Only for the Weekend Extras

Fun Fact:

This series was intended to be a single book (Hank's story) that would bridge the Secrets To Hide series and a series featuring Harley's former band, Aftershock. Hank and Aftershock make their appearance in Naughty Little Christmas.

Of course, once I started plotting Hank, I knew there had to be other men in his life who weren't quite so "vanilla." That's when Vincent's story came along. And V.'s sister Kennedy is such a sass, I knew she needed a story (which will eventually be book 3).

*sigh*

Who knows what else will happen in this trio's little world! But one thing's for certain -- they will still be the bridge to the naughty, sexy, dominant boys of Aftershock and the women who surrender everything to them.

Enjoy!

~ ~ ~ ~ Only for the Weekend (If Only Book 1) ~ ~ ~ ~

She's his completely...but only for the weekend.

When a rock star Dom is asked to teach a lovely woman to submit, she turns out to be his sister’s best friend—the woman he left behind years ago. Can he show her the ropes and watch her walk away this time, or will she leave him yearning for more?

When Jane Jacobs flies to Las Vegas for a blind date with a Dom, she’s expecting a stranger who’ll show her how to submit sexually—but she’s not expecting him to be masked. Or every bit as powerful, magnetic and sexy as the man of her dreams, rock drummer Vincent O’Connell. Her volcanic response to this commanding stranger shocks her, and leaves her daring to hope she’s finally free of her obsession with Vincent. Until her Dom reveals the man behind the mask.

Vincent knows agreeing to dominate Jane is a calculated risk. But the innocently sultry blonde has figured in his own fantasies for years, and he’s damned if he’ll let another man explore her submissive depths. When their encounter flames hotter and more satisfying than any in his memory, he knows that to keep her, he must tell her the truth. But that means revealing more than just his face.

It means showing her his heart.

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

Each book has a song that tends to grab on and not let go. Much to my dismay, Vincent and Jane didn't want to cooperate in this area for quite some time. In fact, the only song that seemed to catch THEIR attention was one I really didn't want to like.

You know who won that battle, don't you? ;)

So yes, the theme song for ONLY FOR THE WEEKEND is by the one-and-only Taylor Swift: "Style." And it fits Jane and Vincent so damn well.

 

Skip to the bottom of the page for a full playlist!

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

The quiet snick of the door opening quickened his heartbeat. He knew what Jane saw as she walked in—a dark, still room, a single recessed light illuminating the space before a large seating area. Shadowed corners. Emptiness. She knew she was meeting him here, but not that he was already waiting in the room.

He took the time to look her over, holding back the breath that threatened to escape too loudly as he did so. She was as lovely as he remembered. Shoulder-length blonde hair curled around her head, making his fingers twitch with the need to twine the soft strands around them. Her eyes were dark in the dim light, a contrast to those flirty curls and a reflection of the seriousness of her soul. Full pink lips trembled with nerves, as did the hands currently clasped tightly together in front of her. Anticipation swelled in his chest. He would soothe those nerves, but not yet; sometimes a little fear could go a long way with a sub.

Lovely wasn’t the word to describe her body. Sexy, definitely. Earth-shattering. His heart beat triple time in his throat as his gaze moved over her. A tight-fitting white button-down, top buttons open to reveal the upper swell of her round breasts. A short, curves-skimming black skirt. As she turned to close the door behind her, he glimpsed a thin band of lace through a small slit up the back. Only the briefest hint, but blood pooled in his groin immediately at the sight of her stockings, the old-fashioned kind that attached to garters and a garter belt. So like Jane—shy and yet intensely provocative, all at once. He couldn’t fucking wait to see those pale thighs framed by the sexiest garment a woman could ever put on her body.

With a stern reminder to his anatomy that sex wasn’t in the cards, at least not for him—a reminder his body laughed at—he shifted his weight, bringing him barely into the edge of the light. “Jane.”

He kept his voice low, but still she startled. The trembling in her hands increased. She tugged her full bottom lip between her teeth in a way that made him want to bite as well, but not yet. He waited, instead, forcing control so that she could look her fill.

Her gaze took in his half mask first, a piece of soft black fabric covering the top half of his face and head, leaving everything but his eyes and jaw and ears a mystery. Even most of his hair was covered, and what could be seen at the back of his head hopefully didn’t shine too brilliantly red in the shadowed room. She measured the width of his shoulders, his height. Her nostrils flared as if trying to breathe him in, to determine who he was, whether or not she was safe, by scent alone.

She didn’t speak. Good.

“Come in,” he told her.

A hesitant “Yes, Sir” accompanied her steps farther into the light. The yellow glow lit a fire in her hair as she tucked her chin, dropping her gaze to the vicinity of his boots. The Dom in him purred its approval.

“Kneel for me, Jane.”

There was no hesitation this time. With a feminine grace rare in a first-time sub, she sank to her knees. Head still bowed, knees parted just enough to show off the lace atop her stockings, hands at the small of her back.

His gut clenched. She’d been practicing. For him.

Logically he knew it hadn’t been for him personally. She didn’t know the masked Dom before her was the man she’d propositioned as a teenager. She only knew the mask hid a Dom. But telling himself that didn’t stop the flare of possession and satisfaction burning its way through his chest.

Ignoring the dangerous emotions inside him, he walked forward, his steps heavy, deliberate. No leather for him except the boots. He’d chosen black button-fly jeans and a black silk shirt. The fabric cupped him, slid along his skin as he moved, and he imagined it was Jane’s hands on him, molding along his cock, brushing his pierced nipples. He barely held back a groan as he circled Jane’s kneeling body.

She turned her head the slightest amount, probably trying to keep him in sight. He laid a single finger along her jawline. “Eyes down.”

Jane shivered as she obeyed. Oh yes, definitely submissive.

He circled her again, this time allowing his finger to trace her lips, her cheekbone, the delicate curve of her ear. As he moved behind her, he delved into her curls, indulging himself in their soft texture before fisting the thick mass and tugging her head back. Jane kept her eyes lowered, but she couldn’t keep her breath from catching, and as he looked down her body, he could see the tight tips of her breasts forced against the fabric of her shirt.

“You’ve read and signed the contract.” A statement. He knew she had; he’d read every line. But he wanted the acknowledgment between them—and to hear her voice.

A moment’s quiet, then, “Yes, Sir.”

That word on her lips… He bent over her, letting her feel his size, his heat, his power. “And you are certain you wish to proceed, sub?”

No pause. “Yes, Sir. I wish to proceed.”

He stood, trailing his fingers through her hair, showing his pleasure at her response. “And what is your safe word?”

Her voice quivered as she responded. “Weekend, Sir.”

Weekend. The word hit him like a two-by-four to the head. A reference to his band, Weekend Washout, or a reminder that she was only his for the weekend?

She’s not yours, dickhead. You’re an experiment, nothing more.

But would he be if she knew who he was?

If she knew who you were, you’d be out on your ass.

He couldn’t forget that. Jane must never find out the identity of her first Dom. And he… Well, he could never forget her. At least he would have this.

He moved away, taking a position between Jane and the light. His shadow covered her. “‘Weekend’ it is. If you feel overwhelmed, need to pause or talk or just catch your breath, you will use ‘yellow.’ Is that clear?”

“Yes, Sir.”

That breathy voice, ripe with arousal and fear, threw gasoline on the fire of his lust, threatening to burn out of control. He needed to shut that part of himself down, needed to focus completely on his sub. But just like his body had warned him earlier, he couldn’t. All he could give her was every piece of him—lust, dominance…everything.

“Then stand.”

Without a word Jane rocked back onto her heels and came to her feet. Regret ached in his shaft as the hem of her skirt once more covered the delicate bands of lace circling her thighs, but he was about to see so much more.

“Undress for me, sub.”

~ ~ ~ ~ Book Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

I Don't Want To Wait -- Paula Cole

Brave -- Sara Bareilles

Parachute -- Train

Hands All Over -- Maroon 5

Give It All -- Train

I Will Remember -- Train

Maps -- Maroon 5

It Was Always you -- Maroon 5

Sugar -- Maroon 5

Love Me Like You Do -- Ellie Goulding

Not Over You -- Gavin DeGraw

If Only 1: Only for the Weekend

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance, D/s

Release Date: December 4, 2015

She's his completely...but only for the weekend.

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

When a rock star Dom is asked to teach a lovely woman to submit, she turns out to be his sister’s best friend—the woman he left behind years ago. Can he show her the ropes and watch her walk away this time, or will she leave him yearning for more?

When Jane Jacobs flies to Las Vegas for a blind date with a Dom, she’s expecting a stranger who’ll show her how to submit sexually—but she’s not expecting him to be masked. Or every bit as powerful, magnetic and sexy as the man of her dreams, rock drummer Vincent O’Connell. Her volcanic response to this commanding stranger shocks her, and leaves her daring to hope she’s finally free of her obsession with Vincent. Until her Dom reveals the man behind the mask.

Vincent knows agreeing to dominate Jane is a calculated risk. But the innocently sultry blonde has figured in his own fantasies for years, and he’s damned if he’ll let another man explore her submissive depths. When their encounter flames hotter and more satisfying than any in his memory, he knows that to keep her, he must tell her the truth. But that means revealing more than just his face.

It means showing her his heart.

What happens in Vegas will stay in your heart—get your copy of Only for the Weekend today!

To read an excerpt from Only for the Weekend and check out some fun extras, click over to the Only for the Weekend Extras page here

Southern Nights 1: Teach Me

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Release Date: October 28, 2014

Some lessons threaten your heart, and some threaten your life.

~ Buy the E-book

~ Buy the Paperback

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

A woman determined to heal…

Shy researcher Jess Kingston spent the last eight weeks recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s brutal attack. Body healed, she’s ready to put her life back together—except her ex isn’t ready to let go. She won’t cower in a corner while Brit tortures her, but she’s powerless to fight back.

A man determined to resist…

Ex-military security specialist Conlan James avoids commitment like the plague. His job, his Harley, and the occasional one-night stand are all he needs, until the day he rescues Jess from a tense situation and realizes he can’t get her off his mind. He can teach her to protect herself, but protecting his heart is another matter.

A madman determined to win…

As the deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Brit heats up, so does the hunger between Con and Jess. Safety might be found in numbers, but in bed, all bets are off—and the wrong move could lead to heartbreak. Or death.

To read an excerpt from Teach Me and check out some fun extras, click over to the Teach Me Extras page here.

Southern Nights 2: Trust Me

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Release Date: February 1, 2015

Her past has taught her to stand alone, but trusting him could be worth the risk.

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

A woman on a mission…

Maddie Baker spent four years seeking vengeance against the man whose abuse destroyed her life. That search has led her to a small town outside Atlanta and a missing teenage girl. Nothing will stand in the way of her mission, including a jackass of an ex-soldier who reawakens emotions best left to die.

A man on the hunt…

Jack Quinn learned to recognize trouble in the marines, and he sees it in Maddie the minute he lays eyes on her tending bar. Her secrets are hidden deep, but secrets are his specialty, and peeling away her barriers only makes him want her more. He’ll do whatever it takes to get her to trust him with her body and her heart.

An old threat whose time has come…

Staying hidden kept Maddie safe, but the search for justice will bring her into the open and face-to-face with her treacherous past. Risking her life is one thing, but risking her heart is another. In love and in danger, she must trust Jack to lead her—and pray they both come out alive.

To read an excerpt from Trust Me and check out some fun extras, click over to the Trust Me Extras page here.

Southern Nights 3: Take Me

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense, Menage

Release Date: June 29, 2015

A second chance at love could cost them more than they ever thought they’d pay.

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

*Please be aware that iBooks has refused to carry TAKE ME for policy reasons. It is, however, available in the other retailers listed above.*

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

A nightmare coming to an end…

Peyton Harrison came to Claywater to bring her kidnapped son home. The last thing she expects is to run into Gabe Harrison, the man who abandoned her before her son was born. Her body might want to take up where they left off, but her heart remembers Gabe’s betrayal all too well—and everything she’d risk for momentary pleasure.

A past catching up to them…

Gabe always knew he’d share the love of his life with his twin brother, Sam, except he’d found that love far too young. He did the honorable thing and walked away, but now an adult Peyton is in his hometown and keeping secrets behind her world-weary eyes.

Sam is knee-deep in a drug investigation threatening the town he loves. Peyton’s arrival is a distraction he doesn’t need; still, he can’t deny her pull. He and Gabe have always stood together, but now the one woman they both want may be the one thing that divides them.

A future threatened…

When violence shatters their world, the past and present intertwine in ways none of them expected. Anticipating their enemy’s next move is the only way to keep their son safe, but what about their hearts?

To read an excerpt from Take Me and check out some fun extras, click over to the Take Me Extras page here.

Southern Nights 4: Come For Me

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Release Date: November 29, 2016

She's his wife, his everything, and God help the thugs who dared to take her hostage.

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance Ebooks

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Come For Me.jpg

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

When an ex-military security expert's wife is taken hostage along with her colleagues, he'll use every weapon in his arsenal to get her out safely.  But when it turns out someone they both trust is working with the bad guys, she'll have to fight alongside him to gain their freedom.

Olivia Brannan arrives at her Atlanta financial firm on what should be one of the best mornings of her life. But she walks into eerie silence, greeted only by bloodstains. Her quiet, civilized workplace is under attack. When she can't reach Dain, her uber-protective hero, she realizes she must stay alive on her own until help arrives. And she must decide—is she prepared to kill to save herself and the gift she has for her husband?

Dain Brannan is a client security specialist at JCL Security. He's one of the best in the business. But even in his worst nightmares, he never expected to have to use his skills to rescue his beloved Livie. When thugs take her firm's personnel hostage, he'll do anything to save her—including go around or through the police. Can his team do what the SWAT teams cannot—bring her and her colleagues out alive?

Southern Nights 5: Deceive Me

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Will their hunger for each other pull them together, or push them apart?

~ Buy the E-Book

~ Buy the Paperback

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

Elliot Smith has trained hard to live alone and work alone, even when it comes to her job as a security specialist for JCL Security. No relationships, no ties, except the one to the man who kidnapped and murdered her mother. She’ll do anything to kill Martin Diako, the untouchable South African pirate king. When Deacon Walsh walks into her office, she finally sees a chance to do just that.

Deacon went from soldier to mercenary warrior to stay-at-home dad, and now his past is back to haunt him. Martin Diako, the father of the terrorist Deacon killed two years ago, is coming for revenge, and he has his sight set on Deacon’s daughter. An heir for an heir. Deacon will do anything to protect her, even if it means asking for help. But the security team he’s hired comes with an added complication: the only woman to interest him since his wife died.

Deacon always leads his team, and Elliot protects hers. They might have one chance at their enemy—if they can work together. Will their hunger for each other pull them together, or push them apart?

If Only 2: Only for the Night

Only for the Night

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance, D/s
Release Date: May 31, 2016

She needs a Dom with heart. He sees the lifestyle as heartless.

~ ~ ~ ~ Preorder the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

~ ~ ~ ~ Blurb ~ ~ ~ ~

Can a brave submissive show a rock star that accepting his true nature will be nirvana for both of them? Letting go with her may help him put the pieces of himself—and his band—back together again.

Struggling with the death of her mother, Sage Lyndsey turned to her Dom for comfort, but his impatience led to a humiliating scene in front of their club. Devastated, she runs to a small town on the Cali coast. Buying into Citrus Pointe’s bakery may be her best decision ever—if she can overcome the embarrassment of having her new landlord’s dog steal her towel right in front of him. It gets worse when she realizes he’s none other than rock bassist Hank Nash, and despite the problems it would cause, she wants nothing more than his talented hands on her, bending her to his will.

Hank is an ex-cop who knows all too well what dominance looks like when it turns to abuse—he saw the consequences on another cop’s wife. After turning the man in, Hank left that life behind to start a rock band, Weekend Washout. Now he’s fighting to keep the band together, and to deny his urge to dominate pretty, spunky Sage. But when Sage’s ex-Dom reappears, Hank is forced into a life-changing decision: Accept both their needs and gain more than one night with Sage, or retreat to the safe life he’s built so carefully?

Only for the Night Extras

~ ~ ~ ~ Preorder the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Print copies will be available after release day on May 31st. Links coming soon!

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  • Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist
  • Deleted Scene

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

Coming Soon!

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

Hank turned the lock and opened the apartment door. Knight shot through the gap as soon as it was wide enough to admit his big body, his barks picking up as he disappeared inside. Hank shook his head at the dog’s antics and turned back to retrieve his bags. “What about an acoustic tour?”

The idea had merit. It might get them interim exposure until they could decide what to do about their wayward lead singer.

“Without Chad?” V. asked. “People will expect the whole band.”

“Well, we could—”

From deep inside the apartment, a distinctly feminine scream split the air, cutting Hank off. Before he could do more than think what the hell? he heard fabric tearing, and then a bark from Knight. His hand went automatically to his hip, searching for his weapon, before he remembered he didn’t carry anymore.

“What was that?” V. asked.

With a hasty “Don’t know; I’ll call you back,” Hank hung up on the run. “Knight?” he called.

“Stop!”

Definitely female. The open space of the combination living room and kitchen was dark, the only light muffled behind curtained windows and, at the far end where a hall led to the bedrooms, a bright glow. But no Knight. Hallway it is, then.

The rush across the room seemed to take forever, each step punctuated by yips and growls and a woman’s arguing voice. “Knight?” Hank yelled a little louder as he reached the corner by the fridge. A deep breath, then he shot a quick searching glance into the hall.

What he saw had him gaping in shock. “What—”

There was a woman in his apartment. He’d guessed that much from the voice, though he still didn’t understand it. What he couldn’t have guessed was that the woman was mostly naked, standing in the hall wrapped in a flimsy towel that Knight seemed to think was a play toy. A torn piece of white material lay on the ground, and the dog had one corner gripped between his jaws. A game of tug-of-war had commenced that threatened to unveil what the woman had, for the moment, covered. Taking in the picture, the tension in Hank’s gut released. He stepped into the hall to lean against the doorjamb, unsure how to react.

Or who would win, for that matter. Hank had his money on Knight, and considering the woman in question, whoever she was, he felt pretty sure he’d be happy about the outcome.

She was slender. Wet streaks highlighted her bare legs, the muscles sleek and strong as she fought Knight’s pull. The towel covered her from midthigh to armpits, unfortunately, but he could tell the middle of her body matched her legs and the top third of her. Damp brown hair tangled itself around her shoulders and down her back, falling forward to hide her face. The line of her collarbone cut across slim shoulders, bringing attention to the creamy expanse of her skin, dusted here and there with a sprinkling of cinnamon-colored freckles. Hands clutched the towel closed over generous breasts, but just barely. Much more pulling and he wouldn’t have to imagine what she was hiding. His mouth watered at the thought.

“Let go, dog!”

A latent sense of chivalry kicked in. Much as he might like the view, he couldn’t let his dog harass…who was she, anyway, and why was she in his apartment?

He crossed his feet at the ankles, content to let Knight do the job of policing their home while he followed up with the interrogation. Pushing a gruff note into his voice, he barked, “Who the hell are you?”

The woman’s head snapped up. Hank’s breath got stuck somewhere behind his sternum as he met brilliant blue eyes. Angry blue eyes that almost eclipsed the pixie face staring back at him.

“Who are you?” Her voice was low, as angry as her eyes despite the uncertainty that rasped through her words. She wasn’t backing down, that was for sure. Her bravado sent a tingle through his belly—and lower. That old urge, to hunt, to conquer, rose with other parts of his anatomy.

Dangerous. Wrong.

Hank fought it down, breathed through it, but before he found the control to answer, Knight decided he wanted to play some more. He jerked at the towel. The material slipped lower, forcing the woman to tighten her grip or lose the covering altogether. The adjustment pushed the rounded globe of her breast higher. How much farther before he could see her nipple?

He shook his head. Why was he thinking about breasts when there was a strange woman in his home? He dug his fists into his pockets, hoping to obscure the unexpected effect she was having on him. “Since this is my apartment, I think my question comes first.”

Confusion filtered across those lovely features. The woman stepped back, only to be brought up short by Knight’s unyielding grip. “You’re Hank?”

Knight wanted to continue the game. He growled, giving the towel a hard shake like he’d nabbed a rabbit by the neck instead of a length of terry cloth. The move yanked the woman forward. She stumbled, panic sparking in her eyes. “Aren’t you going to call him off?”

“Why?” he asked, barely managing to hold back his laughter. After a long, boring night driving and the news he’d just been hit with, he had to admit he was enjoying this little surprise. Knight was playing; Hank knew it even if the woman hadn’t figured it out yet, and he couldn’t resist playing with her a bit himself. “We have an intruder. He’s just doing his job.”

She shook her head wildly. “I’m not an intruder. I live here.” She pulled on the towel. Knight dug in his paws, not giving an inch. “I—”

Knight faked her out with a sudden lunge forward. The woman stumbled back, trying to avoid what looked like an attack. Knight took advantage and snatched the fabric out of her hands. Away from her body.

Hank’s dick went tighter than his bass strings.

He had no more than a half count to imprint the sight in his mind. It was all he needed. Full, round, high breasts with tender pink nipples drawn up tight. A smooth expanse of stomach begging to be explored, with just the right amount of inward curve at her waist to give him a place to grip. Hips wide enough to cradle him perfectly against the sparse patch of dark hair between her legs. Christ, she looked sweet, sweet enough to eat.

And mortified.

A bright red blush flared across her cheeks. The woman slapped a hand across her breasts, obscuring his view, and then, quick as the rabbit Knight had pretended to play with, she whirled away. He got an all too brief glimpse of her ass as she fled down the hall, the bounce of the perfect globes sending a second slam of blood to his already full erection. The crash of the guest bedroom door echoed around him as he hunched against the pain with a rough—very rough—laugh.

Oblivious to the drama he’d caused, Knight settled onto his belly there in the middle of the hall, happily munching away on his prize. Hank opened his mouth to reprimand the dog, to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, maybe to call the woman’s name—only to realize he still had no clue who the stranger in his house actually was.

And he had to know, because da-yam, that body. That ass.

Those eyes.

Maybe he wasn’t as tired as he’d thought he was.

~ ~ ~ ~ Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

The dedication page for ONLY FOR THE NIGHT reads, "For the girl who is. Love who you are, not who you think you should be." In Sage I saw what I see in so many women, including my own daughter: the weight of expectations. Being a "good" anything--worker, partner, daughter, or even, in Sage's case, a "good sub." The truth is, that designation of "good" has to come from inside us, not outside. Other people don't determine who we should be. Which is why "Bulletproof Picasso" by Train became the theme song for this book.

~ ~ ~ ~ Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

But it wasn't all sweet! The chemistry between Hank and Sage burned up the page in places as well. Here are some of the songs I listened to while writing their book:

"Animals" -- Maroon 5

"Unkiss Me" -- Maroon 5

"Sugar" -- Maroon 5

"Me and My Broken Heart" -- Rixton

"Beating Heart" -- Ellie Goulding

"Take Your Time" -- Sam Hunt

"Undefeated" -- Daughtry

"Photograph" -- Ed Sheeran (This was the song that inspired Sage's tattoo.)

"Kyrie" -- Mr. Mister

"I Knew I Loved You" -- Savage Garden

"Brother" -- NEEDTOBREATHE (Hank and V.'s theme song!)

"Your Song" -- Elton John (The song Hank sings for Alice at her going-away party)

~ ~ ~ ~ Deleted Scene ~ ~ ~ ~

Coming soon! (I wouldn't want to give anything away before release date, right? ;) )

Secrets to Hide 1: Dirty Little Secret

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Re-Release Date: May, 2015

~ ~ ~ ~ Purchase the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Cailin Gray transferred to the new Atlanta branch of her company to work for the senior vice president, Alex Brannigan. But before her job begins, she allows the anonymity of the big city to lure her into a night of dancing–and the arms of a mystery lover hotter than anything this country girl could imagine. When she wakes alone, his absence hurts more than she thought it would, but not nearly as much as walking into the office Monday morning and discovering her lover is her new, married boss.

Alex has one goal: help his best friend, Sara Beth, keep her inheritance. This plan included a marriage of convenience–check–taking over the vice president’s position–check–and keeping the platonic state of their relationship secret until their position of power is solidified. That last takes time, but the resulting solitude weighs heavily. Until Cailin. He told himself a single night would have to be enough, but fate had other plans. Now he must choose between keeping his dirty little secret and fulfilling his promise to Sara Beth, or finding the strength to free them all from the secrets that bind them.

Dirty Little Secret by Ella Sheridan is an erotic gem.”

— Sara with Harlequin Junkie

To read an excerpt from Dirty Little Secret and check out some fun extras, click over to the Dirty Little Secret Extras page here!

Secrets to Hide 2: Naughty Little Secret

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance, Holiday

Re-release Date: May, 2015

~ ~ ~ ~ Purchase the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Harley Fisher’s life changed forever when her twin sister gave birth to a baby one month before she died. This Christmas, Harley wants her adopted daughter to have the very best gift possible: her real father. Determined to discover if Damien Adams is worthy of being a part of the baby’s life, Harley forces her way into a job as the manager-in-training for his new nightclub, Thrice. Damien is blunt, challenging, and sexy as all get-out. Desiring him is wrong, but when he touches her, it’s oh so right.

Damien needs a manager for Thrice so he can return to overseeing all three of his clubs. Harley’s too young, too hip, too damn tempting–and perfect for the job. Wanting her violates every rule he’s laid out for his life, but even the strongest convictions can falter under the mistletoe.

Harley’s keeping one hell of a secret. When Damien finds out, will Harley and his daughter be the best Christmas gift he’s ever received, or will her secrets leave them with nothing more lasting than a naughty little Christmas this year?

“I can’t believe I honestly thought nothing could get better than book one in this series, Dirty Little Secret. Ella Sheridan is making a career out of proving me wrong. I don’t think there are enough words to adequately describe the sheer beauty of Naughty Little Christmas, but I will make an attempt. Gut-wrenching and powerful, this is a love story with a twist…”

— Christina at Nice Ladies Naughty Books

To read an excerpt from Naughty Little Christmas and check out some fun extras, click over to the Naughty Little Christmas Extras page here!

Secrets to Hide 3: Just a Little More

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Release Date: July 1, 2014

~ ~ ~ ~ Purchase the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Also available in print through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Six weeks ago Angel had it all—a brand-new master’s degree, an apartment with her best friend, Brad, and the chance to take their friendship to a whole hot new level. But on the night of their first kiss, a would-be rapist ripped her bright future apart. Stuck in a never-ending cycle of fear and depression, Angel is determined to find herself again, even if it means putting herself at risk.

Brad has loved Angel since he saved her from a playground bully in the fifth grade. But just as it seemed Angel’s eyes were opening to the true feelings between them, it all fell apart. When Angel disappears on the night of a freak snowstorm, Brad is determined to find her. And when he does, he won’t let her hide any longer. It’s time to wake her up—to a life without fear, and to a love that can heal the deepest wounds.

“This book kept me on my toes all the way through… I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.”

— VRainey with Night Owl Reviews Erotica

To read an excerpt from Just a Little More and check out some fun extras, click over to the Just a Little More Extras page here.

Teach Me Extras

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the E-book ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Paperback ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  •  Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

Teach Me has very frightening suspense, a beautiful love story and makes your pulse race for both these reasons. I couldn’t put this book down.”
– Tea and Book

“A cat and mouse game in between a sweet naïve woman and a psychopath with all the right connections... It really grabbed my attention.”
– Ramblings from This Chick

“I stayed up past my bedtime just to see what would happen. Readers who love romantic suspense will devour this book.”
– So Many Reads

“The perfect blend of suspense and romance.”
– Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews

 “Chock full of violence, suspense, sex, and romance. Teach Me never stops moving forward, which makes it very difficult to put down, each chapter leaving you ready for the next.”
– Hines & Bigham’s Literary Tryst

“Emotionally gripping and an absolutely brilliant story. The writing was flawless and I found myself immersed in the entire plot from page one to the end.”
– Cocktails and Books

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

What the hell are you doing here?

This wasn’t the first time in the last five minutes that Conlan had asked himself the same question. Maybe if he had an answer, the revolving door in his brain would stop spinning, but that didn’t seem likely. Not anytime soon. Not with the beautiful brunette he’d come to see sitting close enough that, if he let himself look, he could detect the light dusting of freckles across her nose. But he wasn’t looking, and he shouldn’t be here, so how had he ended up standing in line behind the thirtysomething latte league? It sure as hell wasn’t for the coffee.

Legs braced wide, he shifted from one hip to the other, the creak of his motorcycle chaps reminding him he could be enjoying a few extra minutes on the Harley before work instead of spending that precious time here, mooning over a woman. Doe Eyes. The first time he’d seen her all those months ago, he’d thought her eyes reminded him of sweet Georgia pecans and skittish does. The name stuck, as had the memory of her eyes—and a hundred other glimpses he shouldn’t have taken.

Another name called, another latte dispensed, another shuffle forward.

He hadn’t seen those eyes in eight weeks, and yet still he’d shown up every Monday, like clockwork, hoping for one more glimpse and calling himself an idiot. Wasn’t like he planned on asking her out. So why the hell did he torture himself with these weekly forays into enemy territory?

Sex. Or sex appeal, at least.

Another step closer to the counter. The move didn’t ease the constriction behind the zipper of his jeans. This was what she did to him, thinking about her. Especially now, after so long apart.

The thought had a snort escaping. Ahead of him, Mr. Suit and Tie startled and glanced over a shoulder, but Conlan ignored the look. He was too busy figuring out when “this” had become enough like a relationship in his head that he would think things like “after so long apart.” Doe Eyes might appear prominently in his thoughts from time to time—especially certain times—but he’d never seen her outside of this coffee shop. And he wouldn’t. A quick roll in the hay was one thing, but Doe Eyes wasn’t the kind of woman who had one-night stands. He could tell that much just by looking at her. She was a relationship kind of woman, and he was a relationship-phobic kind of guy. Which meant he seriously needed to get a grip—and not on the part of him growing even harder at the idea.

Idiot was right.

He should be at work. Southern summer heat brought out the crazies almost as well as full moons did, and JCL Security was feeling the impact, juggling cases like they had eight arms, which they didn’t. Too many sleepless nights had been spent at his office, especially with the Bennett case coming up. Just a couple more weeks before Thea Bennett had her bastard of a husband before a judge and hopefully out of her life, but the paper- and prep work to get the high-profile bastard there had been a bitch. He seriously needed to—

“Conlan, hey!”

For a passing moment he was convinced the voice belonged to the woman filling his thoughts. But when the high, candied voice called again, he realized it was coming from the counter. The cashier. Tonya, Tammy? Tracy? He couldn’t remember. She was blonde with a deep tan he would’ve deemed impossible in a landlocked city like Atlanta, the shade a stark contrast to her white smile. Stepping up, he threw her a grin. “Hey.”

She batted long lashes, almost hiding the way her glance slid down to the crotch of his jeans, framed in his leather chaps. “Long time, no see.”

He winked automatically. “It’s a long wait between Mondays.”

The girl giggled. “Your usual?”

“That’s right. Thanks,” he said, passing over a ten-dollar bill.

She made change, certain to caress his hand as she laid the money in his palm. Conlan was more interested in the dark Colombian roast another employee was walking toward them. High-octane all the way. The sight of the near-black brew had him salivating for something other than Doe Eyes for the first time that morning.

He reached the condiment counter just as his phone buzzed in his back pocket. Probably Jack. Retrieving the cell confirmed his suspicion.

Where the hell are you? his partner had texted.

Piss off, Con replied, a grin tugging at his lips. The irony that he’d spent too much time asking himself the very same question didn’t escape him. In a half hour he’d be at the office and they could both stop wondering.

With a little back-and-forth he managed to cram the phone back in his tight jeans. He glanced around absently, and his gaze snagged on a pair of amber-brown eyes that suddenly met his.

He froze.

Doe Eyes dropped her chin and shifted over the slightest bit, enough that her friend’s position blocked her from view, but not before he caught the blush coloring her creamy cheeks.

His cock banged against his zipper as if begging to be let out. The bite of pain caught his breath in his throat. Jesus, what the hell was he—

Don’t! Ask. Again. He knew what the hell he was doing here, and he needed to go; he really did. He needed to stop letting his dick run this show, grab his coffee, and get back to reality.

He was restless, that was all. He was a man who needed action. Needed to be doing something, anything, not sitting behind a desk like he’d been for weeks while prepping Thea’s case. Usually he worked off his frustration in a way that involved cool silk sheets and bare skin and satisfaction on both sides, but there’d been no damn time. Just his hand and the additional chafing it provided, which wasn’t near as effective—or satisfying. That had to be the reason he couldn’t stop thinking about his mystery woman.

Of course. That had to be it.

Popping the lid off his cardboard cup released the rich aroma of ground coffee beans into the air. He lifted his cup and blew across the hot liquid, the sound almost a sigh of relief. He was already reaching for the packets of sugar when black squiggles caught his eye. There. On the part of the paper sleeve now facing him, he could see a name and number were clearly written: Tiffany. A 470 area-code phone number.

So that was her name. Sounded like an eighties pop star. A glance over his shoulder found the cashier leaning across the bar where drinks were picked up, her mounded breasts shelved there, on display. Come back soon, she mouthed, her shoulders doing a little wiggle. On reflex, he threw her a grin, but her seemingly seductive move couldn’t pull his glance downward. His dick didn’t even twitch. Apparently only one thing could trigger his runaway libido this morning.

He added the sugar, trying to ignore the panic in his gut and his one-track mind. The latter was impossible. He wanted to know Doe Eyes’ name, her phone number. Were her breasts as full as they looked beneath that starched white button-down? Was her hair as soft as he swore it would be when he fisted it between his fingers?

He stirred a bit too vigorously, and coffee sloshed over the side of the cup.

Don’t look. Don’t. He realized he’d closed his eyes. A sigh escaped as he rubbed a thumb and finger against them, but as soon as the lids popped open, he searched for her. Had to see her. Felt his heartbeat pick up knowing she might meet his eyes.

He was so screwed—and smart enough to admit it. He let go, let the conflict and the churning in his gut and the tension cramping his muscles go. And then he looked toward her table.

It was empty.

“Well shit.”

He stood for a moment, cursing himself, the coffee, and everything else he could think of. When another customer stepped up behind him and cleared his throat, wanting access to the counter, Con grabbed his cup and headed out the door. On his way, he chucked the coffee in the trash without a single sip.

~ ~ ~ ~ Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

I wrote Teach Me over a series of drafts that took five years; it was the very first book I ever began. So my understanding of writing changed over time, as did my understanding of the characters. But Jess -- she always came through loud and clear. Here's her song:

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

"Call Your Name" -- Daughtry

"Gotta Be Somebody" -- Nickelback

"Brave" -- Sara Bareilles

"All or Nothing" -- Theory of a Deadman

"Alibi" -- Thirty Seconds To Mars

"Home" -- The Goo Goo Dolls

"Feel Better" -- One Republic

Trust Me Extras

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy The Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance Ebooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  •  Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

“One of the more volatile relationships I’ve seen in a while… The ups and downs and twists and turns are amazing”

– Romancing the Book

“As gripping as the first. Talk about HOT!”

– Crystal’s Many Reviewers

“I was holding my breath! It's intense, exciting and I couldn't put it down.”

– Tea and Book

Trust Me should come with a warning of lost sleep and deep circles under your eyes, because that’s what’s going to happen once you start reading this riveting, suspenseful tale of love and revenge. You won’t be able to sleep until you have reached the very last page.”

– Sizzling Hot Book Reviews

“Boldly flavored writing, dynamic characters, and an insidious suspenseful plot will keep readers on the edge of their seats.”

– Smexy Books

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

“What’ll ya have?” the bartender asked.

Jack sighed. “The usual.”

John nodded. Twisting to look over his shoulder, he yelled, “Maddie, Sam Adams.”

“Who’s Maddie?”

John turned sideways, showing what his bulk had hidden up till now. Jack glanced down the long service area behind the bar and almost swallowed his tongue.

A woman. A blonde woman, but not the same kind of blonde as the waitress, Taylor. This woman had a straw-colored mane, thick enough it almost didn’t fit in the claw clip holding it in a graceful twist at the back of her head. Spikes stuck from the top of the clip to fall along the sides, pointing to the creamy curve of her ear as she bent her head to focus on the frosted glass she was filling at the tap. A slender neck led to a body encased in a tight white T-shirt and short black vest. The clothes silhouetted her tucked-in waist and a sexy strip of bare skin above Levi’s he would swear were painted on. And boots; God, he had such a thing for boots on a woman. And this woman wore them with the ease of longtime use, confirmation that balancing on them was second nature. One look at those boots and his dick shot straight up and strained in her direction as if she were true north and he was a compass.

Damn.

“Roll your tongue back in your head,” John told him, laughter tangling with the words.

Jack glanced at the bartender, over at the woman, back to John. Swallowed. “Right.”

John shrugged, and his easy smile widened. “I had the same reaction. Heck, every red-blooded male that’s walked through the door since she was hired Monday has had that reaction. She is something.”

“Damn straight.”

The towel resting on the new bartender’s shoulder slid off, landing with a plop on the ground. She bent to grab it.

Both men groaned.

The woman glanced over her shoulder.

John startled, actually blushing. Jack kept looking, appreciating the view from the front as much as the back when the new bartender stood to face them. She had a sweet body with curves in all the right, mouthwatering places.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” she asked, interrupting his reconnaissance. Jack met her eyes, a brown so dark he couldn’t tell iris from pupil, though the narrowing of her eyelids might’ve had something to do with it too. Her lips were tight, pressing together in a way that made him want to tug them apart with his teeth.

The brittle edge to her expression had him narrowing his eyes too. His mama had taught him manners, even if she hadn’t insisted on them for herself, but it wasn’t like he was leering. He believed in appreciating what was before him; nothing crude or ugly about that. Most women he knew basked in the attention.

And maybe you’re getting a bit too arrogant, dickhead.

He answered her look with a wry smile of his own.

The dish towel got a toss into the nearby hamper as the new bartender made her way toward them, Jack’s lager in hand. John tucked himself against the back wall so she could make her delivery.

“Maddie, this is Jack.”

“Nice to meet you.” Jack extended his hand to shake, the anticipation of touching her forcing his erection harder against his zipper.

Down, boy.

Maddie shoved his beer into his hand. “You too.”

Her voice was feminine, husky, arousing. Which was a ridiculous thought, because she didn’t sound like it was nice to meet him. John sniggered. Jack ignored him, bringing the cold glass mug to his lips.

The deep, earthy bark of hops settled in his nose as he took his first drink, but his eyes stayed on Maddie’s. She didn’t back down, didn’t blush, just raised a brow and stared right back. Why in hell did that make him so hot?

When he set the beer on the bar, Maddie nodded toward it. “All right?”

“Absolutely, darlin’,” he said, the endearment slipping out automatically.

The eyebrow got higher. “Good.”

He kept staring as Maddie returned to her end of the bar. The spikes of hair sticking up from her clip bounced with every step. Jack imagined his fingers fisting the long length, holding her still for him. Taming the shrew, so to speak. He had not a single doubt that she’d be feisty as hell. Yeah, he’d definitely like to get his hands in that hair.

John’s laugh sliced through his sexual haze. He shot the bartender a sharp look. “Shut the hell up.”

John laughed harder.

~ ~ ~ ~ Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

I tend to present some tough situations in my books, maybe because I've seen the barest hint of what abuse can do to someone's life. Maddie has lived through hell, and she's done whatever she had to not only to survive, but to stop her tormenters from hurting anyone else. Her story was inspired by the Rascal Flatts song "Stand." The song is featured in Chapter Four when Jack and Maddie meet on the dance floor.

~ ~ ~ ~ Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

"Train" -- 3 Doors Down (Jack's theme song!)

“Beautiful Lie” -- Thirty Seconds to Mars

“Gotta Be Somebody” -- Nickelback

“Break the Spell” -- Daughtry

“Round and Round” -- 3 Doors Down

“Renegade” -- Daughtry

"Wherever You Will Go" -- The Calling

“Call Your Name” -- Daughtry

“Tennessee Line” -- Daughtry

“Baptized” -- Daughtry

“Battleships” -- Daughtry

“Truly Madly Deeply” -- Savage Garden

“Ghost of Me” -- Daughtry

“Landing in London” -- 3 Doors Down

Take Me Extras

   

~ ~ ~ ~ Buy the Book ~ ~ ~ ~

Amazon

All Romance Ebooks

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

*Please be aware that iBooks has refused to carry TAKE ME for policy reasons. It is, however, available in the other retailers listed above.*

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  • Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist
  • Deleted Scene

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

“I always know Ella is going to move me and dazzle me with her wonderful characters and gripping stories.”
– USA Today Best-seller Angel Payne

“Solid plots, easy flowing dialogue between the characters and really yummy alpha males! That right there is the recipe for an awesome romance novel! Ella Sheridan has written a series that drew me in from the beginning and made me beg (harass?) her for more!”
– Blogging by Lisa

“I FREAKIN LOVED THIS BOOK! Chemistry so thick and heavy it will choke you, heartbreak so intense it will gut you, fear so severe it will take you to your knees.”
– Bookworm Betties

“One point, you’re gripping your seat as the intensity in the search for Micah heats up, and then the next you’re gripping your heart because it’s breaking into pieces. I could feel the connection between the three, and I loved that.”
– Book Hangover Page

“Gabe: Wow... Sam: Holy Wow... Ménage? Gabe, Sam and Peyton were amazing. The sex was wonderfully done and soooo hot... Ella Sheridan's writing was so emotional it left me in pieces one minute and smiling the next. This was a GREAT read.”
– Bound by Books

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

Peyton Harrison’s battered old Ford pulled to a rickety stop at the curb across from the Claywater Elementary School. Buses lumbered through the circular drive out front, discharging students of all sizes. Bigger kids hurried inside, while the younger ones followed a teacher’s direction into the fenced playground. Expending energy and first-day jitters before the day began, probably. If only Peyton’s nerves could so easily be dispersed.

Her heart beat a booming drumroll of desperation in her throat, the sound loud in the stifling silence of her truck. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. All she could do was watch the schoolyard across the street with greedy eyes. The child she was searching for was impossible to miss. Right in the center of the play area, a small, sturdy figure hurried up to the monkey bars and began his climb to the top. Even at six years old, he was strong, pulling himself higher and higher, outpacing his classmates until he threw one tan leg over the top rung, clamped down tight, and stopped to assess his playground domain.

King of the hill. Lord of all he surveyed. Just like his father.

The thought added to the blaze of agony threatening to drown her as it mixed with the ravenous ache of yearning clenching her belly. Just a few moments of inattention by the teachers chatting together on the park bench, some wire cutters for snipping the chain-link fence, something to keep him quiet as she ran for the safety of her truck— She pictured every step in her mind, saw how easily it could be carried out, how quickly he could become hers.

Hers.

The word throbbed in her oxygen-deprived brain, right at the forefront, taunting her. So simple, just four little letters. And yet the hundred yards dividing them screamed exactly how impossible that word was. Almost as impossible as it had been for the past six years.

He belongs to someone else; you know that. At least for now.

The ache in her fingers where they clenched the steering wheel centered her, pulling her back into reality, into now. She dragged in a gulp of hot Texas air and forced her focus back on the playground, on the child’s clear blue eyes and their steely determination. His soft, full lips displayed the last tiny shreds of remaining toddlerhood. The clothes he’d worn for the first day of school—a short-sleeved, white button-down shirt that looked too adult for such a young child, tan cargo shorts with every pocket neatly fastened, pristine white ankle socks and sneakers—now bore streaks of red clay and wrinkles, the starched collar of the shirt wilting under the onslaught of August heat and childish perspiration. What she wouldn’t give to bury her nose in the sweaty curve of his neck and inhale the wild, little-boy scent of him.

So serious. Even at such a young age, he was deep-down-to-the-bone serious. More little man than little boy. She could see it in his eyes.

Then he smiled.

It hit her like a punch to the gut, that smile. His daddy’s smile. The thought burned like tears behind her eyes, but she couldn’t look away, couldn’t stop eating up every discernible detail she possibly could. His solemn face lit up with that smile, his beautiful eyes bright under the shaggy fringe of thick blondish-red hair across his forehead. That hair was ruffled by deep furrows, as if he ran his fingers through it frequently. The white of his baby teeth was a stark contrast to the depth of his tan, possibly from playing outside all summer. The mottling of bruises on his knees and down his shins attested to that. At least she hoped that’s where they came from. Her heart ached to know for sure. She ran through scenario after scenario in a feverish search for the one that would enable her to bring him home, to finally have him in her arms agai—

Knock, knock, knock.

The drumroll in her chest became crashing thunder. A curse made it to her lips and froze there, held back by the wall of chest that blocked her sight of the playground. The material stretching across that wide expanse of solid muscle was dark blue, crisp and clean, with the title “Claywater Police Department” clearly emblazoned on the patch to one side.

A cop, right outside her window. Tall and broad and intimidating. Her breath stuttered across suddenly dry lips.

“Ma’am?” The cop rapped the back of his knuckles against the glass again. “Roll down your window please.”

The man’s voice tickled something in the back of her fear-frozen mind, something that drew her gaze against her will. Up the precisely buttoned shirtfront. Past the small triangle of skin at his collar, the neatly trimmed red-gold stubble. Lips. Nose. Eyes.

Blue eyes. Familiar blue eyes.

Peyton stared, certain she was caught up in some crazy nightmare. The devil taunting her. Because she knew those eyes intimately. Knew this man—except he wasn’t a cop. Or at least, he hadn’t been when she knew him.

“Ma’am?”

That deep, commanding tone again. It washed over her like molasses, trapping her in memories buried for so long. With hands shaking and tongue tied, Peyton slowly rolled down the window.

“Gabe?” she choked out. Please don’t let this be happening. Despite the all too real rush of air brushing her face, she prayed someone, somewhere, would hear her prayer and make it true.

One of Gabe’s hands rested casually against the side of her truck. A relaxed pose belied by his laser-sharp gaze and the fingers toying with the catch on his holster. She forced her eyes away from the gun and back to his. A flinch shook her as their eyes met.

“License and registration, please, ma’am.”

“Gabriel?” It was all she could get out. She glanced at the name tag, prominently displayed on the left side of his solid chest. Williams.“God, I can’t believe it’s you.” She didn’t want to believe it, not now, when secrecy was paramount. When her heart was already torn to pieces.

He shouldn’t look the same, not after all these years. But he did. He shouldn’t be here in Claywater, but he was. Standing outside her window. His big body was tense, ready for anything—he looked every inch the wolf he was. Cornflower-blue irises gleamed with impatience in his ruggedly handsome face. Too handsome, she’d always said. And empty. Not a hint of recognition.

Gabe didn’t shift, didn’t back down, just narrowed his eyes. “Ma’am, your license and registration. Now.”

The comply-or-face-the-consequences tone got through when nothing else could. She’d never forget that tone, no matter how many years it had been—every cop and prison guard used it daily. Her hand was halfway to the glove box before she even realized it. Registration in hand, she retrieved her license from her purse, nerves jittering in her stomach like a thousand butterflies. In a surreal haze she passed her paperwork through the window. The breath in her lungs stuttered as she watched his strong, calloused hand come closer, closer—the hand that had introduced her to the joys of sexual pleasure, the fingers that had ensured her readiness before he took her virginity. She waited for a touch she’d both longed for and cursed for seven excruciating years. And when that touch came, when his fingers brushed the backs of hers as he grasped the papers and pulled them away, she looked into his eyes once more, searching, fearing.

And saw absolutely nothing. Not recognition. Not curiosity. Disdain. Nothing. “And you are?” he asked.

She stared, certain he had to be kidding. “Peyton.” He waited. “Harrison?”

It came out a question, as if she didn’t know her own name. He didn’t, apparently.

“Is there a reason you stopped here, Ms. Harrison?”

Relief coursed through her confusion. A question she was actually prepared for. “I’m lost.”

And she dared anyone to prove otherwise. A glance over her shoulder would plainly show a map of Claywater and a notebook detailing properties in the area. She was, after all, looking for a site for her new restaurant. Had already chosen one, in fact, but he didn’t need to know that.

“Oh? New in town?”

His tone wasn’t interested, and his gaze didn’t drop to her license, the one that had the same date as her move into her bland new apartment over by the highway. She didn’t trust herself to answer.

Her silence drew only one reaction: “How long?”

“Not long.”

He continued to watch her, unsmiling. His eyes hid everything he felt—or didn’t. And then he turned without a word and walked back to his patrol car, her license and registration in hand.

Even the walk was the same. A harsh laugh escaped as she watched him in the rearview mirror. The hair was longer, spiky instead of the buzz cut he’d worn when she knew him, the face harder and yes, now that she thought about it, older, but there was no doubt this was Gabe. Her Gabe. The Gabe that had ruined her life. She’d imagined this moment since the tender age of seventeen, imagined what she would do if she ever came face-to-face with him again. She’d never considered that he wouldn’t even remember the moment that changed her forever. But his blank stare had told her the truth. No memories of hot, sweaty nights and drenching desire lurked there. Not even a hint of recognition for someone he’d seen daily for weeks, no matter how long ago.

Just a quick, easy lay, that was her. Forgettable. Replaceable. Guess she didn’t have to wonder anymore. What she did have to wonder was how the hell her first lover and her son had ended up in the same rural Texas town. Had Gabe been involved all along?

But no, he’d definitely recognize her then. If he didn’t remember her, he didn’t know about Micah. And she was determined to keep it that way.

Gabe returned with the same unhurried pace as before, tapping her license against his thigh. When he came to stand outside her door, dark sunglasses hid his eyes. She felt the loss even though she shouldn’t, a fact that sent anger pounding through her heart. She breathed it away. She couldn’t risk slipping up and doing anything that would endanger her plans. For her sake—and her son’s—she had to stay under the radar. Assaulting an officer would make her a big ol’ unignorable blip. No clawing his eyes out, then.

Squaring her shoulders, Peyton ignored the strain of her nerves as she focused on the tap, tap, tap of the edge of her license against hard muscle. She could outwait him. She just wished she could figure out what she was waiting for.

“And where did you say you moved here from?”

She almost—almost—rolled her eyes. The raised eyebrow, she couldn’t stop. “Memphis.”

He nodded, ignoring the brow. “Your apartment is across town, Ms. Harrison. What address are you looking for?”

Do you call all your ex-lover’s by their last name? “I’m not looking for an address; I’m familiarizing myself with the town. If I plan to open a business here—and I do—then it’s in my best interest to get to know the area.” She was proud of how smoothly the words came out, ringing with pleasant—and quite false—emotion. “It’s a beautiful, friendly town.”

Okay, that hadn’t been as neutral as she would like. But once again he didn’t respond to any perceived insult. “Yes, it is. We’re small but growing, and we keep an eye on each other. You can see why we would be uncomfortable with strangers parked outside our schoolyards, correct?”

Fear mixed with her anger, making her nauseous. He’s not reading your mind, Pey. Get over it. She dared a glance at the playground as if just noticing it. “Of course, Officer Williams,” she said, pushing confidence into her voice. She kept her eyes wide open and innocent. A whisper of copper traced across her tongue as she bit down, holding back any further words.

Tap, tap, tap. “What kind of business are you planning?”

“A restaurant.”

“In Claywater?” He said it like she wasn’t too bright.

“Of course. This is a beautiful area—and growing, as you mentioned. It’s perfect.” She forced a smile, small but sweet. “You should come by sometime once I find the right location. Hoolihan’s. Coffee on the house.” She watched closely but didn’t catch even a glimmer of recognition. Coffee had always been on the house for Gabe when he visited Mike and Shelly’s place in Memphis. He’d always bragged about her coffee being the best in the world. Now even the name of the restaurant didn’t jog his memory.

“I’ll do that, ma’am.” He tipped his hat before handing back her license and registration. “You have a good day now.”

Right, I’ll just do that. Swallowing tightly, she dragged the words from an uncooperative throat. “You too.”

Gabe walked back to the patrol car parked behind her, his head swiveling as if watching for threats. It wasn’t until he got in and closed the door that she was able to release her breath and allow oxygen into her anxious brain. Movement across the street drew her eye. The kids on the playground were lining up, heading in to begin their day of learning and growing. She had things to do too, but she couldn’t resist one last, long look at her little boy. The desire to throw caution to the wind, to snatch him up and take him home despite the teachers, other children, and even cops in the vicinity who would surely stop her, almost overwhelmed her. Who knew—maybe Gabe would understand if he realized who that little boy was.

Or, considering the way he’d left her in Memphis, alone and pregnant, maybe not.

But watching that amazing little face, she knew it was too soon to take him, no matter how much the knowledge broke her already damaged heart. She couldn’t risk rocking the boat without more information. She had no idea if he was in a home with people who loved him, who cared what happened to him—who might come after him if he disappeared. Taking him now could risk him hating her forever.

No. No matter how the need for him clawed at her gut and made each day unbearable, she couldn’t risk scaring him, alienating him. Hurting him.

Because he was her son. Their son. And she’d protect him with her life, even from herself.

~ ~ ~ ~ Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

I lived with these three characters for a very long time, much longer than it took me to write (and rewrite) their story. Over and over, the one thing that kept coming back to me was memories. The memories Gabe and Sam shared, that Gabe and Peyton shared. The painful memories that each of them carried alone. The memories they built together, and the ones that will come in their future. So their theme song was pretty clear from the very beginning: "September" by Daughtry.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

"Start of Something New" -- Daughtry (Sam's song!)

"Over You" -- Daughtry (Gabe's song!)

"Crawling Back To You" -- Daughtry

"Someday" -- Nickelback

"How You Remind Me" -- Nickelback

"Hurricane" -- Thirty Seconds To Mars

"Heaven" -- 3 Doors Down

"Home" -- Goo Goo Dolls

"Separate Ways" -- Journey

"Ghost" -- Cavo

~ ~ ~ ~ Deleted Scene ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabe couldn't tell Peyton why he was leaving her the morning after they made love the first time, but he wanted to. The need to tell her haunted him for a long time. If he could've said good-bye, here's what he would've written:

Peyton,

I think about you every day.          

I think about the scent of your skin, about the weight of your breast in my palm, your tongue in my mouth. I think about the look in your eyes when I lay my weight on top of you: Hunger. Sheer bliss. And all that I am is destroyed when I think about leaving you behind.

Could I have done something differently? Probably. Would I? If it was possible, yes. But I just can’t see the way. I’m trapped in the knowledge that, as much as I believe you could love me, sharing that love with another man could shatter you. What I would ask of you— No, there was no other way.

Knowing that doesn’t mean I can accept it. Or even live through it. Because right now, I don’t know how I’m going to take my next breath, much less get out of bed in the morning. As much as I tell myself it’s better to leave you happy and whole, before this love that’s killing me takes root in you as well, it doesn’t stop the feeling that I’m drowning more with every second that passes.

I love you, will always love you, but I have to go.

Gabe

Dirty Little Secret Extras

~ ~ ~ ~ Purchase This Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  • Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist
  • Deleted Scene

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

“Dirty Little Secrets by Ella Sheridan is an erotic gem. It is well-written, flows at a nice pace and is chock-full of pure desire.”
– Harlequin Junkie


“There was plenty of drama, suspense, smut factor, and of course just regular romance that will keep you turning the pages! My one complaint is that I wished the story was longer!”
– Crystal’s Many Reviews


“This is my first book by Ella Sheridan and I can honestly say, I was blown away… Everything about this book clicked.  It was perfect.”
– Nice Ladies Naughty Books


“This story completely captured me from the very beginning and kept my attention until the very end. Cailin has a naughty side that no one but Alex ever got to experience, and once he got a taste, he did not want to give her up. I can honestly say that the relationship between those two was something out of my fantasies.”
– Long and Short Reviews

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

A pause in the cacophony was followed by the sultry sound of a sax filtering across the dance floor. Cailin stopped to catch her breath at the sound. She hadn’t been completely alone as she danced; several men had approached, partnered her for a few minutes, then left, leaving her available for another dance, another partner. She’d thought she would feel awkward dancing with strangers, but she didn’t. She enjoyed it. And she didn’t feel like a slut, either.

As the timbre of the music worked its way into her bones, she let her body move, sway, absorb the pleasure of sense and sound. When broad, heavy palms landed on her rocking hips, she startled. She whipped her head around, only to meet the darkest, sexiest brown eyes she’d ever seen. They blazed with emotion in a face that put Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and every other Sexiest Man Alive to absolute shame. Her mouth opened in a soft “oh” as she stared.

God, he was beautiful.

And then he smiled. It was soft, secretive, sexy. Steaming. Her legs wobbled beneath her, but his grip kept her upright. Then his body made contact with hers—full-body contact, her back, point by point, met by the muscled heat of his chest, stomach, thighs. A gasp escaped as his pelvis brushed the base of her spine and an unmistakably rigid bulge made itself known. The next moment, she was lost in the intensity of his touch.

Her head turned to the side, Cailin tried to smile, but nerves and something else had wicked the moisture from her lips. He moved against her, his hips more agile than Patrick Swayze’s in Dirty Dancing, and nuzzled his sharp nose against the cheek closest to him.

“Hi.”

Her head reeled, her tongue tied itself in a firm knot, and she wished the solid floor beneath her would do her a favor and swallow her whole. Fast. “Hi.”

And then she gave herself up to the music. Talking was impossible, but moving wasn’t. And it felt delicious. She melted into the firm body supporting her, countered the sway of his hips, and fell in love with a man she’d spoken only one word to. Of course, she only loved him for his body. Nothing could compare. Nothing could ever feel as good as he felt against her. His arms circled her waist, his hands flat on the soft curve of her stomach. She wanted them on her breasts. On her mound. Between her legs. The music made love to her, one beat at a time, and he partnered it perfectly until her brain couldn’t think, couldn’t tell where she ended and he began. Didn’t want to. All she wanted was for this moment to last forever.

Which, of course, it couldn’t.

At the music’s final note, the man turned her in his arms, his tight grip pulling her into his body until her front was as firm against him as her back had been. She looked up—and up. Her head tilted back farther than she’d imagined it would have to in order to meet those chocolate eyes. He had to be at least six-four, much taller than Sean—

No, she wouldn’t think about Sean tonight. In the fantasy world she’d created, Sean no longer existed. He belonged to tomorrow and reality. Now was for sweet heat and the fantasy lover staring down at her.

“I’m Alex,” he said. His voice was a mix of gravel and velvet, the sound clenching her womb. Cailin blushed as a rush of hot moisture coated her inner thighs.

“Cailin.”

Alex tucked his head down to hear her, and at her name, he turned, eye to eye, his wide pupils mesmerizing her. Time stopped. Sound receded. And then he wet his bottom lip with a slick pink tongue. “Nice to meet you, Cailin.”

That seductive smile flashed again, so close she could touch it, taste it, before he straightened. The press of the heavy wall of his chest into her sensitive breasts brought a moan to her lips, one she abruptly cut off as soon as she realized what she’d done. Jeez, Cailin. Get it together. But he didn’t seem to mind. In fact his eyes heated further, and he rubbed lightly against her. In the back of her mind was the thought that if anyone else had pulled that move, she would have to remove his balls with her knee, but with Alex, it felt right. She didn’t know why. It just did.

Music swelled again, and Alex took control, moving her against him, the subtle rubbing of their bodies the most sensual foreplay she’d ever experienced. She knew in that moment that she would have sex with this man. If he wanted her—and the erection still going strong between them said he did—she would have him. She wouldn’t lose this opportunity. Guess she’d found her courage…in his arms.

The minutes passed with no regard to how much she wanted them to pause. As the next song came to an end, she realized they were close to the edge of the dance floor. Alex stepped aside, took her hand in his, and led her toward what looked like a dark hallway heading off to one side. Cailin balked, some unwanted feminine instinct waking her to reality and danger, but Alex soothed her. “Offices. The owner’s a friend of mine. I thought we could talk someplace quieter.”

Turning for a last look at the crowded dance floor, she followed him down the long hall, berating herself for the stupidity of the move but unable—or unwilling—to say no. Something deep down in her soul, some gut feeling she thought she’d lost when her marriage fell to pieces, trusted this man. Maybe it was the way he seemed to read her mind, to know what she needed before she did. The way he anticipated every move, as if even a breath didn’t escape his notice. She’d never felt like the center of a man’s entire concentration. She wanted more, wanted to bask in the intensity of Alex’s attention.

And the occasional employee passing them assured her they weren’t completely alone. If she screamed, someone would hear. Wouldn’t they?

A wide, heavy door marked, appropriately enough, OFFICE waited at the end of the passageway. Alex knocked, and a dark-haired man with classic playboy looks opened the door. The surprise on his face eased more of her worry. So this wasn’t a regular occurrence; thank God, even if she did want to sink through the floor in embarrassment.

“Damien, could I—”

“No problem.” The man didn’t ask for an explanation, and his cheeky grin said he didn’t need any. “Just lock up when you leave.” He nodded politely at Cailin before turning to walk back the way they’d come.

Alex gave a rueful snort and dragged her inside. The minute the door clicked shut, he had her backed against its unforgiving surface.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered roughly. “I need—”

Cailin kissed him before he could finish.

~ ~ ~ ~ Dirty Little Secret Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

*For every book I write, I create a playlist of songs to help me when I need inspiration, when I need to get further into a scene or into the head of a character. Usually one of these songs floats to the surface as embodying the theme of the book, not just for one character but for most of them. That's where the book theme song idea came from. Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtNS1afUOnE&w=560&h=315]

~ ~ ~ ~ Dirty Little Secret Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

Apologize — One Republic (Cailin)

Let It Go — Goo Goo Dolls

Iris — Goo Goo Dolls

All That You Are — Goo Goo Dolls

Collide — Howie Day

Come On Get Higher — Matt Nathanson

Breathe — Ryan Star

Closer to the Edge — 30 Seconds to Mars

Love Remains the Same — Gavin Rossdale

Waking Up — One Republic

Good Life — One Republic

All That I’m Asking For — Lifehouse

Let It Go -- Cavo

~ ~ ~ ~ Deleted Scene ~ ~ ~ ~

*This scene was the first written for Dirty Little Secret. I cut it before submission, but it remains in my heart the kernel of Cailin's character throughout the rest of the book. It's the day she told her husband she wanted a divorce.

“You selfish bitch!”

Cailin Gray flinched, then braced herself, taking a deep breath before turning to confront her husband. She kept her face expressionless, no hint of her pounding heart and shaky insides showing. Stay calm. Breathe.

“How the hell could you do this to me?” Sean thrust a heavy sheaf of papers in her face, but Cailin stepped back, forcing herself to respond quietly, carefully.

“It was time.”

“Time? That’s all you’ve got to say? Five years! Five years of marriage and you—”

She squared shoulders that had begun to tremble. “We both know it’s over, Sean.” I just finally decided to do something about it. It sounded callous; maybe it was. Guilt, fear, despair—she had her own cornucopia of emotions to deal with. She’d known dealing with Sean’s would be hard, but imagining it and actually doing it, facing her husband after he found out she’d filed for a divorce, were two totally different things altogether. Her muscles ached with the need to flee, but she held herself rigid, even her breath shallow.

Sean choked on a hollow laugh, and Cailin’s heart squeezed. She’d thought she loved him once. Thought he loved her. They’d married right out of college. He was the only man she’d ever made love to. But she’d become nothing more than a fixture in the background of his life. How could a woman keep her marriage going when she had to beg her husband for attention, affection, time…and he still wouldn’t give it?

She nodded toward the papers. “Everything is spelled out pretty clearly. I haven’t asked for anything more than my share. There are no kids—”

“And whose fault is that?”

The words whipped across her heart and left her bleeding. Her infertility wasn’t the problem. He’s just looking for something to hurt you with, you know that. Instead of responding to the pain, lashing out with her own accusations, she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “And since I work, there’s no need for alimony. We just have the house and money to split.”

She dared to step closer, that old longing to fix things welling inside her, even knowing it was impossible. Her heart jumped into her throat when he threw up a hand to stop her. Logically she knew Sean wouldn’t hit her, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she’d wondered if all the anger that had built up over the last few years might be unleashed at this moment. Was that why she’d waited so long? Or had she simply not wanted to seem like a coward? In their smallish community smack in the middle of the Bible Belt, divorce was a four-letter word that got you ostracized. “This is the decision you made,” her pastor had told her once. And he’d been right. She had made the decision to marry Sean.

And now she had made the decision to leave. It hurt too much to stay. If that made her a coward, so be it.

Sean’s hot breath hit her cheek as he leaned toward her, his fury a palpable presence between them. “I don’t give a damn about the money. Why are you doing this?”

“I’ve told you why. We’ve been over and over it.” A bitter laugh escaped, when she didn’t want to be bitter. God, I’m so tired of dealing with this. But it didn’t matter, and it wouldn’t be over for a long time, legally or emotionally. She had to accept that he didn’t love her, not the way she needed to be loved. She’d finally acknowledged that she needed more. “We’ve been in counseling off and on since we got married, Sean. How much more is there to say?”

His voice dropped, though anger continued to thread through it. “I’m sorry, okay? I’ll try to do better. I will.”

“You said that six months ago, and three months before that. I need more than words.”

“But I mean it. You can’t… What more can I do than apologize? I’m your husband, for Christ’s sake.” His eyes turned pleading. “You have to forgive me.”

Again. It didn’t matter how many times as long as she did it when he wanted it. And it was that attitude that had killed her ability to forgive. She was his wife, not his doormat.

Sean ran a frustrated hand through his thick brown hair. “Is this the sex thing again? Is that it? You’re going to humiliate yourself in front of everyone ’cause you don’t think you get enough sex?”

Cailin tightened her control to the breaking point before she could roll her eyes. Sean hadn’t touched her in almost a year; that certainly qualified as more than “not enough sex.” But it wasn’t even the lack of sex that hurt. Her husband didn’t touch her at all. No hugs. No kisses good-bye. No sitting next to her on the couch to watch TV. They didn’t brush against each other when they passed in a doorway. He didn’t even turn over in his sleep and cuddle up to her body to keep warm. She’d spent more nights staring at his back than she could count, until the pain tore her apart inside and she couldn’t bear to sleep in the same bed. She’d taken to the couch last week. Sean hadn’t seemed to notice.

And he won’t notice now. It’s pointless to argue.

Refusing to acknowledge his question, knowing she had to leave—now, before she totally lost it—she said softly, “Everything you need to know is in the papers. Read them and get back to me.” Then she grabbed her purse and walked out.

When she returned to the house four hours later, thinking he’d have cooled off by then, her key wouldn’t open the lock on the front door. Sean wouldn’t answer the doorbell, though his car was in the drive. She shouldn’t have been surprised, shouldn’t have been hurt. This was her fault, after all. If she’d just left well enough alone, maybe it would have gotten better. That’s what she’d told herself for five long years, what friends and family had told her. It didn’t matter how hard the woman in the back of her mind, the one begging for someone to love her, need her, screamed that it wasn’t so. Cailin was the only one who could hear her. The only one who wanted to hear her. No one else knew the pain she felt every time she realized she was more alone than she’d ever been in her life, and her husband was right beside her. Or maybe other people did know and they put up with it.

She had, for a while. But not anymore. The decision was made.

She wanted a life. She wanted to be happy. And yes, she wanted a man who loved her as she was, flaws and all, and showed it. Who acknowledged her existence and more. Was that really too much to ask?

After calling Bonnie Loveless, her friend and now lawyer, Cailin spent the night in a hotel, returning home the next day with a local police officer—luckily not one she knew, though his distaste at getting involved was obvious—Bonnie, and a moving crew. Since Sean was at work, she was able to get in with the key the officer had retrieved earlier and move her things easily enough. Much of it she left behind, not wanting to deal with the memories. Let him have them. Maybe someday his eyes would open and he’d realize what he’d lost. She doubted it, but hey, a girl could hope.

Naughty Little Secret Extras

naughty-little-christmas-cover-art_frosted.jpg

~ ~ ~ ~ Purchase This Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Also available in PRINT through CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  • Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

“A great, heart-warming, heart-breaking, wonderful story!”
– Guilty Pleasures


“I honestly thought nothing could get better than book one in this series, Dirty Little Secret.  Ella Sheridan is making a career out of proving me wrong. Gut-wrenching and powerful, this is a love story with a twist…”
– Nice Ladies Naughty Books


“Well written with characters you can’t help but love. I have so many highlighted passages from when Sheridan’s writing made me go, ‘Oh, wow.’ I can’t wait to read more by her in the future.”
– NYT Best-selling Author Gina L. Maxwell


“A welcome erotic addition to the holiday themed romances this season… The main characters are strong, independent, and unknowingly, looking for completeness in their lives. During this magical time of year, it just makes perfect sense that good things happen to good people and Naughty Little Christmas is a terrific example of that and more.”
– Harlequin Junkie

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

“You’re who?”

Harley came very close to laughing, though she wasn’t sure if it was actual amusement or just plain nerves. George Michael’s voice crooned “Last Christmas” in her head. “Tell me, baby, do you recognize me?” It’s definitely been a year. Guess the answer’s no.

She managed to hold back the laughter. Barely. Nerves wouldn’t get the better of her any more than Damien Adams would. She refused to allow it. Squaring her shoulders, she ignored the fact that she felt like an idiot with her hand dangling out in front of her, waiting to shake, while she faced down the man who had taken the Atlanta bar scene by storm less than a year ago. In person he was more like a blizzard, slamming into her senses, whiting out everything, including her courage. She’d always been good at faking it, though.

Ignoring his obvious impatience, she tried again. “Harley Fisher.”

The jerk stared back silently, full lips pressed tight together, a dark brow cocked up in question.

Okay, she knew she’d interrupted him, but seriously… She raised her own brow, getting a little impatient herself and trying hard to control it. “We spoke on the phone. About the general manager’s position,” she reminded him carefully.

Damien looked at her still-extended hand; then, with casual deliberation, he crossed his arms over his wide, muscular chest. The silk of his shirt stretched to a fit that resembled plastic wrap. Pulling her gaze from the deep V of the open neck, she dropped her hand and refused to be intimidated. She needed this job, and she intended to have it.

A spark of recognition lit those river-brown eyes, and Harley swallowed hard against the heavy, dry lump in her throat until he said, “Right. You’re the one I thought was a guy.”

She caught her grimace before it could get out. Yes, her name was unusual. She was often mistaken for a man until someone saw her in person, after which they simply thought she was an airhead. Or a slut. Her youth and rocker-chick persona often worked against her in the “real” world, but it never took people—men—long to learn differently. Hopefully Mr. Slick here would be quick on the uptake.

From the look of it, she had a better chance of Santa coming down her nonexistent chimney.

Raising her voice slightly to be heard over the remixed Christmas song blaring from the speakers, she said, “Yes, that Harley.” Try a smile, she told herself. “We—”

An impatient shake of his head cut off her words. “I believe I told you we were looking for someone more”—his gaze slid slowly down her body and back up—“more.”

More what, for God’s sake? More ready to jump into bed with him? A strong urge to put her leather jacket back on, as if she were still out in the Atlanta winter cold, bit into her. And pissed her off. Maybe she’d made a mistake in coming here. Damien obviously wasn’t the man she’d thought he would be, the man she needed.

No, give it a chance. This is too important to be making rash decisions. He can afford to; you can’t.

She dug her fingernails deep into her palms and wished her soon-to-be boss wasn’t quite such an ass.

Or quite so sexy. Looking at him heated her body in a way that had nothing to do with the anger she was feeling. The reaction shook her. Of course, Sonny’d always had good taste in men.

Which was definitely not why Harley was here.

Pain tingling in her palms from the digging of her nails, she forced herself to hold his stare. “Mr. Adams, simply because I’m young—and female—doesn’t mean I’m not the right person for the job. If you could just take a look over my résumé one more time—”

“I’ve seen what I needed to see, Ms. Fisher,” he said, voice dropping to little more than a growl. “I own three very successful clubs in three cities hundreds of miles apart. Traveling between them means leaving someone else in charge, someone with the experience and expertise to work independently, wisely, and efficiently. It means I must trust that person implicitly with my livelihood and that of my employees. Being Thrice’s general manager requires more than a familiarity with the bar.” That insulting look returned to his eyes, implying various ways she might’ve gained such knowledge that had nothing to do with her brains.

Oh, he so did not go there.

“So what you’re saying is, a woman in her midtwenties, a former musician, covered in tattoos but looking reasonably attractive is by definition a lush? Or are you insinuating that I’m a whore?”

Damien stared, eyes wide with shock, as if he couldn’t believe the words that had left her mouth. Then a boyish grin transformed him from put-out businessman to dangerously naughty hunk, and the urge to let go of her anger sank its teeth deep. No way. She was not forgetting he was rude, egotistical, asinine, a dickhead…

He laughed before she could let a real hissy fit loose. The sound echoed, rich and full, blending and countering the music filling the room. It deflated the ball of emotion choking her, drew her in, made her want to mix her laugh with his. She held her breath, unable to decide if his reaction was a good or bad thing.

“Forgive me,” Damien said. A wheeze interrupted the last word, and he had to pause to get his mirth under control. “You’re right. That was uncalled for.” Like an old-world aristocrat, he bowed from the waist. His shirt draped away from his chest, giving her a glimpse of smooth, tan skin all the way to his navel. “My apologies.”

Did he plan to kiss her hand next? The man had throwing people off down to an art. And why didn’t he look ridiculous with his shirt unbuttoned down to a lick-worthy six-pack? Reminding herself of her purpose, she said warily, “Accepted. I think.”

His grin said if that was the best he could get, he’d take it. “Ms. Fisher, I appreciate your candor—and that you are willing to forgive my rudeness. But—”

She barely refrained from rolling her eyes. There always has to be a but.

“—the fact remains that a certain level of experience is necessary for this position. I’m sorry.”

He turned to leave, and panic took over, pushing her to close the distance between them. Instinctively her hand shot out, and then she was gripping the heavy muscle of his biceps. Desperation firmed her hold when the shock of physical contact shot up her arm like a lightning bolt. He felt hot. Masculine. This close, he smelled of spice and alcohol, and she found herself breathing heavier just to take in more.

Don’t be a damn fool, Harley! Get your act together.

“Ms. Fisher—”

Before he could blast her for detaining him, Harley firmed both her courage and her voice. “Thrice has been open how long, Mr. Adams?” When he refused to answer, she did it for him. “Six months. I’ve been involved in the Atlanta music scene for fifteen years, the last seven of which I spent not only as a musician but as an event organizer and PR rep for my band and several others.”

That got him to face her fully. “You are either older than you look, or that’s a big stretch of the truth.”

She let a smirk sneak onto her lips. “And you are more unfamiliar with your new market than I would have given you credit for. My mother rotated out of every club in town, dragging me along with her from the time I was ten so she could sing her heart out. At fifteen I became involved with the indie music scene, and three years later formed and managed my own band, Aftershock.”

At the name, Damien’s brows shot up. So much for actually reading my résumé. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of indie music had heard of Aftershock; they were one of the foremost bands in the business, not just because they were damn good musicians, but because Harley had as good of instincts in management as she did with a bass guitar. If her private life hadn’t blown all to hell, she would still be with them.

“I see.”

She could tell he didn’t like admitting he was wrong, but at least the playboy charm was darkening into something more serious, more thoughtful, without the annoyed edge he’d shown at first. Time to close the deal. “You know the national scene, no doubt about it. You know what needs to be done to make things happen in LA or Colorado. You gained that know-how through study, experience, and localhelp.” She fought to keep the quaver of desperation out of her words. “I can give you that here, Mr. Adams, and with far more depth and speed and with lower cost than anyone else you could hire. I know Atlanta. I know the people here. I know the nightlife and the music and the contacts to make it all happen.” She pulled in a heavy lungful of air to ease her aching chest. “I am the person for this job.”

When the last word left her lips, she knew every ounce of her passion and determination went with it. Her lungs deflated like a balloon with a slow leak, refusing to refill as she waited for his verdict. Thinking of everything that was at stake, she willed him to listen, to see all that she could offer.

“You’re not gonna give an inch, are you?” he finally asked.

Harley narrowed her eyes. “No, and you wouldn’t want me to. It’s exactly what you need.”

Damien’s gaze dropped to the hand still clutching his arm. Harley slowly released him, the burn of embarrassment firing her cheeks. When his mouth, that sinfully full mouth, opened to speak, she braced herself for rejection.

“Okay.”

Wh-what? The single word hit like a brick wall she’d never seen coming. “Okay?” she parroted.

“Okay, let’s talk.” Glancing down, he surveyed the thick black watch encircling his wrist. “I have a couple of things to settle first, but if you’re willing to hang around, I’ll take the time to speak with you.”

Clenching the muscles in her thighs to keep herself from slumping to the floor in relief, she forced calm into her voice. “Yes. Absolutely.”

Damien stared down at her for a long moment, something dark and unreadable in his eyes. Knowing she had to get used to him watching her, judging her, she let him look. Whether he found what he was looking for or not, she didn’t know. He turned to a passing employee, asked the man to escort her to a table in the bar, and nodded before making his way down a nearby hall.

She couldn’t resist a final glance in his direction as she was led across the room. Step one down. They were on their way.

* * * *

He needed to stop looking at her. Every few minutes his gaze strayed toward the corner table in the bar where Harley Fisher sat, sipping a drink with red and silver sprinkles rimming the glass, chatting with every employee who passed. The Christmas lights illuminating the area glinted in her eyes, and he couldn’t keep his fucking gaze off her. Which was bad, because he didn’t do employees—ever. And he wanted to do her, no doubt about it.

Pretending to listen to Brad give him a rundown of the night’s tally, he took in the picture she made. She fit, which was what had made him wary at first. Too young, too hip. From the top of her candy-red-and-cream-striped hair to the toes of her knee-high stiletto boots, she looked like one of his customers—the ones he occasionally slept with—not a manager. She had slipped her tight leather jacket onto the chair back, revealing a silky silver tank that showcased a full-sleeve tattoo along one slender, toned arm. Those muscles came from holding a guitar, he now knew. A musician. Wasn’t that just further reason to be panting after the woman? It was a wonder he hadn’t been forced to roll his tongue back into his mouth like the cartoon characters he remembered from childhood.

“Boss?”

Brad’s voice pulled him back to business, and Damien turned, removing Harley from his line of sight. Tonight’s private Christmas party for Keane Industry’s Atlanta office had been well attended, the bar busy all night. Brad needed his attention, as did a million additional things, both here and at his other two clubs. He needed a general manager for Thrice. Once, his club in LA, and Twice, the Denver nightclub, were both hugely successful, but he wasn’t the kind of owner who could open a place and then leave it in someone else’s hands entirely. He stayed in constant contact with both managers, flying out frequently to each location, this month in particular. The series of charity events planned for the holidays would benefit hundreds of families in the three cities where he ran clubs, but they added more strain to his already overfull schedule.

He and Brad were finishing up the details for tomorrow’s order when Ryan strolled over to lean against the bar.

“Sounds good, Brad,” Damien told the bartender. “Finalize those numbers and have Malik get that order in ASAP tomorrow morning.”

Brad immediately pulled out his phone to shoot the day supervisor a reminder, which was one reason the man had become such a trusted employee so quick. He got things done and done fast. Damien needed all the help he could get. Fifty e-mails waited on his phone for his attention, and that didn’t include the things Ryan, as his assistant, handled on his own, or the things Ryan couldn’t handle when he and Brad took over Thrice while Damien was away. Both men worked hard, but neither had the know-how or experience to run the club without constant input from Damien, not yet. The need for a seasoned day-to-day manager here at Thrice neared desperation level at this point. No one he’d interviewed had felt right for such an important position, though. No one had even come close, not until Harley.

“Remind him about contacting that wholesaler while you’re at it,” Ryan put in. “See what the guy has to offer us.”

Brad nodded, fingers flying, then hit a final button and looked up. “Anything else?”

“No, you’re good,” Damien told him, meaning it.

“Does that mean I get an extra-special Christmas bonus this year?” the bartender asked with a grin.

“I don’t know. Ryan?”

Brad groaned. “You did not put Wonder Boy in charge of our bonuses, did you?”

“I’ll remember that,” Ryan warned.

Brad laughed as he headed toward the other end of the bar, which spanned the length of the club area, to finish supervising the night’s cleanup.

Ryan leaned a little closer, brows up almost to his hairline, and smiled slyly. “So, who’s the girl?”

In the four years Ryan had worked for him, Damien had come to love his young assistant like a little brother, so he didn’t resist the urge to smack the little pissant upside the back of his head.

“Hey, man, don’t mess with the hair!” Ryan smoothed the ruffled strands at his nape, but his smile widened despite the whine in his voice.

“Keep your tongue on a leash,” Damien warned, his words lacking heat. Without his consent, his gaze traveled toward Harley, watching as one of the waiters approached her table to offer a refill. Harley shook her head; then something the man said made her laugh. A twinge of pain shot through his jaw as Damien ground his teeth together. “That,” he told Ryan, “is Harley Fisher.”

Ryan shot to attention at his side. “The Harley Fisher? From Aftershock? Hot damn!” His tongue practically hung out as he stared across the room, and Damien started to wonder if he was going to have to wipe up drool. “I didn’t recognize her offstage. Is this my Christmas gift? Say yes. Please?” The last word definitely approached a whine.

Ryan was much closer to the indie scene than Damien, obviously, but it wasn’t as if Damien had no clue who the woman was. Aftershock was one of those bands that even adamant anti-indie listeners knew and enjoyed. He kept up with their music, if not all the band members’ names. What he did know was the venues they played—good ones, events that took finesse to get, especially for a band without the solid backing of a major record company. If Harley acted as their manager, she knew what the hell she was doing. So why leave that behind to work for him?

Ryan’s gushing made the pain in Damien’s jaw worse. “Down, boy. She’s applied for the general manager’s position.”

“No kidding?” A thoughtful look crossed Ryan’s boyish face. “I’d heard she was on hiatus. Maybe it was more serious than the rumor mill let on.”

Something to think about. She certainly seemed the best choice overall, given her background. And if he was honest, the main thing holding him back at this point was the attraction he felt for her. He liked her spunk. He liked that she didn’t take his shit without calling him on it. Damn it, he liked her, wanted her, and therein lay the problem. She was trouble waiting to happen. With a capital T.

A soft, feminine hand on his arm interrupted his thoughts. “Damien? Is everything all right?”

Mia. Another problem squeezing herself onto his overflowing plate. When he said he didn’t do employees, he meant it, but Mia refused to get the picture.

He straightened. “Fine, Mia,” he said, shifting as subtly as possible away from the petite waitress. Petite but strong, barracuda strong. She, like Harley, was young, maybe twenty-three. She’d been waitressing at Thrice for three months, and if things didn’t change soon, he would be forced to let her go. Being ambushed every time he came in the door of his own club was unacceptable—and unavoidable. She’d made it so.

“Would you like me to gather the staff for the meeting?” she asked, swaying her shoulders side to side in an incongruously little-girl move that emphasized her generous breasts in the low-cut shirt she wore. Damien knew better than to look down. They were nice breasts—he’d noticed; he was a breast man, after all—but a single glance and he’d end up with a permanent attachment to his hip that would take a crowbar to remove.

Keeping his eyes firmly locked with her exotic, almond-shaped ones, he said, “Valentine will let you know when we’re ready.” He glanced over to see his waitstaff supervisor at the far end of the room, pointing two waiters in the direction of a section that had not been taken care of yet. He nodded in Valentine’s direction. “Don’t you have cleanup to get through?”

Mia’s full lips pouted prettily. “I just wanted to help, Damien. I’m sorry.”

Instead of rolling his eyes, he nudged his chin toward the opposite end of the room. “Finish up, please.”

“That is a mess waiting to happen,” Ryan murmured, barely waiting until Mia stepped out of earshot.

“I agree.” He jammed both fists against the bar, arms rigid, and rolled his shoulders to release the tension that had settled there. “One you can take care of while I’m away.”

“Thanks,” Ryan mocked. “I get to cover your ass while you gallivant all over the country, and handle the horny waitress.”

Damien smirked at the disdain dripping from Ryan’s last word. “It’s a dirty job, but at least I don’t have to do it.” Especially not at Christmas. Damien hated letting anyone go, but the young woman had been warned strongly and repeatedly. Knowing what had to be done didn’t mean it depressed him less.

Damien motioned for Brad and Valentine to gather their crews for the “family meeting,” the staff meeting held nightly to go over issues from the shift or things that needed to be addressed for upcoming ones. By the time they finished, Harley had been waiting more than an hour for his attention, but she didn’t act impatient. She’d watched him handle the staff, those green eyes alight with interest. Now those same eyes narrowed on him as he walked toward her table, leaving Brad and Ryan to lock up.

Damien felt the pull of that look, right down to his groin. And that hair. Jesus. Her hair reminded him of those Life Savers strawberries-and-cream lollipops he used to love as a kid, a swirled mix of sharp tang and sweet, creamy goodness. It made him wonder where else on Harley he could taste creamy goodness. When his dick filled at the thought, he groaned. He needed her as a manager, not a good lay. He could get sex anytime; someone to fill the empty slot in his business was far harder to come by.

Harley was it, but neither he nor his cock were jumping for joy over the decision.

~ ~ ~ ~ Theme Songs ~ ~ ~ ~

Naughty has two theme songs due to its Christmas theme. The first is the Christmas song that inspired the story, "Last Christmas" with George Michael.

 

The second theme song, "All I Want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket, spent so much time on my iPod that my family begged me to stop playing it. :)

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

Hey, Soul Sister -- Train

Shake Up Christmas -- Train

Give Myself To You -- Train

Drops of Jupiter -- Train

Drive By -- Train

To Be Loved -- Train

We Were Made For This -- Train

Brand New Book -- Train

If It's Love -- Train

Marry Me -- Train

Mirrors -- Justin Timberlake

Behind These Hazel Eyes -- Kelly Clarkson

Daylight -- Maroon 5

Misery -- Maroon 5

Hands All Over -- Maroon 5

One More Night -- Maroon 5

This Love -- Maroon 5

~ ~ ~ ~ Fun Fact ~ ~ ~ ~

This book introduces Hank and Vincent from Weekend Washout, as well as Harley's former band, Aftershock. Hank and Vincent are now featured in the If Only series. That series will be a bridge to a series featuring Aftershock -- eventually. If my characters will ever stop proposing new books. and I can ever get them written. And... Well, you get the idea!

Just a Little More Extras

Just a Little More Extras Page

~ ~ ~ ~ Purchase This Book ~ ~ ~ ~

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Also available in print from CreatespaceAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

~ ~ ~ ~ On This Page ~ ~ ~ ~

  •  Reviews
  • Excerpt
  • Theme Song
  • Playlist

~ ~ ~ ~ Reviews ~ ~ ~ ~

“This book kept me on my toes all the way through. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.”
– Night Owl Reviews Erotica


“Ms. Sheridan takes a horrific happening and evolves it into a remarkable and powerful story.”
– Harlequin Junkie Reviews


Just a Little More will tug at your heart and remind you what love and devotion really is. A story of survival and love.”
– Crystal’s Many Reviewers


“Well written with characters you can’t help but love. I can’t wait to read more by her in the future. I highly recommend this series!”
– NYT Best-selling Author Gina L. Maxwell

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

Angel Gilliam wrestled the butterflies in her belly as she forced her key into the stubborn lock and finally managed to turn it. She was through the apartment door and calling Brad’s name before she could tug the key back out.

Nothing.

The silence that met her call deflated her excitement like a leaking balloon. Damn it, she wanted him to know first, in person, not over the phone. He was the only one who would understand how much this meant to her.

A glance around the darkened living room confirmed its emptiness. The heavy blue curtains Brad had hung when they moved in a month ago were drawn across the windows, pulling a smile from her as she crossed toward the kitchen. She’d teased him about their joint living room being a “man cave,” but who was she to argue. She hadn’t found a full-time position here in Atlanta yet, and five years in college dorm rooms hadn’t left her with a ton of homemaking supplies. The only curtains she owned were floral and gauzy and hung in her bedroom down the hall. And honestly, she didn’t mind if it was masculine. From the time they’d decided to share the apartment, she’d known she wanted as much of Brad in it as she did her own style. It was like the old T-shirts she’d snitched from his suitcase whenever he visited her at FSU, only better. Here, it wasn’t just his scent surrounding her, comforting her; it was his presence. Walking into the apartment was almost as good as being wrapped in his arms. Almost.

“Brad?”

The kitchen was empty too. Maybe he was still in the shower? Hope sent her on a mad dash down the hall that ended in a quick skid. She barely managed to stop by hanging on to the doorjamb of the master bedroom, but as she swung inside, she found Brad’s room was also dark and still. The faint scent of soap and hot water lingered in the air, confirming her fear that he’d already left for work.

“Well, damn.”

She slumped onto Brad’s bed, the king-size monstrosity that took up three-quarters of his room, and let the soft comforter cushion her as she considered her options. The only thing in her mind since she’d gotten off the phone with Henry Lockwood at the Atlanta office of Child Protective Services had been telling Brad about the interview she’d landed. She didn’t want to wait until he got home around four in the morning, if she could even stay awake that long. Waiting till he woke up was even worse. And she was pouting, darn it. She hated it when she pouted. She’d just so wanted to tell him, and tell him now. If only she hadn’t been stuck waiting for the bus to bring her home.

Turning her head to bury her nose in the soft down of the comforter, she filled her lungs with the scent of Brad’s cologne and something else, something vitally him that she couldn’t put a name to. When had she first noticed it? She wasn’t even sure she knew, it had happened so gradually. He’d visited her at school every chance he got, even during summer breaks when she was busy loading up on classes so she could get through her bachelor’s and master’s programs in five years. But even when her roommates and girlfriends were falling all over themselves chasing after him, his focus had been on her. And somewhere along the line, her focus had centered completely on him.

So why hadn’t they done anything about it?

Good question.

Tugging her bottom lip between her teeth, she stood and crossed the hall to her bedroom. Clothes lay scattered on most of the surfaces. Makeup, jewelry, shoes. After sharing a room with one fellow foster child or another through her teen years, always keeping her belongings locked up, protected, then doing the same in the dorm, Angel reveled in the ability to mark the space as hers. To claim ownership with the sheer presence of her things. Brad teased her about it, about “letting her hair down” after so many years of being the model foster kid, but she knew he got it. He’d understood the fears hiding down deep inside her even before she did, understood why she’d always tried to be perfect, to overachieve, to not be sent back into the system. He got her.

She eyed the folded clothes stacked at the end of the bed, ready to be put away. Right on top lay the red cashmere sweater Brad had given her for Christmas a couple of weeks ago. Their first Christmas living together—as best friends. The look in Brad’s eyes when she wore that sweater, though, went way beyond friends. It even went beyond the emotion that, if she was honest with herself, she knew she’d seen in his eyes over and over when he’d visited her at school. The emotion she’d heard in his voice every time they talked on the phone. An emotion she’d come to anticipate, to want, even if she hadn’t fully understood what it was. That look Brad gave her was crystal clear. Hunger. It made her shiver. And it felt right, as if all the years they’d spent together had naturally led to this, wanting each other as well as needing each other.

Maybe it was time to stop pussyfooting around and bring things out in the open. And she knew just how to do it.

The excitement was back again, humming under her skin, fizzing like champagne through her veins. It had her smiling as she gathered the sweater and her tightest pair of jeans and headed for the shower. An hour later she was standing outside the wide double doors that led into Thrice.

The burly bouncer guarding the door eyed the low curve of her neckline. “Hellooo.”

“Hi.” She handed over her ID, which the man dutifully checked. His eyes might’ve strayed a couple of times, but Angel just took that as a sign that she looked as good as she’d hoped.

He handed the card back, shooting her a wink. “You wouldn’t be inclined to save me a dance later, sweet thing? I get off at ten.” “I don’t think Brad would like that,” she told him, a little laugh escaping as she left him with his mouth slightly ajar.

Inside, a cacophony of music, people, and movement hit her eyes and ears, flashes of light adding to the confusion. The massive room—the center of a former warehouse, Brad had told her—seemed to sway with the ebb and flow of clubgoers filling every available space.

It took some wading to find the sunken dance floor taking up the entire middle of the room, then the bar area at the far side. When she took the time to think about it, she was still amazed that Brad had walked away from his family money and chosen to work in a bar, especially after his brother’s death. Most people would call it crazy—and a few of their friends had. But it made sense. His degree in business management meant he could work his way up at Thrice, but he also loved being in charge of the bar, interacting with customers, keeping people safe—that more than anything. He’d told her more than once that people shouldn’t pay with their lives for having fun or relieving stress, and he made sure of it with his vigilant watch over those in his care. He wanted to make a difference, no matter how small other people thought it was; they were alike that way.

His blond head came into view first, then the rest of him. Brad moved behind the room-length bar with ease and efficiency. A word here and there passed out with the drinks brought smiles to the people he served, especially the women. The feminine eyes eating him up sparked a dark jealousy in Angel’s core. But it was the look in Brad’s eyes that really mattered, and that look filled with fire when he saw her walking toward his end of the room.

His gaze swept her body, head to toe. And all the way back up. She watched his tongue slide along his bottom lip, saw him shift as if he was suddenly uncomfortable, and the knowledge that other women wanted him faded past caring. When his eyes finally met hers, she smiled, feeling the sexy edge to the way her lips curved, and put a little extra sway into her hips as she closed the distance between them. Brad leaned on the bar top, chin propped on his fist, to watch.

“Is it my birthday?” he teased when she got close enough to hear him.

A man seated on the next closest bar stool turned to look. “Maybe mine?” he asked. He was in his early twenties too, but his conservative hair and business-casual clothes didn’t fit Thrice’s vibe tonight.

“Hands off, Ryan,” Brad warned.

Ah. That explained the button-down and khakis. This was Brad’s co-manager in training. Damien’s secretary. “Hi.”

“And she has manners,” Ryan pointed out, throwing a pained look Brad’s way. He reached for Angel’s hand and leaned over to place a chaste kiss on the back. Angel felt her heart flutter at the sheer mean filling Brad’s gaze as he watched.

“And you are?” Ryan asked.

“Angel.”

“Taken,” Brad said at the same time, straightening to his full six-two height. Angel giggled.

“Fuck off, Brad,” Ryan threw out, his eyes still on Angel.

Brad leaned over the bar far enough to pop Ryan upside the back of the head. “Language,” he snapped.

“Ow!”

Watching the two of them was like watching brothers torment each other. Ryan was pouting now, but it didn’t earn him any points with Brad. “You can drop her hand anytime, Wonder Boy,” Brad growled.

Ryan slowly released her, but the half smile he shot her way—on the half of his face Brad couldn’t see—told her he was drawing it out for Brad’s benefit, not his own.

Brad whipped the tie at the back of his black apron open and wadded the cloth into a ball. He threw it on the counter. “I’m taking a break.”

Ryan glanced around. “Where’s your relief bartender?”

Pitching his thumb over his shoulder toward the mirror behind him, Brad shrugged. “Take a look at him.”

Ryan’s incredulous expression reflected perfectly in the mirror. By the time he started muttering protests, Brad had rounded the bar and taken Angel’s elbow.

“Get back here, asshole,” Ryan called.

Without missing a step, Brad shot a bird back at his friend. When Angel looked up at him, the amused curve of his lips had her laughing.

“You’re mean,” she said between chuckles.

“Not to you.” He shrugged. “Ryan earns it.” His mouth twitched at her laughter, though, and when he joined in, the noise and crowds surrounding them fell away from her awareness. Brad filled it up too much for anything else to intrude.

He didn’t stop at the curved railing that encircled the dance floor. Angel tugged on the hand now twined with hers. “Where are we going?”

Brad glanced down. “To get away from this noise,” he said, voice raised above the din. “The last thing I want to do is shout at each other over this mess.”

Angel agreed. Of course, going somewhere without noise probably meant going somewhere without this many people…or any people. She swallowed hard at the idea of being alone with him. She wasn’t a tease, and she’d been making it plain what she wanted for the last half hour. Now it was time to pay up. What if she couldn’t?

Nerves multiplied like tribbles in her veins as they went through the entry area of the club. Brad led her down a dark hallway to one side marked EMPLOYEES ONLY. The hall was dotted with doors, and Brad opened one about halfway down. They stepped into a brightly lit room lined along one side with lockers and the other with a comfy seating area. The counter, sink, fridge, and microwave proclaimed “break room” loudly. When the door slid shut, the sheer relief of relative silence distracted her from her nerves for about a millisecond.

“So…” Brad pulled her toward the couch but turned before they reached the brown leather monstrosity. His gaze went straight for her breasts in their soft red cover, and he seemed to lose track of what he was saying. In the moment it took for him to break himself away, Angel felt that look right down to her clenched thighs.

Shaking himself back to awareness, Brad finally asked, “To what do I owe this unexpected visit?”

Angel felt every muscle go tense. Say it! Say you have feelings for him—new, different feelings. You want him to know. He wants to know; just look in his eyes and see it. Tell him.

She cleared her desert-dry throat, opened her mouth, and said, “I got the interview.”

Not what she meant to say. Definitely not. And not what Brad expected her to say, from the sinking look on his face. But it didn’t last. Brad was Brad—a huge grin appeared, and the next thing she knew his arms were around her waist and he was twirling her through the air with a loud “whoop!”

Her smile felt bittersweet as love swelled in her chest. He was always putting her and her needs first, before what he wanted. He lifted her up, gave her whatever he thought she needed, even if it was far less than he might want. How long had he been doing that?

And how long was she going to be a coward and let it continue?

When he finally settled her on her feet, she was breathless with anxiety. She met Brad’s warm gray eyes…and immediately, all the chaos whirling inside her settled. She reached to cup his stubble-covered cheeks. “I came by for something else too,” she said, surprised by the suddenly low, raspy tone of her voice.

“What?”

“This.” She pulled him down until her lips could meet his and kissed him.

~ ~ ~ ~ Just a Little More Theme Song ~ ~ ~ ~

For Just a Little More, I have a heroine badly in need of protection, and I have a hero whose entire being is centered on protecting and caring for those he loves -- and he's loved Angel a long, long time. There was no more appropriate song than this little gem nestled on Daughtry's latest release: "I'll Fight."

~ ~ ~ ~ Just a Little More Playlist ~ ~ ~ ~

"Lullaby" by Nickelback

"Rebel Beat" by Goo Goo Dolls

"Bulletproof Angel" by Goo Goo Dolls

"When the World Breaks Your Heart" by Goo Goo Dolls

"Slow It Down" by Goo Goo Dolls

(Can you tell I was on a Goo Goo Dolls kick? :) )

"If You Could Only See" by Tonic

"Story of My Life" by One Direction