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text 2017-05-31 08:05
Cover Reveal - Second Chance

SecondChanceRevealBanner

 

Title: Second Chance

Series: Pam of Babylon, Book 15

Author: Suzanne Jenkins

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Tanya Shatseva

Release Date: July 3, 2017

Romance Genre(s): Contemporary

Pages: 300

View on Goodreads

 

SecondChance

 

About the Book:

 

Just when life settles down to a dull roar for those people whom Pam holds closest to her heart, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and everyone is tossed into the air. Who will they hold on to as they fall back to Earth?



Gladys finds the son she gave up at birth forty years ago; he's a single fire fighter on Staten Island. At their first meeting, he sees Pam's beautiful daughter, Lisa. Will it be love at first sight?



Big Ed leaves Gladys, his wife of almost forty years for Melody. The unexpected? Gladys falls into the arms of the eligible bachelor, Dave, owner of Organic Bonanza. Will it be a case of I don't want her, you can't have her?



And last but not least, Sandra starts up an unusual relationship with her late ex's ex-wife, Jenna. But history might repeat itself; Sandra can not be trusted.



Second Chance is the fifteenth novel in the beloved Pam of Babylon series.

 

 

 

 

Excerpt:

 

July. Fire House A-89, in the northeast corner of Staten Island.

 

Early Saturday morning, as the sun rose, fire fighter Dale McGuire stripped off turnout gear and hung it to air out on a hook on the outside of his locker. Coming in from a call for a small brush fire at the side of the highway right before the Verrazano Bridge entrance, Dale looked forward to coffee, something to eat, and bed for a nap, in that order.

 

Grabbing a towel, he walked to the shower, whistling.

 

McGuire is happy this morning,” his colleague, Paul shouted, coming on his shift.

 

Yeah, because he gets to go home,” another firefighter called out.

 

Chuckling, Dale nodded. Life was so peaceful, if it weren’t for the fires he fought, the lives occasionally rescued, he’d have to consider getting a hobby just to prevent boredom from setting in. Mind a blank as he lathered up, he thought of getting home to his dog, Tilly. She’d be on the back of the couch, waiting for him.

 

Jesus, buddy, I’m embarrassed to strip in front of you,” Paul said, pointing to Dale returning from the shower. “Look at this guy’s abs.”

 

Quickly pulling his towel up higher, Dale laughed. “You’re not my type,” he said over the hilarity. “I won’t watch you if it’ll help.”

 

Locker room banter took some of the pain the exhaustion the night shift firefighters experienced away. “See you Monday,” Dale said when he was dressed, grabbing his duffle bag.

 

He lived in the house his late parents’ left him on Todt Hill, within walking distance to the firehouse. Volunteering there during high school, he bypassed college, much to his parents’ chagrin, and took a full time position as a firefighter rather than go away to his father’s alma mater in Philadelphia.

 

It’s an honorable position, Douglas,” his mother had said in Dale’s defense. “Don’t make yourself sick with disappointment.”

 

I wanted our son to follow in my footsteps. A McGuire at Penn is a tradition.”

 

Twenty years later, they were both dead, a fatal car wreck snuffing out the lives of Dale’s favorite people. Walking up the hill, he glanced up at the imposing structure in the bright morning sun. It was a grand house, but too big for a single man approaching middle-age.

 

Parents gone almost three years, he’d taken over the house as his own and couldn’t imagine anyone else living there with him. The scariest part of that; he knew he was becoming so set in his ways that if he didn’t fall in love soon, it might be too late.

 

 

Preorder Links:

 

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

 

 

SuzanneJenkins

About Suzanne Jenkins:

 

My books are all creations of a rich and sometimes devilish dream life.  Don’t worry—you won’t see yourself in any of my books, but if you do, it’s just a coincidence… In a former life, I was a registered nurse who worked in the Operating Room for many years. Prior to nursing school, I was an OR technician, and after working in the OR for over thirty-three years, I can’t stand the sight of blood! I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for forty-eight years. We have two children and seven grandchildren and are down to one dog, Oscar. We live in the isolated mountains of north San Diego county, rarely leaving the sanctuary. It’s a wonderful place to hide out and write. I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and the RWA San Diego Chapter.

 

Connect with Suzanne:

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Linked In | Pinterest

 

 

Giveaway:

 

Enter via the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win one of the following:

  • First prize: Pam of Babylon bracelet and eBook box set of novels 1-5 in the series
  • Second prize: eBook box set of novels 1-5 in the series
  • Third prize: e-copy of Pam of Babylon

 

The contest closes at midnight EST on June 9 and is open to entrants worldwide. Good luck!

Enter here!

 

Tour Stops:

 

May 29

Loves Great Reads
A Fold in the Spine
Shh, I Am Reading
Amo & Sarah's Book Corner
Just Us Book Blog
Red's Romance Reviews

 

May 30

Books All Things Paranormal and Romance
Paranormal Palace of Pleasures
CelticLady's Reviews
Books, Dreams, Life
Pink Lace & Silver Buckles

 

May 31

***Kitty's Book Spot***
Tome Tender
Underneath the Covers
Literary Misfit

 

June 1

Anna Butler
LoveBound Books
A Naughty Book Fling
Reads and Treats

 

June 2

Ramblings of a Book Nerd
Liz's Reading Life
Always Love Me Some Books
Smokin' Hot Reads
Wicked Babes Blog Reviews
Abibliophobia Anonymous

 

 

Tour Hosted by LoveBound Promotions

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review 2017-05-24 08:05
Release Blitz w/Review - Fighting For Redemption
Title: Fighting for Redemption
Series: The Elite: Book Four
Author: USA Today Bestselling Author, Nicole Flockton
Genre: Adult, Sports Romance
Published: May 23, 2017
From USA Today Bestselling Author, Nicole Flockton, the final book in The Elite Series.

Bad Boy Brett Hunter is on a downward spiral after a poor performance at the Rio Olympic Games. His sponsors are threatening to drop him and trouble seems to find him wherever he goes. He’s comfortable with his bad boy image, it’s what he deserves after what he’s done. The last thing he wants to do is change the public’s perception of him, but his agent tells him, change his image or lose his sponsors.

Cassandra Fielder doesn’t like working with diva athletes – she’s been there, done that and has the divorce decree to go with it. When she finds out her new client is Olympian Brett Hunter, for the first time in her career she wants to tell her boss no, unfortunately, saying no isn’t an option. What she isn’t prepared for is the unexpected attraction flaring between them. She has no plans to play on that particular field again. As she spends time with Brett, she begins to see there is more to him than what he shows the public. But why is he trying so hard to hang on to his bad boy image?

Being with Cassandra has Brett facing old foes and a past he is desperately trying to forget. When the truth comes out, a fledging love is put to the test. Can it survive or has trust been irrevocably shattered?
 
 
  
Fighting for Redemption (The Elite, #4)Fighting for Redemption by Nicole Flockton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book #4, in The Elite series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader understanding and enjoyment, I always recommend reading series books in order.

Cassandra get told by her boss he is doing a favor for a friend, and she is recruited as the agent who will handle his client. When she meets Brett, she realizes there is an attraction there. Because of her past, she is wary about getting involved with another athlete.

Brett cannot believe the situation he has put himself in. He knows he can do better. Everyone is treating him like a child. Except Cassandra, she sends enough heat his way to make an oven. Can they build a future in the middle of cleaning up a mess?

The characters are just incredible to read. The sizzle and heat between them just leaps off the page. This series just gets better.


***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

View all my reviews
 
 

 






USA Today Bestselling Author, Nicole Flockton writes sexy contemporary romances, seducing you one kiss at a time as you turn the pages. Nicole likes nothing better than taking characters and creating unique situations where they fight to find their true love.

On her first school report her teacher noted "Nicole likes to tell her own stories". It wasn’t until after the birth of her first child and after having fun on a romance community forum that she finally decided to take the plunge and write a book.

Apart from writing Nicole is busy looking after her very own hero – her wonderfully supportive husband, and two fabulous kids. She also enjoys watching sports and, of course, reading.

 
 
 
Hosted By: 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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text 2017-05-03 07:05
Cover Reveal - Fighting For Redemption

Title: Fighting for Redemption
Series: The Elite: Book Four
Author: USA Today Bestselling Author, Nicole Flockton
Genre: Adult, Sports Romance
Coming: May 23, 2017
From USA Today Bestselling Author, Nicole Flockton, the final book in The Elite Series.

Bad Boy Brett Hunter is on a downward spiral after a poor performance at the Rio Olympic Games. His sponsors are threatening to drop him and trouble seems to find him wherever he goes. He’s comfortable with his bad boy image, it’s what he deserves after what he’s done. The last thing he wants to do is change the public’s perception of him, but his agent tells him, change his image or lose his sponsors.

Cassandra Fielder doesn’t like working with diva athletes – she’s been there, done that and has the divorce decree to go with it. When she finds out her new client is Olympian Brett Hunter, for the first time in her career she wants to tell her boss no, unfortunately, saying no isn’t an option. What she isn’t prepared for is the unexpected attraction flaring between them. She has no plans to play on that particular field again. As she spends time with Brett, she begins to see there is more to him than what he shows the public. But why is he trying so hard to hang on to his bad boy image?

Being with Cassandra has Brett facing old foes and a past he is desperately trying to forget. When the truth comes out, a fledging love is put to the test. Can it survive or has trust been irrevocably shattered?

Fighting for Redemption (The Elite: Book Four) Excerpt © Nicole Flockton 2017

"You're kidding me aren't you?" Cassandra Fielder looked at her boss, Frank, hoping he was pulling one of his rare pranks.
"No, I never joke when it comes to a client."
Well crap, he’s using is no-nonsense tone which meant one thing; it was a no prank day.
"Since when has Brett Hunter been one of our clients? I thought Powerz had him in an airtight contract."
"As of yesterday he became one of ours. He and Powerz had a mutual parting of ways."
"Why doesn't that surprise me," she muttered under her breath.
"Now, now Cassandra,” Frank tutted. “Given your experience with athletes, and given your ability to make an Eskimo buy ice, you're the best person on staff to handle Brett. I’m sure you’ll come up with some unique ideas to change the public's perception of his image. His Agent, Dan, is a friend of mine. I assured him we'd do everything we can to take Brett from being public enemy number one to hero of the hour."
God, the task was almost impossible. For his whole career Brett appeared to go from one scandal to another, culminating in a poor performance at the recent Olympics—in the pool and more drama than you could throw a stick at, out of it. The guy was a veritable marketers nightmare. And, lucky her, he was her nightmare now.
There was no point in arguing with Frank Allen, managing director of Star Image Consultants, once he'd made up his mind not even a jackhammer could prise the command loose. She supposed she should be flattered he thought so highly of her, even though he had to throw part of her past in her face. It was the very reason she didn't want to work with Brett. Athletes weren't high on her list of favorite clients she wanted to work with. Her only option was to suck it up and hope that she can do the impossible and do it quickly.
"Seeing as you have so much faith in me, and it’s obvious I have no choice. I'll contact his agent and set up an appointment time."
"No you don’t and there’s no need to contact Dan." Frank leaned forward and Cass knew she wasn't going to like what was coming next. "He's already in the conference room waiting to speak to you."
Fan-friggin-tastic. No time to prepare. No time to come up with any ideas to present to him. Hell, she needed time to think, image improvements didn’t just rain down from the sky. It was clear Frank was throwing her in the deep end and expecting her to swim to victory. Well she was no Olympic swimmer and the one waiting for her was just going to have to wait a little while longer.
"Well I'm going to need a few minutes to plan and look into things to see what I can come up with."
"No. I need you to see Brett now. Just meet him and then you can work out the best way to improve his image after you’ve talked to him."
God, how she wanted to stamp her feet and cry why me, but a diva she wasn't. A consummate professional she was.
"Fine. But next time, a little warning would be nice." She stood and headed toward the door.
"Oh, Cass?" She stopped, turned and faced Frank, lifting her eyebrow in query. "What fun would it be if I'd given you ample warning?"
This time Cass didn't hold back, she rolled her eyes and chuckled. "You're lucky I love you, Frank."
Still chuckling she walked out the door and headed for her own office to gather the things she needed. If it took her more than the five minutes it should, what did it matter? Brett Hunter could stew a little longer.
***
Not ready at all for this meeting, but knowing she'd delayed long enough, Cass straightened her shoulders, opened the door to the conference room, and found it—empty.
Great.
Fantastic.
He couldn't even wait ten minutes. Damn, why had she been so caught up trying to show Frank she couldn't be manipulated. Trying to get the upper hand in a meeting she was going blind into. She should've just grabbed a pen and notepad from someone else's desk, marched straight into the conference room, and dealt with Brett. If she'd done that she may have been back in her office, going over her notes.
Now she had to walk around the office to try and find her elusive new client. All the while making sure Frank didn’t notice she’d misplaced their now star client. Hoping like hell he hadn’t already left the building and was well on his way to getting into trouble. She had to find him fast.
If I was a disgraced athlete where would I go?
To the nearest exit and the closest bar?
That could be her scenario if she Brett didn’t turn up somewhere in the office.
"Are you my new brand expert?"
A deep voice sounded behind her. Relief coursed through her knowing that she wouldn't have to walk into Frank's office and tell him she'd lost his friend's client.
She turned, faced her quarry, and stuck out her hand. "Good morning Mr. Hunter, I'm Cassandra Fielder and yes I will be working with you to tidy up your image."
Her breath caught when Brett took possession of her hand in his and gave it a firm shake. Liquid heat wound its way through her bloodstream.
What the hell?

 


 


 

USA Today Bestselling Author, Nicole Flockton writes sexy contemporary romances, seducing you one kiss at a time as you turn the pages. Nicole likes nothing better than taking characters and creating unique situations where they fight to find their true love.

On her first school report her teacher noted "Nicole likes to tell her own stories". It wasn’t until after the birth of her first child and after having fun on a romance community forum that she finally decided to take the plunge and write a book.

Apart from writing Nicole is busy looking after her very own hero – her wonderfully supportive husband, and two fabulous kids. She also enjoys watching sports and, of course, reading.

B&N - Kobo - iTunes
 
 
 
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review 2017-04-25 07:03
Release Blitz - Shopping For A CEO's Wife

 

 
 
 

 

 
 

 

Title: Shopping for a CEO's Wife
Series: Shopping for a Billionaire #12
Author: Julia Kent
 
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: April 25, 2017
 
 

 

Blurb:
 
 
Snowbound. Sounds so romantic, with visions of cuddling before a roaring fire, hot chocolate spiked with brandy, and a secret elopement.
 
Wait. What?
 
My fiancé's father won't stop trying to turn our pending wedding into a three-ring media circus so he can get free publicity for his family's Fortune 500 company. My mother has decided she's done with All Things Wedding and asks her teacup Chihuahua for mother-of-the-bride advice.
 
They've all gone certifiably mad.
 
Then the stress from the wedding puts my mother in the hospital, I scream at my future father-in-law in front of a camera crew and the video goes viral, and the romantic wedding that started with Andrew's grand Pride and Prejudice proposal looks less like Jane Austen and more like Dostoyevsky.
 
So what do you do when you're a fixer and you can't fix something?
 
You give up on it.
 
Not on Andrew, silly.
 
The wedding.

Shopping for a CEO's Wife is the 12th book in Julia Kent's New York Times bestselling Shopping series. As Shannon and Declan enjoy their newlywed bliss, Andrew's father wants to exploit Amanda and Andrew's nuptials, much to Amanda's chagrin. Can she learn to stand up to her future father-in-law and fight for what's right? But the real question is: will Spritzy the teacup Chihuahua end up being a flower girl?

 

 
 


Shopping for a CEO's Wife (Shopping for a Billionaire Book 12)Shopping for a CEO's Wife by Julia Kent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is book #12, from the amazingly funny Shopping For A Billionaire series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. It will contain spoilers, and you will have greater understanding, should you read the series in order.

Andrew & Amanda have been though enough already. Now, as they plan their wedding the press and extended family are on their backs wanting the wedding their way. Has everyone on earth, including her mother forgotten who is really getting married here?

Amanda has had it. With everyone - literally everyone - wanting a piece or a picture of her, it is getting to be too much. She has the perfect line in the book. "I didn't fall in love with a CEO. I fell in love with a man."

Swoon. This is another of some of the best romance books ever written. I am a firm believer that all lover's of romance should get this series. I laugh, I cry, my breath stops, and my heart starts beating again. I loved every page!


***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

View all my reviews
 
 
 
Purchase Links:

 
 
 
Also Available:
 

 

 
AMAZON US / UK

 

 

 

 
Author Bio:
 
 
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men's room toilet (and he isn't a billionaire). She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down.

 

 
 
Author Links:
 
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text 2017-04-18 13:01
Release Blitz - His Competent Woman

  

 

 

Release Blitz

His Competent Woman

Ellen Whyte

April 18 2017

 

 
 
 
 
30,000 words 
Complete & Standalone
 
In desperate need for money, Emma applies for a job with handsome billionaire Curtis West. She's not really qualified for the job and to make matters worse, she loses her temper during the interview and fudges her credentials. Can she pull it off or will this end in tears?
 
 

Chapter One Emma: Bad News And Billionaires

 

     "Ben's a lovely boy," Miss Maddy said brightly. "We're so happy to have him."
     “Thank you so much!”
 
     Oh tell her to quit the chitchat and cut to the chase!
 
     That’s my inner devil. I’m patient and cool on the outside, but inside of me there’s this little voice that pipes up and says it how it is. She’s blunt, difficult and honestly, a bit of a slut. Maybe it’s the real me, I don’t know. But whoever that little voice really belongs to, she’s certainly impatient.
 
     While my devil was right, I resisted an impulse to hurry Miss Maddy along. Ben's schoolteacher was dedicated and likeable although somewhat longwinded. Being a teacher is a tough job, and Miss Maddy prefaced every conversation with endless compliments, as if parents weren’t capable of tackling reality without a spoonful of sugar.
 
     “Ben’s kind, generous and very popular.”
 
     "But Ben isn't doing well," I prompted her. "Is he naughty in class? Not listening maybe?"
 
     "He's in my bad books for being too chatty at least twice a week!" Miss Maddy laughed indulgently. "But that's normal for a seven year old, isn't it?"
 
     Come ooooooooooooooooon!
 
     "You asked me to come and see you," I reminded her. "You said it was important?"
     When she’d called me, I’d immediately envisioned broken bones or at the very least gushing blood. Once assured on both counts my mind had flown to some hideous disciplinary problem. Thankfully, Ben didn't seem to be in any trouble.
 
     "Ben's not doing well on his reading," Miss Maddy was finally getting to the point. "His writing is poor too."
 
     Okay, so my stomach plummeted at that. "He's young. I thought boys are slower to develop than girls?"
 
     "I think he may be dyslexic," Miss Maddy confided. "I'm not a psychologist, Mrs Reed, but he does seem confused about certain his words and letters. I think we should have him tested."
 
     Now I could barely breathe either. "Dyslexic? But that's serious, isn't it?"
 
     "Well, it makes school a bit more of a challenge but with support most children cope very well."
 
     “I’ll make an appointment with the doctor.”
 
     “I’m afraid that won’t work,” Miss Maddy said carefully. “Dyslexia isn’t covered.”
 
     Hell, hell, hell!
 
 
     If it wasn’t covered by the National Health Service, it meant private doctors. That meant money, and I didn’t have a bean. “Can you test him?” My voice was totally Mini Mouse, squeakily hoping against hope.
 
     “I’m afraid not.” Miss Maddy handed over a leaflet. "It takes a qualified psychologist. There’s a list here to help you out.”
 
     “They’re going to be expensive and I'm broke!"
 
     "I'm so sorry." Miss Maddy looked away, knowing it was bad news. "You're a widow, isn't that so?"
 
     "Yes." Dear Graham. Gone seven years now.
 
     "He died in Iraq?" Miss Maddy asked delicately. "Erm, during the war?"
 
     "Actually, he was run over." It still made me sad just thinking of it. "It was an accident."
 
     A stupid, stupid accident. A young man, a car thief, had made off with an army jeep parked at the Baghdad market. He'd jumped in, taken off and rocketed into Graham just twenty feet later. Killed instantly, Graham’s friends assured me afterwards. Graham hadn’t suffered at all, thank heaven.
 
     The driver had joined him shortly after. The mob had beaten him so badly that he'd died on the spot. It was no consolation. I didn't find it a comfort that two families had grieved instead of one. Still don’t actually.
 
     "Very tragic," Miss Maddy said sympathetically. “Look, there are some charities that help out. It’s all in the leaflet.”
 
     “Oh, thank God!”
 
     “But it can take months to make an appointment,” Miss Maddy cautioned me. “And it may not be in Oxford, so you may want to save for the trip.”
 
     Oh lord, it’s going to take us months, my inner devil moaned.
 
     Miss Maddy cleared her throat, piling on bad news, "I'm afraid that if Ben is dyslexic, he will need some support."
 
     Support. Crap, crap, crap. That meant specialist training, extra classes, and that meant more bills. My stomach pitched and rolled with fright. As if I weren’t already struggling to make ends meet.
 
     Parenting Ben on my own made working a regular job extremely challenging. Few businesses tolerate staff starting at 9am and dashing off at 3pm - never mind sick days and school holidays.
 
     I hadn’t been able to find a decent job, full time or part time, either. After applying to hundreds of companies, I’d turned to the gig economy. To my horror, I discovered that meant forking out for massively expensive babysitters at unreasonable hours. A zero hours contract at Tescos had actually cost me money at the end of the month, with all my salary and some of my last remaining savings going to sitters.
 
     Now I was just shattered at the thought of the months ahead. A psychologist would cost a bomb but there was nothing left to sell. The car had gone first, then the antique clock that had been my grandmother's and finally the 78s, the vintage records that had been Graham's treasures from his grandfather.
 
     All I had left of value was my wedding ring, an antique Cartier that I’d taken off and shoved into my pants drawer because two of the diamond chips had fallen out.
 
     Oh god, do we have to part with it? It’s all we have left of him!
 
 
     Just the thought made me feel like weeping but I had to pull myself together. Ben’s future was more important.
 
     "What will testing cost?" I asked Miss Maddy fearfully.
 
     "Well, there's the assessment. Last year we had little Siti Menon tested and I think her mum said it set her back -" Miss Maddy mentioned a figure that made me reel.
 
     “If he is, will he need special lessons?” I was praying she’d say not. “Or a special school?”
 
     “We can help,” Miss Maddy assured me.
 
     For a second I breathed again. If the school could pitch in, maybe we’d be okay. I was uncomfortably aware of being a burden, a scrounger on state benefits. Maybe I could help, volunteer for something.
 
 
     My spirits rose a little but then Miss Maddy whacked me right back down. “But if Ben’s diagnosed, there may be extras like a laptop and special software. Tutoring in coping techniques can sometimes help too.”
 
     She rummaged in her desk. “Let me see about prices. I had a list here from a chat group the other day. I think tutoring classes are charged by the half hour and that they tend to charge about -"
 
     By the time she was done, I felt sick. Even selling my ring wouldn’t raise enough cash.
 
     "But it's all worth it," Miss Maddy finished. "It really does work." Then she put the boot in. "Without intervention, he'll fall more and more behind."
 
     “Can the school help with a grant for testing?” I would crawl through broken glass if they’d help. Sack cloth, ashes, the lot.
 
     Miss Maddy just shrugged helplessly. “I’m so sorry.”
 
     “Or maybe if he needs it, with tutoring?”
 
     That got me another helpless shrug.
 
     I sat in my chair, shell-shocked. I knew that Ben would not get any more attention. It wasn't Miss Maddy’s fault. She simply had too many kids to cope with. The school was already under tremendous strain, with classrooms holding thirty children and sometimes more. Frankly, it was a miracle she'd not just dismissed Ben as lazy.
     "I'll see to it," I tried to sound totally cool. "Thank you, Miss Maddy. It's very kind if you to alert me."
 
     Miss Maddy blushed. "It's a pleasure. We all love Ben. He's such a pleasant boy."
     She’s a pain in the bum sometimes, Miss Maddy, but her heart is in the right place.
     Walking out on to the sunny street, I prayed for a miracle. Maybe the job centre had something new.
 
     "Oh, Mrs Reed," the counter staff knew me by name, I'd been in so often. "There's an opening in Tescos, but it's shift work. Mostly nights and weekends."
 
     "They pay so little that it won't cover the baby sitting," I couldn’t help but moan. "Is there anything that isn't zero contract hours or minimum wage?"
 
     "Nothing that matches your qualifications," the woman said sympathetically.
     "A degree in English literature and a year as a glorified intern in a publishing house have prepared me for nothing but benefits." Yes, I was on a total self-pitying grumble fest. "Why didn't I study something lucrative like accounting?"
 
     "Accounting?" One of the office staff popped up, holding a newly printed vacancy notice. "There's a job in Weston Enterprises. It says office manager but they said to give priority to people with bookkeeping or financial management experience."
 
 
     Weston Enterprises, a top of the line green architecture construction company. I took the posting and read through it quickly. It looked like simple enough work, a girl Friday job that covered office record keeping. It was nine to five, a proper contract and the salary was decent. It was a miracle.
 
     Run! My inner devil screamed. Get there right now! We’ll snaffle this job before some other desperate cow even gets wind of it!
 
     "I'll go straight away!" Then I ran out of the door before anyone could stop me.
     It wasn't difficult to find Weston Enterprises. Not only are they one of the richest construction companies in the country, but their headquarters consists of a silvered glass tower. Soaring straight up from a small park, the locals had nicknamed it Minas Ithil after the moon inspired spire from Lord Of The Rings.
 
     I managed to catch a bus that took me straight to the front gate. I blasted through the little park and arrived at reception pink faced and panting. "I've come about the office manager job," I announced.
 
     The receptionist, a pretty little bubble blonde in a blue flowered summer dress, glanced over the job vacancy sheet. "That will be Sam," she chirped brightly. "Top floor. Speak to Caitie. Her desk is in reception."
 
     The executive lift was opulent and made entirely out of glass. As it whisked me into the air, I was treated to a dazzling view of Oxford. The doors opened on an equally stunning vision: Caitie who was working the executive floor reception desk looked more like a fashion model than an office worker.
 
 
     She was perfect for Minas Ithil. Arwen Evenstar to the life, the girl could be an Elven Ring-bearer, no problem.
 
     Caitie was tall, slender and dressed in an emerald silky shift that looked straight off a Tokyo catwalk. Her glossy black hair fell down her back. It was so long, that it almost reached her waist. Everything about the woman screamed style. Even her nails were perfect; a classic French manicure with white glitter tips.
 
     I took in all the gloss, feeling my toes curl in shame. I would never, ever get a job here. It was amazing they’d even let me in the door.
 
     Her eyes are too close together and she’s probably got hammertoes. Inner me can be a bitch.
 
 
     “You’re here to see Sam?” The model was abrupt and her voice was rough. She was emptying out her desk, clearly intent on leaving. But she smiled nicely enough and waved me to a plush leather sofa. "Do take a seat."
 
     “Erm, can you point me to the ladies?”
 
     I bolted into the loo instead, took one look at my reflection and squealed with horror. I’d wanted to look smart for Miss Maddy so I’d worn plain black trousers and a navy blue blouse. It was suitably severe, corporate and nobody would guess that my black court shoes were so worn that the left one had a hole in the sole. But compared to Miss Evenstar out in reception, it looked hideously dull.
 
     As for my hair! It’s naturally curly and a dark chestnut that goes well with any strong colour from turquoise to wine. But with me raking my hands through it all morning, it was standing up on end. Sadly, it wasn’t a romantic wild cloud, either.
 
     I’d say porcupine but it has a flavour of puffer fish too, you know, that super poisonous one. Devil me can be mercilessly self critical too.
 
     To add a final horrible touch, my face was scarlet from running. As well as my looking like a freak, it had made my eyeliner run. Instead of sultry, I was looking at racoon eyes.
 
     “You look like Cher - after she’s put her fingers in a socket,” I grumbled at mirror me. “And without the sexy vulpine glamour.”
 
     Repairing the damage, I hastily combed my hair, pulling it back into a well-tamed bun. Running my hands under the cold tap and pressing them against my face, toned down some of the hideous flush.
 
     Waiting for the last of the red to cool away, I stared my reflection. My hair’s okay but I’ve got very ordinary brown eyes, too boring for beauty, a nice straight nose but it’s too big for my taste, and my mouth is too thin. Still, with the black and navy look I was presentable. I reminded myself that this was a job interview, not a beauty competition.
     Just as well really because my blouse looked as if I’d been poured into it and my trousers were disgustingly tight. I'd eaten been eating too much cheap stodge recently and had failed to lose my winter pounds as well.
 
     Real women have curves!
 
     It was not a comfort. "Well," I smiled at mirror-me. "At least giving up chocolate means no spots."
 
     Digging in my bag, I realised I was out of eyeliner. My mascara was almost dead, but a drop of water from the tap eked it out. I was almost out of lipstick too but by digging in the bottom of the tube, I made do.
 
     "There," I talked myself up for courage. "Understated, serious and dependable. Totally employable."
 
     There was no way I could compare to the gorgeous PA but seeing this was an admin job, hopefully looks wouldn’t matter.
 
     “You’ll be behind closed doors. Probably in the basement,” I assured myself.
     I looked at the job description again.
 
     Must have good organisational skills, communicate well and handle many details and challenging situations at once.
 
 
     Well, I could handle that. Having once invited Ben’s kindergarten group over to the house for his birthday, there was nothing a company could throw at me that would scare me. Twenty screaming kids had made me immune to chaos and yelling, and it was unlikely the executives would mimic little Kevin and vomit into my handbag or hang on to me so hard that my knickers slid down to my knees like they had with that minx Seema.
 
     Must be conversant with Microsoft Office packages including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
 
     Proofing manuscripts had made me an ace at editing, and I’d taken a course in PowerPoint at the Job Centre, just to improve my CV. My Excel skills were basic but I’d be fine after a bit of quick extra tutoring. All jobs have a learning curve. I could get up to speed in the evenings in the first week or so.
 
     Includes responsibility for liasing with vendors to ensure that orders are fulfilled as requested, invoices are paid and refunds or exchanges are processed.
 
     That sounded like it took common sense. Also, fighting with the plumber, the electrician and three roof contractors had made me an expert in negotiation. And with the plumber being a foul-mouthed Geordie, I’d not be knocked sideways by construction worker swearing either.
 
     Must hold a degree in business administration and have at least two years relevant corporate experience.
 
     Ouch. Now that was a stumbling block. I knew full well that a degree in English Lit would not be an acceptable substitute. But perhaps they were flexible on that.
     Human resources were always trying to filter applicants by box ticking, I told myself firmly. And anyway, figuring out our finances and living on the edge for seven years had to count for something.
 
     I took one last look in the mirror, straightened my shoulders and walked out, straight into a firestorm.
 
     “Caitie, my own bloody PA is cleaning out her desk right now! No notice!” The roar blasted out of the carpeted executive offices, ringing around the building. I flattened myself against the wall instinctively. “Family issues, she says! Her bloody sister had a kid and Caitie feels she has to run off and play nanny!”
 
 
     “Can we offer some leave instead?” a much more reasonable voice asked. “Negotiate?”
 
     “Seeing she’s been late every morning this week, and skiving off early, I told her to get out and not come back!” angry voice fumed.
 
     “Oh dear. And I came to tell you that Suze has given notice too.”
 
     "Whaaaaaat?" The loud angry voice echoed down the corridor, practically shattering the delicately tinted windows.
 
     "She has a baby, Curtis. She decided being a mum was more important than a career."
 
     "She told us when she applied for the job that she was a career woman!"
 
     "Yes, but she changed her mind. It’s not a total disaster, we can replace her."
 
     "Can we? We're still looking for a press relations exec too!" The voice was fuming. "One who won't give zero notice after falling in love with a bloody tourist and emigrating to Australia!"
 
     “Right, Anya,” the unfortunate Sam said. "Well, it was unusual, and rather romantic, I thought."
 
     "Romantic? It's disruptive and it costs a fortune to interview and recruit!" The anger was running freely, his voice ringing around the hall. "Babies, family issues and bloody husband hunting! They preach bloody equality but it’s all take and no give!”
 
     “Oh come on. We’re just hitting a bad patch.”
 
     “I've had it, Sam! From now on, no more women!"
 
     "Curtis, I appreciate you're angry but you know you can't do that. Discrimination is illegal."
 
     "Illegal? What about quitting with no notice? Three of them in one week!”
 
     “It’s unprincipled but we can’t exactly chain them to their desks.”
 
     “Unprincipled? It’s bloody robbery! Look at Suze! At the interview she went on and on about how she wanted a career, yet she married some banker a month later.”
 
     “Well, it’s not a crime.”
 
     “Isn’t it? She had a worthless bloody degree that qualified her for nothing when she started. I spent six months training her up, then she fell pregnant. She took her sick leave and her holiday, both of which I paid for. Then she vanished for the best part of a year on maternity leave, which I also paid for, and now she goddamn quits!"
 
 
     The roar reverberated through the hall. I shivered, frozen by the rage.
 
     "Yes, it's unfortunate-"
 
     "Unfortunate? It bloody well cost me a fortune!"
 
     “Yes, I know.”
 
     “Two years and I’ve not had an ounce of work out of her!”
 
     “Yes, but -”
 
     “You said I can’t fire her but now she can just leave?”
 
     “Yes.”
 
     “Can I sue her for compensation?”
 
     "No. It doesn’t work that way.”
 
     “Can I sue Caitie for walking out with no notice?”
 
     “Actually, no.”
 
     "Fine. In that case, no more women."
 
     "But Curtis -"
 
     I snuck down the hall, back into the waiting room, now empty, and then sat trembling. Curtis, the voice had said. That roar had been Curtis Weston, CEO of Weston Enterprises. I’d read about him often.
 
     Curtis was one of our local lions. An inspirational architect, the creator of the glass Minas Ithil tower and winner of several awards, including a coveted RIBA for innovation in architecture. He was a local boy who had built up a billion pound fortune, and everyone in Oxford was proud of him.
 
     In interviews he'd seemed pleasant if rather driven. Now I was changing my mind. Curtis Weston only cared about his business. He didn't have a clue that life, love and family can change lives and priorities.
 
     It was unfortunate that he was losing three of his staff at the same time, but being stinking rich, he could just replace them. Curtis Weston’s reaction was completely over the top.
 
     "Mrs Reed?" A tall friendly looking man with sandy hair and a slightly rumpled brown suit stood before me. "I'm Sam Jefferson, human resources director." He had a warm smile and a firm handshake. "You're awfully quick! I only sent the job spec an hour ago."
 
     I smiled, "I like to be efficient." Game on, right?
 
     "Right," Sam was looking me over. With a sinking heart I could see he was noting the lack of jewellery, well-worn shoes and probably my worried eyes too. Oh crap. The Job Centre probably sent him my CV.
 
     “Penguin Publishing!” Well, that’s impressive!” Yes, Sam was checking out my past. My heart was plummeting into my gut again.
 
     Smile and flash our boobs, my horrible self is shameless. Think of Ben! If it helps get us the job, it’s worth it!
 
     God to be reduced to this! I did have a promising start in Penguin but then there was a telltale year long gap, and then the dratted thing was littered with zero hour jobs. The whole thing reeked of loser.
 
     "Cashier at Tescos, driving for Uber, and part time cleaner for the Royal Bank," Sam said warmly. "You're versatile and not afraid of hard work. You’ve been taking short courses too. Excellent!"
 
     He was going to turn me down! The despair just blasted through me. He wanted a competent professional with years of experience, not a run down single parent. Especially with Curtis Weston ripping into him just minutes before.
     I’m a lame duck mum, I thought.
 
     The money I needed was receding before my eyes. In a flash I could see Ben being left further and further behind, with me standing uselessly on the sidelines, unable to help him.
 
     Fight, you stupid cow!
 
     "I'm organised and used to coping with problems," I said quickly. "I enjoy challenge and I'm a fast learner."
 
     "Yes, I can see that," Sam said gently. I could tell he hated this part of his work, telling desperate job seekers they were out of luck. Sam seemed a kind man, one of the best. He was probably thinking that Curtis Weston would kill him if he hired me. I wasn't even remotely a fit for the job either, or any job they had probably.
     "Mrs Reed, I'm very sorry but -"
 
     "The Royal Bank were very pleased with me," I interjected desperately. It wasn't a lie. The manager had complimented me on my sparkling clean corners and floor waxing.
 
     "Sam, can I borrow Jenny?" Curtis put his head around the door. "I've got a pile of correspondence and I’m busy with that presentation for Fitzsimmons -" he stopped abruptly and stared at me. “Oh,” he said crisply. “Hello.”
 
     He was much taller than I’d imagined. Curtis Weston was easily six feet, with narrow hips and long legs contributing to an overall impression of lean grace. He moved swiftly, every move economical and purposeful. It was sexy as hell; panthers had nothing on this man.
 
     The strong regular features were good too. Short brown hair, brown eyes and a light tan from working outside set off sparkling white teeth, small nose and slanting cheekbones.
 
     Oh sweet mother of god, YUM! He’s stunning! Want! Want! Want!
 
 
     I ignored my suddenly thumping heart. Okay, what am I lying for? The thumping was way lower down in my body.
 
     Good looks and ohmilord just look at the window dressing!
 
 
     The expensive suit was definitely more than an off the rack at some high-end fashion house like Armani or Cardin. No, this was pure Savile Row. It was hand made and beautifully tailored to highlight the sinewy physique and the expensive black material screamed money. So did the crisp blue shirt and the navy and red tie.
     My knees were going liquid just looking at him. He was damn gorgeous.
 
     Lean, dark and sexy, just like we like them, inner me moaned. And seeing he built this business up from nothing, he's also bright and hard working.
 
     I had to agree. If we’d met at a party, I'd have made the most horrendous pass.
     The thing about all that beauty and grace is that I suddenly became aware of less than glorious me. Horribly aware of my clothes, too worn to impress and definitely straining at the seams, I sucked in my tummy. I really had to lose some weight.
 
     Like chop off three inches all the way round. Or industrial lippo-suction.
 
     I was also cursing myself for my haste. Instead of rushing over, hoping that being first would snag me the job, I should have made an appointment, done my hair properly, dressed better and looked the part.
 
     Investing in some new shoes might have been a good move too. I could feel the unseen hole in the sole burning into my foot.
 
     "You're applying?" Curtis spoke swiftly, with a light, clipped tone.
 
     Say something!
 
 
     But I was tongue-tied, suddenly shy of all that gorgeousness right in front of me.
 
     “This is Emma Reed,” Sam said quickly. “She’s here for the office manager job.”
 
     Curtis stepped forward and I caught a whiff of his aftershave: leather and orange. It promised warmth and excitement. I could feel myself flush.
 
     He’ll have a lean body with long ropey muscles. Those arms will curl around us, sexy and hard. Totally delicious.
 
 
     I mentally shook myself and told myself to focus. Curtis Weston was clearly out of my league, just like the job but oh my God, if only I could take him home as a consolation prize!
 
     You still haven’t spoken, moron!
 
     “Hello!” It was supposed to come out cool and competent but I sounded like Minnie Mouse. I cleared my throat, adding, “Nice to meet you.” Hell! Now I was Billy Goat Gruff!
 
 
     Curtis Weston nodded briefly. “How do you do.” His voice was cool to the point of cold.
 
     He was looking me over. I suddenly had the impression that I was standing under a searchlight. Every inch of me felt hot and exposed. The hazel eyes ran over me swiftly. This was a man who was quick in everything, from mood to decisions. And by the pursed mouth I could feel him judging my worn shoes and lack of gloss.
 
     The image of Caiti, the supermodel in the emerald sheath, rushed back into mind. Yes, the slightly contemptuous gaze told me Curtis Weston thought I wasn't up to par.
     He wasn't gorgeous; he was a judgemental arse.
 
     Suddenly furious, I turned to Sam. "As I was saying, Mr Jefferson, the Royal Bank was pleased with my work. They did say they might have another opening, so if you've other candidates-"
 
     "The Royal Bank?" Curtis interjected. "You worked there?"
 
     "Yes, and for Tesco, and Penguin publishing." I decided I'd lay it on thick. I'd never get the job, Sam Jefferson would know I was misrepresenting myself, but at least I could walk out with my pride intact.
 
     "Are you married?" Curtis asked abruptly. "Or intending to get pregnant soon?"
 
     "Curtis!" Sam was red with annoyance. "For God's sake!"
 
     "Oh, I don't mind," I said sweet as honey. "Let me tell you, Mr Weston, that I am not married, and do not intend to marry. Frankly, I have no interest in men!"
 
     "Excellent!" Curtis said promptly. "You're hired!"
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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