Excerpt Reveal: Not Pretending Anymore by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Title: Not Pretending Anymore
Authors: Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 12, 2021
Excited about Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland’s upcoming release, Not Pretending Anymore?
Check out this SNEAK PEEK of CHAPTER 1!
CHAPTER ONE
Molly
“So, what do you do for a living?”
The woman drummed her fingers on her thigh. “I’m a musician.”
I glanced down at the renter’s application in my hand. Lyric Chords was the name listed at the top.
I bit my tongue and tried to keep an open mind. This was the twelfth woman I’d interviewed as a prospective roommate. Just because she had a few safety pins in her eyebrow and what looked like a dog collar around her neck didn’t mean I should rule her out.
“Oh. That’s nice. Are you a singer?”
Lyric shook her head. “Drummer. Do you know the dimensions of the bedroom I’ll be sleeping in? I have two sets of drums I need to fit.”
“Umm… I think it’s fourteen by fourteen. But you don’t practice at home, right? I wrote in my ad that I’m looking for a quiet roommate because I work nights.”
“I do. But no worries. I’ll practice in my room.”
My bedroom and my potential roommate’s bedroom shared a wall, so that was the end of interview number twelve. I sighed and forced a smile. “Thank you for coming. I have a few other people left to meet with before I decide. I’ll let you know.”
“Great.” The woman stood. “Also, I know your ad said two months’ rent up front, but I’m running a little short right now. Would one be okay?”
I smiled. “Sure, no problem.” Since you’re not going to be living here.
After Drummergirl, I interviewed two more candidates. One wanted her boyfriend to move into the room with her, even though my ad had specified I was only looking for a single. And the other arrived twenty minutes late, reeked of alcohol, and slurred her words…at three thirty in the afternoon.
Why in the hell was it so difficult to find a roommate in a city of almost three-million people? I needed my last interview of the day to be a miracle, or I was going to have to shell out money for another ad and start the entire process all over. And I definitely didn’t have the time or the funds for that. Rent was due in two weeks. If I got stuck paying the full amount on this place myself again, I’d be eating cat food for a month.
When my last appointment knocked right on time, I took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, and asked the big guy in the sky for a little assistance.
Opening the door, I blinked a few times.
Uhhh. I think you answered the wrong prayer, God.
A man stood in my hallway—and not just any man, an absolutely gorgeous one with a perfect, straight nose, cheekbones to die for, a masculine, square jaw, full lips, tanned skin, and the sexiest chocolate brown, almond-shaped eyes I’d ever seen in my life.
“Uh. Can I help you?”
He flashed a killer smile, one that I immediately suspected had made countless women remove their panties.
“Hi. I have a four-thirty appointment with Molly Corrigan.”
“You do?” I had the last application in my hand and looked down at the name on the top. “I don’t think so. My appointment is with a D. Tate?”
He extended a hand. “That’s me. Declan Tate.”
“But…you’re…not a woman.”
He smiled again. “You’re correct. Very observant. I am most definitely not a woman. But my last roommate told me I should’ve been because I use moisturizer at night and cried at the end of Marley and Me. And if I’m being honest, I also got a little watery at the end of Toy Story, so maybe I’m a bit of a wuss. Either way, I think you should consider those my positive feminine qualities.”
I was thoroughly confused. “Umm… I’m sorry. You must’ve missed that my ad said female only.”
“Actually, I didn’t. But if you’ll give me just five minutes, I think I can convince you I would be a better roommate than a woman.”
I chuckled. “Let me get this straight… You hid your first name—what did you say it was again?”
“Declan.”
“Right. Declan. Anyway, you applied to an ad for a female roommate, intentionally deceiving the person who is going to decide if you get the room by leaving your first name off. And your strategy is to convince me I don’t really know what I want in less than five minutes? Do I have that right?”
He flashed that boyish charm again. “You sure do.”
I debated how to handle the situation. On one hand, he was going to waste my time, and I had done enough of that today. But on the other, my curiosity was definitely piqued. Something about his grin told me this could be amusing. Screw it. I had nothing better to do anyway.
I opened the door wider and stepped aside, holding my hand out for him to enter. “I’m setting the timer on my phone, and I’m getting a glass of wine before you start. I like a drink while I’m being entertained.”
Declan smirked and strolled into my apartment.
I motioned to the couch. “Have a seat. I’ll just be a minute.”
When I got to the kitchen, he called after me, “Hey, Mollz?”
I turned back. “Yes?”
“How about you make that two glasses of wine?”
I chuckled. “Sure. Why not, Decs.”
I poured a couple of glasses of pinot grigio and returned to the living room.
“Here you go. Hope you like white.”
“You see? We’re perfect together already. I prefer white over red.”
I brought my wine to my lips. “Yes, perfect. A match made in heaven. I think we might even be soul mates.”
Declan showed me his pearly whites once again. He really did have a great smile, nice teeth, too. Too bad he also had a penis. I knocked back half the contents of my glass and placed it on the coffee table. Picking up my cell, I swiped to the timer app and set it for five minutes.
I showed him the screen. “You ready?”
“I’m always ready.”
I pressed start, placed the phone face up on the coffee table between us, and folded my hands. “Go.”
“Okay. Well…what’s your favorite color?”
“My favorite color?”
Declan pointed to the timer. “Time’s a ticking, Molly. I’m going to need you to not repeat questions.”
I laughed. “Fine. My favorite color is pink.”
Declan reached into one of his pant pockets and pulled out a set of keys. The keychain had a bunch of pink beads with white letters between each one. The letters spelled out his name. “Mine too.”
I arched a brow. “Did you make that yourself?”
“No. My niece, Arianna, made it for me.”
“So how do I know that isn’t just Arianna’s favorite color?”
“Good point. Let’s move on. Your ad said you work nights.”
“That’s right. I’m a nurse. I work the night shift on the maternity ward.”
“So you sleep during the day, then?”
“I get off at seven, and I try to get to sleep as soon as I get home.”
He held his hand to his chest. “I work days. I leave for the gym by six and usually don’t get home until after seven at night. So the apartment will be quiet when you need it to be.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll give you that that would make you a good roommate. But most people work days, so it’s not really something that makes you too special.”
“Do you cook?” he said.
“Does macaroni and cheese count?”
“I grew up in a multigenerational Italian home. My nonna taught me how to make sauce from scratch.”
“So you’re going to cook for me?”
“If that’s what it takes to get this apartment, yes.”
“As tempting as that might be, there’s an Italian restaurant around the corner that makes great food. Funny enough, it’s called Nonna’s Place, and an actual nonna makes most of my meals. Not a knockoff.”
Declan took an exaggerated breath and blew it out. He glanced at the cell on the table. “Three minutes and thirty-eight seconds. I can see you’re not going to make this easy. How about you tell me why you can’t have a male roommate so I can address that head-on. Is it because of the toilet-seat thing? Because I have four older sisters, so I’m appropriately trained. When I was eight, I made the mistake of leaving it up once, and my sister sat down where I’d accidentally left a little pee. She dunked my head in the toilet bowl before she flushed. That was the last time I left the seat up.” He held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor. It won’t be an issue.”
I smiled. “It’s not because of the toilet thing.”
“Alright. So why don’t you want a male roommate, then?”
I’d actually never given much thought to why my roommate had to be female. It just seemed natural to have another woman sharing the apartment. “Well…I don’t really have a specific reason. I would just be more comfortable living with another woman. For example, I sleep in a T-shirt and underwear. When I get up to start the coffee, I don’t get dressed. It would be weird to do that in front of a man.”
“Why?”
“Why would it be weird to walk around with my ass cheeks on display in front of a man and not a woman?”
“Yes.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It just would. I guess because the women I’ve lived with aren’t attracted to other women, so it doesn’t feel sexual in any way.”
“Ah. Now we’re getting to the crux of your issue. So you’re afraid of some sexual tension going on between you and me? Is it because I’m so handsome?”
“What? No! And aren’t you full of yourself, assuming I think you’re handsome, and I’m worried I won’t be able to control myself.”
“Just keeping it real, Mollz. You’re only giving me five minutes, so I’m trying to get to the heart of the reason.”
“I guess I just don’t want to feel like I have to cover up to come out of my bedroom. When I dry my hair, I wear a towel or a bra and underwear—that type of thing.”
“Would you feel you had to cover up if I told you I was gay?”
That question gave me pause. Would I? I wasn’t sure. “Are you?”
“Fuck, no. I was just trying to pinpoint your issue. Is it the fact that I’m a man, or the fact that I might admire your ass if it were on display? Sounds like it’s the latter. So let me put your mind at ease: I won’t.”
I felt oddly offended. “What’s wrong with my ass?”
He chuckled. “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t looked. You know why?”
“Why?”
“Because I’m in love with someone else.”
As insane as it was, I felt a pang of jealousy. “Oh. Well, why aren’t you moving in with her?”
“Because she doesn’t return the feelings…yet. So basically, if your concern about having a guy for a roommate is that he’s going to be checking you out, you have nothing to worry about with me. I’m a one-woman man. If you want, I can give you the numbers of some of my exes for references. I’m no cheater.”
Hmmm… “I don’t know…”
Declan looked down at the clock. Thirty-one seconds were left. “We’re running out of time, so we need to speed things up. How about if I just give you the facts you need to know?”
“That would be good.”
“I’m twenty-eight years old. I make six figures. My credit score is eight hundred and ten, and I have references from previous landlords. I’m neat and clean up after myself. I’m not home a lot, but when I am, I’m pretty quiet. I’m also damn good with a hammer.” He glanced around my apartment and pointed at a hole I’d accidentally made in the wall when I flung the closet door open too hard. “I can spackle that and put on a door stopper so it won’t happen again.” He pointed to the kitchen. “And those cabinets are pretty tall. I’m six foot one. No more having to stand on a chair to reach something on the top shelf. And—”
The timer on the stopwatch buzzed.
“Can I just say one last thing?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“I’ll share my Hulu and Netflix passwords. I have the premium Hulu account.”
I laughed. “Well, those are some pretty enticing qualities for a roommate.”
He smiled. “So I’m in?”
I sighed. “I’m sorry. While I appreciate your tenacity, unfortunately, you’re not. Though I interviewed fourteen other people today, and I have to say, you do seem like you’ll make some other lucky person a fantastic roomie.”
Declan frowned, but nodded. “I figured it was worth a shot. This is a great building, and I work right around the corner. It’s hard to find an apartment where it’s only a six-month commitment.”
“My lease is up then, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to extend or not.”
“See? That’s another reason I’d be perfect. I’m only in town for six more months.”
“I’m sorry. This is definitely a case of it’s me and not you.”
He picked up his wine and guzzled it down before standing and extending his hand. “I appreciate you giving me your time. And thanks for the pinot.”
We shook. “It was nice to meet you, Declan.”
After I walked him out, I shut the door and leaned back against it. What a shame; he really seemed like a nice guy and the best candidate I’d met by a mile. I was just about to go wallow in another glass of alcohol when there was a knock at my door. Checking the peephole before opening, I found Declan standing there.
“I forgot something important,” he said.
“Oh? What’s that?”
He took out his wallet and produced a photo of a nun. “This is my sister Catherine, and it’s not a costume from Halloween. She’s a legit nun. How bad can a person be if his sister is a nun?”
I laughed. “Is this the sister who dunked your head in the toilet?”
He grinned. “It is, actually.”
“Well, I’m not sure there’s a direct correlation between your sister deciding to dedicate her life to the church and you being a good person. Though, even if I take your word for it, it still doesn’t change my answer.”
Declan’s shoulders drooped. “Had to try. She tells me her being a nun won’t get me into heaven. Thought maybe it was good for something.”
“Goodbye, Declan.”
“Later, Mollz.”
***
“So…how’s the roommate search going?” Emma poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the small table in our break room.
I sighed. “Why is it so hard to find a normal person these days? I’ve interviewed more than a dozen people, and not one suitable candidate.”
“Did you post an ad on the employee bulletin board, like I suggested?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want another nurse or tech. It makes it weird at work if things don’t work out.”
“Maybe Dr. Dandy will apply.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I heard he’s sleeping on Dr. Cohen’s couch until he finds a place.”
That information certainly perked me up. “Really? Will and whatshername broke up?”
“Yup. Lisa in X-ray told me Dr. Cohen told her he’s staying with him. Apparently he and the wannabe actress are finito.”
“Wow.”
Emma smiled. “Yup. And fair warning, my friend… I’m allowing a ten-day grace period for him to grieve the end of a year-long relationship. But after that, I’m going to be up your butt making sure you let the man know you’re interested. He’s not going to be on the market for long, and you missed your opportunity last time he was single. You can’t keep pining for the guy.”
Of course she was right. And while I felt elated that Will was back on the market, the thought of coming clean to him about my feelings made me want to throw up. Will Daniels—or as Emma called him, Dr. Dandy, because of his last name and uncanny resemblance to a male model named David Gandy—and I had been good friends for four years now. We’d started on the very same day at the hospital and had gone through orientation together. I’d had a boyfriend back then, and he’d been seeing a girl from med school at the time, so even though I’d always thought he was insanely handsome, things didn’t bloom until two years ago. And most of the time since then, he’d been seeing one woman or another. Emma was right that the man never seemed to stay single for long.
“He’s going to be at happy hour this Friday night,” I said. “A few of the crew from CCU are meeting up over at McBride’s. I’m curious to hear what he says about the breakup.”
“Does he know you’re looking for a roommate?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, he needs a place to sleep, and you need a roomie.” Emma shrugged. “Timing is everything. Maybe it’s fate and he’ll move in and take care of two of your needs.”
“I think your imagination might be getting ahead of itself. Why don’t we start by seeing if things are really over with him and whatshername? They’ve split up a few times, but he always winds up going back.”
“Okay. But I have a good feeling about you two.”
“Could you possibly have a good feeling about me finding a roommate instead? I just had to pay for another damn ad.”
Emma shook her head. “I can’t believe you didn’t find one decent candidate.”
Remembering my last interview, I said, “Actually there was one who would’ve been perfect—great credit score, neat, cooks, leaves early in the morning, and works long days.”
“So why didn’t you take her?”
“Because she was a he.”
★★★
 
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RELEASING APRIL 12th!
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PENELOPE WARD
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 
She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.
VI KEELAND
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

Excerpt Reveal: Beneath the Stars by A.L. Jackson

Beneath the Stars Excerpt Blitz

A Friends-to-Lovers Rockstar Romance from A.L. Jackson

Coming February 22nd

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Beneath the Stars is coming 02/22, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the except blitz. Check out the fire that is coming to you in this friends-to-lovers romance!

 

“Just how strong are ya, Mag Pie? Think you can sling me on that back and carry me inside?” He managed to only half slur the words.

Droplets of giddiness dripped into my chest. A well gathering fast. “You’re asking me if I can lift a Mack truck?” 

“Hell, no. Just if you can tackle a stallion.”

He waggled his brows, though it was sloppy and goofy and kind of adorable, and god, how easily I could fall for this man.

Like slipping into quicksand. 

“What would you say if I wanted to try?” I whispered, throat so tight it was difficult to speak. 

He grunted. “I’d say that sounds like a mistake.” 

“I thought you said I needed to make a few mistakes along the way?” I lifted my chin, my eyes searching his face in the darkness.

He forced a grin that felt wholly faked. “Ahhh…a few mistakes are called for. But believe me, baby, you don’t want this kind of tragedy.” 

“Rhys—” 

He shook his head to cut me off. “Don’t.” 

I glanced back at the house. “I really should get Royce. He can help me get you inside.” 

Rhys huffed out a laugh, shoving off the darkness that had gathered around him like a violent storm. He cocked a playful grin. “Think I’ve received my full allotment of death threats from your brother today, thank you very much. I can make it just fine.” 

“Death threats?” 

“Let’s just say he made our boundaries very clear.” He gestured at the bare space between us. “Just so you know, we’re already crossin’ them.” 

I scowled. “When?” 

“Doesn’t matter.” 

I huffed a sigh. 

Freaking Royce. 

“Richard?” I offered instead. 

“Nope. Good as new. Can’t keep a good man down.” His words were all slurry and mushed together.

He hopped up like he was going to prove the point. 

Only he stumbled three feet to the side. 

A goliath who swayed. 

I jumped up and rushed to his side. “Whoa there, cowboy. You keep it up, and you’re definitely going down.”

He leaned against me, slinging his arm over my shoulders. 

The man heavy and hard and pure masculinity. 

He staggered a bit, and I struggled to keep him upright, because holy crap, he was made of brick. 

Suddenly, his nose was in my hair. “Why you gotta smell so good, Mags? And this dress.” 

My brain was short-circuiting with him this close. 

With the words that slipped from his mouth so errantly. 

With the way his fingertips grazed over the silky fabric in the barest brush.

Wildfire. 

It consumed my flesh.

But it was my heart that was at risk. 

 

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“AL Jackson wrecked me and put me back together with this book. I fell for Rhys and Maggie’s story from page one!”

-Jessica Prince, Romance Author

 


 

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A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, BLEEDING STARS, FIGHT FOR ME, CONFESSIONS OF THE HEART, and FALLING STARS novels. Watch out for her upcoming stand-alone, BENEATH THE STARS, releasing February 22nd.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson or text “aljackson” to 33222 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

 

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Exclusive Excerpt: Bet the Farm by Staci Hart

Staci Hart has a brand new rom-com standalone coming February 23rd! Bet the Farm is a heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract and I cannot WAIT to read it! Mark your calendars and pre-order your copy today!

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“What are you doing out here at midnight? And what are those?”

“Oh!” she said, seeming to remember the wriggly blonde puppies in her arms. “Oh my God, Jake. Listen to this—Presley was driving me home from Joe’s because I might have maybe had a little to much to drink, and we were just outside of town when we came up on this cardboard box on the side of the road that somebody wrote PUPPIES on the side of. Can you believe somebody would do that? This world is so fucked up.”

I started to laugh at her untethered use of the word fuck, but cleared my throat. “Okay, but what are they doing here?”

“Well, they were so cute, and Presley wanted one and was gonna take the rest to town to”—a hiccup—“’Scuse me. To town tomorrow to see if anyone wanted them or she’d drive them to the animal shelter. And I was sitting there with that box in my lap and was looking at those little babies, with no mama to take care of them, and I … well, I …” Her voice wavered, and tears welled in her eyes so high, they touched her pupil. “They’re all alone. And so am I. And so are you. So I brought us puppies. This one’s yours.”

She shoved a puppy into my chest.

“No, wait. This one’s yours.”

She shoved the other puppy into my chest, clutching the first one to hers.

I looked down at the furry little squiggly thing, taking it with no small amount of reluctance. “I don’t want a dog.”

“Well, that’s too bad, isn’t it?” she said to the puppy in her arms in a schmoopy voice. “Jake, aren’t they just so sweet? I could just eat him up.”

“That one’s a girl.”

She glanced for confirmation. “Well, I guess I’ll have to pick a new name. Kevin isn’t exactly neutral, is it?” When she looked up, her nose was a little red but her eyes were clear. Until she got a good look at me and her face melted into that doe-eyed expression girls got when they looked at a baby.“Awww, Jake! You’re holding a puppy.” She giggled, but her eyes were shiny again like she was going to cry. “And your shirt’s all unbuttoned. And you don’t have shoes on! I can’t handle it.” Her face lit up. “Let me take a picture of you.” She was already fumbling for her phone.

“Pass.” I dumped the puppy back in her arms with its sibling. “I don’t want a dog, and I don’t want to be all over your stupid social media.”

She made a dramatic grump face and said in a doofy mocking male voice, “I don’t wanna be on the interwebs with the TikTockers and InstantGrammar. You are such a fuddy duddy. And you can’t say no to the puppy.”

The puppy was back in my arms. “Trust me, I can.”

I tried to give it back, but she pushed it in my direction, her face screwing up in anger.

“Listen, you asshole—you need this puppy and she needs you. You won’t let me be your friend, so please, take the dog. She doesn’t have anybody else to take care of her and you don’t have anyone to take care of you. We don’t have Pop anymore, Jake. And I don’t have you and you don’t have me because you’re such a stupid jerk and you never have a shirt on when you know it makes me all …” She crossed her eyes and circled her ear with her pointer finger. “So take the goddamn dog! And I’ll take mine. And then we won’t be alone anymore.”

A slice of white-hot pain cut through me at the despair in her words. At the knowledge on their heels. At the look on her sad, angry face and those shiny tears still in her eyes. How she’d gone through so many forms of tears in such a short period of time astounded me. But that was Olivia. She felt everything. And she always tried to find a way to be happy, despite her circumstance. Which, at the moment, was pretty shitty.

And all I’d done was make it worse, simply because I was scared of losing anything else that meant something to me. I’d lost enough.

She was right. We were alone. And we both needed a friend, canine and human both.

Olivia Brent has one summer to save the dairy farm she just inherited.

But there’s one problem, and it’s not her lactose intolerance.

Jake Milovic.

The brooding farmhand has inherited exactly fifty percent of Brent Farm, and he’s so convinced the city girl can’t work the land, he bets she can’t save it in a summer. 

Determined to prove him wrong, Olivia accepts what might be the dumbest wager of her life.

His strategy to win seems simple: follow her around, shirtlessly distracting her between bouts of relentless taunting. And it’s effective—if his dark eyes and rare smiles aren’t enough to sidetrack her, the sweaty, rolling topography of the manbeast’s body would do the trick.

What they don’t know: they’ll have to weather more than each other. 

Mysterious circumstances throw the farm into disarray, and with the dairy farm in danger, Olivia and Jake have to work together. But when they do, there’s more to fear than either of them imagined.

Because now their hearts are on the line, and the farm won’t be the only casualty if they fail.

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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Exclusive Excerpt: Bet the Farm by Staci Hart

Staci Hart has a brand new rom-com standalone coming February 23rd! Bet the Farm is a heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract and I cannot WAIT to read it! Mark your calendars and pre-order your copy today!

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads

I went down like a windmill, one socked foot in the air and arms wheeling. The calf had still grazed me, and the force combined with my graceless fall slammed me into the ground.

My ribs quaked, my lungs empty from the shock and locked by the pain. Stunned, I watched the calves tromp around me, knowing I needed to curl up or crawl away or call for help. Only I couldn’t move or speak, too busy trying to unlock my lungs and hear past the ring in my ears.

A sharp whistle cut through the chaos, and the calves trotted to the other side of the pen. The sun hammered me into the mud.

Breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t—

Shade cast over me, and I cracked my eyes to see a silhouette of Jake against the crisp blue sky.

He gathered me to sit, bracing my body against his and inspecting me as best he could. “Are you hurt?”

I shook my head. “Can’t … breathe …”

“You can, just look at me.”

When I met his eyes, I would have told him that was the dumbest thing he’d ever suggested, provided I could speak. Because it was impossible to breathe with his face inches from mine. His eyes were narrowed in concern, the green of his irises crisp and vibrant, even in the shade. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen. I was probably hallucinating. No one could be this perfect, every feature symmetric and aligned. He had to have a flaw besides his shitty attitude. Hairy ears, maybe.

When he turned his head to check my limbs, I noted his stupid ears were perfect too.

Jerk.

Olivia Brent has one summer to save the dairy farm she just inherited.

But there’s one problem, and it’s not her lactose intolerance.

Jake Milovic.

The brooding farmhand has inherited exactly fifty percent of Brent Farm, and he’s so convinced the city girl can’t work the land, he bets she can’t save it in a summer. 

Determined to prove him wrong, Olivia accepts what might be the dumbest wager of her life.

His strategy to win seems simple: follow her around, shirtlessly distracting her between bouts of relentless taunting. And it’s effective—if his dark eyes and rare smiles aren’t enough to sidetrack her, the sweaty, rolling topography of the manbeast’s body would do the trick.

What they don’t know: they’ll have to weather more than each other. 

Mysterious circumstances throw the farm into disarray, and with the dairy farm in danger, Olivia and Jake have to work together. But when they do, there’s more to fear than either of them imagined.

Because now their hearts are on the line, and the farm won’t be the only casualty if they fail.

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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Coming Soon: Bet the Farm by Staci Hart

Staci Hart has a brand new rom-com standalone coming January 26th! Bet the Farm is a heartfelt, flirty story of opposites attract and I cannot WAIT to read it! Mark your calendars and pre-order your copy today!

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A very unladylike grunt grated out of me.

Every muscle engaged as I hauled a ridiculous pink suitcase off the baggage belt of the tiny airport. The curl of my toes kept me braced. My glutes were hard enough to bounce a quarter off of. Shoulders bunched, abs engaged, fingers burning.

It was more than I’d worked out in a year.

In that moment, I second guessed everything I’d packed to come home to California, even though I’d been absolutely certain every article of clothing was necessary at the time. But when I stumbled backward from the force of finally loosing my luggage, I questioned the rain boots. And the overalls. And all that plaid. But I was back at the farm after two long years, and I had to look the part.

The worst part of growing up on a dairy farm was being lactose intolerant.

Butter and cream, ice cream and cheese, and tanks brimming with milk. Growing up, it was inescapable, and as a sweet, innocent child with no clue of the tragic fate my digestive system had in store, I didn’t have to escape it. I remember sneaking hunks of cheese from the creamery and eating until I was sick in the hay loft. Or sitting across from my grandfather, warm brownie and teeming glass of fresh milk before us, the sounds of crickets floating in on the breeze through the open windows of the farmhouse.

These days, it was almond milk and soy cheese, margarine and sorbet. I’d abandoned cream, opting to drink my coffee black, which made me feel like a true badass—no easy feat at five feet and change, with hair the color of a penny and enough freckles to find constellations in the array. I was about as badass as a paper towel or a guinea pig or a carrot. Or a guinea pig on a paper towel eating a carrot.

When the suitcase wheels were on the slick tile floor of baggage claim in the eensy airport, I brushed my hair back from my clammy forehead, scanning the belt for my other suitcase.

It was equally as ridiculous a shade of pink as the one I propped myself on to catch my breath, a bright bubblegum hue, fit better for a little girl than a grown woman. A New Yorker, no less. But I couldn’t bring myself to curb the inclination to the color. It was a color that instantly brought cheer—you couldn’t tow a suitcase that vivid and hopeful without getting the distinct impression that everything would be all right, regardless of where you were going.

Even a funeral.

Olivia Brent has one summer to save the dairy farm she just inherited.

But there’s one problem, and it’s not her lactose intolerance.

Jake Milovic.

The brooding farmhand has inherited exactly fifty percent of Brent Farm, and he’s so convinced the city girl can’t work the land, he bets she can’t save it in a summer. 

Determined to prove him wrong, Olivia accepts what might be the dumbest wager of her life.

His strategy to win seems simple: follow her around, shirtlessly distracting her between bouts of relentless taunting. And it’s effective—if his dark eyes and rare smiles aren’t enough to sidetrack her, the sweaty, rolling topography of the manbeast’s body would do the trick.

What they don’t know: they’ll have to weather more than each other. 

Mysterious circumstances throw the farm into disarray, and with the dairy farm in danger, Olivia and Jake have to work together. But when they do, there’s more to fear than either of them imagined.

Because now their hearts are on the line, and the farm won’t be the only casualty if they fail.

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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Excerpt Reveal: Little Lies by H. Hunting

“Helena Hunting takes your breath and your heart with equal force in this incredible, important novel. This book is a hug and a lesson, as well as a hell of a ride” — Debra Anastasia, author

From New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting writing as H. Hunting, comes a beautifully written and emotional new adult romance, Little Lies, November 16th and we have the first peek inside this unforgettable romance.

Sneak Peek

Lavender finally looks my way. “You can go back to your bunnies, Kodiak. I don’t need a bodyguard or a babysitter.”
Clarke laughs and smirks at me. “You heard her. We’re good.” He slings his arm over her shoulder and pulls her into his side. I’m pretty sure her ass cheek is pressed up against his leg, and his fingers dangle perilously close to her boob.
My control slips. The frustration over not being able to have what I want is wearing me down. Everyone has an opinion on what’s good for me—how I have to manage all the impulses, how I can’t let the obsessions rule me the way they often do. But this is more than I can take. It’s been weeks and weeks of fighting the need of being an asshole because the alternative is to dive right back into that fixation—and if I do, I’m very worried it’s going to consume me. And her.
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Synopsis

I don’t want you.
You mean nothing to me.
I never loved you.
I turned my words into swords.
And I cut her down.
Shoved the blade in and watched her fall.
I said I’d never hurt her, and I did.
Years later, I’m faced with all the little lies, the untruths, the false realities, the damage I inflicted, when all I wanted was to indulge my obsession.
Lavender Waters is the princess in the tower. Even her name is the thing fairy tales are made of.
I used to be the one who saved her.
Over and over again.
But I don’t want to save her anymore.
I just want to pretend the lies are still the truth.

About Helena Hunting

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

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Excerpt Reveal: Happily Letter After by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

Title: Happily Letter After
Authors: Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 20, 2020
BLURB
From New York Times bestselling authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward comes a love story about taking chances and the surprises that come with them. 

My love story all started with a letter. 
Only it wasn’t from the man I’d eventually fall in love with. It was from his daughter. A sweet little girl named Birdie Maxwell who’d written to the magazine that I worked for. 
You see, once a year my employer fulfilled a few wishes for readers. Only that column didn’t start up again for months. 
So I fulfilled some of her wishes myself. It was harmless…so I thought. Until one day I took things too far. 
While anonymously granting yet another of Birdie’s wishes, I got a look at her father. Her devastatingly handsome, single dad father. 
I should have stopped playing fairy godmother then. I should have left well enough alone. But I just couldn’t help myself. I had a connection to this girl. One that had me acting irrationally. 
Like when I showed up on their doorstep.
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EXCERPT
Copyright © 2019 by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward 

“I cannot believe we are doing this.” Devin and I took the C train to Columbus Circle and stopped at Starbucks before walking over to the carousel. My partner in crime came dressed for surveillance, wearing head-to-toe black, dark sun- glasses, and a wool cap . . . in July. We were lucky it was New York or she might look like the weirdo she is. I, on the other hand, had on jeans and an Aerosmith T-shirt. Because . . . you know . . . Steven Tyler and those lips. I didn’t even care he was probably pushing seventy. I’d still suck on those babies. 
We took a seat on a bench located to the right of the carousel—not directly in front of it but where we could still see everyone who walked in and out. As we got into position, I started to feel really bad about what we were about to do—invade little Birdie’s privacy. 
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this.” 
Devin put her hand on my shoulder and applied pressure—just in case I tried to get up. “We’re doing this. Don’t even try to make a run for it.” 
I slouched back onto the bench. “Fine.” 
We sat for the better part of an hour, sipping coffee, gossiping about work, and looking around for a little girl and her dad. When I caught the time on my phone, I said, “It’s after eleven. I don’t think they’re coming.” 
“Let’s give it until eleven thirty.” 
I rolled my eyes. But screw it, we were in this far—I might as well go along with the rest of the ride. Otherwise, Devin would never let me hear the end of it. At eleven thirty on the dot, I stood. “Let’s go, Lacey.” 
“Who?” 
Cagney & Lacey. It was a show my mom used to watch when I was little. It had two women detectives.” 
“Well, which one was hotter? Maybe I don’t want to be Lacey.” 
I laughed. “You can be whichever one you want to be.” 
I turned to throw out my coffee cup in the basket next to the bench and was just about to start to leave when I spotted a little girl and a man who had just turned into the entrance of the park. They were pretty far off, but I thought it could be Birdie. “Oh my God. Sit! Sit! I think that’s them.” 
The two of us planted our asses back on the bench at the same exact time. Devin leaned forward and squinted. “Are you sure?” 
I grabbed her arm and pulled her to sit back. “Don’t be so obvious.” 
We watched, while completely failing at looking casual, as the man and the little girl moved closer. The man was tall, broad-shouldered, and had on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. He was holding the hand of the little girl. And she had on . . . a bodysuit and tutu. It was definitely Birdie! 
“Oh my God. It’s them!” 
Neither of us said a word as the father and daughter approached the carousel. When they got close enough so I could finally see their faces, I gasped. “Oh my God. He’s . . .” 
Devin grabbed my hand. “I call dibs. I want to have his babies.” 
I couldn’t believe my eyes. While I was expecting a modern version of my dad twenty years ago, the man standing before me was anything but. For the record, my dad is awesome, and he’s not too shabby-looking. But this man . . . was . . . drop. Dead. Gorgeous. Wow. Just . . . yeah. Wow. 
Sebastian Maxwell had dark hair, bone structure to die for, and full, beautiful lips. I’d joked how Devin thought the guy was a super- model, but this man could actually be a supermodel. He had that longish, messy hair—the kind that he could drag a hand through, and it would look like he’d been both thoroughly fucked and just finished a photo shoot. Yeah, that was him. I was absolutely, positively speechless.
VI KEELAND
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
PENELOPE WARD
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism. 
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.
OTHER BOOKS BY VI & PENELOPE
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Free in Kindle Unlimited
ALSO AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK & AUDIO
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited
ALSO AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK & AUDIO
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited
ALSO AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK & AUDIO

Excerpt Reveal: Sicko by Amo Jones

SICKO by Amo Jones
Release Date: September 1st

 

Add to Goodreads:
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Blurb:
He was my foster brother.
He swore to protect me.
He failed.
They all failed.

I’m an open box of passé photographs, snapped in chaste daylight, but filtered in sepia. I’m the past that he tried to forget, and he was the future I needed. When he left six years ago, I screamed for him every night. But then it all stopped. My screams were suddenly muffled by cruelty, and further coaxed by pain.

But he has come back. He’s not the cute big brother I had a furtive crush on, or the bad boy, rich brat that I hated to love.

He’s the ruthless vice president of Wolf Pack MC, and he doesn’t answer to Royce Kane anymore.

He answers to Sicko.

 

Excerpt:

I weep loudly from the pain. His other hand comes to the back of my neck as he presses me further into the blankets. “Cross your fingers together at the back of your head.”

Oh god. I do as I’m told, mainly because I don’t think I want to fuck with this side of him, but another part of me wants to see just how far I can push him. He flicks on the bedside lamp, but it’s dim. Too dim. Offering a soft sepia shade to room.

“You let go, and you feel this?” Cold metal slides down the crack of my ass and I tense.

 

About the Author:
Amo Jones is a USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, totally winging this author thing (she’s probably doing it all wrong). She likes cake, loves wine, and her religion is magic (Slytherin). She’s a profound work-a-holic, but when she’s not writing, you can find her chilling with her kids & Husband at the nearest beach, with a cocktail in her hand.

New Zealand is not a state of Australia and rugby is the best sport ever played.

 

 

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Excerpt Reveal: Love Her Madly by Jessica Ruben

We’re so excited to share the first peek inside Love Her Madly (Sex. Rock. Mafia.) by International Bestselling author Jessica Ruben! This is the second stand alone novel in the series. 
 
From India to Iran and New York City, buckle up for a journey you won’t forget. 
Cover by: Okay Creations
NA Contemporary Romance

Release Date: September 1, 2020

EXCERPT:

I push the button, and the music starts. The girls dance as they have been, in perfect sync. But this time, Darius is here. He changes everything. His muscles flex as he lifts Roshan, and she slides from his waist, downward, her body pressed against his until she’s on her knees before him. Suddenly, she pops up with the music, twirling as his hands move to her behind, sliding across her slim hips. His hands are so large that they surround her entire waist. Roshan spins around again and again before dropping down to the ground, this time into a perfect split.

I gasp because I can’t help it. Luckily, no one notices or hears. I’ve seen beautiful dancing. But this? This is something else entirely.

She rises, and their chests touch. His eyes stare directly at hers. I can’t help but touch my own chest with my hand. Darius and Roshan are mere inches apart, seemingly so entwined that even their breathing is in sync. I feel a pressure tugging into my soul. Watching this is … hurting me. Is there something between them? They are perfect together.

I look down at my own brown clothes, the sack for potatoes. Where I grew up, these differences between people were never possible. We all wore the same clothes. We slept in similar homes. We farmed. We worked. We helped each other. But here is a true hierarchy, like animals. And I’m at the lowest rung.

Blurb:

Darius is a man with power and control.

As a child in the Mumbai slums, living among lethal street gangs, all he cared about was his safety and where he would find his next meal.

That is, until the Madam of the most famed brothel in India finds him, offering him a life he can’t refuse.

As an intelligent, beautiful woman raised in a small mountain village, Gini never would have imagined a place like The Mansion exists.

Stolen by Darius into a dark underworld where the famed Mullah Omar arranges pleasure marriages to the highest bidder, Gini fights for survival.

At first frightened by the dangerous man who keeps her prisoner, Darius slowly becomes the one light in her dark world.

The Madam. The Mullah. The Protector. The Beauty.

Who will win when money reigns supreme and power is everything?

Read Light My Fire (book 1): mybook.to/LMFJessicaRuben

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About the Author:
Jessica Ruben lives and works in New York City, where she spends her days dominating in the court room as an attorney. Come nightfall, she writes romances centering on gorgeous alpha males and the intelligent women who love them.Jessica is an insatiable reader, and will devour a few books a week without batting an eyelash. Books have always been her drug of choice, and she has no plans on detox anytime soon. She has three wildly delicious children and a husband who, for reasons unimaginable to her, loves her brand of crazy.

http://jessicarubenauthor.com

 

Sneak Peek: The Rivals by Vi Keeland

 

 

Excited about Vi Keeland’s upcoming release,
The Rivals? Check out this SNEAK PEEK

 

 

Title: The Rivals
Author: Vi Keeland
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 13, 2020

 

Blurb

 

The feud
between Weston Lockwood and me started at the altar.
Only
neither of us attended the wedding, and the nuptials happened decades before
either of us was born.
Our
grandfathers had been best friends and business partners, at least up until my
grandfather’s wedding day—when his bride-to-be blurted out she couldn’t marry
him because she was also in love with Weston‘s grandfather.
The two men
spent years fighting over Grace Copeland, who also happened to be their third
business partner.  But in the end, neither man could steal half of her
heart away from the other.
Eventually,
they all went their separate ways.  Our
grandfathers married other women, and the two men became one of the biggest
business rivals in history.
Our fathers
continued the family tradition of feuding.
And then Weston and I did, too.
For the
most part, we kept as much distance as possible.
Until the
day the woman who started the feud died—and unexpectedly left one of the most
valuable hotels in the world to our grandfathers to share.
Now I’m
stuck in a hotel with the man I was born to hate, trying to unravel the mess
our families inherited.
As usual,
it didn’t take long for us to be at each other’s throats.
Weston
Lockwood was everything I hated: tall, smart, cocky, and too gorgeous for his
own good.  We were fire and ice. 
But that
shouldn’t be an issue. Our families were used to being at war. There was just
one minor problem, though.   Every time
Weston and I fought, we somehow wound up in bed.

 

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Excerpt

 

Sophia
“What the hell?” I pressed the button on the elevator panel a second
time. It illuminated, yet the car continued to sit there. So I jabbed my finger
at it a third time. Finally, the doors started to glide closed.
Just as they were about to shut completely, a shoe blocked them from
closing. 
A wingtip shoe. 
Weston’s smiling face was there to greet me when the doors bounced
open. 
My blood was near boiling. “So help me, Lockwood, if you try to get in
this car, I can’t be responsible for what happens to you. I’m not in the mood
anymore.” 
He entered the elevator anyway. “Come on, Fifi. What’s wrong? I’m just playing
around. You’re taking things way too seriously.” 
I counted to ten in my head, but it didn’t help. Fuck it. He
wanted to get a rise out of me? He was going to get one. The doors slid
shut again, and I turned and backed him into a corner. Seeing my face, he at
least had the decency to look a little nervous. 
“You wanna know what’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong! My father
thinks I’m inept because I don’t have an appendage dangling between my legs.
The man I spent the last eighteen months with was cheating on me with one of my
cousins. Again. I hate New York City. I despise the Lockwood
family. And you think you can get away with anything you want just because you
have a big dick.” I jabbed my finger into his chest and punctuated each
staccato word with another stab.  
“I’m  
Tired.  
Of.  
Men.  
My father.  
Liam.  
You. 
Every single fucking one of you. So leave me the hell alone!” 
Frazzled, I turned back around and waited for the door to open, only to
realize we hadn’t started to move yet. Great.
Just fucking great. I jabbed the button a few more times, closed my eyes, and
took deep, cleansing breaths as we started to move. Halfway through breath
three, I felt the heat of Weston’s body behind me. He had to have moved closer.
I continued to try to ignore him.  
But the fucker still smelled good.  
How the hell could that be? Whose cologne lasted
for—what had it been now?—twelve hours? After the gauntlet run he’d
sent me on across town this morning, I probably smelled like BO. It pissed me
off that the asshole smelled…fucking delicious.  
He moved closer, and I felt his breath tickle my neck.  
“So,” he whispered in a gravelly voice. “You think my dick’s big.” 
I turned and scowled at him. While this morning he’d been clean-shaven,
he now had a five o’clock shadow all along his chiseled jaw. It gave
him a sinister look. The suit that hugged his broad shoulders probably cost
more than Liam’s entire sweater wardrobe. Weston Lockwood was everything I
hated in a man—wealthy, good looking, cocky, arrogant, and fearless. Liam would
hate him. My father already hated him. And at the moment, those were actually
Weston’s strong points.  
While I struggled with my body reacting to his scent and how much I liked
the stubble on his face, Weston slowly reached out and put a hand on my hip. At
first, I assumed he thought he needed to steady me, as he had when I’d wobbled
in the bar. Had I wobbled again? I didn’t think I had. But I
must’ve. 
Though when his hand glided from my hip around to my ass, there was
no misunderstanding his intention. He was not trying to
help me stay on my feet. In my head, my immediate reaction was to scream at
him, but somehow my throat felt too clogged to speak.  
I made the mistake of looking up from his jaw into his blue eyes. Heat
flickered, turning them almost gray, and his eyes dropped to my
lips.  
No.  
Just no. 
This was not happening.  
Not again. 
My heart thundered in my chest, and the blood in my ears roared so loudly
I almost didn’t hear the ding of the elevator announcing that we’d arrived at
my floor. Thankfully it snapped me out of whatever moment of insanity I’d
slipped into.  
“I…I need to go.” 
It took all of my focus to put one foot in front of the other, but I
managed to walk down the hall and make it to my room.  
Though… 
I wasn’t alone.

 

Author Bio

Vi Keeland
is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author.
With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred
Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She
resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is
living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
Author Links