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Excerpt Tour: Sight Unseen

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Have you picked up the SIGHT UNSEEN anthology? It features five intriguing, sexy, and surprising stories from five incredible authors – but you don’t know who wrote which story – YET. The reveal is coming soon, but in the mean time, we’re sharing the opening of each of the five stories, one per week! Check it out below and pick up your copy now!

About SIGHT UNSEEN

What stories would you tell if you could? Where would your mind take you, if you let it? Five of the top voices in romance dare you to explore the most distant corners of their imaginations as they test the limits of storytelling and break the boundaries of what even they thought possible, teasing and tormenting you shamelessly as they go.

But there’s a twist—the author of each story is a secret at the time of release. They’re each plumbing the depths of the human heart and mind in ways they’ve never attempted before. Taking you high, bringing you low, until you will be hardpressed to guess who wrote what. Can you tell? Want us to?

Too bad our lips are sealed . . . for now.

Lost That Feeling

Alma knew who she was, once—that is, before she erased her memory with a spell. Some, like the guards at the prison in which she’s held, say that she was a thief, a murderer.

Others say she was a hero. Like Driss, the man who rescues her. He claims to be a friend. He’s certainly handsome. And charming. And brave. In a word: perfect.

That’s the problem. If he’s perfect and she’s a hero, how did she end up in prison with a seven-year hole in her memory to begin with?

A Clear View of You

As a child, Kate had one dream: to escape her mother’s deluded hippie commune and live in the real world, where mature adults know that magic isn’t real. But the real world also has its downsides—like rent, student loans, and a cutthroat job market.

Happily, Kate is uniquely qualified for one in-demand position: psychic. Of course, she’s as fake as the rest of them, but nobody plays a fortune-teller as convincingly as a girl raised by a would-be witch. If only Kate’s newest client weren’t so perceptive . . . and attractive. If only crystal balls didn’t have the habit of lighting up in his presence.

Magic isn’t real, right? Kate is about to find out otherwise . . .

Free

Brad White would be an ordinary accountant with an unrequited crush except for two things: he works for a criminal motorcycle club, and he’s in love with the club president’s daughter. When she discovers the truth about the family business, Brad has to move beyond ordinary and put his life on the line to keep her safe.

Wren Masters, unlike everyone else in her graduating class, chose to stay in Fallow, Montana because, also unlike everyone else, she loves it. But when she finds out her father’s club is running drugs, her family and world crumble. She and Brad risk everything to uncover the truth . . . and begin a scorching affair.

As the conspiracy—and their feelings—deepen, Brad and Wren must choose between family and justice. And neither seems to include a future for them.

Chariot of Desire

CJ Crespo, drummer for the once wildly popular rock band Donjon, has always had a thing for frontman Donny Times. They spent the seventies getting high together, making music together, self-destructing together. But her qualms about ruining a creative partnership with sex kept them from ever hooking up. Now, Donny’s conversion to a bizarre fringe religion that won’t allow him to engage in—or even sing about—sex, drugs, or other “sins” threatens to tear Donjon apart.

As the band struggles to embrace a new decade and a new Donny, CJ must decide where she belongs: by Donny’s side, even if he can’t ever love her? Or out there making her own music, away from a man who gives and takes in equal measures?

The Heart is a Universe

On the remote planet of Pax Cara lies the greatest secret of the universe. Once every generation, the inhabitants must offer up an exceptional young person—the Chosen One—who sacrifices his or her own life for the sake of that secret, and the planet itself.

However, Vitalis, the current Chosen One, is desperate to free herself from the yoke of destiny. An unexpected invitation to an aristocratic summit seems to be the perfect opportunity for escape. But almost as soon as she arrives, the most eligible prince in existence proposes marriage.

Sparks fly, but Vitalis is wary. Eleian of Terra Illustrata can have any woman he wants. Why has he set his sight on Vitalis, who, unless she manages to flee, will die in sixteen days? Is he hiding an ulterior motive, one that could put everything in jeopardy—her plans, her life, and her heart?

Get your hands on SIGHT UNSEEN:

Open Ink Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Read the opening of CHARIOT OF DESIRE:

August 17th, 1983

Donny Times threw up before he went onstage, spattering the lighting technician’s new Converse. There was only one way to handle this sort of lapse in indestructibility with grace. He grinned at the techie and said, “Twelve thousand people would kill to be in your shoes right now.” The grin did little to staunch the sudden flow of misery, his sense of being something small and ugly. It was as though the scrambled eggs and Captain Morgan in his stomach were all that had been keeping him inflated tonight, and now he shriveled like a burnt tick. He gagged again, but nothing else came up. He put out an arm to ward off assistance, if assistance was forthcoming. His eyes clouded and he staggered forward, muttering, “Not tonight. I’m not going out there tonight. I’m not.”

CJ Crespo caught him by the arm and pulled him aside. Put her forehead to Donny’s and said, “Pull it together, shithead.” Her short blonde hair fell over her eyes—a little greasy looking, the way she liked it. She smelled like chicken wings and cigarettes. Her grip on his arm was rough, fingertips digging into his biceps with a rhythm that reminded him of a creature throbbing inside an egg, pressing against membrane and shell until that first delirious split. Everything CJ did had a pulse, felt like something ancient being born. His hand fumbled to find her arm, to return the odd embrace, but CJ pushed him away. Shook her hair from her eyes and rounded her broad shoulders. Almost grinned. “Get your ass out there.”

About the Authors:

Emma Barry

Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, and recovering academic. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hugs from her twins, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea. You can find her on the web at www.authoremmabarry.com.

Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran is the author of eleven novels, all published by Pocket Books. Her debut, The Duke of Shadows, has been translated into thirteen languages and together with her sophomore book, Bound by Your Touch, was ranked among the top 100 romances of all time in the 2010 All About Romance poll. Her other books include RITA award winner Fool Me Twice; Wicked Becomes You, which was included on Woman’s World list of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010; and her February 2017 release, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, which both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly called “flawlessly executed” in their starred reviews.

Meredith blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. When not writing, Meredith enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.

Connect with Meredith at MeredithDuran.com.

J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

Website: www.jarockauthor.com

Blog: http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39

Erin Satie

Erin Satie is the author of the dark and elegant No Better Angels series, historical romances set in the early Victorian period. She’s currently hard at work on her upcoming series, Sweetness & Light, which should be just as elegant but not quite so dark.

Erin is a California native who’s lived on the coasts and in the heartland, in tiny city apartments and on a working farm. She studied art history in both college and graduate school—research is always her favorite part of starting a new book.

Her favorite part of finishing a book, whether reading or writing, is the happily ever after.

Website: www.erinsatie.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinsatie/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/erinsatie

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/2DiAf

Sherry Thomas

USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas loves intricate plots, explosive action, and combustible love stories. She has written romance, fantasy, mystery, and a wuxia-inspired duology. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as the New York Times and National Public Radio. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

And by the way, English is her second language.

You can find out more about Sherry’s books at SherryThomas.com.

Excerpt Tour: Sight Unseen

Posted on

Have you picked up the SIGHT UNSEEN anthology? It features five intriguing, sexy, and surprising stories from five incredible authors – but you don’t know who wrote which story – YET. The reveal is coming soon, but in the mean time, we’re sharing the opening of each of the five stories, one per week! Check it out below and pick up your copy now!

About SIGHT UNSEEN

What stories would you tell if you could? Where would your mind take you, if you let it? Five of the top voices in romance dare you to explore the most distant corners of their imaginations as they test the limits of storytelling and break the boundaries of what even they thought possible, teasing and tormenting you shamelessly as they go.

But there’s a twist—the author of each story is a secret at the time of release. They’re each plumbing the depths of the human heart and mind in ways they’ve never attempted before. Taking you high, bringing you low, until you will be hardpressed to guess who wrote what. Can you tell? Want us to?

Too bad our lips are sealed . . . for now.

Lost That Feeling

Alma knew who she was, once—that is, before she erased her memory with a spell. Some, like the guards at the prison in which she’s held, say that she was a thief, a murderer.

Others say she was a hero. Like Driss, the man who rescues her. He claims to be a friend. He’s certainly handsome. And charming. And brave. In a word: perfect.

That’s the problem. If he’s perfect and she’s a hero, how did she end up in prison with a seven-year hole in her memory to begin with?

A Clear View of You

As a child, Kate had one dream: to escape her mother’s deluded hippie commune and live in the real world, where mature adults know that magic isn’t real. But the real world also has its downsides—like rent, student loans, and a cutthroat job market.

Happily, Kate is uniquely qualified for one in-demand position: psychic. Of course, she’s as fake as the rest of them, but nobody plays a fortune-teller as convincingly as a girl raised by a would-be witch. If only Kate’s newest client weren’t so perceptive . . . and attractive. If only crystal balls didn’t have the habit of lighting up in his presence.

Magic isn’t real, right? Kate is about to find out otherwise . . .

Free

Brad White would be an ordinary accountant with an unrequited crush except for two things: he works for a criminal motorcycle club, and he’s in love with the club president’s daughter. When she discovers the truth about the family business, Brad has to move beyond ordinary and put his life on the line to keep her safe.

Wren Masters, unlike everyone else in her graduating class, chose to stay in Fallow, Montana because, also unlike everyone else, she loves it. But when she finds out her father’s club is running drugs, her family and world crumble. She and Brad risk everything to uncover the truth . . . and begin a scorching affair.

As the conspiracy—and their feelings—deepen, Brad and Wren must choose between family and justice. And neither seems to include a future for them.

Chariot of Desire

CJ Crespo, drummer for the once wildly popular rock band Donjon, has always had a thing for frontman Donny Times. They spent the seventies getting high together, making music together, self-destructing together. But her qualms about ruining a creative partnership with sex kept them from ever hooking up. Now, Donny’s conversion to a bizarre fringe religion that won’t allow him to engage in—or even sing about—sex, drugs, or other “sins” threatens to tear Donjon apart.

As the band struggles to embrace a new decade and a new Donny, CJ must decide where she belongs: by Donny’s side, even if he can’t ever love her? Or out there making her own music, away from a man who gives and takes in equal measures?

The Heart is a Universe

On the remote planet of Pax Cara lies the greatest secret of the universe. Once every generation, the inhabitants must offer up an exceptional young person—the Chosen One—who sacrifices his or her own life for the sake of that secret, and the planet itself.

However, Vitalis, the current Chosen One, is desperate to free herself from the yoke of destiny. An unexpected invitation to an aristocratic summit seems to be the perfect opportunity for escape. But almost as soon as she arrives, the most eligible prince in existence proposes marriage.

Sparks fly, but Vitalis is wary. Eleian of Terra Illustrata can have any woman he wants. Why has he set his sight on Vitalis, who, unless she manages to flee, will die in sixteen days? Is he hiding an ulterior motive, one that could put everything in jeopardy—her plans, her life, and her heart?

Get your hands on SIGHT UNSEEN:

Open Ink Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Read the opening of FREE:

Brad

Ethics were funny things. I liked to think mine were intractable, that the line between what I would and wouldn’t do was so bright they could see it from space. Then Wren Masters would stroll into our office, and I’d have to face the truth—I was a liar.

I flipped the coffee maker switch back and forth a few times. Several seconds passed before the light sputtered on. It was a crummy machine in a crummy town, so the hesitation was honest enough.

No, my lying had nothing to do with the town or even the office itself, a prefab from the seventies standing in front of a used car lot and garage. It was more about who owned this shitty establishment and what they used it for: the Lone Gun Motorcycle Club, and drugs.

To the rest of the world I was an accountant. I didn’t wear a pocket protector, but it didn’t matter; I was the moral, boring type. Except I knew I was aiding and abetting felons.

Take this morning. I had more than enough evidence that my ethics were worth jack even before I watched Wren stroll toward the building, her brown-blonde hair streaking out behind her like a sail, before I scrutinized the roll of her hips and the cling of her blouse—could something that tiny be called a blouse?—before I could see how the anemic October sun lit her face. Because while I might be a good accountant in the absolute barest sense, what I did for Lone Gun wasn’t good.

When Wren propped the door open, said, “Morning, hot stuff,” and my stomach flip-flopped like a pancake, I knew my motives—lifelong unresolved lust—made what I did even worse.

About the Authors:

Emma Barry

Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, and recovering academic. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hugs from her twins, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea. You can find her on the web at www.authoremmabarry.com.

Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran is the author of eleven novels, all published by Pocket Books. Her debut, The Duke of Shadows, has been translated into thirteen languages and together with her sophomore book, Bound by Your Touch, was ranked among the top 100 romances of all time in the 2010 All About Romance poll. Her other books include RITA award winner Fool Me Twice; Wicked Becomes You, which was included on Woman’s World list of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010; and her February 2017 release, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, which both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly called “flawlessly executed” in their starred reviews.

Meredith blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. When not writing, Meredith enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.

Connect with Meredith at MeredithDuran.com.

J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

Website: www.jarockauthor.com

Blog: http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39

Erin Satie

Erin Satie is the author of the dark and elegant No Better Angels series, historical romances set in the early Victorian period. She’s currently hard at work on her upcoming series, Sweetness & Light, which should be just as elegant but not quite so dark.

Erin is a California native who’s lived on the coasts and in the heartland, in tiny city apartments and on a working farm. She studied art history in both college and graduate school—research is always her favorite part of starting a new book.

Her favorite part of finishing a book, whether reading or writing, is the happily ever after.

Website: www.erinsatie.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinsatie/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/erinsatie

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/2DiAf

Sherry Thomas

USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas loves intricate plots, explosive action, and combustible love stories. She has written romance, fantasy, mystery, and a wuxia-inspired duology. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as the New York Times and National Public Radio. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

And by the way, English is her second language.

You can find out more about Sherry’s books at SherryThomas.com.

Excerpt Reveal: The Secret by Christie Ridgway

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Today we have the excerpt reveal of The Secret by Christie Ridgway! Check it out and grab your copy when it comes out on August 15th!

Title: The Secret

Author: Christie Ridgway

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Day: August 15th

About The Secret:

Being butler to a widower and single father is a dream job in more ways than one for Charlotte “Charlie” Emerson. She helps keep businessman Ethan Archer’s household running without a hitch and enjoys every minute she has with his six-year-old son, Wells. But as time passes, the situation feels alarmingly intimate and when her heart starts beating faster each time Ethan steps through the door, Charlie must exert rigid control over her feelings.

With her secret, falling in love would be all kinds of bad…

Ethan Archer values the woman who keeps his life in order and cares so much for his motherless boy. He and Charlie act in harmony with each other and it’s not hard to picture them as a little family…in fact, it’s so easy, one reckless night he proposes a marriage of convenience.

What will he do if Charlie says yes? And worse, what if she tells him no?

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

Exclusive Excerpt:

Charlie returned to the kitchen to deal with the dishes and restore the pots and pans to their proper place. She liked tidiness and order in all things—emotions included. Emmaline sometimes accused her of capping off her feelings, and Charlie didn’t disagree. Or find anything wrong with it.
“In my book,” she murmured to herself now, “compartmentalizing isn’t a sin.”
“What’s not a sin?” a masculine voice questioned.
Charlie whirled around, instant heat crawling up her throat and cheeks. “Um, hi, Ethan.” Her boss had been on a business trip for the past couple of weeks. Why hadn’t she taken the time to change into something other than cropped leggings and a matching T-shirt? When was the last time she’d brushed her hair?
He smiled, softening the lines of his lean and handsome face. At their first meeting, he’d claimed to be “on the dark side of thirty-five” but she’d met younger men who didn’t come close to his level of attractiveness.
“Charlotte,” he said now.
She pretended to scowl at him and told herself that she found his use of her full name—he was the only one who ever did use it—irksome. It made her feel too…feminine, and she was supposed to merely be a functional feature in his life. A Charlie.
“Must you?”
His laughter was low, almost intimate. “On occasion, I must.”
Ignoring the traitorous pleasure she felt in his presence, she busied herself with refolding a kitchen towel. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“You were lost in thought.” A heavy pause. “Something about sinning?”
At the amused and inquisitive tone, she glanced up at him. He looked back, one dark eyebrow winged up and the hint of a smile on his firm lips. A shiver tried working its way down her spine, but she ruthlessly held back the sensation.
“It was nothing,” she said.
“I’m disappointed to hear that.” He laughed again, sounding slightly chagrined. “For a moment I thought one of us was breaking out of our rut.”

About the Author:

Christie Ridgway is a California native and author of fifty contemporary romances. A six-time RITA finalist and USA Today bestselling author, she writes award-winning, emotional reads starring determined heroines and the men who can’t help but love them. Christie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, went to college in Santa Barbara, and now is married to the sweetheart she met there.

She started off as a technical writer and moved on to computer programming before having two sons and pursuing the dream she’d held since childhood–writing romance novels. Her first book stars a hero who was a former professional surfer and since then she’s written about businessmen, TV stars, soldiers, journalists, vintners, race car drivers, and horror novelists. What her heroes have in common is their resistance to love and their hardest of falls when they finally do find their right woman.

Connect with Christie:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Enter Christie’s Giveaway:

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Excerpt Tour: Sight Unseen Anthology

Posted on

Have you picked up the SIGHT UNSEEN anthology? It features five intriguing, sexy, and surprising stories from five incredible authors – but you don’t know who wrote which story – YET. The reveal is coming soon, but in the mean time, we’re sharing the opening of each of the five stories, one per week! Check it out below and pick up your copy now!

About SIGHT UNSEEN

What stories would you tell if you could? Where would your mind take you, if you let it? Five of the top voices in romance dare you to explore the most distant corners of their imaginations as they test the limits of storytelling and break the boundaries of what even they thought possible, teasing and tormenting you shamelessly as they go.

But there’s a twist—the author of each story is a secret at the time of release. They’re each plumbing the depths of the human heart and mind in ways they’ve never attempted before. Taking you high, bringing you low, until you will be hardpressed to guess who wrote what. Can you tell? Want us to?

Too bad our lips are sealed . . . for now.

Lost That Feeling

Alma knew who she was, once—that is, before she erased her memory with a spell. Some, like the guards at the prison in which she’s held, say that she was a thief, a murderer.

Others say she was a hero. Like Driss, the man who rescues her. He claims to be a friend. He’s certainly handsome. And charming. And brave. In a word: perfect.

That’s the problem. If he’s perfect and she’s a hero, how did she end up in prison with a seven-year hole in her memory to begin with?

A Clear View of You

As a child, Kate had one dream: to escape her mother’s deluded hippie commune and live in the real world, where mature adults know that magic isn’t real. But the real world also has its downsides—like rent, student loans, and a cutthroat job market.

Happily, Kate is uniquely qualified for one in-demand position: psychic. Of course, she’s as fake as the rest of them, but nobody plays a fortune-teller as convincingly as a girl raised by a would-be witch. If only Kate’s newest client weren’t so perceptive . . . and attractive. If only crystal balls didn’t have the habit of lighting up in his presence.

Magic isn’t real, right? Kate is about to find out otherwise . . .

Free

Brad White would be an ordinary accountant with an unrequited crush except for two things: he works for a criminal motorcycle club, and he’s in love with the club president’s daughter. When she discovers the truth about the family business, Brad has to move beyond ordinary and put his life on the line to keep her safe.

Wren Masters, unlike everyone else in her graduating class, chose to stay in Fallow, Montana because, also unlike everyone else, she loves it. But when she finds out her father’s club is running drugs, her family and world crumble. She and Brad risk everything to uncover the truth . . . and begin a scorching affair.

As the conspiracy—and their feelings—deepen, Brad and Wren must choose between family and justice. And neither seems to include a future for them.

Chariot of Desire

CJ Crespo, drummer for the once wildly popular rock band Donjon, has always had a thing for frontman Donny Times. They spent the seventies getting high together, making music together, self-destructing together. But her qualms about ruining a creative partnership with sex kept them from ever hooking up. Now, Donny’s conversion to a bizarre fringe religion that won’t allow him to engage in—or even sing about—sex, drugs, or other “sins” threatens to tear Donjon apart.

As the band struggles to embrace a new decade and a new Donny, CJ must decide where she belongs: by Donny’s side, even if he can’t ever love her? Or out there making her own music, away from a man who gives and takes in equal measures?

The Heart is a Universe

On the remote planet of Pax Cara lies the greatest secret of the universe. Once every generation, the inhabitants must offer up an exceptional young person—the Chosen One—who sacrifices his or her own life for the sake of that secret, and the planet itself.

However, Vitalis, the current Chosen One, is desperate to free herself from the yoke of destiny. An unexpected invitation to an aristocratic summit seems to be the perfect opportunity for escape. But almost as soon as she arrives, the most eligible prince in existence proposes marriage.

Sparks fly, but Vitalis is wary. Eleian of Terra Illustrata can have any woman he wants. Why has he set his sight on Vitalis, who, unless she manages to flee, will die in sixteen days? Is he hiding an ulterior motive, one that could put everything in jeopardy—her plans, her life, and her heart?

Get your hands on SIGHT UNSEEN:

Open Ink Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Read the opening of A CLEAR VIEW OF YOU:

Monday afternoon at five o’clock was not a good time to pick up chips and a sports drink. The line to the cashier felt like the front of a war zone. The enemy—armed with shopping carts, crying children, and cell phones—was making a last-minute siege.

If I’d known, I would have just gone to the 7-11, Kate thought. Sometimes she wished she were a real psychic, instead of a fake one. Things would be so much easier.

She sighed and shifted her weight. The giant thermometer on the wall read ninety-one degrees—a record for late November. On the wall behind the checkout counter, a giant plastic turkey squawked Season’s Greetings! Overhead, a Christmas soundtrack was piping in through the sound system. Crappy speakers. Frank Sinatra sounded like Betty Boop. God, she was hungover.

Some stiff in a suit rolled his cart right over her toe. She yelped and turned to glare, but he was already elbowing his way through the next line, completely oblivious. She transferred her glare to her shoes. Birkenstocks. Symbol of all she loathed. Given the choice, she’d be in heels. But after her little argument with Luna last week, she knew better than to show up at work in civilian gear. Her boss’s patience was stretched thin. One more screw-up, and Kate would be back in the unemployment line—and worse yet, out on the street. She was already late on this month’s rent.

Is that why you blew thirty bucks at the bar last night?

She found herself chewing a nail. There went her manicure. Annoyed, she started to push her hands into the back pockets of her jeans—and realized too late she wasn’t wearing any. Dozens of little bells burst off her floor-length skirt, plummeting and jingling to the floor.

People turned to look. One middle-aged woman did a double take, then smirked.

Kate frowned. So what? She was dressed as a New Age hippie; no big deal. This was Berkeley, after all. Some people didn’t wear any clothes.

About the Authors:

Emma Barry

Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, and recovering academic. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hugs from her twins, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea. You can find her on the web at www.authoremmabarry.com.

Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran is the author of eleven novels, all published by Pocket Books. Her debut, The Duke of Shadows, has been translated into thirteen languages and together with her sophomore book, Bound by Your Touch, was ranked among the top 100 romances of all time in the 2010 All About Romance poll. Her other books include RITA award winner Fool Me Twice; Wicked Becomes You, which was included on Woman’s World list of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010; and her February 2017 release, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, which both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly called “flawlessly executed” in their starred reviews.

Meredith blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. When not writing, Meredith enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.

Connect with Meredith at MeredithDuran.com.

J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

Website: www.jarockauthor.com

Blog: http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39

Erin Satie

Erin Satie is the author of the dark and elegant No Better Angels series, historical romances set in the early Victorian period. She’s currently hard at work on her upcoming series, Sweetness & Light, which should be just as elegant but not quite so dark.

Erin is a California native who’s lived on the coasts and in the heartland, in tiny city apartments and on a working farm. She studied art history in both college and graduate school—research is always her favorite part of starting a new book.

Her favorite part of finishing a book, whether reading or writing, is the happily ever after.

Website: www.erinsatie.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinsatie/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/erinsatie

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Sherry Thomas

USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas loves intricate plots, explosive action, and combustible love stories. She has written romance, fantasy, mystery, and a wuxia-inspired duology. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as the New York Times and National Public Radio. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

And by the way, English is her second language.

You can find out more about Sherry’s books at SherryThomas.com.

Excerpt Reveal: Beneath The Truth by Meghan March

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From USA Today bestselling author Meghan March comes the final sexy standalone set in the Beneath world of New Orleans.

I used to believe there were lines in life you don’t cross.
Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal.
Until I learned people don’t always practice what they preach.
I turned in my badge and gun and walked away from everything.
Then I got the call no one wants, and I’m back in New Orleans.
What I don’t expect is for her to be here too.
Another line you don’t cross?
Don’t touch your best friend’s little sister.
She’s always been off-limits.
Too bad I don’t follow the rules anymore.

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“Fine. If you don’t want to play me, I’m sure there’s someone in this bar who will.”

She rose from the bar stool and smoothed her dress down her thighs. I swore it looked longer at the cemetery than it did right now, inching up her toned legs. The shoulders and chest were sheer black lace, as sophisticated as could be, but the lace took on a sexier edge in the dim light of the bar. I’d lay money on her being the classiest thing this place had ever seen. And damn, what those heels did for her . . .

I ripped my gaze away from her ass to focus on her face.

Her lips flattened in obstinate challenge before she strutted toward the pool table. And yeah, I used the word strutted because there was no other way to describe how she walked in those stilettos now that her attitude was flaring.

Heads turned to follow her progress, and two guys jumped off their stools to follow her.

Oh, hell no. Not a chance, assholes.

I pushed off my seat and stalked toward her. Ari’s back was to me when I stopped behind her at the cue rack. She spun around, unaware of my presence, and smacked into my chest, a pool stick trapped between us. She sucked in a breath, jerking her head up.

“Sorry. Didn’t realize you were so close.”

Years ago, she never would have lost track of where I was if we were in the same room. The realization was a blow to my ego, although not unexpected. I no longer made the cut on her priority list, and that stung.

Rather than move and give her space, I reached around her to snag a cue off the rack, letting my arm brush her shoulder.

Ah . . . there it is. Her facial expression remained static, but her involuntary shiver gave her away. Maybe I’m not off the list completely.

I didn’t know why it mattered, but after the last few brutal days, I needed something good to distract me from the shit show that was my life. And there was no doubt in my mind that Ariel Sampson was everything good.

Her spine straightened and she bobbed around me, avoiding contact in favor of racking the balls and lining them up.

“Do you want to break?” she asked.

“Ladies first.”

Ari rolled her eyes and reached for the chalk. With her stick prepped, she leaned over the edge of the table, her ass jutting out and the hem of her dress riding up her thigh.

Lord . . . I groaned silently. This was torture.

Haven’t I been through enough? I tossed the question skyward and received no sign the big man had heard me.

I tore my gaze off her ass and scanned the bar. Mistake. My fist tightened around the pool cue as a reflex, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t use it to smack every jerk in this bar back into line if they didn’t quit staring. Double standard? Sure. But I didn’t care.

With a step behind her, I blocked the most direct view and turned to glare at all of them. Thankfully, Heath’s interest was hooked on the waitress working our table. One by one, the gazes dropped away, and I turned back to Ari, marginally satisfied that they picked up what I was throwing down. Off-limits, assholes.

Ari cursed and stood up straight, leaning lightly on her pool cue. “Dammit. I had that shot.”

I scanned the green felt and found half her balls were missing. “Jesus, what were you doing? Trying to clear the table?”

Her nose went up in the air. “Trying? If I wanted to clear the table, it would be clear. It’s just angles.”

“Brainiac as always.”

Ari shrugged, but I caught a hint of a smile. “Didn’t you hear? It’s cool to be a geek now.”

I had no doubt that wherever she lived in California, she was exactly what was cool. Shit, she had every man’s attention in this bar.

“You were always cool in my book, Red. My turn.” Even though I wanted to wait for her smile, I chalked my cue and sank two shots before missing the third.

“Not bad.” Her nonchalant tone made me grin.

“I try.”

Her eyes finally locked on mine. “I succeed.”

Hell. Why was that statement so damned sexy coming from her lips?

She pushed off her pool cue and spun around to face the table again, her dress sliding up another inch as she bent over the table.

My dick pulsed against my jeans.

Heath is going to kill me.

meghanmarchpic

Meghan March has been known to wear camo face paint and tromp around in woods wearing mud-covered boots, all while sporting a perfect manicure. She’s also impulsive, easily entertained, and absolutely unapologetic about the fact that she loves to read and write smut. Her past lives include slinging auto parts, selling lingerie, making custom jewelry, and practicing corporate law. Writing books about dirty talking alpha males and the strong, sassy women who bring them to their knees is by far the most fabulous job she’s ever had. She loves hearing from her readers at meghanmarchbooks@gmail.com.

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Sight Unseen Excerpt Tour

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Have you picked up the SIGHT UNSEEN anthology? It features five intriguing, sexy, and surprising stories from five incredible authors – but you don’t know who wrote which story – YET. The reveal is coming soon, but in the mean time, we’re sharing the opening of each of the five stories, one per week! Check it out below and pick up your copy now!

About SIGHT UNSEEN

What stories would you tell if you could? Where would your mind take you, if you let it? Five of the top voices in romance dare you to explore the most distant corners of their imaginations as they test the limits of storytelling and break the boundaries of what even they thought possible, teasing and tormenting you shamelessly as they go.

But there’s a twist—the author of each story is a secret at the time of release. They’re each plumbing the depths of the human heart and mind in ways they’ve never attempted before. Taking you high, bringing you low, until you will be hardpressed to guess who wrote what. Can you tell? Want us to?

Too bad our lips are sealed . . . for now.

Lost That Feeling

Alma knew who she was, once—that is, before she erased her memory with a spell. Some, like the guards at the prison in which she’s held, say that she was a thief, a murderer.

Others say she was a hero. Like Driss, the man who rescues her. He claims to be a friend. He’s certainly handsome. And charming. And brave. In a word: perfect.

That’s the problem. If he’s perfect and she’s a hero, how did she end up in prison with a seven-year hole in her memory to begin with?

A Clear View of You

As a child, Kate had one dream: to escape her mother’s deluded hippie commune and live in the real world, where mature adults know that magic isn’t real. But the real world also has its downsides—like rent, student loans, and a cutthroat job market.

Happily, Kate is uniquely qualified for one in-demand position: psychic. Of course, she’s as fake as the rest of them, but nobody plays a fortune-teller as convincingly as a girl raised by a would-be witch. If only Kate’s newest client weren’t so perceptive . . . and attractive. If only crystal balls didn’t have the habit of lighting up in his presence.

Magic isn’t real, right? Kate is about to find out otherwise . . .

Free

Brad White would be an ordinary accountant with an unrequited crush except for two things: he works for a criminal motorcycle club, and he’s in love with the club president’s daughter. When she discovers the truth about the family business, Brad has to move beyond ordinary and put his life on the line to keep her safe.

Wren Masters, unlike everyone else in her graduating class, chose to stay in Fallow, Montana because, also unlike everyone else, she loves it. But when she finds out her father’s club is running drugs, her family and world crumble. She and Brad risk everything to uncover the truth . . . and begin a scorching affair.

As the conspiracy—and their feelings—deepen, Brad and Wren must choose between family and justice. And neither seems to include a future for them.

Chariot of Desire

CJ Crespo, drummer for the once wildly popular rock band Donjon, has always had a thing for frontman Donny Times. They spent the seventies getting high together, making music together, self-destructing together. But her qualms about ruining a creative partnership with sex kept them from ever hooking up. Now, Donny’s conversion to a bizarre fringe religion that won’t allow him to engage in—or even sing about—sex, drugs, or other “sins” threatens to tear Donjon apart.

As the band struggles to embrace a new decade and a new Donny, CJ must decide where she belongs: by Donny’s side, even if he can’t ever love her? Or out there making her own music, away from a man who gives and takes in equal measures?

The Heart is a Universe

On the remote planet of Pax Cara lies the greatest secret of the universe. Once every generation, the inhabitants must offer up an exceptional young person—the Chosen One—who sacrifices his or her own life for the sake of that secret, and the planet itself.

However, Vitalis, the current Chosen One, is desperate to free herself from the yoke of destiny. An unexpected invitation to an aristocratic summit seems to be the perfect opportunity for escape. But almost as soon as she arrives, the most eligible prince in existence proposes marriage.

Sparks fly, but Vitalis is wary. Eleian of Terra Illustrata can have any woman he wants. Why has he set his sight on Vitalis, who, unless she manages to flee, will die in sixteen days? Is he hiding an ulterior motive, one that could put everything in jeopardy—her plans, her life, and her heart?

Get your hands on SIGHT UNSEEN:

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Read the opening of LOST THAT FEELING:

These assholes again.

Alma sighed and resettled herself on the floor, flexing haunches gone numb from extended sitting. One of the nice things about being stuck in a prison that used to be a fancy asylum—euphemistically called the Safe House in both incarnations—was that her cell had a carpet. An oval of braided silk, stained and faded but still smooth to the touch. Sometimes she sat on the carpet, sometimes on the bed. That was all the variety her life offered these days, so she tried to appreciate it.

“You ever hear about the Barstou raid?” asked Enes, the idiot night guard.

“That the one where Alma got lost on the way to the Barstou villa?” asked Hoph, the other idiot night guard.

They were all idiots, actually.

“Can’t storytime wait for the break?” Alma asked, idly sucking at the scar tissue where one of her thumbnails used to be.

She had no memory of her capture, but the stuff that’d come after was fresher than most of the meat they served here. Like, for example, having all of her fingernails pulled out. They’d healed well enough; sucking and biting eased the occasional lingering ache.

“You’re getting the stories mixed up.” Hoph propped an elbow against the wall, where the fading primrose-pink paint was peeling away to reveal a layer of buttercup yellow. This had been a cheerful place once.

About the Authors:

Emma Barry

Emma Barry is a novelist, full-time mama, and recovering academic. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hugs from her twins, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea. You can find her on the web at www.authoremmabarry.com.

Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran is the author of eleven novels, all published by Pocket Books. Her debut, The Duke of Shadows, has been translated into thirteen languages and together with her sophomore book, Bound by Your Touch, was ranked among the top 100 romances of all time in the 2010 All About Romance poll. Her other books include RITA award winner Fool Me Twice; Wicked Becomes You, which was included on Woman’s World list of Best Beach Reads for Summer 2010; and her February 2017 release, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, which both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly called “flawlessly executed” in their starred reviews.

Meredith blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history, and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after. When not writing, Meredith enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.

Connect with Meredith at MeredithDuran.com.

J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

Website: www.jarockauthor.com

Blog: http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39

Erin Satie

Erin Satie is the author of the dark and elegant No Better Angels series, historical romances set in the early Victorian period. She’s currently hard at work on her upcoming series, Sweetness & Light, which should be just as elegant but not quite so dark.

Erin is a California native who’s lived on the coasts and in the heartland, in tiny city apartments and on a working farm. She studied art history in both college and graduate school—research is always her favorite part of starting a new book.

Her favorite part of finishing a book, whether reading or writing, is the happily ever after.

Website: www.erinsatie.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/erinsatie/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/erinsatie

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Sherry Thomas

USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas loves intricate plots, explosive action, and combustible love stories. She has written romance, fantasy, mystery, and a wuxia-inspired duology. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as the New York Times and National Public Radio. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

And by the way, English is her second language.

You can find out more about Sherry’s books at SherryThomas.com.

Excerpt Reveal: The Beauty of Us by Kristen Proby

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From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby comes a sexy, new standalone contemporary romance in her Fusion Series, THE BEAUTY OF US, releasing August 22, 2017! Check out the chapter below and get to know Trevor and Riley!

About THE BEAUTY OF US:

New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby delivers another sizzling novel in her delectable and sexy Fusion series.

Riley Gibson is over the moon at the prospect of having her restaurant, Seduction, on the Best Bites TV network. This could be the big break she’s been waiting for. But the idea of having an in-house show on a regular basis is a whole other matter. Their lives would be turned upside down, and convincing Mia, her best friend and head chef of Seduction, that having cameras in her kitchen every day is a good idea is daunting. Still, Riley knows it’s an opportunity she can’t afford to pass on. And when she meets Trevor Cooper, the show’s executive producer, she’s stunned by their intense chemistry.

Trevor’s sole intention is to persuade Riley to allow Best Bites TV to do a show on her restaurant. But when he walks into Riley’s office, he stops dead in his tracks. The professional, aloof woman on the phone is incredibly beautiful and funny. But can he convince her that he’s interested in Riley for himself? Or is he using the undeniable pull between them to persuade her to agree to his offer?

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And Don’t Miss the First Three Novels in the Fusion Series, LISTEN TO ME, CLOSE TO YOU, and BLUSH FOR ME!

Chapter 2

~Trevor~

I didn’t sleep worth shit last night. I waited for a response to my e-mail from Riley for a while; I’m not exactly sure why. I just don’t like the thought of her being embarrassed.

Because she has no reason to be. She didn’t know who I was, and it was closing time. She was venting to her friends.

It’s really no big deal.

But I could see the mortification in her big blue eyes when she realized who I was, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

When no response came, and for all I know she hasn’t even read the e-mail yet, I sat down for a game on the PS4. I don’t travel anywhere without it. Some people read to unwind. Some go to the gym, and there are times I do the same. But to truly relax, I enjoy gaming. I have since I was a kid.

So I settled in the apartment the network has rented for me this month and played online with my friends, talking about our days and shooting the enemy.

We played well past midnight, and I usually would have gone right to bed afterward, but my mind was still turning, making falling asleep impossible. The restaurant is better than I imagined through my research on their website and customer reviews. It’s visually stunning, the food is fantastic, and they’ve hit the mark on the sexy factor.

But added to that, the five women who own the place are all beautiful, smart, and will make for great TV. Viewers will eat this show up, pun intended.

I lean over the sink and wash my face, not bothering to shave today, and as I dry off, I reach for my phone.

I have several new e-mails.

The most recent is from Riley Gibson.

Trevor,

Thank you for your kind email. I apologize again for the conversation last night. I would like to promise that we don’t always talk like that at work, but that would be a lie. At least we keep it to closing time over a glass of wine.

Enjoy Portland,

Riley

I grin and sling the towel over my bare shoulders. Riley isn’t what I had pictured in my head before I got here. I knew that she was pretty because their photos are on their website, but she’s much prettier in person.

And animated.

Working with her will be fun.

And a test to my libido. Because Riley is fucking sexy. I’ve never mixed business and sex before, and I don’t plan to start now, but keeping my hands off her will be a test of wills.

And that too should be fun.

After my run this morning, I stopped by a bagel place to eat and read a newspaper, came back to the apartment for a shower, and I think I’ll go to Seduction for lunch. I hadn’t planned to go back there until my meeting with Riley tomorrow, but I also haven’t had lunch there yet.

I dress quickly in jeans and a red T-shirt and walk the six or so blocks to the restaurant.

They’ve just opened, so they’re not busy yet. The atmosphere is calm, the lighting a bit brighter than last night, making it a fun spot to meet with colleagues or friends for lunch.

I’m seated on the far side of the restaurant, where it meets the bar, and I can see Riley and the other women sitting around a high table, talking.

Loud enough for me to hear.

“So, he’ll be here tomorrow. Filming doesn’t start for another week, unless the timetable has been moved up,” Riley says, studying her iPad and checking things off a list. “It would be great if we could watch our language.”

“Right,” Mia says, rolling her eyes. “Because that’s gonna happen.”

“Just watch the F-bombs then,” Riley says with a grin. “And I’ll do my best not to vent to him about my horrible dating experiences. Not that I’ll be having any more of those.”

“I wish I’d been here for that,” Addie says with a smile. “It’s hilarious.”

“No, it’s not,” Riley says, but smiles and covers her lips with her fingers. “Okay, it’s a little funny. I’ll be working from home today.”

“Why?” The blonde speaking, I presume Cami, asks.

“Because I have a roofer coming today,” Riley says. “But if you need me, just call. I can come back after he leaves.”

“Go.” Mia waves her off. “We’ve got this.”

The girls all stand, about to go their own ways to get their day started. They’re clearly good friends, which will come across well on film.

Riley walks out of the bar and glances up, spotting me.

“Hi.” I offer her a smile and motion for her to join me. She sits, sets her iPad aside, and squares her shoulders.

I love a woman with grit.

“Why are you here?” she asks.

“I’m having lunch,” I reply, and gesture to the salad sitting in front of me. “It’s delicious. Adding the brussels sprouts is smart.”

“I’ll pass that along to Mia,” she says, and then laughs. “I guess you heard the part where I asked the girls to not swear.”

“I did,” I reply, and patiently butter a piece of warm bread. “Don’t worry about that stuff. They’re adults.”

“With potty mouths,” she says.

“And we can bleep stuff out, or ask them to rephrase. You’ve already got the gig, Riley. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. This isn’t an audition.”

“I know.” She sighs and reaches over to take a piece of my bread, surprising and delighting me. “I just want things to go smoothly.”

“Perhaps you should order lunch too.”

“I don’t have time,” she says, and then her blue eyes widen as she realizes what she just did. “I’m so sorry. I eat when I’m stressed out, and I didn’t—”

“No.” I hold my hand up to stop her. “It’s fine. I like that you’re relaxed with me. I think you need to relax more often.”

“What are you, my life coach now?”

“If you like. Did you cancel those dating sites like I suggested?”

She bites her lip and looks to the side, then nods. “I did.”

“Good.” I take a bite of salad and nod. “Are you sure you don’t want some food?”

“I rarely have time to eat,” Riley says, and checks the time on her phone. “In fact, I should go. I have to meet the roofer at my house.”

“What’s wrong with your roof?”

“It’s old,” she says with a shrug. “That’s what happens when you buy an old house. I’m fixing it up a little at a time.”

I nod, and find that I don’t want her to go quite yet. I want to talk more, to learn more about her.

“Why don’t you come to my apartment tonight and I’ll cook you dinner?”

She pauses and stares at me for a moment. “Why?”

I laugh and set my fork down. “Because I asked you to. We’re going to be working closely over the next few weeks, we might as well get to know each other a little better. Also, we can discuss my new duties as your life coach.”

“Well.” Her lips twitch as she thinks it over for a moment, a myriad of emotions moving across her beautiful face, and finally she says, “Okay. Do you mind texting me the address and the time?”

“Not at all,” I reply, and immediately pass her my phone. “Plug in your number and I’ll text you this afternoon.”

She complies, passes it back, and smiles. “Okay, see you later.”

And with that, she’s off. Her ass swaying enticingly in her tight skirt, calves flexing from the height of her heels, and the food I’m currently chewing immediately tastes like cardboard.

Jesus.

And I just voluntarily offered to spend time with her. Alone.

I’m a fucking glutton for punishment.

[no ornament]

“I’m starving,” Riley immediately says as I open the door. She’s in jeans and a well-loved University of Oregon sweatshirt, her hair is pulled up in a ponytail, and she looks like she could be a co-ed herself. “I forgot to eat today.”

“Does that happen every day?” I ask as I gesture for her to come inside and close the door behind her.

“Most days,” she admits. “Is this one of those bad choices that you’re gonna coach me through?”

“Yes,” I reply, and lead her into the kitchen. “You have to eat.”

“I know, I just get focused on other things, and the next thing I know, the day is gone and I’m starving.” She passes me two bottles of wine. “I didn’t know what we were having, so I brought red and white.”

“Thanks.” I grin and set them both on the counter. “I made salmon and asparagus with baby red potatoes. What goes best with that?”

Her eyes light up. “The white. Holy shit, are you a chef yourself?”

“I went to culinary school,” I reply, and squeeze some lemon on the salmon before plating it. “But I discovered I was better at a desk job.”

“That’s unusual,” she says, her head tilted to the side as she listens. “Most people fight to get out of a desk job.”

“Not me. I have a ton of respect for Mia, because being a chef isn’t easy, and pleasing people sucks.”

“True.” Riley nods. “She doesn’t get many plates sent back to her, but there are a few. Can I pour you a glass?”

“No thanks,” I reply, and reach in the fridge for a bottle of water. “I don’t drink alcohol.”

“Oh.” She frowns. “I’m sorry. I can drink water too.”

“It’s fine,” I reply, and pat her shoulder. “I don’t mind if you drink. I just don’t.”

“But last night, you were drinking Jack and Coke.”

“Nope, just Coke.”

She sits at the table, still frowning. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry for.” I set our plates down. “I’ve been sober for ten years. I’m not the kind of alcoholic who can’t be around others having a drink. It was never that bad for me. I’m just a better person if I don’t drink.”

“Good for you for knowing that,” she says, holding her glass out to clink against my water. “This looks delicious.”

“You sound surprised.”

“I expected pizza or Chinese takeout,” she says. “Honestly, that’s probably what you would have gotten from me. I’m also surprised that you’re not staying in a hotel.”

“I’m here long enough that the network sprung for the apartment. They usually do when I’m somewhere longer than a week or so.”

“You must travel a lot for this job,” she says, eating her food like a starving child. I don’t know if she even tastes it, she’s eating so fast.

“I travel often,” I reply, and grin when she takes the last bite. “Are you going to lick the plate?”

“Maybe,” she says with a grin. “I’m not even embarrassed that I ate that so fast. It was delicious.”

“I’m glad you liked it. There’s more.”

“No, I’m good,” she says, and reaches in her bag, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. “You can eat while I interview you.”

“For what?”

“For the position of life coach,” she says with a sassy grin. I want to kiss that grin right off her face, but instead I take a bite of potato and gesture for her to begin.

“Okay, first question: What qualifications do you have that make you a good fit for this position?”

“Well, I have a few years on you, so I would say wisdom with age.”

She tilts her head to the side, the way she does when she’s turning something over in her head. “You can’t be that much older than me.”

“I’m thirty-seven.”

“Seven years,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“A lot can happen in seven years,” I reply, and sip my water.

“Okay, I’ll give you that.” She checks something off on her paper.

“Did you really write down questions?”

“Of course. I’m the queen of lists and the roofer was at my house forever.” She bites her lip as she looks at her list. “How many women have you life-coached in the past?”

“Well, I didn’t have an official job title, but I have two younger sisters, and an ex-wife, so I would say three.”

“But the wife is an ex, so maybe that did go well?” Riley asks. “And are your sisters productive members of society?”

“As opposed to being in jail?” I ask, laughing. “You’re hilarious, Riley.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“My sisters are great. The older one is married, a stay-at-home mom with two kids, and the younger one is a waitress.”

“But the ex-wife thing didn’t work out.”

“She’s not a mess, we just both decided that she shouldn’t be my wife anymore.”

“Why?”

I sit back in my chair and wipe my mouth on my napkin. “Because she thought it was a good idea to have sex with other men.”

Her eyebrows climb on her forehead and she blinks twice. “That’s a good reason.”

“I thought so.”

“Okay, next question.” She checks something on her paper and looks up at me with a smile. “How do you intend to be compensated for your work?”

“I’m working pro bono,” I reply with a wink.

“Why?”

“Because I’m going to be here anyway, and why not.” I shrug and finish the food on my plate. “What else do you want to know?”

“Is my coming to a virtual stranger’s apartment by myself one of the bad decisions you should have coached me on?”

I smile and set my plate aside so I can lean on the table. “Did the girls tell you that coming here by yourself was a bad idea?”

“I only talked to Cami and she thought I should come. Plus, I have a concealed carry, so I feel pretty confident that I’m safe.”

I raise a brow and cross my arms over my chest. “You carry a gun with you?”

“Hell to the yes,” she replies, and offers me a sweet smile. “I’ve been meeting strange men on the Internet. You bet your ass I’ve been armed.”

“Good idea,” I reply with a nod. “There are a lot of crazies out there.”

“Yes. But I think that if you’re gonna meet a crazy, it could be anywhere. Online, in a bar, at the gas station. They’re everywhere.”

“That’s true too,” I reply, and nod. “Well, I’m glad you’re being cautious.”

“I’m nobody’s victim,” she says, as casually as if she’s telling me her shoe size.

That’s fucking sexy.

“Do you have any other questions?”

“Not really,” she says, and shrugs. “I didn’t really write anything down. But it was fun to interrogate you a bit.”

“Now I have questions,” I reply, and smile when she cocks her head and purses her lips. “Do you really think you need a life coach?”

“No, I have my shit together,” she says with a grin.

“Why were you really on all of those sites?”

She shrugs. “Because it’s not easy meeting people. And sometimes a girl wants to go out on a date.”

“You don’t need me,” I reply, and smile. “But I’ll be around for a while, just in case.”

“Just in case I slip and fall back into the online dating?”

“That, or if you just want to have dinner, or chat. And I think we should watch a marathon of Star Wars. Your lack of knowledge is cause for concern.”

“It’s kind of a guy thing,” she says.

“I know many women who like Star Wars.”

“Well, I would watch one or two.”

“You need to see them all to understand what’s happening.”

“That’s a lot of hours of my life that I’ll never get back,” she says with a frown. “Aren’t there CliffsNotes somewhere? A speedy way to get caught up?”

“No,” I reply, and fist my hands in my lap so I don’t reach out and tuck her hair behind her ear.

Or yank her against me so I can kiss the fuck out of her.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“Are you always this observant?”

“I’m an overthinker,” she says. “So yeah, I’m an observer.”

“I’ve been labeled an overthinker too,” I say with a grin.

“Would you say it’s an accurate assessment?”

“Oh yeah,” I say with a nod, and stand to clear our plates away. She stands to help. “I’ve got this.”

“No way, you cooked, so I’ll help clean.”

She walks ahead of me, her empty glass in one hand and her plate in the other. “Do you use the dishwasher, or do you wash by hand?”

“There are people who still wash by hand?”

“I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen them in the wild,” she says, and smiles up at me when I join her. “So I guess that means we use the dishwasher?”

“Yes.” She rinses and I load, and a few short minutes later, we’re done.

“Well, I suppose I should go,” she says, and checks the time on her phone. “Oh, Cami texted. I guess I should reply so she doesn’t think you killed me after the entrée.”

She smirks and types on her phone, then turns it off and looks up at me.

“Thanks for dinner.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Unfortunately, it won’t be in my bed.

“You will.”

“Okay.” She gathers her bag, notepad and pen, and walks to the door. “Sleep well tonight.”

I grin and congratulate myself for not dragging my fingertips down her cheek.

You sleep well tonight, Riley.”

“Okay. Bye.”

She leaves and I close the door, letting out a slow breath. Jesus, she’s sexy and funny and smart as fuck.

And I’m not going to touch her while I’m here.

How the fuck am I going to do that?

Don’t miss the first chapter of THE BEAUTY OF US! You can read it here!

About Kristen Proby:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kristen Proby is the author of the bestselling With Me In Seattle and Love Under the Big Sky series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong, humorous characters with a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves.

 

Kristen lives in Montana, where she enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.

 

 

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