Cloak and Mirrors
by P.M. Terrell
CIA operatives Vicki Boyd and Dylan Maguire are back in the 6th book of the award-winning Black Swamp Mysteries Series. Vicki and Dylan journey to Ireland for their honeymoon and while they are there, they agree to pick up a package from a Russian spy containing plans for Russia’s latest stealth technology. But when the Russian decides to defect, they find themselves trying to get him safely out of the country. They also discover the Kremlin has uncovered their identities and now Vicki and Dylan flee across the island. With breathtaking descriptions of Ireland’s rugged coast and the Northern Lights, romance and suspense come together again.
The winds whistled and swirled in the frosty night like a chorus of apparitions dancing and bobbing, leaving soft whispers against Dylan’s ear, enticing, cajoling, flirtatious and deadly. Ah, but they could drive a man insane on a night like this, he thought, pulling his collar tighter about his ears. He wore an Irish tweed cap and still the winds licked at his hair like fingers running through it, soothing, insistent and treacherous.
The horse’s mane was grasped as well by the same invisible force, the long strands stretched as though they were being combed by an otherworldly creature that would not let go. They were nervous tonight and he imagined given their heads, they would turn about and leave the eerie foothills of the Blue Stack Mountains. He kept a firm hold on Dougal’s reigns as the horse snorted, the sound unnaturally shrill.
He could read a horse like he could read a man’s face, and tonight it didn’t bode well. Dougal’s ears were stiff and pitched forward, a sign of unease for sure, and every now and again they twitched and trembled as his haunches dipped low. Dylan peered through the shadows at the other horses, both as spirited as his; and yet their tails were clamped low, their voices constant.
In contrast, the men were hushed as they had been since leaving the manor house, the silence broken only intermittently as Jack announced a change in direction or a distant landmark for which he was aiming. Even then, his statements were terse as if he was reluctant to speak in the eerie terrain.
The ground beneath the horses’ hooves was uneven and unpredictable. As the night sky began to brighten with the first vestiges of the aurora borealis, he began to see why their progress had slowed since entering the mountain range; the horses had to pick their way around craggy rocks, the tall grasses obscuring whether the land was firm or soft until their hooves either landed on solid ground or they felt the disconcerting descent into boggy earth.
He inched the horse forward until it was nearly even with Jack. He rode a silver mare with a jet black mane and tail, a beautiful animal to be sure and under the stars her coat was mesmerizing as if it was aglow.
“Are you certain this is the way to Innisbarracar?” Dylan asked.
Jack glanced in Alexei’s direction before shifting his attention to Dylan. “You said you needed weapons, did you not?”
“Then we’d be taking a bit of a diversion.” He pointed at the mountain’s highest peak.
“Innisbarracar would be on the other side through the pass. We’ll be headin’ in that direction—” he pointed slightly to the left of the mountain “—where we’ll be arming ourselves first.”
They rode for a few minutes in silence before Dylan asked, “And what type of weapons would you be havin’ there?”
Jack looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “Whatever kind you’d be needin’.”
P.M. TERRELL: BOOKS THAT INSPIRED MY WRITING
The types of books that I write today are directly related to books that have made a lifelong impression on me. The first of these was Deborah and the Many Faces of Love by Collette Davenat. I always disliked the title because it didn’t convey the feeling of mounting suspense. It takes place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I as Mary Queen of Scots was fighting for the crown and Deborah finds herself moving between the two as a spy for both women. This book was the first to get me interested in historical fiction and weaving romance with suspense, politics and intrigue.
I read What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson straight through in one sitting and was so intrigued by it that when I reached the final page, I turned back to the first and reread it, analyzing a style of writing that kept me turning the pages. Because of this book, I learned how to write suspense so that the reader has difficulty putting the book down. It begins with an accident in which a man’s life is cut short. Deeply in love with his wife, he is unable to completely let go of their life together even as he is pulled into the afterlife.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote cemented my love for suspense. It was said at the time this book was released that he had created an entirely new genre of telling a nonfiction story as though it was fictional suspense. It was the true story of the Clutter family whose bodies were found on their rural farm near Holcomb, Kansas and the unraveling of the two men who savagely murdered them.
The common thread with each of these books is the impression that something big is going to happen on the very next page. I hope through the pages of my books that I accomplish the same thing.
Which books were you unable to put down?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
p.m.terrell is the pen name for Patricia McClelland Terrell, the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 20 books in several genres, including suspense, historical and non-fiction. Prior to becoming a writer, she owned two computer companies in the Washington, DC with a specialty in combatting computer crime. Her clients included the CIA, Secret Service and Department of Defense. Technology is often woven through her suspense thrillers. Terrell is of Irish descent, and Ireland often figures prominently in her books as well. She has been a full-time author since 2002 and currently travels between her home in North Carolina and Northern Ireland, the home of her ancestors. She is also the founder of Book ‘Em North Carolina’s Writers Conference and Book Fair (http://bookemnc.org) and The Novel Business (http://thenovelbusiness.com).
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
P.M. Terrell will be awarding Celtic necklace containing the Tree of Life. USA only to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
by Kathleen Duhamel
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
“Barely-not-starving” Denver artist and cancer survivor Claire Martin has almost given up finding an older man with a youthful spirit when she meets charismatic New York soul singer Robert Silver of the legendary band Deep Blue. She soon learns that hero worship can be dangerous, especially when the object of her desire comes with a disturbing past.
Robert is smart and sexy with a self-deprecating sense of humor, but he’s also a man who has suffered from panic attacks, drug abuse, a well-publicized stint in rehab and the death of his wife, screenwriter Elaine Jordan. When his demons resurface on tour, jeopardizing his voice and the band’s future, Claire must decide if she’s willing to take the biggest risk of her life—betting her future on a troubled man.
This tour is for the audio book release of the book. The excerpt provided are audio files and the review copies will be audio books provided by the publisher. Please use this for the audio file excerpt:
Audio book sample: https://soundcloud.com/apparatuspress/deep-blue
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Kathleen Duhamel is the author of Deep Blue and Deeper. She wrote and illustrated her first short story at the age of eight, and has been a writer for most of her life.. Her love of the written word continued throughout her varied career as a newspaper journalist and editor, public relations executive, freelance travel writer and owner/operator of two small businesses. A native of Texas, she spent most of her adult life in Colorado before relocating to Virginia in 2014, where she lives with her husband, a standard poodle and geriatric cat. She is a lifelong devotee of rock and soul music, contemporary art and pop culture.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Kathleen Duhamel will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
The Make It Happen Blueprint
Despite living in a world of abundance, many people still feel unhappy, over scheduled, tired, and unsuccessful. Yet there seems to be an group of people who “get it.” They catch all the breaks, accomplish more in a day, make more money in their business ventures, bounce back from trials faster, and always have their lives in order. Are they just lucky, or is there some sort of secret most of us are missing?
Michelle McCullough has spent thousands of hours studying, listening to, and learning from success experts including Stephen Covey, Jack Canfield, Brendon Burchard, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Ken Blanchard, Darren Hardy, and more. Applying key principles (and learning a few things on her own) she’s built three successful businesses and while still maintaining a meaningful personal life. Everyone has the ability to be a high performer. All it takes is the right mindset, the right tools, and a willingness to work. As she shares eighteen practices for high performance, you too can learn how to take your business and personal life to the next level. Success is possible, happiness is achievable, so stop dreaming about it and get out and MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Excerpts – From The Make It Happen Blueprint
-Success is not a destination, it’s a practice. The actions we take every day, week, and month to make our dreams a reality are what determine our success and happiness.
-The most paralyzing thought keeping you from your goals is, “I don’t deserve it.”
– “Plan” is the four- letter word for success. Peak performers know this, and they find power in a plan and thrive on the execution and ultimate success of seeing it through to completion.
-Trying to do two things at once is a recipe for failure. The time has come for you to give up your “Multitasker of the Year” award.
-High performers don’t just understand the value of a person—they understand the value of every person.
– If you’re going for a gold medal in raising high performers (and I hope you are), daily ask kids this powerful question, “What did you do to make someone else happy today?” This helps them become more aware of others.
Praise for the Book
“I do love this book. McCullough is real and relate-able. I was only in the first chapter when I felt hopeful and empowered. While some of her golden advice is aimed mostly to those working in the field of Business (which I am not), there is more than enough real-life help that a Homemaker can use too. She doesn’t create, yet another, list of things “I should be doing”, but attainable solutions to MAKE TIME for the other things I really DO need to do. These recommendations are easy to do. I am so thankful for McCullough’s inspiration and passion to share this knowledge; my life was immediately changed and improved for the goals her book motivated.” – Kristin Call; London, ENGLAND
“Michelle McCullough has one of those minds you love to be around! She shares fresh ideas, content, and strategies for creating a life and a business that you love. Reading this book will elevate your life!” – Tiffany Peterson, Professional Speaker, www.TiffanySpeaks.com; Utah, USA
“The beauty of Michelle’s book & writing is that it is a lucid, unadorned reminder that we periodically need. It reinforces powerful practices which we often brush past and only remember when we fail to “make it happen”. I love her earnest voice and really personal examples.” – Vilasi Venkatachalam; INDIA
“As entrepreneurs we often feel alone. McCullough’s book Make It Happen reminds us that we are all in this together. She manages to rekindle your purpose as well as provide pertinent ideas and strategies to help you preform at your best. I love the way she provides a section at the end of each chapter to help you implement the things you read and learn in Make It Happen. Every purposeful entrepreneur should have this book on their nightstand!” – Nicole Carpenter, CEO of MOMentity.com and bestselling author of 52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family: 5-minute messages; Utah USA
Author Michelle McCullough
Michelle McCullough started her first business when she was 19 and currently runs 3 companies including consulting other businesses all over the world. A seasoned speaker, Michelle teaches success principles and leadership insights that help boost employee engagement and higher performance. In addition to running her own consulting businesses, Michelle is the managing director for Startup Princess, listed by Forbes as “One of the top 10 resources for Women Entrepreneurs”. She’s worked with top brands like Visa Small Business, UPS Store, AWeber and more. She’s spoken for the Air Force Reserve, Goldman Sachs and Ancestry.com, among others. She’s been featured in entrepreneur.com, in the 40 under 40, Fox TV and has been interviewed for television and radio over 100 times, including Good Morning America and The Today Show. She was recently named in the Top 100 Small Business Influencers with Inc Magazine, Michael Gerber and Grant Cardone. Her own radio show “Make It Happen” has over 1 million downloads.
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
The Legend of Queen Agatha
by Sam Cunningham
GENRE: erotic fantasy/political allegory
In the mythical, medieval land of Xana, Queen Julia ruled as a typical aristocratic monarch in a country whose great wealth was concentrated among the privileged few. Her daughter, Princess Agatha, was the champion of the commoners. The evil sorcerer Magi comes to Xana to kill Queen Julia and ravage aristocrats and commoners alike. Princess Agatha alone is spared, for she is protected by her fairy godmother. Now the beautiful heiress has two challenges, first to rid Xana of Magi and then to lift all the commoners from poverty into prosperity. To achieve her first goal she must identify her handsome prince incognito in the crowd on her first try. She won’t have a second chance. To achieve her second she must invent and use radical political schemes even if not all her people approve.
Elias was an important member of the Queen Agatha’s council of advisers, perhaps second in the whole country behind the queen. The queen caught him embezzling royal funds.
Elias was shaken to his very core by Queen Agatha’s response. He expected a reprimand and perhaps a mild fine, but instead, she brought him before a huge crowd assembled below the palace balcony and publicly humiliated him. She proclaimed, “Twice you came to me, not to serve our people but to enrich yourself. You will apologize and give back to the people everything you have as atonement and compensation.”
Elias cried out to the people of Xana. “I have done wrong. I have taken that which I did not earn. I am sorry. I will return it all to you. I promise never again to violate my queen’s trust.”
“You will give everything you have to the people,” announced Agatha. “You will give all your land, your property, your possessions, and even your clothes. You will keep only the clothes you are now wearing. Everything you have will be sold at auction. I shall use the money to find more teachers. They will teach arithmetic to all the people of Xana so that they understand contracts. No one can shortchange them again as you have done.”
“Everything but the clothes I am wearing?” whimpered Elias.
“Everything,” responded Queen Agatha, as Elias was led away, crying. “You leave in disgrace. May you one day regain your honor with service, humility, frugality, and generosity to your people.” Agatha repeated, “And generosity.”
All the wealth that he had accumulated in a lifetime disappeared in a flash.
Book Lover Promo Blog asks the author: Why do you write the kinds of books that you do?
Sam Answers: I’ll answer your question for the book that I am promoting, “The Legend of Queen Agatha.” I like to read science fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy. Being very much my own person and doing my own thing rather than following the crowd, I thought, why not mix historical fiction and fantasy? Combine two genres? How about creating a fantasy setting with culture and technology of the middle ages as a background? Add ingredients, a strong woman who is gentle and kind with honorable people but doesn’t put up with bad behavior and stops it real fast, some radical politics that places the welfare of the commoners ahead of the fabulously wealthy, and then have the gall to claim that what worked for Queen Agatha in her fantasy medieval setting could work in our real world of the 21st century. I invite you, dear reader, to decide whether to accept or reject my outrageous claim.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sam Cunningham is a small college physics teacher. He knows from personal experience with his pupils that through nurturing nearly all young people can become productive citizens. It is an overwhelming tragedy that so many poor children are not given this nurturing. Their personal loss, and the loss to their country of their productive ability, is a catastrophe. As a scientist he understands that critical thinking and the ability to follow where the evidence leads are the only reliable ways to understand the real world. Away from work he leaves the real world of hard evidence to read science fiction and fantasy. His favorite childhood movie was the Walt Disney 1950 cartoon of Cinderella, and he greatly admires strong women. Sam brings together all of these ingredients in this story of a princess who becomes a wise and inspired queen with a personal mission to achieve productivity, prosperity, and happiness for all of her people.
The book is on sale for $0.99.
Sam Cunningham will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Operation Prom Date
(Tactics in Dating #1)
by Cindi Madsen
Publication Date: March 13, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crush
Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.
Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.
The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains stargazing, accidental swimming, and poker swindling. This kissing practice will melt your ereader…and give you a new couple to ship.
About the author
Cindi Madsen is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance and young adult novels. She sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children.
Kate Hamilton’s OTP Prize Pack, including two Funko Pops: The Green Arrow and Felicity*
*NOTE: A $20 Amazon gift card will be substituted in the place of the prize pack if the winner is international.
Nominate Tiago, by debut YA Romance author Cátia Skye, for consideration by Kindle Scout and you could win a $25 Amazon Gift Voucher, and you could get to read the book for free! Scroll down for excerpts, blurb, author info and, of course, the giveaway!
New York, USA
Kezra, sixteen, dumped by her boyfriend of six months after he took her virginity, shocked by revelations about her father, falls into an abyss of panic and anxiety. On doctor’s orders, she is sent on a vacation to get away from pressures.
Tiago, seventeen, has lost more than most lose in a lifetime, believes implicitly in the inevitable Portuguese Tragedy, has left the thug-life, has left school, is just trying to survive each new day.
Neither of them is looking for love…
I am no looker.
I’m not a dog either. But I am no looker.
Aylin used to say I was precocious. “Precocious when it comes to boys,” she’d say.
By the time I was done dating Conor, I said I was nothing but a fool.
I started dating too early. Antoni was the first guy I ever saw. I was fourteen, close to fifteen, sporting braces on my teeth. We shared a kiss, nothing passionate, innocent.
Until he touched my breasts and I went cold.
Fourteen. Was he a freaking idiot?
Dawson happened after that. It lasted three months. I was more grown up, more developed. My breasts, especially, were more developed.
I hate my breasts.
But it was Conor who would thrust me into the black world of adulthood with an indignant slap I am certain I will never forget.
I write because I am lonely.
I write because I hurt.
I write while tears drip from my eyes, turning the screen of my tablet into splotches of pixelated rainbows.
The way I was brought into this world has nothing to do with how I feel about love.
It has everything to do with how I feel about myself.
How much horror can a mind endure?
Are the pains of a sixteen-year-old laughed at by those older then her?
What pain did my mother suffer? (“Sometimes I went without food so that I wouldn’t have to take that bastard’s money, Kez.”)
My pain is nothing compared to what hers must have been. And yet, the pain I feel is phenomenal.
Just before the sun rises, when the world is silent and the River Tejo laps gently at the stone steps leading to the giant PraĂ§a do ComĂ©rcio square, leaves of golden sunlight shimmer above the surface of Lisbon’s great river. This is my favorite time to sit on these steps, flicking stones into the water, letting my gaze drift west toward the ocean.
And I think of her.
I do not weep anymore. My eyes are dry. I have wept this entire river twice over and still that will not bring her back.
The seagulls taunt me, cawing in accusation. I should have moved faster, they say. I should not have been so complacent with my joy.
I never deserved that joy. I know it.
It is the week for meeting Americans. And if I thought my encounter with Dahlia went bad, then I can only compare my meeting with the one called Kezra to something just short of a nuclear war. It’s my fault, mostly. But it’s also her fault.
I would love to say that our first encounter is quaint and sweet, that it is the type of first-meeting you expect from a Rom-Com.
It is not.
It is a disaster.
And I am nothing short of a hungover bastard.
But let’s call a spade a spade. Guilt must be placed where guilt belongs. And this chick is a real stinker of a piece of work too.
I guess you could say I started it.
But she contributes gladly to the atomic chain reaction which follows.
Dare I say, I think she even revels in it.
Copyright © 2017, Cátia Skye. All Rights Reserved.
Cátia Skye is a New-York-born, Portuguese-American gal who now resides in the romantic heart of Lisbon, Portugal. She is the single mother of one rambunctious little boy, and pens romance novels between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. each night when her boy finally falls asleep.
Tiago is her first novel.
by Sarita Leone
GENRE: Paranormal Romantic Suspense
The Octopus isn’t an urban myth—and its agents are anything but ordinary. The intelligence bureau is so well-hidden most doubt its existence. A handful know its location. And fewer walk the halls in the subterranean compound.
Benjamin Sinclair didn’t ask to be a scientific miracle but every mission has its risks and one perfectly-placed bullet ended his life—for a brief moment in time.
Nicole Anima battles demons every day. Life as a paranormal resources operative gives her tortured mind a rest—and keeps her from contemplating her own death.
When Anima and Sinclair partner on a globe-trotting race to eliminate the threat about to cripple humanity, all hell breaks loose. Leaping from planes, crashing into continents, dealing with voodoo priestesses, and running through jungles with zombies hot on their trail doesn’t leave much time for romance, but this duo somehow manages to sizzle.
Two agents. Telepathic mind paired with regenerated commando. One world—and a mission to save it.
She opened one eye when she felt him staring at her. He leaned on an elbow, droplets of water caught in the curls on his chest.
“Hey.” He made the word a caress.
“Hey yourself. How was your shower?”
Pulling the pillow beneath his cheek, he dropped his face level with hers. “Lonely.”
Common sense told her to roll over. Show him her back. Go to sleep. She knew him well enough to know he would never consider forcing himself on her. But common sense and lust—for that’s all it could be, she reasoned inside her tired head—were two different things.
“Listen…” A stab at heeding her conscience. “We can’t…I can’t…it’s—shit.”
His amusement kindled her desire. To see him in such an intimate setting, so relaxed and open…it was erotic as hell.
“You do have a way with words, sweet cheeks.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“You haven’t protested before. I’ve used the endearment several times, if I recall.”
She watched his mouth, mesmerized by the way his lips formed words.
“I—ah, we were busy. So I let it slide. But don’t—you can’t…”
When he moved closer, all thought left her head. She inhaled deeply, pulling the scent of him into her.
He’s not human. Her mind tried to warn her but she ignored it.
Top Ten List: Things That Make Me Happy by Sarita Leone
We all think we’re pretty easily satisfied, don’t we? Living simply, without too much fuss? I mean, no one wants to believe they’re high maintenance yet some of us are! As I’m compiling this list, I’m really hoping I fall into the non-high maintenance, living simply, easily satisfied category…
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sarita Leone is an award-winning author who has written romance in many forms including Regency, paranormal, and contemporary. She loves happily-ever-afters in any setting!
When she’s not writing, Ms. Leone spends her time hiking, learning languages, and traveling. She loves adventure and can pack a suitcase, grab her passport, and hit the road in less time than it takes to peel an apple!
Sarita will be awarding $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
About Truly, Madly, Whiskey:
A new, emotionally riveting, sexy standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. Watch mysteriously sexy Bear Whiskey claw his way to his happily ever after with sassy, rebellious Crystal Moon. In TRULY, MADLY, WHISKEY… Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm’s length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She’s a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey’s midnight fantasies. She’s also one of his closest friends. Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his. The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there’s no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotional and sexually charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew about themselves.
CRYSTAL FLEW THROUGH Truman and Gemma’s front door like wildfire, eating up everything in her path. Her raven mane was soaking wet, framing her beautiful, scowling face as she stormed into the living room. Her black hoodie hung open over a Rolling Stones T-shirt, and her piercing baby blues threw daggers. Her skintight black jeans had tears along her thighs and beneath her knees, revealing flashes of her tanned skin. Skin he’d like to touch and taste and have wrapped around him.
She stopped a few feet from Bear and set her hand on her hip. “Give me a paintbrush, or a roller, or a goddamn gun for all I care. Just give me something and get out of my way.”
They’d finished painting ten minutes ago. Bear chuckled at her vehemence. She was sexy as sin no matter what mood she was in, but this tigress before him made him want to comfort her and fuck her at once.
“Hard night, sugar?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Not hard enough. And I’m not your sugar. I need to work out my frustrations.” She thrust out a hand, obviously waiting for a paintbrush.
He grabbed that delicate little hand and hauled her against him. His entire body flamed. Several months of playing cat and mouse was way too long. Her eyes darkened and her breathing shallowed. Bear was done messing around. This brazen beauty not only wanted him, but she needed him. She just didn’t know it yet.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She spoke in a low voice and probably meant it to sound threatening, but she sounded sultry and hard to resist.
He cupped her chin, brushing his thumb over her lower lip, and the air rushed from her lungs. His hand slid over her hip. She had the sleek, sexy curves of a ’61 Harley-Davidson Duo-Glide, and he couldn’t wait to rev her up and make her purr. “Giving you what you need. A wild Whiskey night is the perfect remedy for your frustrations.”
“Uncle Be-ah!” Three-year-old Kennedy ran into the room wearing a Dora the Explorer nightgown and clutching the Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toy Bear’s younger sister, Dixie, had given her. She squeezed between them. Truman had rescued his younger siblings, Kennedy and Lincoln, from a crack house after their mother overdosed. He and Gemma were raising them as their own.
Crystal smirked at Bear and arched a brow.
He reluctantly released her. Cockblocked by a three-year-old.
“Hi, pretty girl.” Crystal gave Bear a snarky look as she crouched and hugged Kennedy. “This cuteness is all I need after a frustrating evening.”
“Why are you fwustrated, Auntie Cwystal?” Kennedy still had a hard time pronouncing r’s, and the way she spoke turned Bear’s insides to mush.
“I’m not anymore, thanks to you.”
“I came to kiss you and Beah good night.” She gave Crystal a tight hug and kiss, then reached her spindly arms up to Bear and went up on her toes.
He lifted her up, and she wound her arms around his neck.
“Thank you for letting me help you paint.” Kennedy yawned and rested her head on his shoulder. “The house will be pwetty for Mommy and Tooman’s—I mean Daddy’s—wedding.” Although Kennedy and Lincoln were Truman’s siblings, when Lincoln had begun talking, he’d called Truman Dada, and Kennedy had said she wanted to call him that, too. Sometimes she forgot and called him Tooman.
Bear ran his hand down her back. It was hard to believe it had been less than a year since Truman had found them. Kennedy had gone from a rail-thin, frightened little girl to a healthy, happy member of not just Truman’s family, but Bear’s, too.
“You’re the best painter around, sweetheart. Thank you for helping me.” He lifted his eyes, catching Crystal watching him with a warm—interested?—look in her eyes. He liked that a whole lot.
Crystal’s eyes skittered away. “Hey, Ken? Where’s Mommy?”
“She’s giving Lincoln a baf.”
Crystal smiled. “Want me to take you up to bed?”
“Yes,” Bear and Kennedy said at once.
Crystal rolled her eyes at Bear and reached for Kennedy.
Bear put an arm around Crystal’s waist, ignoring her glare. “I’m escorting two of my favorite girls upstairs. Deal with it.” He guided her toward the stairs, where they ran into Truman on his way down.
Truman stood eye to eye with Bear, his dark eyes moving between the two of them. His lips curved up and he shook his head. He must have read the annoyed expression on Crystal’s face, because he reached for Kennedy. “I think I’ll intervene. Thanks, guys.”
After he went upstairs, Crystal said, “You can let go of me now.”
“No thanks.” He kept ahold of her as she stalked back to the living room. “Want to tell me what happened tonight?”
“No. I want to paint.” She squirmed out of his grip and he tugged her back.
“If you think I’ll let this go, you’re wrong. Talk to me. What’s got you so irritated?”
“Jesus, Bear,” she snapped. “I’m not yours. You don’t have to protect me.”
He ignored her comment because she knew damn well how things worked with the Whiskeys. More importantly, she knew him well enough to know he’d never sit idly by and let her get hurt. If someone had pissed her off, he’d straighten them out.
“You’re not mine yet,” he conceded.
“God, you’re so arrogant and handsy and…Ugh!” She pushed away. “I just had a rough visit with my mom, that’s all.”
“What happened?” Her not wanting to go into specifics didn’t surprise him. She’d always been cagey about her parents.
She grabbed the ladder and dragged it toward the far wall. He took it from her, and she glared at him again. She was the most stubborn woman he’d ever known. She was also sharp, confident, and possibly the most sensitive person he knew, though she’d never admit to it. Those were just a few of the things he found utterly entrancing about her.
Her arms were crossed, and he was pretty sure if it were possible she’d have steam coming out of her ears. “Can we just paint?”
“Sorry, sugar, but we’re done for the night.”
“Seriously?” She looked around the room, and her stomach growled. Her lips curved up at the edges as she spread a hand over her belly.
Perfect. He whipped out his phone, texting Tru and telling him he was taking Crystal out for a bite to eat. “Grab your bag. We’re going out to eat.” He draped his arm over her shoulder and headed for the front door.
“I’m not hungry.”
He gave her his best deadpan stare.
Challenge rose in her beautiful eyes. “You don’t tell me what to do.”
“All right. Your stomach’s growling. Obviously you’re hungry. Let’s go grab something to eat.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “That’s telling.”
“Christ, woman.” She had no idea how much he adored this side of her. They’d never been on an official date, but they’d gone to grab a bite to eat spur-of-the-moment like this plenty of times. “Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“Great,” he said. “Let’s go.”
“Oh my God. Really? Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to ask a woman if she’d like to go out to eat?”
“Are you telling me to ask you out on a date?” He slid his arm around her waist again and waggled his brows.
“No.” She laughed.
He loved her laugh. It was brazen and loud, like her. “Damn. Thought I got lucky. Crystal Moon, would you like to grab a burger with me?”
She picked up her bag from the floor. “Fine. But I need to tell Gemma. You’re so bossy.”
“You totally dig bossy, and I already texted Tru and told him.”
“Presumptive and bossy.”
About Melissa Foster:
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance (M/F, M/M, F/F), romantic suspense, thrillers, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the World Literary Café. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on Fostering Success.
Melissa has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Her interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping others see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.
Melissa is available to chat with book clubs and welcomes comments and emails from her readers. Visit Melissa on Facebook or her personal website.
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