My cheeks flushed with heat and my stomach somersaulted.
My cheeks flushed with heat and my stomach somersaulted.
Love takes no prisoners…
Billionaire Dominic Baine stepped into Avery Ross’s life when it was at its lowest. Obsessed with the beautiful, struggling artist, Nick was determined to have her. What began as a scorching seduction soon burned out of control, exploding into a white-hot passion neither of them could deny.
Yet Nick and Avery are two damaged people, both haunted by dark secrets with the power to destroy them. And for Nick, the ugly past that shaped him cannot compare to the unforgivable deception that drives Avery from his arms, from his life. Now the man accustomed to having everything he desires must find a way to redeem himself to the only woman he has ever loved.
Avery Ross has known heartbreak. She has known betrayal and loss, but nothing like the pain that loving Dominic Baine has brought into her life. Reeling from the aftermath of his devastating revelation, instead of allowing despair to break her, she builds herself into something stronger—the fearless woman and artist Nick’s passion has taught her to be. Yet her heart is in pieces, and despite everything she has, the one thing she needs is the man whose possessive desires and consuming love holds the power to either save them both or shatter her forever…
I close the door and lean against it with a heavy sigh after Nick returns to his car.
What does it say about me that I can spend two hours looking after my terminally ill friend yet come home feeling sorry for myself when Nick practically ditches me at my front door? I feel adrift in my own house, left alone with just my thoughts and my worry for the friend I already feel slipping away from me.
It’s too late at night to call Tasha or my mom, and when I phoned Lita from Kathryn’s to update her on the situation, she informed me that she’d caught a cab home from the auction and was headed to bed.
That’s where I should be heading too. That is, if I had any hope of going to bed and not lying there for the next several hours thinking about Nick.
Needing the kind of contentment and comfort I’ve only ever felt in his arms.
I pick up my phone, my fingers itching with the urge to dial his number. I could ask him to come back. I know he would. I also know that if I’d invited him into my home tonight, into my bed, we’d be crossing a threshold with no turning back.
If we try to return to each other again and fail, it will be for the last time. For my own sake, for my sanity, it would have to be.
As much as I wish I had Nick’s strength to lean on, I’m not sure I’m ready to face that much finality in one night.
Instead I head upstairs to take a shower and try to relax. A few minutes under the hot water soothes my tired muscles. It washes away the tears I refused to let fall in front of Kathryn.
What it doesn’t soothe or wash away are my thoughts of Nick.
My longing to be with him.
Those feelings cling to me as I wrap myself in a short silk kimono and pad across my bedroom rug to draw the blinds. It’s still pouring outside, rain pelting wetly against the windows and sweeping in waves over the street below.
The street where Nick’s black BMW still sits parked at my curb.
“What the hell?”
He’s here? When did he come back? Or did he ever go at all?
It doesn’t matter. He’s here. I step back from the window in surprise, swamped by a selfish elation I can’t deny.
Then I’m racing down the stairs and out the front door, barefoot. Breathless.
Puddles on the pavement slosh against my feet as I round the front of the car to the driver’s side. I pound the flat of my hand against the window, a single knock that brings Nick’s head up sharply.
Our eyes meet through the water-streaked glass. He’s sitting in the darkened car, the engine turned off. He scowls, his lips parting on a silent curse as currents of rain sluice off my nose and chin.
The door pops open. I step aside as he climbs out of the car, an apology in his gaze. “I couldn’t leave. Damn it, I tried to, but–”
I don’t give him the chance to finish. With my hands holding his face, I drag him down to meet my kiss. His answering groan is animal, filled with the same yearning that’s coursing wildly through me.
We’re drenched in seconds. His white dress shirt plasters against his broad shoulders and chest. My thin kimono practically melts around me. Neither of us seems notice or care. Nothing can cool the urgency of our kiss.
Nick’s mouth moves hungrily over mine, our faces wet from the rain, our lips fused and fevered. His large hands hold me close to him, one palm splayed at my back, the other cradling my nape beneath the sodden tangle of my hair. His muscles flex, then in an instant he’s pivoted, turning me around so that I’m pinned between the closed door of the BMW and the firm heat of his body. He crowds in closer, still kissing me madly, our bodies crushed together everywhere they can, melding my soft curves to his hard planes.
I moan with the need for deeper contact. There’s no use trying to deny what he does to me. Just one kiss and I’m his for the taking already.
Pleasure has a price…
Struggling artist Avery Ross is barely scraping by. Bartending at a trendy New York City restaurant for an overbearing boss and two weeks away from losing her apartment to a condo developer, she’s desperate for a break. So when she’s offered a temporary housesitting job, she takes it.
Living at one of the poshest addresses in Manhattan is like entering a new world—one that catapults her into the orbit of billionaire Dominic Baine, the darkly handsome, arrogantly alpha resident of the building’s penthouse. What begins as a powerful attraction soon explodes into a white-hot passion neither can deny.
Yet as scorching as they need for each other is, Avery doesn’t expect Nick’s interest in her to last. Nor does she dare to dream that the desire she feels for this scarred, emotionally remote man could deepen into something real. For Avery has secrets of her own—and a past that could destroy her…and shatter everything she and Nick share.
Passion knows no bounds…
Avery Ross is living a dream. After struggling all of her life to make ends meet, a change encounter with a powerful, darkly handsome man has catapulted her into a dazzling new world of penthouse luxury, elegant parties, and a wild, consuming passion with her billionaire love, Dominic Baine. Nothing is out of his reach in business or in pleasure, yet the only woman he wants is her. Nick sweeps her to sensual heights she has never dared explore, commanding her body the same way he commands her heat. Yet Avery knows the fantasy she’s living cannot last.
With dark secrets and a dangerous enemy haunting her past, Avery must find a way to trust Nick with the truth before it destroys everything they share. But Nick is harboring secrets of his own as well. And when they come to light, Avery will be forced to decide if the love she feels for Nick is strong enough to endure a betrayal she may never be able to forgive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LARA ADRIAN is a New York Times and #1 international bestselling author with nearly 4 million books in print and digital worldwide and translations licensed in more than 20 countries. Her upcoming release is FOR 100 REASONS, the third book in a contemporary romance series that reviewers are calling “phenomenal” and “one of the hottest series of the year.” Learn more about the author and her books at LaraAdrian.com.
Love gets filthy in this new erotic romance by USA Today bestselling author, Stacey Kennedy.
Greyson Crawford works hard by day and plays even harder at night. And he understands and obeys the rules of the game. One, don’t mix business and pleasure. Two, employees are off-limits. So, he’s been eagerly counting down the days until interior designer, Evie Richards is no longer under contract with his Seattle architecture firm. But when that day comes, he realizes there are more obstacles in his way. The biggest…Evie herself.
Until Evie gets asked to be the maid-of-honor in her best friend’s destination wedding, and Evie needs a date. The circumstances are perfect for Greyson to set his plan of seduction into motion. He will happily play the boyfriend for the weeklong wedding event, if Evie will surrender to his every command and play in his bed.
For Evie, it’s all fun and games until Greyson’s first touch; then she begins to question what’s real. She knows better than to fall for a guy like Greyson—a skirt chasing ladies’ man—but with every slow caress and kinky adventure, she realizes that Greyson knows what he wants, and it isn’t just her body surrendering to him…it’s her heart.
Intent and careful to take his time not to scare any other employees in the restroom, Grey entered the simple and modern bathroom with the five stalls. Only one door was closed, and there was no one at the sink, so he moved toward the vanity and leaned against it. Hands shoved into his pockets, he stared at the closed door, giving Evie the time she needed. That’s when he heard her soft cries, and with those pained noises, something inside of him tensed.
It was a sensation strong enough to make him question what it was about this woman that drew him in so intently. She’d gotten a grip on his mind and body so tightly that he pondered her situation, and his, and what he could do about both. He’d become so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t realize she’d opened the door until she was leaving the stall and striding out.
Head down, she hadn’t noticed him yet, so he called out to her, “Evie.”
Her head snapped up, a scream ripping from her throat, hands pressing against her chest. “Holy shit!”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m sorry for scaring you.” His amusement washed away when he took a good look at her face. There was so much pain there. He didn’t like it.
The shock from her face slowly faded. “Why are you in here?” she asked.
“To return your phone to you.” He moved to her, watching her following his every step. The heat in her eyes was instant, and that’d always been the problem. She wanted him. Christ, did she want him, he could tell. But she was smart and clever, never one to cross the professional line either. She was also a good girl, who likely needed love before sex. Maybe that was the real reason she didn’t ever cross the line. Maybe it was less about the job and more about protecting her heart from a guy that screamed danger. He could understand why.
Though he never was a man who took the easy road, and he sure as shit liked a challenge. He stared into her gorgeous eyes, and a plan formed. One that got him what he wanted, and yet would benefit her, too. He’d never been a sly or shady guy, but he was a good businessman. And that meant using a situation to his advantage.
“So, that’s it. You got out the good cry you needed to,” he said to her, and he liked the way her lips parted when he leaned in toward her; it showed him just how much she yearned for his kiss. “Your ex is marrying your best friend,” he added. “He’s an asshole. She’s a bitch. This is happening, but it’s how you deal with it that truly matters.”
“He’s not an asshole,” she said softly, shaking her head. “And she’s not a bitch. I’ve helped plan their wedding for the last year, and I’m happy for them. I think…maybe it hadn’t sunk in or something.” She drew in a deep breath, releasing it out her nose and added with a soft smile, “But I’m better now. I’m sorry I fell apart out there.”
“One, I disagree with you,” he retorted sternly. “I’m not convinced these aren’t terrible people. And two, do not apologize that their selfishness hurt you. In fact, I’d say it’s time to get revenge.”
The side of her mouth arched slightly. He noted her long exhale, and he knew that had nothing to do with emotions. That it was this push and pull thing going on between them. Call it chemistry, intensity, whatever, it was as addictive as it was captivating. “How exactly do I do that?” She grabbed a paper towel, got it a bit wet with cold water, and then began wiping off her makeup, adding, “Murder them?” She gave him her sexy smile that pooled heat in his groin.
Grey chuckled, leaning his hip against the counter. “Perhaps that’s a bit extreme. Murder means jail time, and you going away is definitely not what I want.”
She slowly glanced at him then, cheeks flushing pink, and the dilation of her pupils was obvious. That look had snagged him the very first day after his COO hired her to design the lobby of the interior of their latest multi-million-dollar high-rise.
Now, the look intensified, hardening his cock, centering his mind on all the wicked things he’d like to do to her. He stepped toward her, as she spun around, leaning against the counter, wide eyes on him. There was something about her, maybe her innocence, maybe this unexplainable connection that had only grown since he worked alongside her, but it captured him in an unbreakable spell.
In the seconds that passed, the desire practically wafted off her, scented so sweet his cock went hard just that easily. As it always did, the space between them felt charged with electricity, but he’d never gotten this close to her before. He never let her feel the extent of how he wanted her. Now, he held nothing back.
“I have a better idea than jail time,” he told her, giving her enough distance that if she wanted to move and leave the bathroom, she could. When she stayed put, he added, “Show these bastards up. Take me with you, and make them both ragingly jealous.”
Her eyes searched his, then she broke out in loud laughter. “Yeah, right. Hilarious.”
She might have said one thing, but the only thing he noticed was that she wasn’t moving, eyes locked on him. “I’m not kidding,” he said, erasing the distance between them, placing both hands on either side of her, trapping her between him and the counter.
“You’re not kidding,” she said, more of a statement than a question.
Grey glanced from her bottom lip she nibbled to her flushed cheeks to her smoldering eyes… Christ, what he’d do to this woman. It would be indecent. “I would never joke about something that so clearly upsets you,” he told her seriously. “I can only imagine you want to one-up them. I know I would. Use me to do it.”
“She’s my best friend,” she said softly. “I don’t need to one-up her.”
He let his gaze roam over her pretty face before looking into her smoldering eyes again. “Tell me it’s never crossed your mind what it would feel like to walk in there not like a sad third wheel but like a woman who owns the world.”
“And how would that ever happen?’
“You’ll have me on your arm.”
Her mouth twisted. “You’re pretty sure of yourself.”
“Angel, I am never the third wheel of anything,” he told her, dead serious. “I’m the engine, the accelerator, and the whole damn car.”
She swallowed deeply and studied him, hard. “All right,” she eventually said, “say I’m game and actually agree to this crazy plan, what do you get out of it?”
“I get you.” He brought his mouth close enough to tease her. She wanted his kiss, angling her head backward, parting her lips. He dragged his nose across hers, and added, “I get to have you in all the ways you know I want you. Beneath me, over me, against a wall, on your knees, screaming my name, whatever I want. Completely under my control.” And to ensure there were no misunderstandings, he sternly added, “My game. My rules. Your surrender, until we’re back in Seattle.”
In a breathy voice, she asked, “Tell me why any sane woman would do this?”
He grinned at her—a sly smile that worked its charm on many women but seemed to have an even greater effect on her. He watched the way the heat rippled through her, and her breath grew rough and raspy, and fuck, did he want to make her moan.
“First, and most importantly,” he answered, staying on point, “you will do this because we both know you’ve been looking for a good reason to say yes to a little guilt-free, no-strings-attached with me. So, here it is. I’m giving you the perfect scenario for us to make that happen. The rules are clear. There can be no misunderstandings.”
She hadn’t blinked. “And second?”
“Secondly,” he said, moving his nose to her neck, inhaling her scent of sugar and spice while he slid back up her smooth skin to her ear, feeling her shuddering under his touch. “I’m that guy that every woman, including your bitch of a best friend, will want.” He lifted his head, staring into her lust-filled eyes. “I’m the perfect guy to show your shithead ex-boyfriend you’ve moved up in the world.”
She finally blinked. “When exactly would this arrangement start?”
“Tonight. My house. Eight o’clock. Bring your suitcase.” He paused, considered his next steps. “Send your flight and resort details to my email so I can get that squared away.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
He took her chin, tilting her eyes to lock onto his. “The proper reply is: ‘Yes, Grey, I agree to your terms.’”
A slowly seductive, delicious darkness slid over her eyes with her grin. “Yes, Grey, I agree to your terms.”
USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy has written more than 30 romances, including titles in her wildly hot Club Sin, Dirty Little Secrets, and Filthy Dirty Love series. Her books are about real people with real-life problems, searching for that special thing we call love…in a very sexy way. When she’s not burning up the pages and setting e-readers ablaze, she’s living her happily ever after with her husband and two young children in southwestern Ontario. She’s a firm believer that wine, chocolate, and sinfully sexy books can cure all of life’s problems. To keep in touch with Stacey, get updates right to your inbox at staceykennedy.com/newsletter/.
If I had to use one word to describe my wife, it would be Mine.
Emmalin is my life, my love, and the mother of my child.
She’s given me more than I deserve, and more than I ever wanted.
Nothing ever came easy for us.
Fight hard, Fuck harder.
Now, someone wants to take it all away from me. Someone has a sordid tale to tell, that’s a threat to both me, and my family, and it’s one I can’t defend.
I have to fight back.
But how do I fight for everything and prove my innocence when nothing makes sense and lies start to sound like the truth? How do I hold onto the only woman I’ve ever loved, even if she asks me to let her go? I can’t. She’s the one I refuse to lose….
Life with Grayson has never been more perfect. But life is also a bitch and then you die.
Incapable series by Marie Skye
Get the series that started it all, before the release of She Was Mine
Add She Was Mine to your TBR
The Gallagher Brothers series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan concludes with the final brother who thought he had everything to look forward to, and the one woman who can handle him.
Life isn’t worth living if you don’t fight to live. That’s what Murphy Gallagher learned at a young age when cancer ravaged his body not once, but twice. Over the course of his survival, he lost his parents and his childhood, but he’s been healthy for years and has become a man he hopes his family is proud of. But when his world tilts on its axis yet again, he’ll have to learn what it means to fight not only the unknown but also his attraction to his best friend.
Tessa Stone works hard and plays harder. She’s spent her life trying to figure out who she is in the present rather than looking back. Yet when she’s forced into close proximity with Murphy, she’ll have to not only be his rock but learn how to relax enough to maybe let him be hers, as well. But seduction doesn’t stop when the world seems to, and close encounters of the naked kind might just be the first step in something much more complicated than either of them bargained for. Life, though, is for living, after all.
Add HOPE RESTORED to your Goodreads list here!
HOPE RESTORED releases July 25th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!
Sometimes, life was damn good. Other times, it kicked him in the balls until he couldn’t catch his breath. Today, luckily, was one of the good days. Murphy Gallagher grinned from ear to ear as he tried to run from his niece, Rowan. She was eleven now and getting pretty fast, but he was faster. Not that he’d actually run at his full speed around her. It was always more entertaining when she caught him and took him to her lair.
As he was the evil dragon to her warrior princess, it only made sense.
“Behold! My mighty sword that shall slay the dragon!”
Murphy bit his tongue so he wouldn’t start laughing, but seriously, where had Rowan learned to say things like that? Of course, she was almost a teenager now and probably a little too old to play princess and the dragon, but that wasn’t something Murphy would ever bring up. Her mom, Blake, had been married to Murphy’s brother, Graham, for a little while now. Murphy hadn’t known Rowan when she was little, and he had a lot of playing to catch up on being her favorite uncle.
Sure, his brothers Owen and Jake were decent uncles, as well, but he would always be the best. Jake was the artistic one, Owen the type-A, Graham the grumpy one, and Murphy was the fun one.
He had to play his part and make sure Rowan had the time of her life. She’d only had her mom to play with for years, and while Blake was a kickass mother who made sure Rowan had the best childhood, Murphy wanted to make sure Rowan had even more fun now.
Murphy rolled to the ground as Rowan jumped on his back, both of them laughing so hard they shook. He made sure to take the brunt of the impact so he wouldn’t hurt his niece. She giggled as she stabbed him with her imaginary sword, and he put his hand over his heart and gasped, feigning injury before letting his tongue hang out and groaning.
And… the dragon was dead.
“Victory!” Rowan stood up and started dancing near Murphy’s corpse like any dignified warrior princess was wont to do.
“It’s about time,” Graham said with a laugh as he walked out from the porch where the rest of the Gallaghers were sitting. “I thought you’d have gotten him within the first few minutes, Rowan.”
Murphy sat up as Rowan beamed at her stepdad, though she just called him “Dad” now. Murphy smiled as he remembered the first time Rowan had called his brother “Dad” in front of them. Every single Gallagher had choked up and didn’t bother shrugging it off. They might all be inked, bearded, and pierced, but Rowan referring to Graham as her father as if it were no big deal was a big fucking deal.
“I didn’t want my prey to feel like it didn’t put up a fight,” Rowan said solemnly.
Murphy barked a laugh. “Prey? Really? What shows are you watching these days?”
Rowan turned to him and rolled her eyes with the pro of a teenage girl, rather than the eleven-year-old she was. “It was from a book, duh. Uncle Border got me a whole set of books with dragons in them.”
Border was Jake’s husband and the quietest of their group, though Murphy knew Border and Jake’s wife, Maya, was slowly changing that. The triad had been together the longest out of the Gallagher relationships, and yet they still acted like newlyweds with the way they incessantly groped one another.
Come to think of it, Blake and Graham acted the same way. And, hell, Owen and Liz— newly engaged— made out relentlessly, as well. No wonder Liz and Blake were pregnant; their men couldn’t keep their hands off their women.
That, of course, meant that Murphy was the last single Gallagher. He didn’t mind, though. After all, someone had to bear the mantle of bachelorhood. Plus, he really wasn’t ready to start settling down yet. He’d just learned to live life as it was, no need to change everything so dramatically again.
And that was enough of that.
Murphy rolled his shoulders and took Graham’s outstretched hand, helping him to his feet. “It wasn’t Game of Thrones was it?” he asked his niece.
Rowan rolled her eyes again, and Graham narrowed his. “It wasn’t that, Uncle Murphy.”
“What did we say about rolling your eyes so much, Rowan? Use your words, not your attitude.”
Rowan blushed and looked down at her feet. “Sorry, Dad.”
Murphy did his best not to smile at the way Graham’s chest puffed out at that. Seriously, the man was like a damn peacock. And now that Blake was pregnant, his brother was even worse. It was as if he were the first man to get his wife pregnant. And considering Jake and Border already had a kid with Maya, and Owen’s fiancée Liz was also pregnant, it wasn’t as if babies were something totally new to their crew.
Though with the way everyone kept popping them out, Murphy made a mental note to buy more condoms. There was something in the water with all the pregnancy hormones flying around like they were.
Murphy followed father and daughter back to the porch and gingerly took a seat next to Liz’s former roommate and Owen’s neighbor, Tessa— the only other single person at the Gallagher family dinner. He’d hit the ground a bit hard when he rolled to make sure Rowan didn’t get hurt in her exuberance and now his muscles were feeling it. He was in damned good shape— had to be for his job— but, apparently, he needed more protein or something because his body made him feel like an old man.
Murphy looked at the brunette next to him. Tessa wasn’t a Gallagher, but she was the only family Liz had, even though they weren’t related by blood. Plus, it would have been awkward as hell to not have Tessa over since there wasn’t a fence separating the two yards at the moment. Owen had taken it down after a few of the boards rotted. Eventually, they’d put it back up.
Considering that the family owned a construction and restoration company, it wouldn’t take too long, but they actually had to find the time to do it. Murphy figured he’d be enlisted soon to take care of it since he was the only one without a pregnant significant other or kids to keep him busy. And it wasn’t like he minded. He liked being able to do things for his family since they’d spent so much of their lives doing things for him when he couldn’t do them for himself.
And that, once again, was enough of those thoughts.
“You okay, dear dragon?” Tessa asked with a wink before handing over a beer. He took it with a wink of his own. “Thanks, and yeah. That warrior princess is tough.”
She laughed and pulled her long, chestnut hair behind her shoulders. He hadn’t seen her wear it down for a while since she was always working and tended to do severe ponytails. He had to say, he kind of liked it better down. Not that he’d tell her that since she’d have his balls for breakfast if he did. Every single woman in the Gallagher’s circle tended to be a ballbuster, and while Murphy loved it, he didn’t want to lose his nuts. He liked them, what could he say.
“That she is, but I was serious. You hit the ground hard, and you winced when you sat down. Did you hurt yourself? Because you know, Murphy Gallagher, you may still be hot as fuck, but you’re not getting any younger.” She whispered the last part so the kids wouldn’t hear, and Murphy held back a snort.
Considering he’d spent most of his life praying that he’d have a chance to get older, he didn’t mind that he had a few more aches and pains now that he was in his thirties. Hell, he’d relish the day he got wrinkles and grey in his hair. That meant he was alive to witness his body changing. For a man who didn’t know if that would ever happen, it was his own form of bliss.
Of course, he didn’t tell Tessa any of that and wasn’t sure why he’d let his thoughts get that deep so suddenly. Tessa was a fantastic person and sexy as all get out, and he loved flirting with her, but there was no way he’d get into deep feelings or heavy conversation with her. Their dynamic worked because they joked around and kept things light— if a bit inappropriate at times. If he changed that, then things would get fucked up, and he didn’t want to jeopardize what they had. Hell, he didn’t want to jeopardize her position in the group.
Everything was better if they just remained friends that didn’t go too deep.
“Hey, Murphy, did you send over the files on the house?” Owen asked, a frown on his face as he looked at his phone. Liz was perched on his lap, their hands tangled over her baby bump. She was finally starting to show, and Murphy loved the way she glowed. She just finally seemed so at peace with being pregnant, though he knew that wasn’t always the case since the baby hadn’t exactly been planned.
He made another note to himself to buy condoms. He couldn’t be too careful these days.
“I did,” he answered before pulling out his phone to check his outgoing messages. “I thought you replied back.”
Owen let out a sigh. “Shit, I did. Sorry. Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
Murphy looked over at Tessa and winked since she loved joking with him, and she laughed before whistling. “What were you doing, Mr. Organized One, if you weren’t sleeping.”
Owen looked over to where Rowan held her cousin Noah, Jake’s son, and shook his head. “Perv,” his brother whispered. “I was up finishing the final details on Blake’s house.”
Blake looked over and widened her eyes. “It’s almost done? Really?”
Murphy didn’t blame his sister-in-law for the incredulous look. The Gallaghers had been working on Blake’s family home for over a year now and had hit every obstacle known to man, including a kidnapping and an injured worker thanks to Blake’s former in-laws. Murphy fisted his hands as he let the rage wash through him, remembering everything that Graham and Blake had gone through when they were dating.
“It’s almost done,” Graham said as he wrapped his arm around Blake’s middle, his large hand resting over Blake’s tiny baby bump. She wasn’t as far along as Liz, but she was close.
Blake wiped away tears and turned into Graham’s arms for a hug. Murphy blinked in surprise at Blake’s show of emotion since she usually hid what she felt so well. Either she was feeling more comfortable around them, or it was the baby hormones. Knowing Blake, it might be a little of both.
“I can’t believe it’s almost done,” Blake said after a moment. “I mean, I knew you had to be close, but…” She shook her head as if at a loss for words.
Maya came up and hugged Blake, even though Graham refused to let his wife go. “These guys are pretty amazing, aren’t they? And soon, you won’t have to deal with the house at all. It’ll be in the city’s hands and only a distant memory.” She kissed Blake’s temple before going back to take Noah out of Rowan’s arms.
Murphy didn’t know the whole story behind Blake’s childhood, but he knew it wasn’t good. She’d grown up affluent but with the worst kind of family. She’d run off as soon as she could, and had had Rowan when she was pretty young. And when her parents had died, they’d left the huge mansion in disrepair and neglect but had forced Blake through their will to oversee the restoration. The project had brought Graham and Blake together, but other than that, it had been a pain in the ass. And considering that Murphy loved jobs where he got to dive into the history of a place and see how to keep some of the past blended into the present, it was saying something that he truly wanted nothing more to do with the project.
The others began talking about the next steps involved in finishing up the house as well as what they would do next since their last big project hadn’t panned out thanks to shady deals and selfish businessmen. But Murphy just closed his eyes and let the breeze slide over him. He’d slept for shit the night before, and he wished it had been because of a woman. Instead, he hadn’t been feeling well and had tossed and turned all night.
“Hey, I’m going to go get the chips and salsa, want to help?” Tessa asked. She put her hand on his forearm, and he opened his eyes. Her hands were cold to the touch, but it could be that his skin was overheated. Ever since the chemo when he was younger, he had a hard time keeping a consistent body temperature. That’s what happened when you had leukemia when you were in grade school and again when you were a teenager. You dealt with the side effects for the rest of your life.
No wonder he was damn tired.
“Sure,” he said and sat up, taking a sip of his beer once he was on his feet. The others were still shooting the breeze and passing Noah around. The kid was getting pretty big since he was nearing one year old now. Or at least Murphy thought. He should probably check his calendar and make sure he hadn’t missed a birthday since their family kept growing.
He and Tessa made their way to the kitchen and got out the chips and three kinds of salsa and dip that they’d made for the barbeque. Tessa brushed by him on her way to the fridge, and his cock hardened.
He glared down at his crotch, annoyed with himself for once again getting hard around her. She was his friend. Sure, they flirted because it was fun, but they’d never fooled around, and there was no way they would now. They’d firmly put themselves into their roles, and he didn’t want to change that.
Of course, his dick had other ideas, but hell, Tessa was hot. She was tall, mostly leg, and had just enough curves that he knew he’d have plenty to hold onto when he fucked her from behind or held her up against the wall and pounded into her.
He would never be fucking Tessa against anything, thank you very much.
Tessa snuck a chip into the salsa and groaned. He did his best not to think about whether she’d groan like that under him, or over him… anywhere around him.
“This is so good. Here, taste.” She held out a chip with salsa on it, and he bent forward, taking it in one bite as he gently nipped at her fingers.
She swallowed hard before lowering her hand and giving him a sultry smile. “Like it?”
He nodded before swallowing. “Spicy.”
“I like a little heat, what can I say.”
He snorted and took a sip of his beer. He loved flirting with Tessa, even though he had to use his hands more often than not when she wasn’t around because she kept him in a perpetual state of arousal. He couldn’t help it. She was sexy and flirted better than anyone he’d ever met, but still, they were just friends.
Tessa took his beer from him since she hadn’t brought hers with her and took a sip, her eyes on him the whole time. He cleared his throat and looked away, only to glance at her breasts and notice that her nipples were hard pebbles against her very thin bra.
Damn, he could just bend her over the kitchen island and fuck her right there. Just slide her jeans down and fill that tight pussy with his dick. She’d cream for him, coming hard on his cock, and he’d fill her to the brim.
And… that wouldn’t be happening.
He shook off those thoughts, and Tessa gave him a knowing wink before handing back his beer. He took a deep swallow, finishing it off, and then tossed the bottle into the recycling can.
“Why didn’t you bring Brian?” he asked, keeping his mind on what was important. Like the fact that she was sort of dating a guy that wasn’t him.
Tessa laughed and picked up one of the trays of veggies they’d also taken out of the fridge. “His name is Brent, dork. We’re not that serious and still pretty new. There’s no way I’d bring him over to one of these. We’re just casual. And why didn’t you bring one of your many lady friends?”
“There aren’t that many, and I’m not seeing anyone serious right now.” In fact, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t been with a woman in over a month. Hell, no wonder he couldn’t get sex with Tessa off his mind. He just needed to get laid, and everything would work itself out.
Thoughts of Tessa just might kill him, but damn, he loved being her friend. Way better than any fucking amazing sex they might have.
“You’re never seeing anyone serious, Murph. It’s why we get along. Let the others be adults and get settled. We can live it up for the rest of them.”
She turned and sashayed from the room, and he did his best to keep his eyes off her very bitable ass. It wasn’t exactly easy since it was right there and practically speaking in tongues at him.
He followed Tessa out to the back deck and bent over the table to set everything down. He froze at Tessa’s gasp and looked over his shoulder.
“What is it?”
“What the fuck, Murphy?” she asked, pulling up his shirt. “What happened to you?”
He frowned and straightened, trying to see what the hell she was talking about. “Huh?”
“Jesus Christ,” Jake said shakily. “Your back, Murph. You’re black and blue.”
“What’s wrong with Uncle Murphy?” Rowan asked, her voice shaky.
Thunder pounded in Murphy’s ears, and he tried to process what everyone was saying, but they were all talking at once and trying to tug up his shirt. He pulled away from them and ran back into the house and into the nearest guest bathroom so he could check himself out in the mirror.
They had to be wrong or just fucking with him. Everything was fine. He was not black and blue. There was no way this could be happening again. He was healthy, damn it, and had been for a decade.
He wasn’t sick.
He wasn’t bruised.
But when he turned on the light and lifted up his shirt, he couldn’t think. Couldn’t speak. He’d looked at himself that morning after he got out of the shower, and the bruises hadn’t been here. Yet his side and what he could see of his back were covered in newly formed bruises. They weren’t bad yet, but he knew they’d grow.
They always did.
“Murphy,” Tessa whispered from the doorway. “I… Murphy…”
He met her eyes in the mirror and tried to think of something to say to brush this off, but he couldn’t. He knew what the bruises meant. He’d seen them before. Every single little ache and pain, infected scratch from the jobsite, mood swing, and fever over the past few weeks came back to him in a rush.
His cancer was back.
And he had no idea what the fuck he was going to do about it.
HOPE RESTORED releases July 25th, 2017 – preorder your copy now!
Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.
Banner Regent is one of my new favorite characters. I am so in love with this woman that I wish I knew her in real life. We would be fantastic friends.
Logan Brantley and Banner Regent are two of so awesome together. I am so happy that I didn’t have to wait to listen to these stories back to back. I do believe I might have had a little fit. The way the two feed off one another makes me smile. I have not laughed, giggled, or been downright shocked by a book as I much as I have with this one. While listening to the first book, I had to make my love of the main female character known to the author. Absolutely fucking amazing!
**Oh, side note. Sebastian York could read me sports stats and I would be enthralled with that man.
From USA Today best-selling author Meghan March comes a sexy new duet with a hero you won’t want to miss.
Fall for a woman over text messages? No way in hell.
Reality can never be as good at the fantasy, right?
Wrong. It’s better.
Banner Regent is smart, funny, and so far out of my league she might as well be royalty.
I’m a mechanic from Kentucky. She’s a New York City party girl.
We were never supposed to meet, but one text started something neither of us saw coming.
How do you seduce the woman who already has everything?
Show her what it’s like to be with a real good man.
I’ve had my fair share of bad boys, but nothing prepared me for what it was like to be with a real good man.
Logan Brantley changed everything.
Somewhere along the way, what started as a fling became the best part of my life.
He makes me want all the things I’ve never had, like forever and happily ever after, but nothing worth having comes easily.
Everyone is betting on us to fail, but I’m ready to fight for this real good love.
Real Good Love is the conclusion of the Real Duet series.
I’d dated his brother.
He didn’t remember and I wish I could forget.
I may have sworn off the Wright family a long time ago. But when I returned home, Jensen Wright crashed into my life with the confidence of a billionaire CEO and the sex appeal of a god. Even I couldn’t resist our charged chemistry, or the way he fit into my life like a missing puzzle piece.
Too bad he’d forgotten the one thing that could destroy us.
Because Jensen Wright doesn’t share. Not with anyone. And if his brother finds out, this could all go down in flames.
When it all was said and done, was he the Wright brother?
K.A. Linde is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifteen novels including the Avoiding series and the Record series. She has a Masters degree in political science from the University of Georgia, was the head campaign worker for the 2012 presidential campaign at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as the head coach of the Duke University dance team. She loves reading fantasy novels, geeking out over Star Wars, binge-watching Supernatural, and dancing in her spare time.
She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband and two super adorable puppies.
From the moment I first saw my stalker, I was captivated.
The man with the black leather jacket and dark, spiky hair sits on a bench across the street from my house, staring down at a notebook.
Every night, he sits there at exactly ten p.m., looking off into the distance or writing his notes under the street light … or looking straight at me.
Like he is now.
Our eyes meet, and a sudden electrical current rushes through my veins.
I’m unable to look away from his piercing blue eyes, and I wonder … How long ago did he first see me?
I’ve only noticed him outside recently … watching over my house as if he’s guarding it. Guarding me.
I don’t know if I should be scared. If I should run or call the cops.
He’s never come close.
So is there any reason to act?
As long as he maintains his distance … an invisible line he doesn’t cross … I still feel safe. I can survive, knowing he is there, wherever I go.
I never know when or where I’m going to see him again.
I just know I will.
A hampered breath leaves my throat as he stares me down from across the street. His gaze feels like it penetrates through the closed windows. And for a brief second, I think I spot a hint of a smile.
“Where are you going?” she asks.
“Shower,” I grumble, annoyed with her indecisiveness.
My cock tents my pants, and I will it down, but it’s not happening. So I take them off, along with my boxer shorts, socks, and shoes. Then I pull off my shirt and throw it in the corner of the bathroom on the pile of clothes that was already there.
When I turn around to grab some shampoo, she’s still standing in the living room, blatantly staring at my naked body while blinking rapidly, her lips parting ever so slowly.
A smirk grows on my face. “Seen a ghost or something?”
Her face glows red, and she stutters, “I can’t believe you just took off your clothes while I’m still here.” She swallows, visibly confused. “Do you want me to go? I can go.”
I shrug. I don’t see the problem. “You can stay.” I give her a smile, and she tentatively smiles back, trying to hide the obvious stare. I guess my cock stole the show.
“Okay,” she murmurs as I turn around and turn on the shower, wondering if she’s staring at my ass. She probably is, judging from the squeaks in her voice. “I’ll go sit down over here…”
I don’t answer, as it wasn’t a question, and I don’t see the point in discussing something completely irrelevant. I’m a man of actions, not of words, and I prefer the written word regardless. I could write whole essays about how her beauty captivates me and about all the things I would do to her to make her mine.
But she already knows that.
She’s seen my notes.
Touched herself to my dirtiest fantasies.
And now, I’m touching myself to them too.
Under the shower, my cock has done anything to cool down.
All I can think of is claiming her for my own, and it only makes me stroke myself more. I don’t even care that she’s in the room beside me. I need the release, one way or another, and if she doesn’t want it, then I’ll have to take care of it myself.
So I imagine her showering with me as I jerk myself off, picturing her naked body. I hiss and bite my lip, completely immersing myself in my own fantasy. The fact she’s right next door only makes it that much more exciting. That much more forbidden.
But when I open my eyes for just a second, I spot her standing in the doorway, with her mouth wide open.