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text 2017-06-22 16:21
Protected by Love (Montana Heat #0.5) by Jennifer Ryan (Tour) ~ Giveaway/Excerpt

 

Protected by Love
Montana Heat #0.5

By: Jennifer Ryan
Releasing June 20, 2017
Avon Impulse

 


It was more than another blind date . . .

 

It was DEA Agent Caden Cooke’s third chance to impress beautiful chef Mia Martin. He’d already stood her up twice, and was shocked she was even giving him another chance. For Caden, taking down the bad guys is important, but Mia’s made it clear there’s no excuse for his bad behavior. So he’s vowed to make it worth her while with an apology he’s cooked up just for her.

 

From the moment they meet, it’s clear this isn’t just another fix up. The sparks flying between them are undeniable; the tension is electric. Then, suddenly, the best moments of their lives turn treacherous when a drug dealer set on revenge puts their lives in danger. And Mia and Caden quickly realize they will do anything to protect the other—and live for the love neither of them expected.

 

 

Goodreads Montana Heat Series Link

 

Buy Links: AMAZON | B & N | GOOGLE | ITUNES | KOBO

 

 

He really wanted to kiss her.

 

“You’re worried about work.”

 

He scanned the quiet street and the light traffic this time of night. He didn’t think Marco stupid enough to stay in the city. Too many cops out looking for him. He wondered if someone was watching his place, waiting for him to come home.

 

“Work is always on my mind, but right now, there’s only one thing I’m thinking about.” He closed the distance between them and slipped his free hand around her back, the ends of her hair brushing his hand, and pulled her close. He stared down into her surprised eyes and smiled. “You promised me a good-night kiss.”

 

Her hand came up and rested on his chest. “Yes, I did. I’m a woman of my word.”

 

“I’m counting on that.”

 

He leaned down. She rose up to meet him in the middle. Their lips touched, and fire shot through him with a swift need that burned and consumed every thought in his head but one: Hold on to her. He pulled her closer, changed the angle of the kiss, and took it deeper, sweeping his tongue across her soft lips and diving deep when she sighed and let him in.

 

 

 

Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Todaybestselling author of The Hunted series and the McBride series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances, featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find. Jennifer lives in the San Fransisco Bay Area with her husband, three children.

 

When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.

 

 

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

 

 

Tour Giveaway: (Win a Print Set of the Montana Men Series, Books 1 – 6)
(US Only)

 

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Source: angelsguiltypleasures.com/2017/06/protected-by-love-montana-heat-0-5-by-jennifer-ryan-tour-giveawayexcerpt
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text 2017-06-22 13:05
Blog Tour: Changing the Earl's Mind by Kristen McLean with Excerpt and Giveaway

 

Today’s stop is for Kristen McLean’s Changing the Earl's Mind. We will have info about the book and author, and a great excerpt from the book, plus a great giveaway. Make sure to check everything out and enter the giveaway.

Happy Reading :) 


 

A man who knows everything…

For nearly a decade, Drake Ramsey, the disciplined and logical Earl of Saint Brides, has been the driving force behind the Home Office; meeting with foreign leaders to negotiate treaties, spurring a lethargic Parliament into action, and directing a secret army of spies. The last thing he wants to find while taking a well-deserved vacation is a dangerous fugitive. Nevertheless, when he catches a beautiful murderess hiding in his hunting cabin, he has little choice but to bring her to justice, landing himself in a battle for control he could never hope to win.   …meets a woman determined to prove him wrong.   Marrying a stranger simply to gain access to her dowry and travel the world, admittedly, was the biggest mistake of Sarah Tindall’s life. In fact, she would readily admit to making several big mistakes. Killing her husband, however, is not one of them. When a starchy lord takes it upon himself to bring her to a London prison, she is determined to escape him and prove her innocence, yet every attempt ends with her back in her handsome captor’s arms. Even if her innocence is proven, his forbidden and passionate kisses leave her uncertain if escape was ever an option.  

*WARNING* This work of fiction is intended for mature audiences only. All sexually active characters portrayed in this ebook are eighteen years of age or older. Please do not buy if strong sexual situations, violence, and explicit language offends you.  

 

**Can easily be read as a standalone!**  

 

 

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Trouble?” He echoed the vague response as though he hadn’t heard it more times than he could count. She nodded. “Mrs. Tindall, nearly everyone on this miserable planet is in some sort of trouble. It doesn’t explain why you have invaded my hunting cabin or threatened to shoot me.” He was not prepared for the interrogation of an impertinent beauty in the moors. He was prepared for solitude and quiet, relaxation. Or, in the very least, a moment of self-reflection followed by a week of wallowing in depression. “With what gun? I am unarmed,” she pointed out. “I said threatened,” he emphasized. “Had you been armed, would you have shot me?” Large, hazel eyes focused steadily on him. “Yes.” Now his head began to throb, and his teeth ached from the pressure of his jaw. “Where is your husband, Mrs. Tindall?” “I am a grown woman, plenty old enough to be about on my own.” She didn’t look a day past twenty, but he was in no mood to dispute anything that wasn’t completely necessary. It was too much damned effort, especially compounded with the effort needed to ignore her—or more accurately, to ignore his body’s response to her. The dress she wore was threadbare and torn, showing shapely ankles disappearing into ragged half boots. Her sleeve had been ripped at the shoulder, sliding down her arm and sending the neckline dangerously low on her generous bosom. He fought to keep his attention on her face, but even that was a distraction. Her eyes were ethereally vivid, her mouth full and wide, and her neck a lovely arch beneath it all. Bloody hell, why her? Why him? What god or demon had he insulted so gravely as to deserve this? All he wanted was a damned holiday, a well-deserved one, he might add. “You are Mrs. Tindall,” he said doggedly. “Surely there’s a Mr. Tindall?” “Yes, there was… but he is no longer amongst the living.” His fists clenched at his sides, forcing himself to calm. She was a widow. Good manners dictated he grant her some measure of consideration. “I am sorry to hear it. When did this happen?” “Two days ago.” To his credit, the curse that nearly flew from his mouth stayed obediently behind his teeth. Two days? A landlord who evicted a woman immediately after the death of her husband ought to be publicly flogged, and Drake would jump at the chance to administer the punishment. Particularly since, in this case, it meant she had been booted out of her home and into his hunting cabin. “Have you no family or friends who can take you in?” “No,” she said. “I know two or three people, but no one I could impose upon.” “Of course not,” he muttered. “Why impose upon those you know when there is a perfectly good stranger handy.” Her eyes flashed. “Under the circumstances, I couldn’t possibly ask someone I hardly know to shelter me.” “Circumstances,” he echoed. “Circumstances being the death of your husband? Is that the trouble you have found yourself in?” She looked away. “More or less.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristen McLean is a regency-era romance novelist with a flair for humor and suspense. She has always had a love of novels, with a special place in her heart for historical romance. Now she has the pleasure of writing at home, tucked away in a forest with her husband, two children, and their cat. Her husband is loving and impressively patient, their two beautiful children strive to embarrass and exhaust her, and the cat hates everyone, but tolerates—well, she tolerates whoever will feed her. For the latest on Kristen McLean's book releases, events, and giveaways subscribe to her newsletter at kmromance.com

 

Links

 

Website *** Facebook *** Twitter *** Amazon *** Goodreads

 

 

 

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Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and giveaway!

Source: snoopydoosbookreviews.com/blog-tour-changing-earls-mind-kristen-mclean-excerpt-giveaway
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text 2017-06-22 08:10
Book Tour - Her Surprise Engagement
 
 

Meet the Author:

 
Ashlee Mallory is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and thrillers. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and two kids. She aspires to one day include running, hiking and traveling to exotic destinations in her list of things she enjoys, but currently settles for enjoying a good book and a glass of wine from the comfort of her couch.
 
Connect: Site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
 
 

About the Book:

 

Single mom Daisy Sorensen doesn’t believe in fairytale endings—at least not for her. All she wants is to enjoy a much-needed, stress-free family vacation at a friend’s Lake Tahoe home. So of course everything that can go wrong does. Including a gorgeous man and his daughter showing up in the middle of the night.
 
Soon-to-be Governor Jack Harrison has had a crazy week, but he’s sure nothing can top arriving to find a bathrobe-clad, beautiful stranger in the home he’s staying in for the week. He’s wrong. When things spiral out of control the next morning, Jack makes Daisy an offer she can’t refuse. She’ll pretend to be his fiancée and he’ll help her open the bakery she’s been dreaming about.
 
But in between late-night campfires and days on the lake, Jack finds himself falling for the strong, stubborn woman for real.
 
 

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Excerpt:

 

Stan, this is Daisy, the soon-to-be governor’s future First Lady,” his wife said, and Stan took Daisy’s hand in an exuberant shake before nodding toward Jack in greeting.

 

Although there was no reason to still have his arm around Daisy, he found that he was enjoying their closeness, and he squeezed the side of her waist slightly. What he didn’t expect was her to jump and squeal ever so slightly.

 

Ticklish? He glanced down to see her biting her bottom lip, trying to recover. If the others noticed, they were good at disguise as Julia Daniels caught her husband up with the discussion, who seemed to agree with whatever she said.

 

I hope you don’t find me too presumptuous,” Julia said, “but I would love it if maybe we could get a picture with you two?”

 

Not at all,” Jack said and waited as the older couple sidled up next to them, turning wide cheesy grins to the camera.

 

Perfect. In fact, I think it would be a shame, what with you two looking so darn handsome, if we didn’t take a couple of just the two of you.”

 

Sure,” he said, after catching Daisy shrug slightly. The sooner he complied, the sooner these people would move on and leave Daisy and him alone again. Plus, he didn’t mind having reason to hold on to Daisy a little longer.

 

Two more shots flashed.

 

How about just a little kiss?” Julia said slyly. “After all, you’re newly engaged and in love and everyone is dying to see you two together.”

 

The impromptu photo shot was finally getting interesting.

 

He cleared his throat as he glanced down at Daisy, her cheeks noticeably flushed. “I suppose a quick kiss would be okay…”

 

She smiled easily and tilted her head up, as close to permission as he could see. Her lips were warm and soft in the flash of a second they were on his before the kiss was over. They turned expectantly toward their audience.

 

Come now. That’s the best you two can do?” Julia cajoled.

 

It wasn’t as if they hadn’t already discussed this possibility. Having to show some display in public.

 

He grinned, not trying to hide his own enjoyment at the prospect of satisfying his long desire to actually kiss Daisy. But if he was going to give her any sort of a decent kiss he needed to make a few adjustments.

 

His hand still around her waist, he pulled her closer, giving her a moment to adjust to their close proximity. He kept his eyes on hers as he leaned down, pressing his lips to hers in a more leisurely way than before.

 

Her eyes widened at their touch, something he could relate to as a current of electricity rushed through him. Instead of pulling away, however, he grew bolder. After all, the full soft lips he’d been thinking about kissing since he saw her were finally his, even if only under this forced public moment. Letting instinct take over, he applied more pressure until her mouth opened. She tasted sweet and fruity, like the champagne they’d been sipping, only better.

 

Daisy, who’d been tense before, melted against him, and those dark shining eyes fluttered. Whatever he’d been expecting from having this woman in his arms was nothing to the feelings that overwhelmed him in those few seconds.

 

He felt complete. Happy—no, joyous. He wanted to be able to kiss this woman every day.

 

Someone chuckled and it was enough to break the spell as Daisy’s eyes opened and, realizing they’d lost themselves over to the kiss, they broke apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the other books in the Sorensen Family series:
 

Giveaway:

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text 2017-06-21 16:33
Cover Reveal: Turned by a Tiger by Felicity Heaton ~ Excerpt/Giveaway

 

Turned by a Tiger
(Eternal Mates Paranormal Romance Series Book 12)
by Felicity Heaton
Release Date: July 1st, 2017


On the verge of bleeding out and hunted by his merciless torturers, Talon has no choice but to seek sanctuary at Underworld, a nightclub run by a jaguar shifter liable to kill him on sight for being a tiger shifter male. What he finds in the old warehouse isn’t the grim shadow of Death though but an angel of mercy, one who offers him salvation and revenge—one who happens to be his fated mate.

 

Tending bar at Underworld is never dull when you’re a mortal surrounded by immortals, but when a gorgeous tiger shifter covered in blood stumbles into the club, and set’s fire to her boss’s temper, Sherry’s entire world is in danger of being turned on its head. Something about the mysterious warrior has her stepping in to save him, something that ignites her heart and stirs her soul, and no matter how fiercely she fights it, she can’t hold herself back.

 

When Talon reveals the name of his captors, and his plan to head back in to save his friends, will Sherry be brave enough to embrace the feelings he stirs in her and step deeper into the world of immortals? And will Talon be strong enough to resist the lure of Sherry to protect his family’s secret or will he risk everything to claim his eternal mate?

 

 

PRE-ORDER LINKS

 

Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.caAmazon.com.au
iBooks USAiBooks UKiBooks CanadaiBooks AustraliaiBooks New Zealand
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Sherry knew the appeal of the no-strings-attached style of relationship, normally went in for that herself.

 

So why did the thought of a roll in the hay with Talon followed by a kiss goodbye leave her cold?

 

She busied herself with the coffee maker while Talon prowled around the small kitchen, taking up far too much space and making it impossible for her to pretend he wasn’t there and get her head straight.

 

And her heart.

 

She blamed it for her sudden desire to have more than a one night stand with a hot guy.

 

“Milk, Tony?” She poured two mugs of coffee.

 

He froze with his head in the refrigerator, withdrew and slowly turned towards her, the scowl back in place.

 

His deep voice rolled through the room, curled around her and did wicked things to her body.

 

“Talon,” he said with determination, with a hard edge that was both a demand and a command, one that thrilled her as she imagined him ordering her around in the bedroom in that same voice. “Talon. Say it.”

 

A sudden onset of nerves swept through her as she looked into his hard amber eyes, looked at him for all that he was, and realised that if she said his name, the flimsy barrier she had tried to construct between them by avoiding using it would fall.

 

Leaving her exposed.

 

He straightened to his full height, towering over her, at least the same height as Kyter’s six-five. Talon was broader though, heavy with muscle, cutting an imposing figure as he stared her down, silently demanding she do as he wanted.

 

“Tiger,” she blurted and went to face the coffee mugs again.

 

Talon moved in a blur of speed, suddenly pressed right against her, and had her cheek in his palm again, bringing her head back around to face his.

 

“Talon.” His tone could have made diamonds it was so hard, so sharp and pressing.

 

She swallowed hard, trembling from head to toe as she drowned in his amber eyes, watching the gold shimmering among the amber.

 

Her mouth turned dry.

 

She swept her tongue across her lips to wet them.

 

His gaze fell there, grew hungry and heated, and turned the fire up inside her.

 

“Talon,” she whispered.

 

His eyes shot to hers.

 

His throat worked on a hard swallow.

 

“Dear gods,” he muttered and just as quickly as he had closed the distance between them, he opened it up again, disappearing into the living room.

 

She stared at where he had been, reeling from the suddenness of his disappearance, and how shocked he had sounded. How pained.

 

What the ever living fuck?

 

 

 

 

 

The special sneak preview for Turned by a Tiger begins on June 25th, exclusive to Felicity’s mailing list. Every subscriber is entered into the giveaway to win a signed personalised paperback copy of Turned by a Tiger, with a chance to win a copy in each of the three exclusive sneak peek chapters being sent out on the 25th, 27th and 29th.

 

Not only will joining her mailing list ensure you’re in with a chance of winning one of the signed copies of Turned by a Tiger, it means you’ll start receiving her newsletters, where she gives away 2 x $25 Amazon Gift Cards in each issue, and rewards subscribers with exclusive excerpts, teasers, flash fiction and cover reveals, and plenty of fun! Plus, you’ll receive FOUR FREE EBOOKS in her Series Starter Library just for signing up!

 

Join her newsletter at: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/newsletter.php

 

 

Felicity Heaton is a New York Times and USA Today international best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In her books, she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you’re a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.

 

If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of her stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.

 

If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places:

 

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM

 

Source: angelsguiltypleasures.com/2017/06/cover-reveal-turned-by-a-tiger-by-felicity-heaton-excerptgiveaway
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text 2017-06-21 13:10
Blog Tour: Chasing Love by Melissa West with Excerpt and Giveaway

 

Today’s stop is for Melissa West’s Chasing Love . We will have info about the book and author, and a great excerpt from the book, plus a great giveaway. Make sure to check everything out and enter the giveaway.

Happy Reading :) 

 


 

 
Farming family land on sunny Crestler’s Key, the sweet, sexy Littleton brothers are notorious bachelors. But all that will change when the right woman comes along…There aren’t many things Charlie Littleton values more than his lifelong friendship with his buddy Lucas, currently home from a tour in Iraq. But when he discovers that Lucas’s younger sister, Lila, is back to assist the town’s overburdened veterinarian, Charlie is torn. She’s no longer the skinny, awkward kid he remembers, but a gorgeous woman—one Lucas would never approve of him dating. When Lucas asks him to watch out for Lila when he’s called to duty again, Charlie can’t say no—but he can’t pretend it’s easy to ignore his feelings either.As a teen, Lila crushed on Charlie—hard—and the man he’s grown up to be is even more wonderful than she dreamed. Relationships are a tricky business, though, and too much history is at stake to risk one now. But every moment they’re together is heated by their simmering attraction—and one day an impulsive kiss leads to much more. What’s tangled in a matter of loyalty soon becomes a question of the kind of love worth chasing…
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“Nah-ah, boy, you better take that dog on out of here.”Charlie Littleton tightened his hold on Henry’s leash and shot Patty a look. “You know he doesn’t bark.”The bakery owner placed a hand on her hip and cocked it for ef- fect. Like always, she wore an apron with the AJ&P Bakery yellow- and-blue logo on it, though you could scarcely see it through the flour and spices smeared across the apron. “Right,” Patty said now. “A dog that don’t bark. Is that sort of like a man who don’t eat? Because as far as I’m concerned that’s a fic- tional being. Like the dog. But if you do find a man who will share his sandwich, you be sure to point him in my direction, okay? But seeing as how that man don’t exist, kind of like that nonbarking dog don’t exist, I don’t expect you to be introducing me to him anytime soon.” She winked at him and clucked her tongue. “Now, you take that cute bottom of yours out of here, leave the dog in your truck, then come back and I’ll make you a roast beef with extra au jus.” Charlie peered around the bakery, the smells of fresh baked bread and toasted hot sandwiches hitting his nose. His stomach grumbled. Of course, the small bakery and sandwich shop was packed today, half the town there to witness Charlie getting put in his place. A part of him wanted to remind Patty that his family’s farm supplied most of her produce and could just as easily refuse to deliver, but he’d learned long ago to retreat slowly and carefully when dealing with the bakery owner. “Fine, but I’m holding you to that extra au jus.” Patty flashed him a grin. “It’ll be waiting for you, honey.” Then she waved her hand through the air in a sign that he better get mov- ing, and then she went to greet someone else. Someone without a dog. Resigned, Charlie pushed out of the glass door and eyed his old Husky. “Sorry, boy. I’ll bring you some leftovers, though.” He un- locked his Silverado, cranked the truck, and rolled down the win- dows. It was a mild sixty out in Crestler’s Key, Kentucky, a perfect early spring day, but Henry meant more to him than most of the peo- ple in the town, and if he was going to be forced to stay in Charlie’s truck, then he’d do it with a nice breeze. With a long glance down Main Street at the row of shops— Southern Dive, his family’s sports and outdoors shop at the very end—Charlie couldn’t help wondering if he was making the right de- cisions in his life. He’d moved back to Crestler’s Key after living in the Florida Keys for five years. There, he’d operated a small scuba diving busi- ness, his life as much under water as above it. And he loved every moment of it. Then there were the women, too many to count, al- ways around, always eager to occupy a little bit of his time. He’d been content with that life, never asking for more and never wanting it. He was a typical twenty-something and enjoyed every bit of his young age. Then he met Jade, and hell if he didn’t fall hook, line, and sinker. Still to this day, years later, he remembered with painful clarity her walking down the dock at the marina and stopping outside his houseboat, long sun-bleached blond hair and even longer legs. She was beautiful in that natural, God-made way—his kryptonite, when it came to women, so all it took was one look and he was gone. It took mere days, maybe even hours, for her to rope him into her world. She had innocence behind that beauty that he couldn’t refuse, and weeks passed with them tangled in each other’s arms, a new kind of happiness swirling in Charlie’s chest. She would never fill the spot someone else had once filled, someone he was never allowed to care for, someone he told himself he could—would—forget, but Jade made him feel good. They meshed together perfectly, peanut butter and freaking jelly. Until that fateful day when he woke to discover she’d taken every- thing he owned. His dog. His wallet, which she used to drain his checking account. His prized possessions. Even the coin collection his grandfather had left him. Every. Single. Thing. Hell, if he hadn’t been on the houseboat, he felt sure she’d have sailed off with it, too. And while, yeah, the money thing sucked, and the coin collection sucked even more, what really dropped him into the depression bucket was losing his old dog, Rocky. He’d rescued Rocky as a puppy from the pound, more mutt than anything, and with a broken left leg. Thousands of dollars in vet bills later, and that dog was his only friend down there. And his idiotic self had let some vixen walk in and steal him. The thought brought on a fresh wave of guilt, and he contem- plated going to talk to Patty again, convince her that they could sit out on the back patio, but then he’d been through this argument with her before. Besides, this was Crestler’s Key, not Florida, and he knew everyone in town. No one would take his dog. Still, just to be safe, he hit the locks on his truck twice, before heading back into AJ&P, determined to rehash this with Patty before he left if she hoped to continue to get discounted produce from the farm. “There you are, cute bottom.” Ah, crap. Grimacing, Charlie pivoted to find his best friend, Lucas, already seated at one of the white-washed wooden tables, a giant smirk on his face. “Funny,” Charlie said. “You know, I was excited to see you and then you had to go and open that big mouth.” The men laughed, then hugged, because it’d been too damn long. They took their seats and Lucas joked, “Thought you were going to cry there when she said you couldn’t bring Henry in here.” Charlie peeked out the window at his truck before returning his gaze to his friend. “Well, she ought to remember who’s supplying all her produce.” “So you’re going to hold her produce ransom until she lets you bring in your dog? Dude, you need a chick in your life. Stat.” Charlie laughed, until he glanced around and noticed several of the women he’d dated off and on eating at the bakery, half of them glaring at him. “Yeah . . . think I’ll pass on that one. Thanks, though.” “What’s the deal with your insane overprotectiveness of Henry anyway? He’s a giant dog. He can take care of himself.” Yeah, well, Rocky had been a big dog, too, and that didn’t save him from that thieving witch of a woman. Charlie had searched for the dog for nearly a year, all to no avail. Jade was probably halfway across the world now, with his money and his coin collection and his dog. Damn woman. No, damn women. They were more trouble than they would ever be worth. Lucas continued to stare at him with a questioning look, but all Charlie could say was the same excuse he always said. Because no one, not Lucas, not his brothers Zac or Brady, no one knew about Jade or what she’d done to him. The humiliation would be too much. “Henry had a rough childhood. Gotta protect the boy now.” “Right . . .” MaryAnn, one of AJ&P’s waitresses, came over then to get their order, and Lucas smiled a little too wide at his former high-school flame before clearing his throat and trying for mock-cool. Charlie suppressed a grin. MaryAnn, with her wavy blond hair and deep brown eyes, still looked exactly as she did in high school. And just like in high school, she was still 100 percent in love with Lucas. “Hey, there,” MaryAnn said, matching his smile. “I didn’t know you were home.” Lucas shrugged. “Three-day leave before going back.” “When is your tour over?” she asked, her eyes filling with a bit of hope that she probably wished wasn’t there. She and Lucas had mu- tually ended their relationship when she realized he intended to be a career soldier, and having lost her brother in Iraq, she said she couldn’t live that life. It was a mature decision, they had both said, but now ten years later, they both still looked like they regretted it. And come to think of it, Charlie couldn’t remember a single woman Lucas had dated seriously since ending things with MaryAnn. With another careful glance at his old girlfriend, Lucas relaxed into his chair, the single thing between them now back front and center. “Three months, then I’ll have a few weeks off, before another one.” MaryAnn nodded slowly, and then flipped her attention over to Charlie for the first time, like she couldn’t bear to look at Lucas an- other second. “Your regular?” “Yeah, though Patty promised extra au jus if I left Henry in the truck.” “What’s up with you and that dog?” Lucas laughed. “Didn’t you know? He’s married to that dog. Pa- pers and all.” “Again, funny.” Both MaryAnn and Lucas laughed, until they made eye contact with each other and both went mum. She took their order and saun- tered off, her shoulders drooped a little, and Charlie couldn’t stand it anymore. “Seriously?” “What?” Lucas asked. Charlie deadpanned. “What? Are you freaking kidding me? The whole town could feel that tension. Why not try?” Lucas took a drink of his sweet tea, set it down, then did it again, like he wasn’t ready to speak yet. Or maybe he didn’t know what to say. “She made her intentions clear years ago. Her mind’s not changing.” “She’s older now. Y’all were teenagers then. Maybe she wants you to make the first move.” “Says the dude who hasn’t been on a real date since . . .” Lucas cocked his head. “Come to think of it, I don’t think you’ve ever been on a real date.” “Whatever. I date.” “Sure you do,” Lucas said, relaxing now that the spotlight wasn’t on him. “You sound just like Lila, always deflecting.” And just like that, just the mention of her name, and Charlie sat up taller, eager to hear anything that might have to do with Lucas’s little sister. “What’s up with Lila these days? Still in vet school?” He thought of Lucas’s only sister, two years younger and forever tag- ging along with the two boys when they were kids. She’d always been pretty in a sweet, natural way, her smile and laugh infectious. Charlie looked after her when Lucas left for basic, but then Charlie moved to the Keys and Lila moved away to college, and he hadn’t seen her since. “Actually she finished school. Went to work in Charlotte for a while, but she moved back to town a week ago.” He took another drink of his tea, his look distant now, and Charlie got the distinct im- pression that Lucas was keeping something from him. “Why’d she move back to town?” Charlie asked. He wondered what Lila looked like now, if she’d kept her black hair cropped short like she had when she was little. But then most women changed their hair all the time, so it could be long now—beautiful. She probably had men waiting in lines to get her attention, that bright smile of hers forever turning the eye of everyone she passed. It had certainly caught his eye. Lucas shrugged. “Work stuff.” MaryAnn returned then with their food, saving Lucas from ex- plaining, but something was definitely going on. Still, it wasn’t Char- lie’s business, and he was never one to pry. “She ever marry?” All right, so maybe he was one to pry. “Nah, not her thing.” Charlie perked up at the thought, his heart light—happy. Wow, Lila wasn’t married. He’d expected her to be— But before he could finish the thought, Lucas pointed at him. “Don’t even think about it.” Charlie threw up his hands. “Think about what?” “Lila. And you. You and Lila.” A sarcastic laugh broke from his lips, despite the uneasiness in his chest. “You go insane again? This is me. She’s like a little sister to me.” Lucas settled in his chair again, but his face was still tense. “Right . . . just like the last time. My thoughts on this haven’t changed.” Cringing, Charlie thought of that fateful day in high school when he’d asked Lucas about his sister. It was a simple question—Is Lila around? Three words, nothing more. He and Lucas had always been best friends, but somewhere along the way, Charlie started noticing Lila more and more. Curious where she was, how she was doing. But needless to say, the conversation with his friend didn’t go well. Lucas went ballistic, shouting all the reasons Charlie wasn’t to touch his sister, and their friendship meant enough to him that he didn’t. “Relax, man. I’m not going after your sister.” Besides, Lila was the furthest thing from Charlie’s type now. He wasn’t into doctors or the professional type. Lucas had nothing to worry about. Nothing. But still, he couldn’t deny that he was curious what adult Lila looked like and whether she would remember the time they’d almost . . . No, surely not. Even if he would never forget.
 
 
Melissa West writes heartfelt Southern romance and teen sci-fi romance, all with lots of kissing. Because who doesn't like kissing? She lives outside of Atlanta, GA, with her husband and two daughters and spends most of her time writing, reading, or fueling her coffee addiction.
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