Release Day! THE QUEEN by Skye Warren (Masterpiece Duet)

The Queen
by Skye Warren
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

THE FINAL BOOK IN THE MASTERPIECE DUET!

I have one chance at a new life. A college education. A future outside of Tanglewood’s dark walls. For a breathless moment it seems like I might actually escape.

Then I get a phone call from home.

Damon Scott is my own personal dragon, the fight I’ve always lost, the secret hope of my heart. And he needs my help right now. Only my mind can solve the puzzle. Only my presence can keep him sane as the city fights against him.

Only my heart can unlock a man with such a tragic past.

This is my final gamble, with everything at stake. One last game to win a future for both of us.

And a love strong enough to break the city apart.

THE QUEEN is the final novel in the bestselling Masterpiece duet, about a game of lies and loyalty, of betrayal and power, and ascension to the city’s throne.

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Excerpt:

I flinch, glad he can’t see me across two thousand miles. Even working in the kitchens most nights only covers my food, my textbooks. Not the tuition bill. “You’re the one who wanted him to work for you. You’re the one who made him the stake in our last game.”

“And you’re the one who lost,” he says lightly.

“Do you know where he is?”

“Of course. Like you said, he works for me. I would be a careless employer if I let my men go wandering off, gambling and racking up debt and questioning their loyalty to me.”

A shiver runs through me. “Then where is he?”

“He’s a grown-up, Penny. Like you are now. He’s responsible for himself. You only need to worry about your studies. I’m sure Algebraic Topology is taking up plenty of your focus.”

It’s one of my courses this semester. How does he know that?

“Stop playing with me.”

“Why should I?” he says with a soft laugh. “It’s so much fun.”

Frustration stings my eyes, hot and damp. I look up at the wide-open sky, willing myself not to cry. There are a million stars visible here, most of the land owned by Smith College or one of the other campuses. So much land, so much pride. There aren’t buildings climbing on top of other buildings, as if they might sink into the concrete ground if they don’t. There aren’t glass towers reaching to an endless black sky.

“I’m never coming back,” I say abruptly.

His laugh falls silent. “I know.”

“I hate it there. I hate Tanglewood and being powerless. And most of all I hate you.”

The last part is a lie, because I don’t hate him. I’m drawn to him; I’m repelled by him. It’s far too complex a relationship, an equation I’ve never been able to write. It makes me wonder if I’m lying about the other parts—if maybe some twisted part of me misses home.

If some twisted part of me misses being powerless, too.

“Ah, Penny,” he says, sounding infinitely weary. “I hate you too.”

The words shock me, but the hurt inside shocks me more. He shouldn’t be able to wound me. Three years away from home, growing up, growing strong. It should have been enough armor to protect against anything he could say to me. But the arrow sinks deep, proving that I’ll never be able to escape him.

“What did I do to you?” I ask, quiet, in a voice like I’m six years old again. Like I’m speaking to the wild boy I found by the lake, one I lured into my trailer like a wolf.

He answers the same way, a surly teenage boy, fierce and vulnerable at once. “You made me care. You made me want, when I needed to leave. You made me feel, when I would have preferred to die. You brought me back to life.”

And I condemned him to torture. That’s what happened when he sacrificed himself so that I could stay safe. Two children with so few choices. “I’m sorry,” I whisper.

“Don’t worry. I got my revenge, after all.”

My blood runs cold, almost subzero at the words. There’s only one person left in my sad little family. One person he could hurt. “Did you hurt him?”

“By giving him a job when he couldn’t hold one down? By paying him enough that his daughter could escape the city, could go to a fancy college instead of becoming a corner-store whore? Yes, I’ve been horrible to him. A monster.”

“Then why isn’t he answering his phone?”

In the pause I can picture him in a three-piece suit, reclining in one of his ridiculously expensive leather chairs. Some amber liquid in a crystal-cut glass. “Don’t come back,” he says, his voice grim. “You made it out of here. Let that be enough.”

A soft click ends the connection, leaving me bereft.

And more worried than before.

Something is happening in Tanglewood, something bad enough for my father not to call, something horrible enough that even Damon Scott has warned me away. I look up at the infinite stars, but they’re dimmer than before. The whole world muted. It wasn’t a new life that I found so far from home. It was a long dream, and now I’m painfully awake.

 

About Skye Warren:

Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.

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Release Day! THE CASTLE by Skye Warren (Endgame #3)

 

Title: The Castle
Series: Endgame #3
Author: Skye Warren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 4, 2017

 

Blurb:
THE FINAL BOOK IN THE TRILOGY! Safe in the ivory tower… 

Gabriel Miller swears he’ll keep me safe. Enemies lurk outside, waiting to strike. An army held back by these walls.

Except some animal instinct warns me the danger is much closer. It’s already here. Is Gabriel my protector or my enemy? Is this house a castle or a cage?

There’s nowhere for me to go, no one left for me to trust.

No escape from a past determined to capture its prize.

Purchase Links
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
PRAISE FOR THE ENDGAME SERIES:


“Sinfully sexy and darkly beautiful, The Pawn will play games with your heart and leave you craving more!” – Laura Kaye, New York Times bestselling author

“Edgy, provocative and deeply erotic, The Pawn is one of my top reads of the year! Skye Warren brings you a sensual battle of wills guaranteed to leave you gasping by the end.” – Elle Kennedy, New York Times bestselling author

“Positively sinful, and outrageously sexy! Emotions run high and readers will be left gasping.” – Lisa Renee Jones, New York Times bestselling author

 

Also Available!

 

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Author Bio:
Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.
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Release Blitz! THE KNIGHT by Skye Warren (Endgame #2)

 Title: The Knight
Series: Endgame #2
Author: Skye Warren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 31, 2017

 

Blurb:

The power of pleasure…

Gabriel Miller took everything from me. My family. My innocence. My home. The only thing I have left is the determination to get back what’s mine.

He thinks he’s beaten me. He thinks he’s won. What he doesn’t realize is that every pawn has the chance to become a queen.

And the game has only just begun.

THE KNIGHT is book two in the Endgame series from New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren about revenge and seduction in the game of love.
Purchase Links:
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

 Also Available:

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

Pre-order:

Releasing April 2017
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
 
Author Bio:
Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.
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Release Day and Giveaway! THE PAWN by Skye Warren (Revenge and Seduction #1)

 

The Pawn
Skye Warren
(Revenge and Seduction #1)
Publication date: December 6th 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The price of survival…

Gabriel Miller swept into my life like a storm. He tore down my father with cold retribution, leaving him penniless in a hospital bed. I quit my private all-girl’s college to take care of the only family I have left.

There’s one way to save our house, one thing I have left of value.

My virginity.

A forbidden auction…

Gabriel appears at every turn. He seems to take pleasure in watching me fall. Other times he’s the only kindness in a brutal underworld.

Except he’s playing a deeper game than I know. Every move brings us together, every secret rips us apart. And when the final piece is played, only one of us can be left standing.

THE PAWN is a full-length contemporary novel from New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren about revenge and seduction in the game of love.

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EXCERPT:

A sense of familiarity fills the space between us even though I know we haven’t met. This man is a stranger, but he looks at me as if he wants to know me. He looks at me as if he already does. There’s an intensity to his eyes when they sweep over my face, as firm and as telling as a touch.

“I need…” A thud against my ribs as I think about all the things I need—a rewind button. One person in the city who doesn’t hate me by name alone. “I need a loan.”

He gives me a slow perusal, from the nervous slide of my tongue along my lips to the high neckline of my dress. I tried to dress professionally—a black cowl-necked sweater and pencil skirt. His strange amber gaze unbuttons my coat, pulls away the expensive cotton, tears off the cotton fabric of my bra and panties. He sees right through me, and I shiver as a ripple of awareness runs over my skin.

I’ve met a million men in my life. Shaken hands. Smiled. I’ve never felt as seen through as I do right now. Never felt like someone has turned me inside out, every dark secret exposed to the harsh light. He sees my weaknesses, and from the cruel set of his mouth, he likes them.

His lids lower. “And what do you have for collateral?”

Nothing except my word. That wouldn’t be worth anything if he knew my name. I swallow past the lump in my throat. “I don’t know.”

Nothing.

He takes a step forward, and suddenly I’m crowded against the brick wall beside the door, his large body blocking out the warm light from inside. He feels like a furnace in front me, the heat of him in sharp contrast to the cold brick at my back. “What’s your name, girl?”

The word girl is a slap in the face. I force myself not to flinch, but it’s hard. Everything about him overwhelms me—his size, his low voice. “I’ll tell Mr. Scott my name.”

In the shadowed space between us, his smile spreads, white and taunting. The pleasure that lights his strange yellow eyes is almost sensual, as if I caressed him. “You’ll have to get past me.”

My heart thuds. He likes that I’m challenging him, and God, that’s even worse. What if I’ve already failed? I’m free-falling, tumbling, turning over without a single hope to anchor me. Where will I go if he turns me away? What will happen to my father?

“Let me go,” I whisper, but my hope fades fast.

His eyes flash with warning. “Little Avery James, all grown up.”

A small gasp resounds in the space between us. He already knows my name. That means he knows who my father is. He knows what he’s done. Denials rush to my throat, pleas for understanding. The hard set of his eyes, the broad strength of his shoulders tells me I won’t find any mercy here.

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Author Bio:

Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.

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Book Blitz and Giveaway! DARK LOVE Boxed Set by Skye Warren

Dark Love Boxed Set
Skye Warren
Publication date: July 18th 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance

Pretty When You Cry:
A new dark romance novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderlust and Prisoner…

I came from a place of dirt floors and holy scriptures. They told me the world outside was full of sin, and the first night I escape, I find out it’s true. Ivan saves me, but he does more than that. He takes me. He makes me his own girl.

My conditioning runs too deep. Ivan sees what I am.

That’s the thing about showing a mouse to a cat. He wants to play. And it’s terrifying, even for me. Because the only thing darker than my past is his.

Caught for Christmas
I’ll be home for Christmas…

The plan is simple. Break into the club and steal the money I need to save my father. The ex-military bouncer isn’t going to stop me, even if he is hot as hell.

If only in my dreams…

Except he has a curious knack for knowing my next step.

And there’s something dark underneath his desire, something dangerous. If he catches me, he might not let me go.

Goodreads / Amazon

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Excerpt from PRETTY WHEN YOU CRY:

He’s beautiful in a strange and sinful way, one that makes me more afraid. Not colorful exactly. His eyes are a gray color I’ve never seen before, both deep and opaque at the same time. The building itself is beautiful too with its wrought iron gate around a large courtyard. The fountain in the center is broken, but that only adds to the mystique.

The marquee sign reads Grand, a flash of neon pink against the black night.

He steps closer, the light from the sign illuminating his face, making him look even more sinister. “What’s your name?”

I couldn’t answer those other men, but I find something inside for him. I find truth. “I’m not allowed to say my name to someone else.”

He studies me for a long moment, taking in my tangled hair and my white dress. “Why not?”

Because God will punish me. “Because I’m running away.”

He nods like this is what he expected. “Do you have money?”

I have twenty dollars left after bus fare. “Enough.”

His lips twist, and I wonder if that’s what a smile looks like on him. It’s terrifying. “No, you don’t,” he says. “The question is, what would you do to earn some?”

Anything.

My voice is just a whisper. “I’m a good girl.”

He laughs, and I see that I was wrong before. That wasn’t a smile. It was a taunt. A challenge. This is a real smile, one with teeth. The sound rolls through me like a coming storm, deep and foreboding.

“I know,” he says gently. “What’s your name?”

“Candace.”

He studies me. “Pretty name.”

His voice is deep with promise and something else I can’t decipher. All I know is he isn’t really talking about my name. And I know it isn’t really a compliment. “Thank you.”

“Now come inside, Candace.”

He turns and walks away before I can answer. I can feel the night closing in on me, the sharks in the water waiting to strike. It’s not really a choice. I think the man knows that. He’s counting on it. Whatever is going to happen inside will be bad, and the only thing worse is what would have happened outside.

I hurry to catch up with him, almost running across the crumbled driveway, under the marquee sign for the Grand, past the broken fountain, desperate for the dubious safety of the man who could hold the darkness at bay. It’s the same thing that kept me in Harmony Hills for so long—fear and twisted gratitude.

 

 

Author Bio:

Skye Warren is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of dark romance. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely tender.

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Release Day and Giveaway! DEEP by Skye Warren (Chicago Underground #7)

 

Deep
Skye Warren
(Chicago Underground, #7)
Publication date: February 23rd 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance

Dark. Powerful. Dangerous.

Philip Mason has all of Chicago under his thumb. Except me.

We met in a perfect storm of violence and lust. He saved me and then disappeared from my life. Now I pretend I never knew that kind of darkness. I focus on midterms and campus parties, as if they can wipe the slate clean.

Then he turns up outside my dorm room—wounded and barely conscious. He’s the head of a crime syndicate, a powerful man, but he needs me now. There are traitors in his midst.

I can help him, but I can’t fall for him.

Not again.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

It was dark outside, grown late, and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Somewhere out there, Philip was probably dining with crystal and expensive wine. Meanwhile I’d probably order a pizza with one of those coupons by the door.

A low sound raised the hair on my neck.

Oh God, I’m not alone.

My gaze swept over the small dorm room. From here I could see the tiny bedroom area and the kitchenette. I could see almost the entire space. Empty.
Maybe it was just one of my neighbors getting busy and—

The sound came again, louder. A shiver ran through me. It was coming from outside the room, but not from either side. It was coming from the door.
I crept over and looked out the peephole. An empty hallway bulged in the distorted lens.

Now I was doubting myself. Had I actually heard something? Maybe it had come from the dorm room across the hall. When I first moved here, it had been shortly after my “ordeal,” as my adoptive mother called it. I had jumped at every sound, both real and imagined, more traumatized by my brush with danger than I’d wanted to admit.

My gaze snapped to my phone.

I could call my adoptive mother right now, but I knew she wouldn’t want to be bothered. I could call the building management, but I knew what would happen. The same thing that had happened last time I called them. They’d send my floor advisor to check on me. If there was anything scary in this hallway, she’d have to face it first.

And if there wasn’t anything scary, if it was my imagination again, the PTSD I didn’t want to acknowledge, well then everyone would know how fucked up I was inside.

No, I had to be overreacting. This was nothing. There was no one in the hallway. And even if there was, it would be some drunk guy, passed out on the wrong floor.

I’m a normal college student, I reminded myself. I’m not afraid of anything.

Both of those things were lies, I was neither normal nor brave, but at least I could send a drunk frat boy on his way.

I opened the door a crack. Nothing.

Relief filled me, and I opened the door wider.

A body slid inside, slumped over without the door to support him. A short scream escaped me before I caught myself.

He was wearing a three-piece suit stained with blood, his expression slack, eyes glassy with pain and delirium. Philip.

Oh God, he was hurt. Really badly hurt if he couldn’t stand up. Horribly hurt if he’d ever have come to me of all people. I didn’t have time to process the shock of it, of seeing him again. I had to get him out of sight. If he’d been injured like this, someone was after him. Someone would want to finish the job.

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Author Bio:

Skye Warren is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of dark romance. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely tender.

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Release Day and Giveaway! BETTER WHEN IT HURTS by Skye Warren (Stripped #2)

Out today! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

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Better When It Hurts
by Skye Warren
(Stripped #2)
Publication date: June 4th 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance
Synopsis:

Five years ago we lived in the same house. He was the ultimate bad boy. And my foster brother.

Now he’s back. Tougher, harder, meaner. All of it aimed at me, because I was the one who sent him away. It’s payback time. He wants his pound of flesh, and I am helpless to say no.

Excerpt:

The door slams open, and Blue strides into the room. A burst of sound follows him in the seconds before the door swings shut. I shrink back against the lockers before I can help it. That doesn’t stop him. It doesn’t even slow him down as he steps right into my space, just inches from my face, still breathing hard.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” His eyes are still wild from the fight, violence and victory mixed together.

I try not to flinch. “I wanted to…to talk to you about something.”

“How did you know I was fighting tonight?”

I’m not going to tell on Candy, even if he’ll figure it out as soon as he sees her here. Instead I bite my lip and try to remember the speech I was going to give him. “Congratulations?”

That wasn’t it.

He shakes his head. “No, Lola. This isn’t one of your little games. I’m not one of the men you can lead around by my dick. Not anymore.”

And then I do flinch, because the reminder of our past is too painful not to. “I’m not trying to lead you anywhere,” I whisper.

His lips curve into a cold smile. “No? You brought me here, didn’t you? Just you and me and the rest of the world locked out. You made that happen.”

Something pricks my eyes—tears. No no no. I can’t possibly cry in front of him. I don’t know why I’d cry at all. This is my life. I’m long past wishing for something different, aren’t I? I look down at the concrete floor so he won’t see me struggle.

Of course he doesn’t accept that. His fingers—sweaty and gloveless—lift my chin. “Why’d you come here, Lola?” His voice is suddenly lower and strangely seductive. Maybe that’s how fucked-up I’ve gotten, that cruelty turns me on. “What do you want?”

My fingers fumble as I pull the wallet from my back pocket. It’s still warm from my body as I hold it up. “This is yours. I stole it. I—I took it by accident.”

That wasn’t what I’d meant to say at all. I’d meant to explain the situation like it happened—that I’d woken up with the wallet in my bed. That I had no memory of it, but obviously there had been a mistake. I’d taken nothing from the wallet, no harm no foul.

Instead I’d stuttered like I was thirteen again, stealing everything I could slip into my pockets, confessing to my foster dad before he whipped me with his belt.

Blue takes the wallet from me, his expression speculative. It’s almost as if he’s never seen it before, even though I know it belongs to him. I rifled through his things, touched the stone-faced plastic image on his license. And he knows I invaded his privacy that way, just like I invaded his pocket when he brought me home.

He tosses the wallet onto a bench behind him, dismissing it. His hand lands on the locker beside me, blocking me in. His eyes meet mine. “You still steal.”

“No,” I say, but his wallet calls me a liar. Naturally he’d remember the worst thing about me. I’d helped him remember. “Not anymore. Not usually except…I must have been drunk or something.”

“You didn’t used to drink.”

“A lot’s changed.” I used to hate the taste of beer. It reminded me too much of foster brothers with groping hands and tongues. I still couldn’t touch the stuff, but every now and then I used alcohol to try and numb the pain. It was just a shame it never worked.

His gaze scans my body, unapologetic as it measures me, probes me, demands all my secrets. “I can see that.”

I shrug, pretending to be unaffected. No, I am unaffected, damn it. “You see more than this every night.”

“Less. When you’re naked up there onstage, that’s what you show to every man.” His eyes are hooded. “This is what you wore for me.”

 

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AUTHOR BIO:SkyeProfileImage
Skye Warren is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of dark romance. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely tender. For those new to her work, consider the bestseller Wanderlust, Prisoner or the Dark Nights series starting with Trust in Me.
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Books on Sale! EROTIC ROMANCE StoryBundle (with a giveaway!)

If you haven’t visited StoryBundle yet, you really should! Name your price for an entire collection of ebooks, and have the chance to donate some of the price to charity too!

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In the Erotic Romance Story Bundle, you get hot romance novels from bestselling and award-winning authors—and you name the price.

Curator’s Message by Kiki Howell: I’m a fan of each and every author who graciously agreed to be included in this Erotic Romance StoryBundle, and so I will admit to being a bit star-struck to have my stories published beside theirs. As you will read, I met each one through a series of intertwining, very fortunate events.

I’ve had the privilege to work with New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, Selena Kitt, since the beginning of my writing career. After first being published by her company, Excessica, I then began working for her in various aspects of the publishing industry. I consider myself very lucky to have learned so much from a writer as prolific as Selena, one of the best guilty pleasure authors out there with over a million books sold!

Through working for Selena, I had the blessing of meeting, Sommer Marsden. Over time, and little “water-cooler” chats via emails if you will, we’ve found ourselves alike in a multitude of ways. I now have the honor of calling her a good friend even though we’ve never met in person. Referred to as “unapologetic” by another author in this bundle, I couldn’t agree more with that description of her writing. Her stories are both profound and witty, sexy and fun with a myriad of characters from a to z, adventurous women to zombies, and back again.

Thanks to one of Sommer’s social media posts, I signed up to review one of Alison Tyler’s books, and I’ve been hooked by her writing ever since. A prolific writer of several stories and talented editor of many kinky anthologies, her works offer passion and heart along with vital doses of all things sexy. Just following her blog, appropriately titled, Trollop with a Laptop, is exquisite fun, a true indulgence.

It was also through Selena that I was recently introduced to New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, Skye Warren. And, though I’m just getting started into her dark romantic fiction, I can’t wait to indulge in more of her stories. Her work described with such words as “perversely tender” and “haunting and beautiful” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve found her stories to be both complex and raw, emotional and enticing.

I’m pleased with the wide array of genres represented by these authors and their stories in this bundle. While all erotic romance, you will be further tempted with subgenres like: contemporary and historical, paranormal/pagan and fairy tales, bondage and femdom, to name a few. Enjoy!

 

EROTIC ROMANCE STORYBUNDLE INCLUDES:

MAIN BOOKS:

Temptation by Selena Kitt – The innocent 1950s – a perfect backdrop for this “new adult” historical romance saga. What happens when you fall in love with your best friend’s father?Angry Sex by Sommer Marsden – When life turns stressful a girl needs release. Someone to help her work her issues out. Someone hot. Angry Sex…like therapy…but naked.

Torn Asunder by Kiki Howell – Fraught with scenes of explicit intimacy, romantic spells and mystical shapeshifting, Torn Asunder is a unique blending of the age of manners with sexual magic.

The ESP Affair by Alison Tyler – A dream lover fulfills Connie’s erotic desires in The ESP Affair. Confronted with proof of her infidelity, she embarks on a psychic journey.

On the Way Home by Skye Warren – Explore the dark side with this suspenseful new adult romance… It’s a simple trade—the passenger in seat 34B for my sister. But the sexy soldier is more than I can handle in all the best ways.

BONUS BOOKS:

Modern Wicked Fairy Tales by Selena Kitt (The Complete Collection) – Do you love fairy tales? Then don’t miss these happily ever afters! Get ALL EIGHT modern retellings of fairy tale classics–Alice, Beauty, Briar Rose, Goldilocks, Gretel, Rapunzel, Red, and WendyBittersweet by Sommer Marsden (Novella) – Deacon James is more sinful than the candy he sells. Testing Rayka’s every limit. Mentally, creatively, emotionally and yes–sexually.

Rituals by Kiki Howell (Novella) – When a Wiccan ritual opens her eyes to an old friend, Maddie’s first week with Ryan is a blur of knots and ropes until Maddie’s controlling ex-husband returns hell-bent on taking her back.

Alison on Top by Alison Tyler (Anthology) – Super hot, incredibly sexy and wonderfully delicious,” Alison on Top fulfills your craving for smart femdom fiction with a romantic twist.

 

Excerpt from On The Way Home by Skye Warren:

I could be comfortable strapped into a Chinook, with full body armor and another hundred fifty pounds of equipment on top of that. I could HALO down to a cross-fire insertion, no problem. But flying coach on a standard commercial airline was killer.

Everything seemed tiny, as if I’d walked onto a display version of a real airplane. Due to the design of the plane, the rows on this side only had two seats. My buddy James had taken the window seat, but the aisle didn’t give me room to stretch. My legs were folded like a pretzel to fit into the small amount of legroom. My head cleared the headrest by almost a foot. My body jutted into the aisle, but there was nothing to do about that without pushing into James beside me.

The pretty stewardess walked by, her hip brushing my shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured.

Della, her name tag read. She was slender and careful, but that didn’t matter when I was taking up half the aisle with my shoulder.

“My fault,” I managed to say. It came out more like a rumble.

The lightest whisper of cloth, her blue uniform against my fatigues. A wisp of heat and a faint smell of peaches. It was too much. As if I were goddamned Sleeping Beauty, my dick woke the hell up.

She smiled then, and it was way too late to pretend I wasn’t getting hot at the sight of her.

Jesus, those lips. And the little upturned smile, the one that said she knew exactly what I was thinking.

Well, maybe not exactly. No way were her thoughts as desperate as mine. Eight months away from the States had taken its toll, with not even enough time or energy to beat off with regularity.

No privacy, either, but then we didn’t care about that. You couldn’t be fastidious in a godforsaken jungle. They send a bunch of eighteen-year-old testosterone junkies into the wild, what else is gonna happen? There’d been a time we’d all go into a firefight, walk out with no bullet holes, then head back to our bunks and jack off like we were synchronized swimming.

Not this time, though.

After our first two tours in Afghanistan, James and I got picked up to work as part of a joint task force. Guess we impressed somebody. We couldn’t even drink back then—at least, not legally—but we were handed some of the most lethal weapons and secretive recording equipment in use.

Since then we had continued to fight, but not on any sanctioned battlefield. Our ops were secretive and lethal and mostly not even acknowledged by the US government. We lived and worked in the darkest parts of the world, then came home on leave so we could remember why we did it.

My twenty-third birthday had come and gone, spent with some of the most disgusting human beings I’d ever met and had to pretend like I was their new best friend. I shuddered just remembering some of the things I’d witnessed, unable to do anything without blowing my cover. I’d seen some bad shit in my life, but nothing compared to those sights. When I closed my eyes, I could still see those young girls. Way too young. I wanted to wash myself off just for being around that, even if we had taken it down in the end.

Mission accomplished. Go home.

So it was a real fucking surprise when my body was suddenly interested in the sweet-smelling, hot-as-hell stewardess.

“Can I get you something?” she asked. “Water? A soda?”

Suddenly my mouth was dry. “No, thanks.”

She smiled again. God, she really needed to stop that. “I think I can rustle up some pretzels if you ask nicely?”

Nope, wasn’t doing that.

“I could use some pretzels,” James said from beside me.

Really? “Nah, we’re good. Don’t worry about us.”

“All right. You boys let me know.” She sauntered off, leaving both James and I staring. Man, that skirt hugged her so nicely…

“What the hell was that for?” James said. “She would’ve come back.”

“And then what, asshole? You’ve got Rachel.”

“And you’ve got… what’s her name? Chelsea.”

“Yeah,” I lied. I’d been lying for a few weeks now, ever since I’d landed at the base in Germany where I could check my messages. Dear Clint, I’m sorry to tell you like this but… A Dear John text message. A remote control breakup. It had happened to enough of our friends that I knew what the reaction would be if I told people. Pity, from the guys who could still look at me. Avoidance from everyone else, as if the condition of being dumped was contagious.

So I hadn’t told anyone, not even James. And hell, maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. Me and Chels had a good thing going. Maybe not good, but it wasn’t bad either. And separation was always hard. For all I knew, we’d patch things up right away and then I’d be glad I never told James, who would’ve given her a hard time after that.

She was probably going to pick me up at the airport, just like we’d planned, and here I was checking out another woman. The eight months had done a number on both of us, that was all. We’d work it out.

I glanced down the aisle at the stewardess—Della—who had bent to speak to another passenger. “The point is, she’s doing her job. She doesn’t need us bothering her.”

“Hey, you were the one groping her.”

“With my shoulder?”

“And flirting,” James added.

“I was not flirting.” I would have known if I’d been flirting, right? And I definitely hadn’t done that. She was working. The last thing she needed was two horndogs using up her time or ogling her. “And stop staring at her.”

Although that meant I had to stop too.

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