Some Christmas In July! The Christmas Window – Silver Falls Book 1 by Melissa McClone


The Christmas Window
Silver Falls Book 1
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Melissa McClone

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A matchmaking aunt
wants her nephew to find love
under the mistletoe…

All doggy daycare owner Callie Andrews wants for Christmas is to win first prize this year. The annual window display competition is a huge event in Silver Falls, and she’s determined to showcase her success when her family visits her small town. It’s time for her parents and three older brothers to realize the “baby” of the family is thriving on her own.

The last thing Brandt Winslow wants to do is rehash the past, but returning home to Silver Falls means confronting the reason he left. His vacation, however, takes an unexpected turn when his well-meaning aunt meddles in his love life, and he finds himself caught up in her misguided efforts at matchmaking.

Despite their reluctance at being paired up, Callie and Brandt discover the holidays are full of surprises…and romance. But is the magic of Christmas strong enough to keep the couple together through the new year?

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With the second book in this series coming out in just a few days, I thought I’d go back and read the first one. Of course it’s July and the story is Christmas, but seriously what is better than Christmas in July?

Callie Andrews has a successful doggie day care business in Silver Falls. She started it after careful research and this is the first year her family is coming to visit. She’s also planning the perfect Holiday window to win this year’s competition. She wants to show her family this is a serious business not just her ‘playing’ with dogs as they see it.

Brandt Winslow has come home to Silver Falls to spend time with his Aunt Margot. He’s taking a break from his computer consulting business. It’s been six years since he’s been back and he’s looking forward to spending Christmas here. If he can just keep the reason he left out of his mind it would be perfect.

Of course his Aunt Margot has plans for him, and one of those includes him getting to know Callie. She starts by having him walk her dogs to the doggy day care. Unfortunately he doesn’t make a good impression. Not really his fault but the tone of his advice on one of the window decorations rubs Callie the wrong way.

The second part of Margot’s plan is for Callie to give Brandt a walking tour to show him all the things that have changed over the years.

This is a favorite scene during that tour.

“So how does this ice cream parlor compare to the old one?” he asked.

Callie looked around as if to see who was nearby.

The closest person was on the other side of the street.

“Better.”

“Why is that?”

“This new place serves the same cones, bowls, sundaes, and milkshakes, but they also offer frozen yogurt where you pick the toppings. Oh, and ice cream cakes they’ll decorate however you want.”

“Not only a welcome addition to First Avenue but also an improvement.”

“Yes, on both counts.”

His rich laughter wrapped around her heart. That was the last place she wanted anything associated with him to be near, so she took a step to her left to put distance between them.

“You must be a connoisseur given how much you know about this place,” he said.

“I pay close attention when sugar is involved, but I make a point to learn about each business in town.”

Callie didn’t tell him how she’d studied—okay, stalked—each business on First Avenue online before coming to Silver Falls to visit the doggy daycare in person. Buying Wags and Tails hadn’t been a lark as her family thought. The shop hadn’t been the first one she’d visited, either. She’d passed on two other dog-related businesses in other towns for various reasons.

“I stay on top of what’s happening with our monthly First Avenue Business Association meetings,” she continued. “There’s a mixer with refreshments, and that’s where I tasted one of the ice cream cakes for the first time. Delicious, and I’ve been buying them ever since.”

“I forgot about those meetings.” Brandt faced Callie. “Does my aunt attend?”

Guess he didn’t know everything about Margot. Callie bit back a grin. “Always, because she’s on the board.”

“I had no idea, but I’m not surprised. My aunt likes being involved.” A strange expression crossed Brandt’s face. Not surprise, but almost…concern. “She’s not working as many hours at the quilt shop, but she hasn’t mentioned her plans for the future.”

The way his voice trailed off ramped up the worry on his face. There might have been a twinge of guilt in there, too. From staying away so long? Callie shouldn’t want to know, but she did.

“Having a full-time manager gives Margot flexibility with the quilt shop. Lyndsey is a perfect fit. Customers adore her. Not quite as much as they do your aunt, but a close second.”

Margot had been cutting back for a couple of years now. If Lyndsey ended up buying the place, no one would be surprised, but maybe Brandt didn’t know that yet.

Callie continued. “Margot doesn’t need to teach any classes, but she enjoys passing on her love of quilting. Though if you ask her, she says she teaches to get Angus and Sadie out of the house so they can interact with other dogs.”

That made him laugh. His entire body relaxed. “That sounds like Aunt Margot. Angus and Sadie are the children she never had.”

Callie had a feeling Brandt was, too, but she kept that to herself. “Ready to keep going?”

He nodded.

As he fell in step next to her, he shortened his stride, which she appreciated. “Your aunt is a wonderful woman. I got to know her better when I took the Quilting 101 class.”

\His eyes widened. “You quilt?”

“I wouldn’t call what I do quilting.” Callie had struggled. Big time. “But I had fun, made friends, and learned the quilt shop is gossip central in Silver Falls. If everyone doesn’t know your business there, then something is wrong.”

Brandt grimaced. “When I lived here, I hated the lack of privacy.”

She shrugged. “I must be getting used to it.”

His hands burrowed deeper into his coat. “I never did.”

People talking about others was unavoidable here. “Then it’s a good thing you left, because that’s part of small-town life.”

He started to say something but then closed his mouth. Taking a few steps, he stopped and turned to her. His gaze appeared full of questions. “Why Silver Falls?”

She hadn’t been expecting that one. “Excuse me?”

“Why did you move to Silver Falls? Wags and Tails?”

She nodded as they continued forward. “I wanted to work with animals, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity.” She kept quiet about all the jobs she’d tried—pet sitter, dog walker, obedience trainer, and rescue volunteer. That she’d been saving her money since her first job at sixteen, living frugally, and making sure she had strong credit to be able to qualify for a business loan. “I saw an ad online for a doggy daycare that was for sale. I’d never heard of Silver Falls, but I emailed the owner for more information. The rest, as they say, is history.”

He jerked to a stop. “You just upped and moved here?”

His flippant tone bunched her muscles. Taking a breath, she counted back from ten.

“Far from it.” She kept her voice calm, even though part of her wanted to yell. “I visited the town, met the owner, and shadowed him for three days. But as soon as I arrived, I knew.”

“Knew what?” Brandt’s breath hung on the air. The temperature must be dropping again.

“That Silver Falls was home.” Thinking about the day she arrived in town made her feel warm and fuzzy. “I made an offer on the business before I left.”

He eyed her warily. “You were that certain?”

“Nervous, yes, but I had no doubt,” she admitted.

“Things haven’t always gone as smoothly as I hoped. I have a great staff now, but getting to that point wasn’t easy. Running a new business isn’t, either. But I knew I was making the right decision from the beginning.”

Despite what her family thought of her moving away and buying the doggy daycare.

“I had that same kind of certainty once.” He moved at a slow pace, taking in each and every store window.

“Gave up my personal life. Threw my heart and soul into making the start-up I’d founded with my best friend a success.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing. Must be one of the occupational hazards of owning a business.”

“True, but I didn’t realize that until everything was…gone.”

Gone suggested he didn’t have a choice in the matter. The way his jaw tensed was the second clue he hadn’t.

A weight pressed down on Callie’s chest. She hated being nosy, but she couldn’t help herself. “What happened, if you don’t mind me asking?”

He shrugged. “My partner didn’t view the business the same as me. He wanted…out.”

Callie waited to see if Brandt said more—like where this had happened or when. Margot had never mentioned mentioned anything other than saying she had a nephew who was into computers and used to live here.

He remained silent. Not something he wanted to share.

She understood, except…

Her throat thickened with emotion.

She’d been quick to lump Brandt into the same category as her family. Maybe she needed to reexamine her first impression of him, instead of assuming the worst when he’d offered her advice about the waterfall. He might have been trying to help—given what had happened at his apartment building—rather than telling her what to do.

“I’m sorry.” Callie felt bad for his business and how she’d acted yesterday. “Hearing what happened to you, however, makes me relieved I didn’t take on a partner when I purchased Wags and Tails.”

Her brothers had offered to be silent partners. Her parents, too. But Callie had followed her gut. A good move, in hindsight. Sure, she worked longer hours and owed more to the bank, but not answering to anyone but herself was worth the extra time and loan payments.

Brandt’s nostrils flared. “I wouldn’t go into business with anyone again. I never want to be in another partnership.”

His tone was firm but haunted. She wondered if he meant a business partner or a personal one, too. Whatever had happened still hurt him. Maybe that was why she wanted to bring back the light to his eyes and the smile to his lips.

Could she?

Worth a try.
McClone, Melissa. The Christmas Window: A Small-Town Holiday Romance. Kindle Locations (974-1039). Tule Publishing. Kindle Edition.

In spite of her resolve not to like Brandt he does start to break down her walls as she realizes he really isn’t like her brothers.

Then of course there has to be a bit of a confrontation with his ex-partner Nick. One that truly gives more insight to the self-centeredness of the man.

Brandt’s more than a little upset that Callie is friends with him then on top of everything there’s a problem at Wags and Tails that threatens all of Callie’s holiday plans,

Full of fun, intriguing, romance and plenty of Christmas spirit.

5 Contented Purrs for Melissa!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Melissa McClone

USA Today bestselling author, Melissa McClone has published over forty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group.

With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters.

Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities.

Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds, and cats who think they rule the house. They do!

The Dryad’s Pawprint – Paranormal Council Book 1 By Laura Greenwood


The Dryad’s Pawprint
Paranormal Council Book 1
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Laura Greenwood

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Panther-shifter, Kemnebi Davis, lives a normal life as an accountant until he’s called before the Shifter Council. Unknown to the shifter community, the Council needs help; and the only way for that to happen is for Kem to marry the daughter of one of the Nymph Council. Except there’s one problem; Lia. The woman who has been occupying Kem’s thoughts since a chance meeting a year ago…

Xylia Dentro has a secret. One that she’s managed to keep from her father and sister for nearly a year. But when she encounters the man who started it all, she can’t deny the pull she feels towards him; despite everything that’s standing in their way…

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Ever since a one night stand a year ago, Kem has been looking for the woman he was with that fateful night. All he knows is her first name, Lia. He’s been called to appear before the Council and he’s nervous. He’s surprised he’s on their radar at all but when he discovers what they want from him, he’s angry. Marrying someone other than his true mate isn’t something he wants to do. The politics involved here make it impossible for him to refuse unless he finds his true mate, so he will think about it.

He’s also to attend a reception to meet Aella the leader of the Dryad’s daughter. Let’s just say that doesn’t go so well when he calls Aella, Lia. While her father didn’t hear it she did and now she’s angry and uninterested. Kem does however discover that Lia is here and is most likely the Dryad’s other daughter.

Lia knows she has to leave quickly, she finds herself getting angry and that’s not a good thing. She’s had a bit of a problem since her encounter with Kem a year ago, she can shift into a panther.

Kem is able to track her down the meeting is both joyful and sensuous. Now he has to explain it all to the council.

This is a favorite scene.

“How can we help you Kemnebi?” Arabella asked through a bemused smirk. He had a feeling that, despite first impressions, she was the most likely to be sympathetic.

“I can’t marry Aella,” he blurted out. He’d intended to make a much smoother argument, but the only thing he could focus on was the memory of being with Lia last night.

“What?” A hiss came from one of the other men on the council. He was sat over the left and, reluctantly, Kem turned to look at him. If his voice hadn’t conveyed his annoyance, then his appearance certainly did. His eyes were glowing a strange yellow colour, with black slits in the centre. Kem gulped nervously. Despite being an alpha male, this man had him on the back foot, and not just because of his position of power within shifter society. Until that moment, Kem had always thought that the fabled reptile shifters were just a myth, and yet, this man was clearly one of them. Though Kem wouldn’t want to take a guess at what the man became when he shifted.

“I can’t marry Aella Dentro,” he repeated, with more certainty this time. “At last night’s reception, I found my mate.” Kem was sure that he could have heard a pin drop as the five Council members let that sink in. Mates were growing rare, and many shifters went their entire lives without finding theirs. Instead, most shifters just married, sometimes for love and sometimes for power, but it all paled in comparison to the bond between mates.

“Who?” the large man who he’d walked in on with Arabella asked gruffly. Kem made a mental note to discover the rest of the Council’s names at some point, though they too were shrouded in secrecy; another archaic rule as far as Kem was concerned. He was surprised that Arabella’s name had been let slip so easily.

“I believe it’s Aella’s sister, Lia.” He swallowed nervously, a lot was riding on how this meeting went. To his surprise, the other woman left her seat and walked towards him. In the light, he could see just how pale she was, verging on completely white. Instead of making her look sickly, it gave her an ethereal look, almost like the one elves had. But that couldn’t be right, if she was sitting on the Shifter Council then she had to be at least a third-generation shifter. Yet another outdated rule, especially in an age where paranormals interacted with each other on a daily basis. The woman walked around Kem slowly, making him feel uncomfortable. He shifted from foot to foot, but otherwise held as still as possible.

“He smells different,” she said suddenly, causing the other Council members to nod, looking deep in thought as they did. “He doesn’t smell of dryad though. Shifter maybe.” She wrinkled her nose in a gesture that came across as surprisingly feminine.

“I doubt Aella’s sister is a shifter.” The final member of the Council spoke for the first time.

“They are different though,” Arabella mused. “The Nymph Council made their case that Aella, as the only storm nymph, should be the one offered in marriage. That means Aaron’s other daughter would be different.”

“Still a nymph though,” the man pointed out and got a withering look from Arabella for his trouble. There was little doubt in Kem’s mind that she was the one in control.

“Is this the first time you’ve met this woman?” She turned back to him and unable to speak, Kem just shook his head. A rustle came from behind Arabella, and she turned absentmindedly took a sheet of paper from one of the Council clerks. All eyes turned to her as she read, and her eyebrows raised in surprise. “Thank you.”

“What is it?” The large man looked at Arabella with a hint of softness in his eyes, but was quick to cover it up, and it was unlikely that anyone other than Kem had picked it up.

“It’s confirmation on the names of Aaron’s daughters; Aella and Xylia.” She gave Kem a slight smirk, which made him feel like she was actually on his side.

“Why can Nathalie smell shifter then?” the quiet man asked, more curious sounding than confrontational.

“I suspect that something has happened between them before, and it’s possible that they started the mating process already.”

“But I didn’t…” He was about to say bite her, and while that was true, she had bit him last night, maybe it meant more than he’d suspected it did.

“Maybe not, but you didn’t need to.” Arabella looked at him sympathetically. “A bite, from either party, seals the mating, but all that needs to happen for the process to start is for the two mates to meet.” She threw a quick glance at the large man, before looking back to Kem.

“So, what of voiding the marriage contract with Aella?” He aimed his question directly at Arabella this time, instead of at the room in general.

“In the eyes of the Council that was done from the moment it was confirmed you were mated. However, I believe that you will be required to explain the situation to Aaron Dentro.” That wasn’t a conversation that Kem relished the idea of, but then again, if it smoothed the way for him to be with Lia then it would be completely worth it.

“Thank you,” he injected as much sincerity into the word as he could, not wanting the Council to think that he was ungrateful for their decision.

“You’re welcome.” He turned to leave, but she called out to him again, “Kem, not a word of what’s happened here today.” He met her eyes and saw a brief plea that told him she wasn’t just talking about the Council meeting itself when she said that.

“Of course.” She nodded once, relief flooding her features. But Kem couldn’t bring himself to care. He had more important things to worry about, like how to tell Aaron that he’d already mated with his daughter, and that it wasn’t to the one he actually wanted married off.
Greenwood, Laura. The Dryad’s Pawprint (Paranormal Council Book 1). Kindle Locations (385-430). Drowlgon Press. Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye and I loved every minute of this book. It’s a short satisfying read with plenty of fun, laughter, conflict and sizzle.

I will be continuing this series in the near future.

5 Contented Purrs for Laura!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Coming Soon!

Laura is a USA Today Bestselling Author of paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary romance. When she’s not writing, she can be found drinking ridiculous amounts of tea, trying to resist French Macaroons, and watching the Pitch Perfect trilogy for the hundredth time (at least!)

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Unmasking Evil – Brotherhood Protectors World – Hero Rising Prequel 2 By Desiree Holt


Unmasking Evil
Brotherhood Protectors World
Heroes Rising Prequel 2
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Desiree Hold

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The dark shadow still looms over the area…

Michaela (Micki) Schroeder hasn’t been home since she left for college. At fourteen she was one of the innocents raped by powerful men whose identity was concealed. Last year the former sheriff was arrested and convicted of killing the few girls who reported it, and the county prayed the nightmare was over. Now she’s back for the celebration of her father’s sixtieth birthday, right on the heels of the latest killing, long after the sheriff has been imprisoned. Once again the peaceful Crazy Mountains are invaded by savagery. Then her father is poisoned and once again Micki is sucked into a nightmare.

He thought being the sheriff of a quiet Montana county would be a break from the stress of combat…

Alex Rossi has retired from the SEALs after eight years and is looking to settle into peaceful civilian life. He thinks he’s found it when Scot Nolan introduces him to Hank Patterson, head of Brotherhood Protectors, who convinces him to take the newly open job of county sheriff. But he never expected his military training would be necessary to root out an evil still poisoning the county. First he finds the body of a young teenager, just like the young girls killed over the past two decades. A girl who had reported being raped just like the others. Then Micki Schroeder’s father drops dead at his birthday party and the coroner tells him the man was poisoned. At the same time he works hard to fight the intense attraction that has exploded between the two of them, especially when she has been afraid of sex all these years.

They were sure they’d gotten away with it all…

The former sheriff had kept his mouth shut when his cohorts threatened to harm his family, and taken the blame for everything. But with a new rape and murder, all the dark secrets are in danger of coming out. Is that why Bill Schroeder was killed? Can the men responsible commit two such high profile crimes and still keep their secret? As Micki and Alex search for answers, the intense attraction between them explodes. Will she take that first step to happiness?

When Alex Rossi agreed to take on the job of Sheriff in the small town in the Crazy Mountains he inherited a cold case that is both horrible and shocking in that it’s never been solved. Of course the former Sheriff was in on it but there are many who were never identified. Fate has supplied him with a victim and now he’s determined to solve this cold case once and for all.

Michaela (Micki) Schroeder hasn’t been home since she left for college. She’s only here because it’s her father’s sixtieth birthday and if she didn’t show there would be too many questions she doesn’t want to answer. She had been one of the victims at the age of fourteen and coming home is stirring up unwanted memories. She’s never said a word but her brother can see right through her and her anxiety is such that she hopes she can make it through the week without giving something away.

Alex is invited to the birthday gala and he meets Micki and her family beforehand. However it’s Hank that clues him into the fact she may have been a victim and this party could trigger dangerous memories for her.

The aftermath of Micki’s father collapsing at the party starts and even more in depth investigation and some interesting things come up in Alex’s conversation with Micki.

This is a favorite scene.

“Alex.” He said his name in a soft voice. “Please. Call me Alex. And yes, I see what you mean. It smacks of the arrogance of men who believe they can get away with anything. And I’m not saying your father was one of them, but, like you, my senses tell me there’s some kind of connection.”

She folded and unfolded the hem of her T-shirt, nearly undone by the look of caring in his eyes. She didn’t remember anyone ever looking at her like that. She’d seen pity. Sympathy. Disappointment, as if the few people who knew what happened thought it was somehow her fault. Sadness. But not that look of compassion she saw in Alex Rossi. It was nearly her undoing. For the first time in sixteen years, she felt tears clog the back of her throat and had to swallow hard against them.

“Are you okay to continue?” He started to reach for her hand then stopped , as if not sure it was okay to touch her.

Funny, because for the first time since she was fourteen, she actually wanted a man to touch her. Make skin-to-skin contact, and what was up with that? Was this man from another planet? To keep herself from reaching out for him, she began pleating the hem of her shirt again. Maybe once she got through this, the urge would go away, and she could return to the comfortable barrier of her fear regarding men.

“Micki?” he urged again.

She wet her lips. “Yes. I’m fine. I haven’t…said anything about this for a lot of years, and I don’t know if it has anything to do with my father’s death, but…” She forced herself to look at him. “But I guess it’s time to get it all out, in case it does. I mean, in case it somehow connects to me.” She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “This is hard for me, Sheriff.”

“Take your time. I’m in no hurry.”

She knew that had to be a lie, with everything going on outside. But his assurance and the deep, mellow tone of his voice, helped her move forward. In halting sentences, she described for the first time what had happened all those years ago right in this house. In the very bedroom she was staying in right now.

She kept her eyes on her hands while she spoke, unable to look at Alex Rossi, afraid of what she’d see on his face. When she finally got it all out, with the feel of a burden being lifted at long last, she let out another breath and dared to look at him. She had expected pity, or even disgust, or … she didn’t know what. But the look in his eyes of caring and understanding stunned her. And something else. He looked at her as a woman, not a freak show like the men in her failed relationships had. A woman who had been through a terrible ordeal.

And behind all that was unexpected anger.

“You’re right. The fact we have two out-of-the-ordinary deaths so close together in a place that seldom sees anything like this would make anyone look for a connection. And let me say this.” His voice was like warm molasses flowing over her skin. “One way or another, I am going to find every man involved in this abominable little group and methodically destroy them. You can count on that.”

“First, you have to find out who they are,” she pointed out, her voice still a little shaky. “See if they’re part of his inner circle, if any of them killed my father, and why.”

He leaned forward, elbows on his thighs, and this time he did reach for one of her hands and enfold it in his.

“Micki, I’m not sure if you know this, but I was a SEAL for ten years. SEALs are the baddest of the bad special forces. We can find out things even hidden from God.”

He smiled as he said it, but she had no doubt he spoke the truth. Maybe that was why he was the first man in sixteen years who didn’t frighten or panic her. Who in fact made her insides tremble and not with fear. And wasn’t that a shock in the middle of all this.

Alex gave her hand a gentle squeeze before sitting back.

“So.” He paused. “Do you think Holly Martino’s murder was in some way the catalyst for what happened tonight?”

Micki shrugged. “I don’t know. All I can say is the two things happening so close together… I mean, it’s not as if things like this happen around here on a regular basis.” Then she shook her head. “But I’ve been thinking all these years there must be many other girls this happened to who didn’t tell anyone. They were too terrified, like I was. Especially after the courageous ones who gathered themselves to report what happened despite the threats to them. And then ended up dead.”

“What makes you think they’d come forward now? Especially after what happened to Holly.”

Micki looked directly at him. “Because I have the sick feeling my father’s ‘“death”‘ is tied to it in some way, and I think we’ve all been frightened long enough. And because a man who comes with Hank Patterson’s recommendation and who is a decorated SEAL knows how to keep us safe.”

She realized she meant every word of it. For the first time since she’d been thrown down on her bed and violated, she wasn’t afraid. Not that the danger wasn’t still out there, but Alex Rossi, despite being just one man, wore the aura of someone who, as he said, could handle it all.

“But how does that help you with tonight?” she asked. “What happened to me is old history. And where does my father fit into the picture? Did Holly Martino’s death ignite this? And why?”

“Not sure yet. Right now, I’m collecting information. It seems strange, though, that the only murder in this county in a year is a young girl who it turns out is the most recent victim in a string of heinous crimes going back years. And suddenly, while I’m investigating it, your father drops dead at a party.”

“You think my father was involved?”

Oh, please, god, no.

But Alex shrugged. “I’m not ruling anything out right now. Like I said, right now I’m gathering information.”

“I don’t know if anything I said helped or not”

“Everything helps,” he assured her. “I just have to figure out how.” He pushed himself up from his seat. “I need to get back outside and see where we are. What my detectives have come up with. All those people are probably ready to lynch me for making them hang around.”

“They’ll survive.”

He gave a soft laugh. “You don’t have much use for them, do you.”

She shook her head. “Why should I? These people are all so self-centered and focused on their money and power. I’m sure my parents love me—and Jason—but my father’s business and political worlds always came first, and my mother lives her life by what other people think of her. But I do want to know how he died. And if someone killed him, why? If that was the reason.” She looked up at Alex, who had such compassion in his eyes she wanted to cry. “Do you think he found out about me and was driven to expose everyone because of it?”

He shrugged. “It’s a definite possibility. But wouldn’t he have approached you first? Maybe be devastated that his little game, if he was part of it, had hit too close to home? I’m guessing, but I’d expect there was an unwritten rule they never touched each other’s families.”

She felt ill, nausea gripping her at the thought her father not only might have known who her rapist was, but himself been part of their evil little game. She swallowed hard, hoping she ’wouldn’t vomit in front of Alex Cross

“It frightens me to even think that,” she told him, “but I guess with what happened tonight, we have to look at everything.”

“I wish that wasn’t so, but it’s highly unlikely that two murders so close together, in a place that almost never sees them, would be unrelated. I need to figure out the connection. Anyway, thanks for talking to me.” He took her hand and pressed a business card into it. “I’m sure you have the number of my office, but this has my personal cell on it. Call me anytime. For anything.”

“I— Thank you, Sheriff. I appreciate this.”

“Alex. Please call me Alex.” She managed a tiny smile. “Okay, Alex. I expect we’ll be seeing each other again.”

“Count on it.” The look he gave her was equal parts of compassion and understanding with a healthy dose of heat thrown in. And for the first time in her life, it didn’t frighten her.

Holy shit!
Holt, Desiree; Protectors World, Brotherhood. Unmasking Evil: Brotherhood Protectors World. Kindle Locations (759-824). Twisted Page Press LLC. Kindle Edition.

The investigation is as convoluted as it is intriguing as several leads come to the fore.

Micki becomes a focal point even though she tries to keep a low profile. The attraction between her and Alex is palpable as they get to know each other.

There’s plenty of suspense, intrigue and heat as Alex and Micki find love and home in each other.

I have the rest of this series on my TBR pile, stay tuned for more soon.

5 Contented Purrs for Desiree!

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Prequel 1

Desiree Holt

USA Today Bestselling and award winning author Desiree Holt writes everything from romantic suspense and paranormal to erotic, a genre in which she is the oldest living author.

She has been referred to by USA Today as the Nora Roberts of erotic romance, and is a winner of the EPIC E-Book Award, the Holt Medallion and a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice nominee.

She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The (London) Daily Mail, The New Delhi Times and numerous other national and international publications.

“Desiree Holt is the most amazing erotica author of our time and each story is more fulfilling then the last.” (Romance Junkies)


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Nash – Hathaway House Book 14 by Dale Mayer


Nash
Hathaway House Book 14
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer

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Nash has been struggling to get back on his feet after his last set of surgeries. He pushed for a transfer to Hathaway House on an old friend’s recommendation and finally made it there—after multiple frustrating delays—only to find that he isn’t ready for the strides he hopes to make in the new facility.

To add insult to injury, on his first day at Hathaway House, he comes face-to-face with Alicia, the only woman he’s ever loved and the last woman he’d want to see him in his current condition.

Alicia let Nash go more than a decade ago, unwilling to settle for a long-distance relationship with the sailor, certain that her future would bring other dreams and other loves. But, when her brother fell ill, all her dreams shattered. She devoted herself to nursing him and, after his death, to helping others.

Seeing Nash again is both pleasure and pain. The rapport between them is instant, as if the years apart had never happened. But, if they couldn’t make things work back then, when life was bright and new, do the people they’ve become in the years since have a shot at a future together?

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Nash is getting frustrated, there’s a bed for him a Hathaway House but he hasn’t yet been cleared. While this isn’t uncommon, in his case a four day wait becomes eleven and he was more than ready to start fresh. He promised his roommate Owen he would let him know how things work out. Like many new residents he first starts to check things out, only to step wrong and hurt himself. On top of the travel stress and general tiredness the pain and cramping is intense.

Having read the other books in this series, when Shane walks in and starts asking him questions about the hows and location of the pain then offers a massage of the area, I was screaming let him help you! Sigh alas Nash is going to suffer in silence for a bit.

Then he hears a voice he recognizes but thinks it’s his imagination. His once girlfriend Alicia couldn’t be here. He didn’t tell anyone he was coming this close to home. Nursing wasn’t what Alicia was planning on doing, but then people do change their minds, or circumstances do.

Alicia is on his team and he’s okay with that, but she still hasn’t come in to say hello like others on his team have. She has a conversation with Dani before she does, I really loved their reunion in spite of the professionalism.

This is a favorite scene.

She smiled at him and said, “Hello, Nash. It’s been a long time.”

“A long time, a lot of years, and a lot of distance,” he admitted slowly. Then he smiled and said, “You still look gorgeous.”

She flushed. “I forgot how easily you could turn a compliment,” she said with the shake of her head.

“You used to like it,” he said. “Also I never lie. I meant it. You still look stunning. I, on the other hand, I’m a broken caricature of when you last saw me.”

“But the inside hasn’t changed, I hope,” she said as she walked in slowly. “You used to be very caring and friendly, willing to help anybody.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But our circumstances have certainly changed, and my abilities have certainly changed, so I’m not the one to step up anymore.”

“Understood,” she said. “Right now you’re the one who needs help, and I don’t remember you being very good at accepting help.”

He gave a harsh laugh at that. “I doubt that’s changed,” he said with a nod. “Figures that you’d remember that.”

“Well, you were a bit on the stubborn side,” she said with a chuckle.

“A bit?” He smiled at her. “It’s good to see you, but I don’t remember nursing being part of your future plans.”

“Nope,” she said. “Remember Jerry, my brother?”

He nodded.

“He ended up with cancer, and he’s gone,” she said, feeling even now— two years after his passing and the seven years before that dealing with his cancer— tears forming at the back of her eyes. “He didn’t go very quickly, and it sent me on a path, out of frustration, of trying to do something to help him, and there was just nothing I could do. So I thought that maybe I could help somebody else instead,” she said quietly.

He nodded slowly. “I’m sure that health care has received a guardian angel,” he said. “I’m so sorry about Jerry. He was always the jokester of the group.”

“Well, the laughter finally left him,” she said. “His last few months were absolutely terrible. During that time, I’ve never been so traumatized, prayed so often, and wished for so much that could never be. My parents split up afterward. They couldn’t handle his loss. Instead of bringing them closer, it broke them up, and that was another whole trauma that I wasn’t prepared to deal with.” She then added, “I don’t know. It’s their problem, but, at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it’s just their problem.”

“Of course not,” he said, frowning. “Your parents, they’re the best.”

“Well, they still are,” she said. “Each in their own world at the moment.”

“Any chance of them getting back together again?”

“I would say no,” she said, “but who knows. They haven’t remarried, but I’m not sure either has dealt with the loss of Jerry, so I’m afraid they won’t move on. They can’t move on.”

“And sometimes people can’t pull together in trauma,” he said. “I had friends before my accident, but, after the accident, they disappeared. Not everybody can handle seeing or dealing with the way I am now. People don’t like to come visit me in a hospital or a VA center. Those are depressing places to be for most people. So my friends wanted to be outside, playing ball or going to a movie. They don’t want to sit and just talk to me.”

“And I can see how that would be a challenge too,” she said. “I never thought of that. Once Jerry got sick, his friends all clustered around at the beginning, but, as the months went on, he lost them all.”

“It’s an individual journey,” Nash said. “Not an easy one. But, at the end of the day, you realize that you were born into this life alone. Then, when some of these really heavy events happen, you end up depending on only yourself. I think that death will be a similar journey. I came in alone, and I’ll leave alone.”

“That sounds terrible,” she cried out. “I was with Jerry the whole time.”

A whisper of a smile crossed his face. “Good for Jerry,” he said. “I think that was probably the best gift you could have given him.”

“No,” she said, her tone turning harsh. “The best gift would have been a longer and healthier life, but I couldn’t do anything about that. None of us could.” Then she gave herself a mental shaking. “I didn’t mean to bring up all that negativity,” she said, taking a slow, deep breath. “I have to remember that what happened to Jerry won’t happen to everybody.”

“No,” he said. “It can, but that doesn’t mean that it will.”

She smiled. “Exactly, so I’m working on that whole positivity thing.”

“Good,” he said. “So am I, although it doesn’t sound like we’re doing all that great with it.”

She laughed out loud. “I don’t know. You sound much more positive than I am.”

“Nope,” he said. “I have those lovely days, where everything looks bright and sunny and where I know I can make it. Then I have those not-so-lovely days, where I know I’m useless, washed out, and will never be a contributing member of society again. You don’t plan for these life events, but you get hit sideways by them anyway.”

“Ditto,” she said, sighing. “I came in to introduce myself, to say hi, and to welcome you to Hathaway and all that good stuff,” she said with a bright smile. “I’ll come back when we figure out how your schedule will proceed. I worked here some years ago but haven’t been here recently very long myself. So I’m not familiar with everything that goes on during rehab. I came to work at Hathaway House because I needed a change of attitude, and I needed to feel like I could help somebody. So I’m really glad that you’re here. It’s good to reconnect.” She lifted her hand, gave him a small wave, and walked out.

Once Alicia was outside his room, her heart slamming against her chest, her feet slowed, as she made her way down the hallway. As much as it was nice to see him, it was also terrifying to see him like this. He was not the same vibrant man she had known; he was not the same physically fit man who could take on the world. He looked and reminded her so much of her dying brother that she wasn’t sure she could do this.

She counted slowly to five while noting her breath, then repeated that calming technique, realizing that she needed to get a grip because, if anybody saw that she was the one who was depressed, she knew she couldn’t stay here. Not only would she not help herself but she would be of no value to any of the people who needed her, and that was what she had to focus on— the patients. They needed what she had to offer, even if she couldn’t define just what that was at this moment.
Dale Mayer. Nash (Kindle Locations 191-243). Valley Publishing Ltd..

As Nash begins his journey, he finds how different the professionals here are. He also loves the animals that he sees around, some permanent residents others temporary at the vet clinic downstairs..

The addition of a miniature horse is a source of quite a few giggles from me as Dani can’t resist any more than Stan can.

Alicia has things to work through as well, it’s a suggestion from Nash that gets her started after another uncomfortable conversation with her mother.

Alicia’s parents are another thing she is trying to deal with alone and their is plenty of support at Hathaway House.

I love the way Nash and Alicia’s relationship begins anew as they begin healing journeys together and apart.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series, and if you haven’t started it yet, there are now bundles of three to help you catch up quickly.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Coming Soon!

Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.


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Tiger Throne – Sabre Woods Academy Book 2 By Laura Greenwood


Tiger Throne
Sabre Woods Academy Book 2
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Laura Greenwood

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I’m the Shifter Heir. I never thought I’d say those words, but now it’s irrefutable. I won the Shifter Trials and now my mother has to recognise me as her heir.

But things aren’t as they seem in the Shifter Court. And keeping up with my studies while trying to stay on top of my duties is harder than I thought it was going to be.

And that’s without throwing Magnus into the mix. He’s a complication I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for.
But now I know fated mates aren’t real, maybe I should give in to what he’s suggesting…

NOTE:
Tiger Throne is book two of the Sabre Woods Academy series. It is an urban fantasy academy with shifters and a slow burn m/f romance.

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Kayra is now the shifter heir, much to her mother’s dismay. As such she now has many demands being made on her with duties at Shifter Court as well as her studies. An interesting development at the beginning of this book is her mother introduces her to her ‘fated mate’ Jeremy.

Interesting because in the last book she was trying to let Magnus down easy by telling him he wasn’t her fated mate. That’s when Kayra found out that fated mates are a fairy tale only found in stories.

Her mother doesn’t approve of Magnus even though he’s from the same family as her preferred choice of heir the one that now never will be. There’s also a lot of other things going on behind the scenes. Unwittingly her mother directs her to be present at a meeting where actual decisions are made about ruling. While she’s surprised it’s comprised of only male cat shifters, she didn’t expect to be totally disregarded. When the discussion of giving the title of Marquis to Richard Forrest to possibly quell his movement to abolish the monarchy, she tries to to argue a title shouldn’t be given without property behind it. Only to be overruled and the vote taken to approve it and set the ceremony and ball in his honor for the coming weekend.

This would be Kayra’s first ball as heir and she wants Demi and Magnus there for support. What she didn’t know is that her mother has arranged for Jeremy to escort her into the ball and dance the first dance with her.

This is a favorite scene when she sees Magnus’ reaction.

The cool air of the gardens hits me as I leave the ballroom and follow him down the concrete steps towards the small lake.

“Magnus, wait, please?” I beg.

To my surprise, he stops and turns to face me. Not that it’s much comfort when he’s glaring at me like that.

I barely have a moment to register how good he looks in the smart tuxedo. It only makes me wish I was dancing with him even more, and despite the fact he’s angry with me.

“Why did you storm out?” I ask, hurt coming through my words even if I don’t intend it to.

“You know why,” he says darkly.

“No. I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be asking you about it,” I point out. I’m not sure why that’s tripping him up. It’s fairly obvious, even to me.

“You told me you didn’t want to pursue what was between us because you didn’t have the time.”

I frown, confused at what he’s getting at. “And that’s true. Have you seen this event? I’m expected to come to things like this every couple of weeks. Not to mention the meetings, ceremonies…”

“But you came here with another guy.”

My jaw drops open.

Ah.

That’s the problem.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “Jeremy isn’t my choice.”

“You didn’t even tell me about him, Kayra. I thought you were telling me everything that went on here.”

“I’m sorry,” I say quickly. “I didn’t tell you because there was nothing to tell.”

“Then why is he escorting you to a ball?” Magnus snaps.

Tears prick my eyes, but I blink them away. I’m more annoyed than anything. I understand it can’t have been nice for him to watch us dance, but I didn’t want or ask for it. It’s not my fault.

“I didn’t know he was until about a minute before we entered the ballroom. Mother sprang it on me.” I don’t bother keeping the bitterness out of my voice. He knows how I feel about all of this.

“You could have asked me to escort you.” The pain in his voice lances right through me.

“If I’d known I needed an escort, I would have,” I promise. He needs to know how I feel.

I reach out and touch the wish bracelet around my wrist. I need him to know how much I want him.

The urge to kiss him and show him how I feel rises within me, but I resist. Now isn’t the right time for that. Especially if he’s mad at me. I can’t use kisses as a way to end arguments. It isn’t fair to either of us.

“I wish you’d told me.”

“I wish I had too,” I admit. It would have made things so much easier if he’d even known about Jeremy’s existence. But I was a fool and didn’t want to make things more complicated than they had to be. Especially when I do want things to go further with him at some point. I take a deep breath. “I didn’t tell you because I was still angry about it. And a little in denial.”

Despite the seriousness of the conversation, he chuckles. “Denial sounds the most likely. Do you want to sit?” He waves to a stone bench.

I nod, glad to hear he still wants anything to do with me.

I move my skirts into the most comfortable position possible. Not that it means much. I’m not sure whether the dress is meant to be a torture device, or if it’s just badly designed, but if I have any say in it, my next formal outfit will be a lot easier to move in.

Magnus sits down beside me and sighs loudly. “So, Jeremy?”

“There’s not much to tell,” I admit. “Mother called me here to tell me he’s my suitor. I told her no. She then said your family wasn’t good enough. Which is…I have no words for that.”

“You told your mother you thought I was a potential suitor?”

My cheeks heat. Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that. But not talking about things is what got me into this situation in the first place. It’s probably better that things are out in the open.

“Yes. But that isn’t the point.” I fill him in on the rest of what’s gone on between me and Jeremy. Not that it’s much, and it certainly isn’t anything to worry about. But I get where he’s coming from and as I talk about it, I find myself wishing I’d told him in the first place.

“So, you don’t have any feelings for him?”

“Of course not. I barely know him. He seems pleasant enough, but you might be surprised to learn that’s not all I look for in someone.”

“I should hope not.”

“But I don’t think Mother is going to let this one go very easily. She’s still using the words fated mate with me.”

“Doesn’t she realise people will have told you the truth by now?” he asks.

I shrug. “Honestly, I don’t think she thinks about me all that much.”

He sighs. “I should get back to the academy,” he says.

“You’re not going to stay?” Disappoint wells up within me. I wanted to dance with him.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he responds. “I don’t want to have to watch you with Jeremy, even if I know there’s nothing between you.”

I bite my bottom lip. “Okay. But I promise I won’t let this happen again.” Partly because I don’t want to be blindsided like this again. It wasn’t nice. But Jeremy says he’ll help me as much as he can with knowing about these things. I have to hope it’ll be enough.

He nods and gets to his feet. “Enjoy the rest of the party.”

“With the best part leaving? Definitely not.”

His smile is forced, like things aren’t completely right between us yet. But that’s probably because our fight is still so fresh. It’s odd how comfortable I feel being honest with him. Or maybe it’s just right that’s the case.

I watch him go. I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I want to spend more time with him. Or better yet, enter a ball on his arm and dance like I did with Jeremy.

One day.

Hopefully soon.

But for now, I need to go back to the ball before Mother gets even angrier with me. Besides, I want to find Richard Forrest if I can. I think we’ll have some interesting things to talk about.
Greenwood, Laura. Tiger Throne (Sabre Woods Academy Book 2). Kindle Locations (585-632). Drowlgon Press. Kindle Edition.

Knowing that a title isn’t going to change Richard Forrest’s mind about the monarchy, Kayra takes it upon herself to speak with him at the ball. The meeting arranged by Demi who is friends with his daughter.

As things with Magnus take a turn toward the romantic, Jeremy becomes a surprise ally.

With plenty of twists and turns, some frustration caused by her mother and a decision that will change everything.

I can’t wait for the next book Tiger Queen, releasing August 19th

5 Contented Purrs for Laura!

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Laura is a USA Today Bestselling Author of paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary romance. When she’s not writing, she can be found drinking ridiculous amounts of tea, trying to resist French Macaroons, and watching the Pitch Perfect trilogy for the hundredth time (at least!)

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Guarding Jenna – Brotherhood Protectors World – Heroes Rising Prequel 1 By Desiree Holt


Guarding Jenna
Brotherhood Protectors World
Heroes Rising Prequel 1
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Desiree Holt

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Jenna Donovan grew up in a world of great wealth and privilege. Powerful men and women from all over the country attended the lavish parties that her stepfather hosted on their Montana ranch. But the night of one party, one of those men crept into her bedroom, blindfolded her and viciously raped her, threatening to kill her if she spoke out. Years of therapy have helped her deal with it but she still freezes at the thought of an intimate relationship. Now she’s a true crime writer specializing in unsolved rape cases, determined to find others similar to hers and track down the rapist. When she uncovers several committed over the past fifteen years, she knows she must return to Montana to find her answers.

Medically discharged after twelve years in the SEALs, Scott Nolan doesn’t know what to do with himself. There’s not much in civilian life for a former sniper. Then a friend puts him in touch with Hank Patterson who heads Brotherhood Protectors and he feels as if he’s found a home again. He’s just finished his first assignment when Hank receives a call from Grey Holden, head of The Omega Team in Tampa, who asks him to have someone keep an eye on Jenna. Good thing, too, because she’s hardly settled into her rental cabin before someone leaves a threatening note under her windshield followed up by a dead skunk on her doorstep with another note.

Good thing the cabin has two bedrooms because Hank insists Scott move in with Jenna so he can monitor her twenty-four/seven. As Jenna gets closer to finding her answers, the attempts on her life increase. But is she in more danger from the unknown person or from Scott, himself a tortured soul but who wakens feelings she is afraid to face may be the only one who can get past her emotional fear and teach her how to love?

I started this series at the end not the beginning, so I decided to go to the very beginning. This is the first of two prequels to the Heroes Rising series written by Desiree Holt in the Brotherhood Protectors World.

This book opens a whole can of worms as Jenna Donovan realizes she has to go back to Montana and flush out the evil there. The emails she received brought back memories better left buried. She couldn’t in good conscience ignore them. After a flashback to the trauma she experienced that had her fleeing when she turned eighteen discusses what she’s going to do with her friend Gray Holden. Head of the Omega Team he arranges for Brotherhood Protectors to provide a bodyguard for her, Scott Nolan will pretend to be her boyfriend. Although Jenna protests, Gray is adamant that she needs the protection as going there would probably make her a target.

The closer Jenna gets to her hometown in the Crazy Mountains of Montana the worse the flashbacks become. She manages to get the panic under control before she pulls into the area of the cabin she’s rented. There she gets the first look at Scott.

This is a favorite scene.

She was a client. His protectee. Despite the fact that other members of the agency had connected that way, it violated his own personal code of conduct.

But damn! At first contact there was something about Jenna Donovan that flipped a switch that had been in the Off position for a very long time. As he took in the nicely rounded ass, the compact body, and the determined set of her shoulders, he told himself he was just assessing her to see how fast she could move in an emergency.

Yeah. Right. Bullshit.

But he wasn’t going there. He had a job to do here, and he had to treat it just like a sniper assignment. No distractions. Use that famous personal discipline.

Uh huh.

Tell that to the sudden invisible connection that popped up. And worse, to unexpectedly swollen cock and aching balls.

Swallowing a sigh, he hefted her two pieces of luggage. “There are two setups for sleeping. A full bedroom downstairs and a loft upstairs. I’m putting your stuff upstairs. I’ll be using the bedroom downstairs.”

He waited for the argument that she wanted the downstairs bedroom. Of course.

“Wait. What?” She glared at him, hands on hips, irritation lining every inch of her body.

Yeah, there it was. And damn again. Instead of annoying him, all he could think of was how cute she looked when she was aggravated.

Of all the fucking luck. The woman he’d been waiting for walks into his life and she might as well have a big Hands Off sign plastered across her chest.

A body I don’t need to think of except as an object to be protected. Object. Protect. Right. Still getting that bodyguard thing fixed in my mind.

He just looked back at her and forced what Hank Patterson called his iron wall stare.

“I won’t be much protection if someone breaks in and they can get to you before I even get downstairs. You could be dead by the time I reach you.”

Her skin turned pale as she absorbed his words.

“You think whoever this is would do that? I haven’t even started digging into anything here yet. How would he even know?”

“I always prepare for trouble,” he told her. “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” He paused. “If it’s a problem for you to sleep up there, then go ahead and take the bedroom down here.” He waved a hand at the two leather couches facing a rock fireplace. “I’ll bunk out on one of those.”

He watched the play of emotions across her face as she struggled with her options. She glanced up the open stairway, and he knew she was bothered by the openness of the sleeping setup there. He wanted to tell her she could prance around naked and it wouldn’t bother him. He’d lost any interest in sex except with his hand ever since—

Quit thinking about it.

He waited for her to say something, but she just stood there, studying him as if he were an unwanted guest. Well, Hank did say someone else had made the arrangements for her. A boyfriend? A significant other? Great. Just fucking great.

“I’m concerned with your safety,” he pointed out.
“Just let me know what works for you.”

The sigh said it all.

“Fine. I’ll sleep in the loft.” Her mouth curved in a tiny grin. “But no peeking.”

“Trust me,” he snorted. “That’s at the bottom of my list. I’ll get your stuff upstairs. Then we need to go over your schedule and some ground rules.”

“Ground rules?”

“Yeah. There’s one of those single-serving coffee makers on the counter. Go ahead and fix yourself a cup if you want.”

“There are pods here?” Had the landlord provided them or Scot? Somehow she couldn’t see him ambling trough a minimart laying in supplies.

“Hank’s wife shopped for supplies so you wouldn’t have to worry about it. If she got anything wrong, or there’s something we don’t have that you want, I’ll be happy to take you to get it.

“Groceries?” She sounded like a parrot. His boss’s wife had grocery shopped for her?

“Yeah. She figured after the long trip you might not be in the mood. Like I said, we can always get anything that’s not here. So go ahead and get your coffee while I take care of your luggage.

He plunked her suitcases next to the bed, along with her messenger bag then took the stairway down two steps at a time. He saw that she’d taken him up on his suggestion and fixed a mug of coffee for herself. She stood by the big window looking out into the woods, sipping from the mug and staring out at the wilderness.

He was struck again by the electric energy that seemed to zing from her body.

Forget it, idiot. This is a job, not a date.

“You can stand there and look at me all day,” she said without turning around. “But I won’t change how I look. I’m still going to be a little too short, a little too chunky, and not very warm and fuzzy.”

He didn’t know whether to be shocked or just burst out laughing. There was nothing wrong with either her height or her body, but he didn’t feel comfortable telling her that.

“First of all, I wasn’t sizing you up. Second, whoever the hell told you that needs to have their eyes examined.”
Holt, Desiree; Protectors World, Brotherhood. Guarding Jenna: Brotherhood Protectors World. Kindle Locations (286-325). Twisted Page Press, LLC. Kindle Edition.

They gain attention from the start by going into town, Jenna’s recognized by a woman she believes may have written the email that got her here.From a very uncooperative sheriff, to a group of women who like her hadn’t reported the rape and threats to them years ago, the suspense ramps up quickly.

Jenna does indeed become a target, but Scott isn’t going to let anything happen to her. His attraction to her and hers to him heats up gradually but intensely.

I’m already reading the second prequel before I continue with the rest.

5 Contented Purrs for Desiree!

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Prequel 2

Desiree Holt

USA Today Bestselling and award winning author Desiree Holt writes everything from romantic suspense and paranormal to erotic, a genre in which she is the oldest living author.

She has been referred to by USA Today as the Nora Roberts of erotic romance, and is a winner of the EPIC E-Book Award, the Holt Medallion and a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice nominee.

She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The (London) Daily Mail, The New Delhi Times and numerous other national and international publications.

“Desiree Holt is the most amazing erotica author of our time and each story is more fulfilling then the last.” (Romance Junkies)


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SEAL Salvation – Brotherhood Protectors Colorado Book 1 By Elle James


SEAL Salvation
Brotherhood Protectors Colorado Book 1
By
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Elle James

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All he wants is to be left alone

Jake Cogburn lost his leg, his career, his brotherhood and his will to live when he stepped on that IED in Afghanistan. Back in his home state of Colorado, he’s determined to bury himself as deeply as he can in a bottle of Jack Daniels until the pain in his leg and his heart is so numb he can no longer feel.

No man left behind

Hank Patterson refuses to let his buddy, Jake, slowly kill himself with alcohol. Hank’s plan to expand the Brotherhood Protectors into Colorado will only work if he can hire the best men for the job. He wants Jake and sends fellow Coloradan, Kujo, to pull Jake out of an alcohol induced haze and back onto his feet to work for the team. Hank’s contact has a place they can set up operations while flying under the radar—a flailing dude ranch, run by a former Marine Gunnery sergeant and his feisty daughter.

Rucker Tate is as unconventional as the name her father gave her upon her birth. After her mother died when Rucker was only a baby, she was left in the capable hands of her taciturn Marine father to be raised tough and ready to accept any challenge. Including adopting a Military Working Dog with only three legs. Retraining the dog to live in a civilian world is practically a fulltime job. She’s up for it, until she witnesses a meeting she shouldn’t have seen and is thrown into the path of a killer who wants to wipe her memory, by erasing her from existence.

Jake’s first assignment as a Brotherhood Protector is to stick to the rebellious daughter of the owner of a dude ranch and make certain she doesn’t fall victim to the person gunning. Meanwhile, Rucker fights to keep from falling victim to the love blossoming in her heart over the young Navy SEAL who dogs her every footstep. Even her German Shepherd likes the SEAL better than Rucker. And worse…she finds herself falling for the cranky, one-legged frogman. Her challenge is to live long enough to see where these feelings take her.

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Hank Patterson knows his friend and former SEAL Jake Cogburn is going through a rough time. He’s not going to lose his friend to alcohol and he has just the plan to help him.

The Brotherhood Protectors are expanding and Hank wants one of the new offices to be in Colorado. He thinks he’s found the perfect place a Lost Valley Ranch is a struggling Dude Ranch run by former Marine Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Tate and his daughter Rucker Juliet aka RJ. He enlists Kujo who is from Colorado to entice Jake to accept the position of running the new office.

It takes just a bit of persuation to get Jake to accompany him to the ranch but Kujo managed it just fine with a mention or two of Hank.

Gunny had let his daughter know about the two men coming to possibly rent space on the ranch. She was looking forward to meeting them and understand exactly what kind of business they were looking to run from there. Unfortunately getting cleaned up from chores took longer than she anticipated and she had to work the bar.

When the waitress JoJo startles her she breaks a bottle of Tequila, this leads into my favorite scene as she cleans up.

When she started for the back rooms, Striker rose from where he’d been sleeping on a padded dog bed behind the bar. “No, Striker,” she said. “Stay.”

The Malinois whimpered.

“I’ll be right back.” She didn’t want the dog to cross over the tequila mess and broken glass. His paws could be cut in the process. “Stay,” she repeated and left him behind the bar while she headed for the back rooms.

In the supply closet, she found the broom, dustpan and mop bucket but no mop. Then she remembered she’d left it out on the back porch to dry the night before.

RJ stepped through the rear door and reached for the mop. Darkness had settled over the bar and ranch. The single yellow light glowing over the back porch lit her way. A sound startled her and made her turn toward the large trash container.

A shadowy form shifted back and forth in the darkness. After a second, RJ recognized it as two men in a scuffle. Nothing unusual for a Saturday night in the mountains. But she didn’t want it to reflect badly on the Watering Hole or the Lost Valley Ranch when Gunny was attempting to sell the new guys on renting a quiet place in the country.

Punches flew between them, one guy staggering backward to hit the steel corner of the trash bin with a resounding thud. Then he slid to the ground. The other guy approached him with his arm cocked, his hand balled into a fist. He was going to hit the man while he was obviously down.

“Hey!” RJ called out as she flew off the porch and raced toward the last man standing. “Leave him alone!”

The guy spun and faced her, a ski mask covering his face.

The cold hand of dread clenched around RJ’s chest. This wasn’t a typical barfight. A guy wearing a ski mask had something to hide.

Anger surged through RJ, and she lost her grip on caution. Charging forward, she reached for the man’s ski mask.

Before he could knock her hand away, she sank her fingers into the black knit threads and tugged it free of his head.

At the same time, a fist came out and crashed into her temple, knocking her backward.

RJ lost her balance and fell flat on her back, her hard landing knocking the wind from her lungs.

Shocked by the fall, she couldn’t move for several seconds and could only see the stars swirling around her head.

A dark shadow fell over her, and her attacker reached down, grabbed the ski mask from her hands and slipped it over his head and face. Then he smashed his palm over RJ’s mouth and nose, leaned his body over hers and trapped her arms and legs with his weight.

RJ, already breathless from her fall, couldn’t draw in air. She fought with all her might, but the man was heavier and had the advantage.

Her vision, already compromised by her fall, blurred further, the gray turning to black around the edges until her strength waned and fight seeped out of her limbs. With no air to recharge her brain and muscles, she went limp, fading into a black abyss.

Suddenly, the weight jerked off her.

In the darkness, as if from far away, she heard scuffling and several thumping sounds and grunts.

RJ could do nothing. Her hearing seemed to return, but she wasn’t really there. It was as if she’d left her body and hovered over the scene in a haze of gloom.

Footsteps crunched in the gravel, and someone was speaking.

“Hey, lady,” a deep resonant voice called out as if at the end of a long tunnel.

RJ couldn’t answer, couldn’t move, couldn’t open her eyes.

Then something soft and warm covered her lips. Fuzz tickled the skin on her cheek. If she could feel that, she wasn’t dead, was she?

Air filled her mouth and pushed down her throat into her lungs. It left as quickly as it came but more followed. Two, three, four times, air pushed into her.

The haze of darkness drifted away. Soft, yellow light peeked between her eyelids.

People were talking. A little closer this time.

“What the hell?” a man’s familiar voice sounded near her. “RJ? RJ, baby?”

Gunny. She thought she spoke it, but no sound came from her mouth. Her lips were still covered, and air was being forced into her lungs.

As the fog cleared in her mind, her body took over. Tingling began in her fingers and toes and spread up her arms and legs. Then her lungs engaged, and she gasped.

“There you are,” that deep resonant voice sounded, warm breath feathering across her cheek.

RJ’s eyes fluttered open, and she stared up at the dark silhouette of a man with a heavy beard and dark eyes.

“RJ? Oh, baby, are you okay?” her father called out.

“I…think…so,” she said, suddenly aware of hands on her arms. Warm, large hands.

When she tried to sit up, those hands held her back. “Lie still. We don’t know if you have other injuries we can’t see.”

“Injuries?” RJ said, her mind returning function but not with memories intact. “Why….what…?” She stared at the man holding her arms. “Who are you?”

“Jake,” he said. “And you are?”

“Rucker Juliet Tate,” she whispered automatically. “You can call me RJ.”

He gave her a hint of a smile. “RJ. Nice to meet you.” Then he turned to address someone nearby. “Kujo, did you check the other guy?”

Another unfamiliar voice answered. “Too late for him. He’s dead.”

Gunny’s face appeared beside Jake’s. “Thank goodness you were here, or my baby girl would be the same.” His hand touched Jake’s shoulder as he stared into RJ’s eyes. “What happened?”

RJ lay on the hard ground, gravel digging into her back, and shook her head. “I’m not sure.”

“I just put in a call to 911,” the other man said. “An ambulance is on its way.”

RJ moved her arms and legs, one by one, checking for any abnormalities. When she found none, she tried again to sit up.

Jake’s hands held her down. “You could have a spinal injury. Moving could make it worse.”

She frowned. “Let me up. I’m okay. I don’t need an ambulance.” She reached up and shoved his hands aside.

Jake pushed to his feet, favoring one leg. He swayed a bit before he straightened and held out a hand to her. “If you’re sure…”

She didn’t want to accept his help, but still didn’t feel completely in control of her own body. Laying her hand in his, she let him help her to her feet.

Jake pulled with enough force, she came off the ground and pitched forward into his chest.

His arms rose around her, his hands finding her hips, steadying her against him.

He took an awkward step backward, again, favoring his left leg.

RJ stood with her hands pressed to his chest, feeling the hard muscles beneath her fingertips, glad for his strength when she felt like a bowl of limp noodles.

Since he and his friend were with Gunny, they had to be the men who’d come to check out Lost Valley Ranch as a potential business location.

And she’d just made a great first impression by failing to keep a customer alive and getting knocked out herself.

Not that he was a stellar representative of a businessman. He wore a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, and his hair needed to be cut and his beard trimmed.

All that didn’t matter. The man had saved her life. Her lips tingled from where his had been, forcing air into her lungs.

She looked past the thick beard, the unkempt hair and the rocker T-shirt, up into Jake’s dark eyes. They held shadows of their own. Shadows that made RJ wonder at their cause.

She shook herself, bringing her mind back to what really mattered. She owed this man her life. “Thank you for saving me.”
James, Elle. SEAL SALVATION (Brotherhood Protectors Colorado Book 1). Kindle Locations (420-483). Twisted Page Inc. Kindle Edition.

With RJ attacked the possibility she could be a target comes to the fore. Of course she wants no part of a bodyguard but both Jake and her father insist on it.

I also love her retired MWD a three-legged Belgian Malinois named Striker, so protective and loving. He also finds a kinship with Jake which I thought was cute.

There’s plenty of suspense as Kujo and Jake try to figure out why the real estate agent was murdered especially since it occurred where the new office of the Brotherhood Protectors would be.

Jake finds himself in this book as he protects RJ, of course he didn’t expect to fall for RJ in the process.

With suspense, action, and a simmer to sizzle relationship, I couldn’t put this book down.

I really need to catch up on this series now.

5 Contented Purrs for Elle!

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Coming Soon!

Elle James

Award-winning author Elle James grew up as an air force military brat. She received her work ethic from her rock-solid father, her creative streak from her artistic mother and inspiration from her writing partner and sister, Delilah Devlin.

As a former member of the army reserves and a current member of the air force reserves, she’s traveled across the United States and to Germany, managed a full-time job, and raised three wonderful children. She and her husband have even tried their hands at ranching exotic birds (ostriches, emus and rheas) in the Texas hill country. Ask her, and she’ll tell you what it’s like to go toe-to-toe with an angry three-hundred-and-fifty-pound bird and live to tell about it!

Her adventures in the army and air force reserves, and the wild antics of her life on a small ranch in Texas give her fodder for mystery, suspense and humor in her writing. Elle writes gothic, paranormal mystery for the Harlequin Intrigue line and paranormal romantic comedy for Dorchester Publishing. A former manager of computer programming and project management professionals, Elle is happy she now has the opportunity to pursue her writing full time.

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Just One Scandal – Kingston Family Book 2 by Carly Phillips


Just One Scandal
Kingston Family Book 2
By
NY Times Bestselling Author
Carly Phillips

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A jilted bride. Her brother’s ex-buddy. An affair would be crazy…right?

Chloe Kingston’s life is exactly how she needs it: safe and stable. Right up until her reliable, low-risk fiancé jilts her on their fairy-tale wedding day. As she works her way through the reception champagne—and wonders where she’s going to live—she stumbles into her brother Linc’s ex-best friend.

If only Beckett Daniels were hideous. But he’s not. He’s everything her erstwhile groom was not. Hot. Sexy. Dangerous. And she’s just buzzed enough to want all that Greek-god gorgeousness to show her the kind of fun she’s been missing.

Beck thrives on calculated risks, but taking advantage of Linc’s little sister isn’t one of them. What he can do is haul her tipsy, tulle-clad, tempting little butt to the bridal suite to sleep it off. Then move her into his spare room—which has the satisfying side effect of driving her brother crazy.

They can’t remain platonic roommates for long. Not when the sexual attraction sizzles out of control. But when tragedy threatens Beck, pain from his past reminds them both that life doesn’t come without risks…and this time, they’re gambling with their hearts.

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Chloe Kingston was left at the alter, her family of course is supporting her, but she kicks them all out. She proceeded to enjoy the reception with her close friends and gets just a bit tipsy. In the lobby asking people to come and dance she encounters Beckett Daniels and his brothers. She thinks he looks familiar but can’t quite place him.

Beckett knows exactly who she is. When he realizes none of her family is around and she’s not married and more than a little tipsy, well he can’t very well leave her defenseless wandering the hotel. He gets her safely to her suite but instead of leaving stays the night to be sure she doesn’t get sick.

Of course the first person to bang on the door in the morning is her brother Linc. Once upon a time he and Beckett were best friends, now they’re business rivals and not friendly ones.

This is a favorite scene.

He closed his eyes and listened to the rhythmic breathing Chloe had fallen into and drifted off to sleep. Beck wasn’t sure how much time had passed when loud knocking sounded, waking him from a not-so-great sleep.

He glanced around the room, taking in his surroundings and remembering where he was and who was in bed beside him. Thanks to his remaining above the comforter, they hadn’t rolled against each other during the night, but she had moved closer and he inhaled her fragrant scent.

The knock that must have woken him sounded again.

Chloe groaned and shifted to her side. No doubt she would be hurting this morning.

The pounding continued and Beck slid out of bed, heading for the door to ask housekeeping to come back later. Who else could be there at this hour? He wasn’t about to open the door, either. Neither he nor Chloe was dressed.

“Chloe? Open up!” a familiar male voice called out as Beck touched the doorknob.

Linc. Well, this was about to get interesting. Not caring what Linc thought, Beck drew a deep breath and opened the door for his former friend.

Linc took one look at Beck and his mouth opened in shock. “What the fuck are you doing here?” Before Beck could answer, Linc brushed past him and walked into the outer room of the suite. “I swear to God if you took advantage of my sister, I’ll kill you.”

Beck let the door shut behind them before turning to Linc with a scowl.

Meanwhile, Linc’s hands curled into fists at his sides, reminding Beck of how he’d taken a swing at Linc after finding him in bed with Jenna. “Taking advantage of women is more your style than mine.”

Linc jerked at the insult. “This isn’t about what happened back then. I left Chloe here against my better judgment, and it turns out I was right.” Linc’s gaze raked over Beck’s lack of clothing. “Where’s my sister?”

“In bed.” Beck couldn’t help tossing out the words that would rile Linc up more. But before he could react, Beck continued. “You’re just damned lucky I was there to make sure she got up here safely.”

Linc’s jaw locked in place, and he visibly drew a calming breath. “She’s not safe if she’s with you.”

Beck laughed but it was harsh. “It’s not like you were there to look out for her.”

Linc stepped forward, clearly planning to swing, and Beck was ready.

“Linc, stop!” Chloe’s voice had both men turning toward her.

She’d obviously found the hotel robe before coming out here, because she was tying the belt around her waist as she stood there, facing them. Her hair was a wild tangle around her face, and despite the crying jags last night, he’d obviously managed to clean her up fairly well. There were black circles under her eyes, but her cheeks weren’t smudged with makeup. Just flushed with embarrassment but still just as attractive, if not more so now that he saw her softer, real side.

“Are you okay?” Linc stepped toward her but she held him off with her hand in the air.

She nodded. “I’m fine. What are you doing here?”

He narrowed his gaze. “I think the better question is what are you doing with him?”

“If you must know, I drank too much and he … umm … helped me up here.” Her cheeks burned brighter and she couldn’t meet Beck’s gaze.

“That better be all he did,” Linc muttered. “Come on, Chloe. Let’s go.”

“What?” She straightened her shoulders.

“You can come stay with me and Jordan until you get yourself sorted out.”

She shook her head the way she had last night when Beck had suggested nearly the same thing. “No. You two have a baby on the way. You’re new as a couple. You need your time together. I won’t be a third wheel. And before you say Mom’s, I won’t go there, either. Or Xander’s or Dash’s place. Just no.” She wrapped her arms around herself, looking lost.

Most likely because, as she’d told Beck, she’d given up her apartment and really did have nowhere to go.

“You can stay with me.” The words were out before he could stop them or even think them through.

But he had to admit Linc’s horror-filled expression made the offer worth it. “I have plenty of room at my place and you won’t be in the way. You can stay until you make a plan of your own.”

Chloe shot him a look filled with surprise and some gratitude. “I–”

“No. He’s just using you to get back at me,” Linc said. “I won’t have it.”

Chloe drew herself up tall, and Beck knew immediately Linc had made his final mistake.

You won’t have it? Well, it’s not your decision to make.” She strode up to her brother and got in his personal space. “I don’t know what went on between you and Beck and I don’t care. What I do know is that he was there for me last night, and since he’s still willing to help, I’m going to take him up on his offer. Now it’s time for you to go.” She turned away from Linc, strode to the door, and held it open.

Linc briefly closed his eyes, then opened them again. “I’m sorry. I know it’s your choice, but please let your family be the ones to help.”

She shook her head. “I need time to sort out my life without anyone else telling me what they think is best.”

“I understand that but with him? Not to mention, I came to tell you that the society pages of the papers and social media sites picked up the story.” His tone gentled as he broke the news.

“Great.” She pressed her hands to cheeks that had flushed in embarrassment. “So now I’m a public laughingstock.”

Linc shook his head. “I’m sorry. Since Dad died and some asshole named you the Kingston heiress, people have kept an eye on your engagement.”

Beck felt sorry for her, being in a spotlight she hadn’t asked for, but it came along with her family’s wealth.

“Well, I’m taking my honeymoon time off from work, so that should help me stay out of sight and make people forget about me. Now, go home to Jordan. Please.” She swept her arm toward the hallway.

Linc shot Beck a warning glare before walking toward the door. He braced a hand on the frame and turned. “Chloe, I love you and just want what’s best for you.” And Beck isn’t it resounded without him saying the actual words.

“Then let me make those decisions for myself,” Chloe said, and Linc finally listened to her and walked out the door.
Carly Phillips. Just One Scandal (Kindle Locations 327-379). CP Publishing.

Chole moves in with Beck and even though she asks he refuses to tell her what happened between Linc and him.

Chloe also tells him about her discontent with her job, wanting to do more than the conservative décor required by Kingston properties. She’s designing a room for a prestigious contest. If she wins her career will go in a whole new and exciting direction.

Then of course we have the attraction that is so very apparent right from the beginning. They both do they’re best to deny it, but eventually they have to give in or go insane.

Plenty of laughter, tears and sizzle in this page turning read.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

5 Contented Purrs for Carly!

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Carly Phillips

Carly Phillips is the N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels featuring hot men, strong women and the emotionally compelling stories her readers have come to expect and love.

Carly’s career spans over a decade and a half with various New York publishing houses, and she is now an Indie author who runs her own business and loves every exciting minute of her publishing journey. Carly is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs (two wheaten terriers and one mutant Havanese) who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.


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Scales – Broken But Mending Book 3 by Dale Mayer


Scales
Broken But Mending Book 3
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer

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It’s a question of justice.
A debate between right and wrong.
But what happens when the lines blur, can justice prevail?

Paris believes she’s in the clear–thwarted justice. Weaver is powerless, waiting for justice.

Paris escaped a situation that some would consider a crime. She worries constantly that the day of reckoning is around every corner. Weaver seeks justice like hunter seeking prey. His biggest fear is that the day of reckoning he deserves will never come.

Forced to deal with very deep and personal problems, Paris and Weaver, complete strangers, agree to a therapy assignment that seems radical and frightening.

As they navigate the boundaries between right and wrong, against shattered hearts, can Paris and Weaver balance the scales of justice to find what they’re looking for?

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In the previous book ‘Scars’ we met Sean, Paris’ brother. Paris wasn’t accepted to that session, because Dr. Jenna Komak said she wasn’t ready yet. Now it’s her turn, she’s eager, a bit anxious and is trying not to attract attention.

Weaver doesn’t think he needs the seminar, so Jenna’s challenged him. Since he thinks he’s immune she wants him to write a paper on it and if at the end he still feels immune she’ll help him get it published. It’s one of the things on his bucket list, a challenge he’s determined to meet.

The addition of a question to their ‘homework’ brings back all of Paris’ fears as she wrote her answer. Realizing what she wrote and unable to share that she tears it off and rolls it up. When she drops it Weaver is about to pick it up when she grabs it and swallows it. An unusual response that perks his curiousity.

There assignment from Jenna is to center on their differing perspective of justice. Paris is skeptical and is ready to bolt after she finds he is writing a report to hopefully be published. She seeks out Jenna and after their talk she decides Weaver needs the help as much as she does.

The two of them have different issues as has been the case in the previous books as well. They begin getting to know each other, walking in the cool fall air to the ocean.

This is a favorite scene.

It was the last thing she wanted to do, but her feet had a mind of their own and fell into step beside him. The air was cool for a September day. The moist, slightly salty air revitalized her spirits. Normally the spring and fall here were warm and stunningly beautiful with bright blue skies. Today offered the beautiful part, but it wasn’t warm or blue. She stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets and let the world stroll by as she walked.

“We’ll head towards the ocean.”

“Wherever.” She shrugged.

“Are you cold?” he asked in concern. “The breeze has a bite to it.”

“I’m fine,” she murmured. “It’s cool but refreshing.”

They walked in silence until the first glimpses of the sailboats popped into view. She broke into laughter. “They always look so bright and cheerful out there buffeted by the wind and waves.”

“I don’t know how cheerful they are today considering the beating they are taking.”

The breeze that brushed by them was a strong wind out in the bay, but the people in the sailboats looked to be having the time of their lives. Then she caught sight of the kite surfers. “What a sport,” she exclaimed.

“Looks like fun, but so not for me.”

“Not into dangerous sports?” she asked, feeling shivers sliding over her skin. “I’m not either, but men generally like that sort of thing.” Of course her brother didn’t, but in their house, growing up had been a dangerous sport. She smiled, loving the reminder of her brother, and the shivers stopped.

“Not my style.” He gave a harsh laugh and said, “I survived childhood. That was hard enough.”

Shocked, she stopped all of a sudden, then turned to look at him. “I was just thinking the same thing.”

With an understanding look, he moved closer to her. “Our daily life isn’t like these people.” He pointed out a particularly high-flying kite boarder. “He’s happy to chase after excitement and danger. For most of us who grew up in a violent household, we are looking for the opposite. We want peace and safety now.”

She couldn’t have said it better. The insight into his life, his childhood, made her realize he really had been through the wringer – like the rest of them at the seminar. Holding her breath, she stayed silent, hoping he’d share more. One foot rested on the cement barricade between them and the water, the look on his face distant but calm. As if he’d come to terms with something behind him.

She wished.

There was a world of difference between his childhood and hers, she knew, but for the first time she realized there was also a lot in common.

“Maybe some of those people have been hurt so much they no longer care what happens to them?”

“That’s the other side of the coin, isn’t it?” He glanced at her. “Survival means different things to different people. Some say they survived, but inside they are dead and can’t stand living. Some people do crazy stunts in the hope to kill themselves off because they aren’t strong enough to do it themselves. Sounds horrible, but I’ve seen it.”

“And in some cases, they are so angry inside they turn around and inflict the same abuse on others,” Paris whispered, looking at the black mark his shoe scuffed into the cement barricade. Briefly letting her gaze follow the line of his foot up his leg, remembering how it felt when he had held her.

She didn’t see the same rage in his demeanor or actions she’d seen in other men. He’d never hit anyone for fun. Was she right to trust that assumption? She didn’t really know him. But she wanted to.

“Often those people feel that they have to get their own back. Or feel like if it happened to them, why should you be safe? I knew one male who figured it was his job to go around and attack women because then they wouldn’t be so trusting. They’d take more precautions because now they understood life could be dangerous.”

“Really? That’s a little twisted, isn’t it?” Startled, his words shook her out of her daze. She’d read about a lot of people and their odd reactions to stress and pain, but that was a new one on her.

“There are some very sad cases out there.”

“And here,” she muttered.

“As long as we do what we can.”

“Everyone is doing what they can,” she said quietly. “Even those still locked in that same horrible place they went to during the abuse. And they can’t move out of there because it’s either too painful or fear won’t let them move. Either way, it’s all they can do, too.” Quiet, Paris wondered at what she’d started. What she’d inadvertently shared.

“You’ve been there?” Weaver questioned.

“All my childhood and teen years. I should have run away. Should have gotten help. I couldn’t.” Hands jammed in her pockets, she tried to still the shakes rattling her calm.

“It’s easy to look back. Not so easy to avoid judging.”

“Sometimes I think looking back is all about judging. What we could have done differently. What we should have done differently.”

“Except…” Glancing down at her, their eyes met, “we have to make allowances for the age we were back then. The conditioning we were put through.”

“And when we were older and still allowed the status quo to remain? Then what?” The bitterness in her voice was audible. She bit her lip “I stopped it – finally. I should have done it earlier.”

“And how old were you when you stopped it?”

It took a long time for her to answer, and then with a sigh, she said, “Fifteen.”

His shocked gasp made her look at him sharply, searching for the judgment she expected to see. And there was none. Still she felt she had to explain more, to justify herself. Her actions. “No, I wasn’t very old, but I was old enough. And if I’d done something about it earlier, then someone else wouldn’t have gotten so very badly hurt.”

“You were a child. Before and during. The conditioning you were put through didn’t give you the tools to handle resistance, to defend yourself or to stand up for someone else. We’re usually so broken by the time we get there it takes a major turning point in our lives to make us change. In your case, maybe for this other person.”

She gave him a hooded look. “More book learning?”

“No, life learning.” And this time, it was him that turned away.

Something to think about. She sagged onto the railing and studied his averted face. “Life’s a bitch, isn’t it?”

That surprised a laugh out of him. “Isn’t it though? Or maybe I should say, life used to be a bitch. Now it’s much better.”
Dale Mayer. Broken but& Mending: Books 1-3 (Kindle Locations 5229-5282). Valley Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Their conversation is just the tip of the iceberg Paris has to overcome. Her major fear is one connected to what she reveals to Weaver but doesn’t come to the fore until later.

I love the journey as painful as it is for both Paris and Weaver. Their connection develops slow and steady and I loved getting a glimpse of Sean and Robin.

These books were powerful, different and enlightening to struggles many people have.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Books 1-3

Individually!

Dale Mayer

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.

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Shadow Assassin – Shadow SEALs Book 2 by Elle James



Shadow Assassin
Shadow SEALs Book 2
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Elle James

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After completing a difficult and secret task to eliminate the leader of a Russian terrorist organization, former Navy SEAL and expert sniper, Dane “Striker” Ryan, is booted from his SEAL team, destroying his reputation as a trusted servant to his country. Burned, angry and out of work, he agrees to take an assignment from a shadowy organization recruiting this Navy SEAL for a special project. For a sizable sum of money, he is to eliminate a dangerous assassin by any means necessary. Unemployed, and with no means to make his next rent payment, he accepts the lucrative work.

Alex Sokolov, self-trained assassin, is on a mission of revenge for her parents’ deaths, a mission that has spanned a decade. As she nears her ultimate target, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Tasked to kill each other, Striker and Alex join forces in this international intrigue to discover the kingpin orchestrating the murders of secret agents, including Alex’s own parents.

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Dane ‘Striker’ Ryan was made the scapegoat for a mission that got more notice than it should have. With no job and no way to pay his rent he gets a call from Charley a mysterious woman who offers him a lot of money and resources to do a covert mission. He accepts and finds himself with a fake name posing as an escort at a high profile energy summit in France. He would be escorting one of the translators, Natalya Zotin to the reception and his mission is to prevent an assassination.

It’s when Anatoly Petrov heads to the gardens with a young woman who had caught Dane’s eye earlier that things start heating up.

Natalya notices not only Petrov leaving but also Sergei Baranovsky so she decides to call it a night, freeing up Dane to investigate the gardens.

This is a favorite scene.

On Striker’s initial inspection of the reception hall, he had followed different hallways and corridors to determine where they led. The one the woman in silver was headed down led out to a tropical garden. The beautiful woman could be going with Petrov for a private assignation surrounded by lush, flowering bushes and palm trees. Or she could be carrying a knife beneath her dress with the intention of assassinating the Russian in the darkness.

“If you’ll excuse me, ma’am,” Striker said. “I need to visit the water closet.”

“By all means,” Natalya said. “I need to powder my nose, as well.”

He indicated the direction in which the ladies’ room was located.

Fortunately, the men’s room was on the opposite side of the hall, conveniently positioned along the same corridor that led to the hotel garden.

“One moment, please.” Natalya tipped her head toward the taller of the two Russians. “It appears Sergei might be leaving the reception hall and Anatoly already has.”

All the more reason for Daniel to hurry and catch up with Petrov and the woman in the silver dress. However, he stood steady and gave Natalya his attention.

“Since they’re leaving the reception, there is no need for me to stay to translate. I find myself fatigued. I too shall retire.” She patted his cheek with the palm of her hand. “Your services are no longer required.”

He captured her hand in his and touched the backs of her knuckles with his lips. “The evening has been my pleasure.”

“Mine, too,” she said with a smile. “And you’re quite good at the waltz. The escort service did well in sending you.”

“You’ll have to look into country western dancing to learn the two-step for next time.” He smiled and waited for her to turn away. Once she did, he headed out across the floor toward the corridor leading into the garden. With no other doorways leading off the corridor, he didn’t wait or check to see if they’d stopped along the way.

When he stepped out into the hotel garden, he waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. His ears perked as he listened for sounds at the other end of the dimly lit area.

Once his night vision adjusted, he eased away from the chateau and followed a pathway, walking as lightly as he could in his patent leather shoes. He followed the sound of voices.

Before he’d gone more than twenty yards, he saw the two silhouetted against the stone wall at the rear of the garden.

Striker stopped within twenty feet of them. He could reach them quickly, if needed. Instead of rushing the couple, he paused and watched. For all he knew, it could be a lovers’ assignation. A tryst in the garden, away from prying eyes.

Petrov turned and gripped the woman’s arms.

She reached up in an attempt to pry his hands loose from her arms. Her voice turned from a conversational tone to a higher pitched, strained nature.

Nyet,” she said and rattled off something in Russian. She tried to break free of the man’s grip on her arms.

When Petrov still hadn’t released her, her tone dropped low, the intensity increasing. A flash of movement brought her hands up through the middle of his arms, breaking free of his grasp. She grabbed his head, turned her back and flipped him over.

Petrov landed flat on his back.

In the next second, the woman had a knife pulled, the blade glinting in the moonlight.

Striker raced forward.

The silver-clad woman said something fast and furious in Russian as she held the knife over the man lying splayed out on his back.

Striker reached the woman before she could plunge the knife into the Russian’s neck. He grabbed her wrist and yanked it up behind her back.

“Damn it, let go of me,” she muttered.

Striker put his lips near her ear. “Ah, my dear, I found you finally. I believe they’re playing our song. Shouldn’t we be dancing?” He pretended to just take notice of the man on the ground. “What’s this?” He frowned down at the Russian. “Sir, have you fallen?”

The Russian grunted and struggled to get to his feet.

With his free hand, Striker reached down and gave the man a hand up.

The woman he held with the arm up behind her back stood straight, unmoving, her chin tipped upward in defiance.

As the Russian stood, he brushed leaves from his suit and glared at the woman in silver.

“Are you okay?” Striker asked. “Do I need to call for medical assistance?”

The Russian shook his head. “Nyet, I am quite fine,” he said in his stilted English. “Is this your woman?” He jerked his hand toward the woman in silver.

“Why, yes,” Striker said. “I came to get her because I’m ready to leave. Are you ready to depart, my dear?”

She gave him a narrow-eyed glance out of the corner of her eye.

Using her body as a visual barrier, Striker removed the knife from her hand, folded the blade and slid it into his pocket. He lowered lowered her arm to her side and slipped a hand around her waist, his grip firm. “Please, sir, allow us to see you back to the reception hall.”

The Russian adjusted his suit. “I do not need assistance to find my way back.” He turned and walked back toward the building.

Striker guided the woman in silver behind the Russian, giving him several yards of distance between them. Once the Russian reached the reception hall, Striker came to a halt, stopping just short of the building. He turned the woman around and lightly gripped her arms. He stared down into eyes as black as the night, the only light in their dark depths that of moonlight reflected off their liquid surface. “Who are you and why were you trying to kill the Russian?”

She spoke in Russian.

He shook his head. “English.”

Again, she spoke in Russian.

“I heard you curse in English. Talk, before I turn you over to the security guards.”

She stared up at him through narrowed eyes. “He attacked me. I was only defending myself.”

“Sure, and you always carry a knife to diplomatic receptions?

How did you get that past the security guards and metal detectors?”

She lifted a narrow shoulder. “A woman has to defend herself.”

Her English held no trace of an English accent; it was American.

“You speak American English. Are you American?”

The woman crossed her arms over her chest, tipped back her head and stared down her nose at the man. “What’s it to you?”

“Let’s just say that I like to know my enemies.”

“Am I one of your enemies?” She arched a black wing of a brow.

“I don’t know. Are you?”

Her eyebrows dipped. “Only if you’ve done something to hurt me or my family.”

“And is that what Petrov has done to you?”

Her mouth firmed into a thin line. “Perhaps.”

“Do you make it a habit of trying to kill those who hurt you or your family?”

“No, but if he hurts me again, I will defend myself.”

“In this case I will give you the benefit of doubt. In what capacity are you here?”

“I could ask the same of you.”

“I’m here as a paid escort. And you?” He waited for her response.

“Translation services.”

“Your name?”

She lifted a narrow shoulder and let it fall. “Alexa Sokoloff.”

The name didn’t ring a bell. None of the people who were attending the reception that were in the news had gone by that name. He’d have to put Charley to work discovering all there was to know about the raven-haired beauty. In the meantime, he’d do well to watch his back lest she plunge a knife in it.
James, Elle ; Sisters, Shadow. Shadow Assassin: Shadow SEALs. Kindle Locations (210-277). Twisted Page Inc. Kindle Edition.

Now preventing any problems with Petrov and the young lady only opens another can of worms. As they are reentering the reception room, Petrov is stabbed. Now with Alexa’s knife in his pocket he has to pass it off to some unsuspecting soul or they’d never get out of there.

Between that incident, a break-in of Alexa’s room, and rumors of the Russians skimming off the existing gas line things heat up really fast. Alexa has loads of secrets and Dane is determined to figure them out.

Of course having her stay with him for protection has his thoughts wandering in other directions as well.

Lots of suspense, intrigue, and action with a simmer to sizzle romance.

5 Contented Purrs for Elle!

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Elle James

Award-winning author Elle James grew up as an air force military brat. She received her work ethic from her rock-solid father, her creative streak from her artistic mother and inspiration from her writing partner and sister, Delilah Devlin.

As a former member of the army reserves and a current member of the air force reserves, she’s traveled across the United States and to Germany, managed a full-time job, and raised three wonderful children. She and her husband have even tried their hands at ranching exotic birds (ostriches, emus and rheas) in the Texas hill country. Ask her, and she’ll tell you what it’s like to go toe-to-toe with an angry three-hundred-and-fifty-pound bird and live to tell about it!

Her adventures in the army and air force reserves, and the wild antics of her life on a small ranch in Texas give her fodder for mystery, suspense and humor in her writing. Elle writes gothic, paranormal mystery for the Harlequin Intrigue line and paranormal romantic comedy for Dorchester Publishing. A former manager of computer programming and project management professionals, Elle is happy she now has the opportunity to pursue her writing full time.

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