Spotlight // Guest Post + Excerpt & Giveaway: Million Dollar Marriage by Katy Evans

I’m excited to feature Katy Evans’ newest release, Million Dollar Marriage, today on the blog! We’ve got the lovely author who talks about this series!

Million Dollar Romances with Katy Evans

Meet the Million Dollar series books. Books that are all about passion, romance, and all about what people will do for money—actually, a LOT of money. In book one, Million Dollar Devil, we have a sexy, raw, bad-mannered daredevil willing to pose as a sophisticated rich guy – while skillfully seducing the heroine in the process.

In book two, Million Dollar Marriage, Nell and Luke both agree to become contestants in a reality show that requires—gasp, marriage. Marriage to a complete stranger, which is appalling. But, it’s a fake marriage, right? It doesn’t matter that they are complete opposites. Nell will be the brains, and Luke will be the brawn. For a moment there, they both think they’ve got it covered. But the challenges end up being far more than they anticipated, especially the unexpected challenge of resisting falling in love with each other.

I’d always wanted to write a reality show book. I mean, reality shows are so addictive to watch, but though I’ve loved indulging in binge-watching Survivor or The Amazing Race, I’ve always wanted a little more romance to go with all that adrenaline and excitement. What happens when you’re put under all that pressure, and aside from that, have just met a person who gives your heart wings? Let’s face it. Falling in love is a little scary when you do it privately, so how does the public nature of a relationship hinder or help the romance between two strangers?

Well, in Nell and Luke’s case, being exposed to the cameras all day, every day, was more of a hindrance. And yet without those cameras, would they have given each other the time of day to begin with? 🙂

I would totally write another reality TV show romance. It’s been one of the funnest, most uniques writes I’ve ever written to date.

Katy Evans
New York Times Bestselling author

Million Dollar Marriage by Katy Evans
Series: Million Dollar #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 23rd 2019

From New York Times bestselling author Katy Evans comes a hot romance about two strangers and their race to fall in love.

If someone had bet Nell a million dollars that she would be saying “I do” to a complete stranger on national television, she’d have called them crazy, but with her crushing student loan payments sending her deep into the red, she’s out of options. This should be nothing more than a business transaction—until she sets eyes on her groom, and everything changes.

The game is on the instant Luke spots Penelope “Nell” Carpenter. He’s out for the money, yes, but getting a little dirty with Nell doesn’t sound too bad either. Everyone knows he’s not the marrying kind, so it’s a good thing it’s just for show. God knows he’s the worst guy his pretty wife should pick for real.

They have nothing in common, but if they want the grand prize, they’ll have to beat out eight other couples. Proving that total opposites attract should be easy enough…as long as they don’t fall in love in the process.

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Now here’s an excerpt from Million Dollar Marriage! ❤

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Will Wang says, “Teams, you have the choice to participate in the next challenge. If you decide to, you’ll receive a minimum of seventy thousand dollars! All you have to do is say YES!”

I shrug and call out, “YES!”

Will laughs. “Hold on, buckaroo. There’s a catch you might want to know about. And that brings us to the main premise of the show. John Phillips, are you out there? Please, join me on the podium.”

A man in a suit stands up, and the crowd parts to let him through. He jogs up to the podium, shakes Will’s hand, and stands beside him.

“John is here for a very special reason. A very special ceremony, if you will.”

The cameras are focused on our faces, and I know something is up.

“Yes, in fact, John happens to be a justice of the peace.”

The crowd gasps. Next to me, Penny’s body stiffens.

“Yes. In order to participate in the next challenge and any challenges going forward, you and your partner must be man and wife!”

Louder gasp. The screens overhead focus in on the shock of the contestants. Penny’s trembling. Ivy looks pissed. Ace is hurling out f-bombs into the air. The Indian girl has sunk to the ground and is covering her face in her palms. It’s chaos.

Me? I’m calm as can be.

It’s called Million Dollar Marriage. Did they think marriage wouldn’t factor in?

I’m in.

“You will need to spend the rest of the time living with your partner as a unit. You’ll do everything together for the duration of the contest. There will be challenges that test your endurance, your strength, and your ability to work together as a couple. If you win, you’ll each get two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the opportunity to have the marriage annulled, should you choose. BUT, if you decide to stay together as lawfully married, you’ll together receive the grand prize of ONE MILLION DOLLARS and an all-expenses-paid honeymoon package!”

I look around. All the couples are yin and yang. It’s like they ran our personality tests through a machine and picked out the person we’d be least compatible with.

“Now, we understand this is a big commitment on your part, so we’ll give you and your partner five minutes to talk things out and decide what you’d like to do. Please note that once your decision is made, it is final, and you will be married here, on the spot, before you board a flight to where the real competition will begin.” He winks at the losers’ wall. “If you drop out now, you’ll go home with fifty thousand dollars, but if you decide to continue on, you’ll earn seventy thousand and the chance to compete for even more! Time starts . . . now!”

I turn to Penny. She’s hugging herself and won’t look at me. “Hey. I’m in.”

She doesn’t say anything.

I wave a hand in front of her face.

“Are you crazy?” she finally says, staring at me. “I’d never marry you.”

Reading Order: Million Dollar series

#1 ~ Million Dollar Devil: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Million Dollar Marriage: EbookPaperbackGoodreads (July 23, 2019)

about the author button

Katy Evans loves family, books, life, and love. She’s married with two children and a dog, and she spends her time baking healthy snacks, taking long walks, and taking care of her family. To learn more about her books in progress, check out http://www.katyevans.net and sign up for her newsletter. You can also find her on Twitter @authorkatyevans and on Facebook at AuthorKatyEvans.

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Spotlight // Guest Post + Excerpt & Giveaway: Only Ever You by C.D. Reiss

Only Ever You by C.D. Reiss is now available, and we’re spotlighting it today on the blog! We’ve got an interview with the author as well as a giveaway below!

Author Interview: C.D. Reiss

Please introduce your newest release.

Only Ever You is about a girl who planned for everything but never got what she hoped for, and a dweeb who hoped he’d to marry the girl, but never planned for it.

Rachel and Sebastian have an interesting history. They were friends as kids, but have lost touch as adults…

They’re really strangers when they reunite at 30, but they’re burdened by what they think they know about each other. Sebastian was supposed to be an artist and Rachel was supposed to be a screenwriter. They have to shake all that stuff loose before they can see each other. When they do, they’re strangers.

I think attraction between strangers is real. Sexual heat is real. But “hearts and flowers” are earned. (I know that sounds like I’m your dad telling you to mow lawns, but that’s where the magic is. Not the lawns.) In the time just before you’re struck by lightning there’s a real electricity. It’s pure potential and anything can go wrong. It’s the best thing ever.

When they were kids they made up a ‘contract’ to get married at 30—which is pretty much panned when they do meet up and have the most awkward first kiss EVER. How do they overcome such an incredibly uncomfortable situation?

They overcome it by running away!

Sebastian is thinking “now or never” because he thinks Rachel’s never going to think he’s any cooler than when she sees him in the office of his own company. And she isn’t ready because her whole idea of herself is tied up in what a failure she is. Neither one of them is feeling good enough about themselves to have a really hot first kiss, which is the same reason they’re not ready to get married.

Only Ever You by C.D. Reiss
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: July 9th 2019
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Rachel knew exactly what turning thirty would be like. She had a plan, after all. First college, then a climb up the professional ladder. Love, marriage, children. All of it was on the schedule.

The cheap Hollywood apartment wasn’t on the list. Neither was the string of heartbreaks. Or the effect her mother’s cancer had on her career.

It’s hard to stay practical and on point when everything takes a left turn.

Enter Sebastian, the nerd across the street. The boy she defended when he couldn’t defend himself. The best friend she promised she’d marry if life didn’t go according to plan.

Not only is he successful, confident, and gorgeous, but he also still has their handwritten marriage contract.

No one goes through with childhood wedding pacts.

That’s crazy.

But their families might just be crazy enough to rent a hall and set a date. All Rachel and Sebastian have to do is fall in love.

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Now here’s an excerpt from More Than Anything! ❤

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After I left her and CJ with Lucinda, I spent the weekly staff meeting wondering if Rachel was the same warrior I’d loved or if she was more the woman who’d held her laptop to her chest as if she needed protection.

I was obsessed.

I had to know.

Her text came in as I was leaving the meeting.

I need to check that we’re kidding

Before I could finish typing a response, I caught her coming out of the bathroom with her laptop under her arm.

Alone. Me and her. Nothing between us but the question of who we were and how we fit.

“Seb, I—”

She didn’t have a chance to finish. I crowded her back into the bathroom and locked the door behind us.

“Kidding about what?” I said.

“About getting married.”

“Why would that even be a question?”

“Our parents have been in negotiations about it.”

My mother couldn’t keep herself from talking if she tried, and I was her favorite subject.

“It might be a little soon for marriage, but—”

“Soon? I don’t like you seeing what I do for a living while you’re in a glass-walled office overlooking the ocean. I mean, I’m not marriage material, and the odds are that’s never going to change.”

“I don’t see why a date’s off the table.”

“Do you know what’s going to happen if we date?”

The list of possibilities was as long as my arm. I could have counted them off, from “We decide we hate each other” to “We end up in bed.” But I didn’t, because I was still trying to figure her out.

What did she want to hear?

With her wide eyes and parted lips, what did she want? Did she have a fondest wish where I was concerned? Was she leaning forward? Was her expression soft and yielding?

My mind spent too long deciding what to say, so my body spoke for me.

I kissed her hard and was met with teeth and stiff resistance. It was a kiss I’d wanted since I’d had hairless armpits and a voice somewhere in the low soprano range. I’d dreamed about it. Fantasized about it. Thought about it so hard in the middle of the night I could practically feel it.

But never, ever in my fantasies did she push me away so hard I fell back against a towel dispenser, watching her face twist into surprised rage as the machine spit out a ragged rectangle of brown paper.

“That was—”

“Messed up. I know.”

“Then why? What is wrong with you?”

She was livid, just like she would have been. Just like she should have been.

The tiger within Rachel was in there, and my attempt to tease her out had probably alienated her. She’d be right to never speak to me again.

“I’m sorry,” I said with my hand on the door lock. “I misread you. It won’t happen again.”

I started to open the door, but she held it closed.

“If we date, my mother’s going to get her hopes up that I’m going to settle down. And I’m sorry, Seb, but if we break up while she’s in chemo, it’s going to crush her.”

“You don’t even know if she’s sick again.”

“You’re right.” She pointed a rigid finger at me as if I were her mother. “I’m going to make her tell me.”

“You’re really beautiful when you’re telling it like it is.”

She slid her hand off the door. Having been called out, the warrior was sent into hiding.

No. I wouldn’t accept that. I wouldn’t allow it.

“Let’s just go out and catch up,” I said. “Saturday.”

“Can’t. Saturday’s the soonest I can talk to Mom.”

I unlocked the door. “I’m sorry about . . . the thing.”

“Kissing me?”

“No, wasting paper towels. Of course kissing you.”

“Next time, give a girl a little warning.”

Next time? Her eyes darted to the door. Was she calculating the distance to her getaway? Or making sure it was closed?

“How about now?” I asked.

“Now what?”

“Fair warning. Now.”

I stepped a little closer and put my hands on her arms. Not right away. I let them hover an inch away before touching her to give her the chance to move away. A chance I was sure she’d take.

“Seb, really?”

But she didn’t move away.

Not this time. When I laid my hands on her biceps, she leaned in to me just a little. I smelled the floral lotion on her skin and a hint of cool water on her breath.

“Really.” I slid the laptop from her arms and placed it on the counter. “This is your warning.”

You’re doing this. I cannot believe you’re doing this.

“It doesn’t feel like a warning,” she said, and again—I noted—she didn’t move away.

“Flashing red lights.” My lips brushed her cheek, heading for her mouth. She felt better than I ever imagined. “A buzzer, maybe.”

“Just a kiss?” she asked, her lips moving against mine.

Before I could consummate what she was agreeing to, I was smacked by a swinging door.

“Oh!” CJ said. “I’m sorry! I was looking for you.”

Rachel snatched up her laptop and walked out. CJ raised an eyebrow with good reason, since I was in the ladies’ room. I left, and we all gathered in the hall.

Awkward.

“Well,” Rachel said. “Thanks for showing us your tedious financial-sector company.”

“Thank you for coming,” I said and let them walk away. I could have done or said much more, but not without getting her into trouble. She glanced back at me when they turned the corner, as if she wanted to make sure I was still there.

about the author button

CD Reiss is a New York Times bestselling author. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God, but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up, she’s at the well hauling buckets. Born in New York City, Reiss moved to Hollywood, California, to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere—but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.

Reiss is frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut, which is flattering but hasn’t ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood. If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine. Text cdreiss to 77948 to get a notification whenever she has a new release.

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Blog Tour // Review + Giveaway: Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry


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I’m so excited to be a part of Only a Breath Apart‘s tour!
You can check out my review below as well as a fantastic tour giveaway!

Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: January 22nd 2019
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Bestselling author Katie McGarry’s trademark wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance is given a new twist in the gritty YA contemporary novel, Only a Breath Apart.

They say your destiny is carved in stone. But some destinies are meant to be broken.

The only curse Jesse Lachlin believes in is his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year.

A fortuneteller tells Scarlett she’s psychic, but what is real is Scarlett’s father’s controlling attitude and the dark secrets at home. She may be able to escape, but only if she can rely on the one boy who broke her heart.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings, but as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

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I’ve loved Katie McGarry since I first read Pushing the Limits back in 2012, the first book to ever make me ugly cry, and I’ve been a fan ever since. She knows how to write heartfelt books that are packed with emotion, and Only a Breath Apart was no different. There were SO many feels, so much heartache – it truly is an emotional roller coaster reading this book, with all its ups and downs. In the end, it made for a fantastic, unputdownable read. If you love young adult books with grit and heart, you need to read this one!

I always love the idea of childhood friends coming back together, and in this case, Katie McGarry puts a little twist to it. Jesse and Scarlett were best friends who meant so much to each other as kids, but something tore them apart when they were fifteen. Years later, Jesse’s grandmother leaves a stipulation to her will: Jesse and Scarlett must reconcile. It’s not an easy road, nor is it one either of them want, but through all the trials and tribulations involving family, secrets, and abuse, these two come out at the end stronger.

The character development is fantastic – I loved the way Scarlett and Jesse grew alongside each other, the way they supported and loved each other. Katie McGarry writes in a way that makes it so easy to connect with her characters. The book itself is not easy to read – there are some real heartbreaking tragedies, but the connection Scarlett and Jesse have always left me with hope. Only a Breath Apart is a powerful, poignant, and must read novel that I highly recommend!


lacey

about the author button

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan. She is the author of the Pushing the Limits and Thunder Road series.

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5 Winners will receive a Copy of ONLY A BREATH APART by Katie McGarry

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Spotlight // Guest Post + Excerpt & Giveaway: More Than Anything by Natasha Anders

More Than Anything by Natasha Anders is now available, and we’re spotlighting it today on the blog! We’ve got a special guest post from the author as well as a giveaway below!

Then and Now with Natasha Anders

Hi there, my name is Natasha Anders and I’m here to talk about my newest release – More Than Anything. This book features Tina Jenson and Harris Chapman as the lead characters.

Tina and Harris have known each other forever. They belong to the same social circle and attended high school together. When Tina was eighteen and Harris twenty, an ugly incident drove them apart and for the next ten years they barely spoke to each other.

The years have not been kind to Tina, she struggles to maintain familial relationships and friendships and finds it hard to even consider forming bonds with new people. As a teenager she was incapable of handling the overwhelming loss and sadness of what had happened to her and as she grew into a woman, a large part of her remained lost in the past and incapable of moving forward.

Tina’s emotional growth throughout the story is painful but necessary. She has frozen the pain, humiliation and absolute devastation resulting from the incident with Harris, into a solid block of ice. She has never properly dealt with any of that anguish and now the ice is thawing and all of those overwhelmingly painful emotions are surfacing. Tina is far from perfect and she makes a lot of mistakes throughout the story. But these mistakes are necessary in order for her eventual metamorphosis into a strong, capable, and emotionally mature woman to be believable.

Harris’s journey is very different. He tries his best to fix what has happened between them. Unaware of how damaging their encounter was to Tina, he often attempts to reach out to her and apologize for causing her pain. After constant rejection from her, he tries to move on with his life and for a few years he almost succeeds. But whenever he sees Tina, he finds himself drawn to her. He’s a steady, dependable guy. But it’s hard for Tina to see him as such. To her, he will always be the boy who hurt her. The boy responsible for the worst night of her life and for every difficult thing that has happened as a result.

When he finally finds himself in the position to be her rock, Harris truly shines. He’s by no means a perfect man and sometimes he’s stubbornly determined to do the “right thing” even if it tends to be self-defeating. But he eventually recognizes that the best thing he can do for Tina and himself is to allow her to make her own decisions and trust her to know her own heart and mind.

Despite their many trials and frustrations, Tina and Harris will always be better together. This is the story of how they discover that absolute truth for themselves.

More Than Anything by Natasha Anders
Series: Broken Pieces #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: June 11th 2019
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Tina Jenson belongs to the same social stratum as Harris Chapman, but he’s out of her league—at least that’s what she thinks before they jump in bed together. It’s the perfect night, but when she overhears crude, hurtful comments the next morning, she can’t get away fast enough.

Ten years later, Tina’s life is a mess. That night with Harris didn’t just hurt her feelings; it started a cascade of disappointment and heartbreak. Every time she bumps into Harris, her heart twists inside out. She still wants him, but she’s harboring a painful secret from their night together that she’s not ready to reveal.

Crossed signals, high-society whispers, and shame have kept Tina and Harris apart for years, but deep down, they’re hungry for each other and eager to write their own rules. Can they let go of the past and find their way back to each other, or are the barriers between them too high and too strong?

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Now here’s an excerpt from More Than Anything! ❤

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“How you’d like your steak cooked?” Harris asked.

“Medium rare.” Tina retreated to one of the mismatched tall stools at the breakfast bar and clambered up onto it. She watched him competently move around the kitchen, cleaning and washing the spuds before readying them to go into the oven. He hummed softly beneath his breath as he worked … the tune was very familiar, but because his humming was so off-key, she couldn’t quite place it. The title hovered on the edge of her brain.

“Ugh, what is the name of that song? It’s driving me crazy!”

He looked up, startled. “What song?”

“The one you’re humming.”

“I’m not sure. Wait…” He hummed again and then breathed a few lyrics in a falsetto voice that reduced Tina to stitches. He repeated the same two words over and over again. And the words, combined with the seriously off-key tune, were definitely familiar to her.

He shook his head before saying, “I’m not sure what that song’s called … hey, stop laughing. I know for a fact your singing voice isn’t much better.” His offended observation just made her laugh harder. “Do you know the song title?”

“It’s…” She gasped for breath, then broke down into gales of laughter again when she glanced up into his expectant face. She folded her arms on the countertop and dropped her head for a moment as she tried to bring her giggles under control. Once the laughter abated, she lifted her gaze to his smiling eyes—he didn’t really look offended at all, just gently amused. “I’m sorry. It’s not your singing … okay, it kind of is. But I think I found it funnier that you were asking for the song’s title when you k-kept…” She inhaled deeply when it felt like the laughter was threatening again. “Kept singing it in that godawful voice.”

“What do you mean?”

“The song’s called ‘No One,’ Harris. By Alicia Keys.”

“Oh.” He twisted his face into a sheepish grimace before chuckling, the sound deep and masculine. “That makes sense. I like that song.”

She did too. In fact…

“We danced to that song. On my twentieth birthday,” he said, his voice quietly reminiscent. She nodded, surprised that he remembered the song, considering the state he had been in that night.

“I know.” Danced. And then kissed. Her very first kiss. The song had come to mean so much more to her, but she determinedly tamped down those particular memories.

Amusement fled, and they exchanged an uncomfortable look before both averted their eyes. Silence descended, their troubled history once again asserting itself between them. Tina nervously drummed her fingers on the Formica countertop.

“Tina.” His voice sounded anguished. “If I could do it all over again…”

She stopped tapping and lifted her hand to prevent him from saying anything further.

“Let’s not go into this again, Harris.” She watched him screw his eyes shut as he battled with what looked like some pretty powerful emotions.

“Damn.” The word was soft and fierce and sounded like a prayer.

“Why don’t we…” She paused as she considered the words she was about to utter. No matter which way she phrased them, they would seem like an olive branch. And she wasn’t sure if she wanted to extend one yet. Or ever. Still, she was in his—temporary—home, about to break bread with him, so to speak, and maybe—for her emotional health—it would be best. “Why don’t we set this aside? For today at least.”

She watched his throat move as he swallowed and then shifted her gaze to his navy-blue eyes, which were alight with gratitude.

“I’d like that,” he said gruffly, offering her the tiniest of smiles.

Tina heaved a relieved sigh, feeling lighter than she had in months. Possibly years.

“Good. Now, how about you get those steaks on? I’m starving.”

Reading Order: Broken Pieces series

#1 ~ More Than Anything: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Nothing But This: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (July 30, 2019)

about the author button

Natasha Anders was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She spent the last nine years working as an assistant English teacher in Niigata, Japan, where she became a legendary karaoke diva. Natasha is currently living in Cape Town with her temperamental and opinionated budgie, Sir Oliver Spencer, who has kindly deigned to share his apartment with her. Please feel free to contact her (or Oliver) on Twitter @satyne1.

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Spotlight // Guest Post + Excerpt & Giveaway: The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson

I’m excited to feature The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson today on the blog! We’ve got a special guest post from the author as well as a giveaway below!

Why Football Players Make the Best Book Boyfriends with Sariah Wilson

I got inspired to write the “End of the Line” series after seeing the Netflix documentary Last Chance U. I loved the idea of a junior college that gave Division 1 football players a second chance at the NFL or to play for a Division 1 school again after they’d screwed up their scholarships. I chose football because while my family is not a typical sports family (my husband doesn’t watch at all), my oldest son played football all four years of high school and I’ve always enjoyed watching the game. Plus, isn’t there something just inherently appealing about football players?

It’s part of what makes them such great heroes—they’re strong, athletic, talented, protective. They’re committed to playing their sport and playing it well, which can also translate off the field and make them the types to seriously commit to a relationship because they’ve shown they’re willing to do the work to get what they want. I think that level of dedication speaks a lot to the kind of boyfriends they turn out to be.

My current project is THE FRIEND ZONE, and it’s a story about Logan Hunt, a disgraced football player being given a second chance to play and graduate from college, which he is determined to do. His new coach has a lot of rules he expects his players to follow, including no dating. Jess is Logan’s math tutor and off limits, especially since she’s the coach’s daughter. They decide to stay just friends and try to fight off their growing attraction to one another. He’s the perfect guy to start off this series because he’s someone who has overcome a lot and exemplifies what EOL means for the players—the chance to start over.

The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: June 11th 2019
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Disgraced college quarterback Logan Hunt was on his way to NFL stardom when he messed up big-time. Now the Texas star player with a bad temper has a new option: Seattle’s EOL College—as in End of the Line, to his fellow misfit recruits. It’s Logan’s last chance. If he can follow the rules. No parties, no fighting, no swearing, and oh, no dating the coach’s daughter, Jess. Simple. Yeah, right. For Logan, there has never been a rule he’s more tempted to break.

The deal is “just friends.” The pretty, confident, and fiercely smart math whiz is fine with pizza, tutoring, and keeping Logan in line. But the closer Jess gets, the more receptive she is to his warm heart and spirit—not to mention his irresistible off-field passes. With defenses down, they’re both heading into the danger zone.

It’s more than thrilling. It’s love. It’s also a game changer that could sideline Logan’s NFL goals—and more important, a future with Jess. But dreams are worth fighting for, right?

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Now here’s an excerpt from The Friend Zone! ❤

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“Welcome. To those of you that I haven’t met personally, my name is Stan Oakley, and I’m the head coach of EOL’s Owls.”

A couple of the players made hooting noises in response.

“I thank you all for being here, for taking time out of your lives to hear what I have to say. Either one of the members of my staff has spoken to you or I have, and we have mentioned that this team has some serious rules. I’d like to talk to you about that now and what exactly those rules are.”

Here it was. I straightened in my seat and wondered what he could possibly throw at us that would be bad enough that Jess thought she’d be taking me right back to the bus station.

Coach nodded at Ford, who walked over to the white board and picked up a marker.

“First, punctuality. You will be on time. To class, to practice, to tutoring, to everything in your life that you need to show up for, you will respect the time of everyone around you and be there when you’re supposed to be.”

Ford wrote “#1 Be on time” on the board.

“There will be no drinking at all, ever. No drugs of any kind. You will be randomly drug tested on a regular basis. First time you fail, you’re out. There will be no second or third chances here.”

I felt Bash sinking down in his seat next to me as several of the guys murmured. “How are we supposed to let off steam?” someone asked behind me.

Coach kept talking. “There will be no swearing or cussing.”

“That’s not even realistic!” a guy in the front row protested.

“It is realistic. And you will do it because you represent me and you represent this team and you can do it without swearing. Next, in accordance with NCAA standard, you will maintain a minimum of a 2.5 GPA. I may give more playing time to guys with a higher GPA. The more playing time you get, the more likely you’ll be seen by a scout or a recruiter. Especially in the playoffs and the national championship game. Take your academics seriously. Keilani Kahananui will be talking to you about your options later and how we can help.”

There was more dissent among the ranks, more guys murmuring and complaining about the rules. None of them seemed that bad to me.

But I had the feeling the worst was yet to come.

“Next rule—no fighting. On or off the field.”

Now it was my turn to slouch down in my seat. As if that one had been directed specifically at me.

The marker squeaked against the whiteboard as Ford continued writing down Coach’s rules.

“In addition to being punctual, you will treat authority figures with respect. You respect your teachers by showing up to class. By not talking back. By turning in your assignments. You respect your coaches by showing up to practice ready to give a hundred percent every time. By listening and doing as you’re told.”

Off to my left somebody shouted out, “Yo, Coach! Respect has to be earned.”

“It absolutely does not,” Coach Oakley quickly countered. “Respect will be given without reservation. If you think that it must be earned, there’s the door. Because there’s no way you’re going to be playing on my team.”

The coach fell silent, waiting to see if anybody would leave.

No one did.

“I won’t get to coach most of you for four years. My goal is not to build a program that keeps you all here. My job is to get you to the next stage of your life. To turn you into men.” There were some more sounds of discontent, and the coach held up his hand. “I know a lot of you think you’re already men. But you’re not. Not yet. I expect you to all to start behaving like real men. Like gentlemen. For your entire lives, because you had some talent to play football, nobody cared how you behaved off the field. I care. I’m holding you to a higher standard. Better today than you were yesterday. Especially when it comes to women.”

My spidey sense started tingling. Whatever he was going to say next, I knew I wouldn’t like it.

“And our final rule for the evening: no women. No girlfriends, no dating, no one-night stands.”

That led to a loud and physical reaction in the room. Which I got, because I felt like I’d been sucker punched. It was one thing to be asked to give up most of the things you did to entertain yourself and relax.

But women? How were we supposed to go an entire season without girls? I didn’t know if I could do it.

“How will you know?” somebody asked. It was a legitimate question. Short of installing hidden cameras in our dorms, which at that moment I wasn’t putting past him, there was no way for Coach to know if we were messing around.

“I’m expecting you to behave like gentlemen, with honor and integrity. I’d like to be able to take you at your word.”

“No way! That’s it! I’m out!” one guy declared.

“That’s fine,” Coach said, shrugging one shoulder in the same way Jess had earlier. “Some of you may think that because once upon a time you were recruited by a Division 1 school, you’re better than this place. You’re not. I don’t have to play any of you. I don’t have to keep any of you on scholarship. And for anyone who thinks this team will fall apart without you, you couldn’t be more wrong. This team will be just fine.”

That one word, “scholarship,” made my decision easy. I didn’t necessarily need women in my life. It would probably help to have one less distraction as I went about dedicating all of my time to school and football.

“You really expect us to live like monks? Will we at least get to hang out with girls in the off-season?” another man asked.

Coach Oakley was silent, again giving off that commanding vibe that made people sit back down and be quiet. “You all know why you’re here and what’s at stake. For most of you, this is the end of the line. There is no somewhere else. But if you feel like you can’t live with my rules, again, there’s the door. You all have round-trip tickets to take you back home.” He turned and faced the dude who had asked the last question. “There is no off-season at EOL. You are my players until I say you’re not. I am holding you to a higher standard. But I know every person in this room is capable of rising up to do what I ask of you. Of being better. Prove me right.”

about the author button

Bestselling author Sariah Wilson has never jumped out of an airplane or climbed Mount Everest, and she is not a former CIA operative. She has, however, been madly, passionately in love with her soul mate and is a fervent believer in happily ever afters—which is why she writes romance series like The Royals of Monterra and #Lovestruck. After growing up in Southern California as the oldest of nine (yes, nine) children, she graduated from Brigham Young University with a semi-useless degree in history. She currently lives with the aforementioned soul mate and their four children in Utah, along with three tiger barb fish, a cat named Tiger, and a recently departed hamster who is buried in the backyard (and has nothing at all to do with tigers). For more information, visit her website at www.SariahWilson.com.

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