Loving Cassie by Jacinta Howard

 

LOVING CASSIE BY JACINTA HOWARD

Cassandra James thinks she has her place in the world all figured out. But an unexpected betrayal forces her to ask if her “free black girl” vibe is a myth, or worse, a mask to hide herself from the world.

Bam Mosley, keyboardist for the alt-soul band, the Prototype, knows who he is. He just wants to make good music and see the people he cares about win.

Then he meets her.

Sure, Cassandra is gorgeous and smart, with hypnotic eyes, but his bandmate’s sister wasn’t supposed to be this…disruptive and break down all his defenses.

She sees what he hides from everyone else. He allows her to take off her mask.

But is their connection powerful enough to survive life’s low notes? Or maybe the true test of love is knowing when to let go…

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Excerpt:

Kennedy was shaking me awake way before I was ready to function.

“I’m up,” I croaked, to get her to stop jerking on my shoulder. I buried my head in her comforter, struggling to push myself into consciousness. It felt like my body was filled with concrete. Probably because I was operating on a little over two hours of sleep, messing around with Bam.

Bam: A sudden impact or occurrence.

His face crowded into my brain, his lips on my ear, beard scratching my skin, his skilled hands on my body. I ran a hand down my face, like that would erase the memory, or my attraction to him. I could still smell him in my clothes from last night. I heard Kennedy already rustling around and finally pushed myself to set up, blinking sand out of my eyes.

She was rummaging through her bag, and looked up at me. She smiled sleepily.

“We can crash in the van,” she informed me, yawning. “The guys never make us drive.”

Probably another southern thing I wasn’t privy to living in the Midwest. I nodded, rubbing my eyes as I swung my legs over the twin sized bed, standing and heading into the bathroom. When I came out a few minutes later, Kennedy was fully dressed, lugging her bag into the living room.

“They’re outside,” she said quietly, moving further down the darkened hallway. I saw light peering from the kitchen. Pepper was already up?

I headed back into the bedroom and dressed quickly, throwing on a pair of leggings, a t-shirt and shoving Bam’s hoodie over my head again after I brushed my teeth and washed my face. I pulled my skull cap on and rolled my carryon out of the bedroom.

“I can’t believe you’re awake,” I greeted Pepper, who was standing in the living room, wearing a lavender jogging suit, her hair hanging down the middle of her back in one long braid. She looked as if she’d been up and at it for hours.

“Had to see my grand-girls off,” she said smiling.

I released my bag, moving to hug her. Her embrace was warm and comforting when I inhaled her.

“You come back sooner. Not later. Understand?”

I nodded, hugging her tight. “Definitely.”

“I mean it, Ru.” Her voice was firm and I nodded again.

“I promise.”

“Remember what I told you. Take care of you too,” she said gently in my ear.

I felt tears welling in my eyes when I nodded again. “I will.”

Kennedy and Pepper exchanged their good-byes and then we were pushing through the front door less than two minutes later. The air was crisp, the sky still dark because even the sun couldn’t be bothered to make an appearance yet. The van was parked at the curb, engine humming quietly, billows of smoke exiting from the rear exhaust pipe because of the temperature.

My eyes immediately landed on Bam at the rear of the van, standing next to Travis as they hoisted Kennedy’s bags into the back. He was wearing a navy blue thermal and a pair of gray sweats and he looked so good, I almost tripped on the steps leading down to the sidewalk. I exhaled, catching myself, and dragged my carry-on behind me, the wheels extra loud on the concrete because it was so early and still outside. Bam looked up at me then, his gaze connecting with mine. He smiled a little, and my stomach tightened. I looked away.

“Y’all can go on and get in. The heat’s on, so it’s warm,” Travis told us, his eyes on Kennedy, who was standing at the curb shivering as they loaded the bags.

“Right on,” I said, starting toward the doors.

“Cupcake.”

It was Bam’s deep voice calling me. I hesitated for a second before turning and looking at him. A half-grin was on his face when he jerked his head, beckoning me to him. I chewed on the inside of my lip, staring at him while I debated. He chuckled.

“C’mere, Cassandra.”

Reluctantly, I made my way to the back of the van.

“I got the rest,” Bam dismissed Travis, his voice early morning gruff, which was insanely arousing.

“Aight.” Travis smiled at me before loping around to the driver’s side.

I stood there toeing the gravel and stuffed my hands into the oversized hoodie I’d decided I was stealing and taking back home with me because it was so comfortable.

“After careful thought and consideration, I’ve decided that last night was a mistake,” I declared in a rush before he could speak. Better to just get it out there so that my entire trip wouldn’t be ruined with weird awkwardness.

Bam grinned at my announcement, hoisting Kennedy’s second bag into the back, biceps flexing.

“You did, huh?”

“Yes.”

“I called you after you left.” He looked over at me as he effortlessly picked up my heavy shoulder bag.

“I turned my phone off. What were you gonna say?”

“That I hope you don’t think last night was a mistake.” He smirked and grabbed my other bag, arranging it in the back so that it fit with the others.

“I prolly shouldn’tve let things go that far.”

His eyes had turned serious when he turned to face me, shutting the back doors. I stayed quiet, mostly because it was difficult to speak when Bam was looking at me the way he was.

“Me askin’ you to come over wasn’t about that. I just wanted your company.”

His gaze was zeroed in on mine, his chocolate eyes tired but full of heat.

“But I’m not gonna front. Our chemistry is unreal, Cass. I got carried away.”

I drew in a breath at his admission. Bam didn’t talk like a boy. He tucked his hands into his sweat pockets, his eyes never leaving my face.

“It’s not just on you. I’m the one who got carried away.”

“And now you’re shook.”

His tone was matter-of-fact. I looked down at the oil stained gravel, shaking my head in denial.

“I’m not ‘shook.’ I just think we need to chill.” I looked up at him again. “Don’t you?”

“No.”

I tilted my head to the side. “So you’re sayin’ you wanna be my rebound? Because that’s what it would be.” I exhaled, staring at the ground again. “I don’t have the head space, or the emotional capacity or fortitude to deal with… anything.”

“Emotional fortitude?”

When I looked up again, he was biting on the inside of his lip, holding back a smile.

“Don’t make fun of me. I’m trying to be real here.”

“I’m sorry.” Only he didn’t look sorry at all because he was still grinning. “You’re just super cute.”

He squinted at me like he was trying to figure out how it was possible, or where I came from, and grabbed the bottom hem of my hoodie, pulling me closer slowly, like he was giving me a chance to pull away if I wanted to. I didn’t.

“You have too many women,” I accused tilting my head up to meet his eyes, ignoring the way my heart was racing standing so close to him. He smelled like soap and detergent, and man. “Not that I care. I’m not here for this anyway. I just wanted—” I stopped and shook my head, sighing, looking across the street at Pepper’s neighbor’s house, shivering a little in the cold.

“You just wanted what?”

“To breathe…”

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ABOUT JACINTA HOWARD

A longtime journalist and lifelong music lover, Jacinta Howard lives in the Atlanta area. She is the author of new adult, women’s fiction, and contemporary romance, a USA TODAY HEA Must-Read Author and a two-time RONE Award nominee.

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Losing the Bid by Suzette Riddick

Parading in front of a room full of women is not Adrian Collins’ idea of a good time. The last thing he wants to do is fly to Chicago for a bachelor auction. But, how can he refuse to help the woman who nurtured him after his mother abandoned him when he was a toddler? Going back to the site of his deepest wounds is where he’ll meet his destiny, Daphne Turner. Adrian is disappointed when Daphne slips through his fingers after losing the bid to an old flame from his past.

Reeling from the death of her uncle, Daphne accepts her best friend’s offer to attend a fundraiser in the windy city. Good cause or not, the idea of spending hard-earned money on a date is ludicrous. That is, until she locks eyes with ruggedly-handsome bachelor number twelve. Unfortunately, the night doesn’t end as Daphne hoped. In the company of a sexy stranger to chase her blues away.

Fate intervenes when Adrian and Daphne’s paths intertwine. However, Adrian’s past threatens to rob them of a life of happiness. Will Daphne’s love be enough to heal his wounded soul?

Excerpt

Finally, the Motrin kicked in leaving a faint trace of pain behind. Ear buds in, Daphne tapped her foot to the beat of Jill Scott singing about life being golden. Turn around, she heard Uncle Hal’s voice whisper. Daphne’s foot stopped its movement. Eyes shifting to the left and then the right, she expected to see her uncle.

“Oh, my God. I’m going crazy,” she mumbled under her breath, hoping the woman in front of her didn’t hear her talking to herself. Turn around. This time the inner voice was more persistent.

Slowly, Daphne complied. The man responsible for her recent agony was less than fifteen feet away. Lord, she was trying not to stare. But how could she not? He was downright sexy with swagger for days. And that grin curving his full mouth made her remember what she’d been missing since her vow of celibacy three years ago. What would those lips feel like kissing every inch of her body? Daphne’s eyes were drawn to his hands and his feet. Ooh, have mercy. Heat flushed her insides as a naughty thought skipped across her mind. Why hadn’t she noticed those big feet the other night?

“We meet again,” came his smooth introduction into what Daphne hoped would be a conversation with them exchanging phone numbers as he stepped in line behind her.

A sultry smile played around Daphne lips. “I don’t recall us meeting.” She wouldn’t dare bring up the dreaded auction.

“My bad.” Adrian held out his hand. “Adrian Collins.”

Daphne hesitated before accepting the proffered hand. Because she felt in her spirit once their bodies made contact, there was no reversing whatever fate awaited her. Awaited them.

“Daphne Turner.” She tilted her head back to look up at him. “You’re a lot taller than I thought you would be.”

Adrian’s laugher sent quivers through her belly.

“And you look a lot shorter than you did Saturday night.”

Moving to close the gap in the line between her and the woman in front, Daphne glanced down at the sneakers covering her feet. “It was the heels.”

She shifted her gaze to the McDonald’s across the hall to hide her flushed cheeks. The memory of how his eyes caressed her bare legs made her inside tingle in the most delicious way.

Daphne held her breath when Adrian leaned forward, bringing his mouth mere inches from the shell of her ear. His breath was warm, stoking a flame in her when he whispered, “You have amazing legs. I damn near tripped over my feet staring at them.”

Was he a mind reader? Daphne wondered.

“Next in line.” The cashier called. Caught in a haze, Daphne hadn’t heard the twenty-something. How was she supposed to hear anything when this man was so close? If she turned her head in the slightest movement, their lips would touch. Sweet baby Jesus! 

 Her eyelids closed, and she inhaled deeply when he leaned even closer. His lips brushed her earlobe when he whispered, “It’s your turn to order.”

Daphne’s eyes fluttered open. Adrian’s teasing smile had a nerve to be as sexy as he was.

Embarrassed, she spun around to take her focus off Adrian. But that wasn’t any better because the cashier giggled. “Listen, if you don’t want him, I’ll gladly take him off your hands.”

“You and half the women in this airport,” Daphne jokingly replied under her breath before placing her order for a white-chocolate caramel latte with soy milk. Adrian covered her hand to stop her from going into her purse.

“I got it,” he told her before adding an order for a black coffee.

After their orders were taken and paid for, they moved to the side of the counter to wait. Although it was only a five-dollar beverage, Daphne was impressed that he offered to pay for it. The last guy she went out with insisted they go Dutch. Cheap bastard.

“Thanks for buying my latte.”

“My pleasure, pretty lady.”

Daphne blushed again. This man was splendid for her ego. When was the last time a man made her feel this good about herself?

“Full of compliments,” Daphne shyly murmured.

Adrian’s laugh was deep and sexy, causing her belly to quiver again. She wondered if he was teasing and playful in bed. Or was he intense and serious? Or was he gifted and possessed with the ability to switch between the two when the mood called for it?

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ABOUT SUZETTE RIDDICK

Suzette Riddick is a wife, mother, and nurse practitioner who enjoys writing about flawed characters on a quest for love. She is an Amazon Best-Selling Author and was a featured author in USA Today ~ Happy Ever After. A native of Philadelphia, PA, Suzette loves to travel, read, and is addicted to Chanel parfum.

To learn more about Suzette visit her website at http://www.suzetteriddick.com.

Know Your Place by Shelly Ellis

Success didn’t come easy for three best friends from the streets. And now dangerous choices and reckless desire will push their bond to lethal limits.

A stint at the Branch Avenue Boys’ Youth Institute taught Ricky, Derrick, and Jamal to unite when the going got tough. But fallout from their very different adult lives is making loyalty something they can’t afford–and igniting drama they never saw coming . . .


Arrested during a city-wide raid, Ricky must inform on D.C’s drug king pin, Dolla Dolla–and find the woman who loved and betrayed him. But revenge is a slippery slope that’s putting a target on his back . . .

Institute head Derrick hopes reuniting with his fiancée will keep his secret affair with a colleague in the past. Unfortunately, one of his students is hiding Dolla Dolla’s major stash–and Derrick’s attempt to do the right thing will have shattering consequences . . .


Jamal’s backroom deal with D.C.’s corrupt mayor is giving him everything he thought he wanted: money, power, and women. But murder and the unexpected return of the woman he’s always loved is getting him in way over his head. His attempts to manage the damage will put him and his friends at killer odds to be the last man standing . . .

Chapter 1

Derrick Miller stared down at the two open suitcases in front of him, closed his eyes for a few seconds, and slowly opened them again.

It was insane but, in the back of his mind, he had hoped they would disappear. Maybe the suitcases—one filled with multiple stacks of hundred-dollar bills bound neatly with multicolored rubber bands, the other stuffed with packs of white powder that was more than likely cocaine—were figments of his imagination, mini mirages right here at the Branch Avenue Boys’ Youth Institute dormitories.

But of course, they weren’t; the suitcases didn’t shimmer then disappear like a waterfall floating in the desert. They were still there with their lids yawning open, and what they contained was bared for all the world to see.

This was real, too real for Derrick’s liking.

“Come on, man! We gonna be late,” someone shouted in the hallway, shaking Derrick out of his stupor.

His eyes darted to the dormitory’s open door as two boys jogged by, probably on their way to their morning classes. Derrick’s eyes snapped back to the suitcases. He couldn’t leave them here. He certainly couldn’t let any of the boys at the Institute see them. He didn’t know whom they belonged to, but he suspected Cole, the student who was assigned to the bunk where he’d found the suitcases, knew who the owner was. He’d talk to Cole later, but his first mission was to find a place to hide these damn things.

Derrick quickly flipped both of the lids closed, zipping each of them with shaking hands. He grabbed the handles and yanked them off the bed. They landed on the linoleum floor with a thud. They had to weigh about a hundred pounds each.

Derrick gritted his teeth as he lifted the suitcases and lugged them to the door, one in each hand. He walked straight down the hall to the stairwell. A few students eyed him curiously. Several boys had a questioning look on their faces, probably wondering what the Institute’s director was doing, carrying luggage down the hall in the middle of the day like he was heading to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport fifteen miles up the road.

“Hey, Mr. Derrick!” one of the boys—dark skinned and stocky—called out as he held open the stainless steel door for him. His dark eyes dropped to the suitcases. “Damn, those look heavy! You need some h—”

“No!” Derrick barked between bursts of breath.

The boy’s ready smile disappeared.

“I mean . . . I mean, no. I-I got it. Th-thanks for asking though,” Derrick stuttered with a slight grimace.

The boy nodded just as Derrick disappeared into the stairwell and made the slow trek down the stairs to the floor below. With each step, the suitcases felt heavier and heavier. Sweat erupted on his forehead and rolled down the bridge of his nose. The short bursts of breath came out faster, making a faint whistle between his clenched teeth. The tendons and muscles in his arms started to jitter. His heart was beating fast from the stress and the strain. When he finally pushed the steel door open and reached his office, he didn’t lower the suitcases to the floor as much as hurl them.

He shut his office door behind him, locked it, and looked around frantically for a place to hide the suitcases. The office didn’t have a storage closet and the suitcases certainly wouldn’t fit in any of his cabinets or shelves. The only spot where they could possibly fit was a corner beside his file cabinet. He shoved them both into the dusty, dark space.

By now, not only was his brow sweaty, but pools of sweat had also formed under his armpits. His palms were slick with it. Sweat even dripped down his back and the crack of his ass.

When Derrick finally finished shoving the suitcases into the hiding space, he dragged across the floor a potted fiddle-leaf fig tree his fiancée, Melissa, had given him for his birthday to add a little softness to his sterile office. He set it in front of the suitcases. He then stood back and surveyed his handiwork.

It was a questionable hiding job—the plant barely provided any coverage—but it would have to do for now.

He flopped back into his rolling chair and let out a slow, long exhale. It took another ten minutes for his heart to finally return to its normal pace, for his hands to stop shaking.

How the hell did those things even get here?

How had the boys managed to smuggle something so heavy and massive into the dorms, right under the noses of the instructors and security guards? When had they done it? It must have been recently because the suitcases certainly would have been noticed during their weekly inspections of the boys’ bunks and lockers. Had someone else brought them?

Cole knows all the answers, he thought, staring at the fig tree. And that boy better tell me the damn truth!

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About Shelly Ellis

Shelly Ellis is a NAACP Image Award-nominated women’s fiction/romance author and creator of the Gibbons Gold Digger and Chesterton Scandal series. Her fiction writing career began when she became one of four finalists in a First-Time Writers Contest when she was 19 years old. The prize was a publishing contract and having her first short-story romance appear in an anthology. She has since published several novels and was a finalist for 2015 NAACP Image Award in the Literary Fiction Category, a three-time finalist for the African American Literary Award in the romance category (2012, 2016, and 2017), and a finalist for the 2015 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in Multicultural Romance category.

She is married and lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland with her husband and their daughter. Visit her at her web site http://www.shellyellisbooks.com.

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Rhyme & Reason by Nia Forrester

“Maybe friendship is all that’s realistic for us right now.”

With those words, Zora ended their long-distance relationship, shattering Deuce’s vision of a life with the only woman he’s ever loved. But after months of silence, he thought he was over it. He’d moved on, hadn’t he? And as far as he knew, she might have done the same. Now Zora is back from California, and he’s thrown into an immediate tailspin. Nothing’s changed.

She’s the one, the only, his rhyme, and his reason …

But this ain’t no college romance. There are serious, grown-folks’ obstacles standing in the way, and the other woman in his life isn’t even the half of it.

And sometimes growing up might mean moving on …

Over a few short summer weeks, Deuce and Zora will have to decide whether the great love they shared in the past, is enough of a foundation to build a future.

EXCERPT:

“Hey. Could you FaceTime me?”

“What?” she asked, thrown by the unexpected turn of the conversation.

“FaceTime. You still have an iPhone, right?”

“Yeah …” She let the word drag.

“So, I want to see you while I talk to you.”

“That’s not safe. You’re driving,” she said.

But she was already considering it, inventorying herself. The headscarf, the puffy eyes, the ratty old tank top stretched-out and hanging low at the neck and armholes. But he had seen her at her worst, and at her best. It wouldn’t matter to him whether she was in full makeup or had none on at all; whether she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or had sleep-swollen, puffy eyes.

“It’s on a holder thing, on the dashboard. I’ll be hands-free.”

“But you’ll be looking away from the road,” she protested.

Still, it excited her a little, and pleased her more than a little that he wanted to see her. For the first few weeks when she was in California, if she called, he would decline the calls, and FaceTime her instead.

You’re so pushy, she’d complained half-heartedly. What if I was sitting on the toilet or something?

I’ve seen you sitting on the toilet, he’d answered, matter-of-factly. Many times.

“I promise I’ll only glance away from the road,” he said now. “I feel like I understand what you mean better when I can see your face.”

“Fine,” Zora said sighing. “I’ll call you back in a minute.”

She took her breakfast sandwich with her out to the living room and arranged her phone, propping it against some of her textbooks. Sitting opposite it, she tested the camera to make sure that when she was seated, it didn’t train itself up the leg of her shorts.

Grabbing her sandwich and taking the first bite, she initiated the video-call. Deuce picked up right away, and there he was. Wearing a white t-shirt, his face was a little scruffy, like he hadn’t cleaned up the edges of his goatee. He looked sexy as hell, like he had just rolled out of bed.

Glancing away from the road for a moment, he flashed her a grin and Zora smiled back, unable to help herself.

“Still got that same old scarf, huh?” he said.

“It’s been broken-in,” she said, laughing. “It’s irreplaceable. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh, I understand,” he said, shaking his head. “That scarf is like an old friend of mine.”

“More like an old nemesis,” she said remembering how he always tugged it off her head before they had sex.

“So, before I asked you to FaceTime, what were you about to say?”

“I can’t remember,” she lied.

“I think I know,” he said.

“Then tell me. What was I about to say?”

“You were about to dump me again. You were about to say that you don’t think it’s a good idea that we talk. That I shouldn’t call you.”

He glanced at the camera, and Zora looked down, because he was right. It was an impulse, understandable as far as she was concerned, to distance herself as far as possible from a source of pain. And if Deuce had a girlfriend, that was what staying in touch with him would be. Possibly more painful than not being in touch over the past several months had been.

Instead of responding, she reached for her breakfast sandwich and took another bite, chewing slowly to buy herself time.

“That’s it, right? I was about to get cut?”

Zora kept chewing. Even through a camera lens it was difficult to look directly at him.

“You don’t think that might be …”

“A good idea? No,” he said before she was finished.

He looked at her for what felt like a few moments too long, and Zora almost had to tell him to keep his eye on the road.

“How ‘bout we just talk about … law school?” he suggested.

“You want to hear about law school?” she said, skeptically.

“Yeah. If you can listen to me talk about music, I can listen to you talk about law school. You made the Dean’s List, didn’t you?”

“Actually, I didn’t,” she said.

Deuce glanced at the camera. He looked surprised.

“How come?”

Zora shrugged. “Distracted, I guess. I made good enough grades to transfer, so … that was the most important thing.”

“Why were you distracted? And why didn’t you tell me when you decided to transfer?”

“A lot was going on.”

“Like you breakin’ up with me? A lot like that?”

“Deuce.”

“Okay,” he said. “I promise I won’t talk about that. Just so long as you promise me something …”

“What’s that?” she asked, cautious.

“That you won’t cut me off again. That no matter what happens, we’ll keep talkin’. No matter what.”

***

About Nia Forrester

Nia Forrester lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA where, by day, she is an attorney working on public policy and by night, she crafts woman-centered fiction that examines the complexities of life, love and the human condition.

She welcomes feedback and email from her readers at authorniaforrester@gmail.com or tweets @NiaForrester.

Subscribe to her newsletter for exclusive shorts, giveaways and news of upcoming releases at: https://bit.ly/2X3yLGW

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The Southern Seduction Series by S. Taylor

HONEYDEW (BOOK ONE) & I’M YOURS (BOOK TWO) BY S. TAYLOR

Stand-Alone: yes
Series: Southern Seduction
Publication Date:  February 7, 2019
Publisher: Garden Avenue Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Heat Level: Erotic
Tropes: Insta-love (Honeydew and I’m Yours), Blackmailed into marriage (Honeydew)

Honeydew
ISBN: 978-1-940636-78-8 (Ebook edition)
ISBN: 978-1-940636-80-1 (Paperback edition)

I’m Yours
ISBN: 978-1-940636-75-7 (Ebook edition)
ISBN: 978-1-940636-79-5 (Paperback edition)

Release Blitz: February 21, 2019


Southern Seduction series by S. Taylor

Honeydew

Clarisse Jordan is a young single mother, who after the death of her fiancé, poured blood, sweat, and tears into her business, Honeydew Café, to provide for her children. A catering gig for successful and super sexy Dylan Price is the opportunity of a lifetime. But she quickly learns that Mr. Price is interested in more than her Southern cuisine. He has his sights set on her.

Dylan has been in love with Clarisse for years and would do anything to have her—even if it means forcing her into marriage. Lucky for him, the instant chemistry between them is hotter than a mid-summer day beneath the Georgia sun.

Yet Dylan is not completely honest with Clarisse, and when she learns the painful truth, will their love affair end? Or will they be able to find their way back to each other?

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Read an Excerpt

It’s only been a few years since I buried the love of my life. I hear the word marriage and it pulls me from my thoughts of Frost, and I pay close attention.

“I think that’ll be enough time to plan, wouldn’t you agree?”

“To what?”

“Clarisse, were you not listening to me this whole time?”

I shake my head, not caring that I give myself away. Shit, this whole situation is new for me. It’s not every day a girl gets a blackmail or a proposal—I need time to process.

“I said, we’ll marry at the end of the month. That gives enough time to plan.”

“What?!”

“If I knew I could get away with it, I’d marry you with the hour. I think four weeks is reasonable, and I’m not pushing the date out longer,” he says with finality.

I don’t even protest, really. What would be the point? He continues, noting his mother will arrive next week—maybe sooner—to help with the planning.

“You’ve already told her?” My eyes, I know, are wide as saucers.

“Of course not, but I know Delta Price, and when I tell her we’re getting married, she’ll be on the first thing smoking.”

“Are you going to tell her I was with Frost?”

His handsome features soften, and my heartbeats start to quicken with worry of what she’ll think of me, jumping from one friend to the other. Even if they lost touch, Dylan and Frost shared a bond of friendship. He must know what I’m thinking. “She already knows of you and the twins. She was at the funeral.”

“Oh,” I whisper.

“We won’t have time right after the wedding for a honeymoon. I have some business to wrap up in New York, so we’ll go there instead, me, you, and the kids. I’ll take you on a proper honeymoon after I finish my business.”

“What if my business won’t allow me the time off to travel to New York or wherever else?” I press my lips and raise an eyebrow, challenging him.

He only smiles and continues laying out the details.

“Honeydew will be our primary residence. I’ve always loved the place and having a family to share in my joy is what I want.”

“I sure hope it stays that way, because I am building a business, let’s not forget.” I can’t hold my tongue on this matter, and have no problem reminding him at every turn. The only reason I’m allowing him to force my hand is to keep my business and my kids’ home. I’m giving up my freedom, but not my independence.

“I want to kiss the fire right off those soft lips.” He licks his and smiles at me.

I’m equal parts pissed and equal parts aroused. Pissed, because he’s smiling as if I’m an adorable child throwing a fit, and aroused because…well that’s what Dylan Price does to me. I stand, needing to get away from him, because if I don’t, I will turn into a child throwing a fit.

I don’t make it far before being spun around, and my mouth devoured by Dylan. He holds my face captive between strong hands. Dylan tastes amazing. His lips are fast becoming addictive. I soften into him against my will. I want to rage and fight, but how can I when he smells and tastes so delicious?

Soft pulls on my lips end an extremely heated exchange. “Your business will always be important. Don’t forget that.” He takes a few more pulls from my mouth. “Let me give you something else to never forget.”

I’m Yours

Peggy Jordan had long ago closed the door on her heart’s desires, accepting she would never have a loving husband and family of her own. Then a friend asks her to care for an orphaned little girl, and she meets the child’s last living relative. With him, her patience is tested, her desires are unleashed, and she gets the first taste of a life she’d always felt was out of reach.

Years ago, Trevor Duncan left Savannah and vowed never to return. He traveled to remote corners of the globe, helping people, and helping himself to countless women in emotionally-empty relationships. A phone call in the middle of the night changes his entire life. He has a niece who needs him, and when he meets the woman caring for her, he’s consumed with having her all to himself.

Their desire is strong. Their love is instant. But can they learn to trust each other and survive the road to happily-ever-after?

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I’m passing the broom in my kitchen, attempting to clean up as much of the flour from my homemade pie crusts and pizza dough as I can. It’s another pizza and movie Saturday, and Trevor hasn’t come over with Adeline yet. I check the time again and it’s almost noon.

Clarisse’s nanny will be here around two with the twins for the play date. Adeline has been so excited for this day all week. Before they took off last night, she promised to go to sleep fast so morning could come quicker.

When Trevor wasn’t at my door bright and early with Adeline and a cup of Starbucks coffee, my first thought was to text him. Instead of, Are you still coming? I texted, Missing my morning cup of Joe. I have yet to receive a reply.

After putting away the broom and dust pan, I walk over to the work desk in the corner of my kitchen and grab my cell from the charger. I pull up Trevor’s number, ready to call, when a hard knock to the front door startles me. I power walk to the front entry and open the heavy wood door. Adeline rushes in and hugs my legs so tight, as if she didn’t just leave me last night. Her hair is all over her head, and she’s wearing rubber boots with her night clothes.

She looks a hot mess. I hold her face in my hands and lift it so I can see her expression. “Is everything okay?’

“No,” Trevor answers.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Water pipe broke sometime in the middle of the night.” He’s holding a cup of Starbucks coffee. I’m guessing he saw my text. I smile and take the cup. “We woke to water everywhere this morning. I’m thankful it only reached the top of the baseboards. Hate to think what could have happened if it touched the wall plugs in that old house.”

My blood runs cold and I feel lightheaded at the thought. I recall when I first laid eyes on that old house, I questioned Trevor’s logic. Here he is with enough money to purchase three of my houses with no discomfort, and he settles on renting a small, old house.

“‘It’s my first home. We don’t need much, and it’s temporary,’” he had told me, and I realized Trevor was no typical rich asshole.

I hold Adeline tight and move from in front the door. I’m squeezing her, repeatedly kissing her cheek, grateful to see her face. When I think I’ve composed myself, I pull back and ask her to head upstairs so she can cleanup and dress before her play date. She runs up the stairs to her room, and I rush into Trevor’s waiting arms.

I’m holding him a little awkward because of my coffee cup, but Trevor has me completely engulfed in a strong embrace. “What are you going to do?”

He takes a breath before answering. “I reserved a room at a hotel in town.”

“Why?” I give him a confused look. “You know you can stay here. Adeline has gone through so many changes. Her room is familiar, and we have a routine.” I smile before adding, “The two of you are here over ninety percent of the day anyway.”

Trevor gives me a smile and I pray he agrees. I make one more attempt at getting my way, but this next statement is equally as true as the last. “I’m so happy you and Adeline are safe. To even give the smallest of my energy to the thoughts of what could have happened… I want to lock you both away so you’re safe forever. Right now I need you to say yes, Trevor.”

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ABOUT S. TAYLOR

S. TAYLOR discovered a love of storytelling at the age of twelve. She would entertain her cousins with exciting adventures and tales of young love, which changed over the years from telling tales at sleepovers to writing several short stories. For S. Taylor writing remained a hobby until 2009 when she decide to share this love with others. She writes love at first sight romance novels full of passion, erotic moments, and emotional conflicts with a satisfying happily ever after ending. She is a Texas native, wife, and busy mother of five daughters. She spends her free time mediating sibling arguments, relaxing with yoga, and discovering new and tasty vegan dishes she enjoys cooking for her family.

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The Winter Wedding by A.C. Arthur

The Winter Wedding

Blurb:

Premier event designer, Cheyna Dansfield, just landed the most talked about event of the year—the wedding of art mogul, Monica Lakefield and communications guru, Alexander Bennett. Hard work and dedication has brought Cheyna this far, now she refuses to let a gorgeous man and the risk of murder charges threaten her future.

Public relations dynamo, Logan Williams, was hired to create a family-friendly image for the Lakefield Galleries. The upcoming Lakefield/Bennett wedding could be a stellar media splash and add another feather to his professional cap—if he can keep his hands off the gorgeous and uptight wedding planner.

Logan and Cheyna attempt to keep their passionate affair a secret until the dead bodies turn up and Cheyna becomes the prime suspect.

***

0_0 So, somebody gets smoked during all this weddin’ plannin’? Yikes! And I thought this was a sweet, feel-good romance. Click it up!!!!

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Issa Giveaway! Giveaway! I Said, It’s a Giveawaaaaay!

I am hosting a giveaway of the upcoming release, Chasing Savannah, by Dria Andersen.

Can’t you tell by the cover that this one is gonna be a little bit cray? In a good way, though…

Blurb:

Being born the Alpha’s granddaughter should have meant an easy life for Savannah Landry. Being born latent however, made her life in the prowl hierarchy a constant challenge. Those challenges and a Seer’s ominous vision drove her from, both her family and her place in the prowl. She kept her distance from panther politics, and all things shifter, fighting the awful prediction. While hard, she’d managed, until two alpha panthers came to town and tempted her…

Former Army Rangers, Carlos Ayala and Derrick Lincoln had spent years together fighting, both longing for territory for their burgeoning prowl. Finding the city confining, they headed south, hoping to merge with a prowl in need of a strong Alpha. They had shared women in the past, but never loved the same woman until they set eyes on the alpha’s granddaughter.

Fated mates or not, convincing Savannah to disregard the Seer’s words and give their mating a chance proved tougher than two ex-soldiers had bargained. Especially when there are forces conspiring against their new prowl.

***

Bish, whet?! Ca-raaaay! Yes, this is a shifter romance. Yes, there is some MFM (or is it MMF) action goings on. So, do not enter this giveaway unless you’re 18+.

So, what would I win in this here giveaway?

  • An autographed copy of the book, because that’s, like, so cool…
  • A canvas tote bag, because that’s, like, fabulous and multi-functional
  • A delicious-smelling candle, because that’s, like, aromatically awesome
  • And popcorn, because that’s, like, a tasty edible while you read your autographed book by the candlelight of your smelly

Ok, I’m in… How do I enter?

Very simple: Comment on this post, and you’re automatically entered. That’s freaking it. I ain’t got time to be tracking who follows my blog, who liked the post, who shared the post (although, you would be doing me a solid…)

The contest will run for exactly one week, and I will announce the winner on Christmas Eve. That’s 12/24/18. The winner will have 48 hours to send me their contact info. If the winner is a no-show, I will keep it moving to the next runner-up and so on…

Now, get ta commenting and good luck!

***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***

Thank you to everyone who participated. The winner will be announced on 12/26. Merry Christmas to all!

The Billionaire’s Legacy by Reese Ryan

Chile… They had me at black billionaire…

When reminiscing over the past ignites a secret night of passion between a billionaire and his childhood crush, they end up with more than just their memories of that night.

“Just for tonight.”

Until their chance reunion takes a sharp turn…toward twins.

Tech billionaire Benjamin Bennett can’t resist a steamy weekend with Sloane Sutton—his crush on her goes way back. But when he tracks her down, she’s pregnant—with twins! Now their fling needs trust to survive. Benji wants a wedding; his family claims she’s a gold digger. But Sloane won’t be bought—or married. Can they find common ground…and a shot at forever?

Excerpt:

He swallowed her gasp in response to the sudden move, kissing her harder. Losing himself in the clash of lips and tongue and the delicious sensation of their bodies moving against each other, desperate for more contact than their clothing would permit.

He savored her intoxicating scent and relished the feel of her full breasts with their hardened peaks pressed against his chest.

She glided her fingertips down his stomach and fumbled with his belt buckle, loosening it.

“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this,” he whispered, his lips brushing her ear.

Sloane’s hands froze. Her eyes opened and her gaze had shifted from one of intense desire to one of regret.

“Hey, beautiful.” Benji traced her cheekbone with his thumb. “Did I say something wrong?”

“I shouldn’t have come here, and we shouldn’t be doing this.” She lowered her gaze.

He was seconds away from making his boyhood fantasy a reality and he’d blown it, because he couldn’t keep his stupid mouth shut.

Way to go, Benj.

“Why not?” He spoke calmly, trying to put her at ease. “We’re consenting adults.”

“I’ve known you since you were five. You’re my best friend’s little brother. I’ve introduced you as my little brother.” She shook her head, her eyes still not meeting his. “This is bad. What would Delia say? And what would your parents think?”

“My mother will never believe anyone is good enough, and my sister adores you.” Benji dropped a slow, lingering kiss on her lips.

“Because I’m her friend, who she trusts not to blow into town and screw her little brother.” She jabbed him in the gut, but her lips parted to his tongue when he kissed her again.

“You’re too young for me, Benji,” she whispered against his lips as he slid the silky, blue material down her shoulder.

He kissed the shell of her ear. “Five years mattered then. It doesn’t now.”

“I’m not looking for a relationship, Benj.” She pressed her hands to his chest, halting his movement as her gaze met his. Still, she hadn’t moved an inch. Her legs framed his as she awaited his response.

“Neither am I,” he said finally. “That doesn’t mean we can’t be together. I want you, Sloane. And I know you want me, too.” He slowly tugged the zipper down her back. The silky, cobalt blue material slid from her shoulders, giving him better access. He trailed kisses down her shoulder and across the top of her breasts, exposed by a pale pink strapless bra. “Just for tonight.”

She sucked in a deep breath and let the material slip down her arms and pool around her waist. Sloane unbuttoned his pants and inched the zipper down. The sound echoed off the solid oak floors and shiplap walls. She leaned in to kiss him. “Just for tonight.”

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ABOUT REESE RYAN

Reese Ryan serves up sexy, emotional romantic fiction with a cast of complex characters and a heaping side of family drama.

Born and raised in the Midwest, Reese now resides in Central North Carolina where she treads the line between being a Northerner and a damned Yankee, despite her insistence on calling soda pop. She gauges her progress by the number of “bless your lil’ hearts” she receives each week. She is currently down to two.

Past president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Reese is an advocate for the romance genre and diversity in fiction.

 

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New Release: The Breakup Plan by Tia Kelly

meet drew.

Drew Wilkerson is a dangerous man. Not in the physical sense. Well, yeah, technically it could be related to something physical, but he’s the type of man that could get away with the most ratchet of offenses and walk away from the incident both unscathed and with two more women fighting to give him some.

Six three. Runner’s build. Colgate megawatt smile with the charm to match. Can wear the heck out of a suit, jeans, basketball shorts… damn near anything and everything. After-hours radio voice. Hell, any time is the right time for that voice. And did I mention the brother has blue eyes? Drew says they’re hazel, but if that’s the case, it’s not the usual green-meets-brown version. When he wakes in the morning, all you see in them is a sea of crystal-blue depth. Piss him off and they remind me of steel. Whether you want to say they’re hazel, blue, gray-blue, or whatever, those bad boys are intense. Staring into them for more than five seconds will pin your ass to a wall so fast you’ll want to cosign turning over all your good credit for anything he could ask for. Although that wouldn’t be necessary.

Did I mention he’s loaded? Just dropped seven figures on his crib in Philly (and before you assume, I’m not talking about low, barely-reaching-million-dollar-status numbers, either), and that’s before the contractors were instructed to turn it into the home of his dreams.

– Avery Coleman

meet avery.

My Avery. I turn around to see her standing in the entry to my room, but she brings a smile to my face simply from the sound of her voice and the warm vanilla bean and coconut scent filling the air. She never can decide which is her favorite smell, and to be honest, I like the combination on her.

The smile on my face is there because I haven’t hugged my girl in weeks, and I’ve missed her, but it doesn’t take long for it to slip off.

“Hey.” She pauses mid-stride toward my open arms and frowns. “You okay?”

I should probably explain. I didn’t expect to see Avery looking the way she does. I’ve seen her hair in countless ways, from her usual Freddie on A Different World go-to style, to weaves, to bohemian braids hanging past her ass, to the small cornrows on the side with a mass of curls piled high on top vibe she’s going for now, so her curly ’hawk look doesn’t surprise me.

It’s seeing the roundness of her adorable caramel apple cheeks slimmed out and revealing a hint of cheekbones, making the diamond and pearl studs I gave her stand out a little more. Hell, it makes even her mouth look…

Sh*t, I don’t have time for a sexual harassment lawsuit, so I better not say. But what I can mention is the mustard tank she has on shows off shoulder blades that are more defined than the last time I saw them, when she wore a single-shoulder gown to a fundraiser a few months back.

And her waist. Jeans hug curves, but these curves aren’t hers. She still has one of those asses folks sing about, saying a beat was made for, but that’s not why I sometimes catch myself staring at her.

I do just because she’s Avery.

– Drew Wilkerson

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“Drew. What are you doing in here?”

“It looked pretty chill and inviting, so I thought I’d hang out in here away from the activity.” There is some truth in that. The lounge in the ladies’ room has seating that should be in someone’s living room. Running a hand down my face, I nod toward one of the chairs. “Have a seat.”

She stands, rooted in place, drying her hands on a paper towel.

“Please,” I add.

Her heels click softly against the floor tiles as she makes her way to the deep purple velvet loveseat, where I sit on the edge, taking me back to our night in New York in the back seat of the SUV. When she takes her seat, I can see the relief on her face and have to restrain myself from massaging her feet again.

“Hey.”

She keeps her arms folded firmly across her breasts and stares at me.

So I stare back.

I know Avery, but she’s also an open book. This whole defiant stance isn’t for me, it’s about her. Avery doesn’t trust herself right now. The longer I look at her, absorbing everything about her like I usually do, the sooner she’ll cave. She always does.

A couple of minutes later, she lowers her arms to relax her stance. Finally. Progress.

Except something happens that I didn’t expect. I cave right along with her. The confusion in her eyes, the sweetness in her face—all that sucks me in and takes me back to what we shared when I last saw her.

Our faces creep closer and closer, and without thinking, we share another kiss.

Her splayed hands across my chest push back, and abruptly our kiss ends. She fingers the edge of her mouth to clean up her lipstick and shakes her head. “You have to leave.”

“Leave?”

“Drew, I’m getting married tomorrow. This. Us. This can’t keep happening.”

ABOUT THE BREAKUP PLAN

A man without a plan is a shell without purpose.
Which is why when I sat down nine years ago and put pen to paper, mapping out a ten-year plan, I meant business. Everything that could set me up for a lifetime of joy had to go down on the list, and every day, I worked my ass off to fulfill it.
Open my own sports agency. Check.
Earn first million by my thirtieth birthday. I did that a week before I turned twenty-six.
Negotiate the most lucrative contract in Major League history. Did that, too. Then went and broke my own record. (Thanks, big bro!)
I could go on, but this isn’t about bragging. It’s me admitting that in the midst of drafting something that helps shape and mold much of my success, I still made a costly mistake.
One day I realized all those entries with corresponding checkmarks are pointless if I don’t factor into the equation the most important goal of all. Avery.
Perhaps way back then I wasn’t ready to see how much my best friend of fifteen years deserved that number one spot in my life. Maybe I was blind, since the whole “settle down and get married” scenario wasn’t my thing. But now that I’m aware of the role I need her to fill in my life, there’s no such thing as letting go until I can convince her to be mine.
Her being about to marry someone else does make winning her heart a little bit dicey. But if there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I always play to win. And losing Avery is nonnegotiable.

The Breakup Plan
A Best Friends to Enemies Romance

He ruined her wedding day and he’ll do it again until she’s his.

ABOUT TIA KELLY

Tia Kelly is the author of contemporary and women’s fiction. She is known for her candid way of capturing life, love and relationships… one story at a time.


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Coming Soon and a Giveaway: Four by Nia Forrester

Four couples, four transitions, four seasons of marriage …

Grace

Most couples wouldn’t have weathered one mistake of the kind Shawn made when he and Riley first got married, let alone emerge with a commitment that’s stronger, a beautiful family and a love that’s even deeper. Is there any way their relationship can survive mistake number two?

Balance

Whatever Brendan wants, Brendan gets. It’s an arrangement Tracy doesn’t mind, because he provides everything she needs: love, financial security and the comfort of never having to work outside the home. But now, the most important thing she wants, he doesn’t have the time—or maybe even the will—to give. With a relationship built on giving all of herself, is it fair to now ask for a piece back?

Growth

Robyn’s career is in a growth-spurt just as Chris’ seems to be at its natural end. No longer empire-building, he’s struggling with his new reality, and the need for a sense of purpose separate from his work. His wife seems way too busy to notice. That is, until someone else does. 

Renewal

Once a mistress, now just a suburban wife and working mother, Keisha doesn’t recognize herself most days. The problem is, Jayson doesn’t either. If he’s reading her right, she wants out. And unless she’s mistaken, he might not mind too much if she decided to go.

The ‘Commitment’ series finale.

Coming Soon from Nia Forrester

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About Nia Forrester

Nia Forrester lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA where, by day, she is an attorney working on public policy and by night, she crafts woman-centered fiction that examines the complexities of life, love and the human condition.

She welcomes feedback and email from her readers at authorniaforrester@gmail.com or tweets @NiaForrester.

 

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