Blog Tour w/Review – An Ex For Christmas

 
 
 Named Best Book of the Month by Amazon
 
 
AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
Love Unexpectedly
Lauren Layne
Releasing Nov 7, 2017
Loveswept
 

 

She’s making a list—and checking it twice. But is there a nice guy among all her naughty exes? The New York Times bestselling author of Blurred Lines returns with a charming friends-to-lovers rom-com.

When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.

Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.

 
NOW AVAILABLE!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

As I walk, I check the weather app on my phone, delighted to see that while it’s nothing but rain today, there’s a chance of a snow shower tomorrow. Nothing says Christmas break like snow.

 

I just miss my train, but there’s a decent-ish voice singing “White Christmas” nearby, and the platform’s not too crowded, so waiting’s not as bad as it could be.

 

My eye catches on a middle-aged woman who’s set up camp under one of the stairwells. It’s not unusual to see all manner of people under the streets of New York, although this one’s better dressed than most. She’s wearing a blousy red shirt, jeans, and ankle boots, and is sitting cross-legged on a plaid blanket. She’s got twigs of what seem to be fake roses in her hair.

 

None of that’s the weird part.

 

What’s weird is that she’s watching me. Intently.

 

We make awkward eye contact, and I give a quick smile before turning my attention back to my phone.

 

But I still feel her eyes on me.

 

Not in an unfriendly way, not in the way that makes me mentally catalog whether or not I saw any cops on my way down here who would hear me if I scream. She doesn’t seem eager to push me onto the train tracks either, and since that’s every New Yorker’s secret fear, that’s a plus.

 

Still, the focus is unsettling. I glance up again, and her eyes lock on mine. Her dark gaze is clear and focused, and I can’t decide if that’s more or less disturbing than if she seemed sort of hazy.

 

Then she smiles right at me. “Kelly.”

 

I get immediate goosebumps for reasons that have nothing to do with the winter weather. She knows my name.

 

“Come.” She beckons. “Come. I see.

 

Now you’re thinking, Hell, no. Run!

 

I should be thinking the same, and on some level, I am, but . . .

 

There are a couple dozen people around. None are paying attention to me, but it’s not like I’m all alone in a dark alley.

 

And look, we’ve already established that I believe in fate expressing itself through a Magic 8 ball and horoscopes, and though I haven’t mentioned it yet, I totally avoid black cats, the number thirteen, and walking under ladders.

 

I also believe that there’s such a thing as sight. I know, because my grandma had it.

 

Grandma Shirley was one of those delightfully batty old ladies that most people dismissed as quirky, but nobody can deny that she seemed to know stuff. She knew when I’d win my soccer game, and by how many points. She knew when her cat’s litter of kittens would be born, down to the minute. Once she’d even predicted an earthquake, even though they’re really rare in New York.

 

She’d passed away when I was in eleventh grade (she’d predicted the when and how of that too), and though I didn’t inherit her talents, I’ve never stopped believing that some people see and know things that they shouldn’t. I call it the Sight.

 

I step closer, and the woman grins and beckons me even nearer.

 

I stop a healthy few feet away. I’m superstitious, not crazy.

 

The woman leans forward. “You seek love.”

 

Huh. Color me unimpressed. I mean, don’t most humans seek love? Sure, I’m recently single, and I don’t particularly want to be. And maybe I sometimes try a little too hard to find my forever guy.

 

But I’m not hearing anything other than generic lucky guesses from this lady.

 

“Sure,” I say, already starting to back away.

 

She holds up a hand. “The one you seek? Your forever guy, the love of your life . . .”

 

I freeze, because her phrasing echoes my thoughts almost exactly. A coincidence? Maybe. I don’t move away just yet, willing to hear her out.

 

She smiles again. “You’ve already met him.”

 

I blink. “What? I think you may want to recheck that crystal ball. I’m single.”

 

Her smile merely grows. “I didn’t say you weren’t single. I said you’d already met him. You just let him go. He’ll come back to you before Christmas.”

 

Whoa whoa whoa. This is . . .

 

Huh.

 

“You’re telling me that the love of my life is one of my exes?”

 

She extends both of her palms as though to say, There you have it!

 

I stifle a little surge of disappointment. Clearly she hasn’t met my exes. There are some decent ones in the mix, but mostly they’re duds, and none of them make my heart beat faster. Well, maybe—

 

Nope. No. Do not go there.

 

Thankfully, I feel the rumble of an oncoming train, and a glance over my shoulder tells me my ride outta here is approaching.

 

“Thanks very much,” I say with a strained smile. “Merry Christmas.”

 

“Happy holidays,” she says with a nod, standing and gathering up her blanket.  Apparently she’s taken a cue from Madison Meyers and is sticking close to the PC route. Fair enough.

 

I lift a hand in a wave and move toward the train, but her next words give me a fresh wave of new goosebumps.

 

“Tell your parents happy anniversary. Thirty’s going to be a magical year for them.”

 

I whip my head around. “How did you—”

 

The woman is gone.

 

Like vanished gone.

 

Leaving me to wonder . . .

 

If a woman I’d never met was right about my parents’ anniversary, was she also right about other stuff?

 

Have I already met my one true love?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

An Ex for ChristmasAn Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book #5 in the Love Unexpectedly series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment and understanding, I recommend reading this series in order.

Kelly & Mark have been best friends for so long. They can finish each other’s sentences. They can tell when a relationship is not working. What Kelly cannot seem to notice is their attraction to one another.

Mark has been waiting for the right moment to sweep her off her feet. Kelly is always in another city, with another man, or just plain oblivious. Will Mark ever get his chance to be the man Kelly really needs?

This was such a great story. I laughed, cried and even laughed while I cried. This author never disappoints. Such a truly sweet read about best friends and why they are truly the. best for you. I loved every page and honestly hope we see these characters again.

***This ARC copy was given by Netgalley and its publishers in exchange for an honest review only.

View all my reviews

 
 
 
 

 
  
Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband.
 
A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career. She signed with her agent in 2012, and her first book was published in summer of 2013. Since then, she’s written over two dozen books, hitting the USA TODAYNew York Times, iBooks, and Amazon bestseller lists.
 
 
 
 

 
 

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Blog Tour w/Review – The Real Thing

 
 
This sassy, spirited baker is fine with heat—
but is her fake fiancé too hot to handle?
 
 
 THE REAL THING
Sugar Lake #1
Melissa Foster
Releasing Sept 5, 2017
Montlake

 

 
Bakery owner Willow Dalton’s friendship with Zane Walker has always been a bit complicated. Now a scrumptiously hot A-list actor, Zane’s always had a reputation as player. He’s arrogant, and he’s definitely not boyfriend material. Sure, he did Willow a favor by agreeing to take her virginity before college, but is that reason enough to go along with a fake engagement a decade later—even if it comes with a real diamond ring?
 
Zane should have known better. Nothing involving Willow has ever been easy. Still, he knows her better than anyone, and becoming America’s hottest new leading man means cleaning up his reputation. An “engagement” to curvy, sass-mouthed Willow is the perfect PR move . . . provided no one gets hurt.
 
Now Zane and Willow’s little white lie has turned into an irresistible recipe for sweet temptation. And soon no one will be able to tell the difference between their fake engagement or the real thing—including them.
 
**THE REAL THING is being published by Montlake (an Amazon imprint) and won’t be available on other ebook retailers, but you can download a FREE ereader app to read it HERE, order the paperback.
 
 
 
 
 

You’re sleeping on the couch,” Willow said for the fifth time in as many minutes as she and Zane left their suite. He was busy texting, and she wasn’t sure he was even listening anymore. He used to be such a great listener. When they were younger, he’d never acted like he was above her, despite the fact that he was the star quarterback, lead pitcher, and eventually the prom king, and she was two years behind and as awkward as a foal on new legs.

 

Are you listening to me?” she asked as they walked down the hall.

 

Yes. I just got confirmation. You’re catering breakfasts for the set. Cool?”

 

Yes, perfect. But did you hear what I said?”

 

She had almost backed out of their deal twice since she’d accepted. First when she’d seen the king-size bed, which really drove home their situation, and again when Zane had whipped off his shirt to change and her sex-starved body had buzzed to life. She was still a little nervous about the whole thing, mostly due to that second issue, but she felt a certain obligation to help him. Regardless of how arrogant he was, she’d never forget how tender he’d been with her when she’d given her almost-eighteen-year-old self over to him, and he was a true friend, even if they had a weird friendship. The truth was, even if he hadn’t done her that favor before college, she would have agreed to his plan. She liked him despite his insatiable appetite for women. He was everything she loved in a person and more. He was confident and funny, direct and thoughtful, and honest when it counted. Painfully honest. The exposure for Sweetie Pie Bakery was just the icing on the fake-fiancée cake. What a difference national exposure could make.

 

Zane shoved his phone in his pocket. “Yes. Sleeping on the couch. Got it. But you can’t blame a guy for trying.”

 

She laid her best damn-right-I-can stare on him and pushed the button for the elevator.

 

Fine. I’ll behave. Jesus, Wills, you’re never this uptight when I visit.”

 

You mean that five minutes twice a year?” Willow remembered how happy he’d been when he’d finally left town to pursue his dream of being an actor. He’d been bursting at the seams for a bigger life. But her “five minutes” comment wasn’t really fair. He never missed Ben’s birthday, and he almost always made it back for a few days over the holidays, even though his parents had moved to Florida right after he’d graduated from high school and left town. He’d been back a few other times when he was filming nearby. Even though she rarely saw him, their texts—and the fact that he was her first real love, even if he didn’t know it—had kept him in the forefront of her mind. Unfortunately, it also kept her heartbreak pretty close to the surface, no matter how deep she tried to bury it.

 
 
 
 
 

The Real Thing (Sugar Lake, #1)The Real Thing by Melissa Foster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Willow & Zane are the best of friends. He just has no idea how she feels about him. They have some seriously hot history. Now he needs her to help him out.

Zane tricks Willow into being a part of a charade. Be fake-engaged to me? Sure, like it is hard to pretend to be crazy about a guy she is head over heels for.

This is such an achingly sweet story with a real sexy twist. I absolutely loved it! I feel like this is the author’s best work so far. I am excited to read more from the new Sugar Lake series.

***This early copy was given in exchange for an honest review, by Netgalley and its publisher.

View all my reviews

 
 
 
 
 
PRE-ORDER THE NEXT SUGAR LAKE ROMANCE
ONLY FOR YOU
Releasing December 5th, 2017
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and new adult romance with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance lovers who enjoy reading about wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines.
 

 

 

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Review Tour – Ready To Run

 
 
 
Named Best Book of the Month by Amazon and iBooks 
 
 
 
 
READY TO RUN
I Do, I Don’t #1
Lauren Layne
Releasing Aug 22, 2017
Loveswept
 

The Bachelor meets The Runaway Bride in this addictive romance novel about a reality TV producer falling for her would-be star: a Montana heartthrob who wants nothing to do with the show.

Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: Luke Elliott, a playboy firefighter who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.

Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.


NOW AVAILABLE!
 
 
 
 

 

Luke started to load up the gear and, realizing he was doing it alone, glanced over his shoulder to see where the hell his partner was.

 

Unsurprisingly, his friend was chatting up City Girl. Neither Charlie nor Ryan seemed to mind in the least that these two fancy pants had swooped into their town to capitalize on Luke’s past.

 

What was more surprising was that Jordan Carpenter was chatting right back, her smile seemingly genuine, her laugh real.

 

Luke ground his teeth.

 

He couldn’t say he’d put much thought into the woman behind the name as he’d been unceremoniously deleting her emails and voice messages, but if forced to assume, he’d have guessed aggressive shrew.

 

He suspected he was wrong there. Because while there was no mistaking the ambition in the woman, it wasn’t the cutthroat, ball-busting kind.

 

Her lean body might be all angles and long lines, but there was a softness to her as well. The way her hair did its own thing. The easiness of her smile, the quick laugh. The small but pert breasts.

 

Damn. He was staring.

 

He slammed the door shut. “Bander,” he shouted at Charlie across the lawn. “Let’s clear out.”

 

Charlie leaned into Jordan, whispering something in her ear that made her laugh, before walking away with a last wink.

 

Luke rolled his eyes. Really? This was happening?

 

Hey, Elliott,” Ryan called. “You want to come over for a barbecue tonight?”

 

Luke crossed his arms and studied his friend suspiciously, waiting for the catch. “Who’s on the guest list?”

 

He saw Jordan and her purple-shirt friend exchange a look. Well, that answered that question.

 

Damn. Ryan never had been able to resist the urge to stir up trouble.

 

It’s no problem if you don’t want to join us,” Jordan called out, lifting her hand to shield the afternoon sun from her eyes. “I’m sure your friends here can fill me in on everything there is to know about Luke Elliott.”

 

All about Luke Elliott’s romantic history was more like it. City Girl wasn’t even pretending to be coy about the reason she was here.

 

All former positive thoughts about her evaporated. Only the worst sort of human would use another’s failed relationships to advance her own career—for entertainment.

 

Luke turned away without another word, hauling himself into the driver’s seat of the truck as he waited impatiently for Charlie to get done shouting goodbye to every single person within earshot.

 

He drummed his thumbs against the steering wheel, refusing to even think about going to the BBQ tonight. If his friends wanted to stir up trouble, they could do so without his cooperation.

 

As for the two New Yorkers, they’d flame out all on their own. Weren’t East Coasters known for being impatient and fast moving?

 

Surely they’d be off to find some other glory-seeking asshole if he ignored them. One of the other guys could play the role for all he cared.

 

As Charlie hauled his ass up, Luke started the truck, his eye catching on Jordan Carpenter, who was watching him with a stubborn, determined look on her pretty face.

 

Damn it. She’d stir up all sorts of trouble unless he ran interference.

 

Luke pulled out his phone to text Ryan.

 

I’ll be there. Have beer.

 

Charlie leaned over, unabashedly reading Luke’s iPhone screen. “Ha. Knew it.”

 

What?” Luke glared at his friend.

 

Charlie grinned wider, gesturing over his shoulder. “You’ve got a boner for the hot blonde.”

 

Are you kidding me with this? She wants me to be the next bachelor.”

 

How were Ryan and Charlie not getting the absurdity of this?

 

Charlie shrugged. “So? Maybe it’d be good for you.”

 

Luke stared at his friend for a moment longer before putting the truck in drive. “The only thing that would be good for me is to push you out of this truck.”

 

Charlie was waving goodbye to Jordan and Simon. “See you tonight!”

 

Luke ground his teeth harder. He was already dreading the BBQ, but not going would only make matters worse. Clearly he needed to have a very blunt conversation with Jordan Carpenter.

 

 

 

  

Ready to Run (I Do, I Don't)Ready to Run by Lauren Layne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jordan is a producer on a TV reality series. She is searching for the perfect man to attract the women. Also, he needs to have left them at the altar. Why would she be attracted to that?

Luke is the man in question. Talking to him, and the folks around him, only brings more questions. If he is a runaway groom – why are the ladies loving him?

This is a seriously sweet and hot story. I love the characters and cannot wait for more in the I Do, I Don’t series. So much fun, and yet plenty of heat to still call it romance.

***This early copy was given in exchange for an honest review, by Netgalley and its publishers.

View all my reviews

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband.
 
A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career. She signed with her agent in 2012, and her first book was published in summer of 2013. Since then, she’s written over two dozen books, hitting the USA TODAYNew York Times, iBooks, and Amazon bestseller lists.
 

 
 

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Virtual Tour – Leave The Night On

  
 
Love, betrayal, and sweet revenge–
life in Cottonbloom is about to get a whole lot hotter . . .
 
 
 
LEAVE THE NIGHT ON
Cottonbloom #4
Laura Trentham
Releasing Aug 1, 2017
St. Martin’s Press
 
 
Love, betrayal, and sweet revenge–life in Cottonbloom is about to get a whole lot hotter . . .

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

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

 
 
 

Jackson grabbed Wyatt’s arm and forced him around. “You like her.”

 

Everyone likes her. She’s nice.”

 

I mean, you like like her. You have since we were kids—I’ve not forgotten how you walked around with cow eyes around her—and that kiss out front wasn’t pretend. You two nearly melted the asphalt.”

 

Jackson’s twin powers had veered sharply annoying. “I maybe, sort of like her. What’s wrong with that? She’s single; I’m single.”

 

She’s been single for less than a week. She’s using you.”

 

I’m using her too. In return for me squiring her around, she’s going to get her judge daddy to talk up the garage at the country club. Send some more projects our way to make up for the Camaro.”

 

That kiss was all a selfless act for the garage?” Jackson’s sarcasm was not appreciated.

 

Wyatt had to look away from his brother’s gaze which prompted a muttered curse from Jackson.

 

Do not fall for this woman, Wyatt. Whether she means to or not, she’s going to rip your heart into little pieces and feed it to the gators before she goes back to her old life.”

 

We’re not getting serious. In fact, we agreed that after I take her to the gala, it’s over.”

 

Jackson didn’t look pleased with the news. He looked worried. “As long as you don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s anything more than that. She’ll be back with Tarwater or someone like him by Christmas.”

 

Because the thought had already burrowed into his chest, Wyatt’s reaction was knee-jerk and defensive. “Someone like him?”

 

You know, sophisticated. Worldly. Rich. Well-connected. Well-groomed.”

 

Eff you,” Wyatt shot back, but there was little heat to it.


Jackson was right. “I’ve been told I clean up real nice.”

 

Jackson’s smile revealed his dimples. A rare sight since their pop had died last year. “Doesn’t count if it’s from a female relative over the age of sixty.”

 

 

 

 
 
An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
 
 
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. The first two books of her Falcon Football series were named Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. Then He Kissed Me, a Cottonbloom novel, was named as one of Amazon’s best romances of 2016. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as large as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.
 

 

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Virtual Tour w/Review – Eye Candy

 
 
Don’t trust lust at first sight. 
 
 
 
EYE CANDY
Real Love #1
Jessica Lemmon
Releasing July 25th, 2017
Loveswept
 
 
Don’t trust lust at first sight. One woman chooses reality over fantasy in this friends-to-lovers romance. 

Jacqueline:
 
As an adult woman—and the vice president of a marketing firm—I shouldn’t be waiting by my office window to ogle the mystery man who jogs by every morning at 11:45. Sure, he’s a gorgeous, perfect specimen of the human race, but I can’t bring myself to hit on a total stranger. However, my best friend–slash–colleague Vince Carson thinks I should do more than talk to the guy. In fact, he’s borderline obsessive about “getting me laid.” (His words.) But the more time we spend together, the more it’s clear: The one I’m falling for is Vince.
 
Vince: Jackie Butler’s got it bad for some pompous, over-pumped A-hole who struts his stuff past her window. That doesn’t bother me. I know she deserves nice things. What does bother me is that she friend-zoned me big-time last year, so I can’t ask her out myself. But what if I set her up with Mr. Steroids? Then, when he breaks her heart, I can swoop in and save her like the nice guy I am. Everything’s going according to plan . . . until we share a ridiculously epic kiss. And suddenly anything is possible.



 
 
 
 

VINCE

 

Admittedly, giving Jackie advice on how to get a guy to sleep with her is not my best plan.

 

Okay, Butler,” I say, fully focused on Jackie now. “Let’s hear it.”

 

She stops scribbling on the napkin in front of her, and I bite back a smile. Since I’ve given her a few tips, she has been frantically taking notes. She’s a planner. I’ve always been more go-with-the-flow.

She reads over her notes, squinting in concentration, her lips moving as she reads. Then those golden brown eyes hit mine and she gives me a resolute nod. “I’m ready.”

 

Her tongue swipes pink lips, making them glisten and making me regret again the route I’ve chosen to take with her. Part of me concedes I could call it off and tell her what I really want, but I know her. She’s barely convinced she can ask a dude out, so her best guy friend throwing a date on the table would be an automatic no.

 

Let’s see it,” I say, kind of excited to see what she’s come up with.

 

She takes the empty seat next to me and leans heavily on an elbow, fist under her chin. “Hi. I’m Jackie.”

I blink several times in quick succession at the transformation from my scatterbrained best friend to a gorgeous woman giving me bedroom eyes. She’s pretending. I’d do well to remember that.

 

Vince,” I introduce.

 

She straightens in her chair and frowns. “Shouldn’t you pretend to be J.T.?”

 

I’m not that good of an actor, Butler.” And I’m not pretending to be that jerk.

 

Fine.” She rolls her eyes, then slides into seduction mode so swiftly I find myself impressed. She’s better at this than she’s let on. “Do you have a last name, Vince?”

 

You know my last name, Butler.”

 

Call me Jackie.” She gives me a slow bat of her lashes.

 

My smile is real, and when I lean closer, I don’t even do it on purpose. “Well, Jackie. Last names are irrelevant, don’t you think?”

 

Her chest lifts as she takes a breath, and I’m not shy about checking out her cleavage, exposed down the V of her shirt. Normally I wouldn’t look so obviously, but this is a game. Our game.

 

That’s very assuming of you, Mr. No Last Name.” She quirks her lips in that way she has, and my smile broadens. “But let’s say”—she moves her half-full wineglass onto the cocktail napkin she wrote on—“for argument’s sake, you’re right, that last names are irrelevant.” She runs the tip of her finger along the rim of her glass like she’s doing it absentmindedly.

 

She’s doing it on purpose. I can tell.

 

Damn. She’s good.

 

We should have a real date before making plans, don’t you think?” she asks, her eyes on mine.

 

Yes.” Hell, yes. “Dinner, at the very least.”

 

And then if dinner works out . . .” She lets that statement hang and my heart beats triple time as I wait for what comes next. “We can talk about dessert.”

 

We can talk about dessert now.” I’m transfixed on her and the idea of exploring our new dynamic.

 

Ohmygod.” Her eyes go wide. “Would he say that?”

 

I give myself a mental shake when I realize I was caught up in the conversation. It was one I wanted to be real, and she was thinking about Running Man.

 

Probably,” I say, the spell broken. “Guys are assholes. Like I said.”

 

I lean back in my chair, find a TV, and stare blankly.

 

But if that’s the case, I’ll have to have sex with him sooner than I planned.”

 

No, you don’t, Jackie.” I hear the anger in my own voice. Because . . . “You don’t have to have sex with anyone. You could go to drinks, dinner, and dessert with this guy—you could end the night with tonsil hockey on your front porch or his, and you can still say no.”

 

She purses her lips. I hate the idea of her kissing that jackass. No matter what kind of person he is—even if he’s a volunteer firefighter who raises orphaned squirrels so they can perform at the local senior center—I hate him.

 

Tell me you know that,” I say.

 

I know I don’t have to. That’s not what I meant. I don’t want to chicken out. I want to get the first one over with. Like you did.”

 

I tip my head back and groan aloud. I can’t help it. I’m the example for her return to the dating world? Much as I don’t want to admit it, fair is fair. I salved my wounds with girls like Polly, so why can’t Jackie do it with J.T.? Jackie’s my friend and I care about her. I can’t make a double standard now.

 

Besides, he’s really hot,” she says, her face going glowy.

 

Spare me.”

 

 
 
 

Eye Candy (Real Love. #1)Eye Candy by Jessica Lemmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vince is in love with his best friend but has no idea how to tell her, or himself. He knows these feelings are growing for this amazing woman he spends so much time with. They both have been hurt so badly in the past. Together, things are just right.

Jacqueline AKA Jackie really does want to have a fling to enjoy. She is still stinging from the hard slap her ex gave her by choosing another woman. With her best friend, she is a confident and fun woman. Where is that confidence when she needs it most?

This story has a little bit for everyone. There is humor, hot guys, sexy times, pop culture, movie quotes, and more. Did I mention there is seriously hot men? I love the banter and the friendship portrayed here. What is so excellent for me, is that these two show how much they care, long before we get the words.

***This ARC copy was given by Netgalley and its publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A former job-hopper, Jessica Lemmon resides in Ohio with her husband and rescue dog. She holds a degree in graphic design currently gathering dust in an impressive frame. When she’s not writing super-sexy heroes, she can be found cooking, drawing, drinking coffee (okay, wine), and eating potato chips. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want.
 
Jessica is a social media junkie who loves to hear from readers. You can learn more at her website.
 

 

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Book Spotlight & Review – Check My Heart

 

 

 

Check My Heart

By: Christi Barth

Releasing July 17, 2017
Self-Published

 

Blurb:


The death of his little brother turned Kurt Lundquist’s world upside down. He channeled his grief into skating his heart out–and ultimately leading his hockey team to win the championship. Now, all he wants to do is throw a party with the Cup in his brother’s honor. He’s got no clue where to start…until he runs into the gorgeous hospice nurse who took such great care of Jasper. She’s waaay off limits, but he’s desperate, and hires her to help him.

 

Lisette Broussard’s heart broke a little more every time a patient died. Losing the brave brother of a hockey star was the last straw. Learning a new specialty was supposed to change her life for the better, but it used up her savings. Then the slam dunk job with the New Orleans championship hockey team mysteriously disappears. So she jumps at Kurt’s offer of a job, no matter how temporary. No matter how…dangerous, given how much she’s always crushed on him. No matter how risky it is to fall for Kurt, since he’ll always associate her with the grief of losing his brother.

 

But the more time they spend together, the deeper they both fall. Kurt’s heart begins to thaw…and then heat. Lisette can’t resist him, and throws caution to the wind. She’ll take whatever time he gives her. Can they move beyond the pain of the past and focus on a future together?

 

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Buy Links:    

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Author Info:

 

USA Today bestselling author Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance, including the Naked Men and Aisle Bound series.

 

Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.

 

For information on books, new releases and more, visit her Website

 

Author Links:   Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt:

 

God. Why would Lisette want to keep touching such a wallowing, messed-up son of a bitch? The words, the truth that kept him immobilized on this decision ripped from his throat like gravel spraying from his Harley tires. “Tell me how I can turn my back on my team and my friends and still be able to look myself in the mirror.”

 

She pressed up against his back, arms circling his waist like a life preserver. “How do you do it now? How do you look past your grief to see what’s truly in your reflection?”

 

I don’t.”

 

Her fingers curved into his stomach. “You don’t look in mirrors?”

 

Not for a while now.” Trying to make light of it, Kurt rasped a hand across his two-day-old stubble. “I’ve got an electric razor. Makes it so easy I can do it with my eyes shut. I was tired of seeing nothing but a scowl.”

 

Oh, I get it, believe me. But feeling good, being happy? It takes practice every bit as much as skating.” Going up on her tiptoes, Lisette murmured into his ear, “I declare that smile practice is now in session.”

 

Then her fingers splayed, arrowing down to just below the waist of his shorts. Just enough to make him wish they’d damn well keep going. She scraped her teeth along the cords of his neck, then licked a path down to where Kurt knew she could feel his pulse jackrabbiting through the skin. Lisette sucked. Sucked and swirled her tongue. That was all it took to bring his dick into a full-out lunge, trying to meet her fingertips.

 

Kurt reached back and around to pull her closer. He got two handfuls of the sweetest ass he’d ever touched and squeezed. Kneaded. His hands almost completely covered those taut globes. He couldn’t wait to see how they’d look doing exactly that on her naked skin.

 

He didn’t care if she gave him a hickey. Didn’t care that the guys would give him a mountain of shit if he walked into the locker room with a love bite like a teenager. The only thing Kurt cared about was the way her tongue lapped at him, sending shivers of sensation straight down to his dick.

 

They weren’t really kissing. They were fully clothed, in a fucking warehouse. They weren’t even face-to-face. But her assault on his neck was so damn hot, Kurt was ready to shove up her skirt and take her on the floor, with the goddamned goldfish watching.

 

Whispering, breath feathering against his ear, Lisette ordered, “Look at your reflection in the bowl, Kurt. What do you see?”

 

He turned his head to catch a smug, satisfied grin curling up the edges of his mouth. Huh. Kurt twisted to see her wet lips and flushed cheeks. Guess she’d enjoyed giving as well as getting. Which turned him on even more. “You think I’m good in a practice session? You should catch me in the real deal.”

 

 

 

 

Check My HeartCheck My Heart by Christi Barth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kurt met Lisette while she was working with this dying brother. When they meet again, she brings back memories of that time in his life. She is looking for work with his team, and he is not up to seeing her everyday.

Lisette just wants to find a job in her new field. Being a nurse is fulfilling, but working with terminally ill patients has a cost. She is hoping to get into a new field, helping heal those she can. Kurt has always been attractive to her. Under such sad circumstances can they learn to love where they have a future?

This story was as sad as it was sweet. The genuine love felt for a family member can be very strong and this felt very real and sincere. I was touched by the gentle way the author had it brought out in the book.

***This copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

View all my reviews

 

 

 

Virtual Tour w/Review – Lucky Charmed

  
 
It seems he and Carmen are at each other’s throats one minute—
and on each other’s lips the next. Someone’s gotta give . . .
 
 
LUCKY CHARMED
Charmed in Texas #2
Sharla Lovelace
Releasing July 18th, 2017
Lyrical Shine
 
 
Carmen Frost hates honey. And bees. And in her hometown of Charmed, Texas, which practically invented the stuff, that’s a problem. The good news is that the summer Honey Festival is finally over. Even better, so is the annual Lucky Hart carnival, a road show that made off with her dreams years ago—including the boy she loved. Now she’s got a divorce behind her, and a successful law career in front of her, but in a tiny town, big memories die hard. Or they don’t die at all—as Carmen discovers when she runs into an all too familiar pair of eyes—older, wiser, and just as heart-melting as ever . . .

 

Sully Hart has had enough of the nomad lifestyle. Travelling with his father’s carnival gave him adventures, but it cost him much more. Now he’s home to stay, contracted to create an entertainment complex in Charmed. He wants roots, a house with a yard and all the mundane pleasures that go with it. But the girl he loved has become a woman who still wants freedom. Can she still want him? It seems he and Carmen are at each other’s throats one minute—and on each other’s lips the next. Someone’s gotta give . . .
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sharla Lovelace is the bestselling, award-winning author of sexy small-town love stories. Being a Texas girl through and through, she’s proud to say she lives in Southeast Texas with her retired husband, a tricked-out golf cart, and two crazy dogs. She is the author of five stand-alone novels including the bestselling Don’t Let Go, the exciting Heart Of The Storm series, and the fun and sexy new Charmed in Texas series. For more about Sharla’s books, visit her website, and keep up with all her new book releases easily by subscribing to her newsletter. She loves keeping up with her readers, and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
 
 
 
 
 
 

A tattoo peeked out from his muscle, under a shirt sleeve. The tattoo. Shit. It was all I could do not to run my thumb across my left breast where its clone resided.

 

My mouth went dry as all kinds of confusion exploded in my head. Keep it together. Don’t show weakness. He left you.

 

He left you.

 

A calm washed over me and all my strength as a professional business woman, as just a woman who’d been through and seen a few things, came back and held me up. What did it matter that the love of my life, the man that shattered me into a million pieces in a stadium parking lot was standing in front of me fifteen years later looking good enough to lick from head to toe?

 

 

I was better than that.

 

 

 

 

Lucky Charmed (Charmed in Texas, #2)Lucky Charmed by Sharla Lovelace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book is #2, in the Charmed In Texas series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader understanding and enjoyment of the series, I recommend reading this in order.

Sullivan AKA Sully has a past with Carmen. A past that brings him back and thinking of a future. When she sees him again, however, there are doubts that will happen.

Carmen is not big on her hometown. She has wanted to be long gone. She has ties here that keep her coming back. Her friends, family, and yes even her heart.

This series is just hot! The characters have great banter, and the heat seems to be turned up on high. I love the sparks that sizzle and nearly jump off the page. Second chance romance always seems to be hotter than the simple. I cannot wait for the next book in the series.

***This early copy was given in exchange for an honest review, by Netgalley and its publishers.

View all my reviews

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Excerpt Reveal – Ready To Run

 
 
A reality TV producer falling for her would-be star: 
a Montana heartthrob who wants nothing to do with the show. 
 
 
READY TO RUN
I Do, I Don’t #1
Lauren Layne
Releasing Aug 22, 2017
Loveswept
 

The Bachelor meets The Runaway Bride in this addictive romance novel about a reality TV producer falling for her would-be star: a Montana heartthrob who wants nothing to do with the show.

Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: Luke Elliott, a playboy firefighter who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.

Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.


PRE-ORDER TODAY!
 
 
 
 
 
Damn. Charlie hadn’t been lying about the hot blonde.
 
The woman walking straight toward him was all tight jeans, high heels, and confi-dence. And hot. Very, very hot.
 
Charlie muttered something admiring under his breath, and Luke’s gaze flicked to the man beside the woman. Tried to place him. Couldn’t.
 
Not too many guys around here who wore light-purple shirts and white pants with the same easy comfort that Lucky Hollow residents wore jeans and flannel.
 
No doubt about it—neither was from around here. Not by a long shot.
 
The man was a half step behind the woman, and Luke assessed that the woman was calling the shots.
 
His eyes narrowed as he realized that she hadn’t once wavered in her approach.
 
She knew what she was after:
 
Him.
 
She got closer and Luke saw that the face matched the body. Wide blue eyes, full lips, sassy shoulder-length blond hair that was just tousled enough to make a man wonder how it had gotten that way—to want to be the one to muss it.
 
Her gaze flicked over him, and Charlie whistled and muttered under his breath. “She just checked you out, man.”
 
She had indeed, but Luke was far from flattered. It hadn’t been the assessment of a woman checking out a man so much as a predator evaluating its prey.
 
As though she was evaluating him for . . . something.
 
Blondie stopped in front of him, and the second her blue eyes locked on his, Luke felt a little jolt of awareness and was irrationally annoyed. It had been a long time since he’d been quite so aware of a woman.
 
Once, he’d enjoyed the feeling—sexual chemistry was almost the perfect combination of pain and pleasure. A subtle punch in the gut that you wanted to experience again and again.
These days, though, he was having a hard time getting past the pain part. The shitty parts had outweighed the good parts just one time too many. Now he mostly settled for casual hookups with a divorcée a few towns over who was even less interested in com-mitment than Luke was.
 
He had zero use for attraction to a pretty, bold woman in high heels.
 
Luke noticed that for a sheer moment she had a slightly off-balance look, as though she too had felt the annoying zip of arousal when their eyes met, but she recovered quick-ly.
Pasting a sunny, generic smile on her face, she stuck out her right hand. “Luke Elliott. I’m Jordan Carpenter. This is my colleague, Simon Nash.”
 
Good manners had him setting down his equipment and extending his own right hand toward hers even as his brain caught on her name. Familiar, and . . .
 
Shit. Shit!
 
He managed to stop from jerking his hand back, but just barely. Instead, he gritted his teeth, gave her hand a perfunctory shake, and then fixed her with a glare. “You’re wasting your time, Ms. Carpenter. And mine.”
 
Blue eyes narrowed. “Aha. So you did get my emails.”
 
Those. The voicemails. The letters.
 
“Sure,” he said with a nod, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Just like I suspect you got the message that I didn’t want to be a part of your show.”
 
Charlie looked from the woman to Luke and back again. “Show?”
 
Ryan ambled over, his shit-eating grin telling Luke that this damn woman had already spilled the beans on why she was here. “Luke’s gonna be a national heartthrob.”
 
“International,” said the blond guy in the purple shirt.
 
Jordan Carpenter didn’t look at her companion, but all three firefighters did.
 
The other man gave the sort of easy smile that probably had him making friends easily. Luke didn’t want a new friend.
 
Especially not one who wanted to use his shitty romantic past for the sake of TV ratings.

 

 
 
 
 
Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband.
 
A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career. She signed with her agent in 2012, and her first book was published in summer of 2013. Since then, she’s written over two dozen books, hitting the USA TODAYNew York Times, iBooks, and Amazon bestseller lists.
 

 

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Release Blast – Can’t Stop Lovin’ You

 
Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie 
that their one true home is with each other.
 
 
CAN’T STOP LOVIN’ YOU
Maverick Junction #3
Lynnette Austin
Forever

 

 
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
 
Maggie Sullivan can’t wait to get out of Texas. Luckily, she just got the break she needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who broke her heart when he left her behind.
 
Fed up with city life, Brawley jumps at the chance to return home and take over the local vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . . until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is with each other.

NOW AVAILABLE IN PRINT!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Brawley Odell figured his life wouldn’t be worth one plug-nickel the second he stepped foot inside Maggie’s shop. Too damn bad. He hadn’t driven the thirty miles from Maverick Junction to back out now. He was goin’ in.

 

After all this time, he’d come home…and she was leaving.

 

He grasped the brass knob and shoulder-butted the oak door. It flew open, the bell overhead jangling. Maggie Sullivan, all that gorgeous red hair scooped into a jumbled mass, stood dead-center in the room. Dressed in a skirt and top the color of a forest at twilight, she held a fuzzy sweater up in front of her like a shield. Those amazing green eyes widened as he stormed in.

 

We need to talk.” He ignored the woman at the back of the store who flipped through a rack of tops.

 

What the—?”

 

He held up a hand. “Don’t speak. Not yet.”

 

Her mouth opened, then closed.

 

Anger boiled in him, but he needed to find some modicum of control. Taking a deep breath, he held it for the count of ten, then slowly released it. “Did you plan on telling me?”

 

Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.

 

You’re invited to New York City for a showing of your new line, and you don’t share that with me? I have to learn about it secondhand?”

 

Last I heard this wasn’t about you, Brawley. In fact, my life, my business has absolutely nothing to do with you.”

 

His jaw clenched. “Anything that affects you is my business, Mags.”

 

She snorted. “Get real, Odell. You gave up any and all rights years ago.” Her head tilted. “Why are you even interested? You want to attend so you can show off your latest Dallas Cowboy cheerleader? Maybe order her trousseau?”

 

He shot her a deadly look, one that had made grown men back away.

 

Not Maggie. She actually took a couple steps toward him. The woman had no survival instincts. Another reason she had no business heading off to New York alone.

 

She tapped a scarlet-tipped finger on her chin. “Oh, that’s right. There’d be no trousseau for your honey, would there? Maybe a weekend-fling outfit for your date du jour? A one-night-stand set of lacy lingerie.”

 

Shut up, Maggie.”

 

Make me.” Her eyes flashed.

 

This time the look in his eyes must have warned her she’d treaded too close to the edge. She stepped back.

 

You challenging me, Maggie?”

 

When she wet her lips, his gaze dropped to her mouth, followed the tip of her pink tongue as it darted out.

 

Only one way I could ever get you quiet,” he said.

 

Her hand shot up. “Don’t even think about it.”

 

No thought required. Been wanting to do this a long time now.” He closed the distance between them and dropped his mouth to hers. Fire. Smoke. Hell, a full-out volcanic eruption.

 

 

 

 

Can't Stop Lovin' You (Maverick Junction, #3)Can’t Stop Lovin’ You by Lynnette Austin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is # 3, in the Maverick Junction series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading this series in order.

Brawley is moving back to his hometown. He wants to take back the one who got away. Only she is about to make a second slip right through his fingers. Again. Can the secrets of the past be overcome to find the happiness they deserve?

Maggie is finally getting her dreams to come true with this big move to New York. While it is far from her Texas home, it provides opportunity and customers she needs to get her dress designing firmly off the ground. What she may pay in the end is a different story.

This series is just as sweet as it is sassy. This book was the one I held my breath for. Let me tell you, it is absolutely worth it! Characters like these, are why I read romance. They have the spark about to ignite, and just need a little flame.

***This copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

View all my reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Lynnette Austin, a recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks, she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.
 

 

 

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Release Blast – Digital Velocity

 
 
The deadliest weapons are the ones we never see.
 
 
DIGITAL VELOCITY
McAllister Justice #1
Reily Garrett
Releasing July 10, 2017
 
 
The deadliest weapons are the ones we never see.
 
Keyboard prodigy, Lexi Donovan has risen from teenage orphan of the streets to complete independence with little help along the way. When a pervert threatens her friend, she sends an anonymous message to police, leading to a firefight that leaves a cop wounded.
 
Detective Ethan McAllister’s well-ordered life turned upside down the day an obscure text message led to a sexual predator’s identity and arrest. Since then, Callouston PD’s finest can’t trace the elusive hacker. The latest tip leads him to a brutal mutilation and a riddle  indicating the identity of the next murder victim.
 
The dark net houses a playground for the morally depleted and criminally insane. When Lexi discovers the killer’s digital betting arena, she finds herself centered in a cyber stalker’s crosshairs, a psychopath bearing equal talent.
 
Street life strengthened Lexi while toughening her protective shell, but nothing could shield her from the shrewd detective forging a path to her heart.
 
Digital Velocity is a fast-paced romantic suspense thriller that sophisticatedly weaves drama, excitement, grit, raw emotions and mystery. Garrett takes her readers on a journey where suspense and romance are taken up several notches as she unfolds and reveals the identity of a murderer that is on the loose. With her vivid prose, Garrett entices readers to see the bond that is brewing between Detective Ethan McAllister and his unlikely informant.” – RT Book Reviews
 
 
 
 
 

 

I move frequently—but gain no distance.

I am warm, moist, and dark but give no comfort.

I can stretch and shrink, giving or taking at will, bringing both pain and pleasure with each.

 

If God wanted you to tie the knot, he’d give you a near-death experience to better appreciate life, along with a craving for procreation. Then he’d smother your soul with the essence of venison, squirrel, frog legs, taters, or beer, to attract a likely counterpart from the sticks. No, wait. The latter has already happened, hasn’t it? Sorry.” Ethan narrowly kept his balance on the green-slicked, handmade bricks leading up the two-story, mauve-colored Victorian. If his 210-pound mass ended up sprawled on the steps, no doubt the picture would be splashed all over the precinct by noon with various unsavory captions.

 

Maybe you should try it. The stick up your ass has to cause at least minor discomfort.” Larrick’s early-morning snark was a common greeting.

 

Hey, I’m a normal guy.” Ethan glared over his shoulder.

 

Larrick snorted.

 

Still wet from our early-morning storm. Watch your step, it’s slippery.” Scanning the myriad amorphous shadows lurking in the wood line, realization struck that he and his partner were sitting ducks if a sniper perched among the loblolly pine and oak trees lining the front and side yards.

 

Larrick’s reply came in equal measure of soft tones. “Either that or a large flock of birds dropped in recently to help her redecorate. Great detective work.”

 

Bird droppings are—”

 

Sought after for facials. Especially the Japanese Nightingale shit.” Larrick grinned.

 

Only you would know that.” Ethan adjusted his tie, an acknowledgment of the apprehension filling his mind.

 

Are we whispering because your paranoid gut can’t assimilate food well enough to distinguish indigestion from an outside threat? This woman lives alone, gonna think we’re a couple of perverts and liable to shoot us.”

 

Word has it she’s a pacifist.”

 

Fine. You’re one to talk about signs—dragging my ass to a stranger’s house at this ungodly morning hour. I love knocking on a stranger’s door and asking, ‘Lady, are you all right? We’re police detectives who received an anonymous tip that you might have a hangnail. Perhaps we could lend you a pair of nail clippers…’ then ask if she needs the gutters cleaned.” Derision and humor warred for dominance in Larrick’s tone, yet his sharp gaze continually scanned the perimeter in consideration of his partner’s unarticulated hunch. Yin and yang, they fit together, a clean-cut detective and his partner whose hair length had passed regulation specs weeks ago.

 

You know this isn’t the first tip we’ve gotten, not to mention the fact that the other leads were solid and led to arrests. And while we’re at it, why don’t you step to the side? Standard police procedure when approaching an unknown situation.” Ethan turned sideways, standing by the door with his hand poised to knock on the solid oak. He hesitated. Moisture coated his palms, a rare occurrence. Scrutinizing the interior through the narrow sidelights yielded nothing more than expected. Elegantly upholstered furniture, gleaming hardwood floors, and delicate bric-a-brac adorning the thick mantle and each side table completed the sophisticated picture. “Don’t see any problem. Maybe she’s fallen and can’t get to a phone.”

 

You expected an old lady brandishing her curling iron? As for leads, I get mine from three-dimensional people while you get yours from a bunch of ones and zeroes. Why can’t our IT department trace your anonymous texts further than the loony bin? Though that’s probably appropriate since your secret admirer’s last present consisted of a flower basket bigger than my TV along with fur-lined cuffs. I’ve never laughed so hard I pissed myself. I thought that was hogwash, a myth made up by old ladies.” Larrick leaned over the iron railing to peer through the window. “Can’t see squat, bottom sill’s too high.”

 

As my partner, you’re supposed to have my back, not stab me in the back. You didn’t have to broadcast it through the whole department by hanging the cuffs from the sprinkler system with a bunch of roses twined in them. Now my brothers won’t let up, and I’ve been subscribed to every kinky magazine known to the publishing world. You think I should know why some whacko chose me for their personal marionette?” Ethan suppressed a shudder before his partner gained more verbal ammunition. If his suspicions were correct, his informant was in fact a beautiful enigma with waist-length, chestnut hair and an emerald gaze capable of melting steel.

 

Maybe because you were the youngest to make detective? Rising star, golden boy, and all that shit.”

 

No. Probably afraid your redneck ways would rub off on them, or maybe because I’m the biggest sap.” Ethan’s gut rumbled, more of a warning sign from a well-heeled intuition than hunger. “Larrick, this doesn’t feel right.” Behind him, the slide of metal on leather let him know his partner just palmed his Glock. Three years of working together circumvented the formality of dissecting gut reactions.

 

A creak of leather sole betrayed Larrick’s backtracking to scrutinize the surroundings. “Side windows are lower. I’ll take a look.”

 

Hood of her BMW is cold. Didn’t go anywhere recently.” Larrick’s harsh whisper halted a nearby squirrel scampering up a tree, its head cocked to one side while studying the strange human interlopers.

 

Sunshine warmed the first spring buds on the low shrubbery bordering the walkway to complete the idyllic setting. Nothing but peace and serenity, yet Ethan’s heart hammered against his ribcage like an aggressive punk drummer. With his partner disappearing around the corner, he again scanned the perimeter while the morning’s corrupted equanimity formed a sour wad in his chest. A lazy March breeze combed its cool fingers through his short hair while the deep foreboding received with the initial text message blossomed into multiple horrific scenarios, leaving one of them a corpse, their life’s essence forming macabre shapes on gleaming hardwood floors.

 

I see bare feet beyond the kitchen island. Toes up. Probably female.” Larrick’s disembodied whisper just provided probable cause. “Backup?”

 

 
 
 
 
 
Reily is a West Coast girl transplanted to the opposite shore. When she’s not working with her dogs, you can find her curled up with a book or writing her next story. Past employment as an ICU nurse, private investigator, and work in the military police has given her countless experiences in a host of different environments to add a real world feel to her fiction.
 
Over time, and several careers, many incidents have flavored the plots of her stories. Man’s cruelty and ingenuity for torment and torture is boundless, not contained by an infinite imagination. Witnessing the after-effects of a teenager mugged at knifepoint for a pair of tennis shoes, or an elderly woman stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver for no apparent reason, left an indelible impression that will forever haunt her subconscious. In counterpoint, she has observed a woman stop her vehicle in severe, snowy weather to offer her own winter coat to a stranger, a teenager wearing a threadbare hoodie. Life’s diversities are endless.
 
Though her kids are her life, writing is Reily’s life after. The one enjoyed after the kids are in bed or after they’re in school and the house is quiet. This is the time she kicks back with laptop and lapdog to give her imagination free rein.

In reading, take pleasure in a mental pause as you root for your favorite hero/heroine and bask in their accomplishments, then share your opinions of them over a coffee with your best friend (even if he’s four-legged). Life is short. Cherish your time.
 

 

 

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