with the pizza. I’ve been told I make a killer pizza. In fact, it’s one of my best dishes.” She gave an exaggerated toss of her hair. “All it takes is one slice to become a true believer.”
Craig refilled his glass, noting the buzz washing over him. A buzz he realized he desperately wanted. Letting the halfway decent Syrah roll across his tongue, he sank to a chair at her table and watched her move about her kitchen with the confidence of someone who not only had committed everything about it to memory, but enjoyed it.
“I didn’t know you liked to cook.”
“You mean in my shoe filled with dogs?” Megan wrinkled her nose at him, remembering a joke he’d made about his thoughts on her home life during his and Sophie’s tour. “I do actually. I love it.”
“What’s your favorite dish?”
“To bake or cook?”
“Is there a difference?”
“A huge one. My favorite thing to bake is an in-season pie from fruit I’ve actually picked. To cook… That’s a hard one. I like to mix it up.”
“I’m sold on the pie.” He ran his fingertips over the smooth top of her table. “Let me know if I can help with anything.”
“You’re good for a bit. I’m going to teach you how to toss a crust. Everyone should learn to toss a crust.”
Craig chuckled. “Like they do in Italian kitchens? Don’t tell me some of those Europeans you mentioned at the coffee shop were Italian. You don’t look it.”
“I’m like an eighth or something. My dad worked his way through college in a pizzeria. I think I could toss a crust before my training wheels were off.”
He sank back in his chair and shook his head. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was her. Most likely it was her.
The cuts and scrapes and bruises that filled his insides had fallen silent for the first time in a long while. Finishing off his wine, he savored the peace washing over him.




About the Author

Debbie Burns
Debbie Burn resides in St. Louis, Missouri. Shelter is her first contemporary romance and has finaled in multiple contests. Her writing commendations include first place awards for short stories, flash fiction, and longer selections from the Missouri RWA and the Missouri Writers’ Guild.

You can find her on Twitter  and at debbiecausevic.com.

 

Giveaway

Debbie’s publisher is offering a paper copy of A NEW LEASH ON LOVE to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

NOTE: If you are having difficulty commenting after logging onto the site, please refresh the page at the top of your computer

2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.

3. Please LIKE us on FACEBOOK and click GET NOTIFICATIONS

4. Please FOLLOW us on Twitter for an additional entry.

5. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.

6. Follow DEBBIE BURNS  on Facebook.

7. Giveaway is open to USA/Canada only

8. Giveaway runs from June 29 to July 2, 2017

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The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely-Release Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway

THE KNOCKED UP PLAN by Lauren Blakely-Release Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway

TheKnocked Up Plan Banner

✮✮✮ THE KNOCKED UP PLAN is here! Grab your copy today! ✮✮✮

Add it to Goodreads here!

There are three little words most guys don’t want to hear on the first date. Not those…I mean these… “knock me up.”

This single gal has had enough of the games, the BS and the endless chase. I know what I want most, and it’s not true love. It’s a bun in the oven, and I’m not afraid to hit up my sex-on-a-stick co-worker to do the job. Ryder is gorgeous, witty and charming — and he’s also a notorious commitment-phobe. That makes him the perfect candidate to make a deposit in the bank of me.

I won’t fall for him, he won’t fall for me, and there’s no way baby will make three.

Right?

****
There are four words every guy wants to hear on the first date — “your place or mine?”

When my hot-as-sin co-worker makes me a no-strings-attached offer that involves her place, my place, any place — as well as any position — I can’t refuse. Besides, I’ve got my own reasons to take her up on her deal even with her one BIG condition.

There’s no way I’ll want more from one woman than any position, any where, any night? Except . . . what if I do?

Be prepared to swoon and fan yourself from the heat! This full-length standalone contains lots of hot baby-making s-e-x, happy tears, playful jokes and a hot, swoon worthy hero you will fall madly in love with. One-click now for pure reading enjoyment! 

Kindle US http://amzn.to/2tGZcTW

Kindle UK http://amzn.to/2tGZcTW

Kindle CA http://amzn.to/2rxQZ3E

Kindle AU http://amzn.to/2sMVWKw

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Kobo http://bit.ly/2q6a4Mt

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Amazon PB http://amzn.to/2pDgrE5

excerpt

 

“How does it work?” I ask. “The whole donation process.”
She stabs a carrot slice, chews, and swallows. “Well, there’s this thing guys do when they’re horny. It’s called”—she glances furtively from side to side—“jacking off.”
“I’m well aware of how the protein shake is made. What I mean is, are we talking about one of those little rooms you go into?” I ask, since what man doesn’t have an image of a jerk-off chamber? “With magazines or porn or whatnot?”
“Yes, they schedule the donors for forty-minute sessions in them.”
“I’m more efficient than that, but that’s good to know.” I take another bite and chew. I set down the burger. “So, a nurse or orderly would escort me to a special room, and then I’d need to drop my
drawers and whack off. Into a cup, right?”
“A plastic sample cup. With a top,” she says, and I’m kind of amazed that she’s answering every question like a champ. No blushing, no stammering.
“What do they provide for entertainment? Laptops? Computers? Or is it old school with Playboy?”
“They provide pornographic material in printed form as well as video on a TV screen.”
“Awesome. So I just choke the chicken in a room with a ton of other dudes going at it in their own rooms, too. Hand a cup to the nurse. She seals up the goods. Then, what’s next?”
“They do tests on your swimmers.”
“They’ll pass. Then you come in, maybe the same day, maybe a few days later?”
“Same day. We’d have to time everything to my cycle and when I’m ovulating.”
“Fine, so they undress you, prop you up on an exam table, and stick a turkey baster into you?”
“You paint a lovely picture of the process.”
I hold up a hand, waving her off. “Wait. I’m not done. You’re in nothing but a hospital gown. The doc tells you to put your cute little feet in stirrups, and they stick that baster up inside what I am sure
is an absolutely gorgeous and heavenly home,” I say, because if she can complement my tadpoles, I can say something nice about the paradise between her legs. She mouths a thank you. “After the boys
make the upstream trip, they send you home.” I mime patting her on the rear and then sending her out the door.
“I think you’ve got the basic idea.”
“And after that?”
“That’s all,” she says. “That’s all I’d want you to do. I don’t expect or want any involvement. I’d have all the paperwork drawn up in advance saying there are no legal rights, responsibilities, or expectations of parenting, and no financial commitments required.”
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but that’s the clincher for me—the lack of involvement. If I’m ever going to raise a child, I’m damn well going to do it right. The whole nine yards, two parents, just like my mom and dad raised my brother, my sister, and me.
Nicole isn’t asking me to sign up for daddy duty, though. She doesn’t want me to help with diaper detail or midnight feedings.
She’s a friend asking for the help she needs so she can then do those things on her own.
And helping a friend seems like something I should consider.
Fine, she’s asking for a hell of a lot more than a dude to put together an IKEA TV stand, and those things are beyond Da Vinci Code-level cryptic. I’d like to see Robert Langdon decipher some IKEA assembly instructions. Good luck with that, Harvard symbologist.
I like Nicole. I respect the dickens out of this woman. I want to take her request as seriously as she’s asking it. “Can I have a few days to think about it?”
“Of course. Take all the time you need,” she says, then glances at an imaginary watch on her wrist. “It’s only my biological clock ticking.”


 

About The Author Black and White

A #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that’s hot, sweet and sexy. She lives in California with her family and has plotted entire novels while walking her dogs. With fourteen New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than eighty times, and she’s sold more than 2 million books. In June she’ll release THE KNOCKED UP PLAN, a standalone contemporary romance. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter! laurenblakely.com/newsletter

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Lauren’s Bundle of Joy Special Delivery Giveaway! This bundle is valued at $200 and includes the most delicious cupcakes delivered to your door from Wicked Cupcakes, a $50 gift certificate for luxurious bath products to make your skin baby soft from The Body Shop, and comes wrapped up with a beautiful sterling silver bow bangle bracelet from Pandora ($125 value).

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Second Chance Season by Liora Blake – Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

Second Chance Season by Liora Blake – Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

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Description:
Garrett Strickland is unapologetically country, fiercely loyal, and perfectly happy with his job at the Hotchkiss Co-op. Garrett is all about living in the present and not dwelling in the past—even if he was once on his way to a lofty agricultural sciences degree that would guarantee the brightest of futures, only to end up back home when his old man died, leaving behind a debt-ridden family farm that was impossible to keep afloat. After that, it was easy to see why dreaming big wasn’t worth the heartache. And until he crosses paths with a city girl who’s hell-bent on kick-starting her own future, he’s sure that good enough is just that.

Cara Cavanaugh is ready for more from life, even if that means changing everything; including dumping her boyfriend of ten years, turning down a lucrative job at a major newspaper, and leaving behind the upscale suburbs of Chicago where she grew up. Now, she just has to pray that temporarily relocating to the middle of nowhere in Colorado will be the first step in building a career as a freelance journalist—all she has to do is prove she’s got what it takes to make a name for herself. Unfortunately, her tony country day school is as close to “country” as she’s ever been. But when a goodhearted guy who looks like he just stumbled out of a country music video offers to help, she ends up falling hard…and discovering that the perfect story is a love story. And it’s theirs.

 

Review:

Second Chance Season by Liora Blake is the 2nd book in her Grand Valley series. Cara Cavanaugh , our heroine, is on her way to Grand Valley, Colorado for a few months to research on the farming agriculture for her new freelance job.  Cara comes from a wealthy family, has broken up her engagement to her lifelong boyfriend, and is determined to make a name for herself.  While stopped on the side of the road close to her destination, she talks on the phone with her sister, when she is shocked to see someone knocking on the car window.  Who is this gorgeous cowboy?

Garrett Strickland, our hero, has lived in Hotchkiss all his life, and privately mourns the loss of his dad, and the land they had to sell to make ends meet.  When Garret is on his way home, he spots a car on the road, and goes to see if he can help.  Garrett sees an attractive girl, who looks like  “City” all over her.  Being the gentleman he is, Garret will have Cara follow him to the house she will be staying in during her research.  Of course, the house turns out to be his old house that he grew up in.

What follows is a slow build romance between two people totally different.  Garrett, who had an agricultural science degree, but gave it up when his family was debt ridden, is a full blown redneck cowboy; and Cara, is from wealth and city personified.   Wow, they were so good together; as their chemistry was off the wall hot.  Most of all, I loved everything about both of them.  Though they knew there was no future, they were so much fun together.  The witty banter between them; the lust they each had for each other was scorching, and it was fun to watch them fall hard for each other.  I really enjoyed their romance, and prayed they would find a way to stay together. The secondary characters in the book, including seeing Whitney and Cooper again, Braden and Cara’s sister Aimee were very good.  

As they begin to know they are falling in love, things begin to fall apart, since they knew that the time for Cara’s departure was near, with each having different lives to return to.  You will need to read this book to see what happens.  

I really enjoyed Second Chance Season, which was a perfect romance with a perfect couple.  The only thing I would add is that the last half of the book had a lot of constant sex scenes.  It was sensual, but I do like my stories in the forefront.  I do recommend that you read this, as it was an enjoyable read, and well written by Liora Blake.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

excerpt

 

Another pasture, another herd of cows. While it goes without saying that I can’t tell the diff erence, Garrett explains that this group is all fi rst-calf heifers, as in fi rst-time moms. Given that, they’re kept separate from the other cows, graze on the best-quality pasture, and get a little extra attention—and a few bonus calories.

Garrett is ambling through the herd, carrying a tub fi lled with feed pellets. Evidently, these protein-packed bits are the bovine equivalent of a Twinkie to a pothead. Because the moment they figure out what he has, they come running—well, not running, as much as clomping and plodding. But with a slobbering, unwavering gait and a penetrating gleam in their big cow eyes. It’s hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

Garrett, however, isn’t the least bit scared, and is able to avoid losing a hand or a fi nger to the more overzealous gals of the group. I can see his mouth moving, but with all the mooing and the fact I’ve stayed back by the truck while he works, I can’t hear what he’s saying. Chances are it’s the cow translation of fl irting. Because Garrett.

At the edge of the herd, he manages to turn my way and lifts the tub high in the air. “Cara! Bring me that other tub of pellets, will you? The girls are hungry.”

Oh, time to be helpful. Watch this city girl slay. I push off the dropped tailgate of his truck and haul forward the second pail sitting in the bed, but it’s heavier than expected, so I have to brace my hips and use both hands. Once I swing it down, I start Garrett’s way while avoiding the largest mud puddles. Garrett meets me halfway and immediately swoops in to take the pail. I turn around to head back to the truck, but I’m in the middle of the herd now, gazing out into a sea of bobbing cow heads. I try to stay cool and collected, even when I now have a close-up view to the size of their mouths and the bottom row of big, flat teeth working away inside those mouths—while knowing the only tool available for swatting or shooing is my scotch cap.

Speaking of swatting, my body goes rigid when I feel a nudge of something against my lower back. I can’t quite identify what’s at play here, but whatever it is starts to move southward.

Is that . . . ? No. Can’t be.

This gentle pressure, now squarely centered on the back pocket of my jeans, cannot be Garrett. He is not copping a feel. Not here, not now. Not absent of any attempt at seduction. Like, by way of dinner and a movie, some excuse to end up on the couch together when he drives me home, then using that to lean in for a kiss. Only after that would he go for the ass grab, right? He’s a raised-right country guy. Those rural roots alone must trend toward slower courtships.

And slow courtships would not involve descending his touch from my jean pockets to a place lower and more . . . between my legs.

Must. Set. Boundaries.

That’s what I need to do. Quickly. I don’t care if he does bring about lust-itis symptoms I can’t quite keep in check. This is not my speed—the fast-forward, skip-a-few-chapters, here’s-the-moneyshot speed. I take a deep breath and turn, fully prepared to lock eyes with Garrett and spell out my boundaries. Clearly and firmly.

Except Garrett isn’t next to me. I spot him fifteen feet away, carrying on another one-sided conversation with the cows. Most important, his hands are occupied—one gripping the pail handle and the other scooping out pellets.

A snort emerges from behind me, followed by my mind freight-training through the essentials of what’s happening right now.

Garrett is way over there.

I’m in the middle of a herd of cows. And something is touching me in a far-too-familiar way. All this is followed by a not-so-subtle poke in the ass—by a cow that either really likes me or really doesn’t.

Followed by me screaming.

My screaming does two things: elicits a very wet-sounding grunt from my cow paramour and prompts Garrett to whip his head our direction. He freezes, all except for his jaw dropping open. Another poke in the butt and I’m off, with only one objective in mind: to make it back to the truck so I can barricade myself inside. Whether cows lack opposable thumbs or not and locking the doors might be unnecessary, I don’t care. I barely register the mud bogs in my path because my feet are working at a squirrelly Flintstones pace, so what happens next is pretty much inevitable. Because when I plop a foot down in what looks like another shallow puddle, I find it’s actually a gully. A swamp-sized bog. A quagmire of epic proportions. Large enough to obscure the rock lying in wait to turn my ankle and fling me face-first into a pond of mud.

The fall and the cold and the mud take my breath away. Wet dirt seeps between my splayed fingers, splashes onto my face, and begins to soak the front of my clothes. And it doesn’t smell as if it’s composed entirely of dirt. Other stuff is mixed up in here. Other, more odorous stuff.

Garrett appears, sweeping to a stop in front of me before crouching down. Then he poses an obvious question. The inevitable, stupid, rhetorical question nearly anyone would feel compelled to ask in this situation. And he asks it with a look on his face like he’s dying to burst out laughing, but knows that wouldn’t be wise on his part, which makes the whole thing even worse.

“City. Whoa there. Are you OK?”

Point proven. The obvious answer to this obvious question would be to claim that I’m fine.

But I’m not.

My clothes are soaked through with sludge, my already tiny chest feels as if the impact may send me back into a training bra, and my face—where it isn’t covered in mud—is hot from humiliation. I push myself up and onto my knees. After a deep, shuddering breath, I stand up, take two steps to the right, where drier ground lies, then give my form a once-over to assess the situation.

Verdict is in. The situation sucks.

“Cara, answer me. Are you OK?”

I flick my gaze over to him and pin it there, biting my tongue both literally and figuratively, hard enough that tears are welling in my eyes. Garrett’s face falls, all traces of his stifled laughter having temporarily dissipated. He puts his hands to my upper arms, grips them gently.

“Fuck. Don’t cry, OK? Don’t cry, don’t cry. Just nod so I know you aren’t hurt.”

Just nod. This fucking guy. Mr. Rational Instructions Guy. Dreamy or not, he’s within striking distance, and I’m pissed at everything.

I take another deep breath and lay it on him good. “No! Of course I’m not OK! I’m covered in mud and cow shit!” I jab a finger in the air toward him. “And you’re trying not to laugh, I know it. Just laugh; you know you want to.”

Then I stamp my foot. Because I’m mature like that. More mud sloshes and lands on the backs of my hands.

And that’s all it takes. Garrett starts to howl, laughing so hard he doubles over, bracing his hands on his knees—and he doesn’t even have the decency to hold back his cackling, just lets it all out for what feels like a good ten minutes. When he’s finally able to breathe and stand upright again, his still annoyingly pretty hazel eyes are watering with gleeful tears. He wipes them away with the heel of one hand.

Garrett cups my face with his hands. “You’re fucking adorable.”

“You’re not,” I huff .

He tugs his hoodie sleeves down over his hands and starts to wipe the mud off of my face.

“If it makes you feel better, you wouldn’t believe how jealous I was of that heifer. That was a bold move she pulled. Knew what she wanted and went for it. Not the girl-on-girl action I usually go for, but still.”

He grins, a few residual laughs escaping him, and I groan. Garrett scans the front of my body, then takes my hand, leading us to the truck. After rustling around in the back, he extracts a stack of clothing from under the driver seat. Garrett holds up a pair of jeans, swinging a look between me and the pants. He drapes them over his forearm, tosses a T-shirt and a hooded camo sweatshirt onto the pile, and extends it my way.

“Redneck shenanigans often involve mud. This means always being prepared with a change of clothes. Come on, we’ll find a place for you to change.”

 

 

 

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Liora Blake’s publisher is offering a paper copy of SECOND CHANCE SEASON  to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

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8. Giveaway runs from June 22 to 27, 2017

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Gone to Dust by Liliana Hart – Review, our & Giveaway

Gone to Dust by Liliana Hart – Review, Tour & Giveaway

 

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Gone to Dust
Gravediggers series – Book #2
by Liliana Hart
Release Date: June 20, 2017

Gone to DustAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository

Description:
Sometimes the dead do rise…

Miller Darling is one of the most popular romance novelists of her time. Not bad for a woman who doesn’t believe in romance. She’s as logical as they come, and she doesn’t believe in happily-ever-afters. What she does believe in is family, so when her brother disappears, she doesn’t think twice about packing her bag and her laptop and heading out to find him.

Colin Moreau has an axe to grind. Of all the Gravediggers, he’s the most reluctant in his new role as dead man walking. He’s angry, and being stuck in the tiny town of Last Stop, Texas might as well be purgatory. He misses his country and the life he had before he was betrayed. The only thing keeping him sane are the men who are like him—the Gravediggers—and the woman who makes his head spin. He’s never met anyone like Miller Darling. She’s not intimidated by his scowls, and damned if he doesn’t find that appealing.

When Miller sneaks out of town in the dead of night, her suitcase in tow, he has no choice but to follow. He’s made an oath to the Gravediggers. Only death can separate them. But he’s willing to risk it all to follow the one woman who drives him crazy halfway around the world. But when the ones who own his soul find out that he’s deserted them, there will be nowhere to hide.

 

 

Review

Gone to Dust by Liliana Hart is the 2nd book in her Gravediggers series. Gone To Dust is a romance suspense, with a humorous touch, that takes place in a small town, Last Stop, Texas.   The Gravediggers are elite former military men that work at a funeral home as a cover, and are in actuality working for a secret government agency that takes on impossible missions.

We met Elias Cole in the previous book, as he is one of the Gravediggers.  Elias does what he has to do, but deep down he wants revenge against Eve Winter, the person who controls the organization that rules the Gravediggers.  Miller Darling, our heroine, is a successful romance author, whose own life is void of any kind of romance, until she meets Elias.  However, Miller is still very much angry with Elias, since the day he left her without a word, just when their sexual lust for each other was at its highest level.  Neither of them has spoken to each other since.

One day Miller receives a package, and to her horror, it contains a finger.  Miller will confirm that it belongs to her brother, whom she has not seen in many years.  Miller will go to Tess, and the rest of the Gravediggers for help to find her missing brother, and hope to save his life.  Elias and the Gravediggers will discover that the man behind the threat is a powerful drug lord, who wants Miller to help find her brother.  Why you ask?  It seems that Miller’s family (mother & father are deceased) has always been obsessed on finding  the treasure of King Solomon.  Justin, Miller’s brother, spent his life also looking for the treasure, which the drug lord is also obsessed with attaining, at any cost.

Elias, despite his desire to stay away from Miller, will change his mind when he sees she is planning on going to the Galapagos Islands to save her brother.  What follows is an exciting adventure, which has so many humorous moments between Elias and Miller, mainly due to their banter. Of course, along the journey, their sizzling chemistry will heat up, allowing them to finish what they started long ago.  Their romance was fun, as they made a fabulous couple, and it did not take long for them to find themselves falling in love.

Gone to Dust was action packed, with much excitement as the danger escalates.  Elias was a terrific hero, as he was a former Seal, which helped keep them alive.  What I loved the most about him was despite his rough exterior, he was so sweet and loving to Miller.  She was also a wonderful heroine, who had us laughing quite often along the way.  This was an enjoyable and exciting story, which kept us turning the pages to the end.  Liliana Hart once again gives us a fun filled, action packed, and fast paced story.  I suggest you start this series by reading the first book, The Darkest Corner, and then read Gone to Dust. 

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

About the author

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Liliana Hart is a New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than forty titles, including the Addison Holmes Whiskey and J.J. Graves Mystery series. Since self-publishing in June 2011, Liliana has sold more than four million ebooks. She’s hit the #1 spot on lists all over the world, and all three of her series have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Liliana is a sought-after speaker who’s given keynote speeches and self-publishing workshops to standing-room-only crowds from CA to NYC to London.
Visit LilianaHart.com, facebook.com/lilianahartauthor, twitter.com/Liliana_Hart.

 

giveaway

Liliana’s publisher is graciously offering a paper copy of the first book in this series, THE DARKEST CORNER to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe.

1. If you have not previously registered at The Reading Cafe, please register by using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.

2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.

3. Follow Liliana Hart on Facebook.

4. Please LIKE us on FACEBOOK and click GET NOTIFICATIONS

5. Please FOLLOW us on Twitter for an additional entry.

6. Please FOLLOW us on GOODREADS for an additional entry.

7. Giveaway is open to USA only

8. Giveaway runs from June 20-23, 2017

Publisher Note: For the Gravedigger Giveaway, we are giving away one review copy of Book 1, The Darkest Corner! Be sure to check out all participating sites on the blog tour for more Gravedigger Giveaways. And note that RT will giveaway three bundles of Book 1 and Book 2, with the drawing to be held Monday, July 10th.

 

Gone to Dust blog tour:

June 20

Moohnshine’s Corner

RT Book Reviews – Gravedigger Giveaway Bundle (Book 1 and 2) drawing opens

For the Love of Books and Alcohol

Dirty and Thirty

The Reading Cafe

Red Carpet Crash

Celtic Lady’s Reviews

Booktalk with Eileen

June 21

Book Sniffers Anonymous

Abigail Books Addiction

Crossroads

Fandemonium Network

Little Black Book Review

Blonde Bookworm

Eye on Romance

June 22

Read Your Writes

Three Boys and an Old Lady

Rock Stars of Romance

A Midlife Wife

Tigris Eden

Under the Covers

Positively Book Crazy

June 23

Ramblings from a Chaotic Mind

Once Upon An Alpha

Reading Diaries

WTF Are You Reading

Thoughts in Progress

The Lovely Books

The Sassy Bookster

June 24

Romance Junkies

June 26

Reviews by Crystal

Blogging by Liza

 

June 27

Pick of the Literate

The Reader’s Den

June 28

Dew on the Kudzu

Read for Your Future

Bookfan-Mary

June 29

Bea’s Book Nook

JoJo the Bookaholic

June 30

Readaholic

The Book Avenue

July 5

Caffeinated Book Reviewer

July 7

Romance Reviews Today

July 9

RT Book Reviews – Gravedigger Giveaway Bundle (Book 1 and 2) drawing date

September 25

Authors on the Air Global Radio Network – Gravediggers Series interview

 

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Silver Silence by Nalini Singh – Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

Silver Silence by Nalini Singh – Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

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Silver Silence
Psy-Changeling Trinity series
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: June 13, 2017

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Description:
Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that’s exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater Bears, brings with him.

Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence—her mind clear of all emotion—Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That’s what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious…and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.

Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed…

 

 

Review:

Silver Silence by Nalini Singh was another fantastic read in her Psy/Changeling series, which is now in a 2nd arc,Psy/Changeling Trinity.  Upon completing the book, I was thrilled to feel that though we have newer characters, the main element of Changelings , Psy and Humans remains and thus we have many more super stories to come in this fabulous world. 

In Silver Silence, which takes place in Moscow, Silver Mercant is our heroine, and a Psy. Silver, is a stone cold psy, still ruled by Silence, and is the heir apparent leader of the Mercant family; the director of the new EmNet (worldwide emergency response network), and she works for Kaleb Krychek. 

Valentin Nikolaev, our hero, is a bear changeling and the alpha of the Stonewater Bears. Valentin is obsessed with Silver, and is determined to find a way to get her to feel something for him.  When he makes an appearance at her home, bringing business papers, she collapses.  Valentin will get immediate help and in the process will save Silver’s life.

Between Silver’s grandmother, Valentin and Kaleb, the decision is made to protect Silver, who was poisoned, and help her recuperate by going to Denhome,  Valentin’s territory with the bears.  They will protect her with their lives, especially Valentin, and the Mercants will investigate who is behind the attempt on Silver’s life.

What follows is the continuing of the war dividing the peace accord between Changelings/Psy and Humans.  There are two factions (Consortium-HAPMA) that threaten the peace accord (Alliance, Trinity Accord, EmNet), trying to kill those deemed important to the structure , such as Silver and/or Humans willing to work with the Trinity accord. Singh’s  complex and fantastic world building gives us more to comprehend in this intriguing world that we have come to love.  What makes this story so good is watching Silver begin to feel emotions, and finds herself falling for Valentin.  This was such a beautiful romance between two people so different, and yet so right. 

I loved Valentin; he was fun, sweet, protective, and determined to win her love.  He was the perfect person to slowly open up Silver to a different world.  I loved how the Stonewater Bears opened their arms to Silver, accepting her, and in time, she learns to accept and enjoy living among them. I also enjoyed getting to know Silver’s grandmother, the current powerful leader of the Mercants.  As for Silver, what an awesome heroine; I loved loved Silver, as she was tough, smart, powerful, and a true leader.  It was so emotional  to watch her cope with her feelings that began to surface. Once again, an awesome romance, with an awesome couple.

But just when our couple have found the impossible, their happiness is short lived, as things do go wrong, which brings Silver back to the emotionless life she had before.  Will she find a way to love Valentin or will she go fully back to Silence?

I have said this before, and will do so again.  Nalini Singh has become my go to author and in every single book she writes in her Psy/Changeling and Guild Hunter series, her stories never fails to captivate me; hold my interest from start to finish; giving us such wonderful characters, including the awesome couples and fantastic world-building.  I am totally in awe how Nalini can constantly create such perfection.  Bravo to Nalini Singh.  If you have not read the Psy/Changeling series (both arcs), you are seriously missing a great series and a fantastic author.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

 

excerpt

 

“Laughing at the cubs’ antics, Valentin jogged down the slight incline and waded into what had to be ice-cold water after kicking off his boots and socks. He splashed the cubs, laughed when they splashed him back. Running so they could chase him, he turned abruptly and chased them back, to their unhidden joy.
Silver took a seat on the grass. When the female bear looked her way, she inclined her head in a silent greeting. The bear did the same, then they both watched an alpha bear play with two energetic cubs, his hands holding rough care for their small bodies.
By the time Valentin made his way back to her, he was drenched and his eyes weren’t human in any way. When he spoke, his already deep voice was so low it felt like thunder against her skin. “Couldn’t resist,” he said, pushing back his wet hair with one big hand. “If you weren’t in recovery and if I wasn’t in terror of Nova’s wrath, I’d have invited you. The small monsters wanted to play with you.”
Silver didn’t get to her feet. “Can we stay here a little longer?” It was patent that Valentin had an extremely high tolerance for the cold, but he might want to dry off.
“Sure,” he said, and, moving away several feet, shook off the wet.
Fine droplets settled on the skin of her cheek, but she didn’t flinch at the unintentional tactile contact. She also controlled her urge to reach up and touch the water where it lay against her skin. There was no reason to do that, and Silver was alive because she only did things that were rational.
Settling beside her, Valentin waved at the cubs as their guardian led their tired forms toward a path in the trees that was at the same level as the stream. “Gentler climb,” Valentin told her.
“They seem too exhausted to make it to Denhome.”
“It’s all an act—they’re hoping for a ride on their aunt’s back.” His tone held the same fond affection she’d heard when he spoke of Dima. “It’d take more than a few minutes’ play in the water to wipe out those two.”
The cubs had played with Valentin for almost a half hour. “They’re hyperactive?”
“They’re baby bears.”
Silver watched as those baby bears turned toward her and rose up on their back paws, as if in challenge. A stern sound from their caretaker, and they dropped down and scrambled to catch up with her. Their bodies disappeared into the trees as dusk began to turn from orange to shadowy gray.
Beside her, Valentin sprawled out, bracing himself on his elbows. His drenched T-shirt clung to the ridged muscles of his abdomen, pulled tight across his pectoral muscles, shaped itself over his shoulders. His jeans weren’t much better, outlining the raw muscle of his thighs.
Valentin Nikolaev was a man of violent physical strength even in human form. Yet he clearly had iron control over it; when he’d played with the children, they’d displayed zero fear of their alpha.
“You thought about where you’re going to live when you escape the bears who’ve kidnapped you?”
When she raised an eyebrow at him, he grinned. “Fringe netter with his own Internet channel sent out a breaking report last night. Pasha—who obviously needs more work duties—made up a fake account and posted a comment swearing to have seen you being pulled into a black van by six burly bears in bear form.”
“You don’t seem too concerned.” Amber eyes and deep voice, he remained very much a bear in human form.
“Well, according to this ‘eyewitness,’ the getaway driver was in bear form, too. Must’ve been tough for him to steer with one paw since he was drinking a beer at the same time.”
“Bears,” Silver said, making Valentin throw his head back and laugh that huge laugh that wrapped around her.


Posted by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nalini Singh, 2017. 

 

About the author
Nalini Singh
I was born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand. I spent three years living and working in Japan, where I took the chance to travel around Asia. I’m back in New Zealand now, but I’m always plotting new trips. If you’d like to see some of my travel snapshots, have a look at the Travel Diary page.

I’ve worked as a lawyer, a librarian, a candy factory general hand, a bank temp and an English teacher, but not necessarily in that order. Some might call that inconsistency, but I call it grist for the writer’s mill.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. All of my stories held a thread of romance, even when I was writing about a prince who could shoot lasers out of his eyes. Creating unique characters and giving them happy endings is my favorite thing. I even love the voices in my head, so there’s no other job I’d rather be doing. When I got the call in September 2002 that Silhouette Desire wanted to buy my first book, Desert Warrior, it was a dream come true. I hope to continue living the dream until I keel over of old age on my keyboard.

To learn more about Nalini Singh, you can follow her on the following links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

giveaway

Nalini’s publisher is offering a hard copy of SILVER SILENCE to ONE (1) lucky commenter at The Reading Cafe

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8. Giveaway runs from June 13 to 17, 2017

 

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Dating the Undead by Juliet Lyons – Review, Spotlight, Guest Post & Giveaway

Dating the Undead by Juliet Lyons – Review, Spotlight, & Giveaway

 

Dating the Undead
Undead Dating Service series – Book #1
by Juliet Lyons
Release Date: May 2, 2017

Dating the UndeadAmazon / B&N / Kobo  / BAM / Book Depository

Dating the Undead Promo

Description:
It’s Bridget Jones with vampires in this fresh and funny paranormal romance from debut author Juliet Lyons

When Silver Harris kisses sexy Irish vampire Logan Byrne on New Year’s Eve, she knows other humans just won’t suffice. Convinced she’ll never see him again, she joins the uber-popular vampire dating site, V-Date.com.

What Silver doesn’t know is that the site is more dangerous than she could ever imagined, and soon she’s in over her head. When Logan returns, sparks fly and attraction sizzles, but they’ll have to escape some very real demons if they have any chance of lasting forever.

 

Review:

Dating the Undead by Juliet Lyons is the 1st book in her Undead Dating Service series.  This was a different type of paranormal story line revolving around vampires and humans.   Silver Harris, our heroine, is a beautiful feisty sexy young girl, who secretly is trying to find the person responsible for killing her mother.  Silver starts dating vampires, which in this book, seems the norm for human girls who find them sexy and attractive.  Silver has agreed to go undercover using the V-Date.com site to help the police learn more information about how vampires live and how to stop them. 

Logan Byrne is close to 200 years old, and is a gorgeous vampire with sexy green eyes.  He saves Silver from a bad vampire, and in no time their attraction for each other is hotter than hell. Logan works for Ronin, the ancient vampire who he is blood bound to; Little does Logan know that the assignment he is given, will bring him to Silver.   Their relationship was great, as Silver was a piece of work, with her off the cuff sassy comments, and  I loved them together.  They were so much fun, not to mention totally steamy. 

Logan realizes he is falling in love with Silver, having feelings he has not had for so long. Because he knows his boss will not approve, and his fear of his old dangerous sire coming back to haunt him, Logan will decide to break up with Silver to keep her safe.   Once he finds out that Silver is working for the police, Logan knows he has to protect her, and also knows he can’t live without her.  At this point, all hell is about to break loose, with Logan’s sire returning putting both of their lives together.   During this time, Silver will also find out who was responsible for her mother’s murder.

I enjoyed Dating the Undead, mainly because the main characters were lots of fun, likeable and their chemistry was off the wall.   After the exciting & surprise climax twist, there was an epilogue that moved forward three years in time, which was a nice touch.  Wonderful start of this new series by Juliet Lyons.  I recommend Dating the Undead to read if you enjoy paranormal romances with vampires.

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by Publisher

Guest post-White and Red

10 ways to tell if your date is actually a vampire by Juliet Lyons

  1. They only want to meet at night, using the excuse that they’re not ‘a morning person’
  1. On a date to the beach, you catch them harassing the lady in the mini mart to check the stock room for Hawaiian Tropics factor 500.
  1. When you get a paper cut, they’re oddly excited.
  1. They’re still not over their ex. Even though the latter has been dead for two hundred years.
  1. Every time you mention a church wedding they recoil in horror*.
  1. They often refer to Eric from True Blood as someone who ‘has their shit together.’
  1. They drink a lot of red wine, but never seem drunk. Wait — is that actually wine?
  1. They have pale, flawless skin despite the fact you’ve never once seen them cleanse and/or moisturize.
  1. When watching any kind of sporting event, they constantly scoff and sneer at the athletes.‘Please! Is that the best they can do?’
  1. They are particularly keen to remind you that the neck is a top five erogenous zone…

*Does not necessarily mean they are a vampire. Mortals — particularly males—are also prone to behaving in this way.

Clichéd lines from dating profile

Want to grab a bite?

I’d love to take you to dinner…If you’re okay with being the main course…
Male Vampire seeking a special someone to share his life—or death depending on how you look at it.
I can’t offer you sunshine, but I can offer you eternity.



excerpt

I freeze in terror. What a waste of Dad’s money those self-defense classes turned out to be.
“Silver, it’s just me,” a lilting Irish voice says at my ear, the hand dropping from my shoulder.
I turn around to find myself nose to nose with my vampire from New Year’s Eve, his bright green eyes piercing mine.
I’m struck by several conflicting emotions all at once—anger, relief, and in a tiny measure—happiness. Anger wins out. On impulse, I slap him hard across the face, pointing with a white, clenched hand to the garden I’ve just sprinted across.
“I thought I was about to be murdered, asshole,” I hiss through my teeth. “I ripped my coat. My heels are ruined. All because you thought it might be fun to follow me home.”
He smirks, nonplussed, sliding his hands into the deep pockets of his navy pea coat. “I wasn’t following you,” he says, eyes twinkling.
“Oh, that’s right,” I say, voice dripping with sarcasm. “You were just walking me home again. Except this time from fifty yards behind and without me knowing.”
Before he has a chance to reply, the front door flies open and my landlady Vera emerges in a long, silky, oriental dressing gown. She is wigless for once, a Pucci scarf twisted into a makeshift turban covering her head. In her right hand, she holds a meat cleaver.
“Step away, you rapist bastard!” she yells, holding the large knife shakily aloft.
I glare at the vampire, expecting him to either throw his hands in the air or take a step backwards. Instead his brows knit together and his mouth drops open. “Etta Marlow?” he asks, staring at her as if she just walked on water.
The meat cleaver lowers a fraction. “What’s it to you?” Vera demands, her voice losing some of its previous menace.
I roll my eyes. Of course he remembers her. He’s probably seen all her films.
“It is you!” he erupts, wagging a finger in her direction. “You’re Etta Marlow! You played Susie De Sousa in Girl Uptown with Gregor Lane. I love that movie.”
The meat cleaver drops, forgotten, to her side as she pats her turban, eyelashes fluttering. “Fancy you recognizing me,” she mutters happily.
“Excuse me, Vera,” I interject, “but there’s still a potential rapist on your doorstep here.”
Vera looks back to the vampire, who shakes his head, smiling. “A misunderstanding, Etta. I was making sure Silver here made it home safely. She got the wrong end of the stick.”
Vera, or Etta as she was once known, glances over at me. “Do you know this charming fellow, dear?”
I scowl at them both. “Well, yes, but— “
“Well then, you must come in, dear boy. I could show you my Oscar, if you like?”
The Vampire looks as if he’s about to pee himself with excitement. “You mean the one you got for Days Like These with Vic Stevens?”
She holds out a thin hand towards him, gold bangles jangling on her wrist. “The very one, dear. Come, come in.”
I watch, stunned, as he takes her hand, green eyes lit up in excitement.
Before stepping through the door, he hangs back. “Ms. Marlow, I’m afraid it’s only courteous to let you know before I enter that I’m not human. I’m a vampire.”
Vera’s tinkly laugh echoes around the street like a bicycle bell. “Oh, you’re so sweet. Didn’t you know I’ve met dozens of vampires? They’re two a penny in Hollywood, darling.”
Following her across the threshold, he flashes the cockiest of grins. “Coming, Silver?”
My jaw drops in disgust. I’m tempted to sulk off to my basement flat, but instead, I trail after them and slam the door.
We follow Vera along an elegant gold and cream hallway into her immaculate, monochrome front room. Even though I’ve been here on numerous occasions, I’m always mesmerized by the sheer extravagance of the place—buttery white leather sofas, cream fur rugs, one wall is painted black and white to resemble piano keys. It should look tacky, but somehow, it works.
“You two make yourselves at home whilst I go and make myself presentable.” Vera says. “Then I’ll dig out that old Oscar of mine.”
I know, of course, the Oscar will not have to be ‘dug’ out of anywhere. It’s always on display in the den, alongside her film stills and other memorabilia.
“I didn’t catch your name,” she croons to the vampire before she leaves.
He puts a hand on his chest. “Forgive me, I should have introduced myself. Between the meat cleaver threat and getting slapped by Silver here, I seem to have forgotten my manners. I’m Logan. Logan Byrne.”
For strange and unfathomable reasons, my stomach flips. Logan. It suits him.
“Charming,” Vera says. “Don’t you go anywhere, Mr. Byrne.”
As soon as Vera disappears from the room, Logan collapses into one of the white leather arm chairs and puts his crossed feet onto the cut glass coffee table.
I’m still standing, one brow arched, arms folded across my chest. “So, Logan,” I hiss. “What the hell is this?”
He grins, dimples putting in their first appearance of the night as he gazes up at me. “Did anyone ever tell you, you’re particularly beautiful when you’re angry?”
“Oh, cut the crap,” I say, ignoring the hot flush climbing my neck. “Why did you follow me?”
“Like I told Etta, I wanted to make sure you got home safely, that’s all. Though I’m a little confused as to why you have three houses.” He holds up fingers to count. “The one I left you at on New Year’s, the one Nathaniel dropped you at, and now this—cohabiting with an aged 1940’s screen siren.”
“It’s none of your business,” I say, chin in the air. “And anyway, how do you know Nathaniel?”
He shrugs. “I know most of the vampires in London.”
I humpth. “I bet you do.”
In the blink of an eye, he is towering over me, face inches from mine. I inhale his clean, masculine scent like a drowning person coming up for air, and as he leans closer, I find myself gravitating towards him—a flower reaching for sunlight.
He pulls the collar of my coat aside and peers into the gap. As his fingers brush my jaw, an uncontrollable shiver zings through me. I disguise it by stepping out of reach and batting his hand away.
“He did a messy job on your neck,” he says, in a low voice.
“What’s it to you?” I snap.
Before I realize what’s happening, he closes the gap between us. One hand cupping my cheek, he bends over, lips brushing the place Nathaniel bit me, tongue gently swiping the puncture holes.
“That should stop the bleeding,” he says, pulling away. “But you’ll still have a bruise in the morning.”
I rub my neck and look at my fingers. No blood. “So, you can heal wounds? Just another of your unique skills along with beating up drunk men and following young women home for kicks?”
He sinks back into the armchair. “You’re a sexy girl, Silver. I’m glad we’ve met again.”
I snort incredulously, trying, without success, to forget the warmth of his hand on my face. “Well, you certainly made sure we did.”
“And of course,” he continues, pretending to examine a photo on the coffee table. “I’m hugely flattered I’ve managed to turn your head towards my kind.”
“You didn’t turn anything,” I say tartly.
He cocks a brow, gaze burning through my clothes like a laser. I feel a sharp twitch between my legs, as though he’s controlling my private areas by some invisible string. “Are you sure about that?”


 

About The Author

Juliet Lyons
JULIET LYONSis a paranormal romance author from the UK. She holds a degree in Spanish and
Latin American studies and works part-time in a local primary school where she spends far too much time
discussing Harry Potter. Since joining global storytelling site Wattpad in 2014, her work has receivedmillions of hits online and gained a legion of fans from all over theworld. When she is not writing, Juliet enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Social Networking Links

 

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NOTE: The Reading Cafe is NOT responsible for the rafflecopter giveaway. If you have any questions, please contact the tour provider.

 

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A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala – Review, Excerpt, Spotlight & Giveaway

A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala – Review, Excerpt, Spotlight & Giveaway

 

A Piece of My Heart
Blessings, Georgia series – Book #4
by Sharon Sala
Release Date: May 2, 2017

a Piece of my HeartAmazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / Book Depository / IBooks

 

A Piece of My Heart Graphic

 

Description:
She’s never had a home
Growing up in a troubled foster home, Mercy Dane knew she could never rely on anyone but herself. She’s used to giving her all to people who don’t give her a second glance, so when she races to Blessings, Georgia, to save the life of an accident victim, she’s flabbergasted when the grateful town opens its arms to her. She never dreamed she’d ever find family or friends–or a man who looks at her as if she hung the stars.

Until she finds peace in his arms
Police Chief Lon Pittman is getting restless living in sleepy little Blessings. But the day Mercy Dane roars into his life on the back of a motorcycle, practically daring him to pull her over, he’s lost. There’s something about Mercy’s tough-yet-vulnerable spirit that calls to Lon, and he will do anything in his power to make her realize that home isn’t just where the heart is–home is where their heart is.

Review:

A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala is the 4th book in her wonderful Blessings, Georgia series. Having read and enjoyed the earlier books, I thought that A Piece of My Heart was the best one yet.  An awesome story all the way through.

Mercy Dane, our heroine, grew up in various foster homes, not really having a family.  She works in a bar as a waitress to be able to pay her bills, and drives a motor cycle.  One night, she gets a call to give her rare type blood to an accident victim in Blessings, Georgia.  Lon Pittman is the Chief of Police in Blessings, and follows a blur passing by at high speed on a motor cycle. When he arrives at the hospital, he finds out why the need for speed.  Once Lon sees Mercy, he recognizes her from a number of years ago, when he helped her; and they had a one night stand.  Lon has not forgotten her, and immediately feels a rekindling of attraction to Mercy. 

The accident victim was Hope Talbot, who desperately needs blood to survive.  Her husband and brother in law are in the waiting area, when they meet the women who is helping her.  They both notice a tattoo on Mercy, and the resemblance to Hope, who lost her sister years before in the foster care system.  Mercy becomes nervous when they ask her to submit a DNA test, and heads back to Savannah.  In a short time, Mercy will discover that Hope is indeed her sister, and will return to Blessings. 

What follows is a beautiful emotional story line that will change Mercy’s life for the better.  She will finally find herself with a family, and seeing Hope and Mercy meet again was very emotional.  Love was something Mercy did not allow herself to feel, until she finds herself becoming more trusting and happy.  The town of Blessings has also opened their heart to the women who saved Hope, and who also is a great baker, and thinks nothing of putting herself on the line when helping others.

Lon and Mercy’s romance is fun and sweet, as they both fall in love quickly.  Once Mercy accepts she is part of a family, with a new job she loves, she will openly accept Lon as the man she wants to spend her life with.   There were a number of emotional moments, especially near the end that almost brought us to tears.   This is a fabulous small town romance, a wonderful couple, and a sweet story line revolving around a young girl whose hard life changed dramatically.  A Piece of My Heart was a wonderful read, written so very well by Sharon Sala.

 

excerpt

From childhood, Mercy Dane viewed Christmas Eve in Savannah, Georgia, like something out of a fairy tale. The old, elegant mansions were always lit from within and decorated with great swags of greenery hanging above the doorways and porch railings like thick green icing on snowy white cakes.
The shops decked out in similar holiday style were as charming as the sweet southern women who worked within. Each shop boasted fragrant evergreens, plush red velvet bows, and flickering lights mimicking the stars in the night sky above the city.
And even though Mercy had grown up on the hard side of town with lights far less grand, the lights in her world burned with true southern perseverance. Now that she was no longer a child, the beauty of the holiday was something other people celebrated, and on this cold Christmas Eve, she no longer believed in fairy tales. So far, the chapters of her life consisted of a series of foster families until she aged out of the system, and one magic Christmas Eve with a man she never saw again. The only lights in her world now were the lights where she worked at the Road Warrior Bar.
The yellow neon sign over the bar was partially broken. The R in Road was missing its leg, making the word look like Toad. But the patrons who frequented this bar didn’t care about the name. They came for the company and a drink or two to dull the disappointment of a lifetime of regrets.
Carson Beal, who went by the name of Moose, owned the bar. He’d been meaning to get the R fixed for years, but intention was worth nothing without the action, and Moose had yet to act upon the thought.
Outside, the blinking neon light beckoned, calling the lonely and the thirsty into the bar where the beer was cold and the gumbo and rice Moose served was hot with spice and fire.
Moose often took advantage of Mercy’s talent for baking after she’d once brought cupcakes for Moose and the employees to snack on. After that, she’d bring in some of whatever she’d made at home. On occasion Moose would ask her to bake him something special. It was always good to have a little extra money, so she willingly obliged.
This Christmas Eve, Moose had ordered an assortment of Christmas cookies for the bar. When Mercy came in to work carrying the box of baked goods, he was delighted. Now a large platter of cookies graced the north end of the bar.
The incongruity of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” playing in the background was only slightly less bizarre than the old tinsel Christmas tree hanging above the pool table like a molting chandelier.
Because of the holiday, only two of his four waitresses were on duty, Barb Hanson, a thirtysomething widow with purple hair, and Mercy Dane, the baker with a curvy body.
Mercy’s long, black hair was a stunning contrast to the red Christmas sweater she was wearing, and her willowy body and long, shapely legs looked even longer in her black jeans and boots. Her olive skin and dark hair gave her an exotic look, but being abandoned as a baby, and growing up in foster care, she had no knowledge of her heritage.
Barb of the purple hair wore red and green, a rather startling assortment of colors for a lady her age, and both women were wearing reindeer antler headbands with little bells. Between the bells and antlers, the music and cookies, and the Christmas tree hanging above the pool table, Moose had set a holiday mood.
Mercy had been working at the bar for over five years. Although she’d turned twenty-six just last week, her life, like this job, was going nowhere.
It was nearing midnight when a quick blast of cold air suddenly moved through the bar and made Mercy shiver. She didn’t have to look to know the ugly part of this job had just arrived.
“Damn, Moose, play some real music, why don’t ya?” Big Boy yelled as the door slammed shut behind him.
Moose glared at the big biker who’d entered his bar. “This is real music, Big Boy. Sit down somewhere and keep your opinions to yourself.”
The biker flipped Moose off, spat on the floor, and stomped through the room toward an empty table near the back, making sure to feel up Mercy’s backside in passing.
When Big Boy suddenly shoved his hand between her legs, she nearly dropped the tray of drinks she was carrying. She knew from experience that he was waiting for a reaction, so she chose to bear the insult without calling attention to it.
As soon as he was seated, Big Boy slapped the table and yelled at the barmaids. “One of you bitches bring me a beer!”
Moose glanced nervously at Mercy, aware that she’d become the target for most of Big Boy’s harassment.
Barb sailed past Mercy with a jingle in every step. “I’ve got his table,” she said.
“Thanks,” Mercy said, and delivered the drinks she was carrying. “Here you go, guys! Christmas Eve cheer and cookies from Moose!”
One trucker, a man named Pete, took a big bite out of the iced sugar cookie. “Mmm, this is good,” he said.
“Mercy made them,” Moose yelled.
Pete shook his head and took another bite. “You have a fine hand with baking. I’d ask you to marry me, darlin’, but my old lady would object.”
Mercy took the teasing with a grin. The men at this table were good men who always left nice tips. In fact, most of the patrons in the bar were men with no family or truckers who couldn’t get home for Christmas. Every now and then, a random woman would wander in to have a drink, but rarely lingered, except for Lorena Haysworth, the older woman sitting at the south end of the bar.
She’d been coming here since before Mercy was born, and in her younger days she and Moose had been lovers before slowly drifting apart. She’d come back into his life a few months ago and nightly claimed the seat at the end of the bar.
Barb took the first of what would be multiple beers to Big Boy’s table, along with a Christmas cookie and a bowl of stale pretzels, making sure to keep the table between them.
Big Boy lunged at her as if he was going to grab her, and when she turned around and ran, he leaned back and laughed.
Mercy returned to the bar with a new order and waited for Moose to fill it.
“Sorry about that,” Moose said, as he glanced toward the table where Big Boy was sitting.
Her eyes narrowed angrily. “How sorry are you? Sorry enough to kick him out? Or just sorry his money is more important to you than me and Barb?”
Moose’s face turned as red as his shirt. “Damn it, Mercy. You know how it goes,” he said, and pushed the new order across the bar.
She did know. The customer was always right. Trying not to buy into the turmoil, she picked up the tray and delivered the order with a smile.
The night wore on with Big Boy getting drunker and more belligerent, while Barb and Mercy dodged his constant attempts to maul them, until finally, it was time to close.
It was a few minutes before 2:00 a.m. when Moose shut down the bar. There were only three customers left. Big Boy, who was so close to passed out he couldn’t walk, Lorena, who was waiting to go home with Moose, and a trucker who’d fallen asleep at his table.
Mercy headed for the trucker, leaving Moose to wrestle Big Boy up and out.
The trucker was a small, wiry man named Frank Bigalow who fancied himself a ringer for country music star Willie Nelson. He was dreaming of hit songs and gold records when Mercy woke him.
“Frank. Frank. You need to wake up now. We’re closing.”
Bigalow straightened abruptly, momentarily confused as to where he was, then saw Mercy and smiled.
“Oh. Right. Sure thing, honey. What do I owe you?” he mumbled.
“Twelve dollars,” she said.
Bigalow stood up to get his wallet out of his pants then pulled out a twenty. “Keep the change and Merry Christmas,” he said.
“Thanks,” she said, and began bussing his table as he walked out of the bar.
Moose had Big Boy on his way out the door, and it was none too soon for Mercy.
She handed Moose the twenty when he returned. “Take twelve out. The rest is mine,” she said, and pocketed the change Moose gave her.
Within fifteen minutes, the bar was clear and swept, the money was in the safe, and Barb and Mercy were heading for the door.
“Hey! Girls! Wait up!” Moose said, then handed them each an envelope, along with little bags with some of Mercy’s cookies. “Merry Christmas. We’re not open tomorrow so sleep in.”
“Thank you,” Barb said, as she slid the envelope inside her purse.
“Much appreciated,” Mercy added, as she put her envelope in one of the inner pockets of her black leather bomber jacket. It was old and worn, but it was warm.
Then she grabbed her helmet and the cookies and headed out the door behind Barb and just ahead of Moose and Lorena. Once outside, she paused to judge the near-empty parking lot, making sure Big Boy and his Harley were at the motel across the street.
The air was cold and the sky was clear as she stashed the cookies, then put on her helmet and mounted her own Harley. Seconds later the quiet was broken by the rolling rumble of the engine as she toed up the kickstand, put the bike in gear, and rode off into the night.
The empty streets on the way to her apartment were a little eerie, but she was so tired she couldn’t work up the emotion to be scared. The streetlights were draped with Christmas garlands and red bows, but they were all one blur as Mercy sped toward home.
A city cop on neighborhood patrol saw her, recognized the lone bike and biker, and blinked his lights as she passed him.
She waved back and kept going.
When she stopped for a red light and realized she was the only person on this stretch of street, she didn’t breathe easy until the light turned green, and she moved on.
Finally, she was home. She eased up on the accelerator as she rolled through the gates of her apartment complex and parked the motorcycle beneath a light in plain view of the security cameras. She ran up the outer stairs to the second level and down the walkway to her apartment carrying her helmet and the cookies. No matter how many times she’d done this or how many times she’d moved since it happened, the fact that she’d once come home late at night to find out she’d been robbed, she never felt safe until she was in the apartment with the door locked behind her.
She tossed the helmet onto the sofa and took the cookies into the kitchen. Curious as to how much of a bonus Moose was giving this year, she was pleased to see a hundred-dollar bill.
“Nice,” she said, and took it and her night’s worth of tips to the refrigerator, opened up the freezer, and put the money inside an empty box that had once held a biscuit mix.
She wasn’t sure how much money she had saved up, but last time she’d counted it had been over two thousand dollars. It should have been in a bank, but these days, banks cost money to use, and she didn’t have any to spare, so she froze her assets.
The place smelled of stale coffee and something her neighbor across the hall had burned for dinner. She was tired and cold, but too wired to sleep, so she went to her bedroom, stripped out of her clothes, and took a long hot shower.
She returned to the kitchen later to find something to eat. One quick glance in the refrigerator was all the reminder she needed that she still hadn’t grocery shopped. She emptied what was left of the milk into a bowl of cereal and ate it standing by the sink, remembering another Christmas in Savannah, her first all on her own.
***
Mercy was nineteen years old, between jobs, and as close to homeless as she’d ever been. She had come back to her apartment after a long day of job-hunting, only to walk in on a burglar in the act. She screamed. He ran with what was left of her savings, and the hours afterward were a blur of tears and a fear that she would not be able to survive the setback. The only money she had left in the world was in her pocket.
The people in the adjoining apartments were sympathetic and curious, and a couple felt sorry for her and gave her a couple of twenties. She was standing in the hall waiting for the cops to clear her room when the neighbor from across the hall opened his door and came out. He’d moved in only two days ago, and during that time they’d done no more than nod and smile as they passed in the hall, but she liked his face. His eyes were kind, and his smile felt genuine.
It was apparent he’d been sleeping and had done no more than comb his fingers through his hair before he opened the door. The top snap on his jeans was undone, and he was pulling a sweatshirt over his head as he came out. She got a quick glimpse of a hard belly and wide shoulders before she looked away.
“What’s happening?” he asked, as he stopped beside her. “I fell asleep with the TV on. When I woke up and turned it off, I heard all this.”
“I was robbed,” she said.
His empathy was instant. “Oh no! Oh honey, are you okay? Were you hurt?”
Her voice was shaking. “My arrival scared him off.”
Without hesitation, he hugged her. The unexpected compassion undid her, and she began to cry.
And in the midst of that moment, the cops came out, and she pushed out of his arms.
“Ma’am, we’re through here. He busted the lock. I would suggest you find somewhere else to sleep for the night.”
“I don’t have somewhere else or someone else,” she said.
They shrugged and left the building.
The neighbors all went back into their apartments.
All but him.
She sighed and started for her apartment, when he stopped her with a word. “Don’t.”
She turned, anger already settling in her heart. “Don’t what? That’s everything I own in this world. They took my money. I’m not giving up what clothes I have left too.”
She walked into her apartment and closed the door.
He opened it and walked in behind her. “Get your things. You can sleep in my room tonight. Tomorrow we’ll figure something out.”
Mercy started to shake. “There is no we in my life.”
“Fine. Then you’ll figure something out. But you can sleep in my room tonight anyway.”
She stared at his face, looking for a sign of danger and seeing none. “Yes. Okay.”
“Want help gathering up your things?”
“No.”
“Then do what you need to do, and knock on my door when you have everything.”
She nodded.
He walked out.
She packed her bags while a cold anger washed through her. One more kick when she was down. It’s how her world worked. By the time she got across the hall, she had shut herself down.
“I made a bed for you on the sofa,” he said.
She left her bags by the door and then laid her coat on top of them as he locked up behind her. “Thank you,” she said.
“You’re very welcome. Oh, hey, I just realized I don’t know your name.”
She grimaced. “Oh, just call me Lucky.”
“I have a feeling that’s not your real name, but it will do. I’m L.J. but my friends call me—”
“We’re not friends. L.J. will do,” she muttered.
His eyes narrowed, but he didn’t argue. He’d seen animals trapped into a corner with no way out, and the look in her eyes was about the same. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?” he asked.
“No, thanks. Just the bed. I’m tired. So fucking tired.”
A tear rolled down her cheek, but he was guessing she didn’t know it. “Then I’ll leave you alone. If you need anything later, just knock on my door.”
She nodded, dropped onto the sofa, and began taking off her shoes.
“Good night, Lucky. Sweet dreams,” he said.
She made a sound halfway between a snort and a sob. He left the room.
She went to bed. And three hours later woke up screaming.
He came out on the run with a gun in his hand.
By that time she was sitting on the side of the sofa bed with her head in her hands. Her long, black hair was in tangles, and the sports bra and sweatpants she’d been sleeping in were drenched with sweat, even though the room was cold. His first thought was that she was sick.
“Sorry. Bad dreams,” she said, and got up. “Where’s your bathroom?”
“Down the hall, first door on your left.”
She passed by him, so close he felt the heat from her body. And when she came out, she had washed up and dried off the sweat.
“You didn’t have to wait,” she said.
“I know. I just wanted to make sure you were okay, and that you didn’t need anything…” Then he pointed at the clock. “It’s Christmas.”
Tears rolled down Mercy’s cheeks.
“Oh hell. I didn’t mean to make you cry,” he said.
“Well, you did, so what are you going to do about it?” she snapped.
L.J. flinched. “We could make love.”
Now she was the one who was startled. “What if I say no?”
He shrugged. “Then I go back to my room and sleep till daylight.”
The rage within her was choking. She wanted to feel something besides despair. “I am numb. I don’t think I will be able to feel.”
He held out his hand. “I know how to make you feel again.”
Mercy shivered, her mind racing. With a stranger? Just once. Just so she wouldn’t have to hurt.
She walked into his arms.
The ensuing hour was nothing short of magic. Mercy turned into someone she didn’t know existed. He turned her on and sent every emotion she had into overdrive. The sex was heart-stopping, and so was he. After it was over, he fell asleep with her still in his arms.
She watched his face as he slept until every facet of him was branded into her memory, but she wouldn’t sleep. An hour before daylight, she slipped out of his bed, dressed in the other room, and left without telling him good-bye.
***
A loud crash, and then the squall of a tomcat somewhere outside broke Mercy’s reverie.
She put her bowl in the sink and walked to the window overlooking the parking lot.
The neighborhood cat was prowling around the dumpster, and she saw the vague images of two people making out in a car near the back of the lot. Angry that she cared, she turned away. Exhaustion was finally catching up. It was after three in the morning when she rinsed the bowl and then paused in the doorway, making sure everything was turned off and locked up.
The silence in the apartment was suddenly broken by the distant sound of a phone ringing in a nearby apartment. The ringtone was “Jingle Bells.”
“Merry Christmas,” she muttered, and went to bed.


 

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