ARC Review: BRING DOWN THE STARS by Emma Scott

Bring Down the Stars Cover

Title: Bring Down The Stars

Author: Emma Scott

Genre: New Adult Romance

Series: Beautiful Hearts duet, book one

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I fell for Connor Drake. I didn’t want to; I fought against it, but I fell in love with him anyway. With his words. With his poetry. With him. The gentleness and beauty of his soul that speaks directly to mine. He writes as if he can feel my heart, hear its cadence and compose the exact right lyrics to accompany every beat and flow.

I’m in love with Connor…so why do I feel an inexplicable pull to his best friend, Weston? Grouchy, sullen, brooding Weston Turner, who could cut you down with a look. Fiercely intelligent with a razor sharp wit and acid tongue, he’s the exact opposite of Connor in every way, and yet there’s electricity in the air between us. The thorny barbs Weston wraps around himself can’t keep me away.

But the more time I spend with these men, the more tangled and confused my emotions become. When they both sign up for the Army Reserves during a time of increasing strife in the Middle East, I fear I’ll never unravel my own heart that sometimes feels as if it will tear straight down the middle…for both of them.

**********
Bring Down the Stars is an emotional, angst-filled novel of unrequited love by bestselling author, Emma Scott, and is inspired by the classic tale, Cyrano de Bergerac. (Roxanne) It is Book I in the Beautiful Hearts Duet, coming this summer. Book II, Long Live the Beautiful Hearts, to be released a few weeks later. #lovetriangle #confusedhearts #notamenage

 

review

First of all, this review WILL BE SPOILER FREE! 😀 This book is kind of hard to review without giving too much away, so I will be more vogue than detailed orientated on this one. 😉

Oh my gosh you guys. I was not fully prepared for the emotional roller-coaster I was about to get on when I started this book. It’s full of angst, heartbreak, and little moments that squeeze your heart until you have no other choice but to swoon. Tragically beautiful. It’s the kind of book that completely consumes you.

There is a love triangle. Kind of. There is a cliffhanger. Even if you’re thinking to yourself that’s not normally your thing, please do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK!

These characters are flawed, and sometimes you might want to shake them and tell them what to do. But you can’t help but love them. Connor, Autumn and Weston. Sigh. Of course one hero had my heart from the beginning, but I won’t go into too much details. The thing I loved about them is that they all have flaws, yet they all have parts of themselves that compliment each other.

The friendship Weston and Conner is more like a brotherhood. They are complete opposites, yet make perfect sense together. You first see them both as young boys, and their friendship is everything. It only gets better as they get older, but of course, sometimes it’s not so easy.

The romance in this book is complicated. To put it mildly. I’m not going to go into much details on it, as it will be SO much better to know as little as possible before you start reading. Just know that it will be frustrating at times. It will be bittersweet and heart breaking. It will be romantic and it does deliver all the swoons.

This book was everything. It made me feel everything. It gave me hope and took it away. I can’t wait for book two!! What a ride that should be!

 

 

excerpt

I took the cement stairs into the library and entered the cool, hushed confines of the main reading room. None of the long mahogany desks with green-shaded lamps were empty. One of the university clubs had taken over two-thirds of the space. The rest of the tables were filled with students like me, trying to get a head start their course load.

I finally found an empty seat at the end of a table, opposite a blond guy engrossed in reading. His open backpack spilled books and papers into what I hoped could be my table territory.

“Excuse me,” I whispered. “Can I…?”

He looked up, his expression vaguely hostile. Piercing blue-green eyes set in a stunningly handsome, if angular, face met mine. High cheekbones, sharp chin and long straight nose. He looked chiseled out of smooth stone at first glance, then his features softened for a moment as his gaze swept over me. Something like recognition lit up his eyes, and I could see the gears of his brain turning as he studied, analyzed, and then came to a conclusion. Not a good one, I guessed, because his expression hardened again.

“Yeah, sure,” he muttered. He stood up, leaning his tall, slender frame over the table to corral the books back into his pack.

“Thanks,” I said, thinking if he wasn’t a basketball player or a runner, he was a model.

All right, girl, get a grip.

I sat, cracked my textbook and settled in to read. I wasn’t through two pages when the words blurred to nonsensical gibberish and my skin prickled with the sensation of being watched.

I glanced up, straight into the ocean eyes of the guy across from me. A million thoughts swirled in their soft depths before they quickly glanced down. He slouched lower in his chair, disappearing behind his book—the collected poems of Walt Whitman. Part of me wanted to melt. Good lord, a hot guy reading poetry? I was only human.

And this is how you wound up with a broken heart in the first place.

I must’ve been frowning at the book because the guy held it up and said, “Not a fan?”

I blinked back to reality. “No,” I said. “I mean, yes. I love Whitman. And poetry in general. I just… Never mind.”

He regarded me a long moment, then slowly closed Whitman and picked up Atlas Shrugged from his short stack of books.

“Ugh, that’s even worse,” I muttered without thinking, and then shook my head. “God, sorry, I left my filter at home. Don’t listen to me.”

His lip curled. “Is there anything in my collection you approve of?”

A hot, smart asshole, I thought. Game on.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m not in a good mood today and it’s making me forget my manners. I’ll leave you to read your capitalist propaganda in peace.”

The guy’s eyebrows shot up, disappearing under the blond hair that fell across his brow. “Not a fan of Rand either?” He smirked knowingly. “No, of course you aren’t.”

My blood heated at his flippant tone. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

The guy nodded at my textbook—Global Responsibility and the Third-World Hunger Epidemic—and shrugged, as if that answered everything.

“Oh.” I frowned. “Well… yes. I mean, Rand’s point of view is purely capitalist and mine isn’t. Not by a long shot.”

The student sitting to my right exchanged glances with the girl sitting across from him. Then both packed up their books and left.

“We’re being disruptive,” I said to my across-table neighbor. “We need to stop talking now.”

He leaned back in his chair, his eyes intent on me. “So what’s your point of view?”

“My what?”

“You said your point of view isn’t capitalist.” He raised a brow. “So what is it?”

“Humanist, I suppose. Since you asked. I think everyone, regardless of race, creed, income-level, or sex should be granted the same shot as anyone else.” I raised a brow at him. “But you don’t?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?” he said with a slight chuckle. “Since we’re tossing labels around, I’m a realist.” He held up his book. “And not a fan of Rand either.”

“You’re not?” I leaned back too, crossing my arms. “Are you just messing with me or what?”

“Maybe,” he said. “What do you care what I think anyway?”

My mouth fell slack. “I don’t. Thanks for reminding me.”

“No problem.”

“Wow, you’re rude.”

“That’s the word on the street.”

“I can see why.” I lifted my own book up to signal conversation over, but my eyes wouldn’t focus. I could feel the hum of his presence like a field of electrical wires, getting under my skin and infiltrating my thoughts. The buzz went beyond distraction. It felt like a challenge had been laid down.

And I never walked away from a challenge.

I lowered my book to see the guy’s glance hide behind his book again.

“Well?” I demanded.

“Well what?”

Why are you watching me?

“Why are you reading Ayn Rand if you don’t like her either?”

“Required reading for an English Lit minor.”

“And your major? Let me guess, pre-law.”

“God, no,” he said.

I raised my eyebrows but he offered nothing more. “Are you going to make me run through Amherst’s list of majors until I guess which one is yours?”

“Yes,” he said. “Alphabetically, please.”

A laugh burst out of me against my will, and the guy almost smiled. Every one of his hard angles softened.

“Economics,” he said. “But I don’t know what I’m doing with it.”

“That feels like the most honest thing you’ve said to me so far,” I said.

“And that’s important to you?”

“Yes,” I said, my laughter dying away as I remembered Mark and that girl, naked in the bed I’d slept in just the night before. “Honesty is very important.”

He lifted one shoulder.

“You don’t agree?” I asked.

“Being honest is sometimes mistaken for being rude.”

“You must be really honest,” I said.

Again, he almost smiled. “Must be.”

Satisfied that I’d held my own against this beautiful but hostile member of the opposite sex, I went back to my book…for eight entire seconds before my skin started prickling again. The electric hum of his attention was impossible to ignore.

When I looked up this time, he didn’t look away but cleared his throat.

“I’m Weston Turner.”

 

Attractive woman dancing in the field with her boyfriend

 

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EXCERPT REVEAL: THE LEFT SIDE OF PERFECT by Meghan Quinn

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Title: The Left Side of Perfect

Author: Meghan Quinn

Release date: August 30th!

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Read Chapter One!

 

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For better or for worse,’til death do us part . . .

The better captured me; she’s who stole my heart.

And made me realize I couldn’t live without this woman.

The worse of her took my breath away–kicked me when I was down and twisted me into a million knots.

When I first met her, I thought she was someone I would never see again.

The second time I ran into her, it was a random coincidence.

The third?

I didn’t know it at the time, but she was the girl I was going to marry.

But life isn’t always perfect. You have to take the better and the worse–even if it means giving her up, having her slip between your fingers, and letting her walk away.

I’m getting married.

This is forever, ’til death do us part.

 

excerpt

Her hands rest on her hips, the navy-blue Grecian-style dress draped down the length of her body, a small slit on the side that barely reaches her knee. “You’re really fixated on this, aren’t you?”

“Nah, didn’t care too much. A homemade dinner would have been nice, though.”

“I can’t cook.”

“Neither can I,” I answer honestly. I either eat out, or I make myself scrambled eggs, and that’s about it. Rory taught me how to make meatballs once but hell if I can remember how to do that. All I know is that I enjoyed crushing the beef between my fingers. I get by with limited knowledge in the kitchen.

She chuckles. “Well, aren’t we a pair?” She turns to watch Stryder and Rory together. Apparently not giving a shit about the even bigger elephant in the room, Ryan asks, “Is this weird for you?”

“I have a flask in my jacket pocket, so you tell me.”

She lifts her bouquet and pulls out a mini bottle of alcohol. She wiggles her eyebrows at me. “Thought maybe we’d both need this since we have to sit through having all these pictures taken with them.”

“Smirnoff? That’s what you brought with you?”

“It was all I had. Don’t judge me.”

“I’m judging.”

Playfully she whacks my arm. “You shouldn’t be judging me. It was innovative. I carved out a little space in my bouquet for this bottle. If anything, you should congratulate me on this genius idea.”

“Was it your idea?”

“I mean”—she toes the ground—“I might have seen the idea on Pinterest along with a recipe for beer cookies that tasted like vomit.”

“Beer cookies?” I shake my head and take the little bottle from her. Twist the cap, tilt the bottle back, and swig. I hand it back to her, leaving half the bottle. “Even I know better than to think beer cookies would taste good.”

“They were for a boyfriend I was trying to impress.”

“Impress or poison?”

“Impress.” She laughs. “Although after our breakup, I should probably say poison. Teach all future suitors: if you mess with me, you get poisoned.”

“It’d keep me away, that’s for damn sure.”

She finishes the rest of the little bottle and returns it to her bouquet. She pats it and says, “I can recycle it later.”

“Get drunk and save the earth. Sounds like a good combination to me.”

“Ryan and Colby, can we get you over here for a few pictures?” the photographer calls out.

“That’s our cue.” Ryan pokes my cheek with her index finger, looking sincerely at me. “Don’t forget to smile, because these pictures will last forever.”

“Scowling not in the job description of best man?”

As we walk over, she says, “I would normally say no, but given the bride is your ex-girlfriend, one scowl is allowed.”

“One scowl? Damn, better make it a good one.”

Release Blitz + Excerpt: BRING DOWN THE STARS by Emma Scott

Bring Down the Stars Cover

Author: Emma Scott

Title: Bring Down The Stars

Genre: New Adult, Romance

Release Date: August 20th, 2018

Add on Goodreads!

 

blurbb

I fell for Connor Drake. I didn’t want to; I fought against it, but I fell in love with him anyway. With his words. With his poetry. With him. The gentleness and beauty of his soul that speaks directly to mine. He writes as if he can feel my heart, hear its cadence and compose the exact right lyrics to accompany every beat and flow.

I’m in love with Connor…so why do I feel an inexplicable pull to his best friend, Weston? Grouchy, sullen, brooding Weston Turner, who could cut you down with a look. Fiercely intelligent with a razor sharp wit and acid tongue, he’s the exact opposite of Connor in every way, and yet there’s electricity in the air between us. The thorny barbs Weston wraps around himself can’t keep me away.

But the more time I spend with these men, the more tangled and confused my emotions become. When they both sign up for the Army Reserves during a time of increasing strife in the Middle East, I fear I’ll never unravel my own heart that sometimes feels as if it will tear straight down the middle…for both of them.

**********
Bring Down the Stars is an emotional, angst-filled novel of unrequited love by bestselling author, Emma Scott, and is inspired by the classic tale, Cyrano de Bergerac. (Roxanne) It is Book I in the Beautiful Hearts Duet, coming this summer. Book II, Long Live the Beautiful Hearts, to be released a few weeks later. #lovetriangle #confusedhearts #notamenage

 

excerpt

Later that night, Connor lay sprawled on the couch with SportsCenter blaring, scrolling his phone. I sat at the kitchen table, tapping my pen against an empty page in my notebook and contemplating running as my Object of Devotion. I couldn’t muster the blood and guts to put it to paper. I liked running. It served a purpose, but did I want to make it my life?

“Oh shit,” Connor cried from behind me.

“What is it?”

“I accidentally texted her.”

“Who?” I said, knowing damn well who.

“Autumn. I was fucking messing around and I hit that stupid predictive text thing, then panicked and hit send.”

“So what?”

“I don’t text or call a girl until at least three days have passed.”

I set down my pen and turned around. “Are you serious?”

“Of course I’m serious. It looks desperate to text her the same day.

I hid a smile. “What did you text?”

“Just ‘yes’.” His eyes widened. “Shit. She’s texting me back.”

Connor jumped up from the couch and came to where I sat, standing next to my chair as we both watched his phone.

Yes…?

Connor typed, Hey.

I smirked. “Really?”

“Yeah, so?”

A pause, then a new text bubbled up. What’s up?

“Now she’s annoyed,” I said. “Or impatient.”

Connor looked to me. “What do I say?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“You’re good at this shit. How many papers did you write for me at Sinclair?”

“This is not the same thing.”

“Ballpark.” Connor made a face. “Dude, she’s waiting.”

I frowned, thought for a moment. “Tell her the truth.”

“Hell no—”

“Tell her the truth but make it better. Tell her you were messing with your phone while thinking about her. Tell her that you wanted to talk to her so badly, your subconscious made it happen.”

“Oh, that’s good.”

Connor’s fingers flew, and then he hit send.

There was a pause and no answer.

Connor frowned. “What’s this mean?”

“It’s good. I mean she’s thinking about what you said.”

The rolling dots of Autumn’s reply came in.

The old ‘accidental text’ move? I feel like I’ve seen that before…;-)

“She’s not letting you off the hook so easily,” I said, smiling despite myself. “Don’t deny. Tell her she’s one hundred percent right. You’ll make any excuse to talk to her.”

“That’s perfect, man.”

Connor typed and hit send.

I like your honesty, came the reply.

“Hey, it’s working.” Connor beamed. “Now what?”

It was working, and I didn’t like what it was.

“I don’t know, man,” I said, waving a hand. “Type something. Whatever you’re thinking.”

“I want her to go out with me.”

“Then ask.”

With a horrible fascination, I watched Connor type, So, dinner?

“Jesus, dude,” I said.

“What? That’s exactly what you told me to do.”

“Not like that,” I said. “I told you she needs romance.”

I don’t know, she wrote. I have so much work to do already.

“Fuck,” Connor said. He nudged me with his phone. “Wes, man, you do it.”

I blinked. “Do what now?”

“Ask her out for me. The right way.”

I stared.

“Look, this girl is special. I’m not too proud to admit I need back-up getting things rolling with her.” He grinned that winning smile. “C’mon. Just this once.”

“But…”

Connor shoved his phone into my hand. “Come on, man. Do what you do. Write something witty and poetic. Something that’ll impress her enough to get me another text. Another…anything.” He clapped me on the shoulder. “Write something that knocks her on her ass and gets me in the door. That’s all I ask.”

I looked at Connor’s phone in my hand and Autumn Caldwell’s text, waiting for an answer. I felt my best friend’s expectations literally breathing down my neck as he leaned over me.

Ignoring the small ache in my heart, I thought about what I would’ve said to Autumn had it been my phone in my hand, and began to type.

 

Attractive woman dancing in the field with her boyfriend

 

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ARC Review & Excerpt: Boy Toy by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

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Authors: Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

Title: Boy Toy

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Release Date: August 14th, 2018

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Liam

The moment Sadie Matthews walks through the daycare center door, I feel my world tilt in her direction. Again. I fell for her when I was fourteen, and I’m still not over her. Problem: she still thinks of me as a teen she used to babysit. But I’ve learned a few things about pleasing a woman in the last fifteen years. I can’t wait to show her how good it could be. I need to move quickly before I lose her again. This is more than a game to me, but I still plan to win.

Sadie

I’ve just survived the worst year of my life. As a single mom of twin toddlers, I don’t have time for a man. I barely have time to finish a thought. Who knew that Liam McAllister would grow up to be so devastating? He’s everything my husband was not: tall, built, and willing to have a tea party with my girls.

I can’t possibly get involved with him. He’s too young for me. Too handsome. But he’s so persuasive…

 

excerpt

I messed up. Big time.

These are my thoughts as I rush into the bathroom for the world’s fastest shower. The hot spray of water judges me as I hastily wash Liam off my thighs.

A better mother wouldn’t let this happen. I shouldn’t have a younger lover. If I didn’t, he wouldn’t be so deliciously appealing. I couldn’t lose my mind, wake him up out of a sound sleep to ride him like a pony. And then collapse beside him in peaceful, sated slumber.

Seriously, how did I let that happen?

You know how, my hormones scold me. Because he’s the hottest thing you’ve ever tasted.

Oh yeah. That.

After showering I get dressed at top speed. Poor Liam is currently shouldering all my parental responsibilities. Throwing on yesterday’s sundress, I pause for a moment to pop a birth control pill, because that’s one thing I won’t goof up.

Then I hurry downstairs.

The sight in the kitchen gives me heart palpitations. But not because there’s flour dusting much of the countertop. Rather, it’s the hot, shirtless guy holding my toddler and making a dump truck sound as Amy tips the measuring spoon over a bowl.

“Yes! Well done, little miss,” he says, relieving her of the spoon. “Batter up!” he says, easing her to the floor and catching Kate, who’s trying to climb him like a tree.

Aren’t we all.

Liam easily rests Kate on one of his perfect arms, measures a half teaspoon of baking powder one-handed and then hands the spoon to Kate. “Beep beep beep,” he says, making the sound of a truck backing up. “Look out below!”

Kate dumps the spoonful into the bowl and giggles.

“Awesome. Who wants to add the milk?”

“My do it!” Amy yells.

Boy, I need another minute of alone time to compose myself. Because I love this picture a little too much. I love Liam’s ease with my girls. I love how calm he is at the center of toddler-induced mayhem.

It causes a little pain in my heart as I allow myself one more comparison to my former life. The truth is I never once saw Decker elbows-deep in kitchen chaos with a kid on one arm. Starting breakfast with twins in tow? He was more likely to captain a NASA expedition to Mars than he was to do this simple Saturday morning thing.

I feel like crying for no reason at all. Clearly I’m on some kind of emotional overload. Maybe coffee will help.

Sliding into the kitchen, I go right for the coffee grounds.

“Mama!” Amy says. “Wiam making pancakes.”

“That is amazing,” I say in a wobbly voice. “What a lucky girl you are.”

“Sorry about the mess,” he says, casting a glance in my direction. And I know he doesn’t just mean the flour on the counter, but the bigger mess of waking up naked in my bed.

“You know,” I say with a small sigh. “Messes shouldn’t scare me so much. It’s going to be fine.”

Liam’s smile is so filled with relief, that I now feel like an ogre. This man wants to make pancakes with us on Saturday morning, and I said no to that before? I’m clearly insane.

“Which frying pan should I use?” he asks, casting an eye on the cookware hanging from the rack over the sink.

“Oh, no. You want this.” I pull a double-burner griddle out of a lower cabinet.

“Oooh,” he says. “Mommy has the fancy pancake griddle.”

Kate giggles. She’s gazing at Liam as if he invented fun.

And in my life, I guess he did.

Here’s the tricky thing about being a shrink—sometimes you notice that you’re doing something that’s exactly contrary to the advice you’d give your patients.

I’m having one of those moments right now.

If I had a single mom in my office telling me there was a lovely guy in her life who was kind to her kids—and yet she was giving him the stiff arm? I’d tell her: “Be kind to yourself. Don’t push away the good people in your life, especially if you think you don’t deserve them. Let people surprise you.”

I’m such a hypocrite.

Also, I need caffeine.

Ten minutes later I’m sipping from a mug of coffee, but Liam’s is cooling on the countertop. The man has his hands full right now as he puts pancakes on the griddle with “help” from my daughters.

“How about a few of these?” he asks, holding up a bag of chocolate chips. Meanwhile, Kate waves the spatula around like a ninja. “A guy needs to make smiley faces in his pancakes sometimes.”

Good. Lord. It’s a miracle I’m not just a puddle of my former self right now. This is some serious mommy porn I’m watching. Shirtless guy feeds toddlers before eight a.m. I walk over to the high cabinet where I keep the ramekins. “We could make smiley faces with dried organic currants,” I say, just to be a pain in the ass.

Liam makes a face of disgust as I take the chocolate chips from his hand and pour some into a ramekin. “Joking! Here.”

He gives me a big, hot smile. Okay, it probably wasn’t meant to be hot, but I feel flutters down below.

“Choc-it!” Kate yells, grabbing for the ramekin.

“Easy,” Liam says with a laugh. “That’s for my artwork. Come here and I’ll show you.”

I set the table and pour the sippy cups of milk. And Liam manages to serve up two smiley pancakes—one for each girl—at exactly the same moment, in exactly the same size. This is a man who knows his way around toddlers.

“Not cut it!” Amy yells when I approach her plate with a knife. She picks up the pancake in two hands and takes a bite right out of the side of its face.

“Okay, right.” I back away. Forks are optional today, then. No big deal.

Liam takes advantage of this moment of quiet to quickly pour six more pancakes onto the griddle. He leans over his work, dotting them with chocolate chips.

I step closer to him and put a hand on his lower back. “Thank you,” I whisper.

“For trashing your kitchen?”

“No.” He glances at me and I give him a shy smile. “For being so amazing all the time.”

His eyes get very warm, and I just want to stay right here in that blue-eyed gaze as long as I can. “This might be a good time to confess that I didn’t make smiley faces on my own pancakes.”

“No?” I look down at the griddle. Side by side, two of them have a different design—little bullseyes in their centers. “Those are…?”

“Boobs,” he whispers. “My inner fourteen-year-old has a dirty mind. He can’t shut it off sometimes.”

“Drink your coffee,” I whisper, handing him the mug. “Sit down. Let me finish these for you. Or go put on a shirt because my inner fourteen-year-old has her tongue hanging out all the time, too.”

He gives me a wicked, wicked smile and then runs upstairs to find his shirt.

 

review

I am so in love with Boy Toy! The very definition of a feel good read, I was either laughing or grinning ear to ear as I devoured this book. It’s so witty, hilarious, sexy and heartwarming. And don’t even get me started on how romantic and swoony it is.

Sadie is a newly single mom to twin girls. When she decides to go back to work, she enrolls the toddlers into a daycare. There she meets their teacher, Liam, who is looking VERY different from the last time she saw him. She had been his babysitter, and she had been his teenage dream. And while Liam is now very much a man, he still has that crush on Sadie.

Sigh. I can’t say enough good things about Liam. I wish I could reach my hands into my kindle screen and pull him into real life. He is charming, caring, and has a heart of gold. There are some serious ovaries exploding cuteness scenes with Liam and Sadie’s little girls.

Sadie and Liam have the kind of chemistry and connection that makes you forget they are only characters, and not real live people. Their friendship/relationship is pure perfection filled with some not so perfect moments. I don’t just mean the ups and downs of a relationship, I mean the deliciously awkward, second hand embarrassing moments. The kind that make you laugh so hard, all the while being thankful it isn’t happening to you.

If you are on the fence about a single parent plot, let me tell you this book was nothing like other books with a similar plot. It was romantic comedy gold.

This is the third book in the Man Hands series, but can be read as a standalone. Characters from the two previous books are mentions, but you absolutely do not need to read them in order to fully enjoy Boy Toy.

 

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Blog Tour: Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

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Title: Birthday Girl

Author: Penelope Douglas

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: April 17, 2018

My Rating: 5+++ Stars

Add on Goodreads!

Check out the Birthday Girl pinterest board!

Find on Amazon! (FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)

 

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JORDAN

He took me in when I had nowhere else to go.

He doesn’t use me, hurt me, or forget about me. He doesn’t treat me like I’m nothing, take me for granted, or make me feel unsafe.

He remembers me, laughs with me, and looks at me. He listens to me, protects me, and sees me. I can feel his eyes on me over the breakfast table, and my heart pumps so hard when I hear him pull in the driveway after work.

I have to stop this. It can’t happen.

My sister once told me there are no good men, and if you find one, he’s probably unavailable.

Only Pike Lawson isn’t the unavailable one.

I am.

 

PIKE

I took her in, because I thought I was helping.

She’d cook a few meals and clean up a little. It was an easy arrangement.

As the days go by, though, it’s becoming anything but easy. I have to stop my mind from drifting to her and stop holding my breath every time I bump into her in the house. I can’t touch her, and I shouldn’t want to.

The more I find my path crossing hers, though, the more she’s becoming a part of me.

But we’re not free to give into this. She’s nineteen, and I’m thirty-eight.

And her boyfriend’s father.

Unfortunately, they both just moved into my house.

 

*BIRTHDAY GIRL is a stand-alone, contemporary romance suitable for ages 18+.

 

 

excerpt

Pike and his son’s girlfriend are in the kitchen, chopping watermelon as a party rages by the pool outside.

 

PIKE

 

The remnants of the party run around the back yard, some kid catching a squealing girl who’s half-naked, and I drop my eyes again, feeling fucking stupid like this isn’t my house, and I’m some seventy-year-old pervert spying on teens gone wild running around my own damn yard.

I see Jordan glance through the window in front of us and then quickly to me, probably gauging my annoyance. There are topless women in my backyard, after all, and I freaked out over her wet T-shirt mowing the lawn the other day.

But instead, I resort to sarcasm this time. “Do you think Cramer next door is enjoying the view?”

She snorts, faltering in her chopping, and follows it with a laugh.

After a moment, though, I hear her taunting voice. “Are you?” she replies.

I widen my eyes a little, surprised, and look down at her. She casts me a cocky little smirk.

“You’re still young,” she points out, joking with me. “Still look energetic. Why don’t you go out more?”

Who says I don’t go out? My bar-hopping days are over, but I had friends over tonight, too. Granted that’s not ‘going out’, but I’m not a hermit.

“You’re not gay, are you?”

I shoot her a look. Excuse me? Didn’t we talk about my dating habits the other night?

But she shakes her head right away, clearing it. “Yeah, never mind. Didn’t think so.”

Jesus.

Granted, I don’t have as much of a social life as I could. I know that. I’m not even forty yet, and my downtime resembles my grandfather’s retirement.

I pause a moment, searching for the easiest words to explain it to her. “I like my boring life,” I tell her, my voice kind of sounding like an apology. “Most women don’t.”

“Maybe girls don’t,” she replies, a light humor in her voice that I appreciate. “I find you far from boring. You should go out more. There’s a shortage of men in this town. Too many boys.”

I smile to myself. She sees me as a man, not just someone’s father. I shouldn’t like that as much as I do.

And yes, there may be lots of boys, but there are also lots of women, and none of them are for me. Believe me, if my future wife lived in this town, I would’ve found her by now.

She slices one of her sections in half and turns it sideways to cut triangles in twos. I follow suit.

Outside, a young woman with a long brown ponytail scurries across the pool deck, her orange bikini making her tanned skin look darker.

I jerk my chin. “Should I go after her?”

Jordan glances up at the girl outside the window and drops her eyes again, continuing to slice the fruit. “She’s too hot for you.”

“You think I can’t keep up?” I joke, cutting off two more triangles. “I’ve been around the block, you know?”

“Several times by your age, I’m sure. Need a nap yet?”

Why, you little—

I slice through the fruit, and the knife comes down, its point jabbing me right on the inside of my middle finger on my left hand.

“Shit!” I drop the knife and bring my hand up, the ache sinking down to the bone. I suck in air through my teeth. Dammit.

“Oh,” Jordan gasps and drops her knife, too, wiping off her hands. “I’m sorry.” She offers a regretful little laugh. “Here, come here.”

I suck the blood off my finger, barely taking notice that she’s pushed me down onto a bar stool at the island as she retrieves bandages from the cabinet.

Did I put those there? I didn’t put those there.

Rushing over to me, she peels a package open, and I see it’s a wet wipe, probably “anti-bacterial” something or other.

“I can do it.” I hold out my hand.

But she moves in anyway, inspecting the pea-size drop of blood balling on my finger again. “I know,” she says, “I just feel bad. I didn’t mean to piss you off and distract you. I was just teasing.”

I hiss as whatever’s on the wipe hits my open wound. “You didn’t piss me off,” I tell her, but it comes out as a growl. “Well, you did, I guess. You always do, but it’s in a good way.”

“In a good way?” Her brows furrow.

Yeah, like, you know, fun. You’re fun. And kind of funny. And pretty interesting. I don’t know how she makes my temper rise so quickly, and over stupid, petty shit, and I can’t explain why, but I like it.

I don’t know how to tell her that, though. It sounds weird.

When I don’t answer the question, she continues, her voice quiet and serious. “You know,” she says, not looking at me. “If you are interested in her, I can bring her around more. If you want.”

The girl in the orange bikini?

“Bring her around?”

She nods, wiping my finger still. “A sleepover or something maybe? You won’t have to make a move. She’ll jump you.”

She won’t look at me, but I stare down at her nevertheless. She wants to get me laid?

I feel a warm, light sweat cover my spine as I become aware of the heat of her body standing between my legs. I watch as she blows hair out of her face only for it to fall back into the same spot again.

Orange Bikini isn’t the one I want jumping me.

Absently, I reach up and brush the hair out of her eye, grazing her forehead as I tuck it behind her ear for her. Her gaze rises, meeting mine as I let my hand fall down the strands of her smooth hair, and my heart skips a beat as we both stand there, locked.

I can almost feel her face in my hands. The urge is so strong to know what it’s like to hold just a part of her.

Jesus Christ. I drop my hand, looking down at the small wound on my middle finger.

“So do you want me to?” she broaches quietly, almost like she’s afraid of what I’m about to say.

I shake my head. “No,” I finally tell her. “She’s not bad, but she’s not what I like.”

She unwraps a Band-Aid and fastens it to my finger, slowing smoothening over the bandage again and again.

My fingers tingle where she holds them, and I watch her face, her focus still not leaving my hand.

And then suddenly, she nearly whispers, “Well, what do you like?”

I watch as she licks her lips, her breathing shallow, and there’s a jolt to my cock, making me feel damn near ready to tear something apart with my teeth.

What is she doing to me?

 

Teaser-1

 

 

ATAs

Penelope Douglas is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages and include The Fall Away Series, The Devil’s Night Series, and the standalones, Misconduct, Punk 57, and now Birthday Girl. Please look for Kill Switch (Devil’s Night #3), coming later this year, and the standalone, Motel, coming in 2019.

She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and their daughter.

Find Penelope:

Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

 

rah

Excerpt Reveal: Only You by Melanie Harlow

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Title: Only You

Author: Melanie Harlow

Genre: contemporary Romance

Release Date: March 12th, 2018

Pre-Order on iBooks

Add on Goodreads

 

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Nate Pearson is ridiculously handsome and wears the hell out of a suit and tie, but I’ve seen the parade of beautiful women leaving his apartment across the hall—a different one every time—and I want no part of it. When it comes to romance, I’m looking for something real, something that will last: the happily ever after.

As a divorce attorney, he loves to tell me there’s no such thing.

As a wedding planner, I choose to disagree.

We disagree on almost everything, in fact. Everything except James Bond. The only time we really get along is when we’re watching 007 flicks together, and I’ll admit—he has rescued me from a disaster or five. So when one of the baton twirlers from his parade leaves a baby girl at his door with a note that says “I’ll come back for her” and he begs me for help, I can’t turn him down.

But it’s a mistake.

Because watching him with his daughter, I start to see another side of Nate, a side that has my breath coming faster, my body craving his, my heart longing for him to change his mind about love and tell me there’s a chance for us.

I don’t want to be just another girl leaving his apartment in the morning.

I want to be the one he asks to stay.

 

excerpt

“You know, even an alpha male can have feelings occasionally.”

“Oh?”

She crossed her arms and leaned back against the counter, giving me the evil eye. “Yes. He doesn’t have to be hard as granite all the way through, all the time.”

Don’t think about being hard. Don’t think about being hard. Don’t think about being hard. I leaned back against the opposite counter and sort of held my glass in front of my crotch. “Why are you even concerned with alpha males? You’re never attracted to them.”

“What? Yes, I am!”

“No, you’re not.” I knew her type well. “You’re always saying how you don’t want to be rescued, you want someone willing to show affection and talk about feelings, you don’t like arrogant or competitive guys or guys who always have to win, you like guys who get along with everyone—”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing. But that’s not an alpha male.”

She chewed her bottom lip. “But look at Bond. Who is he so worried about protecting? Why is he so driven to kill the bad guys? There must be people he cares about more than himself to put himself in harm’s way so often.”

“Maybe he just likes the thrill of the chase.”

“Maybe he’s more selfless than you think.”

“In this case, I think we’re going to have to disagree.”

She sighed heavily, and I knew I had disappointed her by ending the argument in a draw instead of winning or losing it. Any other night, I might have kept it going, but there was something odd going on with me, something that had me wanting to close the distance between us, set her up on the counter, slip my hands beneath that fuzzy white sweater she had on, see what her legs felt like wrapped around my hips. But I knew better.

Get her out of here before you do something stupid.

“Hey, you got fortune cookies? I didn’t see those.” She reached for the little cellophane bag.

“I forgot about them.”

“Can I have one?”

“You can have them both.”

She took one out and cracked it open. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not why ships are built.”

“Very deep.”

She ignored me and went on to the next one. “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” Her lips pursed. “Hm. I don’t want a dangerous ship or a broken heart.”

I laughed at the anguish in her tone and expression.

“It’s not funny,” she said, shoving pieces of cookie in her mouth. “It means I’m doomed to be unhappy. And then I’m going to die in a shipwreck.”

“It means you take things way too seriously.” I tipped back the last of the bourbon in my glass, and set it in the sink. “Well, I’ve got an early morning at the gym tomorrow.”

She popped the rest of one cookie in her mouth and brushed off her hands. “I’m going. What time is it anyway?”

I checked the digital clock on the microwave. “It’s 11:11.”

Her face lit up. “Ooh! Make a wish!”

“What?”

“It’s 11:11, you have to make a wish.” She closed her eyes for a couple seconds, her lips moving as if saying a silent prayer. Then she opened them. “Did you do it?”

I laughed. “No.”

“Nate! Hurry up! Make a wish.” She glanced at the clock and flapped her hands agitatedly.

“I don’t have a wish to make.”

“So make one for me, then. And do it fast, before it’s 11:12.”

This time it was my turn to roll my eyes, but secretly I wished that the next guy she fell in love with would love her back the way she deserved, and she’d be happy. But I didn’t close my eyes, and I didn’t move my lips, so she had no idea whether I’d made a wish or not.

“Did you do it?” She looked concerned.

“Yes.”

“For me?”

“Yes.”

Her mouth fell open for a second. “What was it? What did you wish for me?”

I started to laugh as I left the kitchen. “Nice try, Calamity. Even I know you don’t tell a wish if you want it to come true.” The credits were still rolling on the television, and I picked up the remote to turn everything off.

“Oh, now you believe in wishes?” She sat down on the couch and tugged on her fluffy boots.

No, I wanted to tell her. I don’t, because I learned a long time ago that wishes and prayers and hopes don’t mean anything. No one is listening. But I didn’t tell her that, not only because she was looking up at me with my favorite expression of hers, the one daring me to fight back, but because at that very moment, I heard a noise in the hall.

A strange and oddly terrifying noise.

I looked over my shoulder toward the door, thinking I must have imagined the sound.

Then I heard it again—the unmistakable, ball-shrinking, cringe-inducing sound of a baby’s wail.

Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Studly Period by Sarina Bowen

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A brand new serial delivered straight to your email inbox! Beginning on Tuesday, March 20th, you will get one chapter each week, straight to your email inbox! Anyone who signs up midstream will immediately receive links to previous chapters. No reader will be left behind!

SIGN UP!

 

blurbb

She’s a brilliant writing tutor. Too bad she’s tongue-tied every time he sits down in front of her…

There are 1016 people in the freshman class at Harkness College. I can’t be the only socially awkward nerd girl virgin among them. Right?

It’s time I learn to talk to guys without blushing and stammering. So I take a confidence-building job at the student tutoring center. Twelve bucks an hour, plus human interaction. What could go wrong?

A fun-loving French Canadian hockey hunk, that’s what.

When Pepe St. George sits down at my tutoring table, my brain shuts off and my mouth goes right into hyperdrive. Even the sound of my name on his lips—Josephine—gives me a mini orgasm.

I want to hand him my V-card. But all I manage to hand him is…my thesaurus. And my dignity. All seems lost, until I hatch a plan to get him alone…

 

 

excerpt

“Bonjour.” The deep voice—from right above me—startles me so badly that I jump. My phone goes clattering to the desktop as I whip my chin upward to see whomever snuck up on me.

Désolé!” he says. “I should come back later?”

“No,” I say, fumbling my phone back into my bag. “Please sit down.”

My heart is banging against my ribs, and not only because he startled me. If possible, I’m even more awkward with men than with women. It’s worse if they’re attractive.

And this guy? Very attractive. Wow. He has a wide, handsome face and coal-dark eyes ringed by impressively thick lashes, and a broad face. Broad shoulders.

Broad everything. Wow. He must eat a lot of protein. And now I’m staring as he arranges himself in the chair opposite me and draws out a folder. He’s really handsome. One of the BPs, for sure.

I can’t stop staring. There’s something rugged about him that’s hard to describe. There’s color in his cheeks—at least the part that’s not covered with dark scruff. And his biceps bulge from the sleeves of his T-shirt. He reminds me of a superhero going incognito, concealing his identity among the ordinary college students.

Though the muscles can probably be explained by the logo on his T-shirt—Harkness Hockey.

It’s always the jocks who need tutoring. I swear. Nadia I have a disagreement about this. She says that jocks are used to coaching, and thus accept tutoring help more readily than the general population.

“I think they’re just not as smart,” I always tell her.

She just shakes her head. “You say that, but you’re still intimidated by them. So which is it?”

Indeed.

“How can I help you,” I whisper up at this handsome giant.

He frowns, and then folds massive hands onto the desk between us. “Excusez-moi?”

People always tell me my voice is soft. That I’m hard to hear. He must agree, because he leans forward, those big, dark eyes blinking in close proximity. It doesn’t help the knee-knocking, teeth-rattling nerves that overtake me whenever a beautiful man looks at me.

Get a grip, Josie. “How can I help you today,” I ask carefully.

Bon. I have the paper due for English. And my English is not so excellent. So I hope you will help me find all the places I fuck it up. I bring it…” He opens a folder and rifles through some papers.

For a long moment I just blink at him. “Your English…” Did he just say that he didn’t speak the language?

“When I come to Harkness last year? I don’t speak much English at all,” he says, dropping a rough draft of an essay on the table between us. “Please help me find zhe places where I fuck up the grammar.”

His honesty has stunned me. The Harkness students I’ve met so far would never admit to any kind of weakness. In fact, they tell me that most students wait until their grades are in jeopardy to find the tutoring center at all.

And I don’t blame them. Struggling? That’s shameful. Harkness is a top-notch school where everyone worships at the alter of intellectual exceptionalism. With an admissions rate that hovered around nine percent, having a big brain is the only way to get in.

Or at least I thought it was. Every year, something like a thousand valedictorians get rejections from Harkness. Who would dream of implying that he isn’t as qualified as the next student?

This guy.

 

rah

 

Excerpt of Man Card and Q&A with Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

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Ekk! I had the pleasure to ask Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby some questions to celebrate the release of their newest novel, Man Card. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did! Also, make sure to scroll down to read an excerpt of Man Card!

 

Q: What is your favorite thing about writing with Sarina/Tanya? 

Tanya: I love that Sarina is so blasted smart that she forces me to think deeper. It makes for better characters and a more interesting story line. I kind of feel like my writing style is like a balloon drifting. She grabs hold of me and keeps me from floating away. She’s also got a great sense of humor and puts up with me, so that’s nice. 

Sarina: Tanya’s job is to run off with the balloon, and take me outside of my own head. She has such a wild sense of humor and it’s so refreshing! My job is to tame it and shape it into a romance plot line.

Q: How did you split up the writing process?

Sarina: We trade back and forth every 2,000 words or so. That way we both get to write both characters.

Q: Braht is quite a character. I don’t think I’ve experienced another hero quite like him. If you had to cast someone to bring him to life in a movie, who would you pick?

Tanya: I just watched Call Me By Your Name and Armie Hammer would make a terrific Braht! 

Q: I laughed out loud a handful of times while reading this book. Did any of the hilarious moments (crunchy kielbasa for example) come from real life experiences or just a great imagination? 

Tanya: That kielbasa scene is real! Only, you know, enhanced for reader enjoyment. The kielbasa my mother-in-law served us was really tasty. And there’s a salon scene where the pedicurist is quite terrifying. That was inspired by real life events. I’m lucky I survived it with all ten toes.

Q: If you had to pick between Tom or Braht to play your fake boyfriend, which one would you pick?

Tanya: I’d pick Tom. I’m really uncoordinated and I feel like he would be good to hold onto while walking across ice. It’s icy in Michigan.

Sarina: Okay, twist my arm. I’ll take Braht. We can get pedicures together.

Q: If you had to give each other a nickname, via Braht style, what would it be?

Tanya: I’m terrible at nicknames. Everyone in my family has a nickname and I’ve always just been Tanya. Huh. How about Pooh Bear for Sarina? Or Sassy Pants? Maybe just Miss Sarina. 

Sarina: I’m not sure we all need Braht-style nicknames. But I will say that Tanya posts the best cocktail photos on Instagram. So I’m dubbing her Ms. Margarita.

Q: In Man Card we learn that Ash’s family has a cabin that is very near and dear to her heart. If you could pick any location for a vacation home for you and your family/friends, where would it be?

Tanya: A cottage on the lake is my absolute dream. There are a lot of people in Michigan who are lucky enough to have one. I’m still not that lucky, but a girl can dream. 

Sarina: We’re skiers so I want a ridiculously posh home in Aspen. As long as I don’t have to pay for it. This is a fantasy, right?

Q: Can you spill any news on if Sadie will get a book!? (fingers crossed)

We sure hope so! We’re working on something soon!

 

 

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Nothing ventured, nothing banged…

Ash
I still don’t know how it happened. One minute I was arguing with my arrogant competitor–our usual trash-talk over who deserves the larger commission. But somehow I went from throwing down to kneeling down…
It can never happen again. I don’t even like Braht. He’s too slick. He’s a manipulating mansplaining party boy in preppy clothes.
So why can’t I get him out of my head?

Braht
There are two things I know without question. One: Ash and I are destined for each other. Two: never trust a man with a unibrow.
Ash is my missing my piece. She’s the sweet cream to my gourmet espresso. And nothing gets me going faster than her contempt for me. They don’t call her the Ashkicker for nothing.
Eventually I’ll win her over…if my past doesn’t ruin everything first.

 

 

excerpt

Name your other favorite movies,” I challenge Braht.

All of them?” He chugs his margarita.

Hmm. Top ten? Top five?”

That’s totally easy,” he says. Somehow I’ve gotten closer to him on the floor. When he sits back, I actually snuggle in beside him. He’s wearing a ridiculously soft shirt that feels good against my skin. And I watch with fascination as he ticks off the names of films on his fingers. When Harry Met Sally. The Devil Wears Prada. Roman Holiday. Clueless. And Working Girl.”

I burst out laughing. I can’t help it. Those are all chick flicks. You should just hand over your man card right now.”

Not a chance.” Braht’s expression grows intense. In the first place, I gave you a very thorough demonstration of my man card last week. I don’t remember hearing any complaints.”

I swallow hard, because this is certainly true.

And secondly, you’re looking at this all backward.”

I…am?” And why can’t I look away? He has the most beautiful, intelligent eyes.

Yeah, you are,” he whispers. It’s the guy who has a firm grip on his man card that can hold your purse. He’s not afraid to be seen with that Tory Burch you like to carry—nice color, by the way. He’ll free up your hands because he likes your hands, and he remembers all the terrific things you can use them for.”

Oh,” I say slowly. Now my fingers itch to reach out for him. I have to make fists with both hands so I won’t do it.

Furthermore, he’s not afraid to quote Working Girl. Because Joan Cusack is a genius. And who wouldn’t want to say Melanie Griffith’s best line out loud?”

I can’t help saying it with him, and together we sound like the world’s horniest Greek chorus: I have a head for business and a body for sin.”

Sin sounds pretty good right now, actually. But Braht’s not done with his speech. Any man who tells you that chick flicks are for pussies can’t be any good in bed. Because that man does not speak the language of women. He doesn’t know that a little luxury can erase a shitty day of worrying about your ex…”

Braht takes my hand in his and begins to massage it. He has a great technique, applying gentle pressure between each joint. I relax just a little bit more against him.

“…That man doesn’t speak the language because he’s afraid of sounding like a girl. But fuck that noise, honey bear. If a man doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe a satin teddy with peekaboo lace and mother-of-pearl snaps at the crotch, he can’t buy it for you and then strategically ask you to wear it. He can’t plan ahead to blow your mind sometime by lifting your skirt somewhere semi-public and dangerous. And he can’t get down on his knees and kiss that lace and then pop open those snaps while you bite your own hand to keep from screaming when you climax.” Braht takes a deep breath and lets it out in one hot gust. Fuck. What was the point of this speech?”

“Um…” My voice is hoarse, and my face is suddenly very hot. Let’s not even mention my nipples. Man cards, I think.” But I’m not sure, because everything tingles.

Right,” he says with a sigh. Still got mine. Shall we watch Working Girl next?”

Okay,” I breathe, sinking a little further into his comforting embrace.

 

 

Find Man Card at

Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

 

 

rah

 

 

 

Excerpt Reveal: He Loves Me…KNOT by RC Boldt

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Title: He Loves Me… KNOT

Author: R.C. Boldt

Release Date: November 14th, 2017

Add on Goodreads!

 

blurb

Sometimes love needs a second chance…

I never looked back after skipping out on my own wedding, even if it did leave me estranged from most of my family. Eight years later, I have the life I’ve always wanted. As an advertising account executive, my world is damn near perfect.

Until I come face-to-face with my past. With the man I once loved. The man who holds my future in his hands. The man who’s hell-bent on getting even with me for leaving him at the altar.

Even with all the unfinished business between us, I still love Knox Montgomery. The only problem?

He loves me…KNOT.

 

excerpt

PROLOGUE

EMMA JANE

“BLESS HER HEART.”

This—the quintessential Southern phrase “bless her heart”—is the ultimate kiss of death.

The irony isn’t lost on me since I just avoided my own kiss of death, figuratively speaking. Instead of walking down the aisle, I’m trudging along the Pensacola Beach boardwalk in my wedding dress.

Alone.

With tear-stained cheeks.

Two elderly women peer at me, blatant curiosity etched across their features, and one turns to the other to hiss, “I wonder if the groom left her.”

“Would you blame him?” the other woman responds, disdain dripping from her tone. “She’s got a”—she utters the next words much like they’re absolutely scandalous—“nose piercing.”

The dark glare I direct at them is concealed by my sunglasses, so with a dismissive huff, I continue plodding along, swiping a hand across my tear-streaked cheeks. Judging by the black smudges on my fingers, my waterproof mascara clearly lied.

Damn jackass mascara.

Damn jackass groom. I’m starting to see a trend here…

The longer I walk, the more stares I get. One little girl in a tutu bathing suit points to the top of my head and squeals with joy, “Look! A princess!”

Damn jackass tiara and veil my mother insisted I wear.

I march over to a large trash bin and—without any finesse whatsoever—begin tugging the pins holding this awful tiara-veil combo in place. As I’m attempting to remove it, agitation takes over due to my sad lack of progress. I bunch the veil in my fists and give it a firm tug from my elaborate up-do. Bobby pins shoot and ping in various directions, and I distractedly pray no one gets too close and loses an eye. Shoving the obscene length of fabric in the trash, I feel a bit lighter.

The June sun beats down on me as I stand on the stamped cement of the boardwalk, the heat radiating through the soles of my favorite flip-flops. My eyes flutter closed as I inhale a deep breath of the salty Gulf of Mexico air.

God, I love this beach. It’s always been one of my favorites, especially since it takes just under an hour to drive here from Mobile. The water is a gorgeous shade of blue-green, and the sand is perfectly white and free of pesky shells. Any other time, I’d be kicking off my flip-flops and running toward the surf. Now, though, I have different priorities: a stiff drink. Or ten.

Or twenty.

The challenge is finding a place where I might not draw attention—er, as much attention. I slowly survey the nearby choices of bars and restaurants lined up along the boardwalk; I scan and dismiss them one by one.

“No…no…no…n—”

Wait a minute.

One particular sign snags my eye. It has an outline of two men standing back to back, their forms filled with a swirl of rainbows and the name Be-Bob’s written in script-like font beneath it.

A gay bar.

Perfect.

With my key ring clipped to my small wristlet, I stalk over to the bar, doing my best to ignore the startled looks and gawking from other beachgoers. Tugging open the heavy door, I step over the threshold and into the brisk air conditioning.

Into a place where I might find slightly more acceptance.

I slide my sunglasses to rest atop my head and take a moment to allow my eyes to adjust to the dimmer light. There are only about eight people scattered about, chatting over drinks. When I don’t earn more than a brief glance before they return to their own conversations, I breathe my first sigh of relief. Most of the patrons are likely indulging in the great weather and enjoying a Saturday at the beach, not looking for refuge and hiding out like I am.

I scan the framed photos that adorn the walls featuring local drag queens and scantily clad male models before striding over to the bar. I hoist myself up onto a worn leather bar stool, and catch the eye of the only bartender behind the counter. He appears to be taking inventory of the liquor, if his clipboard is anything to go by.

When he turns around and gets the full visual of me, his expression is priceless, his eyebrows nearly hitting his hairline. I’d laugh if I had it in me, but I’m emotionally spent.

As he regards what’s visible to him from the top of the bar on up to my hair, his light brown eyes soften and the corners of his mouth tip up slightly. Without batting an eye, he reaches below the counter and produces a wet wipe. I gratefully accept it and he rests his forearms upon the lacquered surface, regarding me with interest as I rid my cheeks of the dark mascara streaks.

The bartender waits until I’m finished and then accepts the wipe from me before tossing it into the trash.

“Well, I can’t say I’ve ever served a runaway bride before.” My makeup-fail savior appears to gauge me, as if expecting me to burst into a river of tears.

Funny enough, the drive here has expended me of those and I’m firmly entrenched in the anger stage of my fiancé’s betrayal.

I prop an elbow on the bar, rest my chin on my palm, and offer what I know is the weakest excuse for a smile. “There’s a first time for everything, right?”

He doesn’t immediately answer, eyeing me curiously until his lips stretch into an easy smile. His eyes do that little crinkly thing at the corners and he has what I call “kind eyes.”

Then again, I remind myself, what the hell do I know?

I’m clearly not the best judge of people. That much has become all too evident.

The bartender reaches out a hand. “Casey.”

I grasp his hand, noting his impressive manicure. This guy’s cuticles are better than mine and I love the shade of metallic gray polish on his nails. “Nice to meet you, Casey. I’m Emma Jane.”

He reaches beneath the bar and I hear a clinking as he scoops ice, before he brings a cup into view. Then he works his magic, and pours in a bit of this and that from one bottle to the next. Finally, with flourish—and a maraschino cherry tossed in—he slides the plastic cup across the smooth surface.

“It’s my special, secret mix. I call it”—he leans in toward me and lowers his voice, his eyes dancing with mischief—“the Panty Dropper.”

One of my brows arches as I stare back at him with dismayed skepticism. “I hardly think I’m a prime panty-dropping candidate right now.”

Casey lifts a shoulder in a half shrug, his eyes flickering over my shoulder before returning to me. His smile grows wider. “You never can tell.”

With a tiny laugh, I shake my head and wrap my lips around the straw to take a sip of the concoction he’s made me. Just as I swallow the sweet drink, I both feel and smell a person sidle up next to me at the bar.

Hell. The reason I came here was because I thought for sure my chances of getting hit on would be slim to none. But, as I glance at him from the corner of my eye, I observe strong, muscled forearms, tanned and sprinkled with dark hair. The scent of him is appealing and masculine, a cologne that doesn’t overpower. Just the sight of those arms alone, however, makes me incredibly wary to see the rest of him.

Casey doesn’t address the newcomer, his focus still on me. “I’m all ears, Emma Jane. Been told I’m a great listener.”

Good Lord. Where do I even start?

Before I can answer, the man speaks up, his deep voice booming. “Are you cheating on me, Case?” He makes what sounds like a gasp of exaggerated indignation. “I can’t believe you’d betray me like this.”

I glance up to see Casey’s expression full of mirth, and he rolls his eyes. “You know better. I’m still waiting on you to switch over.”

A husky laugh greets my ears and it sounds far too male—far too appealing—which is why I refuse to turn and look at the man beside me.

“I might switch if you’d agree to root for my team.”

“Not gonna happen,” Casey scoffs before his gaze meets mine. “Isn’t that drink exactly what the doctor ordered?”

I muster up a smile because he seems like a sweet guy. “It is.” With a start, I realize I haven’t given him my card to pay or at least start a tab. I reach for my wristlet. “What do I owe you?”

He waves me off. “Honey, that one’s on me as long as you promise to dish before we get slammed in a few hours.”

A loud exhale spills past my lips. “It’s a pathetic story, really.”

“Let me guess.” Mr. Forearms’s husky voice is a deep timbre, amusement threaded in his tone. “You caught him with your maid of honor.”

I let out a harsh laugh and fiddle with my straw, using it to move around the ice cubes in my drink. “Nope.” If only it were that simple, I muse internally.

“Caught him with his best man?”

This time, his suggestion drags a lighter sounding laugh from me. “Not even.”

“Well, you know I can’t leave here without hearing the story. I’m intrigued.”

This guy is something else, that’s for sure. His voice is the epitome of sexy, and yet, even with all that’s transpired, I have zero interest.

Finally, I drag my attention from my drink and my eyes travel up those muscled forearms, over the bulging biceps stretching the short sleeves of a dark-blue polo shirt and up to the face that—

My breath catches in my throat as recognition floods me, my eyes widening as I take in the man beside me.

Becket Jones, the quarterback for the NFL team in Jacksonville, Florida. He’s a two-time Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida and had been the second overall draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Adding to that impressive resumé, he’s been recently voted MVP and is also a Lombardi Trophy recipient. His face is in commercials and on billboards everywhere. Living in Mobile, Alabama, and in a state without a pro football team, most of us either gravitate toward the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints, or the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I don’t follow NFL as closely as college football, but I’d have to live under a rock to not recognize Becket and his pretty-boy face. Even beneath the brim of the ball cap, which curls under at the edges and draws shadows over his eyes, I’d recognize that wide charming smile of his anywhere. He’s slouching against the bar but I know he pushes well over six feet.

His features cloud as he observes my response, his large hand reaching up to tug his cap lower. “Please don’t tell me you’re going to sell some seedy story about seeing me in a gay bar to a stupid gossip rag.”

“Of course not. I’m just…” I falter for a moment, “surprised.”

His chin lifts, gesturing to a couple of guys standing nearby a jukebox, laughing and talking. One of them is wearing a shirt with bright pink flamingos printed on it, along with a yellow feather boa draped around his neck.

“I’m with my brother, Brantley—the one who insisted on that crazy getup—and his roommate, Vonn, whose birthday we’re celebrating.” His eyes flicker to them briefly, obvious affection in his gaze, before returning to me. “I drove in from Jacksonville late last night to join them.”

I nod politely, not sure what to say. “Well, I hope you guys have a great night.” I turn back to my drink and studiously take another sip of the dangerous concoction while acknowledging Casey and Becket’s attention is fixed on me with unfettered curiosity. This drink is deliciously sweet and I know it’s masking the copious amount of liquor Casey put in it. And I can’t get hammered. I should—and I really want to—but I can’t. I have bigger fish to fry.

Like figuring out my freaking life.

With a long sigh, I unzip my wristlet and withdraw my cell phone—whose ring had been silenced—to face the “music” I know is about to blare at me.

Let this be noted as mistake number one. Because I’m certain my phone is going to overheat from the number of text messages and missed calls I’ve received already. Mainly, the ones from my father.

Dad: You’d better get back here now, young lady.

I continue scrolling past all of his other messages until I get to the last one, time stamped from about five minutes ago.

Dad: Consider yourself disowned. Don’t even think of coming back to this house after the way you’ve embarrassed everyone.

Huh. Well, thank heavens I’d already thought of that and had made a quick stop at the house before driving here. I’d scooped up the items I’d need most, knowing my father’s reaction would be extreme. Maybe I was delusional, but I’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this.

Just as I’m about to place my phone back in my wristlet and avoid the remainder of the painful messages sure to come, another one comes in.

Dad: Forget your job at the magazine. It’s done. You’re done. You did this, Emma Jane.

My chest tightens and my stomach churns sickly. I knew it was coming but it doesn’t make it any less devastating. I’d worked my ass off for Southern Charm Lifestyle magazine at their new location in Mobile. I know I have the potential to rise up in the ranks.

But now it’s gone. Poof. All because of my father. The one and only Davis Haywood, city councilman, owner of the local newspaper and the city’s largest magazine, and commercial developer galore. He has the money and power to make things happen in Mobile.

I just never thought he’d use that money and power against his own daughter one day.

“So.” Becket startles me, so caught up in my own drama-filled thoughts. “You might not know this about me, but I was brought up to be a gentleman.”

I regard him warily, unsure where he’s going with this. “O-kay,” I drag out the word slowly.

“This means I can’t leave you sitting at this bar, staring down at your phone, looking like your puppy just died.”

I shoot him a hard glare that would normally cause people to rear back…but then I recall that this man faces the risk of being tackled by two-hundred-plus-pound men on any given game day.

So, as much as my dangerously narrowed eyes might flare with the “Don’t even go there” vibe, my glare does nothing.

He looks around first before slipping his ball cap around on his head, the brim now at the back. And honestly, on any other grown man, it would look juvenile. On Becket Jones, however, it actually looks cute.

Casey slides a bottle of water to him, which Becket uncaps before downing half of it. Resting his arms on the bar, he playfully nudges me with his shoulder.

“Go ahead. Spill.”

Exhaling loudly, I peer up at him skeptically. “You really want—”

“To hear all the sordid details?” He grins at me, nearly blinding me with his pearly white teeth. “Absolutely.”

Shaking my head at him, I take another sip of my drink and toy with my straw, making the ice cubes clink together within my cup. “Fine. But don’t you dare give me a bless your heart that’s chock-full of pity.”

“Deal.”

Letting a long sigh loose, I answer, my voice muted and laced with pain. And I hate the way it sounds.

“I’m running from a man who doesn’t really love me.”

 

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Review & Excerpt Tour- Stud Finder by Lauren Blakely

STUD FINDER - Tour banner

Title: Stud Finder

Author: Lauren Blakely

Genre: Contemporary Romance Novella

Release Date: September 26, 2017

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Watch the Trailer for Stud Finder!

 

blurb

Man seeking woman: Hot, rich, smart, witty, self-made multimillionaire Internet genius seeks classy, intelligent, sexy, fun-loving woman who’s interested in settling down and sharing all the good things.

There. Best. Ad. Ever.

I will absolutely find the woman of my dreams, someone who’ll love me for me. Even if my sister thinks I need help dating, I’m confident I can pull this off, courtesy of the great worldwide web.
Let me just hit the upload button right now…

* * *
No. Just no. As a woman and a professional matchmaker, I can’t let Dylan Parker run this ad. He’s the catch of all catches. That’s why his sister has asked me to help her ridiculously good-looking, insanely rich, but socially clueless brother find a woman. As a broker of happily ever afters, I’m known as the Stud Finder since I make a great living pairing wildly successful women with men who won’t fleece them but will adore them. After all, what woman in her right mind wouldn’t fall in love with Dylan?

I mean, besides me. It totally won’t be me.

 

excerpt

The problem solver in me comes out in full force. I must show him the beauty of a made bed. “Come with me.” I grab the basket of mostly-eaten chips, dump the rest, return the salsa tubs to the counter for cleaning, and reach into my wallet to leave a generous tip in the jar.

He clasps his hand over mine, shaking his head. “My treat,” he says, his voice a soft, sexy whisper. I want to protest, to tell him I insist, but he curls his hand tighter, and I’m speechless.

His hand on mine sparks a wave of goosebumps on my arms, my body telling me I like his hands on me. I want more of his touch. I imagine how I’d feel if he ran his hand up my arm, to my shoulder, through my hair. A shudder races through me, and I do my best to tamp down my reaction to a suddenly overactive imagination.

“Thank you,” I say, my voice like a feather.

“You’re welcome.” His eyes never stray from mine, and for a sliver of time he holds my gaze by the counter at Mama une’s.

Then I wrestle my attention back to my plan. We leave, and fifteen minutes later, I stroll through the front doors of the Luxe Hotel. My friend Nate Harper is the CEO, and I’ve texted him for a quick favor. The concierge greets me and hands me a room key card. Dylan and I walk past the chichi sushi restaurant in the lobby, head to the elevator, and soon arrive at room 521. I slide the card in the door.

Dylan sets a hand on my arm. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

“No,” I say quickly. Too quickly. I’m not trying to seduce him at all.

I open the door, and a perfectly modulated blast of cool air greets us. We stroll across the navy carpet to a king-size bed perfectly appointed with a gorgeous white duvet and mountains of blue velvet pillows. I gesture to it, as if I’m a saleswoman, showing it off. “Tell me. Doesn’t this bed make you want to do everything on it?”

Then, to demonstrate my point, I fall back onto it, like a snow angel.

I prop myself on my elbows and meet his eyes. His green irises darken, and his lips part. He stares at me, and something shifts. The look in his eyes is no longer challenging. He’s not asking me to prove a point. His eyes are hungry. He stares as if he’s considering my question seriously, and I realize that maybe it does sound as if I’m trying to seduce him. I’ve pushed the limits here. I’m in a hotel room, trying to prove a point to a client, and in reality, my skirt is riding up my thighs, and I’m sprawled on a pristine, inviting bed.

He makes her feel like a princess

 

Find Stud Finder on Amazon!

 

 

ATAs

A #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that’s hot, sweet and sexy. She lives in California with her family and has plotted entire novels while walking her dogs. With fourteen New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than eighty times, and she’s sold more than 2 million books. In October she’ll release HARD WOOD, a sexy, standalone romantic comedy. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter!  laurenblakely.com/newsletter

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