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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Blog Tour: The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills

What happens when the king of football meets the queen of nothing?
Find out in The Revenge Pact, an all-new emotional and swoon-worthy enemies-to-lovers standalone romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills!

River Tate is a god on campus.
The king of football.
A tattooed bad boy with gunmetal eyes that see right through you.
The only chink in his armor is her, the girl he pretends doesn’t exist, the forbidden one with the shy smile and lavender hair.

Anastasia Bailey is a nobody.
The queen of nothing.
An outsider with the face of an angel and a body made for sin.
The only chink in her armor is him, her boyfriend’s frat brother, the football player who hates her.

But when Anastasia’s life crashes down, River’s the one who sweeps in and picks up the pieces. Torn between loyalty, lies, and secrets, he battles the temptation to take everything from her when they make their revenge pact.

He can’t tell her no.
Because revenge (or love) is sweet, and once you get a taste, the craving never ends.

Download your copy or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited today!
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Excerpt

River

“Why is the elevator so slow?” she mutters.

“Tell me three things you’re grateful for,” I say.  

She does a double take. “Is this where I’m like your…pet project? Don’t feel sorry for me.”

Rainbow, sorry is the last thing I feel for you. 

I want you under me. 

Deep and hard.

“How are things with Donovan?” I ask.

Her throat bobs. “I-I can’t talk to you about him. I mean, yeah, um, it…doesn’t feel right, you know, to him.” 

Right. He’s her boyfriend and my frat brother.

The door opens and she slips out, her arm brushing against my chest. I follow, sucking down the electricity between us. 

She blows out a breath. “I know what this is, why you’re being nice to me—”

“Yeah? Tell me, because I can’t figure it out,” I snap, annoyed she won’t open up while the other side is pissed at myself for asking. “Trust me, I wish I didn’t…” I stop, my jaw clenching.

She stops at the door to class and faces me. “Your paper. I’m sorry I can’t help you, I really am. I love helping others, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for us…” She bites her lip, her gaze avoiding mine. “There’s something about you and me—” She halts and looks down at her feet. “Anyway, I know a few students who tutor athletes. Let me give you their names—”

“No one but you, Anastasia.” 

“What? Why?”

Instinct takes over and I back her against the wall, towering over her. I tilt her chin up, and she doesn’t speak or move, just breathing fast, as my hand slides around to her nape. A hum of heat goes through my body as my hands tangle in her hair. 

“River…what…” Pink rises on her cheeks as her lashes flutter.

Every time, I’m pushing a little more, the dark side of me winning. Monday. Her apartment. Now.

I could kiss her right now, but it’s wrong, immensely, and I’m being bad, so bad…

She gazes up at me, her eyes flaring, the gold around her pupils darkening. She swallows as goose bumps appear on her neck.

A primal sound builds in my throat. 

Anger. 

Frustration. 

Loyalty.

Dammit. I shouldn’t be this close, shouldn’t touch her—

“I’ll wait.” I grind my teeth and step back.

Her lips part, a small puff of air coming out. She looks at my mouth. “For what?”

The lethal side of me, the one itching to play this game no matter the consequences, tries to take over and speak the truth. I shove it down. 

You, I say in my head.

Leaving her there, I sweep past her and go to my seat. 

Five fucking rows back.

About Ilsa Madden-Mills
Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her angsty new adult romances and romantic comedies.

Eight of her eleven novels have placed in the Amazon Top 10 Best-seller List: Dirty English #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things #6; Boyfriend Bargain #8; The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, #4.

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.

She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.

Connect with Ilsa
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CHECK OUT THE OTHER STANDALONES IN THE SERIES!

Best-selling authors Ilsa Madden-Mills, Meghan Quinn and Adriana Locke,deliver three stand-alone romances about college football players finding true love while on the verge of losing everything.

THE ROMANTIC PACT by Meghan Quinn
Release Date: December 10th

Synopsis:
I haven’t seen her in three years.

I haven’t talked to her since the kiss.

So why am I on a plane, flying across the world to spend a week with her in Germany?

One word: Pops.

My life’s a mess.
My possible football career is hanging on by a thread.
I’m driving the roads of Germany in honor of Pops with the one girl I can never have.
And I’m sharing a bed with her, the girl I’ve measured everyone else up to, while desperately trying to not to touch her.

We made a pact growing up, never to get romantic with each other – never fall in love.

And I’m about to break that pact. For good.

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THE RELATIONSHIP PACT by Adriana Locke
Release Date: December 17th

Synopsis
How hard can it be?

That was the question rolling around Larissa Mason’s mind just before she asked Hollis Hudson to be her fake boyfriend.

It was only supposed to be for five minutes, after all.

Granted, that was also before she felt his hand on the small of her back as he charmed the heck out of her family.

She hadn’t heard his laugh yet either.

And it was definitely before she saw the football god shirtless. Otherwise, she would’ve had an idea of just how hard some things could be.

It turns out that pretending to be in love with a crazily handsome, somewhat enigmatic, and absolutely unforgettable tight end (that has an amazing tight end) is easy.

Reminding herself that just because opposites attract doesn’t mean they’re forever is much harder.

What they have isn’t love—it’s a relationship pact. Right?

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Blog Tour: A Bridge Between Us by K.K. Allen

“A breathtaking romantic experience that will have you on the edge of your seat. Allen delivers a poignant new adult must-read.”
– Kandi Steiner, Bestselling Author

A Bridge Between Us, an all-new standalone small-town romance from USA Today bestselling author K.K. Allen is available now!

I had always known he wasn’t mine to keep, but that didn’t change the way I loved him—quietly, gently, and from afar.

As the seasons changed, the corn stalks grew strong, and the grapevines flourished with hope. But none of it mattered, not when the soil at our feet bound us in a century-old rivalry. We’d never even had a chance.

They said life flashed before your eyes on the way to death, but on that night, after my final scream burst from my throat and my world started to fade to black, I only thought of him. Of his sweet chocolate eyes, his desperately cautious stare, and his silence that carried more weight than gold.

I should have died that night. Instead, I crossed the moonlit bridge and never returned.
I let rivalry win. If only that had been enough to keep us all safe. If only we didn’t have a bridge between us.

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
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Read my FIVE STAR REVIEW here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3597543385?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Excerpt:

She starts to move past me toward the record player when something strong and instinctual—something that feels like fate—gives me a hard punch in the chest. I grab her hand and pull her back to me. Surprised, she stumbles a little, and her palms break her fall on my chest. When she recovers, she meets my gaze, and I don’t try to interpret it. Instead, I move her arms around my neck, wrap mine around her waist, and start to move.

Her eyes narrow, but they have a glimmer in them. “Oh, so now you want to dance.” 

I cringe a little. “I don’t think you can call this dancing. And to be fair, I don’t think you can call what you were doing dancing either.”

Not even her harsh glare can hide the amusement she finds at my joke. She purses her lips to hold back her laugh then swats at my chest before moving her hand back around my neck. “At least I was having fun.”

“Oh, I was having fun watching you. Besides, you didn’t seem to have a problem with my moves at prom.”

Her cheeks redden, and when my gaze slips down to her neck, I find that part of her skin is changing color too. She’s flushed all over, and I can’t help but get excited that I’m doing that to her.

“Yeah, well, you also bribed me with a dozen pink roses, a tent, and a pretty necklace, so we probably shouldn’t compare experiences.”

At the mention of her necklace, my gaze locks on her throat, even though I already know it isn’t there. When she picked me up from the jail, she wasn’t wearing it then either. The disappointment weighed heavily, and as much as I want to ask her where it is, I choose not to go there. I had no right to question it back then, and I still don’t. “Just give me a few minutes, and I can rectify all that.”

She smiles gently back at me, and the mood shifts from playful to serious. “You would, wouldn’t you?”

My heart pounds so hard that I can feel it between my ears. I cup her neck while slowly moving a finger across her cheek, and I glance at her lips before locking on her eyes. “I would do anything for you, Camila. That hasn’t changed, and it never will.”

She blinks, as if she can’t believe me. I drop my forehead to hers, and when her eyelids flutter closed as a shaky breath rushes past her lips, I know she feels the same.

“How does this feel so normal?” Her words are just a whisper. “I close my eyes, and it’s like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.” She shakes her head. “I don’t understand.”

“What’s to understand? Our roots are deep, just like your vines, which adapt to every season. No matter the harsh weather, there’s always new growth.”

“Are you comparing our relationship to the life of a grape?”

The teasing in her voice makes me chuckle. “No. I’m comparing us to a whole damn vineyard. We’re the root.” I lean in, brush her lips with mine, and whisper, “You and me, Wild One.”

A shiver racks her entire body, and I tighten my hold around her, as if it could help. The way she’s engulfed in my arms brings me the most comfort I’ve felt in years. Camila’s right. This feels so normal and natural, like we were always meant to fit.

I brush my lips against hers again, almost expecting her to pull away and tell me it’s too soon or too late. Either one of those responses would be understandable. But when her fingernails dig into my back, I don’t ignore the message. I mold my mouth to hers and kiss her hard.

Her firm lips respond to mine immediately, and she steals every bit of my air as she breathes me in. I explore the taste and feel of her like it’s the very first time. In a way, that’s exactly what this is. It’s been ten years since our lips last touched, and though I’ve dreamed about it, nothing could have prepared me for the real feeling of our mouths moving as one, our breaths tangling with heat and desire, or our hands wandering as our mouths keep a slow and steady pace. The kiss is so consuming and powerful that I feel an awakening within me. And when she parts my mouth with hers and sweeps her tongue over mine, a growl rumbles through me.

Meet K.K. Allen
K.K. Allen is a USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author and interdisciplinary arts and sciences graduate from the University of Washington who writes heartfelt contemporary romance stories that are as real as they are inspiring. K.K. is a Hawaiian girl who was raised in Seattle, and currently resides in central Florida. She works full time as a digital producer for a leading online educational institution and is the mother to a ridiculously handsome little dude who owns her heart.

K.K.’s publishing journey began in June 2014 with the YA Contemporary Fantasy trilogy, The Summer Solstice. In 2016, K.K. published her first Contemporary Romance, Up in the Treehouse, which went on to win the Romantic Times 2016 Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best New Adult Book of the Year. With K.K.’s love for inspirational and coming-of-age stories involving heartfelt narratives and honest emotions, you can be assured to always be surprised by what K.K. releases next.

Connect with K.K. Allen
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Book Review: Little Lies by H. Hunting

“H. Hunting pens a heartbreaking tale that leaves readers absolutely breathless from beginning to end. One of her best books yet!”
– Stacey Lynn, author

Little Lies, an all-new, angsty and emotional new adult romance from New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting writing as H. Hunting is out now!

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.

Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
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Read my FIVE STAR REVIEW here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3518508065?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Excerpt

The front door swings open, and the never-ending nightmare that is this day smacks me in the face like a long-expired sausage. Kodiak stands in the doorway wearing only a pair of swim shorts, wet hair sticking out all over the place, water dripping on the damn floor. But God, is he ever glorious. Muscle layered over muscle, thick biceps flexing as he holds the doorjamb, a mischievous grin popping the dimple in his left cheek.
My heart seizes and gallops. I miss this version of him: the one that smiles and doesn’t hate me.
He ruins everything a moment later by bellowing, “Who’s fucking in the driveway?”
His gaze moves to Dylan, who looks as horrified as I feel, but as it shifts to me, his smile drops and my stomach tightens.
“You should really go,” I tell Dylan.
“I’ll see you around.” He disappears into his car and barely has the door closed before he’s backing out of the driveway and screeching down the street.
I adjust my backpack on my shoulder and head for the house, steeling my spine and my nerves because Kodiak is still standing in the middle of the doorway, his face a mask of indifference. I try to brush by him, but he stays where he is, making it impossible.
I sigh, exhausted beyond belief. I just want to go upstairs and have a good, cathartic cry. I try to mirror his apathy. “Can you move so I can get into my house?”
His brow furrows as his eyes move over my face. He lifts his hand, like maybe he’s thinking about touching me. There’s no way I can handle that. I jerk back and swat his hand away. “What are you doing?”
“Your lip is bleeding.”
“Don’t act like you actually give a shit, Kodiak.”
“Tell me what happened.” His voice is low and soft, and for whatever reason, that makes me even angrier, so I lash out, wanting to wound him the way he keeps wounding me.
“You, Kodiak. You happened, and you ruined my goddamn life. Now get the hell out of my way.” I elbow past him, almost tripping over several sets of running shoes.
I head straight for my bedroom and lock the door behind me. I slide down the wall until my butt hits the floor and close my eyes, taking deep breaths.
I imagined the concern in his voice.
I imagined the pain that sat heavy behind his eyes.
We see what we want to, not the truth, especially when it hurts.

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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H. Hunting

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Excerpt Reveal: The Anti-Boyfriend by Penelope Ward

Title: The Anti-Boyfriend
Author: Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 31, 2020
Blurb

From New York Times bestselling author
Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone novel.
At first,
my neighbor Deacon frustrated me.
Sure, he
was great-looking and friendly.
But our
walls were thin, and on occasion, he’d bring women to his place and keep me
awake while he “entertained” them.
As a single
mother to an infant, I didn’t appreciate it.
So, finally
it was my turn.
When my
daughter wouldn’t stop wailing one night, Mr. Manwhore came knocking on my
door.

Miraculously,
at the sound of his voice, Sunny stopped crying. And when he held her…she
eventually fell asleep in his arms.
Deacon was
rough on the exterior, but apparently on the inside? Mr.
Single-and-Ready-to-Mingle was a baby whisperer.
After that
night, we became friends.
He’d go for
coffee runs. Come over to chat. Normal friend stuff.
But over
time, our conversations ran deeper. We got closer.
Until one
night we crossed the line.
Our
friendship turned into a complicated mess.
I’d gone
and fallen for a guy who’d sworn off commitment and kids.
I knew
Deacon was starting to care for me too, even though Sunny and I didn’t fit into
any plan he’d ever imagined for himself.
He was
wrong for me—so wrong that I’d dubbed him the “anti-boyfriend.”
Then why
did I wish more than anything that I could be the one woman to change him?

Pre-order Links
Excerpt
Copyright © 2020
By Penelope Ward
Today, just as I got back to my door, Deacon was exiting his apartment.
“Oh, hey, Carys-Like-Paris. How goes it?” He flashed a wide smile.
When people ask me my name, for some stupid reason, I sometimes answer,
“Carys, like Paris,” particularly when I’m nervous. That was the case the first
time I met Deacon.
A whiff of his amazing smell put my body on alert. He looked handsome as
always. Today he wore a camel-colored suede coat with a shearling collar. His
blue eyes, which stood out against his tanned skin, glimmered under the
fluorescent lights overhead, which also brought out the copper tint to his
otherwise medium-brown hair. He was at least six-foot-two—a beanstalk to my
five-foot-four self.
This was my opportunity to bring up last night. But now that he was right
here, towering over me, his musky smell saturating the air, I seemed to have
lost the words. Still, I was determined to speak up now or never.
My heartbeat accelerated. Here
goes.
Still out of breath from my sprint up the stairs, I said, “Well,
honestly, in answer to your question… I’d love to say I’m doing great, but I
had a hard time getting to sleep last night. So, I’ve been better.”
He frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Actually, it’s sort of your fault.”
Deacon’s forehead crinkled. “My fault?”
“Yeah. I don’t know if you realize this, but your bed is right up against
mine, on the opposite side of the wall. Your…interactions…last night woke me up, and I had a hard time getting
back to sleep.”
Boom.
There.
Said it.
Deacon closed his eyes momentarily. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you
were right behind me.”
“Yeah. It’s basically like I’m…right there.”
“Well, that was rude of me. I should’ve invited you to join.”
What? It felt
like all my blood rushed to my head.
He held out his palms. “I’m kidding. Bad sense of humor comes out when I
feel awkward, I guess.”
Slipping a piece of my hair behind my ear, I brushed off his comment. “I
know you’re kidding.”
“Totally kidding.” He smiled. “But I’ll try to be more considerate now
that I know you can hear everything. You should’ve said something.”
I tilted my head. “How exactly would that have worked? Barging in on two
naked people? That’s why I’m saying something now.”
“Solid point. But I take it last night wasn’t the first time you
overheard things?”
I looked down at my feet. “No, it wasn’t.”
“You could’ve banged on the wall or something.”
“I’m not one to rudely interrupt someone’s…personal happenings. I just
wanted you to be aware of the situation. We don’t need to discuss it further.”
“Maybe we should come up with a code.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, If I’m disturbing your peace, you play a song and crank it up to
send me a message.” He snapped his fingers. “Something ironic like ‘The Sounds
of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel.”
“Can’t exactly crank up a song when a baby is sleeping.”
His smile faded. “See? That goes to show you how clueless I am. Clueless
and so sorry, Carys. Truly. I’ll try not to let it happen again.”
“It better not, fuckboy!” a voice shouted from behind one of the
apartment doors.
Deacon and I turned around in unison. I noticed Mrs. Winsbanger’s door
move across the hall. The old lady must have been listening in. She lived
alone, and I often spotted her peeking out her door, spying on people.
Deacon grimaced. “Mrs. Winsbanger loves me.”
“Apparently I’m not the only one who overheard things last night,” I
said.
His face turned red. His embarrassment was a bit surprising. I’d expected
him to be more cocky.
“I’ll move my bed to the other side of the room. That should help.”
“Well, that would be nice, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“It’s not.”
Happy to have the conversation over with, I let out a long breath. “Okay,
well, I’ll let you get going.”
He didn’t budge and seemed to be examining my face. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Why?”
“You seem frazzled.”
Well, yeah. I didn’t
get good sleep, I’m trying to get things done in possibly the only hour of the
day I have free, and we just had the most awkward conversation EVER.
“This is just me—my life. I have what could be barely more than an hour
to eat my lunch and have some quiet time before my daughter wakes up from her
nap.”
“Ah.” He scratched his chin. “How old is she now?”
“Six months.”
Deacon knew I was a single mom. He’d run into me one day and helped me
bring groceries in while I tried to juggle Sunny and her stroller.
I was just about to head back inside my apartment when his voice stopped
me.
“Do you need anything?”
I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant. “Like what?”
“Something from the store? A…coffee, maybe? I’m just headed out to run a
quick errand, but I can stop somewhere on the way back.”
“It’s the least you can do, monkey balls!” Mrs. Winsbanger chimed in from
across the hall.
She was apparently still listening.
“Did she just fucking call me monkey
balls
?” he whispered.
At that moment, I lost it. Laughter got a hold of me, and it took almost
a minute before I could even speak. Deacon laughed, too, but I think he was
more cracking up at my reaction.
“No idea why she just called you monkey balls. But I haven’t laughed this
hard in weeks.”
After I finally calmed down, Deacon repeated his earlier question.
“Anyway, as I was saying, can I get you a coffee or something?”
His offer gave me pause. It was rare that anyone asked if I needed
anything. I had a couple of good friends in the city, but they worked and had
busy social lives. It wasn’t like they were around in the middle of the day to
run to the store for me. And given that it was fall in New York, it was getting
chilly out. I had to have a damn good reason to take Sunny out in the cold.
Honestly, I was dying for a latte from Starbucks. Running to the coffee
shop was definitely something people without babies took for granted. It wasn’t
worth having to bundle Sunny up.
“I would love a vanilla latte from Starbucks, if you pass one on your way
back,” I finally said.
“Done.” He smiled. “That’s it?”
“Just one pump of vanilla would be great.”
“One pump. Got it. Anything else?”
“Isn’t that enough? It’s hardly a necessity. I shouldn’t be taking
advantage.”
“Take advantage of me. What else do you need? Seriously. It’s the least I
can do after disturbing your peace last night.”
Take advantage of me. Yup. Mind straight in the gutter.
“You’re not my gopher.”
“Carys….” His baritone voice turned serious, and he repeated in a slow
and exaggerated manner, “What. Do. You. Need? I could run to the store.”
There was something else I
desperately needed.
“Diapers?” I said hesitantly.
“Okay.” He laughed. “You’re gonna have to help me out with those. I’ve
never purchased them in my life.”
Before I could tell him what size, he handed me his phone. I was all too
aware of the brief touch of his hand.
“Enter your digits. I’ll text you from the store to make sure I get the
right kind.”
I did as he said before handing him back the phone, once again enjoying
the contact from that brief exchange. Cheap thrills were as good as it got
these days.
He put it in his pocket. “Anything else?”
“Not that I can think of.”
“Alright. Well, if you change your mind, you can let me know when I
text.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate
it.”
“Talk to ya in a bit,” he said before heading down the hall.
I stood by my door and watched him walk away. The view from the back was
just as good as the front. And moreover, it seemed Deacon was just as lovely on
the inside as he was on the outside.
“One pump my ass,” I heard Mrs. Winsbanger say before she slammed her
door.
Author Bio
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.
Author Links

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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

 

Sneak Peek: Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan

“Combining sweet nostalgia with the important issues Kennedy never shies away from, Queen Move is nothing less than wonderful. I couldn’t put it down and never wanted it to end!”

— Alexa Martin, Author of Intercepted

Queen Move, an all-new powerful second chance standalone from Wall Street Journal bestselling and RITA® Award-winning author Kennedy Ryan, is coming May 26th and we have your FIRST LOOK!

Queen Move_FNL_sized copy

Make sure to enter on Kennedy’s site to win a QUEEN BOX, stuffed with a signed paperback and all the things you’ll need to treat yourself like a queen!

Prologue

Kimba

Two Years Before Present

 

Is there anything sadder than a daddy’s girl at her father’s funeral?

My mother’s quiet sniffs a few seats down give me the answer.

A grieving widow.

“He was a good man,” someone in the long line of mourners offering condolences whispers to her.

Mama’s head bobs with a tearful nod. In this day and age, she still wears a pillbox hat and veil. It’s black and chic like Mama, channeling tragic Jackie Kennedy or Coretta Scott King. My father was not just a good man. He was a great man, and everyone should know he leaves behind a widow, grieving deeply, but ever-fly. I squeeze the funeral program between my fingers, glaring at the printed words.

Joseph Allen leaves behind a wife, Janetta, three children, Kayla, Keith and Kimba, and six grandchildren.

He leaves behind.

Daddy’s gone, and I don’t know how to live in a world my father does not inhabit. The casket is draped with sweet-smelling flowers in the center of the funeral tent. When we leave the cemetery, it…he will be lowered into the ground with unfathomable finality, separated from us by white satin lining, six feet of dirt and eternity.

Kayla, my older sister, sobs softly at the end of our family’s row. Her four children watch her carefully, probably unused to seeing their unshakeable mother shaken and reduced to tears. Even I’d forgotten how she looks when she cries—like she’s mad at the wetness streaking her cheeks, resentful of any sign of weakness.

It’s not weak to cry, Daddy used to say. It’s human.

“But doesn’t the Bible say even the rocks will cry out?” I’d challenged him when I was young, loving that something from Sunday school took. “So maybe tears aren’t just for humans.”

“You’re getting too smart for your britches, little girl,” he’d said, but the deep affection in his eyes when he kissed me told me he was pleased. He liked that I asked questions and taught me to never accept bullshit at face value.

I miss you, Daddy.

Not even a week since his heart attack, and I already miss him so much.

Humanity blurs my vision, wet and hot and stinging my eyes. I want this to be over. The flowers, the well-dressed mourners, the news cameras stationed at a distance they probably deem respectful. I just want to go to the house where my parents raised us, retreat to Daddy’s study and find the stash of cigars that only he and I knew about.

Don’t tell your mother, he used to whisper conspiratorially. This will be our little secret.

Mama hated the smell of cigars in the house.

“Tru.”

Who would call me by that name? Now, when the only people who use it, my family, are all preoccupied with their own pain? A tall man stands in front of me, his thick, dark brows bunched with sympathy. I don’t know him. I would remember a man like this, who stands strong like an oak tree. A well-tailored suit molds his powerful shoulders. Dark brown, not quite black, hair is cut ruthlessly short, but hints at waves if given the chance to grow. His prominent nose makes itself known above the full, finely sculpted lips below. His eyes are shockingly vivid—so deep a blue they’re almost the color of African violets against skin like bronze bathed in sunlight. No, a man like him you’d never forget. Something niggles at my memory, tugs at my senses. I’d never forget a man who looked like this, a man with eyes like that…but what about a boy?

“Ezra?” I croak, disbelief and uncertainty mingling in the name I haven’t uttered in years.

It can’t be.

But it is.

QUEEN MOVE FIRST LOOK

Keep Going!

Read the REST of the prologue and enter the QUEEN BOX giveaway on Kennedy’s website:→ https://bit.ly/35U65FL

**QUEEN MOVE will have the special pre-order and release week price of $3.99. After that, the price will increase.**

 

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Synopsis

The boy who always felt like mine is now the man I can’t have…

Dig a little and you’ll find photos of me in the bathtub with Ezra Stern.

Get your mind out of the gutter. We were six months old.

Pry and one of us might confess we saved our first kiss for each other.

The most clumsy, wet, sloppy . . . spectacular thirty seconds of my adolescence.

Get into our business and you’ll see two families, closer than blood, torn apart in an instant.

Twenty years later, my “awkward duckling” best friend from childhood,

the boy no one noticed, is a man no one can ignore.

Finer. Fiercer. Smarter.

Taken.

Tell me it’s wrong.

Tell me the boy who always felt like mine is now the man I can’t have.

When we find each other again, everything stands in our way–secrets, lies, promises.

But we didn’t come this far to give up now.

And I know just the move to make if I want to make him mine.

KR W Bckg VertiAbout Kennedy Ryan

A RITA® Award Winner, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling Author, Kennedy Ryan writes for women from all walks of life, empowering them and placing them firmly at the center of each story and in charge of their own destinies. Her heroes respect, cherish and lose their minds for the women who capture their hearts.

Kennedy and her writings have been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour and many others. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations, but has a special passion for raising Autism awareness.The co-founder of LIFT 4 Autism, an annual charitable book auction, she has appeared on Headline News, The Montel Williams Show, NPR and other media outlets as an advocate for ASD families. She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son.

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Blue Box Press

https://theblueboxpress.com/

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Catch Me When I Fall by A.L. Jackson

Catch Me When I Fall

A Falling Stars stand-alone romance from A.L. Jackson

Coming June 1st

“Royce,” she begged.
All it took was my name raking up her throat for me to completely lose it. No control left.
Fuck it.
Only thing that mattered was getting closer.
I lifted her from the ground, one arm around the small of her back and the other wrapped up in her hair. I pulled her to my hungry mouth, kissing her wild, lips and tongues and teeth.
Cherry coated her sweet tongue, and need thrummed her heart into a fury.
“You were right, what you said. You were right,” she whispered frantically. “I want you to take away the pain. Take it . . . just for a little while. Just for tonight.”
Fuck.
I was a bastard.
A monster.
But I couldn’t stop.
I let my lips travel over her jaw and tumble down her throat, both my hands holding her by the face. The girl’s head rocked back on the wall where we were right out in the open, gasping and panting for air as I devoured her sweet flesh.
The girl completely surrendered.
Shit.
This was bad. So bad.
I ripped myself back, which was a goddamn travesty in itself. “We have to get out of here. Right fucking now.”

Get Caught Up on the First Stand-Alone in the Falling Stars Series!


 

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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, CATCH ME WHEN I FALL, releasing June 1st.

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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Twitter: @aljacksonauthor
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Sneak Peek: My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland

MY FAVORITE SOUVENIR

Release date: 4/27/2020

A Contemporary Romance Novel

New York Times Bestselling Authors Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

 

EXCERPT REVEAL:

“Good afternoon. You’ve reached the Four Seasons Resort, Vail, Colorado. How

may I direct your call?”

I took a deep breath. “Hi. I checked out early this morning. My reservation was

for ten days, but I only wound up staying two nights. Is there any chance you might still

have my room available? Or any room, for that matter? My flight was canceled because

of the storm.”

“Let me take a look. What’s your last name?”

“Appleton.” I shook my head. “Actually, the reservation was under Ellis. My

fiancé’s last name.” Or ex-fiancé. But I’d let her call me Mrs. Ellis at this point if it

meant I could have a place to sleep tonight.

“Give me one moment and I’ll check.”

“Thank you.”

I sat down in the lobby of the Best Western, the third hotel I’d been to in the last

two hours. It was dumb of me to check out this morning. Though, at least I was

consistent. After making the bad decision to go on my previously planned honeymoon

alone, I’d brilliantly decided to check out only two days into the trip…without looking at

the weather report for Vail. When I arrived at the airport, I had no idea that a blizzard was

on the way. But the airline had assured me my flight was still scheduled as planned. And

they’d kept their word right up until five minutes before we were supposed to board,

when they announced a two-hour delay. Two hours turned into three, and three turned

into five, and when we hit six hours of sitting on uncomfortable plastic seats outside the

gate, they finally admitted it wasn’t going to happen. Every other flight had been

canceled by then. And now, every hotel seemed to be full.

“Hi, Mrs. Ellis?”

I cringed at being called that, but answered anyway. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry. After you checked out, your room was rebooked. We’re actually sold

out for the night because of the storm.”

I sighed. Of course you are. “Okay. Thank you.”

This was just my luck lately. I called four more hotels, until one said they might

have a few rooms available. Apparently they had guests that hadn’t checked in yet and

were in the process of making calls to confirm whether they would still be arriving today.

Rooms would be freed up on a first-come, first-served basis. So I decided to take a

chance and head on over. It was already seven o’clock at night, and there was no point in

sitting here anymore. Surprisingly, Uber was still running, even though the airport had

called it quits hours ago.

Out front, the snow was coming down hard. A giant SUV with snow chains on the

tires pulled up in front of the door. I couldn’t check the license plate or get a look at the

make and model of the vehicle since it was covered in snow, so I walked over to the car

and motioned for the driver to roll down the window.

“Are you Hazel?” the older woman behind the wheel asked.

I smiled. “Yes.”

“Heading over to the Snow Eagle Lodge?”

“Yes, please.”

Even though the next hotel was only two miles away, it took fifteen minutes to get

there. By the time we pulled up, the conditions were almost white-out. It couldn’t be safe

driving in this anymore.

“God, it’s really terrible out here,” I said as I pulled up the hood of my jacket. “Be

careful driving tonight.”

“Oh, I will, honey. The next place I’m driving is home. I only picked you up

because you were on my way. Good thing you’re at your hotel now. No one is going to

be on the roads tonight anymore.”

Great. This place really better have a room for me.

As I climbed out of the SUV, a gust of snow smacked me in the face, despite the

fact that we were parked under the building’s overhang. The wind made it look like

someone had shaken a snow globe, hard. Inside the hotel, I wiped flakes from my

eyelashes and glanced around the lobby.

Oh no.

This didn’t look good. A line of at least thirty or forty people snaked five rows

deep, waiting to get to the reception desk. I sighed and wheeled my luggage to behind the

last person. More than half an hour later, I finally reached the front.

“Hi. I called earlier, and the person I spoke to said some rooms might become

available, that you were going to contact guests who hadn’t showed and see if they were

still coming?”

The woman nodded with a frown. “Yeah. I can put you on our waitlist. But we’re

still making calls, and to be honest, it’s not looking too good.”

My shoulders slumped. “Okay. Well, I guess please add me to your wait list.”

The woman lifted a clipboard and set it down on the counter. She thumbed

through a few pages and turned it to face me, pointing at the next available line, which

was two from the bottom of the page. “Just add your name and cell phone number.”

I scribbled both and let the pages above the one I’d been writing on fan back into

place. Noticing the sheet at the top looked just like the one I’d signed, five or six pages

down, I glanced through all the papers. There had to be at least a hundred names and

telephone numbers.

“Are these all on your waiting list?”

The hotel clerk nodded.

“How many people haven’t checked in?”

“I think about a dozen.”

Oh God. This really wasn’t good. But maybe people had just added their names

and left, like in a packed restaurant. Maybe the bulk of people ahead of me on the list had

found other hotels.

Turning around, whatever hope I’d talked myself into immediately deflated.

Every seat in the lobby area behind me was taken. Some were even sitting on the floor,

leaning against their luggage. With very few options, I wandered over and found an

empty space on a carpeted area of the floor, not too far from the concierge desk. Though I

knew it was futile, I took out my iPad and continued to search for a hotel with

availability. Even if I found one, getting there would be a miracle on its own at this point.

The nearby concierge desk had been empty while I scrolled and made calls, but

now two women walked over. One I recognized as the manager, since I’d spent a half

hour staring at the people behind the front desk while I’d waited in line. The other had on

a nametag and held a clipboard. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation from

where I sat.

“These seven we still haven’t reached,” the manager said. “All of the other rooms

have been checked in, or we’ve reallocated them to people from the waiting list.”

The employee flipped through the pages and looked around the full hotel lobby.

“Jeez. And this storm is supposed to stick around for days.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a guy standing on the other side of the

concierge desk. His back was to the ladies talking, but he craned his neck, and I thought

he, too, might be eavesdropping. Figuring he was probably just as bored as me, I went

back to my iPad search—until a few minutes later when I noticed him scribbling

something with a pen on the inside of his hand.

What the hell is he doing?

He wrote for a few seconds and then seemed to go back to eavesdropping. The

manager had walked away, leaving the employee to make her phone calls. She hung up

from one call and dialed again.

“Hi. This is Catherine from the Snow Eagle Lodge. I’m trying to reach Milo or

Madeline Hooker.”

The minute she said the names, the eavesdropper scribbled on his hand again.

Catherine continued leaving her message. “I just wanted to confirm whether

you’d still be arriving this evening. Your reservation is guaranteed, so we’ll hold it as

long as you need. However, if the storm has perhaps caused a change in your travel plans,

we do have a long wait list of guests who could use the two rooms you have booked. My

number here is 970-555-4000, if you could please return my call at your earliest

convenience. Thank you.”

The same thing went on with the next two calls. Catherine left a message and the

eavesdropper scribbled. Curious about what he was up to, I kept my eye on him. After the

hotel clerk finished making her calls, she went back to the front desk. Eavesdropper

picked up his backpack and casually strolled down a nearby hallway. I leaned to watch

where he was going, and he eventually pulled up his hood and exited out a side door I

hadn’t even noticed was there.

I thought it was odd, but I figured the show was over.

But a few minutes later, a guy with the same ski jacket walked through the front

lobby door. He pulled his hood down, and I got a look at his face for the very first time.

Damn, he was handsome. Medium brown hair that was kind of shaggy and

needed a cut, full lips, hazel eyes, and tanned skin. His warm skin tone really stood out

against the pasty color of most people in Colorado this time of the year, including me. It

was a shame I loathed men right now, because he was seriously gorgeous. He dusted

some of the snow from the shoulders of his jacket and went to wait in line. It was much

shorter now, with only two men in front of him, mostly because people weren’t braving

the storm anymore. I had no idea what possessed me to do it, but I decided to get up and

wait behind the guy. Maybe I was imagining things to keep myself entertained, but I had

the distinct feeling he was up to something.

When it was his turn at the front desk, I moved as close as I could to listen

without seeming like a stalker.

“Hi. I’m checking in,” the man said.

“Great. What’s your last name, sir?”

He cleared his throat. “Hooker. Milo Hooker.”

I squinted. The guy was totally full of shit. I knew it!

The unsuspecting hotel clerk punched a bunch of keys on her keyboard and

smiled. “I have your reservation right here. Two rooms for two nights, breakfast

included. Is that right?”

“Uhhh…” The guy nodded. “Yeah. I booked two rooms. But it turns out I’m only

going to need the one.” He looked over his shoulder. “Looks like you won’t have a

problem filling the other one, though.”

She smiled. “No, we definitely won’t. I’ll just need a credit card and a picture ID

please, Mr. Hooker.”

I waited. This was the moment of truth. If he wasn’t actually Milo Hooker, he was

going to have to make up some excuse.

The guy reached into his front pocket like he was going to pull out his wallet. For

a second, I thought I might’ve been wrong, but then he pulled out a wad of cash.

“I lost my wallet on the slopes today. Luckily, I had some cash sent over through

Western Union before the storm got too bad. Can I just pay cash?”

The young woman hesitated. “You don’t have any ID at all? I’m not supposed to

check people in without photo identification.”

Fake Milo poured on the charm. He leaned forward and showed off a set of

cavernous dimples. “We could take a selfie together?”

The woman giggled. She actually giggled. “Let me just check with my manager.”

She disappeared into the back and returned with the manager a few minutes later.

A crazy idea popped into my head. She said there were two rooms… I made a

spur-of-the-moment decision and approached the counter.

“There you are, Milo.” I rested my hand on the guy’s shoulder. “My flight was

canceled. I hope they still have our rooms.”

Fake Milo turned and looked at me with his brows furrowed.

He was going to blow it if I didn’t do something, so I turned my attention to the

two hotel employees. “My brother and I booked rooms here for two nights, but I was

trying to get out before the storm. Obviously I had no luck. I spent the entire day in the

airport. Please tell me you still have my room? I’m dying for a hot bath.”

Milo looked at me, then the hotel employees, then back at me. I smiled and arched

a brow. For a second, I almost felt bad for the guy. He looked so bewildered. Since he

still seemed to be at a loss for words, I figured I should continue talking. “We went

skiing early this morning and had our backpacks stolen. Between that and the storm

coming, I figured it was a sign that I should get back home early. Apparently Mother

Nature had other plans. We should have two rooms—Milo and Madeline Hooker.

Someone actually just left me a message on my cell asking us to confirm. Her name was

Catherine, I believe.”

The desk clerk nodded. “That was me. The storm has a lot of people stranded here

unexpectedly without rooms, so we were checking in with guests that hadn’t arrived yet.”

The manager looked back and forth between Fake Milo and me. “We’ll have to

take a hundred-dollar deposit for incidentals on each room since you don’t have a credit

card.”

I smiled. “Of course.”

She nodded to her employee. “Check them in. It’s fine.”

The man next to me still had his mouth hanging open. So I dug into my purse,

being careful not to show my wallet, which was supposed to have been stolen, and

scooped out all of the cash.

“How much are the rooms?” I asked the clerk.

“Let’s see. With tax, they come to three-hundred-and-forty-two dollars each, for

the two nights, and then we have to collect the hundred-dollar deposit.”

<i?Shit. I didn’t think I had that much cash. I counted the money in my hand and slid

it over in front of Fake Milo. “Can you spot me forty dollars? You know I’m good for it,

bro.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure.”

After we paid and got the room keys, we walked side by side to the elevator bank

in silence. It wasn’t until we were alone and the elevator doors slid shut that Milo turned

to me. “What the hell just happened?”

I laughed. “We just got rooms, that’s what happened.”

He shook his head. “But who are you?”

“I noticed you standing near the concierge desk and eavesdropping while she

called the guests who hadn’t arrived yet.” I reached forward and took the man’s hand,

opening it to display blue ink. “You wrote down the names of the guests. I thought it was

odd, so I followed you to the front desk to see what you were up to. When you made up

that bogus story about losing your wallet so you could justify not having any ID, I knew

you were full of shit.” I shrugged. “When the woman said there were two rooms on the

reservation, I saw an opening and took it.”

“How did you know I’d go along with it?”

I smiled. “I didn’t. But that’s what made it so much fun!” I covered my chest with

my hand. “My heart feels like it’s trying to ricochet out of my ribcage at this moment. It’s

been a long time since I did anything risky like that.”

His eyes roamed my face. I got the feeling he still wasn’t sure what to make of

me, even though I’d just explained what I’d done. He looked down at my lips, which

were still curved in an excited smile.

“Why is that?”

My forehead wrinkled. “Why is what?”

“Why’s it been a long time since you’ve done anything risky? It looks to me like

you enjoyed it.”

I blinked a few times, not having expected a question that would tug at my

heartstrings, and my smile fell. “I don’t know. I guess I kind of turned into a different

person over the last few years.”

Fake Milo’s eyes locked with mine. We’d gone from pulling off a crazy stunt and

laughing, to an odd seriousness. His eyes flickered to my lips and back once again.

“That’s a shame. You have a great smile.”

Warmth spread through me, and I couldn’t seem to unlock my eyes from the

stranger’s—at least until the elevator dinged and the doors opened on the third floor.

“This is us,” he said. “Rooms 320 and 321.”

“Oh. Right. Okay.” I stepped out and followed the signs to our rooms. Since we

were, of course, family, they’d put us right next to each other. We stood a few feet apart

as we opened our respective doors. As my lock unlatched and I turned the handle to go

inside, something dawned on me.

“I almost forgot! I owe you forty dollars for the room.”

He smiled. “Don’t worry about it.”

“No, don’t be silly. I just didn’t have enough cash and didn’t want to hand the

woman a credit card when we weren’t supposed to have ID. I’ll just throw my bag in the

room and go downstairs to find an ATM. They must have one somewhere.”

“I thought you couldn’t wait to take a hot bath, or was that part of the act?”

I laughed. “No, it actually wasn’t. I wasn’t lying when I said I spent the entire day

at the airport. A hot bath sounds pretty amazing right about now. But I can grab your cash

first. It won’t take me long.”

Fake Milo scratched at the stubble on his chin. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to

take a quick shower and then go downstairs to the bar for a drink. Take your bath. You

can find me there afterward to give me the money.”

“Okay.”

We looked at each other for a moment.

“Alright, well, enjoy your soak, sis.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Milo. I’ll see you later.”

 

the day he came back

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BLURB

My planned trip for two unexpectedly turned into a trip for one. Rather than let

my breakup get me down, I packed my bags and decided a week at a luxury

resort was just what I needed.

But one calamity after the next, and suddenly I was stuck without a hotel room,

along with a few hundred other people.

It looked like my fancy vacation was about to turn into me sleeping on the hotel

lobby floor.

Until I overheard a gorgeous man pretending to be someone he wasn’t in order

to steal a reservation from a guest who hadn’t shown up yet.

When I realized there were two rooms, instead of calling him out, I pretended to

be his sister. That’s how the story of “Milo and Maddie Hooker” began.

We were the Hookers.

My depressing trip quickly made a U-turn into an adventure.

My fake brother spent the next few days showing me around his hometown.

When it was time to leave, neither of us really wanted to go yet.

So, instead of flying back to our respective homes, we ventured on a road trip.

At every stop, we’d pick up souvenirs.

But as hot as our chemistry was, we never crossed the line.

Milo knew I’d just come out of a tough relationship and didn’t want to mess with

a vulnerable woman.

So instead, at the end of our trip, we made a pact to meet again in three

months.

It was always my intention to meet him.

But when I got back home, reality hit in a big way.

And I worried I may have lost my handsome stranger forever.

Was there a place for him in my future?

Or had the memory of him just become my favorite souvenir?

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

 

the day he came back

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.

 

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the day he came back

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.

 

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