Contracted Defense (Safeguard #3) by Piper J. Drake-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway Tour

CONTRACTED DEFENSE (Safeguard #3) by Piper Drake-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway Tour

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Safeguard #3
by Piper J. Drake
Genre: adult, contemporary,erotic, romantic suspense
Release Date: September 15, 2017

Contracted Defense / / Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

About the book: Release Date September 15, 2017

Time is running out and the enemy is at the gate.

Adam Hicks may be the rookie at Safeguard, but he’s no novice in the field. Retired from active duty after multiple tours and back fresh from a brief rest in New Zealand, he’s itching to return to action. But the challenge he hoped for arrives in an unexpected form: his sexy yet stern new partner.

The last thing Victoria Ash wants is to work with the new guy—especially one as gorgeous as Adam. His relaxed attitude about their first “easy” assignment together—setting up a private home defense network for a reclusive client—doesn’t impress her. Easy usually means trouble. She’s proved right when Adam discovers that the multiple incursions on the physical and cyber security systems aren’t just glitches. They’re under attack…and there’s a traitor in their midst.

As tension mounts, so does the attraction between Victoria and Adam. They must protect their client and the research he’s desperately trying to keep secret. Working together, they have to find the mole before their defense measures, in the fortress and online, are compromised and the deadly secrets they’ve sworn to protect are revealed.


REVIEW: CONTRACTED DEFENSE is the third installment in Piper Drake’s contemporary, adult SAFEGUARD romantic, suspense series focusing on the men and women who work for the SAFEGUARD Division of the Centurion Corporation-military veterans turned mercenaries for hire who specialize in protection and security. This is Safeguard agent Victoria Ash, and former US solider Adam Hicks’ story line. CONTRACTED DEFENSE can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from previous story lines is revealed where necessary but I would recommend reading the series in order as there is an ongoing premise and threat throughout.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Victoria and Adam) CONTRACTED DEFENSE focuses on the Safeguard’s latest assignment-a well to do businessman whose need for protection appears unwarranted. With a well-trained security team already in place, Safeguard sends in Victoria Ash, and newcomer Adam Hicks- Victoria’s one-night stand from the night before, and the man with whom Victoria will fall in love. As Victoria and Adam struggle to ensure their latest contract duties are met, secrets behind the walls of the beautiful estate place our leading couple in a perilous situation. What ensues is the building romance between Victoria and Adam, and the potential fall-out as Safeguard Security falls victim to a former adversary.

The relationship between Victoria and Adam is one of immediate attraction. When Victoria is partnered with her anonymous one-night stand she is reluctant to further explore the attraction between them. Adam is willing to give their relationship a try but Victoria is fresh off a divorce, and the resulting aftermath has hardened her heart. The $ex scenes are intimate and seductive without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text.

There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including Gabriel Diaz and his fiancée Maylin Chen (Hidden Impact #1) , sniper Lizzy Scott (Deadly Testimony #2) : billionaire businessman Roland Edwards; Roland’s in house security team- Dante, Ray, Brian and Jay- a man who struggles with Adam’s presence on his latest assignment.

CONTRACTED DEFENSE continues to focus on the negative rumors circulating throughout the security industry-rumors that are directly affecting Safeguard’s contracts and their bottom line. Their battle with Phoenix Biotech does not appear to be over although their relationship with Seattle law enforcement and the US Marshals office should have garnered most positive coverage.

CONTRACTED DEFENSE is a story of suspense, intrigue, romance and love. The premise is energetic and exciting although the guilty party is easily deduced; the characters are spirited and dynamic; the romance is intimate and intense.

CONTRACTED DEFENSE is a sexy, passionate and dramatic story line that will captivate your attention from the very start.

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy


(Safeguard #1)
by Piper J. Drake
Genre: adult, contemporary, erotic, romantic suspense / / B&N / KOBO / itunes /

About the book : November 9, 2015

He’s not the hero she’s looking for…

As part of the elite Centurion Corporation team, military-veteran-turned-mercenary Gabriel Diaz is a natural defender. He’ll do anything to ensure a mission is successful. Anything but get emotionally invested—he learned the hard way that can be deadly. Easy bodyguard jobs in between the more challenging missions are all he’s interested in now.

Maylin Cheng is desperate and running out of time. Her younger sister has gone missing but no one seems to take her concern seriously. Her last hope lies in asking an aloof bodyguard for help. He dismisses her outright, but all that changes when she is almost killed in a not-so-accidental hit-and-run right before his eyes.

As Maylin leans on Gabriel, she begins to rely on him for more than just her safety. But as their attraction grows, so does the danger surrounding them. When the elaborate web they’re trapped in unravels, Gabriel will do anything to protect them. Even if that means putting his heart in the crosshairs.

Book one of the Safeguard series


REVIEW: HIDDEN IMPACT is the first installment in Piper J. Drake’s contemporary, adult SAFEGUARD romantic, suspense series focusing on the men and women who work for the SAFEGUARD security agency. This is US military veteran/mercenary for hire Gabriel Diaz, and caterer Maylin Cheng’s story line.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Gabriel and Maylin) HIDDEN IMPACT focuses on the search for a missing person. Caterer Maylin Cheng is desperate to locate her sister who was abducted at a genetics conference in China , and her latest catering job brings our heroine up close and personal with the Centurion Corporation- an elite group of former military personnel; private military contractors for hire. Enter Gabriel Diaz, the man with whom Maylin will fall in love. What ensues is the building relationship between Maylin and Gabriel; the search and rescue of An-Mei Cheng; and the revelation that the Centurion Corporation has been targeted from someone once on the inside. The Centurion Corporation is a training center for private military contractors who work ‘outside’ of the US and international laws but there are threats against the mercenaries for hire-threats that are both professional and personal.

The relationship between Maylin and Gabriel is one of immediate attraction but Gabriel knows to fall in love would mean to threaten his position within the Centurion Corporation. Maylin’s attraction to Gabe is palpable, and in this she is determined to seduce the man with whom she is falling in love. Maylin is a strong heroine; and Gabe’s protective nature does not come with the alphahole attitude that many romantic suspense heroes have ingrained. The $ex scenes are intimate and seductive without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text.

We are introduced to Gabriel’s fellow teammates including sniper Lizzy Scott, Victoria Ash, and her partner Marc; Harte-the man in charge of the Centurion Corporation; and Jewel, Gabriel’s former lover. The requisite evil has many faces including the Edict –another private military contractor out to destroy the Centurion Corporation.

HIDDEN IMPACT is a quick read; an action packed story of intrigue, romance and suspense. The premise is entertaining and exciting; the characters are sexy and colorful; the romance is erotic and passionate.

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy


Adam stepped back, drawing her attention to him and tapping the dry-erase marker against the palm of one hand. “If one of us was planning an attack on this place, what would we do?”
Easy. Planning an attack was easier in her mind than planning the defense of a place. She immediately ran through any number of possible approaches to gather information about the defenses and security.
And his point hit her right in the chest. “The alarm. It wasn’t to check to see if there was an alarm. It was to time the response from the security team and local police.”
Possibly, it was to time how long it would take for Victoria and Adam to arrive on site.
Adam turned to face her. “There is an impending attack in the works. We have no idea what the scale is or even why. But Roland is not delusional.”
Suddenly, this mission was a whole lot more serious, and Adam, to her eyes, was looking incredibly dangerous.
“Let’s get back to setting up the layered defenses then.” Before she jumped him, right against the wall.

About The author


Piper J DrakePiper J. Drake is a bestselling author of romantic suspense and edgy contemporary romance, a frequent flyer, and day job road warrior. She is often distracted by dogs, cupcakes, and random shenanigans.Connect with Piper at: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google + | GoodReads | Youtube


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Protecting Dakota (SEAL of Protection #9 /Sleeper SEALs #1) by Susan Stoker-Review & Excerpt Tour

PROTECTING DAKOTA (SEAL of Protection #9 / Sleeper SEALs #1) by Susan Stoker-Review and Excerpt Tour

Protecting Dakota / / B&N / KOBO / ibooks /

About the book: Release Date September 5, 2017


Dakota James’s life has become the stuff of nightmares. The leader of the Ansar al-Shari’a terrorist group has become obsessed with her, determined to take her as his wife. On the run, she’ll have to pin her hopes on the retired SEAL charged with finding and stopping Aziz Fourati before he can carry out plans to bomb more US airports.

Recently recruited to join a sleeper SEAL team tasked with fighting terrorism on US soil, Slade “Cutter” Cutsinger, with the help of some Special Forces friends, has located the one woman who can identify the deadly Ansar al-Shari’a leader. That was the easy part. Keeping her safe proves more difficult than anyone ever imagined.

When she and her new friend, Caroline, are kidnapped by the terrorist group, Dakota can only pray Cutter and the SEALs will reach them before they’re taken out of the country—and away from Cutter forever.

** Protecting Dakota is a part of the SEAL of Protection Series. It is also in the “Sleeper SEAL” connected series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.

Each book in this multi-author branded series is a standalone novel, and the series does not have to be read in order.


REVIEW: PROTECTING DAKOTA is the ninth installment in Susan Stoker’s contemporary, adult SEAL of PROTECTION romantic, military suspense series focusing on a group of current and former Navy SEALS. This is forty eight year old, retired SEAL Slade ‘Cutter’ Cutsinger, and forty three year old, primary school principal Dakota James’s story line. PROTECTING DAKOTA is also the first installment in the multi-authored SLEEPER SEALs anthology series. Each book in the Sleeper SEAL series can be read as a stand alone, and the series does not have to be read in order.

NOTE: PROTECTING DAKOTA contains scenes of graphic violence and sexual assault that may not be suitable for all readers.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Dakota and Slade) PROTECTING DAKOTA focuses on the protection of Dakota James. Dakota is on the run; in hiding; and the only surviving witness to a terrorist bombing at LAX. The leader of the terrorist organization known as Ansar al-Shari’a, Aziz Fourati, has declared war on the US targeting airports around the country, and has made it known that he is determined to take Dakota as his wife. Enter Slade ‘Cutter’ Cutsinger, a retired Navy SEAL who has been recruited by a Sleeper SEAL unit whose missions are dark, off the records, and in no way connected to any other government agency. What ensues is the search for Dakota James, the building relationship between Dakota and Slade, and the fall out when the mission and Dakota’s whereabouts have been compromised by an unknown source.

Dakota James loves her job as a primary school principal but threats against the people and children she loved forced our heroine on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of a mad man determined to make Dakota his wife. Slade Cutsinger’s call back to ‘active duty’ brings our hero up close and personal with the military’s new Sleeper SEALs unit of retired SEALs-a unit where each mission requires a single SEAL to extract or protect on his own. Seeing Dakota’s images immediately sparks interest in our retired Navy SEAL-a longing to be part of a relationship with a woman to love.

The relationship between Dakota and Slade is one of immediate attraction; a story of insta-love, and I mean INSTANT love between two people pulled together by circumstance and threats. The $ex scenes are sensual but limited; mostly implied with the exception of the final erotic scene between our leading couple.

There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including Dakota’s father Finnegan James; Slade’s Retired Navy Commander Greg Lambert; Navy SEAL Matthew ‘Wolf’ Steel and his wife Caroline, Kason “Benny” Sawyer , and Wolf’s commander Patrick Hurt.

PROTECTING DAKOTA is a fast paced, story of suspense and romance. The premise is energetic; the characters are spirited; the romance is passionate and engaging.

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy


Exactly twenty minutes later, Slade knocked on the door of the trailer. Even being apart from her that long was somehow painful. He kept imagining someone sneaking in through the other door and taking Dakota away from him. He might have been upset at his thoughts, except there was every reason for him to believe someone might do just that.
Until he could get Dakota out of Rachel and back where he had cell phone reception to call Tex and make sure they were still in the clear, he wasn’t going to take any chances.
Instead of returning to the bar, Slade leaned against the side of the A’Le’Inn and kept watch over the trailer while Dakota showered. He might be going overboard, but he didn’t think so. She’d been dead to the world when he’d opened the passenger door to her car that morning. She hadn’t even twitched when he’d shut it, either. If he could sneak up on her that easily, so could anyone else. And the thought of Fourati or any of his followers getting their hands on her made him want to hit something.
“I’m ready,” Dakota called out in response to his knock. “Come in.”
Slade turned the knob and entered the small but cozy trailer. As far as accommodations went, it wouldn’t win any traveler awards, but for this town it was downright palatial.
“I saved part of my donut for you,” Dakota told him somewhat shyly.
If he hadn’t already been halfway in love with her, that would’ve sent him over the edge. He knew how much she treasured those maple-frosted pastries…her dad had made it more than clear that no one touched her donuts. “You go ahead, sweetheart. It’s been a while since you’ve had a treat.”
She eyed him for a long moment and he thought she was going to either comment on the use of the endearment, or refuse to eat the pastry he could tell she wanted by the look in her eyes, but she finally shrugged and gave him a small smile.

About the author

Susan StokerNew York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Texas where she lives, but this all-American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, and Indiana. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.

She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.

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Going Dark (The Lost Platoon #1) by Monica McCarty-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

GOING DARK (The Lost Platoon #1) by Monica McCarty-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

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The Lost Platoon #1
by Monica McCarty
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: adult, contemporary, romantic, military suspense

Going Dark / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date September 5, 2017

Like Rome’s Lost Legion, a SEAL platoon goes on a mission and vanishes without a trace.

After walking into a trap on a covert op in Russia, the men from top secret SEAL Team Nine are presumed dead. Not knowing whom they can trust, and with war hanging in the balance, the survivors must go dark and scatter around the globe.

Marine ecologist Annie Henderson joins her new boyfriend on a trip to the Western Isles of Scotland to protest a hazardous offshore drilling venture. When she realizes that she may be swept up in something far more dangerous than she’d intended, there is only one man she can turn to. . . .

She and the mysterious but sexy dive boat captain haven’t exactly gotten off to the best start, but something about his quiet confidence makes her think that he’s the kind of man she can depend on. Because he’s gruff and guarded, she can tell Dan Warren has secrets. But she could never imagine how high the stakes are for him to keep his cover, even as he risks everything to protect her.


REVIEW: 4 out of 5 for this reader folks!

Going Dark by Monica McCarty is a contemporary romance with a serious dose of action and suspense. If you like your story line having a bit of everything then this is certainly a good book to pick up. I will say, those that have knowledge of military and political jargon/acronyms just may enjoy this a tad more. There is much for a person with limited knowledge to take in and I can understand that it may be a little confusing. I happen to be someone who has served and knows much about military language and op procedures, so this wasn’t hard for me to follow.

The book starts off with a bang. SEAL Team Nine is sent on a Black Ops mission and it happens to go terribly wrong. Assumed dead, they are soon conveniently “forgotten” despite the fact that there are survivors. These survivors (which I expect will be the main characters in the books of the series), decide to stay undercover only revealing the truth to a few people, and swear to get answers for their failed mission and lost team mates.

Our leading male is Dean. Dean was the chief of SEAL Team Nine and if currently laying low in Scotland. He is a no nonsense kind of guy who leads by example, is tough as nails, conservative and set in his way of thinking. Very aware of what could happen and be lost, Dean will do just about anything to find the answers he is desperate for.

Annie is our leading lady. Annie is an ecologist, activist, and totally liberal in her thinking. She has set off to Scotland with her boyfriend to protest some off shore drilling. There she meets Dan (who is actually Dean undercover), who accompanies her on an expedition to the drilling grounds. There is an instant attraction and despite having a boyfriend (if that is what we call him .. I would like to call him dip**** she feels very drawn in a way she isn’t with her current guy. But no time to act on attraction just yet .. little does she know her expedition to do good will turn into a fight for her life and for Deans.

I really loved the action and adventure in this book. I have a thing for opposites attract so I was pleased with the constant lusty bickering Annie and Dean do. I did however roll my eyes a couple of times when the predictable argument of liberal vs conservative popped up. I don’t mind the opposite views, it was just that it came across a little “naggy” at times. I did find though, that Annie and Dean really tried to get thru all the turmoil together, and let love just happen even when it shouldn’t.

Monica also has another side romance story going between other characters as well, so you do in fact get more bang for your buck where couples are concerned. A good flow to the story line, I never found myself bored or wanting to skip read. I love that both our leads are equally passionate when it come to their personal beliefs, experiences, morals and affection for the other.

Fantastic read for those that like the adventure, military and love. I will eagerly await the next novel!


Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Rachel T

Going Dark teaser


Dean was about to turn up his street when a woman darted past him. She was so preoccupied with whatever was bothering her that she didn’t notice him.
But he noticed her. The sexy brunette had been the focus of too many of his sex-starved thoughts for him not to have recognized that shadowed figure right away.
His thoughts immediately turned to anger. What the hell was she doing out here alone at this time of night?
Granted Stornoway wasn’t exactly the mean streets of name-your-favorite American inner city, but it had its share of illegal activity—especially along the waterfront—and it wasn’t a place where a young woman should be walking alone in the middle of the night.
He went after her without thinking. Proving his point, she took way too long to realize he was behind her.
He could tell by the way she jumped when she turned around that he’d startled her.
But it didn’t last. As soon as she recognized him, her eyes narrowed angrily. “Why are you following me? You scared me!”
“Good. You shouldn’t be out here alone—” He stopped suddenly, seeing her expression. She looked about ready to burst into tears. “What’s wrong?”
Unconsciously he’d reached for her arm. Why the hell he’d done that he had no clue. He didn’t go around touching women without an invitation.
He released her before she could protest. But if she’d noticed the too-personal gesture, she didn’t let on.
“Nothing,” she replied, her expression too blank.
He held her gaze long enough for her to see that he knew she was lying. It must not be something she did often, because a guilty blush rose to her cheeks.
She was so damned cute. He wanted to . . .
He took a step back.
Go dark. Don’t do anything to risk your cover.
He heard the warnings loud and clear. But he couldn’t very well let her walk around alone. What if something happened?
“Where’s your boyfriend?”
The tightening around her mouth before she responded gave a big hint of what might be bothering her. Trouble in paradise? Now, that was a cryin’ shame.
“He’s still at camp. He’s hanging around for the music. Julien plays guitar.”
Dean didn’t care if he was Jimmy Hendrix returning from the dead for one last show. “And he let you walk back alone?”
She immediately stiffened, giving him a scathing look. “He didn’t let me do anything. I make my own decisions.”
From the way she said it, it was clear she thought he was some kind of medieval misogynistic pig.
One of those, was she? He should have guessed. That kind of oversensitive feminist crap drove him crazy—not everything was a “microagression.” Being a strong woman didn’t mean you could be stupid about personal safety. And all he’d meant was that douche bag should have cared enough about her safety enough to insist on accompanying her.
Although admittedly Julien probably wasn’t much of a defense.
“Then your decision was a shitty one.”
She looked stunned. “You just say whatever you think, don’t you? I wasn’t asking for your opinion.”
“Well, you got it.” He gave her a long look, taking in the Tulane sweatshirt, tight jeans that left no room to hide anything, and flip-flops. “And unless you are a black belt jujitsu specialist or trained in self-defense and carrying some kind of weapon, I’m walking you to the guest house.”
She looked up at him half outraged and half bemused, as if she couldn’t quite believe someone like him actually existed. It was a look he’d been on the receiving end of more than once.
Eventually her mouth twisted with a smile. “How do you know I’m not?”
“Because if you had any secret ninja skills, from the way you were looking at me a few minutes ago, I’d be on my ass right now.”

About the author

Click HERE to learn about Monica McCarty

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

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

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

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 29, 2017

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

Holding out for a hero

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copy supplied by the publisher through Netgalley

Reviewed by Sandy


EXCERPT courtesy of St. Martin’s Paperbacks


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



Love Another Day (Masters and Mercenaries #14) by Lexi Blake-Review and Excerpt Tour

LOVE ANOTHER DAY (Masters and Mercenaries #14) by Lexi Blake-Review and Excerpt Tour

Love Another Day Banner

Masters and Mercenaries #14
by Lexi Blake
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Genre: adult, contemporary,erotic, romantic suspense

Love Another DAy / / B&N / KOBO / ibooks / Google Play  / Smashwords/

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 22, 2017

A man born to protect

After a major loss, Brody Carter found a home with the London office of McKay-Taggart. A former soldier, he believes his job is to take the bullets and follow orders. He’s happy to take on the job of protecting Dr. Stephanie Gibson while the team uses her clinic in Sierra Leone to bring down an international criminal. What he never expected was that the young doctor would prove to be the woman of his dreams. She’s beautiful, smart, and reckless. Over and over he watches her risk her life to save others. One night of pure passion leads him to realize that he can’t risk his heart again. When the mission ends, Brody walks away, unwilling to lose another person he loves.

A woman driven to heal

Stephanie’s tragic past taught her to live for today. Everything she’s done in the last fifteen years has been to make up for her mistakes. Offering medical care in war-torn regions gives her the purpose she needs to carry on. When she meets her gorgeous Aussie protector, she knows she’s in too deep, but nothing can stop her from falling head over heels in love. But after one amazing night together, Brody walks away and never looks back. Stephanie is left behind…but not alone.

A secret that will change both their lives

A year later, Stephanie runs afoul of an evil mercenary who vows to kill her for failing to save his son. She runs to the only people she trusts, Liam and Avery O’Donnell. She hasn’t come alone and her secret will bring her former lover across the world to protect her. From Liberia to Dallas to Australia’s outback, Brody will do whatever it takes to protect Stephanie from the man who wants to kill her, but it might be her own personal demons that could destroy them both.


REVIEW:  LOVE ANOTHER DAY is the fourteenth installment in Lexi Blake’s contemporary, adult MASTERS AND MERCENARIES erotic, romance series focusing on the men and women who work for the McKay-Taggart and Knight Security Agency. This is former SASR (Special Air Service Regiment –Australia) soldier and security specialist Brody Carter, and Dr. Stephanie Gibson’s story line. LOVE ANOTHER DAY can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from previous story lines is revealed where necessary although there are references to ongoing scenarios from previous investigations and the continuing fall out from a mission that saw the rescue of too many men whose minds and memories were wiped clean of their pasts.

NOTE: LOVE ANOTHER DAY contains sexually, graphic scenes of Domination and submission.

Told from dual third person perspectives (Stephanie and Brody) LOVE ANOTHER DAY follows the building but acrimonious relationship between former SASR soldier and security specialist Brody Carter, and Dr. Stephanie Gibson. Approximately one year earlier Brody was assigned security detail to Stephanie Gibson and her crew who worked and operated out of a medical clinic near Freetown Sierra Leone, South Africa. Stephanie’s attraction to Brody is immediate and palpable but our hero is reluctant to start anything knowing there time together is limited and coming to an end. One night together finds Brody walking away from the woman he will never forget. Fast forward to present day and Brody will come charging back into Stephanie’s life when our heroine is targeted for something she knows nothing about. What ensues is the rekindling relationship between Stephanie and Brody, no promises for the future, and Stephanie’s dogged determination to make reparations for sins of the past-reparations that place Stephanie in the direct line of fire on more than one occasion.

Dr. Stephanie Gibson suffers with survivor’s guilt; PTSD that pushes our heroine to risk her life without consideration of others or the people she leaves behind. A past shrouded in tragedy, Stephanie’s ongoing guilt and need to risk her life, placing herself in danger gets old, very fast. Our heroine tries to sacrifice herself (on multiple occasions) for the sake of others but a sacrifice that would destroy the man that she has grown to love. Brody Carter doesn’t do relationships; his line of work as a security specialist places him in dangerous situations and a relationship would only add further complications to a lifestyle rarely conducive to family and love but Stephanie Gibson keeps secret a very important part of her life-one that places Brody front and center, for now and into the future.

There is a very large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including security expert and former SASR solider Alfi Dauterre, Ian and Theo Taggart, and many of the previous story line couples, as well as Tucker and all of the ‘lost boys’ whose memories have been wiped by Dr. Hope McDonald. The requisite evil has many faces including several members of the Ukrainian mob.

LOVE ANOTHER DAY struggles with the ongoing self-sacrificing actions of our story line heroine. Stephanie’s need to ‘martyr’ herself for sins of the past was anything but heartbreaking as I endeavored to accept her actions as anything but a cry for attention. For me, the heroine’s continuous need to place herself in danger, risking not only her life but the life of those who had to constantly step in to search and rescue, made for too many anxious moments-moments I felt were unnecessary and over the top. In short, I had a difficult time sympathizing with Stephanie Gibson; her attitude and relentless efforts to get herself killed was disconcerting and disappointing. The premise was engaging but at times distressing; the characters were colorful and dynamic but the heroine’s actions affected my overall enjoyment.

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy

Love Another Day Teaser


The door slammed and she suddenly found herself with her back against it. Brody crowded in, taking up all the space and staring down at her. His body brushed hers and she found both her wrists captured in one of his. He dragged them over her head, forcing her chest to come out, breasts skimming along his body. “I shouldn’t do this.”
Tough chick was winning. Steph let her take over. It was surely better than the desperate girl who lived inside her. She kept asking for love and affection and getting swatted away. This was the next best thing, possibly the only thing she would ever get. “Then don’t. Let me go and I won’t bother you again.”
“No, you’ll go find Ezra Fain and bother him,” Brody said on a growl.
“Somehow, I don’t think he’ll find me a bother.” She’d barely spoken two words to the man, but she wasn’t going to admit it. It was better to let Brody think she wasn’t a love-starved girl.
“He won’t fucking find you anything at all. If you’re determined to not sleep alone tonight, you can damn well do it with me.” His mouth came down on hers and every inch of her skin came alive. His kiss was overwhelming, hungry. There was no slow meshing of mouths. He took her, his tongue surging inside and dominating her own. He let go of her hands and started to explore her body. His hands were on her hips when he came up for air. “I’m leaving in the morning. I’m going back to London and I can’t come back.”
She’d known that would probably be his answer. She’d known he wouldn’t want to stay and she couldn’t leave.
“One night. That’s all I want.” It was all she could have. It had been foolish to think it could be any different.
His mouth came down on hers again and she let herself get swept away. One night and her life would go back to normal. One night and then she would be alone again. His hands started to roam over her and she tried to forget all the reasons why this was a bad idea.
He stepped back, his entire body set in hard lines. He strode over to the bed and sat down. “Take off the gown. It’s pretty, but I want to see you.”
She hesitated, all her insecurities coming to the forefront. Somehow, she’d thought he would simply take her. “Let me get the lights.”
He was back in her space again, his hand wrapping around her wrist. “I didn’t say turn off the lights. I said take off the gown. How am I going to see you if you turn off the lights?”
“Brody,” she began.
He was having none of it. “You got on your knees in front of me and you said you knew what you were offering me. The first thing you were offering me was obedience. The second was your body. You’re giving me neither right now.”
His voice had gone midnight dark and something about the tone made her soften. He was right. She did know what she’d offered him and now she was trying to have it all her way.
There was nothing wrong with her body. It was feminine and she was healthy. What was she afraid of? “All right.”
He let go of her wrist and sat back down, looking like a damn king waiting on his concubine’s performance. For all his “I’m nothing but a grunt” talk, the man could be incredibly arrogant, and damn if she didn’t find it sexy as hell.
Something about that voice let her know that everything was going to be fine. He was past the point of rejection. He was in and that meant he would play her Dom for the night. He would take care of her. She was as safe with him in the bedroom as she’d been in the field.
At least she was safe for the night. In the morning she would be in a world of hurt, but she wasn’t thinking past tonight.

about the author


NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.


Inkslinger 2


The Reluctant Thief (Stolen Hearts #4) by Mallory Crowe-a review

THE RELUCTANT THIEF (Stolen Hearts #4) by Mallory Crowe-a review

The Reluctant Thief / / B&N / KOBO /

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 7, 2017

Former cop Scott Hart’s life as he knew it was taken in a fraction of a second when his wife was murdered. After years of research and questionable alliances, he’s finally about to come face to face with the man who killed her. Except when he’s arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, his revenge plans are put on hold. But he has one ace in his pocket. He has one of the best hackers in the world on his side.

Computer hacker Toni knows Scott is off limits. Even if he weren’t totally hung up on his late wife, they work together. In her line of work, pesky things like crushes and emotions get you killed. But when Scott is framed, Toni knows she needs to pull out the big guns to get him out of trouble.

As much as she wants to get over Scott, she knows she can’t let him go at it alone. So she’s going to stick with him as long as he needs her, come hell and heartbreak. Who knows? Someday he might even love a thief like her.


REVIEW: THE RELUCTANT THIEF is the fourth installment in Mallory Crowe’s contemporary, adult STOLEN HEARTS romantic, suspense series. This is computer hacker Toni Murray, and former Chicago police officer Scott Hart’s story line. THE RELUCTANT THIEF can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty although I recommend reading the series in order for backstory and cohesion.

SOME BACKGROUND: Following a theft that went horribly wrong, professional thieves and sisters Toni, Melody and Jennifer Murray vow revenge against the men who killed their mother.

Told from dual third person points of view (Scott and Toni) THE RELUCTANT THIEF focuses on the hunt for a killer. Several weeks earlier Toni, Jennifer and Melody’s mother was murdered on the job- a job meant to set the family up for life-but the theft of a thirty million dollar piece of jewelry resulted in the death of their mother, with the sisters on the run. Vowing to avenge their mother’s death each sister set into motion a series of events to track down the man responsible. Toni Murray will make things a little more personal when she gets up close and personal with the man ultimately responsible for her mother’s demise but interference from a former cop pushes all of Toni’s buttons and riles up her independent side. Enter Scott Hart, a man with a personal agenda of his own, and the man with whom Toni has fallen in love.

THE RELUCTANT THIEF is the culmination of four story lines that saw three sisters seek retribution and revenge for their mother’s death. With the formation of a new security team by Scott and Toni, THE RELUCTANT THIEF introduces the readers to a new series arc, as well as Peter Slade, Gage and Tristan-three men whose owns lives were destroyed by the man the Murray sisters had targeted for revenge. Slade’s story line is next in THE VENGEFUL THIEF. The premise is suspenseful and engaging; the characters are colorful and animated; the $ex scenes are limited without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text.

Reading Order and previous reviews
The Cocky Thief
The Beautiful Thief
The Dangerous Thief
The Reluctant Thief

Own a copy

Reviewed by Sandy


Aim (Circle of Justice #3) by LP Dover-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

AIM (Circle of Justice #3) by L.P. Dover-Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

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Circle of Justice #3
by LP Dover
Release Date: August 7, 2017
Genre: adult, contemporary, romantic, suspense

Aim / / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo / ibooks / Smashwords

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 7, 2017


When someone asks what I do for a living, I answer it plain and simple . . . I’m a hunter. I hunt the dregs of society and I’m very damn good at it.

Do I like to kill people? No, but it’s part of my job.

I’m Ian Chandler, FBI agent and a member of the Circle of Justice, an organization of justice seeking vigilantes. My mission is to solve a string of ‘accidental’ hiking deaths occurring around my Wyoming town. When Grace Myers –a woman who’s been missing for days –shows up on my land, it turns out she’s the key to it all. Someone is hunting her, and I make it my duty to keep her safe.

However, the deeper I get into the case, the more dangerous it becomes; especially, now that I’ve fallen for the woman I have to protect. If hunting is the game, I won’t fail. I always hit my mark.


REVIEW: AIM is the third installment in L.P.Dover’s contemporary, adult CIRCLE OF JUSTICE romantic, suspense series focusing on a secret, elite group of assassins known as the Circle of Justice. This is assassin/hunter and FBI operative Ian Chandler, and twenty eight year old hotel events and marketing manager Grace Myers’s story line. AIM can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story lines is revealed where necessary.

SOME BACKGROUND: The Circle of Justice is an elite group of assassins, started by the infamous Glenn Chandler, owner of the multi billion dollar Chandler Enterprises and former FBI agent, who target those who have escaped the system.

Told from dual first person points of view (Ian and Grace) AIM follows the search for a serial killer in and around the small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Eight people have gone missing in a case similar to a forty year old investigation but the most recent disappearance finds our heroine Grace Myers the victim of the latest abduction. Enter FBI agent and Circle of Justice Assassin and the man with whom Grace will fall in love. What ensues is the search and rescue of Grace Myers, and the hunt for the people responsible for the missing and dead in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

A copy cat killer is on the loose, and the suspect list continues to grow. While Ian goes undercover to ferret out the person responsible, Grace must remain secluded at Ian’s home, in the hopes of uncovering the who, what and why of latest crime spree and the increasing number of missing and dead.

The relationship between Grace and Ian is one of immediate attraction although they have ‘crushed’ on one another for years. For months Ian and Grace have been dancing around one another but Ian’s ‘job’ kept our hero on the road and Grace had a difficult time with the number of women flirting with the sexy, tattooed bad-boy that called to her heart. With Grace now living at the Chandler ranch, Ian wants a chance at a future with the woman he loves but his life as an assassin puts Grace in the direct line of conflict-secrets are kept close to the heart but Ian knows that to win Grace’s trust he is going to have to reveal the truth about the CoJ and his FBI assignments. The $ex scenes are intimate and seductive without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text.

There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including Ian’s brothers Bryce (Ian’s twin), Reed, and Wade, Grace’s father and police chief Colton Myers; Grace’s best friend Mya; hotel owner Charles Beckett, and his children Jared and Lauren Beckett, as well as an assortment of hotel employees and staff. The requisite evil has many faces.

The world building continues to focus on the members of the Circle of Justice, their assignments, and the necessity for such a group to exist. Some of the characters from the author’s ARMED AND DANGEROUS series cross over for cohesion and familiarity.

AIM is a story of suspense, mystery, family, romance and love. The premise is intriguing and entertaining; the characters are numerous, colorful and edgy; the romance is fated and provocative. AIM is a fast paced, story of romantic suspense where the promise of a future is threatened by jealousy and betrayal.

Reading Order and Previous Reviews

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy

Aim Teaser


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My phone rang and I thought it’d be Bryce, but it wasn’t. “What can I do for you, Chief?”
Colton Myers was the chief of police back in Wyoming. His call wasn’t unusual, because they often called me and my brothers when there were cases the local PD couldn’t solve. “I need your help,” he replied, his voice shaking.
The cab driver pulled up to the airport entrance and I passed him a wad of bills before getting out. “What’s going on? I’m about to get on a flight to head home.”
“Good. I’ll drop these files off with Reed, so you can see them when you get back.”
The din of the bustling city made it hard to hear him, but I could tell he was distraught. “Files for what?”
He sighed heavily. “You know how there’ve been missing hikers in Montana?”
“Yeah, I saw something about it before I left for New York.” It wasn’t uncommon for tourists to sway from the hiking trails or test their limits by doing stupid shit. Most of those people found themselves dead. I liked to climb the cliffs, but I was good at it.
“We’re missing people here too,” Colton confessed.
“It happens every year. Why does this case shock you?” I’d been gone for three weeks, so I hadn’t even paid attention to what was going on in Wyoming.
He huffed angrily. “About three weeks ago, eight men supposedly went missing in our mountains. Just this morning, I couldn’t get a hold of Grace. Her boss also called me and said she never showed up at their meeting last night. Her car is still at the hotel. It’s like she disappeared.”
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” I growled low.
Grace was his daughter and a good friend of mine. Hell, I’d wanted to be more than that for quite some time. I only held back from pursuing her out of respect for her father. She was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever known.
“Please, Ian. I have to find her.”
Hurrying through the doors, impatience flooded through my veins. “We’ll find her, if it’s the last thing I do . . . I swear.”


about the author

L.P. Dover: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Google+ Newsletter / Goodreads

L.P.DoverNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, L.P. Dover, is a southern belle residing in North Carolina along with her husband and two beautiful girls. Before she even began her literary journey she worked in Periodontics enjoying the wonderment of dental surgeries.

Not only does she love to write, but she loves to play tennis, go on mountain hikes, white water rafting, and you can’t forget the passion for singing. Her two number one fans expect a concert each and every night before bedtime and those songs usually consist of Christmas carols.

Aside from being a wife and mother, L.P. Dover has written countless novels including her Forever Fae series, the Second Chances series, the Gloves Off series, the Armed & Dangerous series, the Royal Shifters series, and her standalone novel, Love, Lies, and Deception. Her favorite genre to read is romantic suspense and she also loves writing it. However, if she had to choose a setting to live in it would have to be with her faeries in the Land of the Fae. L.P. Dover is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency and Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary Management for dramatic rights.

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Bad Deeds (Dirty Money #3) by Lisa Renee Jones-Review and Book Tour

BAD DEEDS (Dirty Money #3) by Lisa Renee Jones-Review and Book Tour

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Dirty Money #3
by Lisa Renee Jones
Release Date: August 8 , 2017
Genre: adult, contemporary, romantic, suspense

Bad Deeds / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo / Google Play/ibooks

ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date August 8, 2017

Would you bleed for the one you love?

To save his family empire from the grip of the drug cartel, Shane is pushed to the edge of darkness, forced to make choices he might never make. His father is dying. His brother is desperate to rule the empire and this means war and all gloves are off. His brother only thought he knew what dirty meant. Shane is about to give it new meaning. There is another war brewing though, and that one, is inside him, his battle between right and wrong, light and dark, and in the heat of the night, it is Emily he turns to for escape. Driving her to new limits, pushing her to accept a part of him that even he cannot.

In every one of Shane’s seductive demands, Emily can taste and feel, his torment, his struggle to save his family and not lose himself. But he is losing himself, and that is a problem just as dangerous as her secret, that still lurk in the shadows, a threat to the Brandon Family waiting to erupt. No matter where she and Shane have traveled, or will travel in the future, she can’t just sit back and watch him become everything he hates, everything he never wanted to become, everything she tried to save him from when she tried to run. It could be their undoing, the end. His end.

This is war, blood will spill, and someone in the heart of the Brandon family will not survive.


REVIEW: BAD DEEDS is the third installment in Lisa Renee Jones’ contemporary adult DIRTY MONEY romantic, suspense series focusing of attorney and billionaire businessman Shane Brandon, and attorney/PA Emily Stevens. Their continuing story should not be read as a stand alone as it picks up immediately upon the events of book two- Damage Control. As Shane struggles to keep Brandon Pharmaceuticals out of the hands of the Mexican cartel, he must also battle his older brother Derek for control of the family business.

Told from three first person points of view (Emily, Shane and Derek) BAD DEEDS follows Shane Brandon as he struggles for control of Brandon Enterprises. As their father’s health continues to decline, Shane and Derek are forced to compete for controlling interest in a company on the verge of imploding. With the Mexican cartel threatening everyone he loves Shane makes a deal with the devil that will hopefully calm the beast at the door. Lives will be threatened; betrayal revealed; and a promise of revenge will place Emily in the direct line of fire.

BAD DEEDS is an intriguing story of power, family, betrayal, and suspense. The destructive nature of greed forces the exposure of secrets and lies that threaten to destroy Brandon Enterprises. The ultimate battle for control pushes the boundaries of fidelity and promises for a family struggling with threats from all sides. The premise is gripping and intense; the characters are passionate, colorful and energetic; the romance is edgy and provocative- the sexual energy is palpable. BAD DEEDS is an exciting and incredible addition to Lisa Renee Jones’ DIRTY MONEY series.

BAD DEEDS ends on a cliffhanger-you have been warned.

Reading Order and Previous Reviews
Hard Rules
Damage Control
Bad Deeds
End Game (January 2018)

Copy supplied for review

Reviewed by Sandy

Dirty Money Series
Hard Rules: / / B&N / KOBO / BAM / ibooks / Google Play

Damage Control : / / B&N / KOBO / BAM / ibooks

BAD DEEDS: / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo / Google Play

End Game (January 2018) / / B&N / KOBO / Chapters Indigo / Google Play


“What is in your head right now?”
His eyes heat, darken. “You. Always.” He inches back and looks at me. “You’re mine. Mine to protect.” His voice is low, fierce, and he grips my panties and yanks them away. “Mine to fuck.”
I gasp and grab his shoulders. “Shane.”
His answer is to wrap his arm around my waist, pull me close, his cheek against mine, his fingers pressing into the V of my body. “Wet, just the way I like you,” he says, pressing two fingers inside me. “Wet for me. And too fucking perfect for my sanity sometimes.”
“That doesn’t sound like a compliment,” I pant out, grabbing the lapel to his suit as a sweet ache begins to build in my sex as his thumb strokes my clit.
“And no one else,” he murmurs, nipping my earlobe, “will ever touch you like this.” His fingers caress deeper inside me. “No one,” he adds, “will ever make you say their name like I want you to say mine right now. Say it.”
“Shane,” I whisper, and not because he wants me to, but rather because it’s there on my lips, the way I wish his tongue was on my lips now. “Shane, I—”
Seeming to know what I need, he cups my head and kisses me, long, slow, sensual strokes of his tongue that somehow make every touch of his fingers more intense.
“Come for me,” he murmurs, and this time when he kisses me, I start climbing that wall to release, and I’m there at the top in an instant. I stiffen while his fingers and tongue tease, please, and then I jerk, I’m over it, tumbling in an instant into shudders and shakes. Shane’s lips lift from mine as he breathes with me. His fingers slow as he eases me through the waves until I collapse against his chest.
He tangles his fingers in my hair and drags my mouth back to his. “And no one but me will ever make you come like that again,” he declares, the waves of his emotions beating down any embarrassment I might feel over having had an orgasm on his father’s desk.
“No one has ever made me feel what you make me feel, Shane.”

Bad Deeds Teaser

About The Author Black and Blue

Lisa Renee Jones

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT SERIES, and is now in development by Suzanne Todd (Alice in Wonderland) for cable TV. In addition, her Tall, Dark and Deadly series and The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series, both spent several months on a combination of the NY Times and USA Today lists.

Watch the video on casting for the INSIDE TV Show HERE

Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.

Prior to publishing, Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.

Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her at on her website and she is active on twitter and facebook daily.

Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her through her website and she is active on twitter and facebook daily.

STALK HER: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

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