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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Preorder Blitz and Cover Reveal: Deadline by Jessica James


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Preorder Blitz
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Book Title: Deadline 
Author: Jessica James 
Genre: Romantic Suspense 
Release Date: April 9, 2016 
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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book blurb

He’s a relentless homicide detective. She’s an uncompromising journalist.

Neither desires to work together—but they’ll never uncover the truth alone.

Landing a front page headline isn’t why reporter Caitlin Sparks is investigating a string of suspicious deaths connected to the U.S. State Department. She has a personal stake in finding the killer.

Detective Blake Madison has a connection to the murders too, and will risk anything to uncover the truth. But a journalist is the last person he’d rely on to help him solve a crime—especially one whose trail of evidence leads back to him.

Joining forces becomes essential as the body count continues to grow. Someone powerful doesn't want the truth to come out—and will stop at nothing to make sure no one talks.

On the run with nowhere to turn, the couple devises a plan to expose the killer. The risk is great and the chance of success small, but the ultimate outcome is something neither one of them envisioned.
excerpt
Caitlin stood in the dining room and surveyed the large, ornately carved table and twelve matching chairs. A fire glowed in a large-mouthed fireplace that boasted a beautiful cherry-colored mantel. Gracing the walls on the other three sides were foxhunting paintings—typical of dining rooms in this part of Virginia.

“Here you go.” The detective set the mug down on the table and took a seat. His sleeves were rolled up now and the tie had disappeared completely. The way his dark hair and complexion stood out against the crisp, white shirt he wore made him look a little more amiable and pleasant than the last time they’d met. But when he leaned forward with his arms on the table, Caitlin could see why he had such a reputation as a menacing interrogator. The look in his eyes turned intense and commanding—the kind of look that both drew her in and made her want to run away. Fast.

“I don’t usually do this.”

“What’s that?”

“Talk to reporters.” He exaggerated the word to make clear it was a profession extremely distasteful to him.

Caitlin refused to be intimidated or swayed. “Thanks for clearing that up.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, matching her sarcasm with some of his own. “And just to be clear, I’m no longer on the case so I don’t have anything to give you.”

“Excuse me?” Caitlin’s tone revealed her confusion and surprise.

“I told you I’m off the case.” He appeared surprised that she was surprised.

“Yes, and I’m off the story. But I thought we were sharing.”

“Minor correction. You’re sharing.”

Caitlin blinked. And blinked again. She thought he must be joking, but the expression on his face did not suggest that intent. “If you’re no longer actively working the case, why am I sharing with you?”

He lifted his mug and took a drink of coffee as he pondered the question. “I don’t like what I’m being told. I want to see if you have anything to substantiate my gut feeling.”

Caitlin stood her ground. “In my world, sharing implies that we both give a little.” She closed the file and pushed out her chair. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“Hold on.” He sat back in his chair, crossed his arms, and stared at her a moment.

Caitlin hated the way he was able to combine unnerving intensity with disinterested detachment. She wondered if it was a natural habit of his or if he had been trained by the military to remain remote and aloof even in the most distressing situations. His body language revealed nothing, and his facial expression, as usual, was that of a stone. She didn’t like being around people she couldn’t read.

“So you came all the way out here, and now you want to negotiate?”

Caitlin was stunned, both by his self-assurance and his assertion. “Negotiate? I didn’t realize I was going to have to negotiate. I’m pretty sure the word you used in your email was share.”

“Okay, maybe negotiate is the wrong word. How about co-op-erate?” He drew the word out, pronouncing each syllable.

Caitlin couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “So you lured me out here on the pretext of sharing, and then have the gall to think you can bully me into providing information with nothing in return?” She stood. “You can call it negotiation or cooperation or even collaboration for all I care, but you want to know what I call it?”

He didn’t answer, but she thought she saw a hint of amusement in his eyes, which infuriated her even more. She was too angry to think of a word to call it, so she pushed in her chair and turned to leave.

“Hold on.”

His commanding voice stopped her in mid-stride. It took everything within her to turn around, but what she saw when she did surprised her.

Madison was fingering through a stack of folders in front of him, intent it seemed on locating one in particular. “Have you seen the autopsy report?” His voice was casual, as if the last few minutes had never transpired.

“Of course not.”

He lifted his gaze for just a second at the tone of her voice, and then went back to searching through the manila folders. Finding the one he wanted, he pushed it over to where she had been sitting, and then picked up his coffee mug. “Take a look.”

Caitlin stared at the file and then back at his stone-cold face. “From the Hillside murders?”

He gave a single nod of affirmation, but he didn’t look happy about it.

meet the author
Jessica James is an award-winning author of military fiction and non-fiction ranging from the Revolutionary War to modern day. She is the only two-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, and was featured in the book 50 Authors You Should Be Reading, published in 2010.

Her novels have been used in schools to teach visualization techniques and are available in more than one hundred libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.

James stays active working part-time as a stagehand where she assists with shows ranging from country bands and stage plays, to operas, symphonies and ballets. She resides in Gettysburg, Pa., and has a passion for old dwellings and first edition books.

DEADLINE
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Blog Tour: Take Your Time by Leddy Harpe

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How do you repair a broken heart?

Sarah Campbell had always been the type of person who laughed the loudest, smiled the brightest, and the constant rock when anyone needed her. She had a good life full of friends and family, until everything came crashing down around her. Dealing with tragedy, Saturday nights became her only escape from the darkness and pain she felt inside. Not wanting anything more than to just give herself to someone—anyone—and let them take away the hurt. Until one Saturday night when Bentley Cole sat next to her at the bar.

Bentley knew a thing or two about broken hearts. One look into Sarah’s dull and desperate eyes, and he knew he would do anything he could to take her pain away. Changing his plans and throwing caution to the wind, Bentley made it his mission to help Sarah learn to live again, even if it meant losing himself in the process.

Fate put them together.
The rest would be up to their broken hearts.

*Take Your Time follows Falling to Pieces, but can be read as a standalone

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In a low tone, keeping my voice steady and even, I said, “You know what I need, yet you keep it from me—dangle it like a carrot—and then get pissed when I go find it somewhere else.”
He sneered and then spun around, pushing me forward at the same time until my body leaned into the open door of his truck, my hands braced against the seat and his hard chest against my back. I didn’t have time to do anything other than gasp before his hand cupped my sex over my jean shorts, adding pressure with his palm that caused my hips to buck against him.
“Is this what you want, Sarah?” he asked with a growl, his lips grazing my ear. His other arm wound around my body, his forearm against my chest as his hand gently grabbed my neck, tilting my head back against his shoulder.
I thrust my hips back, seeking more from him. “No.” I let go of the seat with one arm to grab his hand, leading it to where I needed it the most—inside my shorts.
His hot palm stilled against the sensitive flesh of my lower stomach, his fingertips barely beneath the waistband of my shorts. “Tell me what you need, Sarah. Say it. Beg for it. I’m not going to give you shit until I hear the words come out of your mouth.”
“Touch me. Please, Bentley. I need you to touch me.” My voice was nothing but air with a few syllables cracking through, proving to him how desperate I craved his touch.
His hand moved beneath my shorts at a slow, torturous pace. The heat from his palm scorched my skin, taking my breath away as I anticipated the path of his fingers. The moment his fingertips breached the top band of my lacy underwear, a moan vibrated in my chest, moved up my throat, and escaped past my lips.
“This is what you want?” His voice sounded just as strained as my own. He pressed his body into my back more, causing me to lean forward until my forehead landed on the soft leather of the seat in front of me. His hand slipped from my neck to my chest, grabbing my breast through my thin tank top. “If I do this for you, there’s no more bars. No more random hook-ups. No more dealing with life on your back.”
I moaned again and wiggled my hips, hoping he’d do more than tease me with his fingertips and warm hand on my pelvic bone.
“Say it, Sarah. Agree with me, and you’ll get what you want. But you have to say it.”
“Fine. I agree with you. Now please, touch me.” I hated to beg, but he had me so worked up I couldn’t do anything else. I’d promise him anything at that moment if it would’ve made him keep going.
“Say it. All of it.”
“I won’t go to bars anymore and pick up guys, I promise.”
His body curled around my back, the heat of his breath landing on my bare shoulder in reckless waves. He gripped my breast harder, searching for my nipple through the material of my shirt and bra. When he couldn’t get close enough, he frantically moved his hand beneath my shirt, peeling back the cup to my bra and pinching my hardened nipple between his fingers. The sensation made my knees weak and an airy gasp leave my lips. It must’ve affected him, too, because as soon as the air burst from my lungs, I felt his teeth graze over my shoulder before gently biting down.
“You want me to make you come, Sarah?” His words were throaty, desperate.
“Yes.”
“You need it?”
“Yes,” I repeated, more frantic than before. One-word answers were all I could give.
He moved his hand again until the pads of his fingers were pressed against my aching clit. He held it there for a moment, tormenting me, but then slowly pushed his finger through my folds until finding my soaked core. I wanted him to push it farther until I could feel his thick finger inside me. But he didn’t. He dipped just the tip in, gathering up enough moisture, before moving back to my hard nub. I wanted to complain, beg him to go back to where he was, but the way his fingers circled my sensitive bundle of nerves left me speechless.
“I need you to tell me what you like. Tell me what feels good. Don’t go silent on me now, Sarah. If this is what you want—what you need—then you have to give me something. I need to hear you.”
He was so demanding, yet handing over the control at the same time. I’d never been with a man like that before. It was either one or the other with the men before him. But it was such a turn on to hear him talk, hear the way he vocalized my effect on him through his strained voice, his ragged pants. I hadn’t even had an orgasm yet and I was already gone, my mind light and free.
“I need you in me. Put your fingers in me,” I demanded urgently, although my voice was shaken and pathetic, not at all demanding.

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Leddy Harper had to use her imagination often as a child. She grew up the only girl in a house full of boys. At the age of fourteen, she decided to use that imagination and wrote her first book, and never stopped.
She often calls writing her therapy, using it as a way to deal with issues through the eyes of her characters.
The decision to publish her first book was made as a way of showing her children to go after whatever it is they want to. Love what you do and do it well. Most importantly Leddy wanted to teach them what it means to overcome their fears.
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Release Blitz: SEALed in Texas by Marissa Dobson


SEALed in Texas

A SEALed for You/Hot SEALs crossover novella for Cat Johnson's Hot SEALs Kindle World

by Marissa Dobson



After sustaining injuries in the line of duty, Trever Alexander was forced to leave his SEAL team and all he worked for. In the midst of considering a job offer with GAPS, he was thrown into an assignment, one that brought him face to face with the woman he’d left behind.

One day Allyson Mason is living a normal, quiet life, and the next she is on the run. She doesn’t know who or what she’s running from. All she knows is that if she wants to stay alive she has to keep moving. She calls the only person she knows that might be able to help.

Chased by both physical and mental horrors, Trever and Allyson must put their emotions aside and work together.

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danger and comfort

Excerpt:

She turned around to face Trever. “I can’t leave Texas.”

“The fuck you can’t.” He now stood near the window, his back still to her. “You’re in danger here.”

“Don’t you think I realize that?” Her voice rose, which was better than giving in to the tears she wanted to shed. How had everything worked out like this? It was supposed to be a simple run to the store, then Anthony threw everything away and dragged her down with him.

“No, I don’t.” Trever turned back to look at her, his hand gesturing toward the door. “Otherwise you’d have been more careful. What the hell were you thinking, not even bothering to put the latch on the door? Are you hoping they catch you?”

“I…I…didn’t think…” she stammered, knowing she had messed up. If Trever had gotten in without her hearing a sound, anyone could have. Someone else could have been waiting for her when she exited the shower completely unaware.

“You’re right, you didn’t think, and you could have gotten yourself killed.”

He stood there unmoving as if she went through this type of shit all the time. She was out of her element and she knew it. It was why she’d called Brier.

“You’re the fucking SEAL, not me,” she spat. “It’s not like I run for my life every other day. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!” She sank down onto the bed again and stared at the floor. “Maybe I shouldn’t have run. If I’d stayed I—”

“You’d be dead,” He finished for her. He came around the bed to stand in front of her. “A drug deal? Damn it, Allie, are you hooked on that shit?”

“What?” She looked at him, blinking as she tried to adjust to the sudden swing in the conversation.

“If you’re messed up on that shit I need to know. I can’t have you strung out. In order to get you out of here I need you with a clear head.”

“I thought you knew me better than that, Trever. I don’t do drugs.” Tired of her emotions pulling her in two different directions she forced herself to look away from him and let her gaze fall onto the duffel bag that held everything she now owned, which wasn’t much. “Just get out. I don’t need your help.”

“I think you do.”

“You left me…” The words were out before she could stop them. That simple statement was the root of the newest turmoil inside her and was the one reason she was rejecting his help, though she hadn’t meant to verbalize it. She didn’t want him to know that she still missed him.

“That’s not what this is about.”

About the Author:


Born and raised in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, Marissa Dobson now resides about an hour from Washington, D.C. She’s a lady who likes to keep busy, and is always busy doing something. With two different college degrees, she believes you are never done learning.

Being the first daughter to an avid reader, this gave her the advantage of learning to read at a young age. Since learning to read she has always had her nose in a book. It wasn’t until she was a teenager that she started writing down the stories she came up with.

Marissa is blessed with a wonderful supportive husband, Thomas. He’s her other half and allows her to stay home and pursue her writing. He puts up with all her quirks and listens to her brainstorm in the middle of the night.

Her writing buddy Cameron (a cocker spaniel) is always around to listen to her bounce ideas off him. He might not be able to answer, but he's helpful in his own ways.

She loves to hear from readers so send her an email at marissa@marissadobson.com or visit her online at http://www.marissadobson.com.



Book Blitz: Burning Offer by Aubrey Parker


The Burning Offer
Aubrey Parker
(Trevor’s Harem, #1)
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance
The anonymous invitation that someone slipped under my door promises $1,000. Just for meeting a man downtown, in a public place, no questions asked. 
​I can make more than I ever imagined if I agree to take part in a competition. 
Just get into the limousine. Just get on the private plane. Just fly to an airstrip at the foot of the largest, most luxurious estate I’ve ever seen. 
Just stay the first night, then another. Tell no one where I’ve gone, or why. 
Everything in me screams to run away. 
The rules say I can leave whenever I want. 
So why am I still here?


EXCERPT:
ONE

I feel like a bomb is about to go off. I don’t know what this man is doing to me, but I can’t stop looking him over, from square jaw and asshole’s smile to broad shoulders, from fine leather shoes to the obvious bulge of his cock. I’m furious. I’m ready to attack. To offer retribution for what he’s refusing to do next. But there’s nowhere for that anger to go.
When he finally makes a move to grab me, I’ll knee him in the crotch. I’ll scratch. I’ll scream, and then I’ll yell.
But instead, his lips form a cruel little smile and he says, “You’re not so fucking tough after all, are you, Bridget Miller?”
Then he backs up a step. Away from me. And before I know what’s happening I’ve closed the distance between us. Wrapped my hands behind his ass and pinged his crotch into mine, compatible parts meshing with frustrating fabric between them. I feel his length press sidelong against my slit, and as our mouths mash together, he finally responds and grinds into me hard. I’ll come right here. Right now.
But a second later, it’s all hot breath and hands as our mouths come apart. He turns me around and presses me against the alley wall, his big hands pawing my breasts through my dress. I’m barely aware of the fact that anyone could walk by the alley or through the door at any time as he pins my arms to my sides and slips the straps of my dress from my shoulders. I didn’t wear a bra; my girls aren’t big enough to need one. His bare hands easily cover each from behind, and then I’m against the wall again as he hikes up my dress, sliding my panties down past the swell of my ass. Just far enough, once he forces my legs apart, to let him run his fingers between my folds from behind, to my clit, making me gasp.
“Say you want my cock,” he growls.
My face is against the brick. I’ve lost track of his hands, but I hear zipping and a rush of fabric, so I assume he’s taking himself out behind me. My breath is coming fast and hard. His hands are back on my ass, between my cheeks, slipping inside my dripping wet pussy.
Then his voice is right by my ear. In my hair. Where he was that night, when he made me come across miles of phone line.
“Say you want my cock.” He demands it, sounding almost angry, his voice full of resentment and barbed lust.
“I want it,” I say. I’m barely coherent. I don’t know who I am, but I am definitely not myself. I’m bare from the belly up with my tits against an alley wall, a stranger’s rough hands between my legs, pussy soaking. The need is intense, like something burning. I can feel his body’s rhythm as he pumps his cock. I haven’t seen it, but I swear I can sense it, inches away, its heat pulsing at my wet entrance.
“Say it right.”
“I want your cock!” I don’t even know what I feel. Angry? Humiliated? Incredibly, unbelievably, impossibly aroused? How long since I’ve had a man inside me? How badly have I wanted it, needed it?
“Tell me you want me to fuck you.”
“Fuck me!”
Am I panting? Crying? I don’t even know. I only know that if he doesn’t fuck me soon, I’ll collapse.
I feel the hard pressure of his tip, and then he slides roughly inside, filling me completely. I fucking swear, I almost come right away, just from relief. But then he starts to thrust, and his hand is on my back, pressing me harder to the bricks. He fucks like a sledgehammer, like a grudge. I come up on my toes a bit each time his balls slam against me, my pussy gripping him like a fist. Our sounds are wet and rushed. Primal. For a second, it occurs to me that he’s not even using a condom and that’s a problem, but then my first orgasm claims me and I collapse, practically falling. He holds me up, still fucking me, using me like a doll. Then he pulls out, and I feel a splatter on my back like hot glue.
It’s on my ass. On the small of my back. On my dress, by the feel. And damn if I didn’t feel something land in my hair.
It’s a long minute before I return to my senses, and then reality lands like a guillotine’s blade. I’m mostly naked in an alley, some hot stranger’s seed spattered all up my back.
And despite the distraction, nothing is better.
I’m still out of money.
I still can’t tell anyone why I need it, or even that I need it.
I should feel ashamed. And I do … sort of. Mostly, it’s lost in another sensation. Of having only a taste of something I’ve been needing, and now about to be left without.
Alexander, or whoever, is zipping up. I didn’t even see the cock that just fucked me, and for some reason I want to see it more than anything else in the world despite all that’s still wrong.
“Wait,” I say.
But now he has his coat. His hand’s on the club door as I pull my dress both up and down in a hurry, trying to hide what I’ve done.
“You’re tighter than I always thought you’d be,” he says.
Then he’s gone, and I’m in the alley alone, my panties still at my knees, pussy still shamefully craving more.
Only then do I remember something he said.
You’re not so fucking tough after all, are you, Bridget Miller?
But I never gave him my last name, and there’s no way he could possibly know it.

TWO:

“I think you have me mistaken for someone else.”
“I don’t think so,” he says.
I stand straighter. Ice clinks in my glass. I’m drinking scotch. I give the stranger my usual look. The one that Brandon says makes grown men cry, and not in a good way. Like I might kick them in the nuts. Or pull off their pants and laugh at the size of their dicks.
But the man doesn’t flinch. Alexander, he claims. He gives me a smile that lifts from only one side of his mouth, like he’s playing with me. A condescending, knowing look — dead sexy in a way I’d rather not admit even to myself.
“Nice to meet you, then,” I say. And I peel myself from the wall to walk away. Toward the front. Toward my friend, who dragged me here to support her, to get me out of the funk she couldn’t possibly know I’ve been in. Unless everyone knows. Unless everyone knows it all, like Alexander here.
He grabs my wrist. Hard. I’m so shocked, I don’t even wrench my arm away. I can only look back at him, aghast. Was I really feeling some strange attraction to this man just minutes earlier? Goes to show how fucked up I am lately. How fucked up I’ve been through my whole vagabond’s life, I suppose.
“It wasn’t easy to find you,” he says, still holding tight.
“I don’t know who you think I am, but — ”
“I think you’re Elle.”
I yank my hand back, but he’s already let go. He’s leaning back against a rail along the outer wall, one leg propped up like we’re here to shoot the shit. His hand lays down on the knee of a kicked-up leg. He’s wearing cufflinks. Tailored French cuffs, starched stiff as boards. I can’t guess at the thread count in his pants.
“My name is Bridget.”
His smug smile widens. Great. Now I’ve given this creepy asshole my name.
His eyes are unreadable in the club’s gloom. His head shakes.
“And I don’t seem familiar to you at all.”
“No.”
Except that he does. If he’s the guy he claims to be, I know him well. And more importantly, he knows me. We’ve never met, breathed the same air, or seen each other’s faces before now. But he’s whispered in my ear, and I’ve whispered in his. He’s made me come, and this despite the fact that I haven’t let a man past my defenses in years.
“You’re not how I pictured you.”
I spare us both the cliché of saying that I don’t know what he’s talking about.
“I imagined a blonde.”
“Men always imagine blondes.”
I get a little smile. I’m not sure what it means, but for some reason I’m sure that Alexander, or whatever his name is, has a different reason for picturing me blonde than the one I’m imagining. Like he knows something he shouldn’t, beyond the obvious things that no one should know.
“But we’re supposed to know the truth about it, aren’t we? That women with sexy voices are actually fat and ugly. I called that line on a dare. I don’t know what made me call back and ask for you when I was alone.”
There’s an elephant sitting between us. I won’t say it, or admit it. Everyone knows I’m a voice actor. I record audiobooks, and I’ve done a few commercials. A bit of video game work. But Bridget has never done phone sex. Not even if the money were excellent and it turned out she was pretty good at it.
“I knew you were beautiful. But I thought you were blonde.”
God help me, I pictured him exactly as he is. Doing my secret job rarely turns me on. I’ve even thought about telling my friends what I do because it’s typically a laugh. I can always hear the men panting as if they’re drooling over the ridiculous things I say. In my head, most are short, balding, too awkward for women they don’t pay for dirty talk. Socially retarded misfits, brave on the phone but cowards in person. I don’t resent them at all. But I do pity them, even if it makes me a bitch.
Except for that one night.
Except for that whiskey-smooth voice. His words reaching into my mind to evoke images I didn’t know were lurking there. I don’t date because I frighten men away, and I frighten them away because they always have it coming. But apparently, I’m still a girl inside. Apparently, I still have needs a strong man can invite with the right words. Here and now, I can try to pretend that I was only doing my job that night, that I was only saying what my phone sex clients expect to hear, and that I laughed with my girlfriends about it later. But he’ll know I’m lying. He’ll know I made myself come picturing him as he is now, imagining the big, strong hands as they did unspeakable things to my body.
The hands that are now so close to mine.
I feel myself blushing. Not just in my face but in body. My nipples are hard. And holy shit, I’m getting wet just picturing his hands on me.
How long has it been?
“Creep,” I say, moving to shove past him. But again, he catches my wrist. I shake it free, and a second later I’m out the door, into the alley, where I’ve been catching blasts of fresh air, trying to forget the stew of trouble that’s dogging me.
But it’s the wrong move.
Because ten seconds later, my phone sex stalker is out in the alley with me.
The door to the club has shut.
And we’re alone.

THREE:

Daniel stands. I stay sitting, desperate to leave. And I will, $3,500 richer.
There’s a bar along one wall. He’s using tongs to drop spheres of ice into an old-fashioned tumbler then pouring amber liquid atop them. The liquor doesn’t fully cover the ice. I wonder if this is how rich people get wasted — one sip at a time.
He sees me watching him. I avert my eyes, too late.
“Would you like a drink?”
I should say no. But I doubt he’s going to roofie me in a glass room in a public hotel, and whether it’s accepting gifts from an adversary or not, a stiff drink would make this easier.
“Yes.”
“Scotch?”
“Yes.”
He sets the bottle down and returns to his seat without pouring me a glass.
“Do you masturbate, Bridget?”
My jaw locks. I’m glaring into his face, but he’s kicked back now, sipping his drink.
“It’s a simple question.”
I shake my head, disbelieving. “Fuck you. Asshole.”
I stand.
“Not participating, then?” He looks at my bag, where I’ve stashed my check. I suppose I could run, but he — or Trevor Fucking Ross, who has more money than the nations of the world and surely wipes his ass with $2,500 — could easily void the check. And would, I feel certain.
“I’m not answering that.”
“Come on, Bridget. We all do it. I do it. I did it last night. Thinking of you.”
My eyes flick to his crotch. Traitors. And I get a flash of an image: his big hands on the thick dick I felt sliding inside me from behind in that alleyway, pumping it, spewing all over his fist in a gusher.
“Just admit it,” he says.
“Ask another question.”
“I already know you do. I want to hear you say it.”
I look down at my bag. At the door. And I say, “Fine.”
His eyebrows jump up as if he’s surprised. An amused smile forms on his lips. “You do? Well, that’s disgusting.”
I shake my head and stalk toward the door.
“Relax, Bridget. I’m only kidding. It’s not disgusting at all. In fact, if you were to do it right now, I’d join you.”
“Jesus. Fucking pig.”
He laughs. “Oh, my God, just forget it. I thought you had a sense of humor.”
But I know he wasn’t kidding.
“Please. Sit. Just questions, that’s all.”
“Why?”
“Because I want to know. Trevor wants to know.”
“I told you, I’m not a whore.”
“Nobody’s asking you to do anything you don’t choose to do. Now please, have a seat. I apologize.” He puts his hand on his heart, a parody of penitence.
I face him. Heart beating hard. But dammit. Dammit fuck dammit, I realize I’m actually wet for this son of a bitch. I can’t help it and won’t be blamed. It’s biology, not sense or dignity.
“The question, however, remains,” he says, returning to serious.
“What would your boss think of last night?” I ask, going on the offensive.
“He was very happy.”
“You told him?”
“And showed him the video. It’s why you’re here now.”
My internal temperature shoots up to a thousand degrees. I desperately look around for something to throw. Something to hurt him with. But there’s nothing except the chairs, some bolted-down artwork, and the bar, behind him.
This time, I yank the door open.
“You can keep the money,” he calls to me.
For some reason, I pause. But I refuse to look back.
“We can stop the interview if this is bothering you,” the voice continues. “And if so, the money is yours. I don’t mean to upset you.”
“Bullshit,” I spit.
“I’m serious. Why would I want to upset you, Bridget? I’m on your side here. You’re my favorite. I’m rooting for you.”
Rooting for me? Favorite? But fuck him; I won’t answer.
“Does this make you uncomfortable?”
I’m so angry. So unbelievably fucking angry.
“Just answer that one last question, Bridget. The questions I’ve asked in our interview: Do they bother you? Would you rather not answer?”
“Yes, they bother me. And fuck you; I won’t answer shit.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Sure you are.”
“I am. I figured this was turning you on.”
“You are such a piece of shit,” I growl.
“So this isn’t turning you on?”
“Of course it’s not.”
“You just seemed so hot for me last night. Because fuck, I was hot for you.”
I feel a rush of warmth. This isn’t fair.
“I didn’t know the truth last night. And I’d never do it again.”
“Hmm. Then I apologize. It just seemed to me that your nipples were getting hard while you sat here. And I can’t see your pussy, obviously, but … ” And he makes a vague gesture at my seat, as if I might have left a puddle.
But he’s right.
Fucking hell, he’s right.
I’m a gusher down below. I hate it and I hate him for it, but the truth is I feel it with every step I take. Thank God I’m not wearing a skirt; my panties would have a big dark spot right now.
I hate all of this.
And yet the way he sits there, I keep thinking of his hands on my shoulders. My face and chest against the cool brick wall. And his thick cock slamming into me over and over, making me come harder than I have in years.
I pull out the 2 envelope. It hurts me to give it back, but FUCK. THIS.
I crumple it up and am about to throw it to him when he says, “Keep it. The interview is over.”
I want to throw it, but it’s also three months’ rent, and he’s just said I can keep it.
I shove the wadded-up envelope into my bag and stomp out of the room. The door is almost entirely closed when I hear him say, “I know about Linda.”
I turn. I watch him through the glass.
He reaches for his folded-over suit jacket, into the pocket.
And holds up another envelope, marked with a 3.

FOUR :

“Ten thousand dollars. Ten thousand dollars for you to take a vacation.”
Ten thousand dollars would get me to Florida. Ten thousand dollars would buy me two plane tickets: one round-trip for me and a one-way for her. But I can’t tell her what I know; she wouldn’t come if she knew I knew. Her pride and conditioning wouldn’t accept my help. And that means I need an excuse. I need to set her up with an apartment, here in Inferno. Pay two rents. Work on getting her a job while hiring people to blur the trail behind her. I can’t even fathom what the whole package would take. Surely, a hell of a lot more than I have.
But with my own concerns temporarily handled by the $8,500 I’ve already received, another ten grand would shove me an awful lot closer.
It might alleviate the worst of the pressure.
It might hire some people, if I could find them. Or maybe just one person. Someone who could be … persuasive.
Daniel is watching me. Probably knowing what I’m thinking. I know about Linda, he said. But how much does he know? And does he know how bad it truly is?
I think of the photos he showed me earlier on the small tablet. An enormous house matching the one embossed onto the invitation, terraced, glass-fronted, with winding external stairways. A room that’s four rooms square and two rooms tall, with six or eight modern glass chandeliers the size of my production desk, a view of mountains out one of the huge window walls. A bathroom as big as my apartment. A formal dining room with tables set for what might be a dozen kings of Old Europe.
He could be bluffing. It’s entirely possible that’s not where he wants me to go, but somehow I believe him.
“Why?”
A smug look crosses his features. “Why?” is a lot closer to yes than no.
“I can’t tell you that yet.”
“This involves Trevor Ross?”
“It’s his estate.”
“Where?”
“Colorado. On a large stretch of private land.”
“I’m just supposed to go there and hang out with him?”
His look is almost cruel. Condescending, as if I’m foolish to ask. “It’s not just you.”
“For how long?”
“That depends on you, Bridget.”
“How long I choose to stay?”
“How well you fare.”
“In what?”
He shakes his head. “Too many questions.”
“Ten thousand dollars isn’t enough.”
“Ten thousand dollars is just for going. Each day you stay is worth another ten.”
“Ten bucks?”
“Don’t be so fucking stupid.”
My head spins a little at that. Okay, a lot.
“I’d need to check with Brandon,” I say. Not with details, of course, because he’d never let me leave. But just to let him know where, roughly, I’m going. Maybe work out a system, in case I’m being abducted.
“No. You can’t tell anyone you’re going.”
“So you can steal me away? Murder me, maybe?”
“Nobody will hurt you, Bridget. I have too much I want to do to you instead.”
“I don’t even have anything packed.” I gesture at my decoy backpack.
“Everything you need will be provided.”
I bite my lip. I look out the window at the passing buildings.
“When?”
“Right now.”
I bark a laugh. “You’re insane.”
But instead of rebutting me, he takes my other knee and leans in. “Come on, Bridget. Do something crazy for a change. Once upon a time, you used to be wild.”
Ten thousand dollars a day. For who knows how many days?
It’d solve all of my current financial problems. It’d move me to a better apartment, get me the equipment and studio I need to stop narrating audiobooks and start producing other narrators. It’d get Linda out of her bind, and punish those who are begging for punishment.
Technically, I lift right out. I have Brandon, yes. But other than that, I’m alone. I don’t have pets to feed or plants to water.
“Fine.”
He doesn’t act pleased. He nods as if this was all obvious.
“Let me see your phone.”
I hand him my iPhone. He sets it on the limousine floor and reaches for something behind the seat. It’s a hammer, and before I know what’s coming, he brings it down impossibly hard on the glass. I thought those things were tough, but Daniel must have done this before because it takes one strike to turn the thing into memory. The driver, behind the open partition, doesn’t even flinch.
As I gape, Daniel reaches through the scraps of metal, glass, and plastic then pulls something small from the mess. The battery. He lowers the window an inch and tosses it into the street.
I guess I won’t be returning that call I owe Grady Dade about the offer on his uncle’s house. Or any other call ever.
Daniel mumbles something to the driver. The limo turns, away from the town’s center.
He raises the partition between us and the driver, giving us unwanted privacy.
“We’ll be at the airstrip in ten minutes.” He looks me over from top to bottom, clearly licking lips in his mind, then nods toward the bag with my new gown and shoes. “So get dressed.”

FOUR:
The room and view took my usually jaded breath sufficiently away that I’m only now noticing them on the couches and chairs, divans, and love seats. Erin is still beside me and I realize we’re holding hands, but we’re the only two here who seem remotely out of sorts. The rest look like paying guests at an exclusive hotel. Without counting, I’d say there are seven or eight women and at least three men. The women are all dressed like Erin and me, in formalwear that’s not over the top. The men are the opposite. They’re in jeans, two barefoot and one still wearing scuffed leather biker boots. Fine casual button-up shirts, all unbuttoned. Every chest looks like something from a fitness magazine. I didn’t think men in the real world had chests and stomachs like that, tan and high to match their broad shoulders. Abdominal muscles I can count from my side of the room.
The second it takes for the weird standoff to shatter feels like forever, and in that pregnant pause I think of the moment, in a movie, when someone says the wrong thing and the music stops to turn everyone silent and staring. But it’s only two heartbeats. One of the men stands. Comes forward. Takes Erin’s hand and then my own. He kisses each of them. A mountain of masculinity. Even with my heels on, he must be a foot taller than me and three times as wide. He must be three hundred pounds, but without an ounce of fat. Dark skin, like a Pacific Islander. Shaved head. White teeth and a smile that makes something inside me sigh, then awaken.
“Bridget,” he says to me. “And Erin.”
Erin and I look at each other.
“My name is Tony. We’re all glad you’re here. We’ve been eagerly awaiting your arrival.”
I look around the room. One of the other men has sandy brown hair, is average height, and has a boyish face with a few days’ stubble — and an immaculate body. The other is about the same build but with dark hair. What strikes me about this one is his smile. I can’t tell his eye color from here, but I think they might be as blue as Erin’s. The eyes plus the devilish smile paint a sexy picture. While the first man looks like an all-American, this one looks like the troublemaker you should stay away from, but can’t.
The women are a different story.
They’re all intimidatingly beautiful. The kind of women that only exist in photo shoots. The male-approved feminine ideal that makes self-esteem rare for the rest of us. My toughness usually comes off as confidence, but seeing these girls — on their sofas, some possessively stroking the men’s’ chests — shrivels my assuredness to a trembling little ball.
Most are smiling. All but one, who looks like she smelled something foul — a girl with dark features, a model’s face, straight brown hair, and a sharp nose with a tiny silver stud in one side. But really, none of the smiles seem genuine. They’re all put on, pleasant to meet expectation. Yet transparent, with something sour lurking beneath.
It’s a contest, all right. I don’t know what kind it might be, but scanning the room I see only the false civility of rivals.
Good thing I’ve already made up my mind to leave as soon as I can find someone to ask. Or to stay only one day and not a moment longer.
Because Jesus. If these girls are my competition, I don’t stand a chance.
The big man points at the girls around the room one by one. He says their names, but I can’t follow them all. I hear Ivy, Kylie, Blair, a handful of others. Each time he says a name, one of the girls nods, smiles, or waves in acknowledgement. All except for the straight-haired bitch with the nose stud, who seems to have something up her ass. Her name, I definitely catch, Kylie.
“They’re your fellow contestants,” he finishes.
Again, I exchange a look with Erin: contest. Reality show. Some twisted billionaire’s game, with human chess pieces.
“I’m Tony,” he says, touching his massive, mocha-colored chest. He indicates the dark-haired guy with the troublemaker’s smile. “Logan.” Then the all-American quarterback. “And Richard.”
I find my voice, even though it feels lost.
“And who are you, if we’re the ‘contestants’?”
Tony gives me a dead sexy smile. “We’re whatever you want us to be.”

FIVE:
“As I’m sure you’ve figured out,” Daniel says, “you’re here for a competition. You’ve probably also predicted some of the nature of this contest, though I assure you, you could not have predicted it all. Some of you have, quite separately, decided to mingle with these three fine young men here and with each other. That is, of course, your business. Not something we’ve asked or requested in any way.”
Some of the girls look at each other, and even though I don’t want to, I find my eyes turning toward Erin’s. She still won’t look at me. It’s the oddest thing. She and Jessica don’t strike me like the others do, though it’s possible that’s only because the three of us are the newest. But I’d swear, we seem like three peas in a pod. Girls who aren’t right for this scene, even if Erin proved me wrong. Maybe that’s why she’s looking away — because she thinks I’m judging her. It’s also possible, given what happened and the way she looked at me back in my room, that she’s interested in me the way she was in Tony.
Still, something is wrong here. Something I’m missing.
Daniel has paused for a few meaningful seconds. I know what he’s doing —reminding them all that just because some billionaire invited them over and they decided to start screwing around with each other, there was and won’t be any coercion. I’d guess it’s also drawing the first of many lines between the contestants: those who were proactive enough to act early, those who abstained, and those who got their rocks off because they were horny — all contest considerations aside.
My mind flashes back to the mind games Daniel played with me when we met. Games at the website on the card included with my invitation. The survey. The interview. Little things, like Daniel tricking me into admissions I didn’t want to make.
“If your guesses about this competition in any way make you uncomfortable,” Daniel continues, “I’ll ask you to let us know now. I’ll have one of our pilots fly you back the second you’re ready to go, and we will pay you five thousand dollars for leaving.”
He looks around the room. His eyes stop on me for a fraction of a second too long, and a few more heads turn before he moves on.
Five thousand isn’t enough.
Come hell or high water, I’ll stay until morning.
“By staying past the end of this sentence,” Daniel says, “you are waiving your right to any action against anyone here barring overt criminal behavior, as stipulated in the contract you signed earlier.”
My brow furrows. Contract? I didn’t sign any contract.
He pauses again.
“Perfect,” Daniel says when no one objects.
He turns to Trevor, who again stands. The two men nod mutual thanks, and Daniel sits in his chair beside the throne.
“I guess I’ll take it from here,” Trevor says, smiling down at Daniel, “since I’m the one looking for a bride.”

I love to write stories with characters that feel real enough to friend on Facebook, or slap across the face.
I write to make you feel, think, and burn with the thrill that can only come from getting lost in the pages.

I love to write unforgettable characters who wrestle with life's largest problems. 

My books may always end with a Happily Ever After, but there will always be drama on the way there.


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