Excerpts

Release Day!!

Assassins Mark Promo Image_square_150x150.jpg

*** It’s release day! ***


ASSASSIN’S MARK releases exclusively today on Radish Fiction! Seven chapters are live, and new chapters will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Not sure you want to check it out? How about the opening chapter to get a little taste of what you’re in for?

And it wouldn’t be release day without a contest, would it? I’ll be giving two lucky readers 100 coins to use on the Radish app! To enter:

– Download the radish app from your phone/tablet’s App Store. (It’s free!)

– Create your username and password.

– Check out ASSASSIN’S MARK by searching for my name in the app, or following this link from your phone or tablet: 

https://radishfiction.com/stories/S1OkqkMfG

– Take a screenshot of ASSASSIN’S MARK on your phone/tablet and post in the comments!

That’s all you need to do for a chance to win. Oh, and just a reminder—the first three chapters of ASSASSIN’S MARK are free on @RadishFiction, so check it out!

Head over to my Facebook page for your chance to win!

*

Chapter One

I’m not sure what I expected. I’d been to bars, but not the kind of bars with pool tables and smoke haze and men on the prowl for a one-night stand. The bars I’d been to specialized in cocktail hours and old men in business suits. The Full Moon wasn’t refined or elegant or quiet.

It was everything I was not. Exactly where I needed to be tonight.

“What’ll you have?” the bartender asked. He was staring at Candy’s breasts, but she didn’t seem to mind, just flashed him a sexier version of her friendly smile. Had she slept with him before?

It was Renee who answered. “Pitcher of strawberry margaritas, Dave.”

“Make that two,” Candy tacked on.

Dave the Bartender nodded at her cleavage. “I’ll send ‘em right over.”

I followed my friends through the crowd toward a table Sarah had snagged while we ordered. The three women obviously had a routine. I’d known they were close, and the fact that they’d extended their little circle to include me from the first day we met in Nursing 101 class had touched me in ways they couldn’t possibly understand. They were normal girls with normal lives and normal homes. I wasn’t, but if they’d noticed, they didn’t mention it. No flicker of recognition at my name, no questions about where I lived or why I never went out when they invited me. Just basic friendship, no strings attached.

They had no idea how rare that was.

“So, Abby, see anything interesting?”

Too much, actually. Heat flushed my cheeks. “Um…”

Sarah giggled. “Wait till she’s got at least one margarita in her, Renee. Then ask.” She bumped my shoulder with hers. “The selection always looks better the later it gets.”

The selection already looked pretty good to me. Most of the men were our age—early twenties—and not a suit and tie to be found. Jeans and half-buttoned shirts and messily styled hair were the go-to. A tattooed forearm or the wink of an earring wasn’t rare. Beers in hand, the men joshed each other while prowling the room, hungry gazes assessing each woman they came to. One by one they’d peel off with their choice, either to the dance floor or a table or the front door.

What was it like to be the women they chose? In the circles my family required me to frequent, the barrier of my father’s name and status kept men away from me. Here, there were no barriers except my friends and my own insecurities. The idea that I could choose to ignore both and do whatever I wanted quickened my breath. Either I was excited or about to hyperventilate; I wasn’t certain which.

I refused to let the terror win anymore.

The margaritas arrived and we each poured ourselves one. The fruity yet tart liquid set my tongue alight like a sparkler on the Fourth of July, a pleasure I hadn’t experienced before. I savored it as I listened to the girls’ giggling commentary about each man who walked by. It wasn’t long before the room went hazy with something other than smoke and I found myself joining in the conversation without reservation.

I was pouring my second margarita when my phone vibrated in my back pocket. Two shorts, one long: my father. A healthy gulp helped bolster my confidence before I pulled the cell out for a look.

I shouldn’t respond, shouldn’t care, but I clicked on the message anyway, just to see. Maybe he’d changed his mind. Maybe he was worried about me. Maybe he wanted to apologize, tell me he loved me for once in twenty-one years.

Where the hell are you?

Or maybe not. I returned the phone to my pocket.

Sarah leaned close, her voice low. “Everything okay?”

Renee and Candy were focused on the table of men to their right. I gave Sarah a wry smile. “My dad.” I took another drink. “It’ll blow over, I’m sure.”

Sarah laid her hand over mine on the table and squeezed. The gesture mesmerized me. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched me because they cared. How sad was that?

My phone buzzed again. I ignored it.

“Holy shit.”

Sarah’s hand left mine to grasp her drink. She took a gulp, her gaze trained somewhere over Candy’s head. I followed it.

Holy shit is right.

The man was tall, dark, and dangerous with a capital D. I’d never seen anyone like him, anyone who made my insides clench just looking at him. Thick dark hair, long on top and shaved close on the sides, highlighted perfect ears and a jaw chiseled from granite. His eyes seemed too light for that hair and his olive skin, shining like spotlights beneath dark brows, almost too intense to bear. And those lips. God. They hinted at sensual pleasures I could only guess at.

He prowled across the room, a lean, muscular panther intent on prey—every woman’s fantasy, including mine.

And he was headed straight for us.

My gaze dropped to my drink. The tables around us held either men or couples, so I wasn’t mistaken about his focus. Which girl was he interested in? Sarah with her sweet smile? Or maybe Candy, with her unabashed sensuality?

An empty glass stared back at me. I reached for the pitcher.

“Hello, ladies.”

My hand froze on the handle as the words quivered through my body. Look up! Look at him! But I couldn’t; I could only sit there like a dumbass holding the pitcher in my shaking grip and praying I didn’t make a fool of myself.

No fear, remember?

No fear. I tightened my grip, lifted. So far, so good. Somehow I managed to pour a fresh drink without spilling, replace the pitcher on the table. Despite the sick pounding of my heart in my throat, I made myself glance up.

Gray eyes locked with mine.

Lord, he’s beautiful.

I expected him to look away, to focus on one of the other women. He didn’t. He stared—at me. Until the urge to squirm crawled up my spine and my cheeks burst into flames.

“Hello.”

Was that my voice, all breathy and…suggestive? It must’ve been; the other girls were staring, silent, their round eyes just as awed as I’m sure mine were. I looked back to the man looming over our table.

He reached a hand out to me. “I’m Levi.”

My fingers settled into his grip like they had been created to fit him. “Abby.”

My voice cracked. I cleared my throat.

“Hi, Abby.” He didn’t let go of my hand, didn’t glance around. Just held me captive with those intense eyes. “Would you dance with me?”

Moanday Monday: First Glimpse of Dain!

Sometimes--okay, pretty much all the time in my case ;) --characters surprise you. I'm coming to the end of Dain and Olivia's novella, and Dain has done just that. Here I thought I'd be dealing with some rough, tough dudes with no sense of humor and plenty of pissiness. The pissiness has definitely made an appearance, but these characters...boy, can they get me to laughing! I thought today, I'd give you two things: your very first taste of Dain, and the character inspiration images for him.

(And no, this is not at all how I pictured him when I first recognized him in my mind, but again...surprises. :) )

 

~ ~ * ~ ~

 

When they grabbed Livie, Dain fought. He didn't fight when they slammed him facedown on the floor, but only because SWAT Supervisor Hedlon had released his hold on Livie in exchange for grabbing Elliot. The bastard got a kick to the groin that had Dain laughing all the way to the ground.

The snick of cuffs around his already sore wrists cut off the laughter, of course. When a cop in regular uniform hauled him to his feet by his cuffed arm, he thought about kicking the guy just like Elliot had kicked their supervisor. In favor of getting out of this sooner rather than later, he refrained.

Barely.

 

~ ~ * ~ ~

 

(Yes, he's like this all the time. Where is my eye rolling emoji?)

Teaser Tuesday: Only for the Weekend

This Teaser Tuesday is a brand-new release: ONLY FOR THE WEEKEND is hot off the presses for only 99 cents. Find out how Vincent and Jane start their weekend together, and then grab your copy to read the rest of this short, sexy story!

Teaser Tuesday - Jane

Want a little taste of my heroine, Jane, from Only for the Weekend? She's quirky, sweet, and oh so ready for a change.

Only for the Weekend UPDATE!

OftW Final Cover_SMWe have a cover -- and it's gorgeous! What do you think? I've also set up preorders. You can go ahead and order your copy of Only for the Weekend on Amazon right now for 99 cents. I'll have the book up on other retailers within the next couple of weeks, and will add the links to the Bookshelf page as they go live. The links will also be in my monthly newsletter.

So when will your copy arrive on your e-reader? DECEMBER 4TH! As I announced in my newsletter, I've had some health issues this summer that pushed my schedule off, and I wanted V. and Jane's story to come out a little closer to the other book in this mini-series, Hank and Sage's story (out the first week of April, 2016). Since the books go together, I figured a little delay now was better than a bigger delay between them. But this novella is definitely hot enough to wait for! I think you'll love Vincent and Jane--their chemistry is explosive. I had to take a few breathers between scenes, let me tell ya.

Oh, you want to see? Hmm...Okay, I guess I can share. ;) How about an excerpt?

* * *

Straightening her shoulders, his sister met his gaze. "I got a call from Jane last week."

Vincent's gut tightened. "Jane?"

"Yes, Jane," she said impatiently. "My best friend, Jane? You are so hopeless."

"I hope not, considering you brought me here to do you a favor. I know which Jane you're talking about." As if he could ever forget. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger over his eyes, hoping to hide exactly how much he remembered from his too-observant sis. "Get on with it."

"She's been...unhappy with her current relationship for a while. Actually, she hasn't been happy with her last couple of boyfriends, but I didn't really understand why until she called to tell me she and Lane had broken up." Kennedy's mouth twisted into something not quite a smile, not quite a frown. "We got to talking about what, specifically, was the problem--"

V. put his hand up to ward off the rest. Jane's relationships were the last thing he wanted to discuss. The history between him and Jane--history his sister knew absolutely nothing about, he was pretty sure--might be water under the bridge, but that didn't mean he wanted to think about her with anyone else.

Kennedy wouldn't be denied, though. "No, Vinny, this is important. See, we were talking, and I started to realize that some of their...compatibility issues are because Jane is...uh...submissive."

Fuck. Now he was starting to get the picture. His fingers started a steady beat on his thigh as he struggled to bring his racing thoughts under control. "And you want me to talk to her about BDSM."

There weren't many secrets between him and his sister. When she'd read 50 Shades and started questioning things, he'd openly discussed his natural need to dominate and what that might look like in a hypothetical relationship. Though ultimately not drawn to the D/s dynamic herself, Kennedy was well-educated enough to recognize the tendency in her best friend.

"Not exactly."

"Then what exactly?" He couldn't keep a bit of bite out of his words.

Kennedy took a deep breath as if steeling herself against something. Not a good sign. His gut tightened again.

"Jane actually asked about hiring an...escort that could dominate her." V. thought the top of his head might just fly off. "She didn't. You didn't," he growled.

"No, idiot," she insisted, her words as loud as his were low, "I didn't." She stared into his eyes, but she wasn't really seeing him, he could tell. "She wants to learn but doesn't know anyone in the lifestyle. She didn't know what to look for if she went to a club, and didn't feel safe with a stranger."

V. wasn't quite ready to give an inch. The thought of Jane with a stranger--okay, with anyone, but especially a stranger--made him feel like his blood was boiling in his veins. "She wouldn't know an escort either."

"But I would." Kennedy shrugged. "That was it. She thought, this being Vegas, that I might've met someone in the lifestyle that she could trust. A personal recommendation, so to speak."

"You told her no, obviously."

This time her stare connected, but she didn't speak. She just waited, her determination ticking like a clock between them, until the truth finally smacked him between the eyes.

"You're hiring me?"

"She's my best friend, Vinny. I'm not gonna hand her over to have sex with just anybody!"

"And you're not handing her over to have sex with me either." Frustration drove him to his feet to pace across the room until the floor-to-ceiling windows stopped him. If only Kennedy knew. Jane would probably prefer to castrate him, even now, ten years later. She certainly wouldn't want to be vulnerable to him, not the way a sub was vulnerable with their Dom. Even considering it was an enormous mistake. He scrambled for anything that might deter her.

"Jane's just a kid." Ten years his junior, like Kennedy was.

"She's not a kid. She's my age, and I have sex all the time."

He shot his sister a withering look. "Now stop that shit right now."

Kennedy's eyebrow cocked up. "The sex?"

"Telling me about it." He shuddered. "It may or may not happen, but I do not need to know."

Kennedy's smirk was salt in the wound. "My brother the perv is freaked out by his baby sister's vanilla sex life."

"Yes. Very."

It took a moment, but eventually he was able to join a smirk with Kennedy's laughter. His sister's amusement eased some of the tension stringing his body tight, enough that he could return to the couch. Kennedy patted his leg when he sat beside her.

"She's always had a bit of a crush on you, ya know."

He kept his sigh inside. Damn right, he knew. What Kennedy and especially Jane didn't know was that the feeling had always been mutual. Which spelled certain disaster if he gave in to what his sister wanted.

He didn't say it aloud; instead he deflected. "Jane isn't a one-night-stand kind of girl." He knew that much--all too well.

"She's not looking for forever, just a quickie intro to BDSM." She tilted her head, seeming to consider her words. An impish grin tugged at her lips. "Well, not a quickie, really, but you get the idea."

His frown probably made him seem like a stuffy old geezer, but what the hell... "Yeah, I get it." All too well. Perversely, the assumption that he was available to be used for the night bothered him. "Thanks, Sis. I'm good enough to stud out but not good enough for more than one night?"

He mentally kicked his own ass. Why was he even arguing about this? He didn't want more than one night. He'd always said so, a fact Kennedy quickly reminded him of.

"'Commitment takes time,'" she quoted.

He'd said those three words so many times, and never regretted them. His band had been all the commitment he had room for besides Kennedy. It had always been true, but now Weekend Washout was on hiatus for who knew how long--at least until Chad came back from gallivanting around Europe with his latest lover. V. and Hank were exploring a new solo project, true, but even then, he had way too much time on his hands.

But not time for a commitment, V. You're not commitment material. If you were, you'd have taken Jane up on her offer ten years ago, whether she was sixteen or not.

No... Okay, maybe. He really didn't know. He'd like to think he was a better man than to take advantage of a sixteen-year-old girl's infatuation, but this was Jane they were talking about. And whether it was ten years ago or now, the thought of having her for far longer than a single night reverberated in his chest with more force than the echo of his bass drum.

"Vinny." Kennedy closed her eyes, probably praying for patience. When she opened them again, determination shone through. "Jane is a sweet person who's just trying to find her way through this." She sat forward. "You're my brother. I trust you, and most of all, I trust you with her. Please, just... Please help her."

V. thought about her words for a long moment, thought about his first faltering forays into a nonvanilla sex life, how much easier it would've been if he'd had a guiding hand. He considered the pleading in Kennedy's eyes, and the fact that she might hand him his balls if he said no. And finally, he let himself picture Jane, the pretty sixteen-year-old he'd rejected and the quietly beautiful woman he'd seen in Kennedy's frequent pictures. Could he really let Jane make herself vulnerable that way with anyone else? Could he turn his back knowing she wouldn't be safe? Because she would continue to explore; that much he knew. He wouldn't have been able to stop his own search, safety or not. Jane needed to find her answers, but no way in hell could he allow her to do it alone.

His sigh was pure capitulation. Kennedy heard it and smiled.

"All right," he told her, "I'll do it--but on one condition." He thought about that a moment. "Two, actually."

Kennedy's triumph dimmed a bit. "Okay."

"Anonymity. I don't want her knowing who I am. No, Kenn," he said firmly before she could interrupt. "This could affect your friendship later. She could feel awkward, avoiding you if she thinks I'll be there." He normally had no issue with having sex with a woman he'd just met, if they both knew the score, but not Kennedy's best friend. It wasn't the only reason for the caveat, but it was a good one. The other... Well, Jane would never knowingly let him near her, much less trust him if she knew he was the one with her, not after what had happened between them. "Anonymity is a must."

Emotion warred in Kennedy's eyes, but she finally gave in. "You're the right person for this job," she told him, conviction shining in her eyes. "I guess what she doesn't know won't hurt her. She'd never see any other guy I picked again, right?"

"Right." He said the word she wanted to hear even though he didn't think it was necessarily true. If they hit it off, Jane would probably see another Dom again. Not him, though. She wouldn't see him the first time if she knew.

Kennedy reluctantly nodded. "And?"

He squared his shoulders. "And no sex."

"But--"

V. shook his head. "I can teach her what she needs to know without it. Hell, some subs get more of a release from the submission than they do an orgasm." For him D/s was all about the sex, but that wasn't the case across the board. "Jane is vulnerable, and I won't take advantage of that. I can't."

"So...you won't touch her at all?"

"Oh, I'll touch her." A lot, probably. More than was good for his sanity. "But no full-on sex."

Kennedy agreed, but the uncertainty wrinkling the corners of her eyes said what she wouldn't say aloud. No sex meant Jane's fantasy might go unfulfilled. But he'd rather give her something and leave them both unscarred than indulge himself in something he'd dreamed about for longer than had been appropriate and hurt Jane in the process. If Kennedy knew the whole story, she wouldn't have any doubts. All V. had doubts about was his ability not to go too far. This was Jane, after all. The woman he'd fantasized about dominating since she was sixteen years old.

Heaven help him.

* * *

Don't forget, you can go ahead and reserve your copy of Only for the Weekend now on Amazon. And don't worry--I'll remind you when it's almost here. :)

*

Jane Jacobs is ready for a change. She’s determined that a history of lackluster relationships and even more lackluster pleasure will end this weekend, when she meets the Dom her best friend has set her up with. Exploring dominance and submission with her blind “date” could answer all her questions—and help her forget the one man she wants to master her.

With his band on hiatus, Vincent O’Connell grabs the chance to visit his sister in Vegas, but she wants a favor more than a family reunion. V.’s not above indulging himself with a willing sub, but when he realizes the sub is his sister’s best friend, Jane, all his instincts scream at him to back out—and fast.

V knows Jane; she’s young, pretty, sweet. Definitely sub material—for someone else. But one look at her on her knees and all the reasons to avoid her disappear. She needs a Dom to guide her, and he needs to indulge himself with just a taste. After all, it's only for the weekend.

 

TWO Days & Counting...

Teaser 3

Almost here! Only two more days to wait. In the meantime, want to read the first chapter of TAKE ME? Keep reading to see how it all begins...

* * *

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.

* * *

Check in Monday for release day fun and an awesome giveaway. And don't forget the preorder price of $1.99 at:

iBooks

Amazon

All Romance eBooks

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

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?

Naughty Hotties Memorial Weekend Blog Hop!

NGWN+mem+day+event+2015 Happy holiday weekend! If you're visiting, you're probably traveling along the Nice Girls Writing Naughty blog hop, right? Well, I definitely have a hunk to share with you, my hero from TRUST ME, Jack.

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, contemporary romance, erotic romance, romantic suspense, trust me, southern nights series, romance seriesJack is as alpha as they come, but his woman, Maddie, is more than his match. At the end of TRUST ME, they've only known each other a few weeks, but Jack is certain they're meant to be together.

So what does he do? At a weekend bonfire, he waits until their guests say good night, then convinces Maddie to agree to whatever he asks. ;)

I've included the scene below for your Memorial Weekend enjoyment. Comment on this blog (and the others in the blog hop) for a chance at the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card.

And I'll also choose one lucky commenter to receive their very own copy of TRUST ME so you can read the rest of Jack and Maddie's gripping story. Don't miss out! Be sure and comment.

* * *

She was beautiful in the moonlight, the fire’s faint glow flickering over her skin. Jack couldn’t breathe, looking at her. Knowing she belonged to him. Knowing she’d chosen to stay instead of running, to trust him when everything in her world had taught her that trust meant pain. He reached out, tugging the hem of her tee up to allow his lips access to the smooth skin of her stomach.

“What is that for?” she asked.

“What do you think?” He nipped her in a particularly ticklish spot, then ran kisses over the place where Reed’s bullet had left such a horrible bruise. She’d healed, but he’d never forget it. He never wanted to see her in pain again. He wanted to love her, pleasure her. Right now.

But there was something else he had to do first.

For once words escaped him. He dug in his pants pocket, gripping the jewelers’ box tight before pulling it out for Maddie to see, only she wasn’t looking at him, so he placed the box carefully on her breastbone, right between her perfect mounds. Then he went back to kissing her.

“What’s this?”

He couldn’t answer; he was too afraid his voice would crack.

Maddie stared at him for a long moment. When he still didn’t speak, she sat up, the velvet-covered square in her hand. He held his breath when she opened the lid.

“Oh Jack.”

He sat up too.

Inside, nestled on a satiny white pillow, lay a narrow gold ring. Chocolate diamonds nestled in clusters along the band, formed into small rosettes that sparkled in the moonlight. His throat got tight as the same chocolate sparkles stared up at him from her eyes.

“I know it’s too soon to get engaged, but I wanted—”

But Maddie was already shaking her head. “You’re always worried about too soon, you jackass. Who cares about too soon? Worry about what you want instead.” She dug the ring from the box and slid it onto her left ring finger. “It’s beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful.” And his ring on her finger… His breath got choppy. “Strip for me,” he said. Without waiting for an answer, he unzipped his jeans, the relief bringing a sigh to his lips. He pushed the stiff material down and lay back to watch as Maddie removed her clothes one piece at a time. The little tease was making him wait. Only when he circled his stiff erection and pumped roughly did she hurry up.

“Did you need something?” she asked teasingly.

He growled as she got to her knees, her breasts bobbing in the moonlight. “You on my dick.”

“Aren’t you charming.”

“Always.” He gripped her by the waist and tugged her atop him. Maddie spread her legs, and hot liquid settled against his needy shaft. They groaned together.

Jack swore his voice went so rough it scratched his vocal cords. “I want you, Maddie.”

“You’ve got me.” She rocked atop him, coating him in her sweet cream.

“Forever?”

Maddie went still. She stared down at him for a long time, her eyes too dark to read in the dim light. Jack held his breath. Finally she leaned forward, her full breasts coming to rest on his chest, her lips a whisper away from his. “Forever, Jack.” She kissed him. “Forever.”

* * *

Remember, your comment is your key to two great prizes this weekend! And be sure to return to the Nice Girls Writing Naughty blog to continue along the blog hop for more great prizes.

TRUST ME is available at the following retailers if you'd like a copy of your own:

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS

KOBO

IBOOKS

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Want a Free TAKE ME Preview?

I had the privilege of being included in a fantastic summer anthology called TASTE ME. This free anthology is kind of a "skip to the good parts" preview of more than twenty fantastic erotic authors' summer releases -- and TAKE ME was included! TasteMe-CoverDoesn't it look yummy? ;)

* * *

122,000-WORDS OF DARK ROMANCE AND DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS!

TASTE ME is a collection of twenty-seven sexy scenes from the hottest releases of 2015, both newly released and coming soon. This all-star lineup of bestselling authors includes...

Tijan, Alessandra Torre, Lauren Blakely, Skye Warren, CD Reiss, Anna Zaires & Dima Zales, Red Phoenix, Cherise Sinclair, Kendall Ryan, Chelle Bliss, TK Leigh, Toni Aleo, Sam Crescent, Jenika Snow, Julia Sykes, Nina Levine, Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott, Ainsley Booth, Katy Regnery, Shari Slade & Amber Lin, Shoshanna Evers, Pam Godwin, Carolyn Crane, Molly Joseph, Ella Sheridan, Karla Doyle, and Brooke Cumberland

Download TASTE ME now for a sneak peek of Hold Me, the highly anticipated third book in the dark romance Twist Me series from Anna Zaires. Push your boundaries with a twisty scene from Tight by Alessandre Torre, one of the blockbuster books of the year. Sink your teeth into an alpha rocker bad boy in the not-yet-released Second Chance with a Rock Star from Shari Slade and Amber Lin.

Note: This compilation is intended as a FREE preview of this year’s hot releases to help readers find their next scorching read. May not be free in all countries due to price matching delays.

* * *

Gabe and Sam and Peyton's first night together is previewed in the anthology, along with so many other fantastic books. You can get your free copy from AMAZON or IBOOKS today!

And don't forget, TAKE ME is already available for preorder at a special prize of $1.99. Be sure and order yours and have it download to your e-reader the minute it releases on June 29th!

AMAZON

ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS

Take Me Teaser

It's almost here, the final installment of the Southern Nights series. Are you ready? I wanted to share just a taste of what my struggling threesome is going through. Here's a snippet of a scene I finished this past week. What do you think? 021“All this time—so many years, Peyton—I’ve ached for you.” He groaned into the soft slope of one breast, then took the plump side into his mouth and sucked, raising a bruise. Marking her, just like he had that night so long ago at the hotel. The thought filled her with pain and longing. If only it were true.

“You can’t tell me there’s been no one else, Gabriel.” His full name was bittersweet on her tongue, heavy in her heart. “No one you’ve taken to bed.” A deep breath. “No one you’ve shared with Sam.”

He leaned back. “No, I can’t.”

Peyton sucked in a hurt breath.

Gabe’s stare refused to leave hers, however, his eyes intense, burning down to the truth. He took her hand and placed it on his rock-hard erection. “But I can tell you this, Peyton: not one single night, one woman, one jack-off session went by, where it wasn’t you filling my mind. Ever.”

Want more? Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get the latest news, including this month's cover reveal (May 15th) and the announcement of Take Me's release date in June. Here's what you have to look forward to:

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?

Trust Me Cover Reveal -- Take 2!

All right, everyone! After the blur that was last weekend and missing putting this post up last Monday, I was going to put this off till after the weekend, once preorders were running. BUT...I received the files for Trust Me to begin preorders last night, and I just can't wait any more!!! So, without further ado, here is the much-awaited cover for TRUST ME, book two in the Southern Nights series:

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, contemporary romance, erotic romance, romantic suspense, trust me, southern nights series, romance seriesNot only am I so, so happy with the work Kelli Dennis (Book Cover by Design) did with this cover, but I am also blessed to feature a cover quote from reader Pat Fordyce from Tea and Book. Her appreciation for romance knows no bounds, and she has been a great encouragement to me. Now I get to share her sweet words with you as well!

TRUST ME will hopefully be up for preorders at major retailers by this Sunday, January 25th. As the preorders go live, I'll be sharing the links here and on Facebook and Twitter. And like Teach Me, this book will be available at the "Reader Appreciation" price of $0.99 until one week after its release date of February 1st. So snatch it up as soon as you can! And let me know what you think as well. I'd love to know if Jack lives up to your expectations like he did mine!

PREORDER LINKS:

All Romance eBooks

AND

Amazon!

Want a little excerpt to whet your appetite? Okey dokey...

       Jack Quinn hit the heavy wooden doors that led into the Halftime Bar like a runaway train on the downside of a mountain. Even the hard slam didn’t help his frustration. His muscles swelled with it, his skin so tight it could burst. He wished it would so he could finally get rid of the feeling that he wasn’t at home in his own body.        He didn’t recognize himself anymore, and deciding what to do about it was a drive pushing him closer and closer to the edge. Tonight might just tip him over.        The crash of music against his senses as he crossed the uneven planks of the floor into the darkened interior of the country bar was a welcome reprieve. The beat pounded in his head, his body, matching the adrenaline-laced rhythm of his heart and telling him he wasn’t alone in his need to pound something. Preferably his best friend, Con.        The minefield of dancing couples was lighter than usual tonight. Jack didn’t swerve; he made his own path straight to the bar. Anyone in his way could take one look at his face and see they needed to be the one to move aside. They moved. He saved a civil nod for Taylor, the tall blonde waitress who so often served him, as she wove her way through the tables on the far side of the dance floor. Most of them were empty, save a few clustered around the three high-definition TVs hanging along one wall.        Ignoring everyone else, Jack zeroed in on his favorite bar stool, the one that should have the shape of his ass tattooed on its surface considering how much time he’d spent on it lately. The stool was the only one positioned where the long mahogany bar top took a sharp turn into the wall. The short span on that end and the wall at his back meant no one shared his space while allowing him to see everyone and everything around him. His guard could stand down and he could relax for just a little while. Maybe. If—and that was a big-ass if—he could stop wanting to punch Con just one time. But then Jess would complain about her pretty-boy husband’s black eye, and Jack wouldn’t hear the end of it for a while.        He sighed as he sat on his stool. Probably wasn’t worth it after all.        “You’re early, Jack. Run out of asses to kick? People to intimidate?”        Jack grunted at the big bruiser of a man making his way down the bar toward him. John, Halftime’s regular bartender, had the shoulders of a defensive lineman, football pads and all. Except he wasn’t wearing any. Jack sometimes held his breath as he watched the man maneuver behind the bar, waiting for one wrong turn to throw John against a shelf and send bottles of liquor and glasses crashing to the floor. Tonight he flicked a bird in John’s general direction as payment for the sarcasm and pretended interest in a couple of women preening at one corner of the dance floor.        Yeah, he was in a pissy mood. That wasn’t unusual lately. Didn’t mean Con had the right to send him home like a little kid. Time off wasn’t going to help. John laughed as he stopped in front of Jack. “If you’re needing to relieve a bit of tension, they’re probably up for it,” he said, nodding toward the two women. “Pickings are otherwise slim tonight.”        “I bet.” Shirts a bit too tight, a bit too small, makeup a bit too heavy for the eyelashes batting his way. Not out of their early twenties, he’d guess. Way too young for him, especially tonight. Even at their age, he hadn’t felt as young and innocent as they looked; he sure as hell didn’t feel it now, at thirty-four.        Besides, quick and dirty and meaningless wasn’t what his gut churned for. He’d seen the real thing now, every time Con and Jess were together—hell, every time the man said something about his wife or even thought about her, it seemed—and Jack had a bad feeling that meaningless wasn’t going to do it for him anymore. If he had a sweet something waiting at home for him like Con did, Jack wouldn’t have to be told to go home; he’d rush there voluntarily. But he didn’t. Work was all he had, and if he wanted to put in extra hours to avoid the silence his house practically throbbed with? That was his choice, not his best friend’s, business partner or not.        The best friend who was currently at home, probably curled around—or inside—his wife’s warm body, while Jack was stuck with the occasional one-night stand or a not so satisfying handjob. Jack was damn jealous, not of Jess but of Jess and Con’s relationship. No wonder he was spending so much damn time at the neighborhood bar.        He needed a life. A hobby. A dog.        Jesus, he was losing it.        His expression must’ve given his answer, because John snickered. “Didn’t think so. What’ll ya have?”        “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.

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, erotic romance, trust me, southern nights series, romance seriesA 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.

 

 

Wolfen Bonds Scavenger Hunt with Dakota Trace

My first ever blog guest!!! Please welcome Dakota Trace! She's hosting a blog hop where readers can follow the characters along on a quest. Read on -- and enjoy! bloghop graphicColleen approached the door with trepidation, her hand going to her bare throat. Would Nevin be upset that she’d misplaced the torque he gave her? Or would he just shake his head and lightly scold her. Sometimes it all depended upon his mood.

“You know standing outside his room and worrying about it, isn’t going to get your torque back,” Livvy commented as she licked off a stray smear of chocolate from her forefinger. Evidently, she hadn’t come out completely unscathed from her earlier wrestling match with Sara.

Frustrated, Colleen couldn’t help but snap at the nonchalant muse. “I’ve had about enough of you, muse. All you’ve done is screwed around and made this more difficult—”

“I know your parents and I raised you better than that, Colleen Donnghal.”

Colleen winced and looked up to see her mentor. With long gray hair, a closely cropped goatee and fit and trim body, he was what most would call a silver fox…or in this case a silver wolf. “Sorry. It’s been a long week. Dakota has this blog thing going on, and I’ve done nothing but traipse around with her pain in the butt muse.”

Nevin - EllaNevin’s eyes narrowed as he focused on Livvy and he gave a low growl. Of course, as usual the muse didn’t seem to realize the danger she was in – unless it came to housework. “Muse you say?” When Colleen nodded, he took a step toward the corset and mini skirt-wearing muse. “So she’s responsible for my backstory?”

Livvy finished sucking the chocolate from her finger. “Yep. That would be me. I mean slave writes it, but the ideas are usually 100% mine. She a good slave that way. Writes exactly what I tell her to - well at least most of the time. I keep asking her to write a story about a horny muse and her harem of love slaves, but so far she keeps denying me.”

“Ah, Livvy?” Concern crept into Colleen’s voice as she noted that Nevin’s face had started to change. His wolf was upon him. Whatever secrets about his past that her mentor was keeping, it was obvious he wasn’t happy about, and the muse in front of him was the cause.

“Yeah?” LIvvy looked up, surprise on her face as she realized how close Nevin was.

"Ah…Colleen, you want to call your guard dog off, before I have him put down? He’s looking a bit long in the tooth.”

“Now might be a good time to run.” The tearing sound of clothing, made Colleen cringe. “Before Nevin makes you a wolf snack.”

“Shit!” As Nevin contorted, his legs and arms shifting to that of his wolf, Livvy darted back down the hall with a silver wolf at her heels.

Colleen sighed and turned to the readers. “Well, that didn’t go exactly as I planned.” She gave a shrug. “but it serves her right. Maybe she won’t be so meddlesome in the future of her creations.”

A loud shriek from below rang out as Colleen slipped inside Nevin’s room. “Don’t worry he won’t hurt her much. Just scare the shit out of her.”

Walking to his dresser, she smiled as she spotted her torque. “There you are.” She picked it up and fastened it back around her neck. In the mirror, the Celtic torque gleamed on its delicate chain.

“Now that I have this back. I suppose I should thank all the hosts that were nice enough to let me stop by with Livvy. You’ve all been great.” Colleen smiled. “Also before I go, here’s the scoop on the contests. The daily contest winners will be announced at the Wrap Up Party tomorrow, along with the grand prize winners. So be sure to stop by.”

She moved to leave the room, then snapped her fingers. “I probably should tell you how to enter. It’s easy. For the daily contest, just put your name and email in the comments below. A key chain and a book off Dakota’s backlist is up for grabs. For the grand prize? Just enter the name on the graphic into the google form below. Easy huh?”

Another scream filtered through the open door. “And I guess that’s my cue to go rescue Livvy. But thanks again to all who have followed the tour. It’s been fun.”

Code for Google Form [googleapps domain="docs" dir="spreadsheet/embeddedform" query="formkey=dG9DRVVkTlVLODRLSDY2MFF3RzlEd0E6MA" width="500" height="795" /]

Interested in Wolfen Bonds? Here's the blurb:

DT_WolfenBonds_coverlgThe Council of Elders has charged Matthias Galloway with bringing the once prosperous Taghte Pack back into the Council's fold. In exchange for his services, Matthias names his terms: he wants to claim his longtime lover and friend, Andrew, as his mate.

Nephew of a powerful alpha, Andrew Gilchrist has long been a coveted commodity because of his services as a healer. Neither expects the Council to agree to Mathias’s terms, leaving him free, finally, to claim his chosen mate. Even more unexpected is the presence of a third-bond to appear during their mating ritual.

The grandchildren of the slain alpha of the Taghte pack, Colleen Donghall and her twin brother, were whisked away at birth. They're still kept hidden from those who would harm them. Raised in seclusion, Colleen's never experienced lust, let alone the bond between mates. On the night of lunar eclipse, she's drawn into Matthias and Andrew's passionate claiming, and her dormant libido is powerfully awoken.

But it’s nothing compared to the lust and danger that will stalk her and her mates, when she arrives in Scotland.

You can grab your copy of this exciting book at Loose Id today!

About Dakota:

Dakota is a simple Midwest girl, who found her passion in storytelling at a young age. She wrote her first novel her freshman year on an old electric IBM typewriter. Now writing in several different genres from erotic romance and BDSM to m/m and paranormal, she is a published author with multiple books under her belt. When she isn’t writing, she’s a devoted band mom and a loving wife. You can get in touch with Dakota at:

Dakota’s Website Dakota’s Blog Dakota’s Facebook Dakota’s Twitter

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Nice Girls Writing Naughty Scavenger Hunt!

NGWN Button with Red Text 2I'm topping off a wonderful release week with a visit over at Nice Girls Writing Naughty. We're having a scavenger hunt for our readers. Simply visit each author via the link below, write down the answer to their trivia question, and e-mail your answers to Dani Wade at readdaniwade@gmail.com. Your e-mail enters you to win: A $50 Amazon card and a prize pack of books!

DON'T enter your answers in the comments! They must be e-mailed (so we don't spoil the fun for our other readers).

For my contribution, I'm asking the question:

How long has Brad been in love with Angel?

For the answer, read the blurb for Just a Little More, the third book in my Secrets To Hide series from Loose Id:

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.

For even more fun, hop over to our group's Facebook page starting at 10:30 AM EST for great giveaways and chats with a dozen erotic romance authors. They have some great goodies planned for you today, July 5th, from 10:30 to 4:30 EST. Not a member of our Nice Girls Writing Naughty Readers Group? Click the link above and join -- we'll get you added ASAP so you don't miss any of the fun!

ella sheridan, erotic romance, romance author, romantic suspense, writer, just a little more, secrets to hide series, dirty little secret, naughty little christmas, thrice, loose idInterested in Just a Little More? This book is the third in my Secrets series but can be read as a stand-alone. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

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 p 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.

You can pick up your copy of Brad and Angel's story at Loose Id (all e-book formats available), Amazon, All Romance ebooks, and Kobo. (B&N coming soon.) Pick up a copy and enjoy some reading time this holiday weekend!

Have a great Fourth!

~ Ella

New Release News: Just a Little More!

Ella Sheridan, Just a Little More, Secrets To Hide, erotic romance, romance, romance writer, romance author, booksI can't tell you how excited I am to see Just a Little More finally come to fruition. Though it's a novella, I struggled mightily with getting Brad and Angel's book just right, giving them the story they deserved. I wasn't disappointed by the end result, and I hope you won't be either. You'll be able to find out on JULY 1ST! That's right! In three weeks and one day, Just a Little More will be available. Squeeee! Hopefully you'll think I captured Thrice's flirty bartender as well as Angel captures him. ;) Not to mention, the book is set in a freak snowstorm, so you'll get a cool little spot in the height of summer heat.

I haven't shared a lot about this book because it was on a fairly short timeline from submission to release. In fact, I didn't even know if I'd have the cover in time to reveal it today -- and I didn't. Yes, I'm pouting. I promise you will see it as soon as I get to...okay, a few minutes later, but you get the idea. Those of you who've subscribed to my newsletter have read the blurb and a teeny excerpt, but let me share those with the rest of the world. Ready?

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.

And now, for how it all started...

He was eighteen when it happened. No warning at all.

One minute Brad Donovan was staring down at his best friend, Angel, as she coughed up water from Lake Lanier. She bobbed on the surface, swiping at the droplets that clung to her eyes, and then she was laughing. That same laugh he’d heard a million times since elementary school, a laugh full of joy, full of life. All the noise around them, their friends shouting and girls squealing at the shock of cold water, the splashes, the creaking of the dock and rumbling of rock on the radio, it all faded as that one sound, Angel’s laughter, pierced his heart like an arrow.

And changed everything with the realization that he loved her.

It wasn’t best-friend love. He’d loved her that way since the first day of fifth grade. And it wasn’t sister love. They’d grown up together, become the family neither of them really had, but this wasn’t about family either. Definitely not just being horny, though he’d had to hide a hard-on more times than he could count with Angel running around in that skimpy bikini.

No, this was something new, something a hundred times stronger. This was the real thing, real love. The kind a man had for a woman; the kind he had for Angel. The kind a teenage boy wouldn’t recognize, right? But he knew, without a doubt, that she was the one, with that single glance down at her laughing face.

And it scared the shit out of him.

Be sure to check my Facebook page on July 1st for the fastest access to links for Just a Little More. And look for Ian's story, Secrets To Hide Book 4, next spring.

Ella Sheridan, Dirty Little Secret, Loose Id, erotic romanceella sheridan, erotic romance, romance, author, writer, secrets to hide, naughty little christmas, dirty little secret, damien and harley, backstage passWant more Secrets To Hide goodness? Be sure to read books one and two, Cailin and Alex's story in Dirty Little Secret, and Harley and Damien's story in Naughty Little Christmas.

And don't forget, coming this fall, the all-new Southern Nights trilogy.

 

*Photo courtesy of JulianColton2.

Summer for Love Blog Hop: Adult Game Night

Ella Sheridan, romance, Summer for Love Blog Hop, Dirty Little Secret UPDATE: Our winner for the $15 gift card is Elizabeth Hyatt! Thank you all for participating. Be sure and check back the week of July 4th for another great giveaway!

Welcome to the Summer for Love Blog Hop! I’m Ella Sheridan, your host(ess) for this page of your blog hop experience. I hope you enjoy!

Entry information for the contest is at the bottom of this post. Be sure you leave a name AND AN EMAIL ADDRESS in your comment to be entered in the drawing. Don't forget!

~ ~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~ ~

Summer—it’s the time of no schedule, sleeping in, lazy days by the pool. It’s also the days of visits to the grandparents, midweek sleepovers, and the all-time parent favorite: SUMMER CAMP. So how can we take the most advantage of child-free summer nights? How about a trip down nostalgia lane? It's time for some of those games we played as kids and teens to make a second appearance -- for adult game nights. ;)

ella sheridan, romance, adult games, twisterTwister

Who didn’t wish they could play Twister with the object of their blushingly adolescent desire? Now you can! Consider starting the game sans clothes, or taking off a piece every time you touch a color you’ve never landed on before (four colors = four pieces of clothing each). Another variation? Rub massage oil into each other’s skin before beginning the game.

Hide and Seek

Remember the buzz of anticipation in your belly as you waited in some hidden corner for whoever was “It” to find you? How about trying this game in the dark? You can also vary the game by playing multiple rounds, with the loser taking off a piece of clothing every time they’re found! (And if you haven’t read Cherise Sinclair’s Masters of the Shadowlands series, you should—the Masters have a particularly devious form of Hide and Seek they play in the Capture Gardens. You’re welcome!)

Simon Says

Set a timer. For the length of the time limit, “Simon” is allowed to tell his/her partner what to do—and I bet you can think of some pretty yummy commands, can't you? How about telling your partner to be silent…and then torturing them into making noise. When the timer goes off, “Simon” has to take his turn getting told what to do. Warning: This game can make foreplay go on forever, but the payoff is worth it!

ella sheridan, romance, blindfold, adult game nightBlind Man’s Bluff

Take off your clothes. Put on a blindfold. Let your partner surprise you. Enough said!

Truth or Dare

On small slips of paper, write down twenty questions that would reveal your partner's sexual fantasies. Then write down twenty activities you want to try with your partner in bed. Have your partner do the same. Put the questions in one bowl, the activities in another. Spend the evening in a candlelit room, wine at the ready, going through the bowls—and getting to know each other even better than you already do. ;)

Spin the Bottle

Here's a fun variation of this classic teen party game for two: On a piece of posterboard, draw a large circle and divide it into “slices.” Label each slice with an activity (touch, kiss, tickle, rub, etc.) and a body part (the two don’t have to go together). Place the posterboard in the middle of a room, empty a wine bottle (in whatever way you see fit), and place it in the middle. Take turns spinning. Whatever “slice” the head of the bottle points to, that’s the activity you must do. Whatever “slice” the middle of the bottle’s base points to, that’s the body part on which you do the activity. Creative, huh?

So what do you think? It gives a whole new meaning to “Everything old is new again,” doesn’t it?

ella sheridan, erotic romance, dirty little secret, secrets to hide, loose idIn my first release, Dirty Little Secret, Cailin and Alex play their own version of Hide and Seek while on a ghost tour in downtown Nashville. Wanna see?

~ ~ ~ ~ Excerpt ~ ~ ~ ~

The group spread out to explore the area around the State Capitol Building, many heading toward the lighted side near President James K. Polk’s tomb. Alex stepped in that direction, but Cailin inhaled a deep breath, took a chance, and tugged him in the other. Barely visible, a hedge of evergreens lined the front area, providing a small alley of privacy she hoped to take advantage of.

“Where are we—”

Cailin used a fingertip to stop Alex’s question. Instead she drew him behind the evergreens, standing at least ten feet tall, backed him into the fragrant wall, and sank hastily to her knees.

“Cailin?”

Fingers trembling at the audacity of what she was about to do—and at the overwhelming desire to do it—Cailin reached up and placed both hands on Alex’s crotch. He choked even as his length hardened beneath her touch. The power she seemed to hold over his body awed her. Right now she’d use it to her advantage, for his pleasure.

Knowing seconds counted, she opened the button of his jeans by shoving her hands under his untucked button-down and giving a single flick to the top button. She didn’t even bother to lower the zipper all the way, just lowered it enough to maneuver the head of his shaft through the gap. His breathing bellowed in her ears, his pulse jumped between her fingers, and her mouth watered as she opened enough to take him in.

Fast. Frantic. She poured everything she had into pleasuring him, needing only the taste of his release on her tongue to satisfy her. She couldn’t tell if the sounds Alex was emitting were laughter or sobs. Either way, minutes later he was exploding in her mouth, his hands clutching her hair as he strained to empty every last drop into the moist cavern surrounding him. His salty release hit her tongue, and molten pleasure blinded her for long moments. Only Alex’s pulling back and the slide of his cock from her mouth returned her to the present.

“God, Cailin,” Alex said, strangled laughter making his words choppy, “what was that about?”

Standing, she helped him straighten his clothes until he was as presentable as they could make him in the almost nonexistent light. “It’s about surprising you,” she replied.

“I’d surprise you too, but I don’t think we have time for me to reciprocate.”

“Don’t have to. This tour was gift enough. Thank you,” she whispered as the sound of the others approaching filtered through the trees.

“You’re welcome, and yes, I do. And I will.” A hard, thorough kiss, then, “Just you wait.”

~ ~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~ ~

If you enjoyed Cailin and Alex’s “game,” you can read the rest of their story in Dirty Little Secret. The second book in the Secrets To Hide series, Naughty Little Christmas, is also available. And coming July 1st — Just a Little More, book three!

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~ ~

And now, a giveaway from The Romance Troupe!!

Grand Prizes: SIX $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Cards

Comment on this blog with your name and email to be entered into the Grand Prize drawing from TRR. Comments without a name and email will not be counted. Commenting on each and every stop will increase your chances of winning. Winners for the SIX Grand Prizes will be drawn and announced on THE ROMANCE TROUPE blog by June 10th.

Find a list of all stops here!

And there's more. Yes, MORE!

One lucky commenter will win a $15 gift card from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for some book shopping! Want more than one entry? There are two more easy ways to be entered for the prize:

1. Sign up for my monthly newsletter and get a second chance at the prize!

2. Friend me on Facebook for a third chance at the prize. Be sure to message me with your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.

The winner of the Amazon/B&N gift card will be notified by Tuesday, June 10th, 2014. And keep an eye out for those big TRT winners! You can watch for that at the TRT site. I hope you enjoy some fun and adult games this summer!

~ Ella

May's My Sexy Saturday: Doing Sexy

ella sheridan, erotic romance, dirty little secret, secrets to hide, loose idThis week's My Sexy Saturday is all about "Doing Sexy" -- those characters who, for whatever reason, don't truly see how sexy they are. But those around them see it and can't help but respond to it! In Dirty Little Secret, heroine Cailin is fresh off a nasty divorce from a husband who rarely even touched her, much less wanted sex. Her confidence is at an all-time low, until the night she decides to try out the new nightclub in downtown Atlanta, Thrice. She's managed to get herself in line outside the club, but still her doubts are there... * * *

Anonymity wasn’t always a good thing. It tempted people to act in ways they normally wouldn’t, to indulge in fantasies they’d normally never consider if someone they knew was around to see—and condemn—them. Cailin had lain awake last night, staring at the darkened ceiling, alone and hungry. And not for food. Two years was a long time to go without touch, much less sex—especially when she’d spent half that time married—and she found her craving was getting harder and harder to ignore. Taking care of it herself just didn’t feel the same. She wanted human interaction, a man’s hands on her body. And this morning, she’d awakened with an idea of how to get it.

Thus the trip to Crazyville, um, Thrice.

It was risky, at least for her. Definitely unhinged. She’d been a virgin on her wedding night. She didn’t do casual sex. Or she hadn’t, but what other choice did she have? And it just so happened she had a really long, empty weekend ahead of her and a new nightclub opening not twenty minutes from her home. Best of all, nobody knew her. Nobody would be watching her “moral slipup,” as her mother would’ve called it. And nobody would talk. She could go, have a drink, maybe meet someone. Maybe go home with him. That’s what normal people did, right? At least, people who didn’t marry right out of school and who’d never in their life set foot in a bar.

What a backwoods idiot she was. She just prayed, after the amount of money she’d blown on her outfit, that the backwoods part of her was well hidden—and that this little foray into mental illness was somehow successful.

"You do realize you’re asking God for a hookup, Cailin,” she told herself, ignoring the questioning look of a cute young thing with a ring in his nose passing on his way to the end of the line. “That just proves how crazy you really are."

The cutie did a quick twist to stare at Cailin as he went by. His gaze zeroed in on what she knew was a mostly bare back and clearly outlined butt. Her garters played peekaboo through the cutouts, extending just below her hemline to catch sheer thigh-high stockings, but the woman at the store had assured her it was utterly sexy. Cailin didn’t know about that—naughty might be a better word, but when had she ever been naughty? It was definitely past time to give herself a break from the good-girl routine. Tonight she could be anyone she wanted to be—and the woman she wanted to be was a sexy siren, ready to entice. Tilting a look over her shoulder, she gave the guy a smile, ignoring the jittery feeling in her stomach. Maybe she’d see him inside.

A group of women in line ahead of her giggled when the man winked back at her. They struck up a conversation about her dress, and by the time she greeted the broad-shouldered bouncer a half hour later, it felt as natural as buying a ticket to a movie. The way he eyed her legs helped her relax even more. She couldn’t swear, but she was pretty sure her reaction to that look was something like preening.

* * *

Cailin might not feel sexy, but she certainly catches some eyes, including her new boss's, which leads to all kinds of trouble. Here's how:

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.ella sheridan, erotic romance, romance, author, writer, secrets to hide, naughty little christmas, dirty little secret, damien and harley, backstage pass

Dirty Little Secret is available at Amazon, B&N, my publisher Loose Id, and other retailers online. Be sure and check out the sequel, Naughty Little Christmas, featuring a hot rocker and the owner of Thrice, too! My newest release, book three in the series, Just a Little More, is due out in July. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to get the latest release information and monthly contests with great prizes!

And don't forget the other My Sexy Saturday blogs being shared this week -- you can find them here. Enjoy!

~ Ella

Favorite "Naughty" Bits

ella sheridan, erotic romance, romance, author, writer, secrets to hide, naughty little christmas, dirty little secret, damien and harley, backstage passIt's the last week to get the Secrets To Hide series on sale at All Romance ebooks! To celebrate -- and give you a sneak peek into the fun second installment in the series -- I've gathered some of my favorite quotes from Naughty Little Christmas to share with you. Have fun delving into Harley and Damien's explosive relationship -- then pop on over to ARe get your copy today! Chapter One

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.      ~ Damien

Chapter Two

"So what was he like?" Cassie asked.

Shifting her purse higher on her shoulder, Harley tried to give herself time to think. "A real dickhead at first." She snorted at the memory of the way she'd shaken in her high-heeled boots those first few minutes after meeting him. "But I wore him down."

Chapter Three

"Uh-oh. Harley, what did you do to put such a big, bad frown on our boss's face?"

"Me?" She pulled her hand out of Marc's grasp in protest. "Nothing. From my experience, this is his permanent expression."

Chapter Four

"You're the one playing games. Go play with yourself and leave me out of it."

Between one breath and the next, she found herself pinned face-first against the nearby wall, Damien's arms sandwiching her between his hard frame and the unyielding surface. "I'd rather you played with me," he whispered, the sound rough, raspy in her ear.

Chapter Five

"Congratulations, Wonder Girl." And then he was lifting his head, those sinful lips coming closer and closer. They scraped, whisper soft, across her own. Harley couldn't resist the need to lick her lips, to savor his taste. The sight of her tongue obviously gave Damien other ideas, because he swooped up for another kiss, this one anything but soft. He devoured her, sucked on her tongue, and rolled her beneath him to hold her still as he took his pleasure from her mouth. Harley moaned deep in her throat. So good. He felt so good surrounding her, and she wondered in that instant if it was even possible to get enough of what this man was giving her.

Chapter Six

"If you think I'm going to pussyfoot around like you're some simpering idiot, think again. I am far too hungry to even consider that road, but neither am I willing to downplay what we're about to do together. Whether it's your first time or your hundredth, it's your first time with me, and contrary to what I've thought with every other woman in my life, this means something to me."      ~ Damien

Chapter Seven

"What is it with you and this chick, Damien? You were barking at me the first time I met her. Like a dog with a bone," Ian muttered.

"She's not a chick, and she doesn't have great--" He couldn't finish that sentence, not only because it was an outright lie -- Harley had the most mouthwatering breasts he'd ever gotten his hands on, and he'd had his hands on plenty -- but because Ryan was red and choking and Alex looked completely baffled by the whole conversation. And he didn't want to discuss Harley's breasts, damn it, not with Ian or any other man.

Chapter Eightella sheridan, romance, author, erotic romance, paranormal romance, naughty little christmas, dirty little secret, sale, book, ebook, ARe, All Romance Ebooks, Loose Id

"I want," he said as he reached for a small bag on the mantel, "to run one of these candies over every inch of your body. I want to taste the sweetness on your skin, taste you, until every time I put one in my mouth, all I can think about is you. Tonight." The last word scraped across his vocal cords as he took her hand and pulled her toward the bed. "Now strip."      ~ Damien

Chapter Nine

Cheers roared through the room. Couple grabbed each other, kissing passionately. Singles tooted their party horns and threw confetti in the air. Chaos erupted, but all Damien could see was the stage, where Aftershock stood with Sound on Fire, waiting for the cue to begin playing. The lead singers' antics pumped up the crowd. A couple of the musicians jumped down from the stage, grabbing a pretty girl to lay one on. And far in the back, Harley stood, her bass cuddled to her chest like a shield, the look in her eyes as lost as he felt.

Chapter Ten

He itched to touch her, but more than that, he itched to fist that hair, hold her down, and torture her until they found a way around the gulf that separated them. Until he found a way to reconcile the pain he felt with the love that tore him up inside, a way not to be so goddamn angry at wanting her and needing her and knowing he could never trust her again.      ~ Damien

Chapter Eleven

"I've seen you naked before, Harley. It's not a big deal."

Lightning didn't strike, which kinda surprised him.

"You -- Grr! Get out!" Harley actually stomped her foot, which did fantastic things to her already fantastic breasts. His zipper creaked in appreciation.

"Sure." He went to duck out, then popped his head back around the door, forcing his laughter back by sheer willpower. "Um, onesie?"

Harley turned her back then. Even from across the small room and with blurring plastic between them, he could see a red flush covering her neck and the tops of her shoulders. "In the laundry room, dumb-ass!"

Chapter Twelve

Since she'd been a little girl with that tiny Christmas tree on her nightstand, she'd wanted the perfect Christmas gift. Now, all these years later, she knew that gift wasn't a what but a who. Two whos.

ella sheridan, erotic romance, dirty little secret, secrets to hide, loose idKlio, her sweet, sweet baby.

And Damien.

Merry Christmas to me.

~ Harley

And if you liked these, be sure to check out book one, Dirty Little Secret, too!

~ Ella

My Sexy Saturday: Dirty Little Secret

ella sheridan, erotic romance, dirty little secret, secrets to hide, loose idWelcome to my very first My Sexy Saturday. MSS is a weekly blog hop where authors post 7 paragraphs or 7 sentences or 7 words from one of their books based on a theme, which this week is "Bump N Sexy!" That's right. We're talking hot 'n' heavy sex where you just can't wait! Dirty Little Secret begins with just such an encounter. Alex and Cailin meet on the dance floor -- and what happens next is oh so sexy...

* * *

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.

* * *

ella sheridan, romance, author, erotic romance, paranormal romance, naughty little christmas, dirty little secret, sale, book, ebook, ARe, All Romance Ebooks, Loose IdDirty Little Secret (and it's sequel, Naughty Little Christmas) is on sale 25% off, this month only, at All Romance ebooks, so be sure and grab your copy soon to find out all the dirty little secrets Cailin and Alex must overcome. You can read more about the books in the Secrets To Hide series here.

And be sure to check out the other My Sexy Saturday blogs here, with lots of other great snippets of "Bump N Sexy" scenes. Enjoy!

~ Ella

Kisses and Prizes...and Kisses!

ella sheridan, New Year's eve Kisses party Hop on over to Angel Payne's blog for this year's New Year's Kisses Party for an excerpt from Naughty Little Christmas (Damien and Harley's first kiss!) and a chance to win a ton of prizes. Damien's excerpt is live today, but the contest lasts through January 2nd. Enjoy!

There are also excerpts over on What's on the Bookshelf and Harlie's Books (look at that, another "Harley"!) today with a chance to win a $25 gift card and a copy of Dirty Little Secrets. Be sure and check those out as well!

 

~ Ella

 

Release Day! Naughty Little Christmas Is Here -- And We're Having a Dance Par-tay!

ella sheridan, erotic romance, romance, author, writer, secrets to hide, naughty little christmas, dirty little secret, damien and harley, backstage passWoot! It's a release day par-tay! :) Naughty Little Christmas is live at Loose Id! And just to prove it, here is the link: Naughty at LI! *UPDATE: We're live on Amazon and All Romance eBooks! Woot!

Keep in mind, ALL ebook formats are available at LI. All you have to do is download the format appropriate for your ereader (or your computer, and they even tell you which format you need on their FAQs page), hook your ereader to your computer, and drag and drop the file to your ereader. Easy peasy! Even I can do it, and that's saying something. ;)

I will update as new formats become available, but I'm not sure how the holidays will affect load time, so even that pesky Nook file that won't be available for WEEKS can be had right away at LI's website. Run right over and get your copy of Damien and Harley for Christmas! You won't regret it!

And now that the practical "stuff" is taken care of...let's PAR-TAY!!! Here's the blurb for the most awesome Christmas story this year. Woot!

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 am so excited about this release! Let me tell you, Damien and Harley are hot enough together to singe the pages.We get a glimpse of old friends, and a glimpse of new ones that just might appear *hint, hint* in future books. :)

As you know if you've meandered over to the Extras Page for Dirty Little Secret, I have a theme song for every book. Today, in honor of Naughty's release and the Christmas holidays, I have TWO theme songs to share! The Christmas theme song for Naughty is mentioned in the very first page. That's right, it's George Michael's "Last Christmas." I know, I know, there are much more "sophisticated" versions nowadays, but for me, that song will always be perfect in George's voice. So here it is for your viewing enjoyment: "Last Christmas." (Dig that '80s hairstyle, dude! :) )

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8gmARGvPlI&w=560&h=315]

But wait, that's not all! Naughty had two theme songs. This song, while also an oldie, encompassed everything these characters seemed to struggle through. I had it on repeat so much my kids begged me to stop playing it! So, without further ado, "All I Want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVYYpNaSs2Y&w=420&h=315]

Want some more? How about Damien's song for Harley? Damien might start off skeptical that Harley has what it takes to be successful at managing Thrice, but by the end of the book, he realizes exactly how much they have in common -- and how perfect she is for him. Here's his message for his Wonder Girl: "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVpv8-5XWOI&w=560&h=315]

Harley is not afraid to butt heads with Damien, ever. And they do butt heads, often and hard. What song reminds me most of these two and their explosive reaction to each other? That one's easy! "One More Night" by Maroon 5.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwK7ggA3-bU&w=560&h=315]

Okay, last one, I promise! There are some smokin' hot sex scenes in this book, I'm tellin' ya. One occurs...ahem...outside, atop Damien's low-slung sports car, the one Harley describes as "the equivalent of fuck-me shoes, except for men: all I can give you exactly what you want, all night long." ;) So what song inspired that scene? Why, the same one that inspired the smokin' hot dance scenes, of course; "Hands All Over" by Maroon 5:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQEZ-RiW7X0&w=560&h=315]

All right, all right! I know that's enough. Can you tell I love music for my books? By next week I'll have the extras page for Naughty complete and you can see the entire playlist I listened to for the book. For now, though, how about an excerpt? Okay, here you go!

*

“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 local help.” 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.

*

All right, guys, that's it for today! Enjoy the party? Then be sure and hop over to Loose Id and pick up your copy of Naughty Little Christmas today. Merry Christmas!