Category Archives: Excerpt

Valentine’s Rewind: The Storm Inside meets Tease

Valetine's Rewind Banner

Hello everybody! Welcome to this stop on the Valentine’s Rewind Blog Hop! I’m Alexis, your host for this stop. I write steamy, emotional, knock-your-socks off erotic romances and today I’m bringing back TWO couples for one very important reason. My two series were born out of the same (unpublished) book. Part of that story went into creating Jake and Eve from The Storm Inside. The rest of that book is Adam and Elizabeth’s story in Tease. Today I’m uniting the families (this feels very gangster mob…should I have a gun for this??) and explaining how they are (still) connected. This might also be a lead-in to a new book.

Maybe.

I hope you enjoy it!

Valentine Rewind

REVIVAL

Goodwood (Adam & Elizabeth…with a little Theo & Allison)

I was one of those people.

You know the ones, they say money can’t buy happiness. I walked around honestly believing that money and happiness were, at their core, unrelated.

But the truth? The truth was money could buy a whole lotta happiness. Case in point: money had purchased Elizabeth a slot at the Goodwood Revival in West Sussex. And the look on her face as she gunned Theo’s Mercedes 300SL down the winding track was nothing short of pure joy.

“I had no idea she was so proficient behind the wheel,” Theo murmured, his hand tucked inside Allison’s as they stood beside me watching Elizabeth’s run.

I chuckled as Allison threw me a shrug. She and I both knew all too well that Elizabeth was a pretty amazing driver. Allison’s face mirrored mine. We wore giant smiles as we watched. Theo on the other hand? He had some pretty wide eyes and a slack jaw.

“She could’ve been a driver if she’d wanted to. Lucky for her, she’s got me.” In the last year I’d managed to get her track time in my AMG, and a run in one of my team’s cars. Working for a Formula 1 racing team had come with far more perks than I’d originally dreamed. I occasionally kicked myself for waiting so long, but then again, if I had taken the job in Brackley working as a design engineer for Mercedes AMG, I might not have met Elizabeth. At least not when we did.

“Lucky indeed,” Allison murmured, giving me a much longer look than she had before. This one, if I wasn’t mistaken, was meant to be a statement on the current state of my relationship with her best friend.

We lived together and there was no one else on the planet for me…but Elizabeth wasn’t the kind of girl who wanted a ring, to change her name, or have a big wedding. She liked things the way they were. And because of how far she’d already come, I wasn’t going to be the one to push the idea of making our relationship more permanent. Most mornings I woke up thanking my lucky stars the drop-dead gorgeous woman who could drive a stick and command a classroom full of brilliant college students was still in bed beside me. I was a lucky fucking bastard and I knew it.

Asking her to marry me would push her over the edge. I wanted to love her, not hurt her. But Allison didn’t agree. Of course, she was also the one who’d been pushing Elizabeth since they became college roommates. She was a lot more comfortable with the boundaries Elizabeth could handle.

The crowd erupted in cheers as the cars on the track crossed the finish line. I watched with a ridiculous amount of pride coursing through my veins as Elizabeth navigated the car into the line headed off the track, wondering if Allison was right. Maybe it was time to test the waters.

“Could you grab us another round, and we’ll meet you down there?” Theo murmured in Allison’s ear.

She nodded and smiled. “See you there. It’s time to celebrate.”

We strolled across the grounds, making our way between exceptionally well-dressed groups. The fun thing about Revival was that it was a period festival. You didn’t have to dress up, but most did. Theo was in one of his throwback three-piece gangster suits. Allison was dressed to match in one of her champagne-colored gowns, and I was in one of my standard suits. After Elizabeth had the car squared away she’d be slipping back into her bright red dress as well.

Between the clothes and antique racecars, the music, and the food, I felt like I’d stepped back in time. Maybe it was time to act like we were in someone else’s life.

Theo cleared his throat. “Thank you for arranging all this, Adam. It’s more than perfect.”

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the red velvet box. “It’s been my pleasure. I don’t think you could have picked a more appropriate time or place for this.”

He grunted and came the closest Theo ever came to smiling when Allison wasn’t around. “If her parents have their way, we’ll be here in this exact same spot one year from now for the wedding. Her mother is losing her mind. The minute she saw the pictures of Revival she started seeing the perfect wedding in her head.” He shrugged. “It gives her a year to plan the wedding to end all weddings, and I think Allison will be okay with it since she’ll get to have a period wedding.”

He tucked the box into his pants pocket and straightened his suit. I had to give it to the man, he had a style all his own and he made it work.

“How did you know?” I asked.

He cocked an eyebrow. “Please, please tell me you aren’t pulling this shit. You’re supposed to be my mature friend.”

I just barely managed to hold in a snort. “Ummm…what?”

“My mature friend.” He waved his hand through the air as we wedged between a particularly enthusiastic group dressed in WWII uniforms. “Higgins is clearly the guy who gets me in trouble, and James is my girly guy. You, my friend, are supposed to keep my ass out of trouble while being wise and practical about women. James has the over emotional crap all under control. Please tell me you aren’t switching sides on me. I don’t think I can handle being married without a mature friend.”

“Okay…” I drawled as I tried to figure out what Theo was talking about. “You’re saying I’m the guy you call when Allison’s been standing in the closet for an hour saying she has nothing to wear even though she has an entire closet full of clothes?” Girls were often very confusing.

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “Exactly. I love that woman with everything I have, but sometimes I don’t get her at all. I need someone to call and say ‘what the ever living fuck’ to so I don’t say it to her. Higgins will never get that. James will just call Allison and tell her what I said.”

“So it’s up to me.” I clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry my friend. I wasn’t asking you anything mushy. I promise.”

He sighed and pulled to a stop. “Good. What are you asking me?”

I tried very hard to put myself in Elizabeth’s shoes. Her level of distrust was earned a hundred times over. I wished that I could wave a magic wand and make her problems disappear, but I couldn’t. And sometimes, I had no idea what kind of fire I was playing with.

“By all accounts, you’re the last man who should be jumping into marriage with that cheesy fucking grin you’ve got on your face, but you have it, and you seem really happy about the choice you’ve made in asking her today.” I shrugged and shifted uncomfortably on my feet. “How do you know when you can move forward without the past pulling you back?”

His face fell and then his jaw ticked as anger took over. “Fuck everyone who ever hurt the women we love. Fuck every one of them.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I got a clean break. That past was always coming for me. It was like quicksand. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape it. Then I got a gift. I was able to surgically sculpt the past right out of my life. Everything pulling me back…it’s gone. I was left with a choice. Do I wallow in the doubts, or do I cut ties and fucking run?” He shook his head. “The choice was pretty clear. I’d take a life of ups and downs with that woman,” he cocked his head toward Allison as she came toward us with a bottle of champagne in her hands, “over anything else. Period.”

“What on earth are you two talking about? Elizabeth is waiting!” Allison huffed as she shot right past us and over to the car, oblivious to the fact she was about to be engaged.

Elizabeth was grinning from ear to ear as she threw her arms around Allison. Her cheeks were red and her eyes were bright. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

“Thank you!” she squealed as she launched herself into my arms. She smelled like petrol and exhaust. Not to mention, the fire retardant suit she was wearing was itchy as hell.

And I didn’t care about anything other than the look in her eyes.

I brushed her sweaty hair back from her face. “You’re happy?”

“So fucking happy!” she breathed, and then kissed me.

Like, kissed me. It was deep and it was dirty. “I always forget how horny you get after driving fast…” I murmured against her lips.

“So horny,” she shook her head, her breathing growing deeper.

“Champagne, then shower sex?”

She shivered as she jumped out of my arms and yanked the zipper down on her suit. “You sir, have a date.”

Fifteen minutes later we were all a little tipsy. I was relieved when Theo whisked Allison away to complete his plan. It left me alone in a fast car with a fast woman that I happened to be madly in love with.

“What are you thinking so hard about over there, lover?” she drawled, feet up on the dashboard, hair spilling everywhere. We had the seats pushed back and down as far as they’d go—which wasn’t far. Not that being squeezed into a small space was a bad thing.

I ran my hand up her leg (the fire suit was now long gone and she was in leggings and a t-shirt) and to the spot I knew would make her sigh.

And sigh she did.

“Oh, Adam…you better get me up to our room. Now.”

“In a minute. Let me warm you up first.”

She groaned and closed her eyes, sinking into the discrete pleasure I was giving her. Everyone outside the car was so busy they weren’t paying any attention to us…or where my hands were wandering.

She lit up for me, her chest rising and falling, her cheeks flushing as I applied pressure in the ways she liked it best. We’d been like this from the moment we met. We sparked. We fed off each other. She made me a better man, and I stood by her side while she put the past behind her. We were good for each other. We were a team. And we were damn good together—in every way possible.

But could she see that through the fog of everything else?

“What are you thinking?” she whispered.

I was so deep in thought I hadn’t realized she was watching me. “About you.”

“What are you thinking about me?”

“That I want to spend the rest of my life with you. That I want everyone to know we belong to each other. That no matter what happens, or where it happens, no one can keep up us from each other.”

She studied me for several long beats, her eyes practically digging inside me. “So what’s stopping you?”

I swallowed. The emotions swirling around the tiny car were far bigger than anything I’d ever dealt with before. “I don’t want to scare you. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt you.”

To my complete surprise, she grinned, then twisted around so that she was leaning toward me, our lips almost touching. Her eyes drifted from my mouth up to my eyes. “I double dog dare you to ask me the question you’re thinking right now.”

Her breathing was ragged. She was turned on, excited, and she was absolutely terrified.

I looked up and waited until it felt like we were wrapped up by some invisible cloak, connected from the current buzzing across my scalp, all the way down my spine, and into my toes. “Will you be my wife?”

She stopped breathing and so did I, and then her head started bobbing up and down, eyes still locked on mine. “Yes,” she finally breathed.

“Yes?” I growled as some sort of alpha-instinct kicked in. I took her face in my hands and pulled her closer.

“Yes,” she repeated, her voice several octaves deeper than it had been a moment before.

“Well isn’t this an interesting development,” I said a split second before I kissed her. She melded into me and it took everything I had not to brand her right there in the driver seat of Theo’s car with all of the revival watching.

Instead I cradled her against me and dropped my hand back down to finish what I’d started.

“Are you absolutely sure you’re ready for something this big and permanent?” I wanted to be absolutely positive this was what she wanted.

She shuddered in my arms, her nails digging into my shoulder. “Yes!” she cried out, a little louder than was prudent, not that we ever cared what anyone thought. “I moved here to cut all those ties. They’re gone, Adam.” Her panting grew deeper, more erratic. She was close and I was about to lose my damn mind.

“I love you, Elizabeth.”

Her eyes flew open, locking with mine as she pulsed against my hand. “I love you too, Adam. I want to marry you. I need to make sure those eyes and lips and hands are legally mine to have and to hold and all that shit.”

She grinned as her post-orgasmic high blissed her out.

“Oh, I’m yours babe. I have been since you grinned at me over your book at Seychelle’s. How about we take this to the shower and explore all the ways you can use and abuse me for the rest of our lives?”

*****

“Someone’s at the door!” Elizabeth yelled from the bathroom. We were…well we were significantly cleaner than we’d been an hour and a half ago. She was drying her hair and getting dressed for dinner while I watched football highlights.

The last person I was expecting to see staring at me through the hotel door peephole was my grandfather.

I ripped the door open. “Senator?”

He grinned and threw his arms open. “Adam! It’s good to see you.” Secret Service, or bodyguards, or whoever the heck traveled with him overseas, stood to either side with more down at the ends of the hallway.

“What are you doing here?” I asked as I hugged him and invited him inside.

“Same as you. I’m a special guest at Revival this year. I saw your lovely girlfriend listed as a driver today and tracked you down.”

“She’s just getting dressed for dinner,” I stammered as I took in the sight of my grandfather, one of the longest serving and famous United States Senators, sitting in my suite. What in the hell was going on? “Can I get you a drink?”

“A scotch would be lovely, if you have something decent.”

I held up the bottle we’d brought with us and poured him two fingers. He immediately downed half of it. That’s when I knew something was wrong.

“Senator McKinley!” Elizabeth gasped as she stepped out of the bathroom dressed in a sexy vintage red cocktail dress and stilettos. Her lips were red, her eyes were dark, and I was suddenly struck by the realization that I couldn’t wait to escape tomorrow to find a ring to put on her finger.

My grandfather shot to his feet and kissed my fiancée on both cheeks. “You look lovely, Elizabeth. And you drive like a bat out of hell.”

“Thank you,” she blushed, throwing me a curious look over his shoulder. “Sit, let’s talk.”

He cleared his throat and my nerves spiked. Were my parents hurt? Was there a terrorist threat? He was the head of the intelligence committee…

“I’m glad I caught you. I was going to set a meeting with you for next week.” He shot the rest of his scotch and set the glass down. “I’m running for president. The announcement is set for the first.”

My jaw dropped. Sure, we all knew the Senator would run one day. It was an inevitability. But now? And with this look on his face? There was more.

“Congratulations. We’ll help in any way we can.” Well, as long as Elizabeth could handle the spotlight. The Senator would understand if we limited our involvement…unless this was about her family.

“I appreciate that. I do need your help on one matter. We’ve been doing the necessary background checks. Digging in places we’ve already dug, but you know how it is when you take things to this level.”

I nodded. I hated it, but I understood.

“We’ve hit one small, new bump in the road. Your aunt. Lydia. Her husband’s finally died and our investigators have discovered she has a son. He’s just a couple of years older than you.”

I instinctively reached for Elizabeth’s hand. She squeezed it. “Aunt Lydia?” she asked.

I nodded. “My mom’s oldest sister. She married this…drunk,” I shrugged as I tried to find the appropriate words to explain the family black sheep. “The family was opposed to the marriage. She was being rebellious and stupid. The man was abusive and went through money faster than he could earn it. Lydia thought he was the answer to her high-profile family nightmares.”

“Your family cut her off?” she guessed.

The Senator stared at his feet, listening but not joining the conversation. This had to be killing him. Letting Lydia go was the regret that always haunted him.

I sighed. “Yeah. The minute she married him, they cut off all ties and told her she was on her own—which was exactly what she wanted. To be free of the family.”

“I’ve kept up with her over the years,” the Senator murmured. The pain…it was so raw and evident in his voice. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to have a child hate me. “Nothing formal or too specific. Just making sure she was alive. We knew she had a son, but we lost track of him for several years. We weren’t sure we’d want to reestablish contact after Jake died, but my investigators have informed me that the son is a good man with a nice family. And that he has no idea about us.”

That wasn’t surprising. From what my mother had told me, Lydia would have done anything and everything to stay as far away from the McKinleys as possible.

“You want me to make contact.” I guessed. There was no way I could ever say no to the haunted look in my grandfather’s eyes.

“You’re close in age and profession, actually. He’s an engineer as well. He’s got a wife and a couple of kids, so I thought,” he glanced at Elizabeth, “perhaps the news would come easier from the two of you.”

“Before the media digs up the connection and surprises them on their doorstep.” And turns a perfectly happy family’s life upside down.

“We’ll go straight from here,” I said.

Elizabeth nodded. “Of course. I’ll make it work.”

If anyone understood what these people were in for, it was her. I needed her help desperately.

“Where are we headed?” I was already fifteen steps into a plan.

“Tampa,” my grandfather said. “The weather should be nice this time of year.”

Valentine's Rewind

Tampa

(Jake & Eve)

“Yes, yes, yessssss!” Eve moaned above me as she came. “You are a freaking genius!” She collapsed on my chest, panting. “Happy house birthday…” she sighed as she quickly moved from exhilarated to sex-drunk, slurring her words.

I chuckled and wrapped my arms around her, looking out at the thunderstorm. The kids were on a play date with Natalie and I’d brought home this ridiculously expensive chaise lounger for our upstairs screened-in porch to celebrate a full year of living in our new house.

Just as the daily afternoon thunderstorm rolled in.

Life is all about timing.

“I take it you like it,” I said as I dropped a couple of kisses on the top of her head.

She nodded. “Does life get any better? I think not.”

She had a very good point. I’d just had amazing sex in the middle of a thunderstorm, on my porch, with the most beautiful woman in the world. Not to mention our two daughters were happy, healthy, and entertained while we indulged in a little marital bliss. Life did not get any better.

We really should have known better than to say that out loud. My phone started ringing from the bedroom. I ignored it.

Eve burrowed in closer and started to drift off. My phone rang again, which was weird, but I ignored it again. Natalie, Lily, and Marie all had a special ringtone. If there was a problem with the kids, I’d know. Whoever was calling me, it was not about the kids.

“I love Sam and Max, I do. But this is nice…” she sighed again.

Peace and quiet was a luxury once you became a parent. But peace and quiet, alone with your spouse? Might as well sell it on the black market. It’s that valuable and rare.

“We need to take advantage of our babysitters more often. We get caught up and forget to schedule down time,” I agreed. That was probably my fault. It was baseball season. Eve barely had enough time to eat, sleep, and spend time with the kids. I needed to pick up the slack and plan the alone time…like I did today.

Obviously planning had its benefits.

“Your phone’s ringing again, Jake. I think you better see who has a stick up their ass before I remove it for them.”

I chuckled as I rolled Eve to the side, offering her my t-shirt as I slipped away. “Here, babe. I’ll be right back.”

“Bring water!”

By the time I ducked inside, my phone was already ringing again. I was annoyed until I saw who it was.

“What?” I barked. Charlie, my private investigator, only called like this when there was an emergency.

“We have a problem.”

My heart took off. “The kids?”

“No,” he quickly reassured me. “Your family is safe. We have more obtuse problems to deal with. Something I didn’t see coming.” His voice was laced with disappointment. Charlie was the best and he took his job very seriously. Missing a piece of the puzzle was the kind of thing Charlie took personally.

“What is it?”

He took a breath and let it out. “I’ve been contacted by a representative of Senator McKinley. You know the guy?”

I knew of him… “What did he want?”

“That’s the thing,” Charlie said. “He says the senator is your grandfather and the family wishes to make contact. They have a representative landing at TIA now.”

I knew I’d heard every word he said, and yet not one made a lick of sense. “I’m sorry…what did you just say?”

“You said your mother’s family disowned her when she married your father, right?”

“Yeah.” I sank down onto the bed. It really wasn’t safe for me to stand any longer.

“Well, her family is the McKinley. The McKinleys. The political dynasty. They disowned her and have had zero contact until they reached out to me.”

I always knew my mother had taken a twisted joy in punishing her parents by marrying my father. I’d assumed it was your typical overbearing parents not wanting their daughter to marry the abusive alcoholic. A few times I’d imagined she was from a rich family. And yeah, on one of those occasions I’d let myself pretend I was descended from royalty, but I’d never imagined I was right. The McKinleys were American royalty. And apparently…my family?

“Is this a joke?”

Charlie laughed. “Nope. I’ve got the documents they sent me and they line up with the holes I’ve never been able to fill in your family history. I’m assuming this representative they’re sending will have more information. Do you want me to be there?”

I nodded, then realized Charlie couldn’t see me. “Yeah. If you can.”

“I’ll be there. You might want to have someone watch the kids.”

“I’ll take care of it. When will they be here?”

“Four o’clock. I’ll see you then.”

He clicked off and I let the phone dangle from my fingers.

“What’s wrong?” Eve asked, standing naked in our doorway.

“It’s just family shit. Charlie is bringing someone over to talk to me. Can you call Natalie and ask her to keep the kids?” The sooner I found out what the hell this all really was, the sooner I could get it out of my life.

In a blink she was kneeling in front of me. “Tell them to take a hike. We’re busy.” She squeezed my hand.

“Not this time, babe,” I whispered. “We can’t ignore this one.” There was only one reason Senator McKinley—if he was my grandfather—would be making contact now. He had to be running for president. If I ignored this we’d wind up with a sea of reporters on our lawn. It would disrupt our lives so much more than a single meeting with a representative. “It’s one meeting to clear up some confusion. By dinner we’ll be free and clear and back to normal. Promise.”

Eve ran her hand down the side of my face, across my shoulder, and over my bicep. Then she squeezed my arm and rested her head on my knee. The anxiety I was feeling evaporated. It was like that one movement erased it from existence.

I returned the gesture and brushed back her hair. “I love you, Eve Spencer. That’s the only thing that matters in this fucked up world. Loving you and Sam and Max. You don’t have to worry about what this meeting is going to do to my head. I’ve got too much to at stake to let the past pull me back.”

That was the thing about love…it was never about happily ever afters. It was about the fight. True love was in the battle. Standing side by side with your partner, defending each other and celebrating life’s victories. Love was messy and it was beautiful.

Her worry lines disappeared, then she smiled. The sweet, slow, seductive kind. “Damn, you’re sexy when you pull the defensive father card,” she growled.

She’d said that on more than one occasion since the girls entered our lives. Something about men in love with their daughters being the ‘hottest thing ever.’ I was absolutely fine with that.

“I have my problems, we know that. But I will never allow anything to hurt my girls. All three of you. You’re my world.”

“And you’re ours.” She sat up and ran her hands up my thighs. “How long until this meeting?” Her right eyebrow arched up.

I glanced at the clock on my phone. “An hour.” I really liked where this seemed to be heading.

“Then how about I give Natalie a call while you start the shower. I think we need one more round of stress relieving exercise before we face the firing squad.”

“I love the way you think Mrs. Spencer.”

“I love the way you love me, Mr. Spencer.”

As she sashayed around the bedroom, stark naked and mine, I was struck by one very overwhelming thing: I was the luckiest man who ever lived. Despite all the hell I’d survived to get where I was, I’d do it all over again. Going head first into the storm allowed me to come out on the other side stronger than ever. Loving my girls with all my heart and soul was the only way to love them, and I couldn’t do that if I hadn’t dealt with my past. I’d weather a hundred storms for the chance to live this life.

And nothing from my past would take it away from me.

♥♥♥

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading REVIVAL, a look at how Tease and The Storm Inside connect! The next stop on the hop is Rebecca Grace Allen. Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥

Burn: Excerpt #2

I think it’s time to spice things up. Burn is one of the hottest things I’ve ever written (which we all know is saying a lot.) Here’s a little peek (it’s a bit NSFW):

Don't Let Go

This sweet little quote happens just a little before the excerpt below…

“I actually have a thing about restraint . . . ” he said. “No restraints. Ever. I prefer mind games.”

“Mind games?” This was either going to be awesome or a deal breaker.

“Roll over and put your hands above your head. Don’t move. Not one muscle. You can be as loud as you wish . . . but do not move.”

Oh . . . mind games. Instead of physically restraining me, Michael got off on mentally restraining me. I could definitely play these games.

Once I was settled exactly as Michael had requested: on my back, hands clasped above my head, legs spread, he settled over me and took my right nipple into his mouth. He sucked and licked. He worked me until I was damn near incoherent, then pulled back.

I was about to implode from holding still (I made sure to tell him exactly how hard it was to keep from moving since he’d specifically requested I be loud) when he reached over to the nightstand and opened another condom.

He took his time rolling in on, with his eyes locked onto mine. There was some sort of connection taking place. His mind games weren’t just tricks to help us get off on a sexual high. This was more. This was two very fucked up souls finding solace in each other.

“Who are you, Ava?”

I swallowed. I was naked to this man, literally and emotionally. There was desperation in his eyes. There was no way I could lie to him—no way I could ever hide and be able to live with myself.

“I’m not sure if I know the answer to that yet,” I whispered. “I haven’t had a chance to find out.”

It was the most honest answer I’d ever given anyone. It was terrifying to admit I was more reaction than anything else. Ava Hanson wasn’t really anyone specific. She didn’t stand for something or build anything. She was a result of circumstances, just fighting to get through each day.

It was soul crushing every single time I thought about it.

His eyes softened. “You’re a survivor.”

My heart skipped a beat. “And who are you, Michael?” As far as I could tell he was a psychic sex god, but I knew that was as much a mask as the one I wore.

“I’m a fighter,” he said with a nod. “I don’t know much, but I know that.” A look came over him—a focused, lust-filled, determination—as he prowled across the mattress.

Burn_final

BURN is out Feb 9th! Pre-Order it now for only 99 cents!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Ni6Jvq
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Tempt Preview: Theo’s Alternative POV

1

Tomorrow is the big day! Tempt: Volume 1 releases on all platforms! But today I have one last special sneak peek and this time it’s extra special because it is an alternative point of view. Tempt is told exclusively from Allison’s perspective, but every so often I write scenes from the other character’s side as a way of flushing things out. In this case it is how Theo meets Allison in the speakeasy. We get a little look at Theo and how he ended up catching Allison on the dance floor. It’s not polished and perfect, but it is a fun look! Enjoy!


I resisted the urge to scratch my neck as the host led me up the small set of stairs to the private party room overlooking the club. Well, not really a club. Not in the traditional sense anyway. This was a speakeasy.

“Theo! Bloody hell man! You’re actually here.” Higgins, a very old friend of mine, howled across the room.

I lost the battle. I scratched my fucking neck. Places like this made my skin crawl. Too many people, too desperate to escape their dreary lives. Too close to everything I wanted to forget.

Fucking Higgins.

I stopped where I was and waited for him to jog across the small room. “I can’t believe it. Theo Sutherland actually came to my party.” He shook his head, grinning like a fool and holding his hands out like he was going to hug me.

I stuck out my hand. “This is a nice place you’ve got here, Higs.”

He frowned at my hand and ignored it, just like I expected him to, and hugged me instead. “You can be cold to everyone else, but not me, my friend. Never to me.” He clapped me on the back and despite my better judgment, I clapped him back.

“How’ve you been?” I said.

He waved his hand around the room filled with fifty of his closest friends and (most likely) business partners. Higs never did anything alone. At least he’d finally stopped asking me. “Fucking good. The club is a huge hit. Apparently the more exclusive and secretive you make something, the more desperate people are to get inside and spend loads of money.” Then he hugged me again. “I can’t believe you’re here. It’s been too fucking long.”

“How are Bix and Diane?” Two more from my past that I couldn’t quite seem to escape.

“Good, good. They won’t be here tonight. You don’t have to worry about that. How’s Nicki?”

My shoulders instantly tensed at the name of my sister. “Same.”

Higgins made a face. “Sorry. How you holding up?”

“Business is good.” I’d gotten lucky with iON Innovations. It was the right company to start at the right time. Cutting edge technology was an increasingly crowded marketplace, but staying focused on bringing efficiency up was good business.

“I didn’t ask about work, Theo.”

I shrugged. “I am my work.”

“That’s the fucking saddest thing I’ve ever heard.” He waved at a roaming waiter and grabbed what appeared to be two shots of bourbon off the tray. “Just for an hour or two, forget the past. Forget Nicki. And for fucks sake, forget work. Be that smooth bastard that could charm the nickers off an old lady and ask someone to dance. When was the last time you danced?”

Forever. “It’s been a while.” I took the shot. It burned all the way down.

Higgins put another shot in my hand and pushed me toward the balcony. “There. Go watch some fine women dance and let the bourbon do its job.”

For some reason I did exactly that. Below was a stage filled with a live band playing a jazz number. The dance floor was sunk down from the booths and bars that surrounded it. Dancers of all types were spinning and hopping. Some very good, some very bad. My foot tapped to the beat.

I missed dancing. Spinning a beautiful woman across the floor. Feeling the curve of her hip beneath my hand. Having her trust in my ability. Dancing was sex—clothed—out in the open and on display for everyone to see.

I held in a groan. I really needed to get out more. I glanced from couple to couple. All having fun: smiling, laughing, red cheeked and full of life.

That was when I saw her. She had a spark I could see from here. She was alive in a way that I was not. She looked like she could take on the whole world and win. It was fucking sexy as hell.

“Ah, yeah man. She’s a looker. Fucking good dancer.” Higgins had returned with a mouthful of food and highball in one hand. I don’t know what surprised me more: that Higgins thought she was gorgeous too, or the way I reacted to that knowledge. Something I thought long dead inside me roared to life. “Keep your eyes to yourself.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Shut the fuck up. You have a thing for the blonde? If I’d only known it would be that easy…”

It wasn’t that easy. It was just her. She was different—I needed to know that woman. But she was dancing with someone and I wasn’t about to walk down and introduce myself if she was attached to someone else.

So I watched her dance. Lip between her teeth, a mischievous twinkle in her eye, feet flying. She didn’t dance like she was following steps—she danced like the music was inside her. She felt the music and her body reacted.

My body reacted.

My brain blew straight past the dance floor and was picturing her in my bed. Writhing under my touch, moaning into my kisses, coming apart because of me.

That light in her eyes… I wanted to get lost in it. Drunk on it.

She walked off the dance floor to a booth with another man and woman. They all laughed and drank, having fun. Was that what I was missing out on? Was that what fun could look like?

Or maybe it was just her. Maybe she lit up everyone and everything around her. I studied her a little closer. Her hair was curled in a 40’s style, long hair framing her face. Her lips were dark red, eyes lightly lined to highlight the blue of her irises. The dress was fucking fantastic. A deep blue with a full skirt that sparkled under the lights. I’d seen her carefully chosen bloomers when her last dance partner flipped her over his arm.

I wanted to see those again.

I held my breath hoping she returned to the floor with a different man. If she did then I knew I’d at least have a shot of getting a dance, even if she was dating someone. A dance wouldn’t be nearly enough, but it would be something.

I got my wish. A minute later the other guy in her group took her hand and led her out onto the floor. I was amazed by how quickly she changed her style to match his.

“You better get in there.” Higgins pointed to the pair. “Or you’re going to miss out.”

Why was I hesitating? “Maybe I don’t want to get in there.”

Higgins snorted. “Yeah you do.”

That’s when her dance partner spun her in close and held her there, practically whispering in her ear. Pure jealousy exploded inside me along with something that scared the piss out of me.

Mine.

What the fuck was that?

All I knew was that I needed to get down there. To put myself between her and every other man. Before I knew what I was doing I was downstairs and pushing my way through the dance floor.

I’d just spotted her blonde head when I saw her lose her balance. I moved quickly, catching her just as she started to fall.

An electric charge shot up my arms as her skin made first contact with mine. She was soft and supple beneath my hands. Her hair danced along my skin as it fell forward. Her sweet citrusy scent drugged me. I wanted to feel all of this over and over.

Mine.

I couldn’t stop that reaction. I kept happening. It was like I had no control over this impulse I couldn’t name.

I was so completely fucked.

I should never have let Higgins talk me into getting out for a night.


I’m so excited to finally get this story rolling! I have so much fun writing serials and I’m looking forward to several weeks of excitement as Theo and Allison’s story unfolds. Have a great Monday everyone!

kissing quote


Exclusive TEMPT Prequel!

4

Tempt: Volume 1 is out on Tuesday and I’ve started the process of uploading to each of the retailers! Today I’ve got a special little preview. This is a prequel, if you will. It is not in Tempt, but takes place a few weeks before our story begins. It will give you a taste of what is to come and a look at our heroine, Allison Riley. Enjoy!


“You’re evil, Allison.” My best friend, Elizabeth, huffed through the phone. She was not taking my move to London well, and I was still hearing it while trying to catch my flight.

“I’m not evil. Stop saying that.”

“You’re abandoning me in this new apartment. You’re forcing me to make friends. You’re evil.” Elizabeth was being dramatic, but not overly so. She was a unique case and I loved her for it.

Let’s just say making friends and being “out there” were not her forte.

“You know, not everyone is out to get you. There are actually a few lovely people out there in the world. You should meet some of them.” Heaven help me if I ever met anyone else like her.

She groaned and I could picture her pulling the comforter up over her head. “Fine. Have it your way. Good luck. Call me when you land.”

“Love you.” I was really going to miss her.

“Love you, too.” Then she clicked off the phone.

I took a deep breath and glanced up at the red letters on the board behind the flight attendant. Everything was still on schedule. By dinner I would be in my new flat in a new country starting a new job. Well, not new. My firm was sending me over to work on a project for our London branch. They did things like this all the time, but it was my first time.

Six months living in London, working on one of the hardest projects I’d ever handled. I was taking a secondary design position of a new state of the art business complex that would be housing everything from a small museum, to labs, to offices. Everything had to as efficient as possible, all while being unique and aesthetically gorgeous. In other words, this was huge.

After my phone conversations with Luis Menendez I knew I was going to love my new project lead, but my new boss, Margaret Hickman, I wasn’t too sure about her. The “H” in HDM2 Architects, she was cold, clipped, and seemingly never happy. I don’t even know why she requested me if she was so damn unhappy with everything I’d ever designed. But I was coming in hot with some new ideas that I really thought were going to put this building—and me, by extension—on the map. That is if I had the guts to actually follow through and not play it safe.

“Are you on vacation?” The man beside me leaned a little closer. I think he was flirting with me.

Oh god, what if he was flirting with me? He wasn’t going to ask if I’m a member of the Mile High Club or anything cheesy like that, was he? “No, work.”

“Ah. In London, or are you headed on somewhere from there?”

“London.” I kept my answers short. This strange man didn’t need any more information—he could be a stalker.

“I’ve been working there for about a year now. I don’t think they’ll ever get me to leave.”

“And why is that?” Why did I ask that? I didn’t want to make this conversation any longer than it already was. Dumb. Dumb move, Riley.

“The city just speaks to my soul. It has a vibe. Have you ever been?”

I took a second to look him over. He wasn’t my type at all. Baby faced and slender, he was a handsome enough guy, just not what got me all hot and bothered. I preferred my men manly. Broad shoulders, deep voices, and dark eyes did me in every single time.

God, I hoped I didn’t meet anyone like that in London. I was there to work, not play. I had a goal. Shit was getting real with my folks and if I stood any chance of making architecture my life instead of Riley Cosmetics, I needed this to be big.

It wasn’t going to be enough to be good at my job. I needed to be great. I needed to be the best. It was the only ammunition I had against being forced into taking over my family empire and still keep a good relationship with the people I loved.

Did we have a great relationship? No. It was far from perfect. But they were my family and we were all trying our best. We usually made it work. My parents just happened to come from a world in which empires were built and passed on generation after generation. They couldn’t conceive of a world in which their only daughter wanted nothing to do with their company.

Not to mention they were still scratching their heads about my refusal to marry Tristan Whittaker. I mean, he’s a Whittaker. According them, we were a perfect match.

On paper.

And sure, I gave in and dated him briefly in college—back when I was still under the delusion I could be the daughter my parents envisioned—but the guy made my skin crawl. He was so boring. And obsessed with money and position. I could have gotten off a little bit if he was all about the power and control, but that wasn’t what got his juices flowing. It was money and superficial shit I didn’t care about.

Tristan was not an option. And neither were all the other guys my mom kept suggesting. I didn’t want an heir to a fortune as my partner in crime. I wanted someone with passion. Someone who took life by the balls and laughed at danger.

Okay, maybe that line was a little dramatic, but you kinda see what I’m saying, right?

I wanted more out of life than a stable merger of two companies.

The man cleared his throat and I realized he’d asked me a question. “I’m so sorry, can you repeat that?”

He smiled kindly. No, this man was not flirting me with me. He was lonely and making conversation to pass the time. “Have you ever been?”

“Yes, but it’s been a few years.” More than a few, actually. I hadn’t been since our family vacation in high school.

“Well, enjoy it. All work and no play…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll have some fun, too.” But not too much.

My phone vibrated in my hand. “Oh good god!” Elizabeth was photo bombing me pictures of naked men draped in the Union Jack.

The man chuckled. “Maybe not that much fun.”

I shrugged and powered off my phone before Elizabeth moved into porn. Maybe I could make time for a hot British guy or two. They did have sexy accents after all…


Tempt: Volume 1 releases Tuesday, July 14th!

Mr Sutherland does not laugh

Add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25733048-tempt

Join my Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1546784552238593

iBooks Preorder: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/tempt-volume-1/id1009522282?mt=11

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alexisannebooks/tempt/

“Tempt blazes off the page! The moment Allison and Theo meet, you know they’re meant to be together.” — Vivienne Thorne, author of The Lady Taken

“Steamy, sultry, and sexy…Alexis Anne offers up her most mysterious and tempting hero yet!” Anne L. Parks, author of The Return

 

 

Tempt: Volume 1 Giveaways!

Tempt Coming 2

We’re a week away from Tempt: Volume 1’s release and there are some fun things happening this week leading up to the big day! First off, let’s start with those giveaways I mentioned.

Goodreads has two (count ’em, TWO) signed paperbacks up for grabs! Open to US addresses until July 14th. Enter now!

Booklikes has ten ebooks up for grabs! AND winners will get them before release day! How cool is that?

Later this week I’ll be posting two different previews of the book. Neither excerpts appear in Tempt: Volume 1 and both take place before the book starts. Call it a little taste of our new characters, if you will. So make sure you stop back by to read those!

And since you are all so nice and wonderful, I’m including a little teaser from my Facebook page to tempt you with.

*****

What do you want from me?” he whispered, as if the only reason I could possibly be standing in his bedroom was to extract something from him.

“I don’t want anything from you,” I whispered.

“Everybody wants something.” His voice was rough. I wondered if everybody in Theo’s life used him. Like Nicki on the phone earlier. Was this what his life was like? I swallowed, trying to control my breathing and pounding heart. It didn’t really work. “Okay. I do want something.”

His breath hitched as he reached up and ran his heavy finger from my lower lip, down my throat, and gripped my shoulder. His eyes rose until they locked with mine. “What do you want?”

“This…” the word escaped my lips like a plea. It was a plea. A desperate, needy plea. “I want you to keep giving me this. And I’ll give it in return.”

What do you want from me?

(FYI, this scene is towards the end of Volume 1 and it’s H-O-T!!!)

Here are your links:

Add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25733048-tempt

Join my Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1546784552238593/

Read a three chapter sample: http://www.instafreebie.com/campaign/nUK34Y0NzL8mXzEeaYsKJhzQAJJNci

iBooks Preorder: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/tempt-volume-1/id1009522282?mt=11

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alexisannebooks/tempt/

Read Chapters 1 and 2 of When Lightning Strikes NOW!

Hey gang! How is everyone? You enjoying 2015? I sure am. It’s my hubby’s last semester of college, I just got a brand new nephew who is easily the most adorable baby in the history of babies, a new book on the way, and kids who are happy. 2015 is looking to be a good year!

But let’s start with that book I was talking about. When Lightning Strikes is the third book in the Storm Inside series. It features Jake’s best friend Greg, who I fell in love with while writing Reflected in the Rain. He’s a unique dude and one I couldn’t simply walk away from. His book was a pleasure to write, and I’m still not quite sure how it happened. He just kind of leapt onto the page all on his own while I did my best to keep up.

I can’t keep him to myself any longer, so while we’re waiting for all that important proofreading, formatting, and such, I’m sharing the first few chapters of the book, starting with Chapter One and Two today! The book will be available on January 30th, 2015.

**This book is filled with swearing. It is an integral and essential part of Greg’s personality. The following excerpt is no exception. If you are offended by foul language, this book is not for you.**

WhenLightningStrikes_Cover

When Lighting Strikes

Chapter One

I needed my fucking coffee like I needed air to breathe. If one more person stopped me from getting my cup I was going to put my fist through their face.

“Greg!” The familiar shout stopped me in my tracks.

“What?” I clenched my fist at my side and counted to ten. As much as I wanted to punch Stephen, it was probably bad form to hit a cop—friend or not.

“Damn. Chill out. I was just going to tell you that you left your window down.” Stephen was leaning out the side of his police car which was stopped only a couple of feet away from me.

I glanced up at the sky. Rain was moving in, but it wasn’t here yet. I’d be in and out of the coffee shop in a minute. “Thanks. I think I’ll take my chances.”

Stephen looked at me like I was crazy. “Suit yourself. Have a nice afternoon.” And with a wave he was gone.

I shook my head at the red Porsche I’d over-indulged in when I moved back to the States to start my company with my best friend, Jake Spencer. The car had been my baby for the first year, then the newness started to wear off and now I was itching for a different toy.

But moving and starting a company with my best friend? Best decision ever. Spencer, Hamilton, and Associates was quickly becoming one of the most innovative and unique engineering firms in the country. With Jake’s brain and my leadership, we were unstoppable.

Thunder rolled and bounced off the tall buildings of downtown Tampa. The stupid car was the one thing I let myself waste money on, so I didn’t usually feel guilty about it, but at the moment I was feeling like an ungrateful asshole. I jogged back over and took the extra thirty seconds to roll my window up.

By the time I finally pushed inside the coffee shop I was in a truly foul mood.

“Your usual?” The young girl behind the counter asked with a smile.

“Yep.” I glanced at her nametag. Lisa.

She shook her head as she grabbed a cup off the top of the pile. “Bad day?”

I must’ve been frowning or some shit like that. “Yep.”

“So two cookies instead of one?”

“Yep.”

I tossed the cash down on the counter and glanced around the mostly empty shop. I stopped in every afternoon on my way home from the office. It was a weird holdover habit from my childhood, but it was something I looked forward to every day: a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie every afternoon at four o’clock.

Usually there were a few stragglers like me, looking for an afternoon caffeine fix and maybe to satisfy a sugar craving. But today the shop was dead as a doornail except for the girl who always sat in the corner with her textbooks spread across the table and her nose stuck in a book she was entirely too young to be reading (and probably not part of her homework).

“Here you go.”

I glanced back as Lisa placed my coffee on the counter beside my cookies. “What’s she reading today?”

Lisa glanced over at the girl and smiled. “I believe she was talking about The Stranger, whatever that is.”

I grunted and took a sip of the ridiculously hot liquid. “A depressing book a girl her age shouldn’t have even heard of, let alone be reading. Where is her mother, anyway?” I never saw her there. It was always the girl and whoever was working at the shop. I knew she didn’t belong to Lisa—or the owner of the coffee shop—because I’d asked.

“Miss Bancroft works until five.”

I knew that curt answer was meant to stop my questions. And really, why did I care? The kid wasn’t mine.

But she reminded me so much of Jennifer.

Jenn always had a book in her hands, no matter where we went or what we did. She even kept a stack in our tree house. When we got older and started dating, as everyone expected, she started keeping some at my house and in my car.

A dull ache formed in my chest, and I started to massage it.

“Are you ok?” Lisa was staring at me wide-eyed and I realized she probably thought I was having a damn heart attack instead of a bad case of regret and nostalgia.

“Yeah. Heartburn.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure a cup of café con leche and chocolate chip cookies are not going to help that.”

“I’ll take an antacid when I get home.” Remembering Jenn always hurt. And it always would. “Have a good afternoon, Lisa.”

“You, too.”

I wandered over by the girl and found that she was stretched out across the chairs clutching a paperback of The Stranger. “Aren’t you a little young for existentialism?”

“Aren’t you a little old for afternoon cookies?” she replied without looking away from her book. She had strawberry blonde hair, light hazel eyes, and a smartass smile. I liked the kid. She had attitude and the smarts to back it up.

“Don’t tell me you’re debating the absurd and the meaninglessness of existence before you’ve even hit adulthood.” I still didn’t fully understand the concepts in that book, and I was thirty-five.

She rolled her eyes and set the book down. “Quite the opposite actually.”

“Why don’t you read something fun for a change? You always pick such dark books.” Last week it had been Of Mice and Men and As I Lay Dying. Both still gave me the heebie jeebies and I hadn’t read them since high school.

“Actually, after this I’m re-reading it in the original French, and then doing a translation project for school with Notre-Dame de Paris, as well.”

“Meaninglessness and destiny in the same week? In a second language? I’m gonna buy you some Boxcar Children to read.”

“You know I’m not eight, right?” she grinned. “Maybe I should buy some large print books for your poor eyesight, old man.”

“Whatever.” I tossed the second cookie on the table. “Act like a kid for a change.” And she did. She squealed and grabbed up the cookie, popping the first bite in her mouth before I’d even made it to the door.

“Have a nice night, old man!”

I chuckled and ducked outside just as the rain hit.

 Chapter Two

“Marie, baby…” Brandon cooed.

“I swear if you make me fly to Paris…” I threatened into my phone as my blood pressure spiked. Spring break started in three days and he was changing our plans at the last minute—as usual.

Brandon replied with his typical laugh. “Babydoll, we can meet half way. London?”

“How the hell is London half way?” I shrieked. The cocky son of a bitch was my least favorite person on the planet, and unfortunately, the one person I would never be rid of. Brandon was arrogant, self-absorbed, and lived to antagonize me. He was also the father of my daughter.

“New York then? I’ll cross the pond this time, Ree.”

Like nails on a chalkboard—that was what I heard every time Brandon attempted to be nice and use his old nickname for me instead of my full name. Marie was not a long name, but somehow Brandon had found a way to shorten it.

“Fine. New York. Natalie will be thrilled. Can you take her to the library again? She hasn’t stopped talking about it.”

“Absolutely. Whatever my baby wants, my baby gets. You know that.” Despite being the world’s worst boyfriend, Brandon was a fairly decent dad. He always dropped everything for Natalie.

“Excellent. Forward me your itinerary and we’ll plan accordingly.”

“See you soon, ReeRee,” he replied as he ended the call.

I wanted to gag. I would love the opportunity to go back and give my seventeen-year-old self a good lecture on reproduction and birth control, but then it would mean I wouldn’t have Natalie. I loved her to pieces even though her mere existence meant my life was tied to Brandon’s for the rest of time.

I always comforted myself with the knowledge she was conceived out of love. I loved Brandon in the way any rebellious seventeen-year-old loves the perfect seventeen-year-old bad boy that pisses her father off. He was the perfect man for me at the time, but it quickly became clear that Brandon was the last person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We made a lot of decisions during my pregnancy, including the agreement we drew up and signed before Natalie was born. We were partners in the loving and raising of our daughter with clearly defined roles and expectations.

We were also clearly the over-educated children of successful businessmen. Because I mean, really? Who draws up contracts for raising their illegitimate daughter at seventeen? Brandon and me. We were hands-down the most unique family I’d ever encountered, but it worked for all of us even if I sometimes fantasized about setting Brandon’s pants on fire.

I stared at my daughter’s picture to calm myself down. It was my typical habit after talking with Brandon: stare at my daughter and remind myself of all the reasons I was nice to Brandon.

My phone chirped and I flipped it back over in time to see a message from Natalie flash across the screen. Ready when you are.

With a sigh I grabbed my bag and sweater. “Have a good night, Joan.”

My assistant glanced up from the novel she was reading. “You, too. Say hi to Natalie for me.”

“Will do,” I replied as I pushed out into the muggy Florida afternoon. There was no way I’d be able to spend the whole week in New York with Natalie and Brandon, which meant I’d be doing a lot of flying. But work was work. I led the southern branch of my family’s company: Bancroft Sports. We had dozens of major athletes under contract with our agency, and hundreds of minor athletes. Florida was a logical choice with the insane number and variety of sports franchises and camps throughout the state. Tampa put me in a nice central location…and near the beaches.

Not to mention the thousands of miles it put between my father and me.

Natalie was waiting at the curb when I pulled up. Her bright blue backpack was slung over her shoulder and her uniform was almost perfectly in place. Only the white shirt was untucked. There were no electronic devices in sight. No cell phone (though I knew it was stowed safely in her bag). No iPad or Kindle. There weren’t ear buds dangling from her ears or unauthorized touches of makeup on her beautiful face.

She wasn’t that kind of kid. Or to put it more plainly, she was pretty much the exact opposite of me at that age. The things that had driven me and gotten me excited were completely and utterly boring to my daughter.

Natalie opened the back door and tossed her giant backpack onto the seat before slamming the door shut and climbing in front beside me. I watched her as she buckled in. “You know you can change into something more comfortable after school.”

She shrugged. “Why waste the clothes? My uniform is comfortable enough.”

I shook my head. “What about something fun?”

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m good. Trust me.”

“Suit yourself,” I sighed as I slid back out into traffic.

Thirteen had been fun so far. Natalie and I were so alike and yet so… not. I blame it on my awesome parenting. And the massive differences in our childhoods. I had two incredibly successful parents who hated each other and never wanted to spend time with their child. Natalie had two parents who didn’t particularly like each other, but loved the ever-living crap out of her—enough to move heaven and earth to make her happy.

Love and happiness was the difference between living to piss someone else off, and living for you. I could look back now and see how my clothing and makeup choices had been motivated by rebellion. I could also see how my friends and relationship with Brandon were about more than fitting in. I’d raced into adulthood for one very important reason: I wanted to escape my parents.

It was different for Natalie. She could become whoever she wanted to be, instead of a reaction to everyone else.

I envied her sometimes.

“You should have some fun while I’m gone.”

The quiet statement came out of nowhere and hit me like a ball out of left field. “Ummm….” Eloquent. I could nail pitches in the boardroom and think on my feet in a meeting, but a comment from my daughter left me speechless.

“Seriously, it’s been like, six months since your last date.”

“I’m busy,” I replied a little too quickly.

“You are not too busy. What did Dad say about spring break?”

“We’re meeting in New York now.”

The grin on my daughter’s face was so enormous I didn’t care that I hated her father for changing all our plans at the last minute. “Yes! Did he say he’d take me back to the Morgan Library?”

I smiled as I turned the car into the driveway. “He said you could do whatever you wanted, including the Library.”

Last time in New York, Brandon hired a touring service to personally take Natalie through each of the museums and give her a guided tour. Natalie had been in heaven, but the Morgan Library had been her favorite.

“Don’t work too hard while I’m gone. In fact, try not to work at all. Go out with your friends…Grace said she’d love to do a girls night. Go on a date. Or three.” The words were bubbling out of her mouth as fast as she could spit them out. Obviously this was something that had been on her mind and, more than likely, she’d been waiting for the perfect moment to say.

She looked down at her delicate hands. “I worry about you, Mom. You spend so much time working and being a mom, but you don’t do anything for yourself.”

“I take care of myself, baby.” I stroked her hair. “I don’t need a love life right now. I have all the things I need.”

Honestly, even thinking about having a love life usually made me nauseous. It was so much work for so little payoff. It was shocking how many jackasses existed on the planet. Not to mention the sexist jerks. Most were flat out intimidated by me. (That was at least partially my fault. I liked to see if they scared easily and well…most of them did.) That left about two dudes on the planet who weren’t scaredy-cats or assholes, and I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting either of these mysterious men.

Natalie frowned. “Just…think about it?”

I could think about it all I wanted, it wasn’t going to change my feelings on the subject, but for the sake of my daughter, I let her have a small victory. “I will,” I promised.

Stay tuned for Chapters 3 & 4!

Make sure you don’t miss anything! Signup for my newsletter! Or follow my author page on Amazon.

A laugh rolled across the bar. A deep,

Under the Bright Morning Light (a Storm Inside short story)

12 Days Revision

When Julia Kelly approached me about a Holiday Blog Hop my first thought was that Jake and Eve needed an appearance. It’s been almost a year since I published Reflected in the Rain (the sequel to The Storm Inside) and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see what they’re up to. Of course we’ll be seeing quite a bit of them in When Lightning Strikes, and they have a specific B-story in the book that leads up the moment you are about to read about. This moment will also lead us into the their next book, Book 4 in the series. I don’t have a title yet, but I know exactly what happens in the book. I can’t wait to write it, but first, let’s see what’s going on in the world of Jake and Eve:

Under the Bright Morning Light

I was too scared to get out of bed.

For one, it was freaking cold out and the wood floor in our bedroom was going to feel like ice on my toes.

And for two…I wasn’t ready to find out.

I could put it off a few more days, heck I could probably put it off a couple of weeks.

I mean, technically I knew.

There was just a feeling that had come over me in the last forty-eight hours. It was probably hormones. So yeah, technically I knew what the stick was going to say once I peed on it, but that didn’t mean I was ready to see it.

Jake was snoring lightly beside me. Light filtered in through the blinds casting a yellow slanted glow on everything in our bedroom. The poor guy was exhausted. Between work and advising meetings for the new position he was taking at the University, this week had just about wiped him out.

Which was fine with me because that meant he was distracted. Normally Jake was pretty aware of my cycle…he was just that kind of guy.

But that also meant that for the last six months he’d checked the app on his phone, watching the days count down, hoping we’d get a positive pregnancy test instead of a period. So far, we’d only been disappointed.

Well, Jake was disappointed. I was scared shitless. Sure, I’d agreed to the whole “let’s start a family” idea, but that didn’t mean it didn’t terrify me. Kids changed everything and I loved what I had with Jake. We’d both waited so long to have this. Call me a terribly selfish brat if you want (I do every day) but I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to lose Jake. And a huge part of me was convinced a baby might change everything in our lives for the worse.

So here I was, lying in bed on the day I knew I should be getting my period—absolutely convinced I was pregnant because of the weird vibe I’d been feeling—and I was too scared to get out of bed and find out the truth. The smart thing to do would be to wake Jake up and tell him what was going on.

But I wasn’t feeling terribly smart at the moment. Instead I was feeling a little crazy and glad that I was getting a chance to absorb this alone.

And if I really and truly wanted that chance, I needed to get my chicken-shit ass out of bed.

I took a deep breath and gently rolled out. The floor was freezing as I scurried across it and into my giant bathroom. I stole one last look at Jake before I closed the door. He was still snoring with his bare back to me.

He was so lucky that a baby wasn’t going to make his body look completely different. No actually, knowing him, he’d somehow wind up sexier and in better shape in nine months, the bastard.

My bastard.

My heart skipped a beat and I remembered exactly why we were doing this crazy thing. Why I wanted to do this crazy thing. My sexy, cocky, sweet husband desperately wanted to be a father—and that was more important than my selfish fears which, let’s be honest, were a little dramatic.

I opened the cabinet under the sink and pulled out a plastic box I’d hidden in the back, out of my daily line of sight. Inside were a variety of pregnancy tests (when you’re trying for six months, it makes sense to buy a few different brands). I dug around until I found the one I wanted: the one that was the most sensitive.

It was first thing in the morning so this was the best time to take the test. I ripped open the package with a deep, deep breath, angled the clock we kept on the counter, bit my lip, and dropped my sweatpants.

Peeing on a stick is exactly as weird and uncomfortable as it sounds, by the way.

I was just pulling the thing out from between my legs, putting the little plastic cap on the end, when the bathroom door opened. “What’s it say?”

“How do you know what I’m doing?” I asked as he closed the door.

He turned around and flashed me his sexy, cocky dimple. “Darlin’…”

“Okay, fine. I should have known you’d know.” I stood up and flushed before putting the toilet seat down and sitting on it. I was an idiot to think Jake wasn’t paying attention. He was probably the most attentive guy I’d ever met.

At least when it came to me. “Sorry if I woke you up.”

He chuckled. “I always know when you get out of bed. It gets cold and I get so damn lonely I can’t sleep anymore. I rolled over and sure enough, you were gone. I knew what today was so I put two and two together.” He dropped to his knees in front of me and took my hands in his. “Are you more scared that it will say yes, or no?”

It always surprised me how well he knew me. By this point I shouldn’t still be this surprised, but I was. I guess ten years apart didn’t mean starting over, it just meant starting fresh. “I’m scared it will say yes.”

He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, pulling my hands up and around his warm face. He held them there with his large hands over mine. “Why?”

He was so handsome with a little scruff on his face, his hair all crazy from sleep and no shirt to cover his gorgeous chest. But it was his green eyes that always did me in. I could see everything he thought and felt—and right now I saw concern, a little fear, and a lot of hope. I wanted to give him the world.

“I…” my voice fell away as the words got lost in my throat. I didn’t want to confess to the man I loved that I was scared he wouldn’t love me like this forever.

He pressed his cheek into my hand and closed his eyes like he was savoring the feel of my hand on his skin. “Darlin’? As much as you think I can, I actually can’t read your mind.”

I laughed a little at his joke. “What if things get hard again?”

His eyes flew open and locked onto mine. For once I wasn’t sure what I saw in his eyes.

“Things will get hard again, Eve. Life isn’t easy and sure as fuck isn’t fair. I can absolutely guarantee things will get hard again. But you can bet your sweet ass that I will never stop loving you.”

Well, fuck. “I can’t lose you again. Not ever.”

He took a deep breath and kissed the inside of my palm, then sat up on his knees so that we were eye to eye. He grabbed my face in his hands and shook his head. “Eve, you will never lose me again. You can get horrifically fat with my baby and I will love you even more than I do now. You can go bald, lose a foot to gangrene, or become as harry as a Sasquatch. It won’t change how much I love you. No matter what comes our way, I’m going through it with you. I will never leave you again and I will never pull away from you again. You are stuck with me, whether you like it or not.”

A few tears tumbled out of my eyes as I squeezed them shut. “What if we can’t have kids? What if this is another no?” I was so sure it was a yes, but there were no guarantees.

He leaned his forehead into mine and held me there for several seconds before he whispered, “You are my family, forever. Kids or no kids.”

A little weight suddenly lifted off my shoulders. I hadn’t even realized I was worried about not being able to get pregnant. Sure I was scared to death of what having a kid could do to us, but I was more scared that I wouldn’t be able to give my husband something he so desperately wanted. I wanted to give him the world, and if he wanted a kid, I wanted to be the one to give it to him. It was such a ridiculous burden to put on myself when I knew Jake didn’t feel that way at all.

He wanted a family—not for me to provide him with offspring. Those were two very different things and somewhere along the way, I’d lost sight of that.

“You want to find out?” I asked.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

“Do you want to do the honors?”

He shook his head slowly, moving mine with his. “No, you need to do this.”

I pulled my upper lip between my teeth. My heart was racing like crazy and I was so nervous I thought I was going to puke. I blindly reached out for the stick sitting on the edge of the bathtub and wrapped my sweaty, nervous palm around it.

Jake looked directly into my eyes. They never moved, never faltered. I had a feeling he was curious as hell, but was more worried about me and my reaction than anything else.

Maybe he knew what it was going to say, too.

“You tasted different last night,” he whispered.

I gulped. A dark image of him coming home late last night from the university and crawling up under the covers flashed through my mind. I remembered the pleased grunt he’d made when he first tasted me. I also remembered the goofy grin he had on his face as he pulled me into his arms and kissed me goodnight.

The bastard knew right then.

“I was wondering about those funny noises you were making.” I shook my head.

He grinned and bounced his eyebrows, his forehead still pressed firmly against mine. “I’m looking forward to all the changes the next few months are going to bring.” His voice was husky and very, very seductive.

I squeezed my legs together as I pulsed with a greedy little bit of need. Leave it to Jake to find pregnancy sexy.

“You are very confident that you know what this stick is going to say.”

“I am. I know your body, remember? I know what I felt last night as I ran my hands over your skin. I know that you tasted different, and I know that you reacted differently than you normally do. Add that to the confident glint in your eyes and the scared shake of your hands and yeah…I’m pretty damn confident I know my wife.”

I wrapped my arm around his neck and kissed the hell out of him. I slid forward on the toilet seat, wrapped my legs around his waist, and kissed him until I throbbed so painfully I felt like sex was the only relief I could ever want.

He panted as he pulled back to look into my eyes. “You better look at that stick so we can go and celebrate already.” His voice was almost a purr it was so deep and dark.

I kept one arm around his shoulders and turned the stick over in my other hand. This was it. Truth or dare time.

Pregnant.

The perfectly typed little words in the oval window were very easy to read for about three seconds, then the water in my eyes blurred my vision and I couldn’t really read it any more.

Jake kissed my lips and then each of the tears as they fell down my cheeks. “Darlin’,” he whispered. “What does it say? Are these good tears or bad tears?”

His hands held my face and his eyes searched mine.

“Good tears. Jake, you are going to be a dad.” Fear mixed with excitement. Yep, that was what I was feeling. Total fear, but absolute excitement.

His eyes widened and we both just kind of froze for a few heartbeats. I could hear each one thud in my ears.

Holy shit we were pregnant.

I was having Jake’s baby.

He started breathing heavier and his eyes glistened a little. Then he kissed me again and pulled me up into his arms. He held me tight against his strong chest, kissing the top of my head and running his fingers through my hair before he tilted my face up to his and kissed me slow and deep.

“I love you, Eve. I’m going to take such good care of you and our baby. I promise. You both will always know how much I love you.” The he suddenly dropped to his knees and kissed my belly, pulling my t-shirt up so he could kiss my skin. “I love you,” he said to the baby. “All you will ever know is love. I promise.” He dug his fingers into my hips as he pressed his forehead against my stomach.

He took several deep breaths before standing and then picking me up. “Mother of my child, it’s time to celebrate.”

I was worried about him until he flashed me that cocky grin of his. His dimple peeked out through his stubble and I ran my thumb into the dip. “Let’s take it slow, okay?”

“Oh darlin’,” he shook his head. “You have no idea.”

And then he made the sweetest, deepest, most impressive love to me in our bed under the bright morning light.


 

Here is a special sneak peek at the cover of When Lighting Strikes (The Storm Inside #3):

WhenLightningStrikes_Cover

Greg’s a jerk, everyone knows this. He’s made an art form out of pissing people off and swearing with style. What nobody knows is why.

The act works on everyone except Marie, a confident, no-nonsense woman. Or in other words, the only woman who can handle Greg. Together they’re passionate and honest in a way he never thought was possible. They have a rare kind of chemistry that makes everything else seem pointless.

Well, except the past. Greg hasn’t been able to let that go, and unless he figures out a way to forgive himself, he’ll lose Marie and his shot at the all-consuming, life altering happiness he didn’t think he was allowed to have.

Lightning doesn’t strike twice. Or does it?

Coming January 2015

To receive an email update when the book is published, sign-up for my newsletter!

My Shelf Monday: the awesome has exploded (and it’s all over everything…)

Undressing Cara Pull Number Billion

Woot! It’s another beautiful Monday in Booklandia! I finished reading Before Jamaica Lane, One Week in Wyoming is out tomorrow, and First Draught had a fantastic chat last week (see the video below!). So basically this post is chock-full of awesome. It’s getting all over everything, seeping into the nooks and crannies. Strap into your safety harness and keep reading!

Boom. Let’s get the My Shelf Monday out of the way first. Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young was fan-freaking-tastic. It’s written in the same style as all the Dublin Street books: female 1st person POV. It’s told in that same easy “we’re just BFF’s talking about life” style I love so much. And the characters were both grappling with a few things I find quite real in my own life. Plus, the hero was named Nate, so reading about all that great sex was extra fun for me (hehehehe!). Nate is awesome. He’s a genuinely broken-hearted bad boy (how can you not love that??) who is hopelessly and secretly in love with Olivia (because he simply can’t ever love again). He is very honest and a very good man underneath all the sex. Olivia is like a lot of us, she’s let some life and doubts overwhelm her to the point that she’s forgotten how awesome she is. Together they find a way to live life to the fullest again. I thoroughly enjoyed their story and have a fairly severe book hangover. I’m nursing with coffee and writing about Travis and Kristin in Stripped #1.

Which bring me to One Week in Wyoming!!! It’s is almost here (finally!) You guys know by now I have zero patience. I can’t sit on a story to save my life. So going through the paces of an extended release like this (gosh I want to make dirty jokes left and right…) is pretty much driving me crazy! But the waiting is over. Tuesday morning the book will be out in the world! Over on the One Week in Love website we’re blogging about how the book came to be. You can hop on over and entertain yourself there! You can also pre-order the book right now at iBooks so you don’t miss the release!
Pre-order link: One Week in Wyoming – Alexis Anne, Audra North, Julia Kelly & Alexandra Haughton

Julia Kelly also has a couple of excerpts from her story “Seduction in the Snow” over on her website. You can check out an excerpt from me below the First Draught video.

Which brings me to First Draught! We had a great chat last week. It was all about research and the stuff we need to do to get setting, people, careers, clothes, dialogue, and sex correct in our books. You can check out the show here (Wow..I’m making a rather interesting face in the freeze frame…):

And here is an excerpt from “Undressing Cara” in the One Week in Wyoming anthology: 

“Eli, this is amazing,” she breathed, placing her hand on his arm to balance while she looked out at the scene below them.

He was grinning like a fool. “I knew you’d love it. I can’t wait to read about it in one of your books.”

“You really read my books?” she asked. It seemed so illogical that this insanely busy man had time to read.

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I really read them. I like all your books, but Midnight was special.”

“Special how?”

He shrugged, and his cheeks flushed. “Um, I guess because it felt real. That book, more than anything else you wrote—more than anything else I’ve read in a long, long time—felt real. I know a lot of people probably say this, but I felt like you wrote that book for me. Like I was Will and maybe that meant there was an Amy out there somewhere for me.”

“You want an Amy in your life?” Three days ago she would have laughed, but now, after having a chance to get to know him, she realized how wrong she’d been.

Eli grinned. “Amy is probably the exact woman I’ve been looking for my entire life.” He shook his head and chuckled. “I finally found the perfect woman, and she’s fictional. This probably explains why I’m still single…Joan was just teasing me about that the other day.”

She had put so much of herself into Amy. It was the most personal character she’d ever written. She thought that raw reality was a lot of the reason the book was performing better than her other novels, but maybe that was also what brought her to Eli. “Why is Amy the perfect woman?”

He turned toward her, and she felt the air around her shift. Hell, she felt the whole world move, like the entire Earth had just shifted on its axis. “She’s smart and funny, loves adventure and travel, and was willing to risk everything to make it work with Will.”

“You want a woman who will give up everything for you?” That wasn’t who Amy was, and it sure as hell wasn’t who Cara was.

“No,” he said firmly. “Absolutely not. But I do want a woman who is willing to fight for the man she loves as fiercely as he is willing to fight for her. I admire what they both sacrificed in the end. Neither of them gave up everything, but they both did what they had to in order to make their relationship work. It was so real. When the book ended, I was sad. I just wanted to stay with Amy and Will in their world for a little while longer.”

So did she. “I can write you a sequel.”

He gazed down at her. His breath was warm as it danced across the exposed skin on her face. The world was spinning, and her knees felt like they might give out at any minute.

“No,” he finally replied. “Don’t ruin the ending—it was perfect.”

“I’ll see if I can find you a real Amy, then?”

He shook his head again. “I just want you,” he breathed.

Oh. “Why me? Why are you so sure?” This was all so insane. They barely knew each other.

A smile pulled at the corner of his lips as his eyes searched her face. “You’re different. I knew it from the very first picture Joan showed me.” Then he reached up, cupping her face with his gloved hands, and pulled her lips to his.

At first she was too shocked to do anything but absorb the rush of sensations. Eli’s lips were so soft against hers, and his body was firm.

But then she kissed him back, and the whole universe seemed to explode. Everything else faded into darkness, and the only thing that existed was Eli and the way he made her feel.

She pulled back and realized he was panting. “Are you okay?”

He swallowed and kissed her again, harder this time. “I’m better than I’ve ever been. You can kiss me any time you want.”

Wonderful Wednesday: Cover Reveal for UP ALL NIGHT

What is more wonderful than a sexy cover reveal for a ten author bundle? Pretty much nothing! Behold the pretty! (And only $0.99!)

UP ALL NIGHT BOX SETGrab this limited-time bundle of ten hot New Adult books, each #1 in their series. 

iBooks Pre-order: Up All Night: A New Adult Collection

Add it on Goodreads!

UP ALL NIGHT will keep you up ‘til dawn with romantic stories featuring whip-smart college guys, bad boy rock stars, heroic marines, a sexy teacher, and a smokin’ hot snowboarder.

Together, these books have earned more than 1,600 five-star ratings and usually sell for over $30. Each book is a standalone, first in its series, and the set includes two NYT and USA Today bestselling authors.

You Make Me, Blurred Lines #1
New York Times bestselling author Erin McCarthy 
Caitlyn’s perfect world with fiancé Ethan is shattered when her first love Heath returns to Maine after a mysterious four-year absence. Heath wants her back, but Ethan doesn’t want to let her go. And when one love allows her to breathe, but the other feels as essential to her life as air, how does she choose between them?

One and Only, Canton #1
Viv Daniels
Tess lives her life according to the secrets she’s sworn to keep: the father who won’t acknowledge her, the sister who doesn’t know she exists, and the mother who’s content playing mistress to a prominent businessman. But when she transfers to her dream college and reunites with her first love, she begins to break the rules.

Tattoo Thief, Tattoo Thief #1
Heidi Joy Tretheway
Beryl doesn’t know why Gavin Slater trashed his apartment, abandoned his dog and fled the country. But as his house sitter, she must pick up the pieces for the white-hot rock star to find out why he’s running–and what can bring him back.

One Broke Girl, Edgewood Falls #1
Rhonda Helms
When Anna’s mother disappears with the family fortune, Anna and her father must return to their small Ohio hometown–a temporary situation, she vows. But finding work, caring for her depressed father and locating her mom are harder than Anna anticipated. Not to mention a sexy male kindergarten teacher who makes Anna question everything she thought she wanted…

Random, Going the Distance #1
Lark O’Neal
Jess Donovan wants a better life than the one she was born to, but how do you figure how what you want when life has never been anything but a series of hurdles? When mysterious, sexy snowboarder Tyler Smith shows up in her life, Jess doesn’t know if he’s an opportunity for love–or her downfall.

Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc., Butterman Travel, Inc. #1
PK Hrezo
A futuristic romance along the winding path of time. It’s the year 2069 and even though eighteen-year-old Bianca Butterman is heir to the family time travel biz, she never expected to be earning her official time-craft license with golden boy pop superstar, Tristan Helms, in tote. Her life is about to get a lot more complicated … and exciting.

Come Back To Texas, Twelve Beats in a Bar #1
KK Hendin
Hayley and Nate had the perfect love story before life crashed through it. Now, three years, one deployment, and a few YouTube videos later, everything’s about to change.

The Opposite of Nothing, Copeland College #1
Shari Slade
When socially-awkward campus DJ Callie Evans falls for her bad boy BFF, she doesn’t tell him. Instead, she creates a fake online profile and “catfishes” him. The closer they get, online and off, the more she realizes she has to confess. And risk losing him forever.

The Long Game, American Gypsy #1
J.L. Fynn
When gypsy con artist Shay Reilly meets co-ed Spencer, sparks fly. Problem: Shay’s plans of revenge against Spencer’s father stands between them and their budding romance.

Undeclared, Woodlands #1
USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick
Grace Sullivan exchanged letters with a deployed Marine most of her teen years. She fell in love with him but was devastated to learn her feelings weren’t reciprocated. Two years later when he shows up at her posh Midwest college claiming they belong together, she is wary and worried … and falling in love again?

upallnight-large

My Shelf Monday: Tease 4

This last week was pretty much consumed by two things: Tease 4 and Tease 5. Therefore the only thing I have to talk about on my shelf this week, is my own book (lame!). Tease 4 is publishing as we speak and should be coming up for sale at all the vendors over the next few hours.

I publish all my books to as many platforms as I can because I want as many people to be able to read them as possible. All my books are available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and ARe. I’m not currently on Sony or Google Play because I haven’t had the energy to tackle these last two. I also always make my books available in paperback. Tease will be no exception. After Tease 5 is done and out, I will work on getting the paperback of all five volumes together! I’m thinking Adam from Tease 1 is the obvious paperback cover. Thoughts?

So Tease 5. According the schedule it will publish on August 4th. This is why I have been working so hard to get it done. Normally I take each volume one by one. But next week I’ll be in San Antonio at RWA and I can guarantee you my writing time will be limited. Instead, I’ll be focusing on the craft of writing and hopefully making some fantastic connections to help Tease and The Storm Inside get into the hands of more readers. So I’m working my tail off to get Tease 5 done before I leave. Not published, just written so that when I get back from RWA and my head is in the clouds, all I have to worry about are covers, formatting, blurbs, proofreading, and minor revisions. Not the big creative push that is needed to get a story down on the page. Meaning Tease 5 will release on time (or before!)

So what does Tease 4 look like? You want a peek? Take a look and then scroll down for a pivotal scene and links to get the book. I’ll update the links as they go live. Thanks for reading!! xoxo

 

Tease4png

 

Amazon   Nook   iBooks   ARe   Kobo   Smashwords

I was so lost in thought that I didn’t hear the shower turn off or see Adam, towel wrapped around his waist, come up behind me. Not until I felt his lips on my neck. “I didn’t mean anything,” he whispered, looking up at me in the foggy mirror. His hair was damp and wild.

“I know,” I whispered back. He was reading me again—sensing my moods and thoughts better than I could.

“I don’t think you do. All I meant was that after a week of daily sex I expected us both to feel satisfied.”

“You don’t?”

He shook his head slowly, his eyes locked onto mine. “I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of you.”

My heart skipped a beat and my skin heated. “I’m trying to store up as much of you as I can before you’re gone.”

He kept his eyes on me as his hands rubbed up and down my bare arms. “Is the haunted look in your eyes because I put you back in the news?”

“You saw that, huh?”

He chuckled and pulled my back flush against his firm front, wrapping one arm around my chest and resting his chin on the top of my head. “It was a little hard to miss. My phone rang most of the day. And I had someone tailing me.”

I closed my eyes, remembering the jewelry Roger mentioned. “You can thank my parents for that one. Sorry.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t bother me. I don’t have anything to hide.”

I swallowed and took a deep breath before saying what I knew needed to be said, but still scared the crap out of me anyway. I had bigger problems than how vulnerable the adoration of a wonderful man made me feel. I would deal with the consequences of letting Adam into my life later, after I was done managing the chaos of my past. “I think we need to talk.”

Adam nodded, moving my head along with his. “We do. But not naked, wet, and starving. Let’s get dinner and come back up here to get whatever we need out into the air.”

Part of me wanted to bare my soul while naked in the bathroom with Adam. It seemed right somehow, but I also knew these types of confessions changed things. It might be best if I were clothed when I offered Adam my heart—just in case he rejected it. “Downstairs?”

“I can go down and grab takeout. You look tired.”

I shook my head. If I stayed home in a t-shirt cuddled up on the couch I would get stuck in my head. The isolation and darkness would start to creep in on me. I needed to get dressed and get out. It always helped me bounce back from a day like this if I could see the world still moving. Seeing people, even strangers, somehow forced me to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

I wouldn’t if I stayed here. Even with Adam. “No, let’s go eat. I could use the fresh air.”

He watched me carefully as I dressed. I could tell he was worried by the soft look in his eye and tick in his jaw, but he didn’t ask any questions.

My hunger got the best of me and I pulled Adam behind me on the way down the stairs. Apparently my half-eaten lunch, followed by exhausting phone calls and fabulous floor sex, wasn’t enough to get me through the day. At the landing I heard a strange sound. Something in the back of my mind went on alert. The sound wasn’t normal and I needed to pay attention. But I was hungry, so I ignored the quiet little warning.

It wasn’t until I opened the door to the street and was greeted by a wall of photographers that I fully registered the sounds of paparazzi. I, brilliantly, stood there like an idiot with my mouth hanging open and the door in my hand, before Adam stepped in front of me, removed my hand, and slammed the door before anyone could push their camera inside.

“What the fuck is that?” Adam ran his hand through his hair and then guided me backwards from the door.

I swallowed, still staring at the door, as I fumbled for my phone. Roger was making sure I followed through on my plans. He’d called in the press. He was going to make my life hell until the interview and photo shoot were done. “Andres, I have a situation at my apartment.”

“I’ll be there in five. Go back inside and stay there.” I slid the phone back into my pocket and looked at Adam.

“Who is Andres? What the hell is going on?” He looked so confused.

“My security.”

Adam jerked his head back. “Why do you have security in town?”

Only my eyes moved as I tracked Adam’s movements. “I told you we needed to talk.”

He stopped in front of me and put his hands lightly on my arms. “Elizabeth, I know we hit the news hard, but this… we shouldn’t have twenty photographers waiting outside your door. We’re not that big of a story.”

“Unfortunately we are, thanks to Cybil and Roger.”

I swear I saw steam come off of Adam’s head. His eyes widened and lips thinned as he grappled with how to reply. “Your parents are doing this to you?”

I nodded once. It was a little easier confiding in Adam now that I knew who he was. His easy confidence with security and publicity came from a lifetime of his own experiences. I briefly wondered if anyone ever tried to drag his name through the papers and I realized that being a McKinley and a Callaway was completely different from being a Hope or a Lawrence. Just as rich and famous, but totally different worlds.

**********

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