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CHAPTER REVEAL: Love’s Wall by Karen Deen

Title: Love’s Wall
A Time for Love Series Standalone
Author: Karen Deen
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 4, 2017

Blurb
Falling in love can be so easy – but is it always the right thing to
happen in your life? Everyone has a history but, for some, that history makes
them believe they aren’t worthy of love.
Zach
Life sends us the right person at the right time. You just have to be
ready to accept them.
When his last relationship ended and shattered his dreams for the future,
Zach moved forward carving out a life on his farm. He built a wall around his
heart so he’d never be hurt again.
Family is everything for him. Working in the family-owned building
company, life was simple and happy. Yet something – or someone – was missing
from that life. Zach didn’t know it, but things were about to change. His wall
was about to be tested and love was going to challenge everything he has
strived to protect. Will it crumble enough for him to accept his one?
Emily
Just when you least expect it, there is that one moment that changes
everything.
Being a single Mom, every day is a challenge for Emily. Her life has
become a series of relentless hurdles. She decided a long time ago that love
was on hold until her children were old enough to support themselves.
Life has toughened Emily. She’s created a wall around her little family
to protect them – and her heart. Never again would she allow it to be taken and
abused by someone else. Pushing hard to survive the latest blow, Zach walks into
her life and turns it upside down. Seeing Emily at her lowest, Zach wants to
rescue her. Can she let her pride slip enough to allow her wall to crumble and
open up to him? If she finally shares her world, will Zach still look at her
the same? Should she put it all aside so she doesn’t miss her one?
Can love erase the history that has made their walls so thick and high?
Even if they both know they’ve found the
one, can they demolish their walls
enough to make the leap? 

Chapter One
Zach
Heading
across the bedroom, steam still swirling around from the shower, I paused. The
view of the mountains brought a smile to my face as I stood naked at the
window, enjoying the morning in all its glory. The breeze carried the bird
s morning song and the sounds of the cattle in
the paddocks through the open window. Nature was busy getting ready for the
day. I pulled my clothes on for the office. Part of me wished that I could just
jump back into my farm jeans, shirt and boots and head out to the barn to
saddle up for a ride. I could use one more day to relax in this tranquil place
like I had been for the last two days.
Thinking
back on the weekend I could see that, although I loved my life, it was missing
something. Or perhaps someone. My life was full. I had an amazing family and a
business that made me happy to get up and go to work every morning. My home was
my safe-haven, it gave me a place to just be myself with no expectations. It
also gave me a place to hide. With all of the things that were right in my
life, there was still a part of me that was empty. After letting my mind drift,
I knew I needed to get my head around the start of a new week. Jumping in the
car, I placed the same call that I made every Monday morning as I drove out of
the gate. 
Good morning, Zoe, how was your weekend?I smiled, waiting for the usual answer.
“Morning,
Zach. Let’
s just say
that several words can describe it. My weekend was fun, crazy, drinking,
partying – all of which have led to my head paying the consequences this
morning!
Zoe then launched into stories of
the weekend and we spent time laughing about her nights out.
As I turned
down the entrance to the highway and felt my foot press down on the pedal, my
body pushed back into the leather seat that wrapped around my body so well. The
buzz of driving a nice car at speed brought a smile that inched up my face.
So the big question is, Zoe did you spot your Mr Right out
there somewhere?
I let out a little chuckle, hearing
Zoe sigh and then laugh. She got ready to joke it off, but I knew deep down
under the party girl exterior it was no joke. She was a young lady who would
give anything to have a man to love and protect her, to plant her feet on the
ground. My gut feeling was that man would be my brother, Luke, but the two of
them just hadn’t worked it out yet. The sexual tension between them could light
up Times Square, yet they both fought so hard to keep that
friend wallup. One day something was going to flick that switch and the explosion
would be more impressive than the Fourth of July fireworks. I
d just sit back, watch, wait and then say I told you sobecause I knew all along.
Now Zach, you know as good as I do
that there is no good man out there who will pin me down. Living the dream,
Zach, living the dream
. I burst out laughing at Zoes comment, knowing she was trying to convince
herself of that.
Tell your head that this morning,
Zoe. Anyway, as much as I hate to hurt that little brain of yours, what
s on the agenda for today? Also, did you get
that email I sent you re the plans for Branch Street that need to be at council
by 10.00am?
Yes, yes,she sighed.Already done, you know I am always
one step ahead of you!
Zoe joined
our building development company five years ago straight out of secretarial
college and had been my assistant from day one. It was a match that could have
spelled disaster. She walked in on a day that had me dragging myself up off the
couch in my office. I was trying to make the bathroom to throw up the bottle of
bourbon I had consumed the night before. Tragically, I stumbled and managed to
throw up on her shoes and then lay moaning at her feet.
Our
relationship could have gone either way. She could have turned around and
walked straight back out, cursing me as she left, never to return. Instead, Zoe
just looked down at me and burst out laughing. She proceeded to tell me to take
my hungover ass and grovel back to the couch while she changed and cleaned up
my mess. She walked over and threw her shoes in the bin, mumbling that she
expected two new pairs of shoes to replace the ones which were now laying sadly
in the bottom of the bin. It hurt my head to laugh, but I couldn
t help but let out a quiet chuckle. We would
get on just fine.
Zoe spent
our first day of working together in her gym clothes. Luckily, they were in her
car and clean. Me? I was in the singlet and jeans I had on from the night
before, minus the shirt. It had a new home in the bin with her shoes!
Zoe had cleaned me up, poured coffee
that was as thick as tar down my throat, along with bottle after bottle of
water and plenty of pain relief. We managed to get to the end of the day and
she never asked what happened. And I never told her. From that day forward, we
had been great friends, as well as work colleagues. She knew I would be there
to stand up and protect her, no matter what. 
Zoe would jump in front of anyone trying to take advantage of my soft
caring heart. If I was the builder of the wall in front of my heart, Zoe was
the guard at the gate. We just clicked that way. Although I already had two
sisters, Alesha and Lilly, Zoe had become like my third and I was just as
protective of her.
Ok, so if you are one step ahead of
me, what am I doing today, Miss Smarty Pants?
I heard the tapping of her long painted nails on the keyboard as she
called up my calendar.
You will be in the office in
approximately thirty minutes. Oh wait – what are you in today, the SUV or the
BMW?
Waiting for
the smart answer that would come back, I replied,
The BMW, so you better adjust the time frame.” I pushed the speedo up
and got into the fast lane. One of my weaknesses was the love of a fast fancy
car. Although I had not indulged myself in the last few years, I still loved my
BMW. It may not be the highest priced or the fastest model, but it appealed to
me with its style and lines. That was me, I was always looking at how something
spoke to me before I acquired it. I had to feel it was meant to be part of my
world before I proceeded.
Ok, you will be in the office in
twenty minutes so we can have a coffee and run through this week
s planning. Then you have the family meeting at
12pm for lunch. You will need all your files for that. I’ve put the updates and
proposal for the Branch Street property on your desk. Bob Walter is meeting you
at 4pm with the legal papers for the eviction notices for Branch Street. Then
you have dinner booked at 6pm with your Grandmother at Waters Edge. Your older
control-freak brother, Grant, is picking her up at 5.40pm from home. I have the
birthday present wrapped and on your desk as you asked. How am I doing so far?”
Wow! What would I do without you, Wonder Woman?” I grinned as I looked out the window,
trying to hold my laughter inside.
Screwed, Id say. Now, can I get off the phone so I can get a coffee, otherwise
that morning smile you are wishing for will be non-existent.
As much as
I loved Zoe like a sister, you never crossed her before the first coffee in the
morning.
Just quickly before you start having
a meltdown, I am going past Branch Street before I come to the office. I want
to take a few more photos, so don
t worry about
my coffee. I will grab one on my travels
Ha, like I was getting you one
anyway. Bye.
I hung up with a smile, knowing she
would have had one on my desk when I walked in the same as she did every other
morning. I was such a creature of habit. I also knew I never got to say goodbye
because she always liked to have the last say. Typical woman.
Zoe always
believed she was one step ahead of me. I loved to humour her, but the truth
was, I knew everything she told me this morning because I was a fine-details
person. She was my back up and was damn good at it. Her job was very important
to her. It kept her out of the mess of a life she’d worked so hard to rise
above.
I put my
head back on the headrest and searched through music playlists to get my Monday
morning going. I loved all sorts of music, but when you are cruising down the
freeway with the sun shining, there was nothing better than good
ol’ solid eighties rock to sing along to.
The Monday
morning drive into the office of our family owned-property development and
building company always gave me time to prepare mentally for the week ahead. I
loved the challenge of my role – sourcing properties in need of development to
increase their value. Or finding those sitting on the market needing to be
demolished. My true passion, though, was to restore homes and buildings to
their former glory whilst modernising them with the comforts of the
twenty-first century. These properties were hard to find and I was very
selective of the ones I purchased, due to the cost of restoration in relation
to what they would sell for.
Sometimes,
though, there was that special property that came along that spoke to me. The
costings became less important and the project became about me. That was the
case for my home, which I purchased two years ago. It was situated on fifty
acres of land, thirty minutes outside of the city. The day I saw the listing
pop up in my real estate watchlist, I knew I had to have it.
The first
photo I saw was of a two-storey farm house with wide verandas all the way
around the house. The front of the house had a beautiful set of stairs that
opened out like welcoming arms, just like that first warm embrace of a loved
one. The stairs led straight up to solid double doors at the entrance. When
opened, they gave the first glimpse of a home full of love and laughter. The
problem was that the love and laughter had been sucked out of this home. The
previous family had spent ten years battling over the proceeds of the deceased
estate of an elderly couple.
I had later
found out the previous owners were Tom and Nellie Smithton. They had built this
home after marrying seventy-five years ago. The two souls had spent a lifetime
devoted to each other and their home. Tom and Nellie were never able to have
children, but it never changed the amount of love they’d had to share. Many
friends from church had taken their children to spend time on the farm. Nellie
enjoyed baking for the children and fussing over them. They became known as
Poppy Tom and Nanna Nellie to generations of children who’d loved them dearly.
They passed
away within a week of each other, Nellie from a stroke in her sleep and Tom
from a broken heart six days later. The farm was left to the church in their
will. But, as it happens so often these days, the will was challenged by two
great-nieces and a nephew. The nephew challenged to try and stop his greedy
twin daughters. They were spoilt little rich girls and never felt that generous
wealth was enough. The nephew had always said he would gift back to the church
if he was successful. He had disowned his daughters for their terrible
behaviour. Needless to say, it dragged on to become a lengthy court battle
where the only winners were the lawyers. In the end, the decision was that each
would receive part of the estate. The property needed to be sold. That became
my lucky day. In my heart, I hoped to bring their property back to being a
place that was a treasured home.
When I saw
the home listed, I rang the agent straight away. I offered the asking price
without any haggling, on the condition that it be pulled from the market
immediately and a quick settlement negotiated. I wanted this house more than I
had wanted anything in my life. Well, except for the one thing that I would
never allow myself to have again. My heart could not take that.
I didnt tell my family I had even put in an offer on
the property until I had already settled the purchase. Grant was pissed, to say
the least, because he had not been consulted whether he thought it was a good
investment. Ever since my parents had retired, Grant had become the
self-appointed head of the family, whether we wanted it or not.
Luke had
complained, but only because he had to put up with Grant
s grunting. The silent treatment always
happened in the office when Grant believed one of us had stuffed up. Of course,
the girls both questioned why I had bought a house so far out of the city – it
would be like going to the end of the earth to have to travel that distance
every day to civilisation.
Apparently, life ceases to exist past the
Central Business District of Cashmore!
Nobody sold
coffee or shoes that were up to the standard of my fashion conscious,
latte-sipping sisters. Zoe just raised her eyebrows and gave three reasons why
it was a dumb idea – no night clubs, no girls and
no life!
I remember
the feeling of the grey cloud my family had painted getting heavier over my
heart. For once, I felt like I had finally found a place to just be me and make
my mark on the world, but they were raining on my parade. It hurt, but I would
never let them know that. I did what I had always done for many years – painted
a smile on my face. I loved my family with every part of my being and would
never hurt them. I had kept a part of me hidden from them, as well as from the
rest of the world. I would never again be vulnerable to having my world
shattered. Love is amazing and the most comforting emotion, but it could also
rip you to shreds. After being on both sides of the wall, I had chosen my side.
The side which was comfortable and safe. I had built my wall just that little
bit higher, thicker and stronger so it kept me safe and stopped any future
intruders from crossing over it.
It hurt to
think of my life before then. I had never completely shared with anyone what
truly happened, nor would I ever. No matter how much you moved on, pushed it
down, stepped on top of it and tried to climb above it, there’d always be a
part of it that would pull you down.
Regardless
of what my siblings and Zoe had thought, the house was right for me and I would
make it my home by bringing back its dignity. Maybe that was what I’d needed to
do to help me see value in my own life. To feel like I had dignity again. That
was a thought I kept to myself.
When my Mom
and Dad came home for a few weeks, in between travelling the country in their
motorhome, it was their opinions that mattered the most. My father was the
typical all-American, hardworking, self-made, protective alpha male who valued
his wife and children above money and power.
My
grandfather had died from a heart attack when Dad was ten years old. Dad took
on the responsibility of becoming the man of the house and looking after my
grandmother. He took it very seriously and, as an only child, Grandmother had
no one else to lean on. Dad grew up faster than most kids his age. He was a
great man and worked hard to be the best father he could, providing us with all
that we needed. He always loved us. We knew we were loved unconditionally.
While the love for his children was big, the love in his heart for our Mom was
huge. They had that connection of love that made their souls melt into one,
their lives intertwined around each other
s hearts to keep them safe.
My mother
was the opposite to Dad. Dad was the foundation of our family tree. He was
strong and solid and lifted us all up to the sun. My Mom was the softness of
the leaves, the beauty of the flowers and the memorable moments of their scent.
She was the branches that twisted, curled, intertwined and reached out to
protect her family tree. They were the perfect couple that you always heard
about. The ones women swooned over in those trashy romance novels, like the
ones Zoe read when she thought I wasn’t watching.
I grew up
with the perfect family around me. I
d forever be
grateful for the love we had and the feeling of always being safe. Many aren
t so lucky to have grown up in such a home. My
parent’s life, although it was perfect for them, was one that I had decided was
not going to happen for me. While thinking my siblings would all at some stage
find that special person to love, cherish and share a life with, it was no
longer in my life
map.
I
was resigned to be
the uncle who was always there to be fun, protect, guide and love any nieces or
nephews that came along. I hoped there’d be plenty, but being a father was no
longer an option for me. I always imagined I would make a good dad. I’d
visualize it and see a little boy with brown hair and
brown eyes like me. Or perhaps a little girl with ringlet curls like my
sisters, with big eyes that would suck her Dad in every time.
My family
would never know why, but the uncle life was the path for me. They would be the
ones to benefit from the love I had to give, without the pain that could come
in return when giving out that love. Family was your safe place. Well, it was
for me
.
When Mom
and Dad arrived at the property for the first time, I held my breath. Although
I knew I had made the right decision for me, their opinions were so important.
As their
truck came slowly down the gravel drive from the front gate, I wondered what
they thought of the house at first sight. Did they see it the same way I did?
Was I the only one whose heart had skipped a beat on their first trip down the
same strip of gravel that they now travelled?
The drive
to my home was lined with maple trees that were bare at the time the property
became mine. They stood tall, solid and strong, yet sparse as I’d crawled
slowly towards the house that memorable day. They looked like they were
reaching out to find someone to love the property and, in turn, them.
The truck
crawled to a stop in front of the staircase where I stood at the top, looking
down. Mom jumped out and raced around the front of Dad
s truck, which was his pride and joy. He always told us, every man needs a truck so they can work hard
and provide for their family
. Mom
always giggled at that statement, but all of the boys in our family owned
trucks, even if we had other vehicles. It was in our blood that every man
needed a truck to be as big a man as our Dad. He was our hero.
Mom took
the steps at a jog and jumped into my arms with a big tight hug. I wrapped my
arms around her and buried my head into the crook of her neck. I took a deep
breath and with it, the scent that was my Mo
m. My safe place. It was the scent that took you back in time to when you
scraped your knee and she kissed it better. Or the time you were sick in bed
and she sat all night holding your hand while you battled the fever. Mom was
always home, no matter what.
I lifted my
head up and looked down at her face which, now aged a little with many laugh
lines (as she called them), had the loving smile she saved just for her kids.
Although she was having a ball travelling with Dad, she missed her kids
terribly. And although Dad would never admit it, I think he did too. Mom always
said they were travelling now so that by the time grandkids were arriving, they
would have that bug out of their system. There was no way in hell she was
missing one moment of being a grandparent. God help her grandkids, they were
going to be smothered with love! Then again, what more could any child want but
to feel the love of a whole family?
Mom was not
a short woman, standing at 5
’7”. To my 6’2” height, her head sat perfectly under my chin
and leant against my heart, taking it all in. When she looked up at me finally,
her eyes were damp. There was warmth shining out of them and her smile lit up
her whole face. It told me her heart had skipped that beat on the trip down the
gravel driveway too.
So, what do you think, Mom? Does it give a good first impression?I asked, thinking I already knew the answer. Oh Zach, it is wonderful! What a precious
looking home. It looks just perfect. I can
t wait to see what you do with it. I would love to hear all your ideas
for it. Take us on the grand tour and share what your dreams are!
Mom bounced with excitement and talked quickly
as she dragged me towards the front door.
Hang on a minute, woman! Can I get a
word in, or at least a hug from my son?
boomed Dads deep voice as he climbed from his
truck.
Hey Dad, thanks for coming to check
the place out and give me your thoughts
”.
Zach, my boy, good to see you,he said, giving me the typical Dad man-hug with the compulsory man-slaps on the back.
Always three slaps. When we were little, I asked Dad why he always did three
slaps on our backs. He laughed and hugged me, his arm around me with his hand
on my shoulder blade. He slowly slapped me and said,
This first slap is to let you know I am glad to see you. The second is
to let you know that I am always there for you. The last is the most important.
It is to remind you that, no matter what happens in your life and no matter
where you are, I will always love you.
I have
carried that memory with me every day since. For a man who always appeared to
the outside world as the strong alpha male, he also had a soft spot that he
only showed to his family. Even now, as grown adults that were out living their
lives in the world, we immediately
got the hug and
three slaps from Dad
. Only after Mom had hugged the air
out of us first, though!
Dad pulled
back from the hug and looked up, casting his eyes over the house. He went quiet
and started to wander off around the outside of the veranda, lifting his eyes
up and down and taking in the structural elements. As I stood and watched him
with anticipation, Mom tapped me on the arm and grabbed my attention.
Come on, Zach. Let him go. You take me inside
and show me around this gorgeous new home of yours.
I looked down at the excitement in her eyes and took her by the hand. We
turned towards the front door and I lead her into my new world. The one I was
creating to live in.
I have so many ideas, Mom, that I
feel like my head is going to explode with the amount of activity that is going
on in there. It’s hard to concentrate on work when my mind keeps coming back to
here. I want to bring life back to it and show the house as it once was. There
is so much beauty in the original architecture and building materials, but it
has been left to rot. It
s been neglected for the last ten
years, some of the house is past just a paint job. Some of the timber will need
to be repaired or replaced to return it to its original state.
Mom started
to run her hand along the walls as we stood in the entry and fell silent while
she assessed the sight that played out in front of her. What was she doing
rubbing the walls, I wondered? It
s not like she
was testing for wood rot or structural soundness, because Mom would never make
a builder. After she stood for a minute, she turned to me with a serious look
on her face. As she contemplated whatever she was thinking about, the wrinkles
on her forehead relaxed and the corners of her mouth began to curve up towards
her eyes, bringing out the warm smile.
Um, Mom what are you thinking?She let out a nervous giggle, sighed and looked me straight in the eye. This house has a great vibe to it. It will make
a perfect home for you, Zach, you can feel the love in its walls. It was built
to be filled with the love of a family. It will be a special place for you to
bring home a bride one day. The two of you will fill it with love and a family
of your own. It will be magical for this house to be the home it was built to
be by the old couple. There is magic here, Zach, I can feel it.
My heart
stopped beating and my brain froze. How do I break my mother
s heart and tell her that would never happen?
There would be laughter and smiles here, but the love of a family would only be
here when they came to visit. I stared at her while she continued to talk
ten-to-the-dozen, but I didn’t hear a word. Doubts began to creep into my mind.
Did I do the right thing buying this property? Was it meant to be a home for
some lucky family who would have kids running around screaming, laughing and
climbing the trees? A dog chasing at their heels as they rode their push bikes
from the house to the front gate and back?
“Zach…..Zach………ZACH!Mom started waving her arms madly in front of my face. Where did you zone out to, Zach, this isnt like you? Are you okay, honey? Did I scare
you with all the talk of a bride and kids?
She sniggered to herself. Dont worry, plenty of time for that. Lets get the house fixed up first and then you can
go looking for your bride to make it a home.
Just
paint on that smile again, Zach, and it will be okay. Take a breath and just
relax. Breath in, then out, in, then out. Every breath in is helping put
another layer of bricks between the safe side of the love wall and the other
side that I can
t go to.
Zach, are you okay? You look pale
and have lost that excited look you had when we first walked in.
Sorry Mom, just got lost in a
daydream about the renovations
More like a
nightmare
, I
thought to myself.
How about I show you through the
downstairs living areas, then we can take a look upstairs at the bedrooms and
bathrooms. What do you say?
I held my
arm out for her to take, and the moment she linked her arm in mine, the
calmness of a mother
s love warmed my body. I relaxed
into her side as we stepped together down the hallway through to the formal
lounge room. This was the room where I had visions of me after a long day at
work, sitting back in my leather recliner in front of the open fire. I
d watch the flames dance over the wood as it
burned. The warmth would spread through the room, enveloping me and seeping
into my body, relaxing my muscles. My body would sag back into the cosiness of
the chair and I could lose my thoughts gazing out the large bay window facing
the front of the property. I would look towards the surrounding open space of
the farm, with the beautiful trees that line the drive and the mountains in the
distance. A great way to unwind with a glass of red wine and just contemplate
the world.
As we
studied the room, I explained my visions in broad terms to Mom. I wanted to
keep part of my dream as mine for a while until such time as it was completed
or I was ready to share it. Mom loved the room and all that I was going to do
to bring it to life. The rest of the tour went much the same as I lead her from
room to room until we ventured upstairs.
Wow, look at the size of this master
bedroom, it
s huge! Especially for the era the
house was built in. And the views from this window to the river and mountains
are spectacular! I can imagine what it would look like at night lying in bed
looking out to the stars over the mountains. Zach, you could not have found a
more perfect home!
Thanks Mom, it means a lot to hear
you say that. You know, Grant didn
t talk to me
for a week when I told him and Luke that I had bought it.
I jumped a
little as Dad
s voice came from behind us
unexpectedly.
Your mother is right, Zach. This is
a great buy with plenty of potential to bring it back to its prime. Don
t worry about your brother. He is just sulking
because he had to realise you don
t need him to
hold your hand. I swear he thinks he is the father of this family, frickin
control freak!
Mom nearly
choked as she burst out laughing at my Dad.
Gee, Mitch, I wonder where he gets that character trait from?
Bite that cute little tongue of
yours, Sophia,
he said as he strode across the room
and wrapped her up in those big manly arms of his. He leant down and placed a
very tender kiss on her lips and whispered,
Or will I have to shut that cheeky little mouth for you?” He winked,
making her blush. As much as I love my parents, there were times when I thought
, I do not need the vision of you both doing
anything else other than kissing and cuddling
.
Mom stretched up on her toes to whisper
in Dad
s ear as I turned to stare out the
window. I didn
t need to share in that private
moment.
Like I said, Zach, the house is
structurally sound and I look forward to seeing what you do with it
. As we stood staring out to the farm sprawling
before us, Dad asked me what I planned to do with the worker
s cottage.
I am going to fix it up first to a
neat liveable standard, then move in there to live while I work on the house.
That way, I can take my time on the house and continue on it at night after
work. I won’t have a thirty minute drive home each night after I finish.
Sounds like you have it all thought
out, son. I am proud of you and know you
ll do a good job.
He had a good teacher, Mitch.My Mom’s pride showed
in her eyes as she looked up into my Dad
s.
Shes right, Dad, you taught us all so well. Not only about building, but
how to be a man. I hope I have lived up to that for you.
In my heart, I didnt think I had. But it didnt stop me from
desperately wanting to hear it from my father.
As I said, Zach, I am proud of you
and who you are. Just as I am of your brothers and sisters. You have all grown
into great people. Your mother and I are excited everyday watching you all
embrace life.
Thanks Dad, it means a lot,I whispered as I stood trying to process the
emotions created by what he’d said.
Now enough of this mushy crap. Whats a man got to do around here to get a feed and
a cold beer?
Laughter echoed off the bare walls
and the moment was gone. Another rare glimpse of Dad’s soft side to store in my
memory bank.
The day
ended with us in the local steakhouse. We chatted over the house plans and
heard about their last trip.
Dad wanted to
get up to speed on where work projects were up to. He might be retired, but
always liked to keep his finger in the pie. The day ended with Mom probing me
for gossip on my siblings.
We’d made a pact years ago. Mom got
the everyday gossip, but anything serious we kept to ourselves so the person
involved could share it when they were ready. It worked most of the time until
Mom hunted for confirmation that one of us was in need of her help. The thing
was, she was usually spot on the money. I guess it was part of a mother
s sixth sense, like when you were younger and
she already knew what you’d done wrong.
I would
always look back on that day with a smile and the memory of my parent
s love, feeling so at home and safe. As I
floated back into the present, I saw the edge of the city and heard the sound
of horns above the tail end of Bon Jovi
’s “Living on a Prayer”.
Author Bio
Karen Deen has been a lover of romance novels and happily-ever-after
stories for as long as she can remember. Reaching a point in her life where she
wanted to explore her own dreams, Karen decided now was the time to finally
write some of her own stories. For years, all of her characters have been
forming story lines in her head, just waiting for the right time to bust free.



In 2016, Karen put pen to paper for the first time, with Zach and Emily
being the first characters fighting to have their story written.  From that first word, she hasn
t been
able to stop. Publishing Love
s Wall (her
first novel in the Time to Love Series) in 2017 has ignited her passion
to continue writing and bring more of her characters to life.



Karen is married to her loving husband and high school sweetheart.
Together, they live the crazy life of parents to three children. She is
balancing her life between a career as an accountant by day and writer of
romance novels by night. Living in the beautiful coastal town of Kiama,
Australia, Karen loves to enjoy time with her family and friends in her
beautiful surroundings.
Author Links

Chapter Reveal – Absinthe by Winter Renshaw

 

IMG_3452.PNG
The name on the screen was “Absinthe.”

I knew her as the sultry voice blowing up my phone for late night chats about Proust and Hemingway interspersed
between the best phone sex I never knew I could have.

We’d never met.

Until the day she walked into my office, her cherry lips wrapped around a candy apple sucker and an all too familiar voice that said,
“They said you wanted to see me, Principal Hawthorne?”

 

Coming August 8th
Prologue


Ford

“You wanted to see me, Principal Hawthorne?”
I know that voice. I’d know it anywhere.
Glancing up from my desk, I find a girl in skintight athletic leggings and a low-cut tank top standing in my office doorway, her full lips wrapped around a shiny sucker and a familiar electric jade gaze trained on me.
It’s her.
The woman I spent most of all summer chatting with under the anonymous veil of a dating app—one in specifically meant for adults seeking connections but not commitment. I purchased a stock photo for seven dollars, chose a pseudonym, Kerouac, and messaged a woman by the name of Absinthe who quoted Hemingway in her bio when everyone else quoted Nickelback and John Legend.
Fuck.
Me.
“You must be Halston.” My skin is on fire. I stand, smooth my tie, and point to the seat across from me. I never knew her name, but I’d know that voice anywhere. I can’t even count how many times I came to the sound of her breathy rasp describing all the wicked things she’d do to me if we ever met, reading me excerpts from Rebecca. “Take a seat.”
She takes her time pulling the sucker from her mouth before strutting to my guest chair, lowering herself, cleavage first, and crossing her long legs. The tiniest hint of a smirk claims her mouth, but if she knows it’s me, she’s sure as hell not acting like it.
“You want to tell me what happened with Mrs. Rossi?” I ask, returning to my seat and folding my hands on my desk.
I may be a lot of things; overconfident prick, allergic to commitment, red-blooded American man …
But I’m a professional first.
“Mrs. Rossi and I had an argument,” Halston says. “We were discussing the theme of The Great Gatsby, and she was trying to say that it was about chasing the elusive American dream. I told her she missed the entire fucking point of one of the greatest pieces of literature in existence.” She takes another suck of her candy before continuing, then points it in my direction. “The real theme has to do with manipulation and dishonesty, Principal Hawthorne. Everyone in that book was a fucking liar, most of all Jay, and in the end, he got what he deserved. They all did.”
My cock strains against the fabric of my pants. It’s her voice. It’s her goddamned sex-on-fire voice that’s doing this to me. That and her on point dissection of classic American literature. Sexy, intelligent, outspoken. Three elusive qualities I’ve yet to find in another human being. Until her. And knowing that now, I couldn’t even have her if I wanted her, isn’t doing me any favors. If I don’t compose myself, I’m going to be hard as a fucking rock.
“Language,” I say. The room is growing hotter now, but I keep a stern, undeterred presence.
She rolls her eyes. “I’m an adult, Principal Hawthorne. I can say words like fuck.”
“Not in my office, you can’t.” I exhale. “And not in class either. That’s why Mrs. Rossi sent you here.”
“The jackass behind me was drawing swastikas on his notebook, but I get sent down here for saying ‘fuck.’” Her head shakes.
“I’ll discuss that with Mrs. Rossi privately.” I scribble a note to myself and shove it aside.
“You’re really young for a principal.” Her charged gaze drags the length of me. “Did you just graduate from college or something?”
Six years of school and two years of teaching place me in the budding stages of a career shaping and educating the minds of tomorrow’s leaders, but I refuse to dignify her question with a response.
“My age is irrelevant,” I say.
“Age is everything.” She twirls a strand of pale hair around her finger, her lips curling up in the corners. The cute-and-coy shtick must work on everyone else, but it’s not going to work on me. Not here anyway. And not anymore.
“I said my age is irrelevant.”
“Am I the first student you’ve ever had to discipline?” She sits up, crossing and uncrossing her legs with the provocative charm of a 1940s pin up. “Wait, are you going to discipline me?”
I take mental notes for her file.
–       Challenges authority
–       Difficulty conducting herself appropriately
–       Possible boundary issues
“I’m not going to punish you, Halston. Consider this a verbal warning.” I release a hard breath through my nose as I study her, refusing to allow my eyes to drift to the soft swell of her breasts casually peeking out of her top. Knowing her so intimately over the phone, and being in her presence knowing she’s completely off limits, makes it difficult to maintain my unshaken demeanor. “From now on, I’d like you to refrain from using curse words while on school grounds. It’s disruptive to the other students who are here to actually glean something from their high school education.”
“I don’t know.” Her lips bunch at the corner, and she fights a devilish grin. “I mean, I can try, but ‘fuck’ is one of my favorite words in the English language. What if I can’t stop saying it? Then what?”
“Then we’ll worry about that when the time comes,” I say.
“You could always bend me over your knee and spank me.” She rises, wrapping her lips around the sucker before plucking it out of her mouth with a wet pop. “Or maybe you could fuck my brains out and break my heart.”
“Excuse me?” My skin heats, but I refuse to let her see that she’s having any kind of effect on me.
“You’re him,” she says, as if it’s some ace she’s been keeping up her sleeve this entire time. “You’re Kerouac.”
I’m at an extraordinary loss for words, trying to wrap my head around all the ways this could go very fucking wrong for me.
Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

 

And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j
Author Links

 

 

 

Chapter One: Glamour: Contemporary Fairytale Retellings A.L. Jackson

 

#ChapterOne #Preorder

Glamour: Contemporary Fairytale Retellings

A.L. Jackson, Sophie Jordan, Aleatha Romig, Skye Warren, Lili St. Germain, Nora Flite, Sierra Simone with Nicola Rendell

Releases Tuesday, July 18th

Synopsis

Once upon a time…

Remember the fairy tales your parents read to you when you were little?

These are NOT those fairy tales.

From modern day royalty to metaphorical dragons, contemporary castles to sexy heroes, these bestselling authors twist tales as old as time into something new.

GLAMOUR contains eight exclusive never-before-seen novellas that each have an HEA… because they all lived happily ever after.

 

Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2sZlBMx

Universal link: books2read.com/u/bpW0QJ

 

Chapter One

Broderick

I’m not sure how you handle things where you come from, Mr. Wolfe, but I can assure you it is not how we handle things in Gingham Lakes. Mrs. Tindall has been a value to our small community since the fifties, and her family long before then, and I have every intention of securing that legacy for many years to come. Why don’t you make things easier on yourself and remain in your high-rise office, which I’m sure affords you quite the dramatic view of Manhattan. You seem better suited for that than our ‘provincial’ town.

 

I didn’t even fight the satisfied smile that pulled at my lips as I let my eyes retrace her latest email.

God, this woman was a handful.

Determined and feisty.

A challenge I couldn’t wait to take on.

For the last five months, we’d been going back and forth via email. My interactions with this tough-as-nails attorney, who was working pro bono for a tiny company in an even tinier city in Alabama, had escalated with each click of send.

Maybe it was a little sick that I’d come to crave this game.

Cat and mouse.

Round and round.

She was sharp and obviously loyal. I’d never even seen her. But apparently, I didn’t have to. Just sitting there and reading the fight in her words made my dick hard.

There was nothing like a strong woman who knew what she wanted.

The best part was I wanted it more.

My laptop screen burned through the dim light of my high-rise office, which did indeed offer the most spectacular view of Manhattan. With a smirk, I leaned forward and let my fingers fly across the keyboard.

 

That is where you’re mistaken, Ms. Redd. I’m sure you’re well aware of our company’s reputation. The Wolfe name is the very definition of success. It’s the cornerstone on which our company has been built, and I will not let that name be tarnished. I will have that building, and in the end, my hotel will stand in its place. I’m trying to be fair, but make no mistake, if you force me into a corner, I will come out, teeth bared. I’ve been told they’re sharp.

 

A shock of lust curled in my gut as I sent the email. Why did I get the feeling I would love sinking my teeth into this woman?

It took only a few moments before my inbox pinged with a new message.

 

Is that a threat, Mr. Wolfe? Because if it is, I can assure you, my nails are equally as long, and I never hesitate to fight back.

 

Visions assaulted me. Ones of her nails clawing at my shoulders and raking down my back. Her body straining beneath mine as I ravaged her.

My breaths turned shallow as I typed out a response.

 

Is that a promise or your own threat, Ms. Redd? I’m up for either.

 

God. What the fuck did I think I was doing? I’d always been about the job. But this woman…this fiery woman had me stepping out of bounds. Saying things I knew I should never say.

Her response was almost immediate.

 

Don’t flatter yourself. You’re clearly compensating, and I definitely don’t need that kind of disappointment. Save yourself the trip. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself with that kind of failure.

 

“Oh, you went there, did you?” I murmured beneath my breath. I fucking loved that she didn’t hold back. My teeth scraped my lower lip, my mouth watering as I gave into the chase.

 

Failure is not a part of my vocabulary, Ms. Redd. I think we’ve already established that. But don’t worry, at the end of all of this, you will be thanking me.

 

I pressed send a little too eagerly, becoming even more excited when I clicked into her quick response.

 

Only in your lofty, lofty dreams, Mr. Wolfe. I will see to it those dreams are crushed.

 

A chuckle rumbled free, and I rubbed at my jaw. She had no idea just how much pleasure I would take in crushing her.

This could have been an easy acquisition.

We’d made a more than generous offer, after all. Instead of accepting it and moving on, they let nostalgia taint their decision and rejected the small fortune.

Some people didn’t seem to understand when it was best to take the path of least resistance.

But you wouldn’t see me complaining. They had no clue just how much I relished the battle.

My cell bleeped and lit up where it rested on the glass desk, and I subdued the irritation that fought to work its way up my throat. I cleared it as I rocked forward and accepted the call.

“Father,” I said by way of hello as I stood and shrugged into my suit jacket before closing down my laptop and sliding it into its leather case.

“Son. Tell me you’ve taken care of the issue.”

“I’m working on it.”

“Working on it isn’t good enough. I needed this finished yesterday.”

I gritted my teeth in an attempt to keep from spitting the words at him. “I told you, I would handle this one my way.”

He huffed. “Haven’t you figured out yet that your way doesn’t work?”

A jolt of bitter laughter tripped from my tongue. “I think I’ve cleaned up enough of your messes that you would have realized by now that it does.”

If it were up to my father, he would have gone in there and basically stolen that building right out from under that old lady. His men had no qualms about making a threat or two to get what he wanted, bending people to his will by cowardly shows of force.

Silence traveled the line, the two of us at odds, the constant contention that had churned between us since I was a little boy so close to reaching its boiling point.

“Two weeks, Broderick. Two weeks,” he finally said. There was no missing the threat.

“I won’t need them.” My voice lowered. “And I’m warning you—do not interfere in this. I will do this my way.”

“We’ll see.” That was the last thing he said before the line went dead.

Fuck. I squeezed the phone in my hand. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to send my phone sailing through the air.

Broderick Wolfe Sr. thought he was the epitome of success.

Believed his efforts were what Wolfe Industries was built upon.

When in truth, the man was nothing but underhanded deals and greed.

Those were footsteps I refused to walk in.

I worked relentlessly for what I wanted.

Chased it.

Hunted it until I had it in my clutches.

And when I won? It was because I was actually the best at what I did.

I buttoned a single button on my jacket and shook out the cuffs. Lifting my chin, I grabbed my case and strode out the door.

I had work to do.

And I was going to love every second of it.

Chapter Reveal: Unconventional by Isabel Love

 

Title: Unconventional
Author: Isabel Love
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: July 20, 2017
Blurb
Happily ever after—what a joke! I tried that once and ended
up divorced.
Now, I only want one thing from men.
Charlie Nelson is good at giving me that one thing. Really, really good.
So good, in fact, I discovered a new side of myself.
I never knew I liked to watch until I saw
his talented hands touching someone else.
I never knew I liked to be watched until I
felt his searing gaze on me.
Maybe happily ever after isn’t always a white picket fence,
wedding bells, and 2.5 kids.
Maybe it’s something a bit more…unconventional.
*Warning: Contains dirty talk, piercings and hot threesomes.
Intended for readers over 18 years of age.
Pre-order Links
99c pre-order only price!AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
B&N / KOBO / iBOOKS

Copyright © 2017
Unconventional by Isabel Love

 

 


That’s some
party trick.
 
I’m so worked
up
 right now, I
almost can’t see straight. I had fully intended to fuck Miss Double D, as Quinn
so aptly named her, but once the security guard interrupted us and Quinn
bolted, having sex with Crystal lost its appeal. All I could think about was
Quinn’s gaze on me, watching me touch another woman, watching me make her come.
She liked watching. I could tell how turned on she was by the
way her chest was rising and falling so rapidly with every breath, the way she
couldn’t tear her eyes away from me, the sheen of sweat on her upper lip and
neck.
 
My cock throbs in
my pants just thinking about it.
 
Quinn insists on
driving as I had a few shots tonight and we decide to go to her place because
it’s closer. Quinn lives in a condo that’s quite nice, actually. Once we’re in
her car, I adjust my dick so my pants aren’t strangling it.
 
“Congratulations
on your new account, hotshot. I don’t know if I told you earlier,” she says.
 
“Thank you. You
told me earlier, but you can tell me again. I like it when you praise me.”
 
“I’m not sure
there’s any room in this car, what with the size of your—”
 
“Cock?” I
interject.
 
“I was going to
say ego.
 
“My cock is
pretty big, too, you have to admit.” I look over at her, flashing a naughty
grin.
 
“I do like your
cock, you know that. Are you fishing for compliments?”
 
I chuckle. I love
that she admits to liking my cock. Most women shy away from dirty talk, but not
Quinn. She’s just as blunt as I am and isn’t afraid to use words like cock or
cunt.
 
“Isn’t there any
way you can go any faster? I’m dying over here.” I’m two seconds away from
pulling my dick out and jacking off while she drives.
 
“Calm your tits.
We’re almost there.” She rolls her eyes but does push down on the gas pedal a
bit harder.
 
“Speaking of
tits, you liked watching me fondle Miss Double D, didn’t you?”
 
“That was one
impressive rack,” she admits.
 
“Have you
ever…been with a woman?” The way she was watching us made me think she’d like
to join in. I could see Quinn experimenting with other women.
 
“No, I like dick,
if you haven’t noticed.” She smiles and glances over at me. “But I can
appreciate that boobs are sexy.”
 
“What about the
way she was able to lick her own nipples, wasn’t that hot?” I almost came in my
pants when I saw that she could do it. That’s going in the spank bank, for
sure.
 
“That’s some
party trick.”
 
“Would you lick
your own nipples if you could?” I ask her. Quinn’s boobs are amazing, large and
perky, though not quite as big as Crystal’s.
 
“Hell yeah I
would. That’s like asking if you would suck your own dick if you could. Don’t
even tell me you’ve never tried to; I won’t believe you.”
 
I chuckle. “When
I was 14, I tried as hard as I could, but I’m not that flexible.”
 
“There’s a sight
I would have liked to see.” She laughs.
 
“It wasn’t even
remotely sexy. I lived in fear that someone would walk in on me and catch an
eyeful of me in different contorted positions.” I laugh at the memory. “It
would seem as though you are a closet voyeur. How did I not know this about you
until tonight?”
 
She chews on her
bottom lip. “I didn’t know it myself. I mean, I like watching porn, but I’ve
never come across an opportunity to watch real-life action.”
 
I file that
information away for later and almost weep with relief when we pull into her
driveway. We turn to look at each other once the car is parked in her garage,
and her eyes roam over my face, stopping on my lips. She leans forward, about
to kiss me.
 
“Is there
anything you need to do before I fuck you?” Once I start, I won’t be able to
stop until I’m balls deep inside of her.
 
“No.” 
I promptly get
out of the car and walk around the front to open her door. As soon as she’s
standing, I’m on her, pulling her face toward mine and taking her mouth in a
hot, wet kiss. Her lips are perfect, plump, and soft, and this kiss has the
perfect ratio of lips, teeth, and tongue. Her tongue dances with mine and she’s
as ravenous as I am, licking and nipping at me. Her hands are busy too,
untucking my shirt and reaching for my belt buckle. Fuck. I love
that she’s desperate for my dick, but I reach down and bat her hands away. We
need to take this inside. I reach down to palm her ass and pick her up. Her
legs wrap around my waist as I carry her to the door, stopping by the security
alarm so she can disarm it.
 
Once the door is
open, I stride inside and sit on the couch with Quinn straddling me. She grinds
against my erection as I pull her shirt up and off. She reaches for my shirt
next, and I reach over my head to tug it off. She sits back on my lap and
stares down at my torso, lust and appreciation shining in her eyes. I also take
a moment to appreciate my view of her. She wears a red, silky bra, but it seems
like some of the material is missing because only the bottom half of her boobs
are covered. The top half is exposed and I can see the pink skin of her areolas
just hinting at where her nipples are. I trail my fingers across the edge of
the bra, dragging the material down a bit to reveal the rest of her nipples.
They’re tight little nubs and I pinch them, hard. She gasps and arches her
back, bringing her chest closer to my face.
 
“I really like
this bra, Red. It seems like you chose the color just for me.”
 
“I chose it
for me. I like the way it makes me feel,” she corrects me, her
voice low and throaty.
 
“How does it make
you feel?”
 
“Sexy.” 
“You don’t need a
bra for that. You’re sexy all on your own. Stand up, take your pants off. I
want to see the rest of you.”
 
She stands and
starts to unbutton her pants. “If I’m getting naked, then so are you. Come on,
let me see that gorgeous cock of yours.”
 
I comply with her
request, grabbing a condom out of my wallet before stripping off my jeans,
underwear, socks, and shoes. Quinn makes quick work of her pants and heels then
goes to take off her panties but I stop her.
 
“Wait, I want
to take those off.” I sit back down on the couch and pull her to stand in front
of me. The underwear is also silky red, and I love the contrast against her
pale skin. Quinn is curvy, her hips flaring out from her waist. I smooth my
hands down them before reaching back to squeeze her ass. It bounces when I let
go and I can’t wait to see it bounce on my cock.
 
“How wet did you
get watching me earlier?” I know she was aroused, but I don’t know how much.
 
“Soaking wet,”
she tells me.
 
“I want to see.”
I reach for the fabric that covers her pussy and run my fingers back and forth,
testing the fabric for wetness. Sure enough, it’s soaked. “Fuck, Red. I need to
taste you.”
 
“So taste me.” 
I slide her
panties down her legs and help her step out of them. I lean forward and nuzzle
my nose right in between her legs, inhaling her musky scent, then lick her
slit, grabbing her ass and pulling her forward, closer to my mouth. She holds
on to my shoulders to steady herself as my tongue laps at her cunt, but I can’t
quite get the right angle while she’s standing up.
 
I stand, and she
whimpers. “Why did you stop?”
 
I look around her
living room and see the ottoman in front of the couch is plush and a decent
size. “Lie back on this, I need to bury my face in your pussy.”
 
She shivers at my
words and reclines on the ottoman, legs spread wide and leaning up on her
elbows so she can watch me. Her red hair is wild, her face is flushed, and her
tits are heaving out of her bra as she pants in anticipation.
 
I kneel in front
of her and hold her gaze as I lick her slowly, from opening to clit.
 
“Fuck, that feels
good. Don’t stop.”
 
My licks are slow
and steady, working her up, but not giving her enough friction to come. She
keeps her gaze on me and I watch as she becomes more and more desperate.
 
“Charlie.” 
“Hmm?” I ask,
like I have all the time in the world.
 
Quinn likes to be
bossy too, and I like to make her beg. She hates begging, which makes me like
it even more. She tips her hips up, chasing my tongue, but I move it to lick
her folds instead.
 
“Charlie!” she
complains.
 
“Did I ever tell
you how much I love eating your pussy?” I ask her conversationally in between
licks. I could eat her out for hours. Her red curls are neatly trimmed, framing
her clit and pussy lips. I spread her wide open with my fingers and lick into
her opening, pushing my tongue as deep as I can get it, then licking the walls
as I come out. Her taste is addictive. Not all women taste the same—some are
bitter, some more musky, some sour. Quinn’s pussy tastes divine, the right
combination of musky, salty, and sweet. I lap up her juices, avoiding her clit,
trying to drive her crazy enough to beg me.
 
“Fuck! Charlie, I
need you. Is that what you want to hear?”
 
Bingo. “What do you need? More of my
tongue?” I focus on her clit and she moans loudly.
 
She doesn’t
answer me, so I back away.
 
“Charlie! Please,
I need you to fuck me, okay? Please fuck me.” She glares at me, pissed that she
gave in and begged me, but so turned on.
 
I chuckle and
reach for the condom. “My pleasure. Why didn’t you just say so?”
 
My body is so desperate to come but his tongue
wasn’t enough; I need his cock, and that fucking bastard always likes to make
me beg.
 
He rolls the
condom on and tugs on his gorgeous cock a couple of times before lining himself
up with my pussy. He pulls me forward slightly, making my ass hang just a bit
off the edge of the ottoman, and rubs the head of his dick up and down my
folds, coating himself with my wetness. I feel his piercing, a stark contrast
to the way a cock feels. The metal of the piercing is unforgiving while his
penis is hard but soft at the same time. The combination makes my eyes roll
back into my head and my clit throbs as I wait for him to push into me. He
doesn’t though, not right away. He picks up my legs and drapes them up over his
shoulders.
 
“Charlie!” I
bark. “Now. Fuck me now.”
 
At my tortured
command, he slams into me. I’m so wet, he gains entry easily, but his girth
stretches me open, making me gasp at the sudden feeling of fullness.
 
“Fuck. This is
going to be fast.”
 
Thank God. 
He leans forward,
seeking purchase on the edges of the ottoman to hold on. I grab on to his
forearms and he starts to thrust into me.
 
“Yessss.” I love
his unrelenting rhythm. His cock is big, and I feel the piercing inside,
creating more friction with each movement in and out of me. It reaches all the
right places and I’m on the verge of coming.
 
“I need you to
come, Red. Are you close?”
 
“God, yes.” 
He leans down and
latches on to one nipple, pulling it and biting it. Then he tends to the other
nipple, and the extra stimulation pushes me over the edge. Pleasure steals my
breath and my vision.
 
“Fuck!” I shout,
wrapping my legs around his waist so I can keep him inside me. My pussy clamps
around his dick while I come and he chuckles sexily.
 
“I love feeling
you milk my cock. Was that good?”
 
“Mmmmm,” I tell
him, too far gone for words right now.
 
He kisses me and
stays still as I come down from my orgasm. Then he starts moving again and I
realize his cock is still rock hard. “You didn’t come yet?”
 
“Not yet. Can you
flip over? I need to see your ass.”
 
“I’m not sure I
can move,” I groan. My body is always a bit paralyzed after an orgasm.
 
“I’ve got you.”
He pulls out of me, helps me sit up, then I turn and face plant into the
ottoman. He positions me so I’m kneeling on the carpet, folded over the ottoman
for support, ass sticking out at him. He palms my ass and slaps one cheek, the
unexpected sting causing me to gasp.
 
“Don’t fall
asleep on me.”
 
“Well then, give
me something to stay awake for,” I retort.
 
He spreads my ass
cheeks apart, so wide I’m completely exposed to his view. I can’t see what he’s
doing, but it seems like he’s just looking at me.
 
“You see
something you like?” I ask him, unnerved at his silence and stillness.
 
“I wish I could
take a picture of you right now, all pliant and satisfied, your pussy wet and
pink from my cock fucking you,” he replies, his voice so husky. “I’d title
it Satisfaction.”
 
“I bet you have a
collection of naughty pictures, don’t you?” He is a photographer, after all.
 
He slides his
cock up and down my crack, teasing me. Then he squeezes my ass cheeks together,
sandwiching his dick in between them, and pumps up and down. The condom catches
on my skin, not slick enough to glide smoothly, so he spits. The sound is so
crass, and I feel the plop as his saliva lands on my skin, but
when he starts moving again, the extra spit allows him to slide easily. Fuck,
his cock is so big. It makes me squirm every time it passes over my asshole,
and that piercing—it’s so unyielding.
 
“You’d think I’d
have naughty pictures, but I don’t. I’m not much for remembering past hookups,
but fuck, I want to keep this image for my viewing pleasure.”
 
“Maybe I’ll send
you a picture sometime.” I’ve never taken nude photos before, too afraid they
would end up online somewhere, but the thought of Charlie jerking off to images
of me gets me hot.
 
“I’d like that.”
He pulls back, his cockhead trailing down my crack to rub my clit. My nerve
endings are still so sensitive from my orgasm that his touch is almost too
much.
 
“Fuck, Charlie,”
I hiss, squirming away from his attention.
 
Surprisingly, he
heeds my complaint and finally slides into me. It’s a slow slide, inch by inch,
until his pelvis is flush with my ass, then he stills. Pleasure zings through
me at the way he stretches me and my recently sated body wakes up, hungry for
more. I need friction, but he isn’t moving. I huff in frustration.
 
“I want you to
bounce that luscious ass on my cock,” he says in explanation.
 
That I can do. I
lift my upper body off the ottoman and brace myself. Holding on to the sides, I
rock forward until I feel he’s almost completely out then I back up quickly,
loving the way he fills me up.
 
His hands cradle
my hips and pull me back to meet him. “That’s it, Red. God, your ass is
fantastic.”
 
Nothing is sexier
than the sounds this man makes during sex. The deep rumbles, the muttered
curses, the bossy commands, even the lewd remarks about my body are all so damn
hot.
 
Charlie Nelson is
one sexy beast.
 
Soon enough, he
takes control and reaches around to rub my clit. He can read my body so well,
and his fingers plucking my clit while he fucks me triggers an orgasm so
intense, I practically pass out. I scream my release and try to grab hold of
something to keep me tethered to Earth. He pitches forward on one final thrust
and shouts hoarsely along with me. His arms come around me, stilling my
flailing movements and holding me close as his dick pulses inside me.
 
“Fucking hell,
that was amazing.” He pants into my neck.
 
“Mmmm,” I agree. 
“You paralyzed?”
He knows this about me—orgasms always steal my coordination and leave me in a
heap of spasms and heavy limbs.
 
“Mmmmhmm.” 
“Stay here, I’ll
take care of you.” Those words sound so foreign coming out of Charlie’s mouth.
I know he means he’ll take care of my body. Not of me. I don’t want
anyone to take care of me.
 
I just want
orgasms.
 
And Charlie is
good at giving me orgasms.
 
I’ll never depend
on any man to take care of me ever again.
 
Charlie returns
moments later with a warm cloth and wipes between my legs gently. Then he lifts
me easily into his arms and carries me to my bed.
 
“Is it okay if I
crash here? I can be out of your hair first thing in the morning,” he promises.
 
I usually hate
having men stay the night. If it were anyone else, I’d make them leave
immediately. In fact, if it were anyone else, I wouldn’t have brought them to
my house at all, but Charlie is in this strange category. He isn’t some random
hookup; he’s someone I see all the time in my circle of friends. I guess he’s
my friend with an amazing cock who I like to have sex with on occasion, so I
trust him more than a random stranger.
 
That’s the only
reason I tug him down into bed with me, snuggle into his side, and promptly
fall asleep with the warmth of his arm wrapped around my waist.
 

 

 

Author Bio

Isabel Love is a hopeless romantic. She loves reading about two people falling in love, overcoming whatever obstacles they may face, and finding their happily ever after. A husband, two kids, and a full-time job keep her busy by day, but by night, she can be found with her Kindle in hand, reading “just one more chapter”.

Author Links

Chapter Reveal: Complicating by Noelle Adams & Samantha Chase

 

 

Title: Complicating
A Preston’s Mill Series Standalone
Authors: Noelle Adams & Samantha Chase
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 19, 2017


Blurb

Forget all those other accidental pregnancy romances you might have read.

 

Daisy and Carter don’t have a one-night stand…because it’s thirty minutes in a back room at a wedding reception. And Carter isn’t a bad boy baby-daddy…except for the motorcycle, tattoos, and attitude. Daisy doesn’t have the typical issues with her pregnancy…if you don’t count the morning sickness, food cravings, and occasional horniness. And Carter doesn’t hang around all the time, wanting both her and the baby…until he falls in love.

 

But they definitely don’t become a happy family…right away.

 

Daisy has always been a good girl. She’s never done anything wild or spontaneous until she has a little too much to drink at a wedding and has a fling with a sexy stranger. She thought they were careful, but accidents happen. And now she’s going to have the baby of a man she barely knows.

 

Carter is her opposite in every way and completely the wrong man for her. They can still work out a reasonable arrangement regarding the baby. But the more time she spends with him, the less reasonable she feels. And he’s acting all possessive and protective, so it gets harder and harder to convince herself that he’s just the father of her baby.

 

She wants him to be so much more.

 

Pre-order Links
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Chapter One

Daisy stared at herself in the mirror over the sink and thought with a thrill that she looked pretty darn good.

Her dress was green to match her eyes, and although it was perfectly appropriate for a five-o’clock wedding, it was sexier than what she normally wore with its sleek shape and slight flare above her knees. She turned a bit to make sure the curve of her butt wasn’t too pronounced.

It was pronounced, but hopefully not unattractively so.

“Your ass looks fantastic,” Chloe said with a grin as she came out from one of the bathroom stalls.

“I wasn’t looking at it.” Daisy gave her butt another quick glance to verify that it did indeed look fantastic.

Chloe laughed uninhibitedly as she washed her hands. “You can act all sweet, innocent librarian all you want, but you’ve got a wild side in there somewhere that I’m going to set loose eventually.”

Daisy gave her friend an appreciative smile and didn’t argue. Out loud anyway.

She knew the truth. She didn’t have a wild side. She was a sweet and (mostly) innocent librarian. She was twenty-four, and she’d only had one serious boyfriend. She went to church every Sunday, and she’d been raised to never swear, never drink, and never, ever let boys touch her in naughty ways.

She might not have lived up to those rules perfectly—and lately she’d been working on being herself and not just who she was raised to be—but she certainly wasn’t close to Chloe’s level of wildness. Daisy had met Chloe at Preston’s Mill, their apartment building in a small town in eastern Virginia, and they’d become friends immediately. Chloe was fun and fearless and had traveled all over the world, and she was always encouraging Daisy to spread her wings a little further.

Daisy was trying. But there was no way she’d ever spread her wings as far as Chloe did on a regular basis.

She would always be a quiet, small-town girl at heart.

“We’ve got to try to find you a man tonight,” Chloe said conspiratorially as they were leaving the bathroom.

“Ha ha,” Daisy replied dryly.

“Why do you mock? There must be a few eligible men around. Half of Preston is here tonight—plus tons of people from surrounding areas.”

“Chris and Heather were both raised in Preston, so they know everyone.”

Daisy had been raised in Preston too. She was a couple of years younger than Heather, the bride of today’s wedding, so they hadn’t been really close. But she knew almost everyone in town.

She also knew there weren’t any interesting single men lurking in the shadows of the reception hall, a large ballroom in a lovely Victorian house that was now hired out for weddings and other occasions.

As she and Chloe reentered the room, Daisy’s eyes immediately strayed toward the far corner where the man she’d noticed before was still lurking in the shadows.

She wasn’t sure why she’d noticed him earlier except he was sitting alone and seemed so out of place. He was tall and well built with unruly dark hair. He was dressed in all black, and he’d evidently made a gesture toward wedding attire with a jacket, but his shirt didn’t have a collar.

He looked rough. Intimidating. Not particularly friendly.

He wasn’t even very handsome—at least not the type of looks Daisy had always gravitated toward. She wasn’t sure why she kept sneaking looks at him.


“You’re just scared,” Chloe said as they returned to the table they’d been sitting at earlier.


The reception was lovely and generously stocked with food, but it wasn’t a formal banquet dinner, and there wasn’t assigned seating. Daisy enjoyed these kinds of receptions more. They didn’t feel so stiff and artificial. The band was playing a good variety of music, and there were a lot of people dancing—but mostly kids bopping around and older couples who clearly knew all the old steps.


“I’m just scared about what?” she asked Chloe, trying to think back to their earlier conversation.


“About coming on to men.”


Daisy sucked in a sharp breath. “I’m not scared about that. There aren’t any men here to come on to.”


“I’m sure I can find you a few. Then what would you do? You’d be too afraid to make a move on them.”


“If there are eligible men around, I wouldn’t be afraid.”


It was a lie. Daisy never came on to men. She’d always waited for them to make the first move, which was why she was often waiting a very long time between dates.


“Are you willing to prove it?”


“Prove it how?”


“If I find three eligible guys, will you come on to them?”


Daisy went still. They’d been joking around before, but Chloe was entirely capable of making good on this particular dare. “What do you mean, come on to them?”


“I mean you have to go over to them, start a conversation, and do a little flirting.”


“And that’s all?”


“That’s all. Best to start with baby steps with you, I think.”


Daisy frowned, although she knew her friend wasn’t serious.


She was by nature fairly conservative and by upbringing rather sheltered, but she wasn’t a child or a coward. She could do something other women might consider normal—even if she’d never done it before.


“Is it a deal?” Chloe asked.


Daisy never would have agreed had she not felt like she had something to prove—to herself even more than to Chloe. She didn’t want to be trapped by her own insecurities. Her heart was already hammering in her chest, but she was going to do this. “It’s a deal.”


Chloe looked delighted and a little surprised. “Okay. Great. We’ll start easy then. The guy with the glasses over there.”


Daisy glanced over and recognized the man as a cousin of one of her old classmates. He was pleasant-looking and a little shy. She breathed out in relief.


She could do this.


She could do it.


She stood up, aware of Chloe watching with amused interest, and she went over to talk to him. She felt a little stupid as she sat down in an empty chair at his table, but she relaxed when he smiled, recognized her, and looked happy to talk with her.


It was easy. He was perfectly nice, if a little boring. She laughed a lot and touched his hand, his arm, so Chloe would believe she’d been flirting.


It was clear to see that the man would be very happy to continue talking to her, but Daisy didn’t actually want to lead him on, so she ended the conversation with a smile and returned to Chloe.


Chloe was laughing, clearly pleased with her friend’s success, and she’d gotten them both fresh glasses of champagne so they could toast Daisy’s victory.


“Okay. That one was easy. Now you have to do that guy over there near the bar. The one with the flashy watch.”


Daisy turned to look and immediately saw the one Chloe meant. She didn’t recognize him, so he must not be from town. He was quite handsome in a charming, entitled way, and he looked like he was used to having his way with women. That would make him challenge enough, but he wasn’t standing alone. He was chatting with two pretty, single women, who were both clearly flirting with him.


And Daisy was going to have to go over there, bust into their conversation, and somehow try to win him away from the other women.


She swallowed hard.


“You can always admit you’re not up to the challenge,” Chloe murmured.


Daisy squared her shoulders. “I am up to it. I’ll do it.”


She walked over to the man in a blur, an anxious stupor taking over her movements, and she almost wilted in relief when, as she got closer, she recognized one of the women.


So when she got to the bar, she greeted the woman, having to remind her of how they’d had biology class together in high school.


They chatted for a minute, and the woman introduced her to the other woman and then the man.


As Daisy turned her smiles on the man, she was aware of how the other women looked annoyed.


Maybe this was normal practice for some women, to horn in on other groupings and take the attention of the best man.


Daisy didn’t like it though. It felt rude. And kind of selfish. But she had something to prove here, and so she tittered with laughter at a stupid joke the man made and did her best to look alluring.


She must have been successful because the man said how much he loved redheads and asked if she wanted another drink.


She said she did, and they walked away from the other two women.


There. That would prove to Chloe that she’d appropriately come on to this man. She’d earned his attention, and he evidently wanted to keep talking to her. She sipped a new glass of champagne, put up with his silly compliments about her long red hair, and finally got so annoyed with his obnoxious attitude and the way he kept flashing his ridiculously expensive watch that she made an excuse and returned to Chloe.


“That was fantastic,” Chloe said, brimming with excitement. “Did you see those other girls’ faces when you took him away from them?”


“Yes,” Daisy admitted, flushed with her third glass of champagne and with a kind of power she didn’t often feel. “Although it feels like a mean thing to do.”


“It wasn’t mean. That’s the way it always is. All’s fair and all that.”


“Okay. Fine. So who is the last one? Or do you just give up now that I’ve proven I’m more than up to this challenge?”


“I’m not giving up. I’ve got your last guy all picked out for you.” She nodded toward the far corner of the room. “There. The guy by himself.”


Daisy tensed up, knowing even before she looked who Chloe was referring to. The rough, intimidating guy she’d been sneaking looks at all evening. “He’s not eligible!”


“What do you mean, he’s not eligible? He’s been alone the whole time. He doesn’t have a date. I don’t think he looks married, but if you find out he is, just say ‘whoops’ and get the hell out of there. No big deal.”


“But…”


“But what?” Chloe was grinning wickedly now. “You’re throwing in the towel, aren’t you?”


“No. I’m not.” Daisy gulped. Was she really going to have to go over there and talk to that guy? What on earth would she even say? She had no thin connection with him to initiate the first contact the way she had with the other two men. She had nothing but a blunt, open approach.


“So do it. He’s been watching you.”


“He has not been watching me.” She knew that for sure because every time she glanced over, his eyes were focused on something else.


“Yes, he has. But it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to go talk to him anyway or else admit you’re not up to it.”


“I am up to it.” She swallowed down the rest of her champagne and then stood up, her head spinning a little from nerves or alcohol or both. “Okay. Here I go.”


She didn’t move.


“Anytime now,” Chloe prompted.


“I’m going. Right. Now.”


Daisy finally managed to make her feet move, and she forced them to head toward the corner. She was halfway there when the man’s eyes landed on her, and his gaze didn’t falter as she approached.


He knew she was coming over to him.


There was no face-saving excuse with this one.


She was breathless and almost numb with fear when she reached his table. Her knees wouldn’t hold her, so she sat down on the chair next to him. “Hi,” she said stupidly.


He raised his dark eyebrows. “Hi.”


His eyes were blue. Very blue. She couldn’t help but notice. He needed to shave—or maybe he was growing a beard. And there were tattoos all over his forearms, exposed now that he’d taken off his jacket.


Tattoos.


She was going to have to come on to a guy with tattoos all down his arms.


“You’re sitting all alone,” she managed to say when it was clear he wasn’t going to help her out in making conversation.


“So you felt sorry for me?” His voice was deep, slightly gruff. Definitely sardonic.


“No. Just being friendly.”


“Is that what you call it?”


She was getting confused now. Her mind was slightly clouded from the three glasses of champagne. “What I call what?”


“It looks more like you have some kind of bet going with your friend.” He inclined his head toward where Chloe was sitting and blatantly staring at them.


“There’s no bet.”

“Really? Because I just saw you come on to two other guys and then walk away when they responded.”

She gulped. “It wasn’t a bet.”

“Then what was it?”

“I was just… just proving something.”

“Proving what? How men will make asses of themselves when faced with a pair of green eyes and a hot body? Because I’d have thought that has already been proven over and over again throughout history.”

He was smart. She could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. And he had a dry sense of humor. She liked both those things.

She also liked the strongly chiseled lines of his face and the breadth of his shoulders.

He was big and solid. Man all the way through.

“That’s not what I was trying to prove,” she said.

“Then what?” He asked the question like he had the right to know, even though they didn’t even know each other’s names.

“Just proving something to myself.” She wasn’t sure why she was telling him the truth.

“What did you need to prove to yourself? You must know how gorgeous you are.”

She didn’t know. She’d always figured she was pretty enough, but guys had never been knocking down doors to get to her. But she couldn’t help but flush with pleasure at the heated interest in his eyes.

He thought she was gorgeous. That much was clear.

“Not that,” she said, answering his question. “Just that I can… I can do things other women can do.”

“Things like what?” He seemed to really want to know.

“Come on to men.” No sense in pretense now. He evidently knew when she was lying to him or playing games.

“You really thought you couldn’t come on to men? Angel, all you have to do is show up.”

Her cheeks burned even hotter, and the pleasure washed down from her chest to her belly—and then even lower.

“So you came over here to come on to me?” he asked, swallowing down the last of the scotch in his glass.

She cleared her throat. “Yes.”

“And what was your plan?”

“I didn’t have a plan. Is that something women plan out in advance?”

“Some do.”

“Oh. I was just making it up as I went along.”

He chuckled, low in his throat. The sound seemed to vibrate through her whole body. “I see. Well, I’m waiting here breathlessly to see how you’ll proceed.”

He was teasing her, and she liked it. Her mind buzzed as she tried to keep up with his wit. “Oh. Well, maybe you get me another drink, and we’ll see what happens.”

The man laughed appreciatively and stood up. As he strode over to the bar—damn, the man had a great butt and amazing arms—Daisy tried not to giggle in excitement. She looked over to Chloe and saw she’d gone to talk to a few other friends. But she gave Daisy a grin and a silly thumbs-up sign before she looked away.

Daisy laughed out loud by herself at the table.

Was she really doing this? Flirting with a sexy stranger?

He returned with two glasses of scotch.

She frowned. “I was drinking champagne.”

“I know you were. But if you want to come on to me, you’ll have to drink something less fizzy.”

She didn’t like whiskey, but she took a swallow anyway. It burned her throat and filled her with a pleasant heat.

He nodded in approval. “I’m Carter,” he said.

“Daisy. It’s nice to meet you.”

“I have a feeling it’s going to be very nice to meet you.”

***

An hour later—a lot of flirty conversation and two more scotches each—and Daisy was flying high.

She wasn’t even sure how it had happened, but they were stumbling down a hallway in the old Victorian mansion, looking for a private room.

For the past thirty minutes, Carter had been touching her a lot—kissing her hand, stroking her bare arm with his fingertips—and between that, the alcohol, and his throaty drawl, she was so turned on she could hardly see straight.

He was evidently just as aroused. His cheeks were slightly flushed, and a delicious tension filled his body.

He pushed open a partly cracked door to discover a little sitting room. “This will do,” he growled, pulling her in with him.

He closed the door and pushed her against the wall, kissing her hard.

Her body throbbed with pleasure as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back. Nothing had ever felt so good. Nothing in her whole life. His hard body was pressed against her completely, and every inch of him was hot, was strong, was man.

Was hard.

She could feel his arousal in the bulge he kept grinding against her.

“You sure you want to do this, angel,” he murmured thickly, pulling out of the kiss to nibble a delicious line down her throat.

“Yeah.” She arched against him in helpless pleasure. “Oh yeah. Please.”

“You’re not too drunk?”

“I’m a little drunk,” she admitted. “But not too drunk to know what I want. I’ve never wanted anything more.”

It was true. It was absolutely true.

She might be buzzing from the alcohol, but her mind was still working. This was a choice she was making, and it was exactly what she wanted.

“Damn, I’m glad to hear that.” His hands were all over her now, stroking up and down the curves of her body.

She’d always wished she wasn’t quite so curvy so she could look more like the stylish girls her age, but he seemed to appreciate her body. He couldn’t stop touching it, and the fire in his eyes kept burning even hotter as he gazed at her.

Then they were kissing again, and he was walking her over to a console table against a wall. When her ass hit the edge of it, she gave a little “oof” at the impact.

She was so aroused she was throbbing with it, and she kept lifting one of her legs, trying to wrap it around him so she could get more pressure where she needed it.

He helped her by pushing up her skirt and then lifting her up to prop her on the table. She wrapped her legs around him eagerly and gave herself over to the feelings.

By now, he’d managed to unzip her dress and pull her breasts out of her bra. He lowered his head to nip at them, causing her to cry out at the intense jolts of pleasure. In their position, he couldn’t do much more than that, and both of them were too far gone to take the time anyway.

He slipped a hand inside her underwear so he could finger her, and she whimpered and rocked her hips in response.

“You like that?” he murmured hoarsely.

“Oh God, yeah! Keep touching me like that. Just like that.”

“Damn, you’re hot when you’re turned on. Who knew such a little angel could let go like this? You’re the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

She experienced the oddest sort of pride—that she was that kind of woman, that she was capable of being so wild and spontaneous. And sexy.

She’d never dreamed it was possible for her.

He kept moving his fingers inside her until the pleasure coiled up and broke unexpectedly. She cried out loudly as she came, trapped between the wall and his body, propped up on the table.

“There you go, angel,” he was murmuring, his eyes devouring her face and body. “There you go. So good. Damn, that was gorgeous.”

Her body throbbed in satisfaction as he finally removed his hand.

“Do you have a condom?” she asked, her groggy mind managing to land on one reality she didn’t want to forget.

“Yeah.” He reached into his back pocket.

She wondered if he always carried condoms around with him.

She wondered if most men did.

She’d only had one boyfriend—the guy she’d dated all through college and had briefly been engaged to—and he’d never had condoms available at a moment’s notice.

But maybe some guys did.

She was infinitely grateful for it now as they both worked on undoing his pants and rolling on the condom. His erection was big and hard, and she couldn’t wait to feel it inside her.

He adjusted their bodies so he could enter her, and she wrapped her legs around him tightly as he sank in.

Both of them groaned at the penetration.

“Jesus,” he hissed through his teeth, holding on to her ass tightly. “Jesus, you feel so good.”

He felt good too. Better than anything.

She wriggled as her body relaxed around him and started to need even more.

He levered his hips and pushed into her with a short, hard thrust.

She cried out, dropping her head back as the sensations slammed into her.

“Like that?” he asked, his body so tight it was almost shuddering.

“Yeah. Yeah. More. I need more.”

He took her like that, propped up on the table with her legs wrapped around him, and she’d never known it was possible to feel so sexy and uninhibited. She tried to keep her voice down since there were people all over the building, but she couldn’t stay quiet. Every time he pushed into her, a helpless sound of pleasure escaped her lips.

When she felt the sensations start to tighten into another orgasm, she started to urge him on. “Harder. Faster. More. Please more.”

He was taking her hard now, almost roughly, and he was grunting with a primal passion as he thrust.

She bit down on her bottom lip hard as a climax ripped through her, causing her to shake and shudder. Then he was coming too, letting out a long, low exclamation that sounded like, “angel” as he let himself go.

And all of it felt good. Amazing. Exactly what she wanted.

Until she started to come down from her climax and realized she’d just had sex with a stranger at a wedding reception.

His name was Carter, but that was all she knew about him.

She wasn’t this sort of person.

She felt weird and achy as she unwound her legs and he pulled out of her.

“Damn, what a mess,” he muttered as he started to take care of the condom.

She was wet between her legs. Really wet. And it seemed to emphasize that maybe she hadn’t really thought things through as much as she’d believed.

Carter was looking down at the condom as she readjusted her panties and smoothed down her dress.

She was suddenly terrified. The heated fog was lifting in her mind, and she had no idea what she’d been thinking.

Her legs were sore. She was sore inside. Her whole body was sore.

She gasped and hurried toward the door, wanting only to be alone so she could think.

“Angel, wait—” Carter began.

She didn’t wait. “Sorry,” she said, swinging open the door. “I’ve got to go.”

And with that, she ran down the hall.

(Copyright © 2017 by Noelle Adams and Samantha Chase. All rights reserved)

Noelle Adams
Noelle handwrote
her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she
hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and
currently resides in Virginia, where she reads any book she can get her hands
on and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel.  She loves travel, art, history, and ice
cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she
has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary
romances. Find her at noelle-adams.com.
Samantha Chase
Samantha Chase released her debut novel in 2011 and
currently has more than forty titles under her belt! When she’s not working on
a new story, she spends her time reading romances, playing way too many games
of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook, wearing a tiara while playing with her
sassy pug Maylene…oh, and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their
two sons in North Carolina. Find her at chasing-romance.com.
 



Chapter Reveal: The Unrequited by Saffron A. Kent

 

Title: The Unrequited
Author: Saffron A. Kent
Genre: Contemporary/Erotic Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs
Release Date: July 13, 2017


Blurb
Layla Robinson is not crazy. She is suffering from
unrequited love. But it’s time to move on. No more stalking, no more obsessive
calling.
What she needs is a distraction. The blue-eyed guy she keeps
seeing around campus could be a great one—only he is the new poetry
professor—the married poetry professor.
Thomas Abrams is a stereotypical artist—rude, arrogant, and
broody—but his glares and taunts don’t scare Layla. She might be bad at poetry,
but she is good at reading between the lines. Beneath his prickly façade,
Thomas is lonely, and Layla wants to know why. Obsessively.
Sometimes you do get what you want. Sometimes you end up in
the storage room of a bar with your professor and you kiss him. Sometimes he
kisses you back like the world is ending and he will never get to kiss you
again. He kisses you until you forget the years of unrequited love; you forget
all the rules, and you dare to reach for something that is not yours.
NOTE: Please be aware that this book deals with sensitive
topics like cheating and death. 18+ Only.

 

 

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Thomas & Layla’s First Kiss
It’s Saturday and I’m at The Alchemy with Emma, Dylan, and
Matt. We find a table in the middle of the room and Emma thumps the big bag of
goodies down on it. It’s prompt night for the Labyrinth and Emma is in charge
of producing the prompts.
“Explain to me one more time why you need this giant-ass bag
again?” Matt says, taking off his coat and hanging it on the chair as he takes
a seat.
Dylan gives him a disdainful look. “She’s got her prompts in
it, dumbass.”
Emma smiles in pleasure, her eyes on the bag as she looks
for something. It’s adorable how shy she is in front of him when she’s normally
so self-assured. Dylan and Emma have gone on a few dates this week. Turns out,
Dylan loved the tangerine. I knew it.
“And why can’t you show them a picture or something on your
phone?” He bumps his shoulder with mine. “Back me up here, Layla. This freaking
bag is a monstrosity.”
“I don’t have a problem with it, actually,” I say. “It’s
kind of fun to look at something while writing about it.”
When Emma told me about the Labyrinth’s prompt night, my
first reaction was panic. I didn’t think I could be a part of it. I wasn’t
prepared. I haven’t even read all the books I own.
Reading has become a vital part of my life, now. In the past
week, I’ve only roamed on the street once. I haven’t been to Thomas’ house at
all. I stay up late reading. There’s so much to discover, and I’ve been living
inside this fog for so long. I feel like time is running out on me. I’ll
probably die before reading all the books out there.
I try to calm myself. I’m here to be a part of something
greater than me—art—and I don’t have to be perfect. The only thing I should be
worried about is seeing Thomas.
It’s been six days since I cried in front of him, told him
my ugly love story, and sort of licked his hand, trying to taste him. Since
then I’ve seen him all around campus, at Crème and Beans with Nicky, in the
corridors at the Labyrinth when Emma dragged me to a play reading. I’ve even
seen him in the park, at the bench, the one time I went out at night. He was
smoking and battling with himself, as usual, and I was hiding behind the
tree. 
It’s like he’s everywhere. My secret keeper. The one person
who knows what I did.
And he is disgusted by me. He never looks at me. To him, I’m
invisible. Somehow, this hurts even more because deep down I thought he could
relate to me, but he doesn’t.
I really am a freak of nature.
The front door of the bar opens and in strides Sarah Turner,
followed by Professor Masters and Thomas. The snowflakes swirl behind his back
as he enters and the door swings shut.
“Hello children,” Professor Masters greets us in a jovial
voice as he saunters forward. There is a chorus of chuckles and Hi Professor
around the room.
Without paying attention to anyone, Thomas breaks off from
the trio and heads for the bar. Sarah throws him an annoyed look but Professor
Masters steers her toward their destination.
Thomas orders a drink and sits on the barstool, his long
legs straddling the small seat. He takes off his jacket, revealing a plain grey
t-shirt that stretches across his shoulders and biceps. His jean-covered thighs
bulge as he bounces his right leg with impatience.
The bartender sets down a chocolate martini in front of him
and I look away, embarrassed. His weakness for chocolate awakens something raw
and melty inside my stomach. I haven’t thought about what I’ll do come Monday.
Will I go back to class? Will I hide and never show my face again?
Emma gets up from beside me, greets the room, and explains
the instructions. She digs inside her bag and fishes something out. “So the
first prompt is this bottle of hot sauce. You have to write a short poem, no
more than twenty lines, with whatever comes to mind when you see a red bottle
with H.O.T. written on it. I’m going to pass this around for a bit so you guys
can look at it.”
My first thought is that I hate hot sauce. I’m more of a
sweet-loving person. In fact, I’m the only sweet-loving person in my family or
the families I’ve had over the years. My mom, Caleb, my dad, Caleb’s dad, even
Henry—they all shy away from sweet things.
The thought of Caleb makes me aware of the phone in my
jacket pocket. Since those missed calls at Crème and Beans, he’s called several
times, but I haven’t picked up. I was hoping he’d leave a message or something
so I’d know what it’s about, but he hasn’t.
Why does he keep calling me? As impulsive as I am, a strange
fear is keeping me from taking his call.
Emma bumps my elbow and tells me to get writing.
Right, hot sauce. I nibble at my pen, trying to think…no,
trying to feel. How does hot sauce make me feel? H.O.T. Feel. Feel.
I close my eyes and the first thing I see is Thomas’ face.
His beautiful, intense gaze. How every molecule of my body, every inch of my
flesh burns when he is near. How he has the power to change the weather, cold
to hot.
Gasping, my eyes whip open. Thomas Abrams is a
fire-breather. He breathes flames and lust, makes me forget everything and say
yes. Yes to obsession. Yes to stalking. Yes to insanity. Yes to licking.
With shaking hands, I begin to write and capture him in
words. The pen moves and the words flow out. They keep flowing without my
knowledge. All I can feel is the heat seesawing through my body.
Next thing I know I’m jolted by Emma’s clap and shrill
voice. “All right guys, it’s time to stop. Put down your pens.”
Murmurs escalate and the room breaks out in conversation, as
Emma asks someone to volunteer their poem first. With flushed cheeks, I pocket
my small notebook. While the entire room is busy, I get up and shuffle into the
hallway in the back. I need to get to the ladies’ room and calm myself down.
I rub my arms at the unexpected chill in the dank hallway
and take a deep breath. My legs can barely support themselves. Is this how
poets feel when they put feelings into words? Is this how Thomas feels? It’s
like bleeding. It’s like running for miles and running out of breath.
Before I can reach my destination, I’m being hauled into a
dark, tiny room. I don’t even have time to squeal before the flimsy wooden door
is shut, and I’m surrounded by a very familiar heat.
It’s Thomas.
He has me trapped inside what looks to be a storage room,
his hand banded around my elbow, pushing me back against the dank wall.
“T-Thomas.” I’m panting. “What… What’s happening? What’re
you doing?”
His chiseled face is a study of thick shadows and thin
slices of light under the flickering yellow bulb. The only bright spots on his
features are those fire-starting eyes of his. I can smell the delicious smoke
rising from my body, can feel the sting.
Now that the initial shock is gone, my body sags, relieved
to be the center of his attention after days. He sees us. There are things to
worry about, I know that, but I can’t muster the energy to.
“Thomas?” I whisper when it’s clear he won’t say anything.
“Wh-What are you doing?”
His breaths are choppy, short jabs of air inhaled and
exhaled as he stares at every inch of my face. “Do you still love him?”
“What?”
“Do you still love that guy?”
“I… Yes.”
“How much?”
My breaths match his, succinct and sharp. I study him, this
man in front of me. There’s a hint of vulnerability to him. His usually cool
persona is frayed. Is it because I told him my story? Maybe he relates to me
after all.
“Thomas, what’s going on?”
“How much do you love him, Layla? Do you love him so much
that you hate yourself? That you can’t stand your own sight? Do you constantly
think about how to fix it? How to make it better? How to be better?”
He isn’t merely frayed—he’s coming apart. Naked agony dances
on his features. It’s too bright and glaring. It’s too similar to mine, but I’m
not worried about that right now. I’m worried about him.
“Yes,” I whisper. I lift my hand and press it to his
stubbled face. His cheekbone is arched and high, seemingly made of granite as
it pulses beneath my palm. “But I’m so tired of it,” I admit, and his eyes
flare. Fire-breathing eyes. I wonder why I didn’t notice it before. It’s so
obvious now. They never fail to start a fire in my soul.
He crowds me against the wall, as if sinking his hard body
into mine, but there isn’t any touch involved. His frame sort of hovers over
me, heating me up, jumpstarting my nerves. I’m a mesh of live wires, firing
lust and adrenaline. I’m sticky as sugar and drunk as whiskey.
Thomas arranges his body and places both his palms on the
wall, caging me in. The vein on his bicep becomes taut, a purple string tugging
on my senses.
I watch him watch my parted lips, and suddenly, it’s the
only piece of my body I can feel. My mouth, throbbing, puffy, swollen with the
need.
“Me too,” he whispers, almost to himself.
I wasn’t meant to hear it, but I did. Again, I’m hit by a
storm of desire to kiss him better. It’s a tornado, an avalanche in my body,
and in one breathless moment, I decide to go for it. It’s okay. I can take the
blame for it later.
I break the rules and reach up and kiss him. A feathery peck
on his plump lips, it’s a kiss of solidarity, a kiss that intends to tell him I
understand—but one isn’t enough. It only manages to ratchet up my lust. So I
give him another, this time on the corner of his mouth, and then another one on
his jaw.
It’s not enough, these small, barely-there touches. I want
more, but I won’t take it. I’ll be good; I’ll only give.
Abruptly, he fists my curls and stops me. I look at him
fearfully, ready to apologize—not for the kiss, but for being the kisser. His
gaze reflects passion, stark, raving need, and I shiver, despite wearing layers
and sweating with his heat.
“Are you trying to kiss me, Layla?” he rasps, flexing his
fingers on my makeshift ponytail.
He couldn’t tell? Blush rises to the surface and I know I’m
glowing like a neon sign. Swallowing, I nod. “Yes.”
He inches closer to me, still not touching—as impossible as
that is—but infinitely closer. “You want to kiss me, Miss Robinson, you do it
right.”
Oh God, does he have to call me that? Now, here? My spine
arches on its own and my heavy tits graze the contours of his shuddering chest.
“H-How?” I ask innocently, belying the daring action of my
body. His stern, professor-y voice is doing things to me, making me wild,
uncontrolled.
For a second, he’s silent, just watching. I’m afraid he’ll
back out from whatever this is, whatever insanity we’re about to commit—but
then I sense the shift in the liquor-laced air as he opens his mouth and
growls, “Like this.”
Twisting my hair in his grasp, he swallows my lips in his
mouth. He sucks on the shape of my sensitive flesh and all I can do is let him.
I put my palms on his shoulders, feeling the heated muscles under the soft
material of his t-shirt. His chest shifts and slides over my breasts, like a
wave of water. I want to be drenched with it. I want every drop of his sweat,
his lust on every inch of my skin. I pull him toward me so he can crush me with
his massive weight.
He doesn’t budge though. He stands there, unfazed, still
devouring my lips, immobile. His tongue thrusts in and licks me from the
inside—the roof of my mouth, my tongue, my teeth. He is after my essence, the
special taste that lives deep. He growls when he gets it, my flavor, and the
pressure of his grip on my hair increases tenfold.
It’s painful, but not enough to tamp down my arousal. I give
up my attempts to bring him to me. Rather, I go to him. I lift my leg and wrap
it around his waist. My hands creep up and lock around his neck. I climb him
like an ivy, toxic and poisonous and shameless.
I press my body to his and kiss him back with everything I
am. I pour my soul into it. For these few moments, I become a balm to his pain.
But it doesn’t last long. My selfishness and my need for him
take over. My core starts leaking and it becomes hard to remember I’m only
meant to give, not to take.
I rotate my hips, searching for that magical friction
against the ridged planes of his body. Then I feel it—his erection against my
upper tummy. It’s huge. Hard. A heated rod. It’s alive, and when I move against
it, I feel it throb. A tortured moan rips out of his chest.
Thomas tears his mouth away from me and even my soul mourns
the loss. We stare at each other, gasping for breath. I’m still clung around
him and his cock is still nestled between our aroused bodies. I adjust my thigh
around his hip, and it throbs with the small movement.
“Don’t fucking move,” he tells me, emphasizing it with a tug
on my hair.
“Okay.” I swallow. “I’m sorry.”
A pained chuckle. “For what?”
“I made you kiss me.”
The legendary tic makes its appearance at the heel of my
words. It drums on his jaw like a secondary heart, or maybe a time bomb. “You
did, didn’t you?”
Unable to talk, I simply nod.
In answer, he lodges his thigh between my legs and presses
on my core. It’s an electric shock multiplied by a strike of lightning, and I
almost burst into flames.
“Wh-What…” I try to speak but he increases the pressure,
eliciting a moan from me.
“Why?” he whispers, noting my lusty reactions. “Why did you
make me do it, Layla?”
“Because I—”
Again, he repeats his movements, reducing me to wordless,
needy moans. What is he doing?
“Because you what?”
“Because I do this kind of thing. I-I’m selfish and bad…” I
moan, doused in shame and arousal. “I take what I want because I can’t control
myself. I don’t want to.”
“And you want me, don’t you?” When I don’t answer, he tugs
on my hair sharply. “You want me, Layla.”
It’s not a question, but still I nod my head. Yes, I want
him. I’ve wanted him since the first time I saw him. I want him more and more
with each passing day. I want him because he’s like me. He’s in unrequited love
and I want to save him, somehow.
His eyes shine with satisfaction, a sense of victory at my
answer. He loves my desperation and it makes me hornier.
We’re so fucked, my omniscient heart says. I agree.
“I can do whatever I want with you and you’ll let me. Isn’t
that right, Layla?” He licks his lips as if savoring his own words. “I can tell
you to jump and you’ll ask how high. I can tell you to strip and you’ll strip
as if your clothes are on fire.”
“Yes,” I moan.
He rewards me by grinding his muscular thigh and my cunt
pulses. My lust-addled brain commands me to move, to chase the friction, and I
do it. I slide up and down his maddening leg, digging my nails into his scalp
as the pleasure mounts.
I feel the angry and rhythmic jerk of his cock on my stomach
and I love it. I love the fact that I’ve shed all my inhibitions and am reduced
to this, a lust-drunk puppet. I love that it gives Thomas pleasure. He isn’t
sad anymore, or vulnerable.
Yes, I love all that.
His pain has become my pain, and it’s going to make me come
on his leg. I watch Thomas with hazy eyes. I watch the arrogant slope of his
flushed cheeks. I watch his dilated pupils, his wet, parted lips. All the
while, I’m moving, humping his leg. Up and down. Up and down.
“Of course you will,” he rasps. “Will you come for me,
Layla?”
I jerk out a nod. In the back of my mind, I know how wrong
this is, how shameful, but I can’t stop myself. As Thomas said, I’ll do
anything for him in this moment.
My movements are haphazard now, jerky, epileptic. I want it
so bad. I want my cum to gush so hard it seeps through my panties and leaves a
wet patch on his jeans.
The graphic, vulgar thought pushes me over the edge. Hard
and moaning, I come, just the way I wanted—no, just the way he wanted. I was
simply following his orders. My mind is filled with cotton and shooting stars
and static. I want to bask in it forever.
Oh God, it’s so good. So good.
The pressure on my body eases. I don’t feel his muscles
between my legs, and the harsh grip on my hair has vanished. In the wake of my
orgasm, Thomas has let me go, and in turn, forced me to unwind my body from
his.
I’m still recovering from my climax, leaning against the
wall for balance, but I try to focus. Thomas is watching me, intensely, his
flaming eyes working double-time to take me in, his hands on either side of my
head.
“Do you understand what I’m telling you, Layla? Can you hear
your heart beating? Is it trying to pound through your chest? Do you think you
can control it? Tell it to calm down? Your hips are still shaking. I bet you’re
still leaking cum, aren’t you? Do you think you can control any of that?”
I shake my head.
“Yeah, that’s right. You’d be surprised to know how many
things aren’t your fault at all.” His eyes bore into mine, as if telling me the
importance of his declaration.
For a second, I can’t make the connection between what he’s
telling me and what happened here, but then I get it. He’s absolving me. He’s
rendering me blameless for kissing him, for making him kiss me. I wonder if
this absolution includes what happened with Caleb. Am I free of those sins too?
My heart scoffs. Are you kidding? We tricked him into having
sex.
“I saw you,” I blurt out without thinking.
As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I know in my bones
that this will destroy whatever kindness he’s harboring toward me.
“Through the window,” I add, because I can’t handle not
being blamed.
Everything is always my fault. The broken vases at home.
Muddy footprints on the tile floors. The missing bottles of liquor from the
cabinet. Caleb’s missing underwear. The fact that he ran off to college a month
early and won’t even visit home. The fact that I shoplifted, drank and drove
numerous times, crashed parties, broke my mom’s ice sculpture.
It’s all my fault. It’s just like me to do those things. I
want Thomas’ accusation too.
“I saw how lonely you were. I saw the anger on your face,
the way you…the way you paced around the room, like you were trapped.” The
scene plays in my head: his frantic steps, his hands tugging at his hair.
Then the scene changes and I’m outside his bedroom window.
“And-And then you were with her—Hadley. I… You were talking and you looked so
sad and angry, and then she left. I kept watching your back and your shoulders.
They were so tight and I could see the effort it took you to keep yourself
together. Then you picked up a vase and I thought you’d throw it against the
wall, break it, because I know your heart was breaking, but you held on to it.
You set it down gently. You were better than me. I-I could never have done
that.”
Nothing moves on his body. I don’t know if he’s breathing,
if he’s even seeing me.
“Thomas, I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to see it. I…”
Then he shifts on his feet and the overhead light slashes
his face into two halves of shadow and light. He appears beastly, like an
animal with bright eyes and hard face. For the first time since I began my
confession, I feel a tinge of true fear.
I can see he wants to do something, maybe harm me
physically. His body is taut with violence. He looks bigger, enlarged with the
barely leashed control. For a second, I think he does lose control. His hands
jerk and ball into fists, but then he takes a shallow, choppy breath.
“Stay the fuck away from me,” he says softly, deadly.
 With that, he marches
out of the storage room.
Author Bio
Writer of bad romances. Coffee Addict. White Russian
Drinker. Imaginary Ballet Dancer and poetess. Aspiring Lana Del Ray of the book
world.
I’m a big believer in love (obviously). I believe in happily ever after, the
butterflies and the tingling. But I also believe in edgy, rough and gutsy kind
of love. I believe in pushing the boundaries, darker (sometimes morally
ambiguous) emotions and imperfections.The kind of love I write about is flawed just like my characters. And I hope by
the end of it, you’ll come to root for them just as much as me. Because love,
no matter where it comes from, is always pure and beautiful.



 

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Chapter Reveal: Twice as Hard by Amber Bardan

 

 

Coming March 20th

 

 

 

They caught me. Naked, shivering and dripping after a spontaneous swim in the forest. Two rugged men whose hard gazes captivated and scared me all at once.

They warned me. Told me I was on private property and I needed to obey the law…or I would be punished.

The idea of them both punishing me, pleasuring me, kept tormenting me. I couldn’t want them. I shouldn’t. But I did.

I didn’t mean to trespass again. I thought I could retreat without notice. But they’re coming for me.

To show me the pleasure in pain. To show me just how right forbidden can feel. And to love me twice as hard as I ever fantasized.

 

 

I run up the track. My thighs scream—but I can’t stop yet. Pain blazes from my blistered heels. The ground levels out. My sneakers slide on dirt.
Fuck.
The world disappears, dropping out only yards from where I’m stopped.
I go to my knees, gasping. The urge to vomit rises hard in my throat, yet the sight ahead pierces me almost as sharply as the burning in my lungs. The view from the peak of Hunter Mountain is everything I’ve been led to believe. I press my palms to the earth. Oh god, the air is good.
So damned good.
Fragrant and so clean I’ve only experienced its pale imitation from a bottle. Forest scent. Almost makes this worth it. Almost. I fill my lungs, and my racing heart slows a fraction. I drop onto my heels. Green rolling hills and the kind of quiet I’ve only imagined stretch out before me.
I shut my eyes. In my thirty-one years I’ve never experienced a moment of quiet like this. Where the loudest thing competing for my attention is the sound of me—my breath.
My galloping pulse.
There’s always been a background noise so ever present I never noticed it until this absence. Traffic. Street. People. The whine of electronics a constant hum.
Pity there’s not a moment of peace to be found.
Not now. Not like this. Not on my own.
Why’d he send me here?
Flapping jerks me out of my thoughts. I look up. Broad, dark wings beat overhead.
Holy crap. Is that an actual eagle? The huge bird soars over the ledge to hover above the ravine.
Hunting.
On Hunter Mountain. I drag my backpack off my shoulders, and open it up, fingers slipping into the inside pocket where the letter waits.
I roll onto my backside, and then peel back the seal from one side of the envelope to the other, glue stretching like cheese for a moment before snapping. My thumb pauses in the fold of the paper. I unfold the note a fraction at a time.

Congratulations, Baby, you made it.
Aren’t you glad you did?
Enjoy the view for half an hour. Set your timer, you impatient little thing. Then take the path to left, there’s something there I want you to see.

I scrunch the paper into a ball, and it’s only the abomination of littering in a place like this, that stops me from hurling it in the direction of the eagle.
That’s it?
I’ve come all this way, suffered through so much, for a hike?
Why’d he even bother? I’m not sure if this is him trying to hang on—or refusing to completely let go.
Neither answer is one I’m prepared to dwell on. So I gather together the remnants of my hopefulness and obey my husband, setting my timer exactly as he’s instructed. Then drink from my water bottle and eat an apple to pass time, because he’s right—I’m a very impatient thing.
The beep pings from my phone. With the nonexistent reception here, an alarm is about all the phone’s good for.
I tuck the phone away, slip the backpack on and stand. My legs give a jellied wobble, leaving me with a feeling of walking on bendy stilts. I circle the top of the mountain, then find a track on the left, the one he must’ve meant.
Do Not Enter, the sign reads.
Of course it does. I sigh and take the path, adjusting the straps of the bag and wondering what fresh torture he has in store for me.

One small mercy, walking down is a damn sight easier than running up.
I descend into the trees and the silence bleeds into a more organic quiet, where birds rustle, things move, and then…water rushes.
I pick up pace. Tired or not, I jog down the path toward the sound, then burst into a clearing.
The scent of water hits me.
I stare at the stream plunging over a hanging ledge. My eyes widen as if I could somehow take it in more. A real waterfall.
A heady mix of awe and joy floods me.
Bounced from one L.A. foster home to the next, vacations and sightseeing hadn’t been any part of my upbringing. I’d worked my ass off to get into college, then worked it even harder in my good, safe, secure bank job to pay off student loans—until him.
Until Dean came along and every plan I ever had went up in flames.
But this? Waterfall. Had I mentioned on one of our lazy Sunday mornings after he’d fucked me into exhaustion, how I’d always longed to see one?
My chest squeezes. Maybe this means he forgives me…
I take off the backpack and toss it onto the ground. Then tear off my top, kick off my shoes and peel off my socks. The late spring air has my nipples puckering, but I unhook my bra and let it fall where I stand.
He hasn’t instructed this part, but I can just see him imagining it when he wrote the note. He’d picture me unable to resist skinny dipping in the wilderness.
Had it made him hard when he’d told me to come this way?
I undo the button at my waist and peel off my jeans. My underwear goes next. Then I walk buck naked toward the water.
Of course he’d been hard.
He’d have known I’d do just this. My thighs squeeze. Heat moves through me. I’m naked out in the open without Dean and he can’t do a thing to stop me.
I climb onto a rock.
A laugh springs from my lips. The sound echoes back at me, clear and crisp and startling. It’s been too long since I’ve heard that sound.
I leap into the water.
Freezing cold slams into me. I resurface with a gasp. Oh, shit. The water’s not just cold it’s so icy it has teeth. Still, I do the thing I’ve always, always wanted to do, and swim to the waterfall. Foam and bubbles, and the current seem to force me back. A tremor of danger moves through me. It could be risky to try to swim through the waterfall.
I take a breath and dive underwater. Pressure pounds my back then dissipates. I emerge on the other side, and look up. The water curtains me from the outside world.
Sadly, no cave, but I climb onto the bit of rock ledge and watch for the brief moment before cold and self-preservation force me down.
That’s the thing about fantasy, you never dream these parts—the threat of hypothermia or how a slimy rock feels on your bare ass.
I dive back through the waterfall, and swim toward where I’ve left my things. My skin goes numb. A blanket of goose bumps coats my limbs. I collect my carelessly scattered clothes. Dirt and mossy chunks of forest floor cling to my feet and work up my ankles. My teeth chatter. I bend to retrieve my underwear and jeans.
Sound crunches behind me.
I spin, clothes clutched in my hands. A man stands in front of me, maybe six feet away. My heart seizes.
He stares, gaze raking over me as though he’s never seen a woman. From the looks of him maybe he never has. His beard is rough, dark and speckled with silver, but it’s the jaw underneath—clenched tight as he takes me in, that has my own teeth biting together. He’s built like someone who spends his days felling trees or wrestling grizzlies.
Or both.
My pulse mimics the sound of the waterfall, growing louder in my ears, until I don’t know which roar is which. That whole big body seems poised.
Set to pounce.
“I didn’t know anyone was here.” My voice emerges strangled and rusty.
He says nothing, but his gaze makes its way from where I clutch my things to my chest, then lands on mine.
His features set hungrily, tension thrumming tight through his expression in a way that makes me feel like a buffet that’s being presented at the very brink of starvation.
I can almost feel my heart beat against my forearms through the clothes I hold. Air moves in icy prickles over my naked thighs and between my legs. His attention moves there. To my uncovered cunt, which my bundle of clothes doesn’t hide.
His chest moves quickly, like he’s an animal under the heat of too much sun.
His fingers twitch at his sides. Big fingers. He has big fingers and big hands. Hands that would hold roughly. Fingers that would grab brutally.
And I can’t move. Can’t cover myself. Can’t conceal my most private area.
He takes a step—just one.
I jerk backward and stumble. My clothes tumble to the ground.
He looks at my chest. At my breasts, nipples puckered and strained. There’s a sensation rushing through me that reminds me of the brief period in my teens when I’d get high. A light-headedness that suspends me almost out of body.
He hisses, and comes for me.
A jolt of numbness plunges me back into frozen atrophy.
A blast rings out. Birds spring from trees.
A gunshot.

 


After spending years imagining fictional adventures, Amber finally found a way to turn daydreaming into a productive habit. She now spends her time in a coffee-fuelled adrenaline haze, writing romance with a thriller edge.

She lives with her husband and children in semi-rural Australia, where if she peers outside at the right moment she might just see a kangaroo bounce by.

Amber is an award winning writer, Amazon Bestselling Author, and member of Romance Writers of Australia, Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, and Writers Victoria.

 

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