BLOG TOUR REVIEW AND EXCERPT: Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen

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“Friends to lovers at its best– a sweet indulgence I couldn’t put down!” – R.S. Grey, USA Today Bestselling Author

Baking Me Crazy, the first in the romantic comedy Donner Bakery Series of standalones, from Karla Sorensen is available now!

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I’m Levi Buchanan, and until five years ago, I thought the legend of my family’s curse was a load of crazy, Southern nonsense.

No curse can make you fall in love at first sight. No curse can force a true, deep, passionate, all-consuming love that will haunt you all the days of your life.

Then I met Jocelyn Abernathy and I realized how completely wrong I was.

The problem is, Jocelyn guards her feelings like well-armed soldier. She’s the most beautiful, stubborn, infuriating woman I’ve ever met. Every time she talks, I want to kiss the living daylights out of her. But I can’t.

Because when we met, she didn’t need true love. She needed a best friend. And that’s what I’ve been to her… for five years.

But when Jocelyn meets a handsome stranger her first day working at Donner Bakery and she lets him buy her a dill pickle cupcake, I realize with ominous regret that I may have missed my window with my best friend.

If I can’t get her to see past our friendship, my new curse may be to watch the love of my life move on with someone else.

‘Baking Me Crazy’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Donner Bakery series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

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Download your copy today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2kwvT7z

AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2ku8Pq7

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/BakingMeCrazy

Nook: http://bit.ly/2lEMEh0

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2lU7066

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My Review

Smart Romance…that’s what originally drew me to Penny Reid’s Universes and it’s what had me signing up to read and review EVERY SINGLE one of her Smartypants Romance Fall Launches. I was excited to be introduced to new-to-me authors who would take me back to Reid’s worlds and help me reconnect with old friends while also meeting new ones. And there’s no better way to start my journey into Smartypants romances than heading back to Green Valley.

As an extension of Reid’s stories, it’s clear that the authors crafting their tales to be immersed into her different settings/universes understand the importance of clever writing, complex character creation, and teachable life lessons, staying true to everything that makes these worlds unique and insightful.

And, as Karla Sorenson’s Baking Me Crazy starts the first launch of these books, the witty exchanges the main characters have, the supporting characters who add an extra layer to the depth of the storyline and immersive nature of the hero and heroine’s relationship prove that Sorenson was the perfect choice to start things off, making me ready for the rest of the stories to release.

Joss and Levi’s book is a friends-to-lovers’ story that illustrates just how open-minded and unyielding love can be even when both people aren’t on the same page. And while I will say that Joss’ obliviousness to Levi’s more than friends’ feelings for her had me a bit frustrated at times; her insecurities and her issues seem to prevent her from being as insightful as she should be. But all hope is not lost because Levi’s unyielding devotion that, unfortunately, seems to hold true to the Buchanan curse will not allow him to give up or to move on, which means that Joss has a limitless amount of time to finally realize just how much she means to Levi and then explore what’s always been between them as way more than just best friends.

As sugary sweet and swoon worthy as Baking Me Crazy is, there’s also an emotional depth to the plot as well, due primally to all that Joss needs to work through in order to continue to thrive and obtain every ounce of love and faithfulness that Levi has to give her. And that is what is most exhilarating to watch play out on the pages of this story, proving that love cares for what’s within a person, not how one’s outward appearance can change their perspective and if anyone can do it, it’s definitely Joss and Levi as proven by how they cope with as well as manage their pasts, their presents, and their futures.

4 Poison Apples

Excerpt

“Besides, this is my best friend perk. Shouldn’t I get perks in baked goods?”

She cut me a look. “You’ve been getting those perks for two years, Buchanan. Don’t even pretend you didn’t put on a solid ten pounds that first year I started baking.” Quite pointedly, she looked at my stomach, which we both knew was covered in muscle.

“That’s rude,” I mumbled under my breath. I flexed my bicep. Nero licked my elbow since it was right in front of him. “Yeah, ten pounds in my left arm maybe.”

The noise she made roughly translated to you are ridiculous. She made that sound at me a lot. Of course, the sad truth of the matter was that I was ridiculous.

Not once in the past five years had my feelings lessened for her. I had just learned to live with them. In my junior year of undergrad, I was taking a class on brain pathology in injuries, and a man came to talk to us about how he learned to live without his right arm after it was amputated.

He told us about how, even years after he lost his arm, his brain still triggered sensations to the limb that was no longer there. The adult brain, in particular, struggled to reorganize after the loss of a limb, and given that four out of five amputees suffer from phantom pain symptoms, some of which were incredibly debilitating, it was a lesson that stuck with me.

I wasn’t fool enough to think that me loving Jocelyn was on par with a man who’d lost his arm, but something about the way he talked plucked at a chord inside me. Sometimes my brain struggled to remember that we were just friends.

She’d never dated, never even hinted that she wanted to. She’d never given me a longing glance. Never stared at my mouth like she wondered what it tasted like.

But my hands never, not once, stopped wanting to reach for hers. My fingers always, always itched to dig into her crazy hair and see what the curve of her scalp felt like.

My brain knew what this relationship was, but sometimes, the signals it sent to the rest of my body didn’t always match up with the truth of our situation. We worked out together a lot, Joss and I, and when she got frustrated with the limitations of her body, I always wanted to wrap my arms around her.

I wanted to pull her into the curve of my body, absorb her dissatisfaction into my skin, and carry it for her. That was the irony when she made noises like that.

She had absolutely no clue how ridiculous I really was.

About Karla Sorensen

Karla Sorensen has been an avid reader her entire life, preferring stories with a happily-ever-after over just about any other kind. And considering she has an entire line item in her budget for books, she realized it might just be cheaper to write her own stories. It doesn’t take much to keep her happy…a book, a really big glass of wine, and at least thirty minutes of complete silence every day. She still keeps her toes in the world of health care marketing, where she made her living pre-babies. Now she stays home, writing and mommy-ing full time (this translates to almost every day being a ‘pajama day’ at the Sorensen household…don’t judge). She lives in West Michigan with her husband, two exceptionally adorable sons and big, shaggy rescue dog.

Connect with Karla

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2lU6xAS

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2khRSPL

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2k0Yp0T

Instagram: http://bit.ly/2lBNuez

Website: http://www.karlasorensen.com/

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RELEASE REVIEW: TWISTED MARRIAGE by Alessandra Torre

Purchase Here: smarturl.it/TwistedMarriage
Read the Prequel: smarturl.it/filthyvows
Release Date: October 10th
Add to Goodreads: bit.ly/2lYN3LB

Blurb

Some sexual actions have consequences…

We thought we could branch outside of the norm. Explore my sexual fantasies. Dip our toes in a kinky pond just to see how it felt.

But you can’t have sex with your husband’s best friend in front of him without consequences. Ripples in the pond. A subtle shifting of events and feelings and triggers that will eventually affect every core molecule of your marriage. Your friendships. Your life.

Once I knelt down between the two of them, everything changed. And now, I’m faced with wading in deeper or drying off my pink manicured toes and trying to pretend it never happened.

They say that three is a crowd, but what about four?
What about more?
This is the truth of what I started when I confessed my desires and he gave them to me.

*Twisted Marriage is the sequel to Filthy Vows.

Filthy Vows (#1): smarturl.it/filthyvows
Twisted Marriage (#2): smarturl.it/twistedmarriage

My Review

Confessions…those are what led Elle and Easton North to explore their sexual fantasies, together, while participating in a number of escapades that would most definitely be classified as forbidden or taboo, but in Elle and Easton’s eyes, the dalliances they have with other people, the filthy and twisted encounters they revel in are only meant to spice things up not destroy what they view as a strong and healthy marriage.

But, regardless of how much a married couple can be on the same page when it comes to stepping out of their comfort zone and steeping into the kinkier and dirtier side of their sexual appetites, when it comes to matters of the heart, repercussions, consequences, insecurities, and complications must be dealt with and worked through so that as their relationship changes and adjusts to their newfound wants and needs, they never lose who they are as a friends, partners, and lovers.

What happens behind closed doors between a married couple and who they choose to invite into their bedroom is not wholly acceptable by society; oftentimes, unconventional, taboo, and/or twisted acts are frowned upon, but that’s not really what Twisted Marriage is about…because while there is a fear of judgment and a negative perception of what Easton is fulfilling for his wife, what makes everything even more tenuous is what they risk in exploring Elle’s sexual desires and the questions they may come into play the further into their exploration they go.

Some people would argue that the fact that Elle desires to bring another person into their marriage bed in order to explore her kinkier, more sexualized self proves that her and Easton’s marriage is not a healthy one – that they can’t fulfill each other’s every want and need, and while I can somewhat understand where these people are coming from, if they ever wanted to test their theory and read about a married couple who are more than enough for one another but are just looking to spice things up a bit, they need look no further than Elle and Easton North.

The trials and tribulations of a marriage, even a happily married couple, are realistically portrayed in Twisted Marriage, allowing readers to find a common ground with Elle and Easton, even if they would never choose the path that this couple took to explore another side of themselves. What’s clear despite the missteps and roadblocks this couple faces is that through all the highs and lows, ups and downs of their marriage, the one thing that has kept them together is their undying love for one another and because that idea resonates from the pages of this story, I never doubted that they would make it through…that they would remain a happy and loving husband and wife – a partnership that will only grow with what they’ve added to their marriage instead of costing them everything.

I appreciate the way Alessandra Torre explores the nuances of this story line and works tirelessly to show what Elle and Easton mean to each other and that the fact that they want to explore their sexual sides a bit more doesn’t mean that they can’t satisfy one another’s every desire. This is just the path they decided worked for them and while a lot of couples would never choose this approach, Torre makes it extremely difficult to judge Mr. and Mrs. North because they remain what they’ve always been to each other – everything.

4.5 Poison Apples

About the Author

Alessandra Torre is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one novels. Torre has been featured in such publications as Elle and Elle UK, as well as guest-blogged for the Huffington Post and RT Book Reviews. She is also the Bedroom Blogger for Cosmopolitan.com.

In addition to writing, Alessandra is the creator of Alessandra Torre Ink, a website, community, and online school for aspiring authors.

Learn more about Alessandra on her website at http://www.alessandratorre.com, or you can find her on Twitter (@ReadAlessandra) or her Facebook fanpage.

Connect with Alessandra

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2rkHs46

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EXCERPT REVEAL: Delicate Promises by Kelly Elliott

Delicate Promises

A stand-alone romance novel in the Southern Bride series

Coming October 18, 2019

Blurb 

At eighteen-years-old, I made a promise with my best friend in high school. If neither one of us were married by age thirty, we would marry each other. Now Miles Warner is back in town and wants to cash in on that promise we made all those years ago.

The fact that Miles is still unmarried and single baffles me. The young man I remembered from high school has grown into one of the most handsome men I’ve ever laid eyes on. And he refuses to take no for an answer. You see, he needs a bride, and I’m his last resort. Romantic, isn’t it?

Well, no thank you. That is not going to happen.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. But as the days pass by and Miles settles back into life in our hometown, I find myself falling head over heels in love with him. Again.

What is the lesson I’ve learned, you ask?

Never make a promise you don’t intend to keep.

Universal Pre order links for LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT 

Amazon Universal Link  https://geni.us/sFEcwx

Apple Books, B&N, Kobo  https://books2read.com/u/bowYjV

Excerpt

Trigger bobbed his head in excitement as I opened the stall. “Hey there, beautiful.”

He pushed his head against me and made what I could only describe as a purring sound. He was the only horse I knew who made that sound, and I loved it. It made him even more special. He reminded me of a giant version of Whiskey. Both my boys showed me love and made me feel like I was their special human.

“What do you say we go for a ride?”

Trigger stomped his foot, and I laughed.

“Okay, okay. Cut me some slack, I went out last night and might have had one too many beers.”

He snickered.

“Oh, don’t you lecture me, buddy. It’s been a rough week.”

Trigger followed me out of his stall and down to the tack room where he waited for me to get him saddled up and ready to go.

“We are going to take a little ride this morning, buddy. It’s my birthday, and I need the fresh air, you need the exercise, and a fence needs fixing.” My sweet boy leaned into me, knowing he could fix all my troubles just by being here.

I climbed up onto the horse and started out of the barn. When I turned onto the well-worn riding path that led to the middle pastures, I nearly fell out of the saddle.

Trigger came to a stop on instinct, and I stared in disbelief.

I’d seen plenty of pictures of Miles over the last five years from his momma, selfies he’d taken with his Marine Corp buddies and randomly posted on social media, and some from text messages. He had grown into one hell of a handsome man. But in person…in person he looked breathtakingly beautiful. Everything about him was perfect. He had grown even more handsome since the last time I saw him.

Five years ago.

And that really pissed me off, and on my birthday, no less.

Narrowing my eyes, I let my gaze move slowly over his body.

His dark hair was cut in a military style, super short on the sides, and a bit longer on top. A hot as hell look for him, but I wasn’t going to let myself dwell on that little fact because, after all, I was pissed.

But that tight T-shirt showcased his broad chest, the tight jeans with muscular legs sent chills to all the important parts, and I could only imagine what his ass looked like.

Stop it, Kyns. Just stop it now.

My eyes naturally went back to his face. Blue eyes met my green, and I swallowed hard. Then he smiled, and his dimples made my insides tremble. My heart raced as I drew in a slow breath and breathed out the only word I could muster.

“Miles.”

And then he said the only word that he could possibly say in that moment that made any sense at all.

“Surprise.”

Meet the Author

Kelly Elliott is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romance author. Since finishing her bestselling Wanted series, Kelly continues to spread her wings while remaining true to her roots and giving readers stories rich with hot protective men, strong women and beautiful surroundings. 

Her bestselling works include, Wanted, Broken, The Playbook, and Lost Love, to name a few.

Kelly lives in central Texas with her husband, daughter, two pups, four cats, and endless wildlife creatures. When she’s not writing, Kelly enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

To find out more about Kelly and her books, you can find her through her website.

www.kellyelliottauthor.com

Social Media Links 

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RELEASE BLITZ: Sweet Retribution by Siobhan Davis

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Sweet Retribution, the stunning conclusion to the Rydeville High Elite Series from USA Today bestselling author Siobhan Davis, is available now!

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The good thing about hitting rock bottom is I’ve nothing left to lose, and the only way is up.

He thinks he’s destroyed me. Broken me beyond repair.

But he always underestimates women.

All he’s done is reinforced my resolve. I won’t stop until justice prevails and he gets what’s coming to him.

Kaiden is the only light in the darkness. He gives me the strength to continue fighting for the future we both crave—a world where we are free to love one another and make our own choices.

Until then, the charade must continue.

Game on.

This concludes Abby and Kai’s romance. 106k words, full-length novel.

This is a dark romance, and some scenes may be triggering.

Only recommended to readers aged eighteen and older.

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Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2AYKq0o

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/SweetRetributionsd

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Start the series today with Cruel Intentions!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WHTYti

Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/CruelIntentions

Join the Rydeville High Elite Spoiler Group: http://bit.ly/2WKtbwp

About Siobhan

USA Today bestselling author Siobhan Davis writes emotionally intense young adult and new adult romantic fiction with swoon-worthy romance, complex characters, and tons of unexpected plot twists and turns that will have you flipping the pages beyond bedtime! She is the author of the international bestselling Kennedy Boys, Saven, and True Calling series’.

Siobhan’s family will tell you she’s a little bit obsessive when it comes to reading and writing, and they aren’t wrong. She can rarely be found without her trusty Kindle, a paperback book, or her laptop somewhere close at hand.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Siobhan forged a successful corporate career in human resource management.

She resides in the Garden County of Ireland with her husband and two sons.

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Connect with Siobhan

Subscribe to romance newsletter: http://smarturl.it/KennedyBoysList

Amazon Author Page: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanDavisAmazon

Author website: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanDavisWebsite

Goodreads profile: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanGoodreads

Facebook page: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanDavisFacebook

Twitter profile: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanDavisTwitter

Author Blog: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanDavisBlog

BookBub Author Page: http://smarturl.it/SiobhanDavisBookbub

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SURPRISE COVER REVEAL: IN PEACE LIES HAVOC by AMO JONES

Cover Design by Hang Le

In Peace Lies Havoc, an all-new dark and emotional romance by USA Today Bestselling author Amo Jones is releasing November 5th!

Synopsis

My name is Dove Hendry.

Mine is Kingston Axton.

I was captured by darkness.

She has always been ours…

They groomed me for Midnight Mayhem. Like a trained possession, weak against their control.

She has been conditioned with our blood for years. She just doesn’t know it yet…

But Midnight Mayhem was the stained glass that concealed a very dark culture.

A culture that she is about to become the center of.

The Brothers of Kiznitch come in fours, and they’re not happy about me being hustled into their acts.

Or are we? Careful, Little Bird. A warning is a warning for a reason…

Mind-tricks.

Stunts.

Deceit.

Power.

But there’s something uglier that has been haunting me for years upon years. So ugly that I have never seen its face. I never had to. I’d hear his whispers through my internal screams, feel his shadow brush against my nightmares. He was my the monster that tormented me.

And maybe lived under your bed…

When I started Midnight Mayhem, his presence faded.

His whispers were silenced.

His shadow dissolving without a trace.

I wondered why that was.

She didn’t have to wonder for long…

Pre-Order Your Copy Now!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2kMA92T
B&N: https://bit.ly/2khvMwB
AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2lPjc8i

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2miKg05

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2I7cvas

Vote for IPLH for a November Anticipated Read: https://bit.ly/2zrrWoM

About Amo Jones
Amo Jones is a USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, totally winging this author thing (she’s probably doing it all wrong). She likes cake, loves wine, and her religion is magic (Slytherin). She’s a profound work-a-holic, but when she’s not writing, you can find her chilling with her kids & Husband at the nearest beach, with a cocktail in her hand.

Follow Amo Jones

Website: http://www.amojonesbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amojonesauthor

Join her Wolf Pack: https://www.facebook.com/groups/10114…

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorAmojones

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thatcrazykiwiauthor/

 

 


 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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EXCERPT REVEAL: The Second We Met by Maya Hughes

Title: The Second We Met

Series: Fulton U #2

Author: Maya Hughes

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs

Photo: Wander Aguiar

Release Date: October 17, 2019

Blurb

Dear Jerk Across the Street, sorry for accidentally walking in on you and catching an eyeful of your—equipment. And hard pass on the open invitation to join you in the shower “anytime”, A-hole. 

That’s the note I should’ve written. Instead I sent a pleasant and apologetic version. 

Had I known Phoenix “Nix” Russo would’ve been the neighbor from hell, I’d have told him right where he could shove my words. 

Nix is the big man on campus with everyone lined up at his games to make sure he knows it. Sure, he’s got piercing green eyes, abs that don’t quit and a smile that could set fire to a set of panties from a hundred yards away, but he’s also the biggest pain in my ass. 

Dear Pink-Haired Menace, learn how to take a joke and stop being such a kill-joy…

Elle Masterson called the cops on one of my parties—again. My sweet talking usually gets me out of trouble, but this time it got me into a nice pair of silver handcuffs. Now I’m on a reputation rehab tour with a stop at a spring break community service project. 

Guess who’s my new boss? 

Now we’re shoulder to shoulder, sweaty, tired and…she’s not anything like I expected. There might just be a heart under that hardass exterior. She’s invading my dreams and I can’t shake the feeling she’s the key to unlocking a piece of me that I’ve hidden away. 

It’s only a matter of time until she finds out why I’m really here.

Maybe I can break through her walls and into her heart before that happens…one screw at a time.

Add to TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45022943-the-second-we-met

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Elle – Junior Year August

“I’d rather let Edward Scissorhands give me a manicure.” My eyelids drooped. I threw the car into park, thanking God I was finally there. Outside my driver’s side window, the bright and shiny brass sixty-six on the front of the house glinted in the afternoon sun.

“Now who’s being dramatic? You two used to be so close.”

“Who has a two-year class reunion?” I gathered up my road snacks from the passenger seat and shoved them into my frayed and battered, better-than-nothing tote bag. Mom had kept trying to convince me to buy a grown-up purse over the summer, but what good was a purse if you didn’t have any money to put into it once you bought it?

“She was your best friend for seventeen years.”

“Things change, Mom, and Alyssa has always done what’s best for Alyssa.” Like my ex-boyfriend. “So, I’m more than happy to not go. Plus, depending on how things go with the Huffington Award, I might not even be in the country when it rolls around.”

She let out the long-suffering sigh reserved specifically for moms with difficult children. “I know you’ve worked so hard for that, but I just don’t want you to lose touch with people who used to be so important in your life.”

“Some people aren’t worth having around, Mom. Not everyone is as awesome as you.”

Her soft snort made me smile. “By the way, we’ll get you the money for your tuition on the first of the month. You know how hard it’s been.”

“I’m glad I could help.” The money I’d saved all last year for my tuition had gone to the late mortgage payments to stave off foreclosure on the house.

“Thanks, sweetie.” It had taken us several weeks to convince my dad to take the money. If it saved the house, it was worth it, but that meant things would be tight—real tight.

The loan situation was a touchy topic. Apparently, bad credit and no credit were the best way to end up with not many options when it came to paying for college. My first two years had been paid for with scholarships, last semester I’d maxed out my student loans—which were racking up interest by the day—and now I was winging it.

“How’s the hair holding up?”

I pulled a handful of my electric pink locks over my shoulder. “It’s very pink.”

“They don’t call it Day-Glo pink for nothing. It’ll last so long your grandkids will come out with pink hair.” She laughed.

“Awesome. I need to get unpacked and then I’m off to the tutoring center.”

“Honey, you’re doing great work, but you need to make sure you’re taking time for yourself. You’ve only got two years left, and they’ll be over in a blink. At least try to enjoy them.”

Now it was my turn to snort. “Frat parties, terrible beer, and being groped aren’t exactly my ideas of fun.” In the past two years on campus, I’d had more than my fill of bullshit stuff you’re “supposed” to do, and I’d also had all the good I’d done since then rocketed back in my face. Maybe I just needed to work harder, or maybe it was me. Maybe I had a big neon sign above my head that only cheaters could see. I ran my hands over my face. Each blink felt like lifting twenty-pound weights.

“Well, when you sell it like that, you definitely don’t want to miss out. Get some rest, study hard, and we’ll see you for dinner soon.”

“Next month, I’ve got a night off.”

The gravitational pull of her eye roll on the other end of the line tugged at me from halfway across the city.

“I love you.”

After hanging up with my mom, I tugged my phone out of the jury-rigged rubber band phone holder I’d constructed on my dashboard. Jules wouldn’t be home for a few more hours, and my eyes weren’t cooperating with the whole ‘staying awake’ thing.

I looked up at the houses lining the street and surveyed my new front door, which was right next to my car. Lucky me—prime parking spot.

I hefted one of the boxes from the back seat into my arms. The freshly painted steps and porch with planters didn’t scream bargain-basement rent, but hey, I’d take it. Maybe the good deed gods were finally smiling on me. After catching Mitchell in bed with his ‘totally not a threat’ volunteer groupie two days ago, the last-minute scramble to find a place had begun. Most of the good apartments or townhouses in my price range were long gone, but Jules had a spot in the house she’d found at the last minute, and it was in a price range I could afford. Did I mention she’s way too awesome to even be my friend?

The navy shutters and whitewashed porch made it look like any other house on the block. Well, maybe not the one across the street that looked like the porch was made of eighty percent splinters.

The door was unlocked, and I walked straight inside. Hardwood floors and white paint gave the place an airiness I hadn’t expected. There was a lingering hoppy smell of beer, but what college dorm or apartment didn’t have that?

Water drummed upstairs. Maybe Jules had gotten in early. I walked up the gleaming wood steps and peeked into the rooms. The one at the front of the house had a stripper pole. Yup, I was definitely in the right place. She hadn’t even been able to wait to get it put up.

After leaving the one pole dancing class we’d attended with my body seventy-seven percent covered in bruises, I’d given anything to do with hard poles a hard pass (well, not everything…), but Jules had taken to it like a fish to water. She hadn’t gone to any more classes, but damned if she hadn’t run out and bought her own pole the next day.

This one looked bolted to the floor, though. When the hell had she had time to do that? I’d ask later. Now, I just wanted to unpack my sheets and pass out on my bed for the next seven hours.

“Jules, if I’m drooling on my pillow when you come out, just poke me with a stick before eight so I can get to the tutoring center.”

The shower turned off as I dropped my stuff in a back room and tugged open the box’s flaps. Damnit. I should’ve labeled these things like my mom had suggested before I packed them. It was the librarian in her coming out, and now I had to play a game of ‘Where the hell would a sleep-deprived Elle have shoved her sheets?’ With my luck, it would be the last freaking box I lugged into the house.

I headed out to get more of my stuff. One of the bedroom doors swung closed, but not all the way. I knocked and walked straight in. “You going to let me on your pole t—” But the words stalled in my throat like I’d taken a snowball to the face. It wasn’t Jules in her long-sleeved shirt and jeans; rather, I was met with the sight of the tanned, glistening skin of a guy who’d been carved from marble like a Greek statue with water droplets falling from the tips of his hair.

Definitely not Jules. There was a naked man standing in the middle of the room, a towel draped over his head as he dried his hair.

My mouth hung open. My gaze dipped lower like a tractor beam had been attached to my eyes. I didn’t know abs came in varieties above six-packs. He seemed to have them all, and that wasn’t all he was packing.

“What the hell?!” He snatched the towel from his head and wrapped it around himself.

Damn, I was eye-fucking him into next week. Snapping myself out of it, the reality of the situation dawned on me: psycho naked guy in my house. I edged toward the doorway. “What the hell are you doing in my house?”

“Your house? This is my house.” He tucked in the end of the towel.

No longer dick-matized, I shook my head. “No, it’s not. I signed the lease earlier this week—sixty-six Aspen Drive.”

He crossed his arms over his chest, muscles bulging and rippling. It had to be an optical illusion. No one was this cut. But any attraction I may have felt toward his body was killed by the smug look on his face. “This is sixty-nine Aspen Drive.”

“No, I saw the numbers outside.”

“Happen to check the numbers on either side of this house? They don’t usually go sixty-seven, sixty-six, seventy-one. A screw was missing from the nine when they repainted.”

His eyes swept up and down my body.

A shiver crept up my spine, licking at my skin. Maybe it was my drought of a dating life, or maybe I was deprived after tutoring at the center for underprivileged high school students all summer, but he was the kind of gorgeous that made you wonder if he weren’t real-life CGI.

“But you’re more than welcome to stay, especially if you’re looking for some pole exercise.”

And he killed it like a puppy with a hammer. My gaze snapped to his knowing, so-full-of-himself-he-might-float-away smirk. Cue the explosive rage, which was a hell of a lot better than soul-shriveling embarrassment.

I glared at him, and his face finally clicked into place. Phoenix “Nix” Russo, quarterback and pompous asshole. “Not on your life.”

Storming down the steps, I whipped open the front door and touched the shiny numbers beside the door. Sure enough, the second digit had a freaking screw missing, making my complete and total embarrassment complete. The scarlet burn of it crept its way up my back, and my ears were probably glowing like Rudolph’s nose.

Nix walked out with his jeans on, but it seemed someone couldn’t find his way around a button fly. The expanse of skin from his shirtless chest stretched down…nearly all the way down. Even if I hadn’t already seen all the goods, there wasn’t much left to imagine. His self-satisfied little grin made me want to scream or punch something. I hated football players, hated assholes who thought they’re a piece of heaven on earth, and I hated that I’d drooled over him—even for a split second. I stormed back inside.

“Need some help?” He leaned against the doorway as I picked up my box and shoved the stuff I’d dumped out while looking for my sheets back in.

Slamming the flaps closed, I glared at him. “No.”

Standing there like he was God’s gift to women, he stared at me with that grin that made my stomach flip and my fingers tingle to punch him all at once. Had I made a mistake? Yes. Did he need to be so smug about it, like I’d made his day by being a dumbass? No. Most of all, I was pissed off at how the damn butterfly wings in my stomach wouldn’t stop. I’d been around hot guys before. Generally, they came in two varieties: complete-and-total douchebag and excels-at-hiding-that-he-is-a-complete-and-total douchebag. Guess which camp Phoenix too-cool-not-to-shorten-his-name-to-Nix fell into.

I brushed past him with my arms cradling my box, but he didn’t actually move back, so it was less shoving him out of the way and more full-body contact topped off with the backs of my fingers grazing way too close to a part of his anatomy I’d been gawking at less than five minutes ago. “If you wanted a touch, all you had to do was ask.”

“I’d rather cut my hand off,” I ground out through gritted teeth before bursting free from the death wedge between him and the doorway.

“Have it your way.” He walked behind me, following me out of his house.

“Nix, I love you! Are you going to get to the championship this year?” A fawning sycophant pounced on him the second we made it outside.

“I’ll do my best. We’re a solid team this year, and we’re ready.”

His pat, practiced answers turned my stomach. That scripted humility and noncommittal response—he was trained like a pro, and he wasn’t even there yet. I welcomed the burn of anger. It was so much better than embarrassment, and I latched onto that. Nix was a total asshole, and the butterflies had just been sleep-deprivation-induced delirium.

Blowing my hair out of my face, I whipped my head around, squinting at the numbers on the other side of the street. Wouldn’t you know it, the haunted-slash-murder house that looked like it was held together with duct tape and gum had a nice sixty-six spray-painted on the curb.

“Just freaking great,” I grumbled under my breath as I crossed the street. A car horn blared, and I jumped back. I’d been so intent on not looking back at Nix that I might have neglected that kindergarten staple of looking both ways before crossing the street.

Charging up the rickety steps to my new place, my toe caught on a loose board and I banged into the front door.

“I’ll be seeing you soon, neighbor,” Nix called out from across the street.

Safely inside, I dropped the box and coughed at the plume of dust that shot up from the floor. “Perfect, just perfect.” I closed my eyes and rested my head against the door. Talk about starting this year with a bang. Looking around the place, I could see exactly how Jules had gotten such a great deal on it. I braced for the floor to collapse under my feet with each step. At least there is a roof over my head. A piece of plaster rained down on me from above like jimmies on top of my craptastic sundae of a day. I shook out my hair and brushed the beige dust off the tip of my nose. Junior year was starting off in fine form.

Bracing myself, I went back outside and grabbed another box from my car, which was parked right in front of his house.

“Do you need some help, B and E?” Nix called out from his porch, leaning against the railing with a beer in his hand.

“Not from you.” I stacked another box on top of the one in my arm and used my leg to heft them both higher. Picturing him with a beer gut in fifteen years lifted my spirits slightly.

“Don’t be silly.” He swung his body over the railing, and a solid thud landed behind me. Showoff.“Let me grab one. Those look heavy.”

I swung the boxes away. “Touch them and die.” It probably would’ve been a bit more convincing if the top box hadn’t toppled out of my arms and fallen over, spilling out some of my volunteer stuff all over the sidewalk and street, namely a jumbo box of condoms.

Everyone who’d been hanging around to get some face time with Nix watched our little tug of war, which meant everyone was now one hundred percent locked onto the two hundred blue-foil-wrapped discs splayed everywhere.

“Busy semester for you,” someone called out, and the please-open-a-portal-into-the-underworld feeling was back. Leaving the condoms, I rushed back across the street and into my house. I’d get the rest of my stuff after my shift later. Maybe the cover of night would be enough to tamp down my embarrassment.

At this point, I’d have napped on the mystery-stained couch if my sheets weren’t in the box I’d brought in. No way was I going back out there unless absolutely necessary until the semester started.

Was it too late to find another place? Yes. We’d been lucky to find this death trap.

The hard thump of a knock stopped my embarrassment spiral from pulling me down into the depths of my clown freak-out at Becky Smith’s ninth birthday. I tugged the front door open.

Nix stood there with his arms loaded with the discarded condoms. “You left these behind.” He turned up the charm, flashing dimples and everything, looking like a shiny new toy on my ramshackle porch.

“She forgot some more,” someone shouted across the street, the foil wrappers catching the later summer sun. Great, now I’d be known as the prostitute of Aspen Drive.

I glared at them and back at Nix. Grabbing the half-empty box off the floor, I held it out to him and let him dump the contents out.

“We’re having a party—”

The rest of his sentence was cut off by me slamming the door in his face. Really? And make my humiliation totally complete? ‘Hey guys, this is the chick who walked into the wrong house like a dumbass, gawked at me naked, and then exploded a condom factory all over the street.’ No thanks.

I was sure he thought I’d be all over him after the way I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. I slapped my hand against my forehead. I knew all about guys like him. Arrogant. Hungry for the attention of anyone around them. All about the adoring fans and accolades and expecting every woman under retirement age to throw herself at them. Screw that!

Wouldn’t you know it? My sheets were absolutely not in the box. Mystery stains and a balled-up sweatshirt would have to do.

The front door swung open and slammed shut sometime later. Jules pushed up her glasses with the back of her hand, her travel pole in its bag slung over her arm, backpack on her shoulders.

“Damn, you look like shit. I’ll make brownies.”

Her go-to solution for any situation was exactly what I needed right now.

She peered out the front window. “There are a ton of people out on the sidewalk blowing up condoms like balloons. What’d I miss?”

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Author Bio

Maya Hughes can often be found sneaking in another chapter while hiding in the bathroom from her kids! 🙂 I’m a romance writer who loves taking inspiration from everyday life, namely my husband and biggest fan. Inspiration also strikes when I hear a song, meet someone new or daydream while at soccer practice.

I’m the mom of three little ones, the wife to an amazing husband and also work full time. Some of my favorite things are cinnamon rolls, white wine, laughing until I can’t breathe and traveling with my family.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mayahugheswrites/ 

Bookbub: http://bookbub.com/authors/maya-hughes

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COVER REVEAL: Heartless Hero by Mary Catherine Gebhard

Heartless Hero by Mary Catherine Gebhard

Release Date: October 24th

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47637417-hh

Giveaway
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ARC boxes are filled with one-of-a-kind HH themed swag and a signed paperback ARC.
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Blurb

“Bully to the highest degree. Heartless Hero is a must read for 2019.” Sarah, Musings of the Modern Belle

There are rules to being Abigail Crowne’s bodyguard, rules to watching the infamous billion-dollar heiress, otherwise known as the Reject Princess.

Never forget your place, always put the Crowne name above all else, and never, ever hurt the Reject.

Especially don’t torment the Reject.

Even if she is a spoiled brat.

So when an opportunity presents itself to punish her, you definitely shouldn’t take it.
Then again, Abigail loves to be tortured, and I’ve waited patiently for revenge.

I’ll keep her safe… with cruel protection.

Love is off limits with Abigail Crowne, but no one said anything about hate.

About the Author

I started writing the moment I could read. My first characters were Wibbley and Squig and I used MS Word and clipart to bring them to life when I was a kid in elementary school. I started seriously thinking about being a writer in High School and I remember the day exactly, because it was such an epiphany. I was always so uncertain. You know how everyone was always asking what you wanted to be when you were older? Well I NEVER could decide.

I wanted to be a marine biologist.

An actor.

A FIRE FIGHTER (thank you Joaquin Phoenix in Ladder 49 for that phase).

One day it hit me—A WRITER. I could do it ALL. Then you couldn’t stop me from writing. I penned my first novel at fifteen (but don’t ask me to show it to you, because it’s like I was in competition to beat the thesaurus). When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, writing became even more important, because it became my therapy. When I wrote my characters, suddenly I wasn’t so alone.

These days you can find me daydreaming about where to travel with my husband, singing in my car, or lost in the newest K drama. And planning my next novel, of course

Connect w/Mary Catherine

Website: https://www.marygebhard.com
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