New Release and Giveaway! A PIECE OF MY HEART by Sharon Sala

She’s never had a home

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

Until she finds peace in his arms

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

 

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

From childhood, Mercy Dane viewed Christmas Eve in Savannah, Georgia, like something out of a fairy tale. The old, elegant mansions were always lit from within and decorated with great swags of greenery hanging above the doorways and porch railings like thick green icing on snowy white cakes.The shops decked out in similar holiday style were as charming as the sweet southern women who worked within. Each shop boasted fragrant evergreens, plush red velvet bows, and flickering lights mimicking the stars in the night sky above the city.And even though Mercy had grown up on the hard side of town with lights far less grand, the lights in her world burned with true southern perseverance. Now that she was no longer a child, the beauty of the holiday was something other people celebrated, and on this cold Christmas Eve, she no longer believed in fairy tales. So far, the chapters of her life consisted of a series of foster families until she aged out of the system, and one magic Christmas Eve with a man she never saw again. The only lights in her world now were the lights where she worked at the Road Warrior Bar.

The yellow neon sign over the bar was partially broken. The R in Road was missing its leg, making the word look like Toad. But the patrons who frequented this bar didn’t care about the name. They came for the company and a drink or two to dull the disappointment of a lifetime of regrets.

Carson Beal, who went by the name of Moose, owned the bar. He’d been meaning to get the R fixed for years, but intention was worth nothing without the action, and Moose had yet to act upon the thought.

Outside, the blinking neon light beckoned, calling the lonely and the thirsty into the bar where the beer was cold and the gumbo and rice Moose served was hot with spice and fire.

Moose often took advantage of Mercy’s talent for baking after she’d once brought cupcakes for Moose and the employees to snack on. After that, she’d bring in some of whatever she’d made at home. On occasion Moose would ask her to bake him something special. It was always good to have a little extra money, so she willingly obliged.

This Christmas Eve, Moose had ordered an assortment of Christmas cookies for the bar. When Mercy came in to work carrying the box of baked goods, he was delighted. Now a large platter of cookies graced the north end of the bar.

The incongruity of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” playing in the background was only slightly less bizarre than the old tinsel Christmas tree hanging above the pool table like a molting chandelier.

Because of the holiday, only two of his four waitresses were on duty, Barb Hanson, a thirtysomething widow with purple hair, and Mercy Dane, the baker with a curvy body.

Mercy’s long, black hair was a stunning contrast to the red Christmas sweater she was wearing, and her willowy body and long, shapely legs looked even longer in her black jeans and boots. Her olive skin and dark hair gave her an exotic look, but being abandoned as a baby, and growing up in foster care, she had no knowledge of her heritage.

Barb of the purple hair wore red and green, a rather startling assortment of colors for a lady her age, and both women were wearing reindeer antler headbands with little bells. Between the bells and antlers, the music and cookies, and the Christmas tree hanging above the pool table, Moose had set a holiday mood.

Mercy had been working at the bar for over five years. Although she’d turned twenty-six just last week, her life, like this job, was going nowhere.

It was nearing midnight when a quick blast of cold air suddenly moved through the bar and made Mercy shiver. She didn’t have to look to know the ugly part of this job had just arrived.

“Damn, Moose, play some real music, why don’t ya?” Big Boy yelled as the door slammed shut behind him.

Moose glared at the big biker who’d entered his bar. “This is real music, Big Boy. Sit down somewhere and keep your opinions to yourself.”

The biker flipped Moose off, spat on the floor, and stomped through the room toward an empty table near the back, making sure to feel up Mercy’s backside in passing.

When Big Boy suddenly shoved his hand between her legs, she nearly dropped the tray of drinks she was carrying. She knew from experience that he was waiting for a reaction, so she chose to bear the insult without calling attention to it.

As soon as he was seated, Big Boy slapped the table and yelled at the barmaids. “One of you bitches bring me a beer!”

Moose glanced nervously at Mercy, aware that she’d become the target for most of Big Boy’s harassment.

Barb sailed past Mercy with a jingle in every step. “I’ve got his table,” she said.

“Thanks,” Mercy said, and delivered the drinks she was carrying. “Here you go, guys! Christmas Eve cheer and cookies from Moose!”

One trucker, a man named Pete, took a big bite out of the iced sugar cookie. “Mmm, this is good,” he said.

“Mercy made them,” Moose yelled.

Pete shook his head and took another bite. “You have a fine hand with baking. I’d ask you to marry me, darlin’, but my old lady would object.”

Mercy took the teasing with a grin. The men at this table were good men who always left nice tips. In fact, most of the patrons in the bar were men with no family or truckers who couldn’t get home for Christmas. Every now and then, a random woman would wander in to have a drink, but rarely lingered, except for Lorena Haysworth, the older woman sitting at the south end of the bar.

She’d been coming here since before Mercy was born, and in her younger days she and Moose had been lovers before slowly drifting apart. She’d come back into his life a few months ago and nightly claimed the seat at the end of the bar.

Barb took the first of what would be multiple beers to Big Boy’s table, along with a Christmas cookie and a bowl of stale pretzels, making sure to keep the table between them.

Big Boy lunged at her as if he was going to grab her, and when she turned around and ran, he leaned back and laughed.

Mercy returned to the bar with a new order and waited for Moose to fill it.

“Sorry about that,” Moose said, as he glanced toward the table where Big Boy was sitting.

Her eyes narrowed angrily. “How sorry are you? Sorry enough to kick him out? Or just sorry his money is more important to you than me and Barb?”

Moose’s face turned as red as his shirt. “Damn it, Mercy. You know how it goes,” he said, and pushed the new order across the bar.

She did know. The customer was always right. Trying not to buy into the turmoil, she picked up the tray and delivered the order with a smile.

The night wore on with Big Boy getting drunker and more belligerent, while Barb and Mercy dodged his constant attempts to maul them, until finally, it was time to close.

It was a few minutes before 2:00 a.m. when Moose shut down the bar. There were only three customers left. Big Boy, who was so close to passed out he couldn’t walk, Lorena, who was waiting to go home with Moose, and a trucker who’d fallen asleep at his table.

Mercy headed for the trucker, leaving Moose to wrestle Big Boy up and out.

The trucker was a small, wiry man named Frank Bigalow who fancied himself a ringer for country music star Willie Nelson. He was dreaming of hit songs and gold records when Mercy woke him.

“Frank. Frank. You need to wake up now. We’re closing.”

Bigalow straightened abruptly, momentarily confused as to where he was, then saw Mercy and smiled.

“Oh. Right. Sure thing, honey. What do I owe you?” he mumbled.

“Twelve dollars,” she said.

Bigalow stood up to get his wallet out of his pants then pulled out a twenty. “Keep the change and Merry Christmas,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said, and began bussing his table as he walked out of the bar.

Moose had Big Boy on his way out the door, and it was none too soon for Mercy.

She handed Moose the twenty when he returned. “Take twelve out. The rest is mine,” she said, and pocketed the change Moose gave her.

Within fifteen minutes, the bar was clear and swept, the money was in the safe, and Barb and Mercy were heading for the door.

“Hey! Girls! Wait up!” Moose said, then handed them each an envelope, along with little bags with some of Mercy’s cookies. “Merry Christmas. We’re not open tomorrow so sleep in.”

“Thank you,” Barb said, as she slid the envelope inside her purse.

“Much appreciated,” Mercy added, as she put her envelope in one of the inner pockets of her black leather bomber jacket. It was old and worn, but it was warm.

Then she grabbed her helmet and the cookies and headed out the door behind Barb and just ahead of Moose and Lorena. Once outside, she paused to judge the near-empty parking lot, making sure Big Boy and his Harley were at the motel across the street.

The air was cold and the sky was clear as she stashed the cookies, then put on her helmet and mounted her own Harley. Seconds later the quiet was broken by the rolling rumble of the engine as she toed up the kickstand, put the bike in gear, and rode off into the night.

The empty streets on the way to her apartment were a little eerie, but she was so tired she couldn’t work up the emotion to be scared. The streetlights were draped with Christmas garlands and red bows, but they were all one blur as Mercy sped toward home.

A city cop on neighborhood patrol saw her, recognized the lone bike and biker, and blinked his lights as she passed him.

She waved back and kept going.

When she stopped for a red light and realized she was the only person on this stretch of street, she didn’t breathe easy until the light turned green, and she moved on.

Finally, she was home. She eased up on the accelerator as she rolled through the gates of her apartment complex and parked the motorcycle beneath a light in plain view of the security cameras. She ran up the outer stairs to the second level and down the walkway to her apartment carrying her helmet and the cookies. No matter how many times she’d done this or how many times she’d moved since it happened, the fact that she’d once come home late at night to find out she’d been robbed, she never felt safe until she was in the apartment with the door locked behind her.

She tossed the helmet onto the sofa and took the cookies into the kitchen. Curious as to how much of a bonus Moose was giving this year, she was pleased to see a hundred-dollar bill.

“Nice,” she said, and took it and her night’s worth of tips to the refrigerator, opened up the freezer, and put the money inside an empty box that had once held a biscuit mix.

She wasn’t sure how much money she had saved up, but last time she’d counted it had been over two thousand dollars. It should have been in a bank, but these days, banks cost money to use, and she didn’t have any to spare, so she froze her assets.

The place smelled of stale coffee and something her neighbor across the hall had burned for dinner. She was tired and cold, but too wired to sleep, so she went to her bedroom, stripped out of her clothes, and took a long hot shower.

She returned to the kitchen later to find something to eat. One quick glance in the refrigerator was all the reminder she needed that she still hadn’t grocery shopped. She emptied what was left of the milk into a bowl of cereal and ate it standing by the sink, remembering another Christmas in Savannah, her first all on her own.

***

Mercy was nineteen years old, between jobs, and as close to homeless as she’d ever been. She had come back to her apartment after a long day of job-hunting, only to walk in on a burglar in the act. She screamed. He ran with what was left of her savings, and the hours afterward were a blur of tears and a fear that she would not be able to survive the setback. The only money she had left in the world was in her pocket.

The people in the adjoining apartments were sympathetic and curious, and a couple felt sorry for her and gave her a couple of twenties. She was standing in the hall waiting for the cops to clear her room when the neighbor from across the hall opened his door and came out. He’d moved in only two days ago, and during that time they’d done no more than nod and smile as they passed in the hall, but she liked his face. His eyes were kind, and his smile felt genuine.

It was apparent he’d been sleeping and had done no more than comb his fingers through his hair before he opened the door. The top snap on his jeans was undone, and he was pulling a sweatshirt over his head as he came out. She got a quick glimpse of a hard belly and wide shoulders before she looked away.

“What’s happening?” he asked, as he stopped beside her. “I fell asleep with the TV on. When I woke up and turned it off, I heard all this.”

“I was robbed,” she said.

His empathy was instant. “Oh no! Oh honey, are you okay? Were you hurt?”

Her voice was shaking. “My arrival scared him off.”

Without hesitation, he hugged her. The unexpected compassion undid her, and she began to cry.

And in the midst of that moment, the cops came out, and she pushed out of his arms.

“Ma’am, we’re through here. He busted the lock. I would suggest you find somewhere else to sleep for the night.”

“I don’t have somewhere else or someone else,” she said.

They shrugged and left the building.

The neighbors all went back into their apartments.

All but him.

She sighed and started for her apartment, when he stopped her with a word. “Don’t.”

She turned, anger already settling in her heart. “Don’t what? That’s everything I own in this world. They took my money. I’m not giving up what clothes I have left too.”

She walked into her apartment and closed the door.

He opened it and walked in behind her. “Get your things. You can sleep in my room tonight. Tomorrow we’ll figure something out.”

Mercy started to shake. “There is no we in my life.”

“Fine. Then you’ll figure something out. But you can sleep in my room tonight anyway.”

She stared at his face, looking for a sign of danger and seeing none.

“Yes. Okay.”

“Want help gathering up your things?”

“No.”

“Then do what you need to do, and knock on my door when you have everything.”

She nodded.

He walked out.

She packed her bags while a cold anger washed through her. One more kick when she was down. It’s how her world worked. By the time she got across the hall, she had shut herself down.

“I made a bed for you on the sofa,” he said.

She left her bags by the door and then laid her coat on top of them as he locked up behind her. “Thank you,” she said.

“You’re very welcome. Oh, hey, I just realized I don’t know your name.”

She grimaced. “Oh, just call me Lucky.”

“I have a feeling that’s not your real name, but it will do. I’m L.J. but my friends call me—”

“We’re not friends. L.J. will do,” she muttered.

His eyes narrowed, but he didn’t argue. He’d seen animals trapped into a corner with no way out, and the look in her eyes was about the same. “Can

I get you something to eat or drink?” he asked.

“No, thanks. Just the bed. I’m tired. So fucking tired.”

A tear rolled down her cheek, but he was guessing she didn’t know it.

“Then I’ll leave you alone. If you need anything later, just knock on my door.”

She nodded, dropped onto the sofa, and began taking off her shoes.

“Good night, Lucky. Sweet dreams,” he said.

She made a sound halfway between a snort and a sob. He left the room.

She went to bed. And three hours later woke up screaming.

He came out on the run with a gun in his hand.

By that time she was sitting on the side of the sofa bed with her head in her hands. Her long, black hair was in tangles, and the sports bra and sweatpants she’d been sleeping in were drenched with sweat, even though the room was cold. His first thought was that she was sick.

“Sorry. Bad dreams,” she said, and got up. “Where’s your bathroom?”

“Down the hall, first door on your left.”

She passed by him, so close he felt the heat from her body. And when she came out, she had washed up and dried off the sweat.

“You didn’t have to wait,” she said.

“I know. I just wanted to make sure you were okay, and that you didn’t need anything…” Then he pointed at the clock. “It’s Christmas.”

Tears rolled down Mercy’s cheeks.

“Oh hell. I didn’t mean to make you cry,” he said.

“Well, you did, so what are you going to do about it?” she snapped.

L.J. flinched. “We could make love.”

Now she was the one who was startled. “What if I say no?”

He shrugged. “Then I go back to my room and sleep till daylight.”

The rage within her was choking. She wanted to feel something besides despair. “I am numb. I don’t think I will be able to feel.”

He held out his hand. “I know how to make you feel again.”

Mercy shivered, her mind racing. With a stranger? Just once. Just so she wouldn’t have to hurt.

She walked into his arms.

The ensuing hour was nothing short of magic. Mercy turned into someone she didn’t know existed. He turned her on and sent every emotion she had into overdrive. The sex was heart-stopping, and so was he. After it was over, he fell asleep with her still in his arms.

She watched his face as he slept until every facet of him was branded into her memory, but she wouldn’t sleep. An hour before daylight, she slipped out of his bed, dressed in the other room, and left without telling him good-bye.

***

A loud crash, and then the squall of a tomcat somewhere outside broke Mercy’s reverie.

She put her bowl in the sink and walked to the window overlooking the parking lot.

The neighborhood cat was prowling around the dumpster, and she saw the vague images of two people making out in a car near the back of the lot. Angry that she cared, she turned away. Exhaustion was finally catching up. It was after three in the morning when she rinsed the bowl and then paused in the doorway, making sure everything was turned off and locked up.

The silence in the apartment was suddenly broken by the distant sound of a phone ringing in a nearby apartment. The ringtone was “Jingle Bells.”

“Merry Christmas,” she muttered, and went to bed.

Chapter 2
It was nearing daylight when her cell phone began to ring. She rolled over and grabbed it as she turned on the lamp. “Hello?”

“This is Mildred Starks from the National Rare Blood Registry. Am I speaking to Mercy Dane?”

“Yes,” Mercy said, as she threw back the covers and stood up.

“Ms. Dane, we have an emergency in your area. This is an unusual situation, and we’re asking something out of the ordinary. Can you respond directly to the hospital in need?”

“Yes. Where do I need to be?” she asked, as she began grabbing clothes.

“You still reside in Savannah, Georgia, and are there at this time?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect. There is a small town about an hour south of you called Blessings. There’s no chopper available to fly you there and no time to donate in Savannah and then have it transported. Do you have transportation to get yourself to Blessings?”

Now her hands were shaking as she realized the reality of someone’s life would lie partially in her ability to get there. “Yes. Where do I go?”

“The town is small. There’s only one hospital. I’m sending GPS directions to your phone. Time is crucial. Be safe and Godspeed.”

“On my way,” she said, and dropped the phone on the bed as she took her biker gear out of the closet. Within five minutes she was out the door, her helmet in one hand, keys in the other.

The sun was only a hint on the eastern horizon as she left the complex. According to her directions, she was to take I-16 west, then connect to I-95 south. She wasn’t far from a feeder road that would take her to I-516, which then turned into I-16, so she took that route.

It was early Christmas morning and traffic was sparse. Sunrise was minutes away when she finally hit I-16, and by that time she was flying. Every mile behind her put her closer to Blessings. It wasn’t the first time she’d been called upon to donate her blood, but it was the first time she’d been asked to go to the person in need. It amped the urgency to a fever pitch, making her part in it personal.

Once she hit I-95 southbound, the northbound lane was a black ribbon of flickering headlights, while she and the Harley became a two-wheeled version of earthbound flight.

She rode with single-minded focus, keeping an eye on the traffic while making sure she didn’t get caught in the draft of passing truckers. And when the new sun was just high enough in the east that she could see the landscape through which she was passing, the glimpses of houses led her to imagining what might be going on within the walls—because it was Christmas Day.

Surely joyful families were opening presents and eating breakfasts. She pictured turkeys already in the oven, pies already baked and lining sideboards and tables, and the dough for homemade hot rolls in big crockery bowls, covered and rising in a warm place on the counter. Unfortunately, that scene was nothing but her imagination because she’d never experienced anything like it. But the closer she got to Blessings, the more she realized there was no time to dwell on what she didn’t have.

Today, it was what she did have—an RH negative blood type—that mattered most.

She’d been on the interstate forty-five minutes when she reached the exit that would take her to her destination. According to the directions she’d received, Blessings was less than fifteen miles ahead. The roar of the engine beneath her was all she could hear as she leaned slightly forward into the ride and accelerated.

And just as she rode past the city limits sign, she came upon a roadblock and a long line of cars blocking the highway with rescue vehicles up ahead. Her heart sank. She didn’t know it was the aftermath of the wreck that had caused the injuries to the person in need of her blood. But waiting around for permission to pass was not on her agenda.

She rolled out around the last car in line and kept moving forward. When she reached the accident site, she rode around two tow trucks, then took to the ditch to get around a couple of police cars and one highway patrol.

Although she couldn’t hear what they were saying, she saw them shouting and trying to wave her down. She’d never outright defied a lawman in her life, but these were extenuating circumstances, and so she kept moving until she was beyond the roadblock and heading into town.

She knew she was speeding, but traffic on Main Street was almost nonexistent. Her gut knotted when she heard a siren. One glance in her side mirror, and she saw the red and blue flashing lights of a cop car coming up behind her. Stopping to explain her situation could be the difference between someone living and dying.

Led by fear, she swerved off Main Street into a residential neighborhood and accelerated. It wasn’t enough. The cruiser was still behind her and closing the gap. Then she noticed an alley coming up on her right, swerved into it and sped up, trying to get back to Main. Everything in her peripheral vision was a blur, and the sound of the siren was fading as she shot back onto Main and then down to the far end of the street to the blue hospital sign with an arrow pointing east.

She followed the arrow, saw the hospital building straight ahead, and headed toward the entrance marked ER. She slid sideways as she came to a stop and then ran toward the entrance with her helmet in her hand and her hair in tangles.

It had taken an hour and five minutes to get there.

It was thirty-seven degrees, and she was sweating.

***

Everyone in the waiting room looked up as the tall, leggy woman came running into ER, heading straight toward registration. They saw black leather, wild hair, and a motorcycle helmet, and frowned. Women in Blessings didn’t dress like that. She was obviously a stranger.

Mercy was unaware of the stares and would have cared less had she known.

She stopped at the desk.

“I’m here to donate blood to—”

A nurse came out of a nearby office.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Mercy Dane.”

The nurse threw up her hands in a gesture of thanksgiving. “Praise the Lord that you’re here. They’re waiting for you. Come with me.”

They left the waiting area with haste, moving down a long hallway, then through double doors, past the surgery waiting room, unaware of the two men who came running out of the waiting room behind them as they passed. And when the nurse took her through another set of doors, things began to happen rapid-fire.

She’d given them her photo ID and donor card and was now flat on her back, half-listening to the frantic voices around her as they began hooking her up. It was obvious whoever needed this transfusion was someone they knew—someone they certainly cared about. And she was here, so she closed her eyes, letting the chaos go on around her without buying into the panic, just glad she’d made the ride.

***

Lon Pittman clocked the biker at close to sixty miles an hour going down Main Street. He immediately hit the lights and siren as he took pursuit, and when he got close enough to ID the tag number, radioed it in. He had assumed the rider was a guy with long hair until the dispatcher radioed back. The owner was a woman named Mercy Dane. That wasn’t going to change anything when he caught her, but it did cross his mind that this woman was surely hell on wheels. He was still in pursuit when she suddenly took a right and shot up the alley that ran along the side of Ruby Dye’s home.

“Damn it,” he muttered, knowing it was too narrow to take his cruiser up that alley at this rate of speed, and had to drive to the end of the block to take a quick right, only to see her shoot out of the alley, straight across the street into another one. She was still running the alleys, one block after another.

He took off toward Main running hot, and when he finally reached it, caught a quick glimpse of the bike and rider now on Main and turning east. With lights still flashing and his siren screaming, he took the turn onto Main and followed her route.

It wasn’t until he took the same turn the biker had taken that he realized it led to the hospital. He caught a glimpse of her and the bike heading north around the hospital and floored it.

The last thing he expected to see when he drove up to the ER was the big Harley parked near the entrance. He killed the lights and siren, radioed in his position, and got out on the run.

Once again, the people in the waiting room were surprised. When their police chief entered a building running, they were curious what was going on.

None of them had expected to see so much action and excitement in the hospital ER, especially on Christmas Day.

Lon quickly scanned the room, and when he didn’t see anyone in black leather, he headed for the registration desk.

“Sally, did a woman wearing black leather come in here?”

“Oh…you mean Mercy Dane? Yes, she’s here, thank goodness. They took her straight to the surgery area.”

He frowned. “Why? Was she injured in some way?”

“Oh, no! She came for Hope Talbot. She’s the rare blood donor they’ve been waiting for.”

And just like that, all the anger he’d been feeling for the reckless way in which she’d come into Blessings was gone. He’d helped pull Hope out of the wreck. He knew she was hanging onto life by a thread, but had no idea about her blood type or the frantic call that had gone out on her behalf.

“Where did they take the Dane woman?” he asked.

“Down the hall is all I know. You might check in at the surgery waiting room. Jack and Duke are there. They might know more.”

“Thanks,” he said, and headed down the hall.

***

Jack Talbot and his brother, Duke, were still celebrating the blood donor’s arrival when Chief Pittman entered the waiting room.

Jack immediately stood up and shook his hand. “Chief! I was told you helped pull Hope out of the wreck. Thank you so much.”

“I just happened to be one of the first on the scene,” he said.

“I’m still so grateful,” Jack said. “My wife is the beginning and end of my world.”

“So how’s she doing?” Lon asked.

Jack shook his head and walked away in tears, leaving Duke to answer.

“She’s hanging in, but it wasn’t looking good. She’d lost so much blood that they didn’t think she would pull through surgery without a transfusion. The problem became getting blood for her. She’s RH negative, which is a rare blood type. There wasn’t any in the blood banks that could have gotten to us time, and just when we thought it wasn’t going to happen, they found a donor who lived in Savannah. She just got here a few minutes ago. There’s no way to know how this is going to come out, but whoever she is, her presence was an answer to our prayers.”

The image of Mercy Dane’s frantic ride now made a crazy kind of sense. Now Lon was past curious. He wanted to see the woman who’d made a wild ride on Christmas Day to save a stranger’s life.

“That’s good to know,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I believe I’ll wait here with you, just to see how Hope fares after the transfusion.”

***

Mercy watched one nurse rush out with the donated blood while another took the needle out of her arm. The panic of getting here was over. Whatever happened now was out of her hands, save for the silent prayer she’d said for the woman in need. She was about to get up when a nurse stopped her.

“Wait, honey. Not so fast,” she cautioned.

Mercy didn’t argue. The room had already begun to spin when she raised her head—a combination of too little sleep, an adrenaline crash, and a unit short of blood.

The nurse helped Mercy up and walked her out, talking as they went.

“I’m taking you to the waiting room to get juice and a sweet roll from one of the vending machines before I can let you leave. I don’t know if anyone told you, but the woman needing the donation is a nurse in this hospital. We are all so grateful you came when you got the call. None of this is standard donation procedure, so thank you for going above and beyond for her.”

“I am happy I was close enough to help,” Mercy said.

“You gave her a chance, which is more than she had before you showed up,” the nurse said.

Mercy was still shaky and wanting to sit down as they walked into the waiting room. But two men who were already there stood up and came toward her so fast she took a quick step back.

However, it was the cop standing behind them who caught her eye. She thought for a moment she was hallucinating, then saw the same look of shock on his face as the one she must be wearing. Her gut knotted.

“You! You disappeared seven years ago. I never thought I’d see you again,” he said.

She shrugged. “Seven years is a long time. Neither did I.” She wondered if he’d stayed to give her a ticket for speeding, and then decided she didn’t care.

The brothers began crowding around her, all trying to talk at once.

“Miss Dane, this is Jack Talbot and his brother, Duke. Hope is Jack’s wife, and it appears they’ve figured out who you are. Jack, this is Mercy Dane. She needs juice and a sweet roll from the vending machine.”

“I’ll get it,” he offered, and ran toward the machines at the far end of the room, and then yelled back at his brother to see if he had a debit card on him while the nurse seated Mercy and introduced her to the chief.

“Mercy, this is Chief Pittman. He helped pull Hope from the wreck.” Then she added, “Ideally, you need to sit at least thirty minutes after you’ve finished eating. An hour would be even better.”

Mercy nodded. “Yes, I will, and thank you.”

“Oh no, we’re the ones thanking you. God bless you, Mercy Dane. Have a safe trip home,” she said.

Lon was in shock. Seven years ago he’d spent a week looking for this woman. She was in his arms when he fell asleep, and when he woke she was gone. He’d never forgotten her or that night, and now, fate had brought her back into his world.

“So, Lucky, long time, no see,” he said softly.

She nodded.

“You are one hell of a rider,” he said.

Her eyes narrowed. “So, Chief, is that your way of saying I was speeding?”

She watched his eyes crinkling up at the corners as he smiled.

“Pretty much, but given the circumstances, I’m gonna let that slide. I stayed because I wanted to meet the donor who willingly interrupted her Christmas Day to save a stranger’s life. I didn’t know I was going to meet an old friend.”

“We’re not friends,” Mercy said, and then blinked as she realized that was what she said before, and added, “I don’t have family. Just a job. I was happy to do it.”

He heard a challenge in her claim…as if daring him to remark about her solitary life. But he wasn’t going to give her a moment of sympathy.

“Yeah, same here. Cops and family aren’t necessarily synonymous. Most days I feel like my life is the job. At any rate, you are not what you seem, and I am impressed.”

All of a sudden, a quick wave of weakness washed over her. She bent over and put her head between her knees, trying not to pass out.

Lon caught her just as she was about to slide out of the chair as Jack returned with a bottle of orange juice, a packet of mini-doughnuts, and an iced honey bun. It was pure sugar overload, but Mercy knew it was what her body needed to offset the shock of blood loss.

“Here you go, Miss Dane. If you want more to drink, just let me know,” Jack said, and then pulled out a chair and sat down near her.

Duke was drawn to the woman by her beauty, and unhappy that it appeared the chief and the woman were already acquainted with each other. He followed his younger brother’s lead and sat nearby.

Mercy took a drink of the juice and then tore back the cellophane from the honey bun and took a bite as the chief’s radio squawked. Someone was trying to locate him.

“As you heard, my presence is requested elsewhere,” Lon said, as he stood.

“It was a pleasure to meet you again. Take care, Miss Dane, and have a safe ride home.”

“Thank you,” Mercy said.

She didn’t want to watch, but she couldn’t help it. The years had turned him into quite a man. One thing was the same though. His butt still looked good from behind.

Chapter 3
Jack scooted his chair closer to her. His voice was trembling as he captured her attention. “Miss Dane, there aren’t words enough to thank you for what you’ve done. Hope means everything to me, and I thought I was going to lose her. You have given her a fighting chance.”

“I was happy to help,” she said.

Duke picked up the conversation. “Well, we certainly appreciate it. Hope has no family, so there was no option of having a relative donate, which would have been the normal avenue. She was adopted out of foster care.”

“Then she was lucky to get out. I grew up in foster care and aged out,” Mercy said, and took another bite of the honey bun.

“Where do you live?” Jack asked.

“In Savannah.”

Duke pointed at the helmet that she’d put between her feet. “Did you come here on a motorcycle?”

She nodded. “I don’t own a car.”

He frowned. “Wasn’t your husband upset about you coming all this way alone?”

Mercy resisted the urge to glare. He asked too damn many questions. “I’m not married, but that wouldn’t have mattered. I make my own decisions. No man tells me what to do.”

Duke heard the cold tone in her voice and unconsciously sat up and leaned back.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to imply—”

Mercy sighed. She’d come on too strong to a family who was freaked out, and rightly so. “No. I’m sorry. I guess the defensive wall I keep between me and the world is a little steep.”

She finished off the honey bun and got up to wash the sugar from her fingers. When she came back from the bathroom, she glanced at the clock. Since it was still too early to leave, she took off the leather jacket and sat back down.

The moment she removed it, Duke saw the odd-shaped birthmark on her neck and did a double take. “Unusual birthmark you have there,” he said, pointing at the side of her neck.

“I guess,” Mercy said. “I forget it’s there.”

She drank the last of her juice and then leaned back in the chair, resisting the urge to close her eyes. It wouldn’t take much for her to go to sleep.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Jack asked. “I mean, you look a bit sleepy. I wouldn’t want you to have an accident going home.”

“Yes, actually I would. Coffee sounds like a good idea, but I have money to—”

“Please, let me,” Jack said.

Mercy didn’t argue. She understood his need to give back and closed her eyes rather than continue a conversation. This was a random meeting in their lives, and the sooner she was out of here, the better.

But Duke kept staring. After Jack handed Mercy the coffee and sat back down, Duke and Jack began talking in low tones.

Mercy wasn’t paying any attention until she heard a comment that startled her. “She sure looks like Hope, doesn’t she?” Duke asked.

Jack frowned. “Maybe.”

But Duke was insistent. “Same olive complexion. Same black hair and brown eyes.”

Then Duke realized Mercy was staring at them. “Sorry for talking about you like that,” Duke said. “It was rude.”

Mercy shrugged it off as Duke continued talking. She thought he talked too much, but now that he had her attention, he launched another conversation.

“Hope had a little sister when she was in foster care. Her adoptive parents left her behind, and it broke Hope’s heart.”

“That’s too bad, but it happens,” Mercy said.

“She said her little sister had a birthmark on her neck that looked like a valentine heart lying on its side.”

Mercy grabbed her neck before she thought. She could feel herself flushing like she used to when a foster parent would decide she was too wild, too unwilling to conform, and her social worker would come and take her away. Why don’t you try to get along, he would ask.

She never knew what to say. She had no words to describe that she was afraid of everything. That she’d been hurt so many times that her defense mechanism had evolved to being the first to throw a punch or disagree.

“I do remember Hope talking about that,” Jack said, and looked at Mercy anew.

“She said her little sister was only three when that happened,” Duke said.

Mercy stood abruptly. “What you’re implying is impossible. Why are you doing this? You know my name. It was never changed, so obviously, that’s not me.”

“Hope said she always called her Baby Girl. I don’t think I ever heard her mention anything but that.”

Now the room was beginning to spin again, but this time from fear, not weakness.

All of a sudden she was remembering a gritty floor against her bare legs and old shoes on her feet so scuffed they no longer held color. Someone was hugging her and patting her on the back. Don’t cry, Baby Girl. I’ll tie your shoes.

She blinked, and the memory was gone, but she felt off-center and anxious. When she began gathering her things, Duke stood.

“Aren’t you curious?” he asked. “What are the odds that a donor with the same rare blood type as Hope’s, who also looks like her, has the same general coloring, and the same identifying birthmark as the missing sister, isn’t connected?”

Mercy was beginning to shake. She’d been alone all her life, and this felt scary. She was afraid to buy into something only to be disappointed again when it wasn’t true. “It’s not possible,” she said.

“Then let’s determine it right here and now,” Duke said, and pulled out his phone and sent a quick text to a friend who worked in the hospital.

Within moments he got a text back. “My friend, Mark, works in the lab. He’s coming up to get a swab for a DNA test. Is that okay?”

Mercy wanted to run, but the thought of actually having family was beyond anything she’d ever dreamed. “I guess,” she said, and sat back down.

A few moments later, Doctor Barrett, the surgeon who had operated on Hope, came into the waiting room.

Jack immediately stood. “How is she, Doctor Barrett?”

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I just wanted to let you know her vital signs are improving. She’s not out of the woods by any means, but getting that transfusion was vital.”

“Oh, thank God,” Jack said, and grabbed both of Mercy’s hands. “And thank you again.”

“You’re the donor?” the doctor asked.

“Yes.”

“Then I’m thanking you too. Hope is a good woman and a fine nurse. What you gave her was a chance to live.”

Mercy was blinking back tears as the doctor left and fighting an urge to run. But if she left now without following through on this sister thing, she would live the rest of her life wondering what would have happened had she stayed.

A few minutes later, a short redheaded man in a lab coat came hurrying into the waiting room. “Is this the lady in question?” he asked.

Duke nodded. “Mark, this is Mercy Dane. Mercy, this is my friend, Mark Lyons.”

Mark smiled. “Hello, Miss Dane. This will only take a few seconds. I just need to get a swab from inside your mouth, okay?”

She nodded.

When he pulled the long swab out of the wrapper, she opened her mouth.

Mark got the sample and secured it. “All finished. When we get the test results, I’ll let Duke know.”

“How long will it take?” Duke asked.

“Hard to say. They’ll take all of the regular requests for people who are waiting for treatment first.”

“Okay then,” Mercy said, and headed for the door.

“Wait!” Duke said. “How can I contact you?”

She wasn’t about to give him her phone number or address. “You can reach me at the Road Warrior Bar in Savannah,” she said, and walked out of the waiting room, then out of the hospital.

The sun was bright as she headed toward her bike. The urgency of her arrival was no longer an issue as she slipped the helmet over her head, mounted the Harley, and started it up. The pipes rumbled as she rode out of the parking lot and back toward Main Street.

***

Lon was standing outside the police station talking on his cell phone when he heard the motorcycle. He ended the call as she approached, and on impulse, waved her over.

Mercy sighed. This meeting had to happen to get past it, so she turned toward the curb and pulled into a parking space. She killed the engine, took off her helmet, and cradled it in her lap as he walked toward her.

“Am I in trouble again?” she asked.

“No ma’am, you are not,” he said, and handed her a card. “This is my business card, but the number on the lower left is the number to my personal cell phone. I would sincerely appreciate it if you gave me a call when you get home, just to let me know you arrived safely. I am a bit concerned about the long ride you’re going to have to make so soon after donating blood. I want to know you made it home in one piece. Unlike the last time we parted, when I worried myself sick for some time, wondering what happened to you. Wondering if that thief had come back and taken you away.”

Mercy’s heart skipped a beat as he laid the card in her palm. She’d been so beaten down and wounded by life that she never thought of his feelings when she’d left. “Are you serious?” she asked.

Lon frowned. “Yes, I’m serious. Why would you doubt that?”

She shrugged. “Nobody ever cared.”

He heard a slight tremble in her voice. “Well, I’m not nobody, and I cared before, and I care now.”

She slipped the card into one of the pockets in her jacket and then zipped it up for safekeeping. She didn’t what to think about him. “I never had to check in with anyone before.”

Lon felt like he’d been sideswiped, but didn’t let on. He’d thought it that night together so long ago, and he was thinking it again this Christmas Day. He’d never met anyone like her—a matter-of-fact woman who said what she thought and didn’t use the situation in her life to gain attention or pity.

“You’re not checking in with me, Mercy Dane. If this insults you, then don’t call. But like before, be aware that I will worry, and I will wonder if you ever made it home. I will be grateful if you call. Ride safe. Both times we have crossed paths in sad circumstances. I never got a chance to say it before, but I am truly glad to have met you.”

All of a sudden Mercy was looking at him through a veil of tears. She took a quick breath and jammed the helmet back on her head.

“Thanks for not giving me a ticket,” she said, and started the engine and rode off.

Lon stayed where he was and watched until she disappeared from view—still remembering what it felt like to come apart in her arms.

***

Mercy was shaken by the encounter and didn’t feel easy until she’d put several miles between herself and Blessings. The town was small by Savannah standards, but there was something about it. Some people might have called it quaint. But that wasn’t the adjective Mercy would have used. It took her a few moments to put a name to the vibe she’d gotten just from being there, but when the word came to her, it felt right.

There was an innocence to it. Maybe it had to do with small-town living. She’d never thought about living in a place where you knew most everyone who lived there and had known them since birth. She kept thinking about the depth of concern everyone had for the injured woman…for Hope Talbot. Everyone seemed so friendly, so kind and caring, both for her health and safety, and for Hope.

As for that cop, she didn’t quite know how to feel about him. He didn’t hit on her. He didn’t ask for her number like most of her customers did in the bar. He just wanted to know that she made it home. How had he worded it? Oh yes. In one piece. If she made it home in one piece.

Almost as suddenly as that thought slid through her mind, a car on her left in the passing lane suddenly swerved toward her. She swerved toward the ditch, certain he was going to hit her. At the last moment, he overcorrected and swerved hard to the left and drove into the center median.

She caught a glimpse of the car as it began to roll and breathed a shaky sigh of relief that she wasn’t the one rolling. She glanced in her side mirror and saw a number of cars were already stopping, so she kept on going, glad she was still upright and healthy.

About forty-five minutes later, she hit the city limits of Savannah and took an exit ramp that would take her home.

Fifteen minutes more, and she had arrived at her apartment complex and locked up her bike. She paused to stretch before going upstairs and gazed around the complex, noting the number of Christmas wreaths and big red bows decorating doors and balconies.

It was almost noon on a clear, cold Christmas Day.

She thought about the cop’s card in her pocket, and on impulse pulled it out and gave him a call. When he answered, she realized she’d been holding her breath for the sound of his voice. “Hello?”

“It’s me, Mercy. I’m home.”

“Good news! Are you feeling okay?”

She shivered as the deep rasp in his voice rolled through her. “Yes, Chief, I’m fine, and thank you for asking.”

“Thank you for calling to ease my mind. Next time we meet, call me Lon. Merry Christmas to you, Mercy Dane.”

“Merry Christmas to you too,” she said, and disconnected.

She started up the steps to her apartment with a bounce in her walk. It was a good day.

***

Lon was still smiling as he dropped the phone back in his pocket. For a day that had started out in a near tragedy, it was turning into a really good day.

 

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Grand Finale Blitz and Giveaway! CROSSING IN TIME by D.L. Orton (Between Two Evils #1)


On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
Crossing in Time
By D.L. Orton

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out and grab ebook copies of the series on SALE while you can…

Launch – Note from the Author

Love is the most powerful force known to mankind. It wrecks kings, destroys barriers, makes us risk everything for a few stolen moments. . . . And all of this makes for a great story.

Reading for the Stars and Moon – What are your favorite sci-fi books and movies?

I can never seem to remember book titles, and I struggle to recall all the plot twists, but the good characters stick with you. They teach you, change you, become a part of you. I aspire to that with my own writing.

Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’ – Crossing In Time (Excerpt #1)

The chubby gun trader shifts his weight and looks up at me, one eye squeezed shut. “What sort of rearm you lookin’ to purchase, ma’am?” He’s enthroned on a maroon chintz armchair in front of a burned-out Walmart.

“Handgun,” I say. “Something easy to aim and shoot.”

Hearts & Scribbles – Ask the Characters: How Difficult Is It to Be a Character in D.L. Orton’s Book?

Isabel: There were times when I wasn’t sure I wanted to trust a writer with my life. Still, Ms. Orton cares about the same things I do, and I’m dying to see how things turn out. In the end, I wasn’t keen on some of the scarier scenes (and I’m still sad about all those animals), but the author assures me that everything will work out in the end. Right, Diego?

I Love Books – The Journey Is the Reward

What’s the moral of the story? Don’t take the ones you love for granted. They could disappear at any moment—and time machines are pretty hard to come by. Put your arms around someone you care about and just enjoy the moment. The journey is the reward.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Review

“This is a steadily progressing story of love gone awry, reconciliation, commitment, sacrifice for love and mankind, and time travel. The novel begins with a “interest-catching Prologue, then quickly begins to formulate the story on a solid foundation, constantly building in momentum until it ends in a solid climax, leaving the reader anxious for the next sequel in the story! It is complete with romance, suspense, adventure and life’s lessons.”

Kindle and Me – Review

“If you like other universes with the same people, nuclear bombs, physics, emergency preparedness, giving up your life for someone you love, dogs, cats, jokes, finding that one special person, biodomes, peeing on a handkerchief with smoke everywhere, and maybe a way to save us all from our mistakes then this might be for you!”

Wishful Endings – Crossing In Time (Excerpt #2)


“Still…” The gun trader waits for me to meet his eyes. “I s’pose I could use some fancy flavorings on my venison.”

I regard the only overweight man in a sea of famine, disgusted with the whole human race and embarrassed by my own full stomach.

Zerina Blossom’s Books – Author Interview

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely all imagination?

Who hasn’t looked back at a turning point in his or her life and wondered how things might have played out differently?

I met and fell in love with the man I’m married to when we were twenty-eight, and one of the first trips we took together was to attend the wedding of his best buddy from college. At the reception, I ended up seated next to my husband’s ex-girlfriend! Despite an awkward introduction, she and I hit if off, and we ended up comparing notes. (You should have seen his face when he realized we were talking about him.) At the end of the evening, she said something that stuck with me: I wish I would have met him at a different time in my life.

Celticlady’s Reviews – How Does Time Travel Work in the Between Two Evils Multiverse?

Take a shower curtain, some ants, and a bowling ball.

Start with the shower curtain. It’s a two-dimensional object in a 3-dimensional world. Imagine, now, that you are an ant, walking, talking, and shagging other ants on this thin, flexible membrane (or a “brane” in physics-speak). Layered above and below you are a million other shower curtains, all of them with their own allotment of ants (some of which get paid 78 cents on the dollar due to slight differences in their copulatory organs).

deal sharing aunt – Review

“I enjoy a good time travel and that is what this book is. It has a great romance and a second chance at love. I enjoyed the world the author created and thought that the author did a great job traveling in time.”

Colorimetry – Lost Time (Excerpt #1)

I lie in the greenish half-light, my lungs on fire, panic forcing out any rational thought.

And then I remember where I am—or rather where I should be.

I pound my fists against the translucent coffin lid until I manage to hit the release lever. The top pops open and frigid air rushes in, smelling of damp earth and evergreens.

I gasp for breath, my heart pounding.

The last thing I remember is a panicked voice shouting to abort the mission. Stop the countdown because…

fuonlyknew – Review

“The beginning swiftly pulls you in. The plot deepens and the characters emerge. And as you draw near to the conclusion, you’re gripped in a vise of suspense that brings tears to your eyes, fearing and hoping for what comes last.”

Angels With Attitude Book Reviews – Dead Time (Excerpt #1)

I’m trying to be brave, Mom, but it’s harder than I thought.

All the jeeps and other equipment are gone now, and I count four dingy biosuits slogging toward me through the downpour. I gaze up at the sloped wall of the massive biodome, wishing it didn’t look so… alien.

What would Madders do?

He’d be collecting data, not blubbering like a D-2 who fell off a swing and scraped her knee. Identify the problem, engineer a solution, and Bob’s your uncle.

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“The book involves time travel, an orb with a message, seashells, love, and secret government projects. It is a fascinating book.”

Booklove – Review

“The book, Crossing In Time was a one sit read for me with intriguing and captivating characters, unique, thrilling and original plot and a hooking prose . A perfect read for every Sci-Fi and romance lover.”

Tour Schedule

April 17th: Reading for the Stars and Moon, Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’ & Hearts & Scribbles
April 18th: I Love Books
April 19th: Rockin’ Book Reviews
April 20th: Kindle and Me & Wishful Endings
April 21st: Zerina Blossom’s Books
April 23rd: Celticlady’s Reviews
April 24th: deal sharing aunt & Colorimetry
April 25th: fuonlyknew & Angels With Attitude Book Reviews
April 26th: Bookworm Lisa
April 27th: Booklove
April 28th: Grand Finale

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway, if you haven’t already…

Crossing in Time
(Between Two Evils #1)
D.L. Orton
Adult Sci-Fi Romance, Dystopian
Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook & ebook, 374 pages
April 7th 2015 by Rocky Mountain Press

A Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Best Sci-Fi Love Story of the Year”

Remember How It Feels to Fall in Love?

Race against the clock through a dystopian nightmare. Climb naked into an untested time machine (carrying only a seashell and a promise). Wake up twenty years younger on a tropical beach, buck naked and mortally wounded, with your heart in your throat.

This is a journey of love, loss, and redemption that will make your pulse gallop and your palms sweat, have you laughing out loud through your tears, and leave you flush with the sublime pleasure of falling in love.

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Other Books in the Series

Lost Time
(Between Two Evils #2)
D.L. Orton
Adult Sci-Fi Romance, Dystopian
Hardcover, Paperback & ebook, 222 pages
July 1st 2016 by Rocky Mountain Press

If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?

When a faulty time machine deposits Diego at the top of a pine tree, he knows he’s in the wrong place–but has no idea he’s in the wrong time. Naked and shivering in the chilly mountain air, he attempts to climb down, but slips, whacks his head, and falls into oblivion.

He wakes up inside a darkened room, crippled and disheartened, and must come to grips with the realization that he is marooned in a bleak alternate future. In this universe, what remains of the human race is trapped inside a handful of aging biodomes. With his mission failed, his world destroyed, and the one woman he loves, dead, he can find no reason to go on living.

But Lani, the emotionally scarred doctor who finds him, refuses to let him die, and as Diego heals, their relationship becomes… complicated. He struggles to let go of the past but is unable to get Isabel out of his head–or his heart. Just when it seems he may be able to find some measure of happiness in a world teetering on the edge of extinction…

Another note arrives from the future: Isabel is alive–but not for long…

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Dead Time
(Between Two Evils #3)
D.L. Orton
Adult Sci-Fi Romance, Dystopian
Paperback & ebook, 414 pages
April 15th 2017 by Rocky Mountain Press

If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?

From award-winning author D. L. ORTON comes book three in the Between Two Evils series…

Shannon fights to stay alive inside a rogue biodome and discovers something totally unexpected… Peter. Lani is forced into the role of the reluctant heroine but rediscovers her street-kid mojo and sets out to find everything she’s lost. Diego receives another dirty sock (and a note) from the poorly aimed fireball express: “The window between universes is closing.” If Diego has any hope of getting back to Iz, he must get to the Magic Kingdom and power up the time machine before it’s too late.

What could possibly go wrong?

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About the Author

D.L. ORTON is the BEST-SELLING author of the BETWEEN TWO EVILS book series. She lives in the Rocky Mountains where she and her husband are raising three boys, a golden retriever, two Siberian cats, and an extremely long-lived Triops. In her spare time, she’s building a time machine so that someone can go back and do the laundry.

Ms. Orton is a graduate of Stanford University’s Writers Workshop and a past editor of “Top of the Western Staircase,” a literary publication of the University of Colorado at Boulder. The author has a number of short stories published in traditional and online literary magazines, including Literotica, Melusine, Cosmoetica, The Ranfurly Review, and Catalyst Press.

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Tour Giveaway

– 1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)
– 1 winner will receive the Between Two Evils series, which includes Crossing in Time, Lost Time, and Dead Time (print if US, Kindle copies if international)
– Ends March 28th

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Juliet Lyons, Author of DATING THE UNDEAD Reveals 10 Ways to Tell if Your Date is Actually a Vampire (with a giveaway)

10 Ways to Tell if Your Date is Actually a Vampire:

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

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

About the author:

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

Social Networking Links:

Website: https://www.julietlyons.co.uk/
Twitter: @WriterJLyons
Facebooks: https://www.facebook.com/WriterJLyons
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15118466.Juliet_Lyons
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/julietlyons

Title: Dating the Undead
Author: Juliet Lyons
Series: Undead Dating Service, #1
ISBN: 9781492645306
Pub date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Paranormal Romance

 

WOMAN SEEKING VAMPIRE:

Likes to keep things casual

Absolutely no poetry

Zero romance required.

Silver Harris is over clingy men—maybe men altogether. But when she shares a toe-curling kiss with a sexy Irish vampire on New Year’s Eve, she wonders if maybe it’s human men she’s fed up with. Silver turns to the popular vampire dating site, V-Date, only to discover that vampire men are just as unimpressive as their mortal counterparts. And her mysterious hottie? He’s nowhere to be found.

Can’t a girl catch a break?

Logan Byrne can’t get that sassy redhead—or that kiss!—out of his head. When his boss assigns him to spy on V-Date, he meets Silver again. Turns out, the police are recruiting humans to snitch on vampires through the dating site. As the snark and sparks fly, feelings between Silver and Logan deepen. But, when old demons resurface—literally—Logan isn’t sure he can shield either of them from the dangers that have been lying in wait for centuries.

Excerpt:

I freeze in terror. What a waste of Dad’s money those self-defense classes turned out to be.

“Silver, it’s just me,” a lilting Irish voice says at my ear, the hand dropping from my shoulder.

I turn around to find myself nose to nose with my vampire from New Year’s Eve, his bright green eyes piercing mine.

I’m struck by several conflicting emotions all at once—anger, relief, and in a tiny measure—happiness. Anger wins out. On impulse, I slap him hard across the face, pointing with a white, clenched hand to the garden I’ve just sprinted across.

“I thought I was about to be murdered, asshole,” I hiss through my teeth. “I ripped my coat. My heels are ruined. All because you thought it might be fun to follow me home.”

He smirks, nonplussed, sliding his hands into the deep pockets of his navy pea coat. “I wasn’t following you,” he says, eyes twinkling.

“Oh, that’s right,” I say, voice dripping with sarcasm. “You were just walking me home again. Except this time from fifty yards behind and without me knowing.”

Before he has a chance to reply, the front door flies open and my landlady Vera emerges in a long, silky, oriental dressing gown. She is wigless for once, a Pucci scarf twisted into a makeshift turban covering her head. In her right hand, she holds a meat cleaver.

“Step away, you rapist bastard!” she yells, holding the large knife shakily aloft.

I glare at the vampire, expecting him to either throw his hands in the air or take a step backwards. Instead his brows knit together and his mouth drops open. “Etta Marlow?” he asks, staring at her as if she just walked on water.

The meat cleaver lowers a fraction. “What’s it to you?” Vera demands, her voice losing some of its previous menace.

I roll my eyes. Of course he remembers her. He’s probably seen all her films.

“It is you!” he erupts, wagging a finger in her direction. “You’re Etta Marlow! You played Susie De Sousa in Girl Uptown with Gregor Lane. I love that movie.”

The meat cleaver drops, forgotten, to her side as she pats her turban, eyelashes fluttering. “Fancy you recognizing me,” she mutters happily.

“Excuse me, Vera,” I interject, “but there’s still a potential rapist on your doorstep here.”

Vera looks back to the vampire, who shakes his head, smiling. “A misunderstanding, Etta. I was making sure Silver here made it home safely. She got the wrong end of the stick.”

Vera, or Etta as she was once known, glances over at me. “Do you know this charming fellow, dear?”

I scowl at them both. “Well, yes, but— “

“Well then, you must come in, dear boy. I could show you my Oscar, if you like?”

The Vampire looks as if he’s about to pee himself with excitement. “You mean the one you got for Days Like These with Vic Stevens?”

She holds out a thin hand towards him, gold bangles jangling on her wrist. “The very one, dear. Come, come in.”

I watch, stunned, as he takes her hand, green eyes lit up in excitement.

Before stepping through the door, he hangs back. “Ms. Marlow, I’m afraid it’s only courteous to let you know before I enter that I’m not human. I’m a vampire.”

Vera’s tinkly laugh echoes around the street like a bicycle bell. “Oh, you’re so sweet. Didn’t you know I’ve met dozens of vampires? They’re two a penny in Hollywood, darling.”

Following her across the threshold, he flashes the cockiest of grins. “Coming, Silver?”

My jaw drops in disgust. I’m tempted to sulk off to my basement flat, but instead, I trail after them and slam the door.

We follow Vera along an elegant gold and cream hallway into her immaculate, monochrome front room. Even though I’ve been here on numerous occasions, I’m always mesmerized by the sheer extravagance of the place—buttery white leather sofas, cream fur rugs, one wall is painted black and white to resemble piano keys. It should look tacky, but somehow, it works.

“You two make yourselves at home whilst I go and make myself presentable.” Vera says. “Then I’ll dig out that old Oscar of mine.”

I know, of course, the Oscar will not have to be ‘dug’ out of anywhere. It’s always on display in the den, alongside her film stills and other memorabilia.

“I didn’t catch your name,” she croons to the vampire before she leaves.

He puts a hand on his chest. “Forgive me, I should have introduced myself. Between the meat cleaver threat and getting slapped by Silver here, I seem to have forgotten my manners. I’m Logan. Logan Byrne.”

For strange and unfathomable reasons, my stomach flips. Logan. It suits him.

“Charming,” Vera says. “Don’t you go anywhere, Mr. Byrne.”

As soon as Vera disappears from the room, Logan collapses into one of the white leather arm chairs and puts his crossed feet onto the cut glass coffee table.

I’m still standing, one brow arched, arms folded across my chest. “So, Logan,” I hiss. “What the hell is this?”

He grins, dimples putting in their first appearance of the night as he gazes up at me. “Did anyone ever tell you, you’re particularly beautiful when you’re angry?”

“Oh, cut the crap,” I say,  ignoring the hot flush climbing my neck. “Why did you follow me?”

“Like I told Etta, I wanted to make sure you got home safely, that’s all. Though I’m a little confused as to why you have three houses.” He holds up fingers to count. “The one I left you at on New Year’s, the one Nathaniel dropped you at, and now this—cohabiting with an aged 1940’s screen siren.”

“It’s none of your business,” I say, chin in the air. “And anyway, how do you know Nathaniel?”

He shrugs. “I know most of the vampires in London.”

I humpth. “I bet you do.”

In the blink of an eye, he is towering over me, face inches from mine. I inhale his clean, masculine scent like a drowning person coming up for air, and as he leans closer, I find myself gravitating towards him—a flower reaching for sunlight.

He pulls the collar of my coat aside and peers into the gap. As his fingers brush my jaw, an uncontrollable shiver zings through me. I disguise it by stepping out of reach and batting his hand away.

“He did a messy job on your neck,” he says, in a low voice.

“What’s it to you?” I snap.

Before I realize what’s happening, he closes the gap between us. One hand cupping my cheek, he bends over, lips brushing the place Nathaniel bit me, tongue gently swiping the puncture holes.

“That should stop the bleeding,” he says, pulling away. “But you’ll still have a bruise in the morning.”

I rub my neck and look at my fingers. No blood. “So, you can heal wounds? Just another of your unique skills along with beating up drunk men and following young women home for kicks?”

He sinks back into the armchair. “You’re a sexy girl, Silver. I’m glad we’ve met again.”

I snort incredulously, trying, without success, to forget the warmth of his hand on my face. “Well, you certainly made sure we did.”

“And of course,” he continues, pretending to examine a photo on the coffee table. “I’m hugely flattered I’ve managed to turn your head towards my kind.”

“You didn’t turn anything,” I say tartly.

He cocks a brow, gaze burning through my clothes like a laser. I feel a sharp twitch between my legs, as though he’s controlling my private areas by some invisible string. “Are you sure about that?”

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New Release Review and Giveaway! ARRANGED by Lexi Blake (1001 Dark Nights & A Masters and Mercenaries novella)

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Kash Kamdar is the king of a peaceful but powerful island nation. As Loa Mali’s sovereign, he is always in control, the final authority. Until his mother uses an ancient law to force her son into marriage. His prospective queen is a buttoned-up intellectual, nothing like Kash’s usual party girl. Still, from the moment of their forced engagement, he can’t stop thinking about her.

Dayita Samar comes from one of Loa Mali’s most respected families. The Oxford-educated scientist has dedicated her life to her country’s future. But under her staid and calm exterior, Day hides a few sexy secrets of her own. She is willing to marry her king, but also agrees that they can circumvent the law. Just because they’re married doesn’t mean they have to change their lives. It certainly doesn’t mean they have to fall in love.

After one wild weekend in Dallas, Kash discovers his bride-to-be is more than she seems. Engulfed in a changing world, Kash finds exciting new possibilities for himself. Could Day help him find respite from the crushing responsibility he’s carried all his life? This fairy tale could have a happy ending, if only they can escape Kash’s past…
arranged

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Excerpt:

“Are we a happy couple?”

“I don’t think we’ve had time enough to be sure of that yet, but I know we were once.” She’d thought it through in a way she never had before. She had a much different view of those months with Kash in England. “You were courting me back then, weren’t you? You wanted me to be your girlfriend.”

He sat down in the plush chair that dominated the sitting area portion of his bedroom. Normally they stayed in the living room, but he’d wanted more privacy. This was the only place in his suite that wasn’t covered by CCTV, the only place where they could truly be alone. Everything about the space was masculine and decadent, including the man himself. With his hair disheveled and his chest on display, it wasn’t hard at all to see him as a primal male.

One she’d dearly enjoy taming.

“I don’t think you realized it at the time.”

She was willing to admit her faults. “I didn’t. I had my nose in a book most of the time back then and I had little experience with men. No, I had no idea you were interested in me beyond copying my notes from class when you slept in.”

“It would surprise you to know that I often thought about sleeping in with you.” His voice had gone low and gentle. “I was crazy about you back then, Day. I find myself in the same position today, but I don’t want to scare you. I know you think we should take this slow and I will honor your wishes, but I want this marriage to work. You see me as a playboy, but I don’t want to be some forty-plus player who trades on his money to keep young girls around him. I think it might be time for me to find out if I can be the king my father would have wanted me to be.”

It was all she needed to hear. If he wanted to try, she was ready. Despite his reputation, she’d fallen right back into a peaceful friendship with him. He’d been the old Kash, supporting her when she needed it. He’d asked her questions about her work with the education department and then gave her ideas on how to handle the parliament. He hadn’t told her what she should do. He’d suggested, debated.

“I think you’ll find me less averse to giving this marriage a real try than you think. I was planning on talking to you about using the Palm Ceremony to begin to explore what we could be as a couple.”

He frowned. “I’m not sure what that means. You want to talk? Or have counseling? Because that sounds terrible.”

“I was talking about sex, Kashmir. I thought we could use this time to see if we’re sexually compatible.”

He popped up out of his chair like an eager puppy. “Yes. I think that is a brilliant idea. We should start now. Don’t worry. I intend to be gentle with you.”

She didn’t move at all. “Like you are with your lovely flowers?”

“Women deserve a man’s care,” he said quietly. “Day, I can’t erase my past.”

“I don’t want you to.” He misunderstood her problems with his statement. “But I do need you to understand that I’m not one of those flowers. I’m not here to sit at your side and bat my eyelashes in the hopes that you’ll buy something for me. I don’t work like that. I don’t care about your money.”

“That is easy for you to say. You’re about to have access to all of it, aren’t you?”

He had a point. “Even if I wasn’t, that wouldn’t be why I would want you, Kash. Sit down. We have some things to talk about before we get started. Come here close to me.”

He moved to the chaise she was sitting on, lowering himself down with a sullen frown. “I knew there would be talking.”

She was fairly certain his lovely flowers did very little talking, but he would get used to it. “Why did you want me back then?”

“I liked you. I liked talking to you. I liked being around you. I rather liked who I was when I was around you.” His expression softened. “I don’t think you knew how alluring you were to someone like me. You didn’t understand how beautiful you were, so you didn’t use it against me. Most women do.”

“Well, that happens when you surround yourself with women who are mostly valued for their looks. I don’t blame them. They’ve been told their beauty is the only thing worthy about them. If you want to meet women who don’t feel that way, you should probably expand out of models and actresses.”

“Well, you would be surprised how many gorgeous, sexy physicists turn me down because I’m not smart enough for them.”

Review:

A second-chance romance/coming to terms with your true self story, <i>Arranged</i> has a whole lot going on for a novella. I really liked Day; she was a strong character who also struggled with being accepted for who she was. I was with her 100%. Kash, though? He had his awesome times, but he also went through some major a$$hattery. Don’t get me wrong, I get where he was coming from and can see why he would think the way he thought…kind of…but man, I wanted to reach in a slug him one in the middle part of the book. At least he was at odds with himself during much of it, knowing that his reactions weren’t the ones he should be having, but man…

Still, they worked it out in the end, thank goodness. Once again a whole lot of past characters came in and out of the story, and since I still haven’t read any of the books save the last 1001 Dark Nights novella (shame, I know! But school’s almost over…) I once again felt a bit out of the loop not knowing who everyone was already. We really don’t need to know their stories to appreciate this one, it just feels a bit like being at a huge party where you only know one or two people at first. So–a standalone? Yes, with reservations. Will it make you want to read others? Yep 🙂

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

 

About the author:

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

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New Release and Giveaway! DEBUTANTE by Marie Silk (Davenport House Prequel)

Davenport House Prequel: Debutante
by Marie Silk
Publication date: April 21st 2017
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

The family saga begins in Debutante, a prequel to the best-selling Davenport House series. A life of luxury for the Davenports means drudgery for the servants on the grand country estate. This is their story in 1909 America, six years prior to the events of book one.

While her father is away on business, sixteen-year-old Mary Davenport feels confined and alone, despite her privileged life at the family’s mansion. As the day of Mary’s debutante ball draws near, the servants are conflicted by instructions from Mary’s mother to starve her until she fits into a gown that was made too small. Mary is also under pressure to act the part of society while being forbidden from seeing her only friend, the servant boy who works in the stable.

In a shantytown hours away, a young girl called Abigail is hired to sew a gown for a dressmaker’s wealthy patron. Abigail gives up her education in order to provide for her impoverished family. Neither she nor Mary is aware of how connected their futures are destined to become.

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Special release price of 99¢!

AND: Each book in the series will be on sale for 99¢ between April 22-27!

Author Bio:

Marie Silk has enjoyed writing stories and plays since childhood. She lives with her family in the United States and travels the globe as often as life permits. She is an admirer of history, antiques, and architecture. Marie is the author of the best selling Davenport House family saga.

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New Release Review and Giveaway! A CHARMED LITTLE LIE by Sharla Lovelace (Charmed in Texas #1)

Spinning a story of a joyous marriage to make a dying woman happy is forgivable, isn’t it?

 

A CHARMED LITTLE LIE
Charmed in Texas #1
Sharla Lovelace
Releasing April 18th, 2017
Lyrical Shine

Lanie Barrett didn’t mean to lie. Spinning a story of a joyous marriage to make a dying woman happy is forgivable, isn’t it? Lanie thinks so, especially since her beloved Aunt Ruby would have been heartbroken to know the truth of her niece’s sadly loveless, short-of-sparkling existence. Trouble is, according to the will, Ruby didn’t quite buy Lanie’s tale. And to inherit the only house Lanie ever really considered a home, she’ll have to bring her “husband” back to Charmed, Texas for three whole months—or watch Aunt Ruby’s cozy nest go to her weasel cousin, who will sell it to a condo developer.
Nick McKane is out of work, out of luck, and the spitting image of the man Lanie described. He needs money for his daughter’s art school tuition, and Lanie needs a convenient spouse. It’s a match made . . . well, not quite in heaven, but for a temporary arrangement, it couldn’t be better. Except the longer Lanie and Nick spend as husband and wife, the more the connection between them begins to seem real. Maybe this modern fairy tale really could come true . . .
 


I didn’t look back, and I didn’t care. Nick’s hand was warm in mine, and when we reached the dance floor they’d cleared a space for, he tugged back gently to make me turn around. The look in those dark eyes nearly took out my knees. He pulled me into his arms, leaving no room for imagination, and I let my hands slide up his chest to his neck, and around back as his eyelids grew heavy.

Roberta Flack crooned softly, the first time…ever I saw your face… And something in me went warm from head to toe. Something besides whatever was in that punch. Something more real than that.

“Nice save.”

“I tried.”

“How was the punch?” he asked.

I wound my fingers into his hair and pulled his head down.

“See for yourself,” I said, the last word finished against his lips.

Sparks ignited throughout my body as our lips met. Soft. Slow. Wet. Needing. Our bodies moved as one with the music, so close, so tightly pressed together I could feel his heart beating. My hands traveled slowly back down his chest and around his middle as his came up into my hair. When his tongue ran over my top lip, I knew he could feel my gasp. And when I pulled him in deeper to taste him, I felt the low growl in his chest rumbling against mine.

His fingers twisted in my hair as he dove deep and then pulled back, deep again and back, teasing me, pulling back to kiss my lips one at a time, as I kept clinging tighter. I was drunk on it. Breathing shallow. My fingers curling into his shirt with the need for more.

The first time…ever I kissed…your lips…

It was erotic, the way he kissed me. The way I kissed him. Slow, matching our movements. Intimate. Electric and emotional at the same time. And so full of desire and barely restrained need, that my body was trembling with it when he held my face and leaned his forehead against mine.

I wanted to keep my eyes closed. Absorb the feel of him, the song, the words, the taste. Just hold on to it a little longer. But I felt the heat of his gaze and my eyes fluttered open. And everything inside me turned to liquid fire. No one—ever—had looked at me like that. Had wanted me like that. The mirror image of what was churning inside me was all over him. In the desire mixed with the trouble haunting his eyes. This wasn’t the game. That thought hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. This was—

His mouth covered mine again, hungrier, hotter, and I melted into it. The burn in my chest at the realization of just how fucking real this was, stole at my breath, and I didn’t care. It was more than we were supposed to be doing but—God, it was so good. It was so good my heart felt like it was swelling to the size of the room. Wrapping around us as his hands cradled my face and he broke from the kiss, moving his lips along my face, my cheeks, back to my lips, both of us breathing fast. It was more. Nick was giving me the more. It wasn’t just physical; it was bursting inside me.

When he pulled me to him, I buried my face in his neck and held him as tightly as I could as the words slowed to an end. I didn’t want it to be over. I didn’t want to let go.

I could hear my heart in my ears, pounding with every breath. He smelled like soap and something woodsy and Nick, and I always knew that but being up close enough to lick him made the smell intoxicating.

The music stopped.

The lighting was changing. I had to let go of him, and the second I moved he backed up too. Just a little. Just enough for me to see the mouth I’d just gotten to know intimately. His gaze fell to my lips as well, before dragging up to my eyes. Things had changed. In the course of time it took for that song to make its evolution, our reality had shifted. And the real kicker was that I think we both knew it already had.

 

Loved!

Why on earth haven’t I read anything from this author before? I added her entire backlist to my TBR almost as soon as I read the last word of this book–not to mention Charmed in Texas, book 2 ( Lucky Charmed ), because OMG, I need to read Carmen’s story, like now. Seriously.

A Charmed Little Lie had me giggling like a loon in the waiting room of the dentist’s office yesterday–fortunately, there weren’t too many people in there to witness it. Goodness gracious, Lanie and Nick’s story hit all of my buttons. It’s funny, it’s real–even the more outrageous bits, like Lanie’s imaginary spouse and how well Nick fits the bill (especially considering how she finds him) and Lanie’s aunt’s will end up seeming somehow plausible–and romantic and so, so hot. Lanie and Nick have tons of repressed chemistry, and whoa, it had me squirming almost as much as it did them.

So, yeah. I want to crawl into the world of this book and live there. I want to hang out with Lanie and Carmen, and dodge Ralph’s doggy kisses, and sit enraptured in the Blue Banana while Nick makes me a burger. Or pancakes. Or a salad. Heck, I’d even watch him make liver and onions. I’m not picky.

How soon until Carmen’s story?

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.


Sharla Lovelace is the bestselling, award-winning author of sexy small-town love stories. Being a Texas girl through and through, she’s proud to say she lives in Southeast Texas with her retired husband, a tricked-out golf cart, and two crazy dogs. She is the author of five stand-alone novels including the bestselling Don’t Let Go, the exciting Heart Of The Storm series, and the fun and sexy new Charmed in Texas series.

For more about Sharla’s books, visit www.sharlalovelace.com, and keep up with all her new book releases easily by subscribing to her newsletter. She loves keeping up with her readers, and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

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Pre-Release Blitz! TIED by Kim Karr (IMPERFECT LOVE Kindle Worlds)

TIED
By Kim Karr
Release Day: June 6th
Imperfect Love Kindle Worlds

Join the Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ImperfectLoveFans/

 

I was rich, single, and connected, which meant a steady diet of beautiful women wherever I went.

I really did think I had the perfect life.

Until I went and married a supermodel I’d just met, and everything changed.

Of course there were choices. But the word annulment meant giving her up, and I never give up anything. Still, I was a bachelor at heart, and having a wife, well, I didn’t really know what to do with that.

After only forty-eight hours of marriage, I had already gone and screwed everything up.

Now I have thirty days to prove to my new wife that I’m husband material. There’s only one problem—I don’t even know what husband material means. However, I’m certain that won’t stop me from excelling at it.

My wife tells me it isn’t going to be easy. That I have numerous issues to overcome.

First, there’s my jealousy. It needs to be tamed. Did I flip over the fact that her latest picture was causing men around the world to do dirty things all over the covers she graced? Hell, yes. I couldn’t help myself though. When her photo went viral, my caveman instincts kicked in, and I demanded she quit her job and stay home—barefoot and pregnant in my kitchen.I can work on that, right?

Then there’s my mother. I need to convince her that my new wife is not the money hungry floozy she called her. Did my mother actually call her that? Yes. I can’t help it that my mother wants me to get rid of my new wife. The problem is what my mother wants, she always gets one way or another. Still, turning my mother’s opinion around can’t be that hard, can it?

There are many other issues, but according to my new wife, those are minor compared to the biggest one—she says I will never be able to accept being tied down.

Don’t worry—I got this one. I intend to prove to her in no uncertain terms that being tied up, down, or horizontal is just what this Upper East Sider needs.

 

Excerpt:

I was making a hell of a lot of assumptions.

The most important that the dude she was with wasn’t her boyfriend. Poaching another guy’s girl wasn’t something I was into.

That didn’t mean I wouldn’t.

Not that it mattered, she was nowhere in sight.

Just as I was about to give up on ever seeing her again, I spotted her.

Finally.

I’d been looking for her since she walked through the club door, and that was hours ago.

None of that mattered now though because she was looking right back at me, and this time I wasn’t letting her out of my sight.

Adrenaline raced through my veins. I had to meet her. Know her. And yes, fuck her.

She was close.

So close.

She’d sat in a booth across from me, right on the end. We weren’t even ten feet from each other, yet it felt way too far away.

My cheeks grew wide all on their own volition. Fuck, I was smiling like a smitten schoolboy.

Calm the fuck down, I told myself.

She’s just a lay.

But then she smiled back at me with an upward tilt of her luscious lips that not only told me she’d noticed me, but that she liked what she saw, too, and all bets were off.

My body acted on its own. My dick, too.

I had to have her, and I knew I’d do whatever it took to get her.

As soon as I thought the words, any semblance of control I’d had went out the window and my cock went stone hard.

Images of her and me, naked, slick with sweat, and rolling around in the sheets flashed through my mind. I couldn’t stop them.

“James, are you listening to me?” A voice prickled through the air.

Not wanting to be distracted, I nodded and kept my eyes on the gorgeous woman across from me. The woman who was now standing up, taking another guy’s hand, and heading toward the dance floor. The same guy she’d walked in with.

What the fuck? Where had he come from? He wasn’t there a minute ago.

I practically drooled when she walked past me and I caught an up-close glimpse of what she was wearing—a knee-length tighter-than-hell black skirt and some kind of matching slinky top that showed off her taut stomach and beautiful tits.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. She might have been walking with another guy, but her gaze never left me. It was like there was an electric current traveling between us and I knew what I had to do—claim her.

Make her mine for the night.

Standing, I didn’t bother to tell anyone I was with what I was doing. I didn’t want to waste time. I headed toward the dance floor. I have to say, in all the years I’d been coming to his club, I’d never stepped foot on it. Dancing wasn’t my thing.

Tonight, though, anything she was doing would be my thing.

The throng of people seemed to eat her up and I lost her in the sea of bump and grind. The DJ had put on a seductive mix of current songs, clips and pieces that when spliced together sounded really dirty. And it seemed everyone loved it that way. The crowd surged around me, bouncing, wiggling, moving to the beat. Individuals. Couples. Triples. They all moved. Clusters joined together and broke apart in unison. The entire club had gone feral. They weren’t dancing—they were fucking with their clothes on.

I was game for that.

Instinct jabbed at my gut and I kept moving toward the center. The closer I got, the more people there were. Heat and sweat and laughter surrounded me. Women moved in front of me, pressing their bodies close to mine, trying to get me to move to their beat. So very much unlike me, I ignored them all. Not even a smile formed on my face nor did a short flirtation escape my throat. I had to find her.

My blood surged through my veins when I spotted that mess of red hair bouncing. That body moving. Those hips rocking. As if she could sense my stare, she looked my way.

Damn, she was beautiful.

I was hit with full-on attraction.

Instant lust.

Step by step, I made my way toward her. The dude that had led her to the pits of hell was in his own world, as if he just liked to move. There was a decent distance between the two of them so whatever they were, it was far from intimate, or I told myself that was the case anyway.

Normally, I wouldn’t be such an ass, or maybe I would—who the fuck knew, I’d never been in a situation like this. But without a second thought, I tapped the guy on the shoulder.

He turned around.

I bobbed my chin toward the gorgeous vision in front of him. “Mind if I cut in?”

I almost laughed at myself. I’d never used words like that before.

They both glared at me.

I didn’t care. I wanted her, and I wasn’t leaving the dance floor without at least trying.

And I always got what I wanted.

Luckily, he didn’t deck me. It wouldn’t have been good for him. Instead, he started to dance a circle around me. “Sure, man, no problem,” he yelled over the music.

With him out of the way, she was all mine for the night. She just didn’t know it yet. My eyes darted to hers and my body moved closer. “Lindsay, nice to meet you,” I said, getting as close to her as I could.

She continued to glare at me. Hmm…that was not the reaction that I had expected. She practically swallowed me whole with that glance, but I swore I could see her pulse throbbing in her neck in excitement. “How do you know my name?” she asked.

“How could I not? You’re the most gorgeous girl in this place.”

Was I good, or what?

Those feline eyes assessed me, and I could tell she wasn’t impressed.

Okay, on second thought, that might have sounded a little cheesy. I reeled it back. “One my friends knew who you were.”

She nodded, but she still wasn’t moving.

I was.

And I was certain I looked like a damn fool.

“Dance with me,” I said.

This time she shook her head, but at least she was smiling.

Playing hard to get.

I liked it.

Copyright © 2017 by Kim Karr

 

New Release Review and Giveaway! MARRYING THE WRONG EARL by Callie Hutton (Lords and Ladies in Love #2)

She didn’t want to marry anyone, let alone the wrong one.  

 

MARRYING THE WRONG EARL
Lords and Ladies in Love #2
Callie Hutton
Releasing April 17th, 2017
Entangled Scandalous

Lady Arabella Danvers is happy with her life just the way it is. She is free to be herself and take care of broken and abandoned animals. Her mother is desperate for her to marry, and has decided to take things into her own hands. There is just one little problem with her plan.

Nash, the Earl of Clarendon has determined it is time to take a wife. He has selected a woman to whom he intends to propose. However, the annoying Lady Arabella has stumbled into his life at the wrong time, and in the wrong place.

But he of all people should know if Lady Arabella is involved, plans will go awry.

 

Clarendon’s dark blond curly hair hung a bit more over the back of his cravat than was fashionable, but it suited him well. It appeared his valet had attempted to tame the curls but a few stubborn locks had sprung free and brushed his broad forehead. An aristocratic nose and full lips left no doubt he was descended from generations of nobility. His crystal blue eyes bore into her as he released her hand when they joined the line. They stood across from each other as the music began. He bowed, she curtsied, and they came together. She would be the bigger of them, and clear the air. “I do wish to apologize for the trouble I caused you today, my lord.”

They switched places. “’Tis nothing, I assure you.” He extended his hand, and they moved together with the other dancers for a few steps.

“I disagree, my lord. You ended up muddy, with your clothes torn.”

His jaw flexed as they moved around each other and joined the line of dancers again. “Of course, you disagree, but I assure you, my lady, ’twas nothing.”

As they weaved in and out of the other dancers, she mumbled, “What do you mean ‘of course I disagree,’ and why cannot you accept an apology freely given? Are you always so disagreeable, then?”

They joined hands once more. “Perhaps because I do not wish to be reminded of the incident.”

Separating, they moved around each other, dipping with the music. “I believe you are merely being stubborn.”

Nash closed his eyes. “And I believe you are being stubborn.”

“I am not being stubborn. I simply want to extend my apologies for the mishap this afternoon.”

They joined hands again and moved in a circle. “Fine. Your apology is accepted.”

Another couple switched places with them, eyeing them with curiosity. “There, now. Was that so very hard?”

“My dear lady, do you wish to dance, or converse?”

They stepped forward, hand-in-hand to the head of the line. “Can we not do both?”

“Perhaps I lose count if I talk and dance.”

Her eyebrows rose and she offered a tight grin. “Cannot do two things at once, my lord? Is that why you had such a difficult time rescuing a poor cat?”

Nash came to an abrupt halt, causing the couple behind them to stumble. “I did not have a difficult time of it.” He bent close to her ear and murmured. “Furthermore, I am finished with this conversation.”

Marrying the Wrong Earl was a sweet story. Similar to Nash’s sister’s story ( Seducing the Marquess , Nash and Arabella do things a bit backward–they’re married first (about 1/3 of the way in) and gradually work their way into love from there.

I have to admit I was a tad bit concerned that they’d be able to pull off their HEA in the end–it went pretty down to the wire–because Nash’s “my wife needs to act like all the other ton wives out there” ‘tude seemed even more extreme than Drake’s in The Duke’s Quandary . (Is it a coincidence that Drake had to show up and give him an assist? I think not. ;)) So…they get to their HEA (of course!) but it is a bit of a last minute thing…still, they do get there, and it is a very sweet ending.

Despite the fact that characters from other books by Ms. Hutton do make appearances here, this book should work well as a standalone if needed. Fingers crossed that there’ll be a third book in the series, though.

Rating: 4 stars / B+

Callie Hutton, the USA Today bestselling author of The Elusive Wife writes both Regency and western historical romance, with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs and her top cheerleader husband of many years. Her family also includes her daughter, son, and daughter-in-law, and twin grandsons “The Twinadoes.”  
Callie loves to hear from readers. Contact her directly at calliehutton11@gmail.com or find her online at her WebsiteSign up for her newsletter to receive information on new releases, appearances, contests and exclusive subscriber content. 
 

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Excerpt Reveal! FRAUD by J.L. Berg

We’re less than a week away from the release of USA Today Bestselling author J.L. Berg’s FRAUD – and we have an excerpt for you! Check it out below and preorder your copy for a special price of just $2.99!
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Available May 1st, 2017

From USA Today Bestselling author J.L. Berg comes a sexy standalone about love, lies and every dirty little thing in between

About FRAUD:.

It wasn’t just a job.

It was my way back to the top.

After losing my position as a journalist for one of the biggest news publications in the world, I knew I’d do anything to get it back.

Even if it meant breaking a few hearts to get there.

She was the hottest author in the country. Known only by a pen name, there wasn’t a person alive who wasn’t dying to discover her true identity.

And I’d figured it out.

Her real name was Kate O’Malley and not only did I plan on finding her, but I fully intended on learning every dirty secret she had and exploiting it for my own gain.

But I underestimated my prey.

I didn’t anticipate how her words would intoxicate me, or how the curves of her body would consume me.

I never meant to fall in love.

And now I had a choice to make.

Do I give up everything for the woman I set out to destroy, or walk away, making me the biggest fraud of all?

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Excerpt:

What had started as a fun little game to bring this timid beauty out of her shell somehow turned into a wrestling match.

And I was the one about to lose.

Katelyn O’Malley was nothing like I’d imagined.

What had I imagined?

I wasn’t sure exactly.

I’d diligently done my homework— reading Scandal not once, but twice— before I’d hopped on a plane to Oregon. I’d thought the novel would give me insight to this perplexing woman I was about to meet.

It hadn’t.

Not one bit.

If anything, it’d created a thousand more questions.

At first, cracking her ironclad shell seemed like a daunting task. She had come off dry and dull.

God-awful boring.

But boring women didn’t do tequila shots until two in the morning.

Boring women didn’t lie to waiters for free wine and dessert.

And boring women definitely didn’t make me feel this way.

Needy. Desperate. And fucking horny as hell.

Even the way she licked the chocolate off her fork was making me shift uncomfortably in my seat.

This was a job.

Get your head in the game.

“You were pretty good at that,” I said, trying not to stare at the way her pink tongue darted out to grab the last bit of mousse from the tip of her finger.

“Good at what?” she asked.

“Lying.”

She let out a choking cough, patting her chest with her palm. “I’m not a good liar,” she argued.

“Really? You seemed to have everyone around us fooled, including that charming elderly couple who offered their congratulations on their way out.”

“That really was sweet.” She smiled, a touch of whimsy in her gaze. “Did you see the way they held hands? I’m pretty sure he even grabbed her ass when she walked past him to go to the restroom.”

I laughed. “My kind of guy.”

“I just wonder what it’s like— to be that in love after all that time,” she said, bending forward and resting the curve of her chin on her hand.

“How do you know it has been a long time?” I asked. “Maybe they got married late in life.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“Why?” I asked, curious how she’d reached that conclusion.

“There was a familiarity in the way they touched. The way they leaned into one another, the way they walked. It was as if they’d been doing so forever.”

I studied her for a quiet moment, recalling the intensity of her words and the passion in her voice. It was the first time since meeting Katelyn O’Malley, I could actually see a sliver of Laura Stone, the author, somewhere inside.

“I do believe you are a bit of a romantic at heart,” I replied.

She smiled sweetly. “Maybe a hopeless one.”

My hand reached out to hers, a needless gesture since we’d already achieved our goal for the evening and sold everyone on our false marital status.

This time, I touched her because I wanted to.

“Definitely not hopeless,” I said softly, knowing that instant that I was crossing the line between business and pleasure.

And heading straight to the land of hell.

“So, tell me about technical editing,” she said, shifting topics. “How does one get into something like that?”

I suddenly felt like I’d been hit in the face with a bucket of ice water. Here I was, in a dimly lit room, romancing the hell out of a woman I’d just met, and then reality hit.

I was lying to her.

Flat-out lying.

I needed to remember that. “There’s not much to tell,” I said, straightening slightly in my chair. “Rather boring really.”

We continued to chat about our lives. She told me more about her work at the college. I rambled off more lies about mine until the check came around.

I was feeling quite good about myself as I led us outside.

My head was clear.

But then I saw the way the moonlight highlighted her golden-blonde hair. I became mesmerized by the sway of her hips and the soft curves of her body.

Katelyn O’Malley was casting a spell on me, and she didn’t even know it.

And I wasn’t sure I wanted her to stop.

About J.L. Berg:

J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.

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