Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cover Reveal: "Wicked Dirty" and "Wicked Torture" by J. Kenner


 

Sometimes bad isn’t good enough…


On the outside, Lyle Tarpin is a clean-cut Hollywood actor whose star is on the rise. Inside, he’s battling his own demons, shunning relationships and finding solace in the arms of a string of anonymous women paid very well for their discretion.

But when he’s photographed in a compromising position by an over-eager reporter, the only way to save his career is to say that the woman he was with is his fiancée. And now Lyle has to play a very public game with the only woman who’s ever managed to get under his skin.

Struggling waitress Sugar Laine agrees to spend one night with Lyle—but only because she’s desperate to save her family home. She never expects that a night of passion will turn into a pretend engagement … or that the heat between them will blossom into love.

But sometimes love has a price.

And now the only question is—can Lyle and Sugar afford to pay it?

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Outwardly, Noah Carter is riding high as the tech world’s hottest new genius. Inside, he’s still reeling from the abduction of his wife and baby daughter eight years ago, and then the devastating discovery of his child’s body. For years, he kept up hope that his wife was alive, but now that she’s been declared legally dead, he’s thrown himself even more deeply into his work, cutting himself off from emotional ties because they just hurt too damn much.

Then he meets Kiki Porter, an eternal optimist with a killer work ethic and dreams of fronting a band. And everything changes. Even though he tries his damnedest to fight it…

Sexually, they are combustible together. But their true fire is emotional, though it is a slow to burn. But once it lights, it is all consuming. The relationship grows emotionally, the sex is hot, things are good.

But just when it’s looking like they might have a real future together, the past comes back to haunt them. And Noah’s going to have to decide what he’s willing to give up for love …

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Julie - J Kenner Author Photo
J.Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres.
Though known primarily for her award-winning and international bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit.
JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for them.” A five time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). Her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (as Julie Kenner) is currently in development with AwesomenessTV/Awestruck.
Her books have sold over three million copies and are published in over twenty languages.
In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats.
   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Release Day Excerpt! "Lost and Found Sisters" by Jill Shalvis

       

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes her first women’s fiction novel—an unforgettable story of friendship, love, family, and sisterhood—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Susan Mallery, and Kristan Higgins. Don't miss LOST AND FOUND SISTERS and grab your copy today!

       

They say life can change in an instant…

After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.’s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she’s looking for a missing piece she can’t find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. This shocking revelation washes over Quinn like a tidal wave. Her whole life has been a lie.

On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn’t quite fit in right away, she can’t help but be drawn to the town’s simple pleasures…and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there’s another surprise in store for her. The inheritance isn’t a house or money, but rather something earth shattering, something that will make her question everything she thought she knew about herself, about her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up to Quinn, she must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have—and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she’s searched so long for.

     

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EXCERPT:
Coop whined and Mick looked down at the twelve-year-old golden retriever, ball in his mouth. Coop panted happily and dropped the ball at Mick’s feet, his rheumy brown eyes ever hopeful.
Mick shook his head. “Last time I threw it, you decided you didn’t mean it.”
Coop gave a talkative “woo woo woo.”
Translation: Mick was full of shit. “I had to go get it myself,” he reminded the dog. “Remember that?”
This bought him another “woo woo woo.”
“Okay, okay.” Mick picked up the ball, and because there was a lot of old-man dog pride on the line here, he gave it a dramatic throw, making sure it went only about twenty feet.
Coop gave an energetic leap. A single energetic leap. After that, he eyeballed the sea of sand ahead of him, huffed out a sigh, and sat. Then he craned his big, fuzzy golden head and gave Mick a sad-eyed look.
“Are you kidding me?” Mick asked him.
Coop lay down, set his head on his front paws, and stared forlornly out at the ball that his brain wanted to chase but his sore joints and tired body wouldn’t allow. It was a daily reminder for the dog, who in his own mind clearly wasn’t elderly, forgetful, or more than half deaf. Nope, in Coop’s opinion, he was still a rambunctious, energetic puppy.
Mick blew out a sigh and fetched the damn ball. When he came back, the dog sat up, eyes bright, tongue lolling.
“Not a chance,” Mick said on a laugh. “I’m not throwing it again. This was about your exercise, not mine. I already had my run today.”
A Lexus pulled up. A woman sat behind the wheel and stared out at the dunes and the ocean. All Mick could see of her was a cloud of whiskey-colored waves of hair and a pale face. She stared at the water and then set her head to the steering wheel and banged it a few times.
Then, head still down, she went utterly still.
Coop whined about the ball and nudged Mick’s knee, eyes pleading.
With a head shake, Mick threw the ball five feet.
Coop happily pounced on it.
While his dog pranced around proudly, ball in his mouth, Mick turned back to the car. The woman hadn’t moved. Had she knocked herself out? Was she still breathing? “What do you think?” he asked Coop. “Stay out of it, or ask her if she’s okay?”
Coop, who’d never been impressed by a single one of the women in Mick’s social life, yawned.
“Right,” he said. “Stay out of it.”
But the woman suddenly sat up straight and fumbled her way out of the car, falling to her knees on the rough gravelly asphalt, gulping in air like she was suffocating.
Realizing she was hyperventilating, Mick rushed to her and crouched at her side, having to push Coop back from making her acquaintance—which he tended to do with a rude nose push to the crotch. “Stay,” he ordered and looked the woman over.
Young. Late twenties maybe. Definitely having a panic attack of some kind. Not touching her, he spoke quietly and calmly. “Take a deep breath through your nose.”
She had to quiet herself to hear him, but she did as he said. She took a deep breath, shuddery as it was.
“Good,” he said, still holding Coop back from trying to say hello. “Stay.”
“What?” she gasped.
“Sorry, not you. My nosy-ass dog. Keep breathing. That’s it,” he said when she worked at it.
When she had it under control, she met his gaze, her own eyes hooded and clearly embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.”
Coop, tired of being held back, shoved his big old head between them and licked her from chin to forehead. Mick palmed the dog’s face and pushed his head away from the woman whose shoulders were now shaking.
Aw, hell. He patted his pockets—for what, he had no idea. It wasn’t like he carried tissues or napkins on him to offer her. He rose to his feet to go search the truck, which was when she lifted her face and he saw that she was shaking with laughter, not tears.
She was laughing at his ridiculous dog.


   
About Jill Shalvis:   New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.            

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: "Don't Kiss the Messenger" by Katie Ray

For most of her teenage life, CeCe Edmonds has been dealing with the stares and the not-so-polite whispers that follow her around Edgelake High. So she has a large scar on her face—Harry Potter had one on his forehead and people still liked him. CeCe never cared about her looks—until Emmett Brady, transfer student and football darling, becomes her literature critique partner. The only problem? Emmett isblindsided by Bryn DeNeuville, CeCe’s gorgeous and suddenly shy volleyball teammate. Bryn asks CeCe to help her compose messages that’ll charm Emmett.CeCe isn’t sure there’s anything in his head worth charming but agrees anyway—she’s a sucker for a good romance. Unfortunately, the more messages she sends and the more they run into each other, the more she realizes there’s plenty in his head, from food to literature. Too bad Emmett seems to be falling for the wrong girl… Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book involves one fiercely scarred girl who wants the new guy in town, the new guy who thinks he wants the new girl, and the new girl who really isn’t sure what she wants, and the misunderstanding that brings them all together. This modern Cyrano de Bergerac retelling will make you laugh, swoon, and fall in love.
Many thanks to Entangled Teen Crush for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wow! This little book completely blew me away! Although I've read a few books from this particular imprint before, they in no way gave me any indication that I would fall in love with "Don't Kiss the Messenger". I expected a cute, contemporary YA romance with a few fun times and a couple of swoons, maybe some sweet characters, but a predictable plot and an overall lack of depth. Still, sometimes that is exactly the type of read I'm looking for, and I'm completely okay with that. In this case, however, I was surprised and thrilled to get way more than I bargained for.

First off, I have to talk about CeCe. She is amazing! She's smart, sarcastic, funny, loyal, strong and athletic, as well as competitive, and she's confident in her abilities. She's also extremely sensitive when it comes to her looks, specifically her facial scar, although she tries to cover her scar either literally with her hair or figuratively with her bold and engaging personality. She is under no illusions that any boy will ever want to be with her long term -  she's messed around occasionally with boys, but nothing has ever lasted more than a single encounter, and she's never been out on a date. My gosh, I totally empathized with her. There were a couple of times in this book where I felt sucker punched right in the feels, and I damn near bawled my eyes out! Embarrassing, yes, but I love it when a book makes me feel all sorts of emotions.

DKtM is not all tears and sobs, though - there are plenty of laughs and swoons, frustration and angst. I loved it all, including Emmett - he was a real sweetheart - and some of CeCe's volleyball teammates. Bryn, not so much - let's just say she's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I found her to be oh so annoying. She has a good heart, though, so it's hard to dislike her entirely.

So even though the Cyrano de Bergerac tale is familiar, and some might say this plot is predictable, to me it felt fresh and unique because of the wonderful characters and excellent writing. I'd surely recommend this book to any contemporary YA fans - it's lovely! 

My rating: 4.5 stars

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Roar" by Cora Carmack - Release Day Launch, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

   

From New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack comes her debut young adult fantasy, ROAR! Now available, ROAR takes readers on an adventure filled with charismatic characters in an enthralling world sure to keep them turning the pages. Grab your copy today!

   
About ROAR (Stormheart #1):
New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack's young adult debut: Roar.
In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.
 

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        EXCERPT:

“This life is not glamorous,” Duke told her. “We travel constantly. We sleep on the ground most nights. When we’re not in danger from storms, we’re in danger in cities where we are considered criminals. This life is not for the faint of heart.”

“There are things I do not know, things I will have to learn. But I am capable. I am familiar with sacrifice. I know what it is to make hard choices.”

“Tell me you’re not considering this,” Locke said to Duke.

The old man was silent for a long moment, both Locke and Roar looking to him for support. Duke rubbed at his mustache, a habit of his when he was thinking deeply. “Let’s think about this, Locke. She’s smart. And determined.”

“She’s a child.”

Roar’s shoulders hunched in Locke’s peripheral vision, and he swallowed back the guilt. He could apologize later. For now, it was imperative that he won this argument.

You were a child when I brought you into the fold,” Duke said. “She’s a young woman with a good head on her shoulders. And if this is what she wants, I’m inclined to at least hear her out.”

Just like that, Roar’s shoulders straightened, and Locke turned to watch a devastating smile bloom across her mouth. His weakness when it came to her only made him more cross.

“What skills do you have?” he snapped at Roar.

“Skills?”

“Yes, skills. What can you do? Or do you just plan to tag along for the ride?”

A flush spread over her cheeks, and her voice was tentative when she answered, “I’m good on a horse. Very good.”

Where in the world would she have learned to ride? He quickly hardened his expression. “Horses are fine for travel, but they don’t do well in storms. They, unlike you, have good survival instincts.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Locke could have sworn he felt an updraft—the first sign that bad weather could occur—and he knew that this time he had pushed too far.

Roar marched toward him, spearing a finger into his chest and said, “I can read and write. I can speak Taraanese, Finlaghi, and Odilarian. I can read maps. I know enough about grassland vegetation and wildlife to survive without a market to buy food and drink. I’m good with knives and a bow. I learn quickly, and I’m not afraid of hard work. And I’ve spent my entire life reading as much about storms as I could get my hands on.” For a moment, her voice cracked under the weight of her anger, but she took a huffing breath and continued: “I’m good with numbers. It’s been a while, but I think I can probably still draw the constellations from memory, which should make me decent at navigation. I can—“

“Enough.” Locke’s voice came out in a deep rasp. He captured her long, delicate finger in his fist before she could continue poking him. He felt short of breath at the sight of her—livid and lovely. “Enough.”

The old Locke might have kept arguing, and Roar would have met him toe-to-toe. But if becoming a storm hunter had taught him anything, it was that fighting head-on wasn’t always the way to win. Sometimes strategy was required. He met Duke’s eyes over her shoulder, and if he had thought Roar looked smug before, she had nothing on his mentor. The man raised his eyebrows in a challenge and asked, “You?”

He hated the idea of bringing someone into this dangerous life, but if it was going to happen regardless, he sure as hell wouldn’t hand her safety over to anyone else, not even Ransom. And at the very least, it would give him the opportunity to change her mind. He gritted his teeth and nodded his acceptance.

   

     

About Cora Carmack: Cora Carmack is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Since she was a teenager, her favorite genre to read has been fantasy, and now she’s thrilled to bring her usual compelling characters and swoon-worthy romance into worlds of magic and intrigue with her debut YA fantasy, Roar. Her previous adult romance titles include the Losing It, Rusk University, and Muse series. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages around the world. Cora splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City, and on any given day you might find her typing away at her computer, flying to various cities around the world, or just watching Netflix with her kitty Katniss. But she can always be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her website www.coracarmack.com.    

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: "Madly" by Ruthie Knox

An impulsive trip to New York City, a heartthrob from London, and a scandalous to-do list turn a small-town girl’s life upside down in this sultry romance from the New York Times bestselling author of Truly and About Last Night. Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways. Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?
Thanks so much to Loveswept Publishing via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. I really loved Ben and May in "Truly", so the bar was set pretty high. Unfortunately, "Madly" missed the mark for me.

This is very much a story of Allie and Winston. The meet cute in the beginning was just that - "cute". The relationship between Winston and Allie builds from there, and we see some things happen involving both their families, we're introduced briefly to some interesting side characters, there's a revelation of sorts, and then everyone gets their HEA. (Uh oh, did I spoil that for you? Come on, it's a romance, you knew it was going to have a happy ending, right?) Anyway, my point is, none of the plot is all that memorable. A few years, (or months) down the road, and I might remember that Allie had crazy curly hair or made tons of money as an entrepreneur (probably not), or that Winston was a handsome, wealthy, older British gentleman with an adult daughter, but I didn't feel much connection with them other than these surface details. I tried to empathize with Allie's conflict with her mother, but mostly I was just frustrated with the lack of transparency shown between them. As for Winston's past transgressions, they didn't pull me into the story much, either.

On the other hand, the connection and steam between Allie and Winston was really well done - I enjoyed the sexy bucket list they came up with together! Winston's relationship with his daughter was another highlight, as were any interactions he had with his employee - she was quite the spitfire! It was also nice to see May and Ben from "Truly" again, even though my impression of them changed somewhat after viewing them through Allie's eyes. All great things, right? Still, I wasn't getting that punch to the feels like I was expecting to, so I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed.

I'm curious to see if other Ruthie Knox fans will feel the same. Maybe it's just me? Like I said earlier, my expectations were pretty high. Either way, I'm not giving up on this author, not in the least. I'm just hoping that "Madly" was a one-off.

My rating: 3 stars



















Saturday, June 3, 2017

Blog Tour and Review: "Somehow, Some Way" by Jennifer Probst

 

SOMEHOW, SOME WAY by Jennifer Probst is now live! This is a 1001 Dark Nights novella in the Billionaire Builders series.

 

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--------------------------

SOMEHOW, SOME WAY by Jennifer Probst

Billionaire Builders, #2.5

BLURB:

Bolivar Randy Heart (aka Brady) knows exactly what he wants next in life: the perfect wife. Raised in a strict traditional family household, he seeks a woman who is sweet, conservative, and eager to settle down. With his well-known protective and dominant streak, he needs a woman to offer him balance in a world where he relishes control. Too bad the newly hired, gorgeous, rehab addict is blasting through all his preconceptions and wrecking his ideals…one nail at a time…

Charlotte Grayson knows who she is and refuses to apologize. Growing up poor made her appreciate the simple things in life, and her new job at Pierce Brothers Construction is perfect to help her carve out a career in renovating houses. When an opportunity to transform a dilapidated house in a dangerous neighborhood pops up, she goes in full throttle. Unfortunately, she’s forced to work with the firm’s sexy architect who’s driving her crazy with his archaic views on women. Too bad he’s beginning to tempt her to take a chance on more than just work…one stroke at a time…

Somehow, some way, they need to work together to renovate a house without killing each other…or surrendering to the white-hot chemistry knocking at the front door.

 

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PURCHASE THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES

Everywhere and Every Way

PURCHASE EVERYWHERE AND EVERY WAY (Billionaire Builders, #1) NOW

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PURCHASE ANY TIME, ANY PLACE (Billionaire Builders, #2) NOW

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PRE-ORDER ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL (Billionaire Builders, #3) NOW

Coming July 25th
 

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AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Jennifer Probst

Jennifer Probst - Bio: Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons keep her active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean.   She is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her book, The Marriage Bargain, was ranked #6 on Amazon's Best Books for 2012. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website for updates on new releases and her street team at www.jenniferprobst.com.

AUTHOR LINKS:
 

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Thanks to InkSlinger PR and the publisher for the free copy of this novella in exchange for my honest review. 
Can I just crown Jennifer Probst "Queen of the Novella"? How is it possible to make me feel as if I know these characters in such a short amount of page time? I don't know how she does it, but this being the second novella I've read from her, I'm already convinced she can do no wrong.

So how 'bout those characters, eh? I'd already met Brady and Charlotte/Charlie in the first two books of the Billionaire Builders series, and while Charlie made a bit of an impression, Brady didn't really register. After getting to know them in "Somehow, Some Way" though, I'm not sure how I missed them. I loved Charlie, and I could relate to her frugality and sense of style, as well as her slight insecurity around Brady. His posh wardrobe and serious demeanor came off as intimidating, if not downright rude. I didn't really like him much in the beginning, to be honest. How on earth were these two going to hook up? They were such opposites, I couldn't see it happening at all.

I never should have doubted. The heat and tension gradually grew until that first kiss, and holy hotness, I practically had to fan myself! It was smokin', and I loved every moment! If you're looking for a short, sweet, sexy, hate-to-love tale, look no further than "Somehow, Some Way".

My rating: 

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Easy Fortune" by Kristen Proby - Release Day!

   

From New York Times Bestselling author Kristen Proby, comes a passionate new romance—EASY FORTUNE! A Boudreaux Series novella, this standalone second chance romance features Mallory’s best friend Lena! Don’t miss the amazing excerpt below and grab your copy of EASY FORTUNE today!

   

About EASY FORTUNE (A Boudreaux Series Novella):

The Boudreaux Series—Sexy. Intriguing. Easy.

Sometimes the past is better left behind you…

Lena Turner has spent her life as the outsider. Thanks to her extraordinary gifts, she’s learned to be independent—especially when it comes to men. She’s content to live her life in New Orleans as a schoolteacher, dating casually and dedicated to her small family. Long term is not part of her plan.

Sometimes the past catches up with you…

Leaving Lena behind to pursue his career was the most difficult thing Mason Coulter ever did. He told himself that it was for the best, had even convinced himself that he had only Lena’s best interests in mind. But now, after six long years, he’s back in New Orleans to settle his late eccentric aunt’s estate. All he has to do is get in and out of the city without submitting to the need to see Lena. But to Mason’s dismay, his aunt made other plans.

And sometimes the future and the past collide…

Having Mason walk back into her life is something Lena never saw coming. She could refuse to help him, but she’s never been good at telling Mason no. So she’ll do what she can to get the estate settled and Mason out of her life for good.

At least, that’s the plan. But Mason has plans of his own…

   

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I wipe the back of my hand over my forehead and glance at my notes when suddenly, the air in the room shifts.
It’s subtle, but I feel it. The hair stands up on my neck. I haven’t felt this in six years.
“You can get back in your Ferrari and go away,” I say casually without looking over at the doorway and do my best to ignore the damn zoo that’s come awake in my stomach.
“I don’t have a Ferrari,” he replies. His voice hasn’t changed at all. It’s thick like melted milk chocolate, and he still has his southern accent. I don’t know why that surprises me.
“Well, whatever horse you rode in on? Ride back out on it.”
I hear him sigh, but I refuse to look at him. Because just one look will suck me in, and I’ve vowed never to be sucked in by Mason Coulter ever again.
“It’s good to see you, Lena.”
“Mm hmm.” I pretend to study my notes, but I don’t actually see the words anymore. “Good to see you, too.”
“You haven’t even looked over here.”
I can hear the smile in his voice. It makes me cringe.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to look at me,” he replies.
“Well, we don’t always get what we want.” Yes, I’m being a bitch, and no, I’m not sorry. Mason was the one. The one that I fell head over heels for, the one that charmed the pants off of me, literally, and then he just left. He disappeared, and I was left here, wondering what in the hell happened. Wondering what I did wrong because I was twenty-two and naïve and so heartsick for him I thought I wouldn’t survive it.
But I did.
“So, you’re still mad?”
I blink rapidly for a second, and then I can’t help it. I turn and take him in, from the top of his gorgeous, dark head to the tip of his designer shoes, and my body immediately comes to life. Panties are singed. And if I thought it was hot in here ten minutes ago, it’s an inferno now.
Damn him. He just had to stay hot, didn’t he? I mean, couldn’t he have lost all of his hair? Gained a whole bunch of weight? Something?
“You could say I’m still mad,” I reply, proud of myself for sounding calm and indifferent to him, when I’m anything but indifferent. “So unless you came in here to tell me you have a terminal illness, you can just turn around and go. I’m not interested in chit chat.”
“You were always good at chit chat,” he says and flashes that perfect smile at me. But there’s something there, in his smile that tells me something isn’t quite right.
And I’m just a sucker because I’m about to ask him what it is. I should stay firm and ask him to go.
But first, I need to settle an old score.
“You know,” I begin and put the cap on the blue marker. I set it down and turn to fully face him. “The last time I saw you, you said you’d be right back.”
“I said I’d see you soon,” he says, the smile fully leaving his face now.
“And then you just bailed.”
He sighs and leans against the doorjamb. He crosses his arms over his chest and glances down at his shoes, then back up at me. “I owe you an apology for that.”
“Yeah. You do.”
“I’m sorry.” His grey eyes are holding my own, and I can see the sincerity there, hear it in his voice. “I am truly sorry, Lena.”
I nod and turn away. “Thanks.”
“And I need your help.”
Of course he does.
This couldn’t be a quick, I want to stop in to see how you are, apologize, and go on my merry way.
No, it has to be complicated.
“My Aunt Claudia passed away last week.”
“Oh, Mason.” I turn quickly, blinking rapidly. I’m so sorry. I liked her very much.”
He nods. “Thank you.”
Mason and his Aunt Claudia were very close. I believe that we all have that one special family member that we bond with, who is important in our lives, and for him, it was his aunt. He spent summers with her here in New Orleans when he was young.
“I hadn’t heard that she’d passed.” That must be what I see behind his eyes. I don’t have the psychic abilities that my best friend, Mallory, has. But I can sense things. I want to hug him, to comfort him, but I stay planted where I am because I know what his touch will do to me.
“I’d planned to come to town and quickly take care of her estate, but it seems Aunt Claudia had other plans.” He laughs humorlessly and shakes his head, looking at the ceiling. “The attorney informed me that she was very clear that you were to come with me to the reading of the will.”
“Me?” I frown. “Why? I only met her a couple of times.”
He shrugs and pushes his hand through his hair, in the say way he did six years ago. But now the muscles under his black T-shirt are more defined, tanner from all of the hours he spends outside digging around for old things.
Mason is a well-known and important archeologist.
“You know that she was a bit… eccentric.” He smiles. “It’s one of the reasons I loved her so much. She did what she wanted, and she wanted this.”
“I see.” I swallow and stare out of the windows at the trees. There’s a slight breeze today. I walk over and open the window, wiggle my fingers and feel the breeze blow in my room. “And if I refuse?”
“If you refuse, her estate will be donated to the city of New Orleans.” My head whips around to stare at him again. “I know, it’s a lot of pressure. I don’t need her money, Lena. Archeology has been good to me. But I loved her, and I’d like to do right by her.”
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. So, he’s not here because he wanted to see me. He’s here because his aunt didn’t give him a choice. He’s right, it is a lot of pressure.
“You can think about it,” he says. He pulls a business card from his pocket and sets it on the desk closest to him. “That’s my cell number. I need to be at the attorney’s office on Friday at 2:00 in the afternoon. If you decide you’re willing to go with me, I wrote the address on the back.”
I nod, staring at the small square of white paper.
“Lena?”
“Yeah?” My gaze finds his again and he smiles, as if remembering something especially sweet.
“You look fantastic. You’ve hardly changed at all.”
“Oh, I’ve changed.”      
   

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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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