Review Tour: The Brightest Embers by Jeaniene Frost

The Brightest Embers by Jeaniene Frost
Series: Broken Destiny #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: November 28th 2017
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You can run from your destiny, but you can’t hide…

Ivy thought that she and Adrian had conquered their fates. Yet with thousands of innocents still trapped in the demon realms, she’s determined to locate the final hallowed weapon and harness its unparalleled power to free them. But the last relic nearly put Ivy in the grave—there’s probably no coming back from this one.

Adrian’s dark lineage has made him the most powerful of his kind, yet even his incredible abilities might not be enough now. Instead, the treacherous fate he has fought so hard to escape might be the only way he can save Ivy. Their undeniable bond has been tested before, but never with so much on the line. Now fate will come head-to-head against true love, and nothing they’ve endured can prepare Ivy and Adrian for the unthinkable choices they’ll face…

Don’t miss the earth-shattering conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Broken Destiny series!

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunes • Kobo

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At long last, the final Broken Destiny book is here!! It’s been a long time coming since the first book, and Ivy and Adrian have been through some tough times throughout the series. It all finally comes to a close in The Brightest Embers, with Ivy needing to find the third and last hallowed weapon to save humanity. It has some excitement, action, humor, steam… if you’re a fan of the series, you definitely need to see how it all ends!

Ivy knows that when she finds the spearhead that will save humans from demons, she won’t survive wielding it. So should she continue this journey that is so much bigger than her, at the risk of hurting her loved ones, especially Adrian, by dying for the cause? It’s not an easy decision to make, but no matter what she does, she knows she has the support of Adrian, her sister, and her friends.

“I love you, Adrian,” I told him between searing kisses. “You’re my only destiny now.”

I’ve enjoyed Ivy and Adrian’s slow-growing romance throughout the series, and how much they’ve come to love and support one another. They have a fantastic chemistry between them that hasn’t died since the moment they met. But while the romance was great, the actual action part felt a little lacking compared to the two previous books. There’s a lot of hesitance and doubt in Ivy in this book, which is totally understandable (is she going to die for nothing?), but this did add to the wishy-washy feeling of the book. And the ending wasn’t quite what I expected – it wraps things up, but a little too abruptly for my taste. I would’ve loved to see an epilogue or at least one more chapter to see a glimpse into Ivy and Adrian’s future! My favorite part about this book, though? Brutus, our dear resident pet/gargoyle. I love this gargoyle to pieces, and he definitely added some much needed humor to this heavy series.

While The Brightest Embers isn’t my favorite Broken Destiny book, it’s still worth a read if you like the series. And if you’re curious about new adult paranormal romance books, this is definitely a series to check out! I’m hoping Jeaniene Frost will write some more NA PNR books in the future, mainly because there needs to be more books in this genre!


lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.

Reading Order: Broken Destiny series

  

#1 ~ The Beautiful Ashes: My ReviewEbook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ The Sweetest Burn: My Review • Ebook • Hardcover • Paperback• Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ The Brightest Embers: Ebook • Hardcover • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads

about the author button

Jeaniene Frost is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the Night Huntress series, the Night Prince series, the Broken Destiny series, and the upcoming Night Rebel series. To date, foreign rights for her novels have sold to twenty different countries. Jeaniene lives in Florida with her husband Matthew, who long ago accepted that she rarely cooks and always sleeps in on the weekends. Aside from writing, Jeaniene enjoys reading, poetry, watching movies with her husband, exploring old cemeteries, spelunking and traveling – by car. Airplanes, children, and cook books frighten her.

For information on Jeaniene’s books, book trailers, deleted scenes, creature mythology, and more, please visit: www.jeanienefrost.com

Website • Amazon Page • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads


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Blog Tour + Review & Excerpt: Villain by Samantha Young

Villain by Samantha Young
Series: Hero #1.5 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: December 5th 2017
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The sexy and emotional companion novella to the New York Times bestselling romance HERO

Nadia Ray is not just a broadcast meteorologist. She’s Boston’s morning television It Girl. Successful and independent, she’s put a past she’s ashamed of behind her and is forging a future she can be proud of. However, when her new boss discovers her secret he blackmails her, intent on using Nadia’s popularity to make them the number one morning show in Massachusetts. He wants her to be part of uncovering the city’s biggest scandal – a secret billionaire Caine Carraway is hiding.

Soon Nadia is thrown into the path of Caine’s best friend: sexy, wealthy bachelor Henry Lexington. But she doesn’t encounter the dashing high society gentleman Henry is purported to be. Instead she’s faced with an insulting and defensive villain who misjudges her at every turn.

When Henry finally realizes the truth, and decides to make amends, Nadia wants nothing to do with him. But she underestimates his determination and charm and soon they find themselves embroiled in an intense, passionate affair.

An affair Nadia knows must come to an end before their feelings grow any deeper and he discovers her secrets.

After all, Henry Lexington isn’t the only one who played the part of a villain once…

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunes • Kobo

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Hero was one of my favorite reads back in 2015. I remember wanting Nadia and Henry’s story so bad, and now we finally have it! Samantha Young doesn’t disappoint – I adored their novella. It’s quick and hot, but with enough heart and emotion to get you hooked onto the characters and story despite the short length. Plus, it’s got the enemies-to-lovers trope, which I’m always up for.

When Nadia and Henry first meet, they make terrible first impressions on one another, leading them to make quick judgments about the other, despite the wild attraction between them. Unfortunately, Henry ends up being in the wrong here, but this charming, suave man is nothing if not determined to win the good favor – and eventually, the heart – of the one woman he can’t get out of his mind.

“I was born into a life of privilege … but I never knew true wealth until I met you, Nadia Ray.”

Mix in some good groveling, plenty of steamy scenes, and cute banter, and you have the novella that is Villain. I enjoyed this novella SO much – not only did I adore Nadia and Henry, but it was also great to see Caine and Alexa again! I’d definitely recommend this novella if you loved Hero, or if you need a good, short contemporary romance fix!


lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.

Now here’s an excerpt from Villain! ❤

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Shaking off the memory of yesterday, I grabbed my purse and opened the door to my apartment with every intention of jumping in a cab to the address Joe had given me.

However, a man blocked my way.

He stood in my doorway, his fist raised as if to knock.

Shocked, I stared up at his familiar face.

Why the hell was Henry Lexington standing in my doorway?

His vibrant blue eyes met mine and for a moment, neither of us said a word. Silence stretched thinly between us, and I suddenly realized I was holding my breath.

Lexington quite abruptly broke the silence. “Miss Ray?”

“Yes, what—”

“We need to talk.” He pushed past me and walked into my apartment without an invitation.

For a moment, I stood there with my mouth open, asking myself if that had just happened. Were people really that rude?

I stared after him, watching him disappear out of my hall and into my sitting room.

All my papers on Carraway were in there!

“Hey!” I called, shutting the door and hurrying after him. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Lexington stood in the middle of my small sitting room, his back, thankfully, to my desk. His expression was sullen, cool, and calculating. This was not the charming, hedonistic millionaire I’d read about. “I could ask you the same thing, Miss Ray.”

“Excuse me?” Cold sweat prickled under my arms. Did he know? How did he know? If he didn’t know, why the hell else would he be here? Why was he here and not Carraway?

I waited anxiously for Lexington to stop boring through my face with his hard eyes. “I assume you know who I am.”

“You’re Henry Lexington.”

“And you, Miss Ray,” he turned and strode over to my desk, fingering my papers, “are going to let a certain story die.”

My belly flipped unpleasantly.

Goddammit. “What?” I said.

Lexington raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “Imelda Worthington.”

Fuck.

“That blank expression isn’t fooling anyone, Miss Ray. I know she said a few unfortunate things to Richard Peters, your boss, and I know you’ve been calling her ever since.”

Despite my guilt, despite knowing I was in the wrong here, this privileged asshole had burst into my apartment to intimidate me. Like hell! “You do, do you?”

His eyes narrowed. “Imelda informed me of what’s been going on and asked me to kindly give you a message.” He prowled toward me and I suddenly felt real fear. I didn’t know this man and he was here to shut me up. How far would he go? I steeled myself, not wanting him to see my fear. If my expression gave me away, however, I didn’t know; all I did know was that Henry Lexington stopped a good foot from me. It still wasn’t enough. He stood at over six feet, his broad shoulders fitted into a perfectly tailored three-piece suit. He had big, masculine hands, one hidden in his pocket, the other resting on his flat stomach over a suit button. Henry Lexington had a swimmer’s build—sleek but powerful—and I could only guess at the strength beneath his suit. I struggled not to feel overwhelmed by his large, magnetic presence, as much as I struggled not to feel fear.

“You’ll leave her alone,” he demanded.

Guessing there was no point in being coy considering he’d seen my desk, I asked, “Why are you here instead of Carraway?”

Lexington flashed me a wolfish grin that didn’t reach his eyes. “Because I’m the nice one. Caine scares Imelda. He scares most people. Not you, though.” He took another step toward me, seeming to be cataloguing every little nuance of my face. “And if you’re not careful, that lack of fear could ruin you, Miss Ray.”

Reading Order: Hero series

 

#1 ~ Hero: My ReviewEbook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
#1.5 ~ Villain: Ebook • Goodreads (Dec. 5, 2017)

about the author button

Samantha Young is the New York Times,  USA Today  and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of adult contemporary romances, including the On Dublin Street series and Hero, as well as the New Adult duology Into the Deep and Out of the Shallows.  Every Little Thing, the second book in her new Hart’s Boardwalk series, will be published by Berkley in March 2017. Before turning to contemporary fiction, she wrote several young adult paranormal and fantasy series, including the amazon bestselling Tale of Lunarmorte trilogy. Samantha’s debut YA contemporary novel The Impossible Vastness of Us was published by Harlequin TEEN in ebook & hardback June 2017. Play On is an adult contemporary romance and the first in a brand new series set in Scotland.

Samantha has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award 2012 for Best Author and Best Romance for On Dublin Street, Best Romance 2014 for Before Jamaica Lane, and Best Romance 2015 for HeroOn Dublin Street, a #1 bestseller in Germany, was the Bronze Award Winner in the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2013, Before Jamaica Lane the Gold Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2014 and Echoes of Scotland Street the Bronze Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2015.

Samantha is currently published in 30 countries and is a #1 international bestselling author.

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Blog Tour + Review & Excerpt: Dirty Filthy Fix by Laurelin Paige

From New York Times bestselling author Laurelin Paige, comes a sexy novella in her Fixed Trilogy Series…DIRTY FILTHY FIX, a new novella brought to you by 1001 Dark Nights! Grab your copy of this amazing novella today!

Dirty Filthy Fix by Laurelin Paige
Series: Fixed #5.5 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: November 21st 2017
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I like sex. Kinky sex. The kinkier the better.

Every day, it’s all I think about as I serve coffee and hand out business agendas to men who have no idea I’m not the prim, proper girl they think I am.

With a day job as the secretary to one of New York’s most powerful men, Hudson Pierce, I have to keep my double life quiet. As long as I do, it’s not a problem.

Enter: Nathan Sinclair. Tall, dark and handsome doesn’t come close to describing how hot he is. And that’s with his clothes on. But after a dirty, filthy rendezvous, I accept that if we ever see each other again, he’ll walk right by my desk on his way to see my boss without recognizing me.

Only, that’s not what happens. Not the first time I see him after the party. Or the next time. Or the time after that. And as much as I try to stop it, my two worlds are crashing into each other, putting my job and my reputation at risk.

And all I can think about is Nathan Sinclair.

All I can think about is getting just one more dirty, filthy fix.

Buy links:
Amazon US • Amazon UK • Amazon CA • Amazon AU

Laurelin Paige is a master at writing erotica and romance. I’m a huge fan of her fantastic writing, the way she’s able to weave a sweet love story into a filthy, dirty, raw tale. Despite Dirty Filthy Fix being novella-size, it packs just as much of a punch as one of her full-length book does. Trish and Nate’s unconventional romance will have your panties melting… as well as make you think about the different ways people can be in love.

Trish Bisceglia is very happy with her two separate lives – one is being the executive assistant to businessman Hudson Pierce, and the other is living out her wildest, kinkiest dreams. She attends exclusive parties where she can indulge in any kind of sex she wants, all while she wears a mask to keep her identity hidden. She has rules set in place that make sure she’s protected, until one weekend a new man shows up and threatens not only her rules, but her heart.

I guess I was a bit into the fairytale kink after all–and the clock was striking midnight. Only, I didn’t ever want the prince coming after me.
It was the first time in a long time, though, that I gave the prince a second glance before slipping away into the night.

Nathan Sinclair was everything Trish’s erotic fantasies could come up with, and she can only hope that he shows up the next weekend. But her two worlds collide when the very same man shows up at her workplace to have a meeting with her boss. This changes everything and nothing, because although she wants Nathan, she’s known all her life that she’s never getting married and never having children. But Nathan is a determined man, and he’s not willing to give up on the only thing he wants: Trish. The rest he couldn’t care less about. And who says you need a marriage, a house, and 2.5 kids to be happy and in love?

“I get you, babe. Because I’ve never wanted to be tied down, either. And I would never dream of taking anything away from you. I don’t want to imprison you. I want to fly with you.”

I couldn’t get enough of this novella. I loved Trish, her independence, and her unconventional way of thinking. She’s such a headstrong woman, and I loved the way Nathan softened her yet bolstered her up. Their love story isn’t a typical one, to say the least, but it’s THEIRS, every kinky, romantic bit of it. I honestly couldn’t put this book down! I love this world that Laurelin Paige has created and can only hope that all of the very special men she’s created will have their own stories told.


Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.

Now here’s an excerpt from Dirty Filthy Fix! ❤

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I wore satin that Saturday night, a long blue slip dress with slits up both sides. I never wore underwear to the parties. They were too much of an inconvenience, and the few times I had worn them, I’d just ended up giving them away as souvenirs. I liked nice lingerie. I preferred to keep most of it.

The shoes I wore—simple heels, easy to slip off—were also standard for an evening at the Open Door. But somehow I felt simultaneously more dressed up and more naked than I had in a long time. I left my hair down, and it fell long past my shoulders in dark, nearly black waves. It felt less like I was going to a weekly party and more like I was going on a date. A glamorous date.

It was a signal that I should not go.

But I went. Nothing could have kept me away.

I spent the beginning of the night as a voyeur, camped out on the settee watching as the Doms paraded their submissives around the room, entertaining everyone with their tricks and commands.

I had a few invitations to play from the regulars—Andrew, who’d shown up with a girl I’d never met before. Of course, Chuck Richard was there, wanting to fondle and stroke my skin. But I shooed them all away, feigning an introverted mood, when really I was just looking and waiting for one person in particular.

An hour went by. Then an hour and a half. After two hours, I kicked myself internally a bunch of times before realizing that I was in a place where people would gladly do that for me. So when Andrew suggested a game, an adult version of Spin-the-Bottle, I decided to join in.

An oddly shaped circle was created, some people choosing to sit on the floor, some on the furniture. I curled up with my knees to one side on the floor, and when I finished straightening my gown around me, I looked up to find that the man sitting on the ottoman across from me was Nathan.

And suddenly the room felt so much brighter than it had a few minutes before. Like there’d been too many plugs shoved into one outlet and finally someone had tugged one free, the power had surged, and the lights glowed.

Everyone disappeared around me and the only face I could see was his, handsome and rugged, his grin directed at me. His eyes lit up like they were the source of the glow, and they were the only things I could see.

Somehow I was sure I’d just broken one of my rules. I didn’t know which one, and I didn’t even care.

Dirty Filthy Fix is a novella that connects the Fixed series and Dirty Duet series!

Reading Order: Fixed series

   
   

#1 ~ Fixed on You: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Found in You: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Forever with You: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#4 ~ Hudson: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#4.5 ~ Falling Under You: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#5 ~ Chandler: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#5.5 ~ Dirty Filthy Fix: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#6 ~ Fixed Forever: EbookGoodreads (June 25, 2018)

Reading Order: Dirty Duet series

  

#0.5 ~ Dirty Filthy Rich Boys: Ebook • Goodreads
#1 ~ Dirty Filthy Rich Men: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Dirty Filthy Rich Love: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads

about the author button

Laurelin PaigeUSA Today and New York Times Bestselling Author Laurelin Paige is a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She’s also a proud member of Mensa International though she doesn’t do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio. She is represented by Rebecca Friedman.

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Scavenger Hunt Blog Tour + Giveaway: Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

Welcome to today’s stop on the Scavenger Hunt Blog Tour for WILDE IN LOVE by Eloisa James! I’m so excited to welcome Eloisa to the blog today to give us a look into her latest release! Make sure to check out her post as well as enter for a chance to win an ENTIRE paperback set of one of her series!

Wilde in Love Scavenger Hunt

Hello!

I’m so thrilled to be introducing my new series and the amazing, eccentric cast of characters that stars in it—including the Duke of Lindow, his third duchess, his ten children, his ward, his twin sister, a peacock… Wilde in Love takes place at Lindow Castle during a house party to celebrate the engagement of Lord Roland Northbridge Wilde—known to his friends as North—to Miss Diana Belgrave.

Booklovers for Life is kind enough to help me introduce the Wildes to the world. This blog is part of a scavenger hunt, and here is a link to the contest form for you to fill out after visiting BookLovers for Life (or you could just grab Wilde in Love and learn all about the characters that way!).

Daily prizes range from an adorable skunk purse to a complete collection of my 20+ Avon novels. )—be sure to check my Facebook page every day to find the new blog link! Good luck!

Today we are highlighting Miss Diana Belgrave. Diana is newly engaged to North Wilde; you’d think she’d be ecstatic to have captured the handsome, rich future duke but she isn’t. She avoids him at all costs and is often found hiding, wiping away a tear or two.

5 Reasons to be Sorry for Miss Diana Belgrave
  1. She’s a Georgian fashionista, with the tallest wigs and the widest gowns.
  2. She avoids her fiancée, North, at all costs (she doesn’t like him).
  3. Her grandfather was a rich grocer and everyone whispers about it behind her back.
  4. Her mother is a terribly controlling, socially ambitious <fill in the blank>.
  5. She has a secret that’s breaking her heart.

Sign up for Five Fabulous Things and hopefully you’ll win a prize! Did you know that I give away five fabulous gifts every month in my newsletter? Sign up now so you can win everything from advance review copies of my books to presents I pick up in England and Italy!

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: October 31st 2017
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Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.

Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . . .

The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!

Buy Links:
Amazon Ebook • Amazon Paperback • Barnes & NobleiTunes • Kobo • BAM

Reading Order: The Wildes of Lindow Castle series

#1 ~ Wilde in Love: Ebook • Hardcover • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Too Wilde to Wed: EbookHardcoverPaperbackGoodreads (July 31, 2018)

about the author button

New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James writes historical romances for HarperCollins Publishers. Her novels have been published to great acclaim. A reviewer from USA Today wrote of Eloisa’s very first book that she “found herself devouring the book like a dieter with a Hershey bar”; later People Magazine raved that “romance writing does not get much better than this.” Her novels have repeatedly received starred reviews from Publishers’ Weekly and Library Journal and regularly appear on the best-seller lists. After being a finalist for a RITA—the top award in the genre of romance fiction awarded by the Romance Writers of America—over ten times, she won in 2013.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads

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Paperback set of the Desperate Duchesses series + peacock chain (US only)

ENTER HERE


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Blog Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: Make A Date with Harlequin

Find Your Happy Place. Make A Date With a Harlequin:

Viking:

Cowboy:

Visit TryHarlequin to browse 16 free ebooks and get reading today: TryHarlequin.com

What kind of book is your most favorite? Check out these 5 romance subgenres to learn more:

  • Passion: Give in to temptation with steamy tales of irresistible desire. Passion series feature heroes who have it all: wealth, status, incredible good looks…everything but the right woman.
  • Suspense: Prepare for high-octane adventure, heart-racing romance, and just enough intrigue that will have you on the edge of your seat! Take the plunge and join these true-to-life women and strong, fearless men as they fight for survival.
  • Inspirational: Looking for inspiration in tales of hope, faith and heartfelt romance? Love Inspired has three lines for you.
  • Fall in Love: Read satisfying love stories with the intensity, emotion and sparkle of falling in love.
  • Heroes Galore: Whatever hero you’re into, we’ve got him. Take a time-trip with a host of hot historical heroes; navigate the high stakes of falling in love in the high-pressure world of medicine; Delve into dark, sensuous and often dangerous territory, where the normal and paranormal collide.

Now here’s an excerpt from Navy SEAL Protector! ❤

Navy SEAL Protector by Bonnie Vanak
Series: SOS Agency #3
Publication Date: October 1st 2017
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A sexy hometown hero returns to rescue the one who got away

Ten years ago, bad boy Nick Anderson left home—and a brokenhearted Shelby Stillwater in his wake. Now the retired navy SEAL has inherited the family ranch Shelby calls home. Almost in foreclosure, the property is being sabotaged to force a sale…and Shelby is in mortal danger.

As Nick and Shelby work together to stop the vandals, old passions and new threats arise. The ranch carries painful memories, and Nick’s not sure if he’s willing to work to save the land. But as he finds new purpose and a new home, he remains determined to keep Shelby from harm…even if it means risking everything he holds dear in the process.

Buy Links:
EbookPaperback

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No one was kicking her out of her home, even if she had to work double shifts until she dropped.

Shelby Stillwater swiped a hand across her sweating brow, righted the white cowboy hat on her head and then watched as the bartender poured another frosty pitcher of golden beer. Friday night at the Bucking Bronc Steak House. Tips should be good tonight, as long as she could avoid the ungentlemanly slurs and smile, smile, smile.

Brown curls bobbing as she walked and the white fringe at the hem of her short skirt swaying like reeds in a hard wind, she carried the pitcher to table fourteen. The gray-haired geezer with a belly spilling in a waterfall over his silver belt buckle tried to squeeze her bottom, but she danced away.

“C’mere, sweet thang,” he called out in a slur. “Lemme take another look at you.”

Look at this, she silently fumed, tempted to flip him her middle finger. Instead, she headed for another table, pad in hand, her back and feet feeling as if twin weights were dumped on them. The group of ten businessmen

from Nashville had ordered enough food to feed a small country. Their bill was solidly into the triple digits and they might give her a triple-digit tip if she could avoid the octopus with the wandering hands.

A big tip meant a store-bought cake instead of homemade for Timmy. His sixth birthday was in a few days and she planned to celebrate it in style.

Shelby bustled through orders, patiently allowing a patron to switch tables three times “because the lighting isn’t good here,” and returned a steak when a grumpy woman said it was rare, even though the woman had ordered it extra rare. She generally liked waitressing and most guests were well-mannered locals who treated her well. But with the big country-music convention in the next town this weekend, the out-of-town guests were taxing her patience.

Shelby returned the credit card to table fourteen. Waterfall Belly belched, signed the check and the men left, talking loudly.

She peeked at the bill and stared at the tip.

A measly twelve dollars for a three-hundred-and-fifty-dollar bill? Anger simmered, but she refused to surrender to it. Already skating on thin ice with Bill, if she ran after the customers and told them what she thought of their “tip,” then…

Instead, she shoved the check into her apron and pushed on.

Later, she’d kick off the white cowboy boots, put up her feet and have a glass of white wine while watching Steel Magnolias, a favorite comfort movie. Gone were the days when her mother, in a rare moment of sobriety, would cuddle up next to her on the sofa and they’d watch the movie while munching on a tub of popcorn. Mom

had named her after the tragic Shelby in the film. This Shelby preferred to think she was more the Ouiser type, tough and pragmatic.

I’m more like a tin daisy. But I’ve had it worse.

Living in her family’s car when they were evicted because her daddy couldn’t hold down a job was worse. Going to school in ragged clothing that she’d mended herself because Mama was sleeping off a hangover was worse.

But eighteen years ago, when Silas Anderson gave her father a job at the Belle Creek Ranch, things started to turn around. A sudden bout of grief made her pause and catch her breath. Silas had died last week. Funeral tomorrow. She’d felt genuine sorrow for the man’s passing. Silas had been more of a father to her than her drunken dad.

She’d put her own money into the ranch, reducing her salary for the job she did as the ranch bookkeeper, and paid for small repairs when things got broken. Lately, lots of things had been broken. Shelby would do anything to keep her little apartment above the garage. The Belle Creek was home. Silas and Dan, his nephew and the ranch manager, had allowed her to live rent-free for the past ten years.

Even though the ranch could face foreclosure, she felt confident things would work out with her help.

Timmy loved the ranch, more than he adored cake. I’ll make Timmy the biggest, best birthday cake with his favorite cinnamon icing. Maybe add sprinkles—he’s crazy about colored sprinkles

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a grizzled, silver-headed man sit at a booth in her section. He wore a faded olive drab jacket decorated with many patches. Old Vern,

who’d served many tours in ’Nam. Shelby forgot about the lousy tip. With a big smile, she headed for him.

“Hi, Vern. How are you?”

The elderly man brightened. “Right as rain, Shelby.”

For a few minutes she listened to him talk about everything from the weather to his grandchildren. Vern came in every Friday, probably for the company. He lived alone, and she knew he had little money. So every Friday, she paid for his meal on the sly, telling him they had a “special” for vets.

Seeing her manager frown and start toward her, she promised Vern to put in his order straightaway.


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