Blog Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: Malentendido by Mara White

Welcome to the blog tour for Malentendido by Mara White!

Malentendido by Mara White
Series: Maldeamores #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 22nd 2017
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Whatever force made Lucky, either God or the Universe, wrapped him so tightly around my heart that sometimes I’m suffocating. Biologically, we are made of too many similar parts, yet our chemistry is like a meteor shower, raining bright sparks of light into the dark night. But it’s not our biology or chemistry that worries me the most, it’s the physics of our love that goes against the cosmos.

Buy Links:
Amazon

Now here’s an excerpt from Malentendido! ❤

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Prologue

Lucky

There ain’t too much that can shake me. I was born into the belly of the beast on a blazing hot day in July. A heat-wave scorcher that brought the caps off the fire hydrants and everyone out on the street. Old men pulled their wife-beaters up over their bellies to cool off and the girls wore even less clothing than normal, which ain’t much, in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. Air conditioning was a luxury afforded to the rich; the only place to cool down was either at the hospital or the car service on the way there. Just don’t bleed out from a bullet wound before they get you through the lobby.

My ma says her water broke while she was walking back up the stairs to take a piss. Being that I was her first, she thought for a second she’d peed her pants. She hobbled back out onto the street and yelled for somebody to get her a cab before she gave birth to her son on the makeshift corner domino table.

Ma likes to say that she carried so big with me that she could barely walk—that she knew I was macho from the very first kick in her gut, knew that she’d call me Luciano after the first light of the morning sun.

Like I said, ain’t too much that can flap me. South Bronx, Spanish Harlem, then to West Harlem and the Heights—I’d seen it all by age ten. Seen it all and then some. I ain’t no stranger to violence.

But war is different when it moves from rival blocks and gang-claimed school yards to open desert or caves and tunnels dug two miles deep into a mountainside. Out here you’re not fighting your own war. You’re part of a machine that is unimaginably bigger than you are. When you’re out on a mission, you pray with each footstep that the machine will take care of you.

One thing is for certain—whether you’re ready or not, the machine will make a fucking man of you.

Out here under the white-hot sun, I think about that scorching day in the South Bronx in ‘89 when my Ma brought me into this world. And who knows if she was ready, but she struggled alone, like a roach on its back, her whole life just to take care of me.

The sky is empty and an endless, deep blue. What I wouldn’t give right now for the propeller beats of an army chopper to break the monotony. My warm, sticky blood seeps through my fatigues and the sand soaks it up like it’s been waiting its whole goddamned life to get a drink of me. Alls it would take is a single sandstorm for me to get buried out here forever—no record, no closure, no body to recover and fly home for an honorable funeral service.

So I think about how she would describe to me the day I made an entrance:  hot, sleazy summer. Beaches too polluted—no swimming, no air but the devil’s own to breathe in the city. She swears the bachata music stopped when she hit the street and screamed she was in labor.

That the old men upset their domino game as they all stood simultaneously in attention.

That the sky momentarily lit up with a flash of heat lightning. She thought for a second, rain, but then realized the sensation was only her own water dripping down her legs.

That the temperature broke one hundred and five on that day. She said the heat made labor easy, that it helped to loosen all of her muscles. She said she knew I would be a boy and that the heat would make me just as stubborn as I was strong.

And she knew that I would take care of her—that we would take care of each other.

My ma told me the story whenever there was a heat wave passing through the city. Nothing could ever compare to my heat wave in her head. I couldn’t know that day better if I’d been there to see it. My Luciano’s heatwave was worse, it was better, we were lucky we survived it. That the heat was a blessing disguised as a curse, that her boy would be hot-blooded and naturally drawn to the fight. But my ma wasn’t scared. She clenched down on her teeth instead of screaming in pain.

In Spanish, for giving birth, they say, giving light. My ma swears up and down that I was born to save her life. Luciano, she named me, the giver of light.

That night a five-alarm fire burnt down almost our whole block. Faulty wiring, they said. Six people died, all of them in our rundown building. Everything she owned became ash. The only reason we weren’t too was on account of my spontaneous entrance.

We moved less than a mile away into a tiny apartment my Tía Betty shared with their uncle. A year later, Belén was born, and from that moment on, we slept in the same crib. It seems like my whole life my cousin has always been right next to me. I would wake up when she’d cry and drift back to sleep as she did.

Now I lie on my back, wounded, probably mortally. Alone, unarmed, in prime enemy territory. What I wouldn’t give to be by her side now.

Belén. My cousin. My own heat wave. The flame to my fire.

Reading Order: Maldeamores series

 

#1 ~ Maldeamores: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#2 ~ Malentendido: Ebook • Goodreads

about the author button

Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Instagram • GoodreadsNewsletter

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Print of Fifty Shades Darker Movie Edition (unsigned),
plus Official Fifty Masquerade Mask, Keychain and Candle

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Blog Tour + Review & Giveaway: Kiss My Boots by Harper Sloan

Kiss My Boots by Harper Sloan
Series: Coming Home #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 18th 2017
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In this second of the sultry, Western-set Coming Home series from New York Times bestselling author Harper Sloan, Quinn Davis might finally have a shot at her own happily-ever-after—but will she let love in, or will she tell it to go ahead and kiss her boots?

Quinn Davis prefers to live her life quietly. She’s the stereotypical tomboy with two overprotective big brothers who have always been there to protect her, especially from devilishly handsome cowboys with silver tongues. That is, until Tate Montgomery comes riding into town. Their first meeting, however, is far from something out of a fairy tale and only further convinces Quinn that men aren’t worth her time.

The only place Tate Montgomery ever truly felt at home growing up was during the long, sweltering summer months he spent at his Gram and Paw’s farm in Pine Oak, Texas. Now, Tate has returned to his childhood sanctuary seeking a fresh start—but if he’s being entirely honest, he’s not just back for the wranglers and Stetsons. During those summers, Quinn was a friend-turned-young-love who Tate lost when life threw him a curveball and he cut all ties to his past; but all it takes is one glance at the raven-haired beauty he did his best to forget for him to realize just how much he’s been missing….

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunesKobo

Kiss My Boots is my very first Harper Sloan read, and I have to say that even though it wasn’t what I was expecting, I enjoyed it overall! It’s been a while since I’ve read a cowboy/Western-set romance, but add in the fact that this is also a second chance romance, well, I couldn’t NOT read it. I wasn’t sure how this second chance romance would play out but Harper Sloan surprised me in the best way. The characters are fun if a little over-the-top Southern and the romance is seriously swoon-worthy. I’d say if you love second chance romances with little drama, Kiss My Boots would be for you!

Nine years ago, best friends Quinn Davis and Tate Montgomery moved their friendship to the next level and gave each other their love, hearts, and bodies. With Tate about to leave for another state to go to university and eventually medical school and Quinn staying to take over her family’s auto shop, they swore to each other they wouldn’t let anything tear them apart, especially not distance. But when Tate seemingly abandons Quinn after he leaves, leaving her calls and emails unanswered, what can she do but move on from the only boy she ever loved who broke her heart?

Though Tate was forced to disappear from Quinn’s life, there was never a moment he forgot about the one girl who owned his heart and soul. Now, almost a decade later, he’s finally free to pursue the one girl, now woman, meant for him. He is determined and willing to do anything to prove to Quinn that he will never leave her or break her heart again – but can he fix the heart he shattered all those years ago?

I’d grovel until my knees have no skin left on them. If I get back and find another man in my place, I’ll fight for her regardless. If she forgot how to love me, I’ll remind her. Whatever it takes.
No more regrets.

Y’all, I was PREPARED for all the groveling I was expecting to read in this second chance romance. Unfortunately… though determined to grovel, Tate doesn’t actually have that much groveling to do. His reason for leaving Quinn is legitimate, and despite wanting to see more groveling, I was fine with the little there was. Quinn herself puts up a tough front but melts like chocolate when she’s around Tate. She takes a leap of faith this second time around hoping that this time Tate will catch her before she falls.

“You finally know the man I am now?” I ask…
“I’d know him anywhere,” she breathes.
“You givin’ him your forever?”
“God, yes.”
“Never, Quinn. I’ll never spend another day without you in it. You hear me? …I’ll spend every day makin’ up for the time we lost. That pain will never touch you again.”

The romance is so, so sweet between these two characters. There’s not much groveling, but I could still FEEL how much Tate still loves Quinn and worships the ground she walks on. He’s sexy and oh so determined to prove his love for her once again. Quinn is a bit dramatic yet a total sweetheart. She’s nervous about giving her heart over to Tate again but brave enough to do so. She still makes Tate work for it this second time around, but there’s no doubting that he’s the only man to ever own her heart.

I’d always thought home was a place, but he’s right: our home is right here, in each other’s arms.

I loved the fact that neither Tate nor Quinn were celibate during their separation. I HATE when in this trope only the heroine remains celibate while the hero sleeps with whoever he wants. It gets on my nerves so much, so I appreciated what Harper Sloan did, having them on fairly even ground when they see each other again. What did aggravate me sometimes was the overwhelming amount of dropped g’s in the dialogue. I get it, it’s set in the South, but I really didn’t need it shoved in my face, LOL.

Other than that, Kiss My Boots was an entertaining second chance romance I had a lot of fun reading. It was a book brimming with love, passion, and romance. I couldn’t get enough of Tate and Quinn’s devotion for each other! Now, I will definitely be going back to read the first Coming Home book, and possibly other Harper Sloan novels!


lacey


Reading Order: Coming Home series

  

#1 ~ Lost Rider: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Kiss My Boots: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Cowboy Up: PaperbackGoodreads (Dec. 19, 2017)

about the author button

Harper Sloan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Corps Security and Hope Town series. She started writing as a way to unwind when the house went to sleep at night. Harper lives in Georgia with her family.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads

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One Paperback Copy of Lost Rider by Harper Sloan
US only

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Kiss My Boots Blog Tour Schedule

July 18
The Librarian Talks
Bookaholics Romance Book Club
Collector of Book Boyfriends
Dirty Girl Romance
Four Chicks Flipping Pages
Always Reviewing
Reviews by Crystal
Bookbitch
Abigail Books Addiction
A Midlife Wife

July 19
Margie’s Must Reads
Lovely Reads
Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance
Swoonworthy
Positively Book Crazy
Book Lovers for Life
Romance Junkies
Dirty & Thirty
KT Book Reviews
FMR BookGrind

July 20
Passionate Encounters
Reading Frenzy
Book Bitches
Reads By Rose
Nose Stuck in a Book
The Reading Cafe
Dew on the Kudzu
An Asian Chick and Her Cat Walk into a Book Blog
Good Family Reads

July 21
Once Upon a Twilight
Booktalk with Eileen
SOS Aloha
Mrs. Leif’s Two Fangs About It
Tigris Eden
Literati Literature Lovers
Celticlady’s Reviews
Little BlackBook Reviews

July 22
From the TBR Pile

July 24
The Lovely Books
Simply Angela
Toot’s Book Reviews
Crossroad Reviews

July 25
Two Book Pushers
Ever After Book Blog
Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
Jathan & Heather
Coffee, Books & My Kindle

July 26
Babbling About Books, and More
Everyday Gyaan

July 28
The Reading Addict
Reading Between the Wines

July 29
Lori’s Reading Corner

July 31
JoJo the Bookaholic

August 1
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Sexy Book Reviews


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Blog Tour + Author Interview & Giveaway: Fatal Threat by Marie Force

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Fatal Threat by Marie Force! We have a writing-themed Q&A with the New York Times & USA TODAY bestselling author!

Author Interview: Marie Force

Q: How did you come up with your characters? How did you choose them? Did they come up even before you started writing them?

MF: Some of them come to me before, others during. I’m not really sure where they come from. I’m just glad they keep showing up, demanding I tell their stories!

Q: Which writing book/course taught you the most about writing?

MF: didn’t read a lot of writing books (I think I’ve read one–Stephen King’s On Writing) and I didn’t take a lot of writing classes. The one thing that really helped me to figure it out was writing more books, perfecting the craft, going back and applying lessons learned to earlier books, etc. There is really no substitute for hands on the keys, butt in the seat and just DOING IT. Over and over and over again until you get it right. And read a lot in the genre you are targeting. That also helps as long as you make sure your books are uniquely your own.

Q: When you start writing a series, do you know how far it will go or do the characters take over and that decides how many books will get written?

A: No, I never know how a series or even a book will unfold. I don’t plan or plot anything. I just make it up as I go along. 🙂 As far as how long a series will go, my feeling is that as long as the readers are still loving it and showing up in droves to get the new book and it’s still fun for me, no end in sight. All my current series meet that criteria, so no end in sight for any of them.

Q: What do you do to relax after meeting your writing goal for the day?

MF: After I finish working for the day, I like to chill with my family and/or read a good book, float in the pool or sit by the fire pit and do nothing.

Fatal Threat by Marie Force
Series: Fatal #11 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 25th 2017
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With a killer on the loose, it’s the worst time to be on lockdown…

It’s just another day at the office for Washington Metro Police lieutenant Sam Holland when a body surfaces off the shores of the Anacostia River. But before Sam can sink her teeth into the new case, Secret Service agents seize her from the crime scene. A threat has been made against her family, but nobody will tell her anything—including the whereabouts of her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano.

This isn’t the first time the couple’s lives have been at risk, but when a bombshell from Sam’s past returns to haunt her, she can’t help but wonder if there’s a connection. With a ruthless killer out for vengeance, and Nick struggling to maintain his reputation after secrets from his own past are revealed, Sam works to tie the threat to a murder that can’t possibly be a coincidence. And she has to get it done before her husband’s career is irrevocably damaged…

Buy Links:
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Reading Order: Fatal series

  
   
  

#1 ~ Fatal Affair: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Fatal Justice: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Fatal Consequences: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#4 ~ Fatal Flaw: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#5 ~ Fatal Deception: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#6 ~ Fatal Mistake: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#7 ~ Fatal Jeopardy: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#8 ~ Fatal Scandal: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#9 ~ Fatal Frenzy: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#10 ~ Fatal Identity: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#11 ~ Fatal Threat: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads (July 25, 2017)

about the author button

Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of 60 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the name of M.S. Force. All together, her books have sold 6 million copies worldwide!

Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news.

Website • Mailing List • Facebook • Twitter • InstagramGoodreads

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Amazon Gift Card $25
10 Books (1 to 10) in The Fatal Series!

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Blog Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for one of my favorite reads of 2017, The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean!

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: June 27th 2017
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The one woman he will never forget…

Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.

The one man she will never forgive…

After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.

A love that neither can deny…

The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day

THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunes • KoboGoogle Play

Now here’s an excerpt from The Day of the Duchess! ❤

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Chapter 1

DESERTED DUKE DISAVOWED!

August 19, 1836

House of Lords, Parliament

She’d left him two years, seven months ago, exactly.

Malcolm Marcus Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven looked to the tiny wooden calendar wheels inlaid into the blotter on his desk in his private office above the House of Lords.

August the nineteenth, 1836. The last day of the parliamentary session, filled with pomp and idle. And lingering memory. He spun the wheel with the six embossed upon it. Five. Four. He took a deep breath.

Get out. He heard his own words, cold and angry with betrayal, echoing with quiet menace. Don’t ever return.

He touched the wheel again. August became July. May. March.

January the nineteenth, 1834. The day she left.

His fingers moved without thought, finding comfort in the familiar click of the wheels.

April the seventeenth, 1833.

The way I feel about you . . . Her words now—soft and full of temptation. I’ve never felt anything like this.

He hadn’t, either. As though light and breath and hope had flooded the room, filling all the dark spaces. Filling his lungs and heart. And all because of her.

Until he’d discovered the truth. The truth, which had mattered so much until it hadn’t mattered at all.

Where had she gone?

The clock in the corner of the room ticked and tocked, counting the seconds until Haven was due in his seat in the hallowed main chamber of the House of Lords, where men of higher purpose and passion had sat before him for generations. His fingers played the little calendar like a virtuoso, as though they’d done this dance a hundred times before. A thousand.

And they had.

March the first, 1833. The day they met.

So, they let simply anyone become a duke, do they? No deference. Teasing and charm and pure, unadulterated beauty.

If you think dukes are bad, imagine what they accept from duchesses?

That smile. As though she’d never met another man. As though she’d never wanted to. He’d been hers the moment he’d seen that smile. Before that. Imagine, indeed.

And then it had fallen apart. He’d lost everything, and then lost her. Or perhaps it had been the reverse. Or perhaps it was all the same.

Would there ever be a time when he stopped thinking of her? Ever a date that did not remind him of her? Of the time that had stretched like an eternity since she’d left?

Where had she gone?

The clock struck eleven, heavy chimes sounding in the room, echoed by a dozen others sounding down the long, oaken corridor beyond, summoning men of longstanding name to the duty that had been theirs before they drew breath.

Haven spun the calendar wheels with force, leaving them as they lay. November the thirty-seventh, 3842. A fine date—one on which he had absolutely no chance of thinking of her.

Reading Order: Scandal & Scoundrel series

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean 

#1 ~ The Rogue Not Taken: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#2 ~ A Scot in the Dark: My Review • EbookPaperbackHardcover • Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ The Day of the Duchess: My ReviewEbookPaperback • HardcoverAudible • Goodreads

The Scandal & Scoundrel series is a spinoff of The Rules of Scoundrels series. You don’t have to read The Rules of Scoundrels prior to Scandal & Scoundrel, but I highly recommend the series! Here is the reading order if you’d like to start it:

Reading Order: The Rules of Scoundrels series

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean

#1 ~ A Rogue by Any Other Name: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#2 ~ One Good Earl Deserves a Lover: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ No Good Duke Goes Unpunished: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#4 ~ Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads

about the author button

New York Times, Washington Post & USA Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages, and winner of back-to-back RITA Awards for best historical romance from the Romance Writers of America.

Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. She is the author of a monthly column celebrating the best of the genre for the Washington Post. Her work in support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on Jezebel.com’s Sheroes list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “gracefully furious.” A graduate of Smith College & Harvard University, Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads

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Win a set of print copies of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN and A SCOT IN THE DARK, books 1 & 2 in the Scandal and Scoundrel Series (US Only)

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Blog Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: Fuel for Fire by Julie Ann Walker

Today we’re spotlighting the next installment in the Black Knights Inc. series by Julie Ann Walker, Fuel for Fire! This releases on July 4th! Don’t miss the preorder promotion going on as well!

Fuel for Fire by Julie Ann Walker
Series: Black Knights Inc. #10 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 4th 2017
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A brooding covert operative and a spunky CIA agent discover a burning passion in the next installment of Julie Ann Walker’s red-hot BKI series

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes
The first two left blood on his hands.
The third left him wondering…what if? What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It’s just as well that he’s never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives…

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunes • IndieBound • BAM

Pre-order Fuel for Fire or Hot Pursuit and receive another Black Knights Inc. novel of your choice!
http://books.sourcebooks.com/completeyourbkibookshelf/

Now here’s an excerpt from Fuel for Fire! ❤

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Tell us!” Surry demanded again, giving her head a hard shake. Her brain banged around inside her skull, making her see stars. Since she was tied with a length of electrical cord to one of the chairs in front of Morrison’s desk, her hands duct-taped behind her back, there was little she could do to defend herself.

Then again, she still had her smart mouth. “Screw you, buddy,” she snarled. Those three words were all she allowed herself before she clenched her teeth and sealed her lips shut.

The violence that clouded Surry’s face and glinted in his hell-black eyes made her want to curl into a protective ball. He leaned down so that his nose was an inch from hers. His hot breath smelled of coffee and buttered croissants, and the thought of him actually eating struck her as weird. She had assumed he sustained himself by devouring the souls of Morrison’s enemies.

“You will bloody well tell us what we want to know, Miss Duvall.” When he spoke all low and menacing in that thick English accent, she got the unsettling feeling that something dark moved in the shadows just out of sight. “Or I will jab this letter opener into your carotid.” He pulled back to wield the weapon he had taken from Morrison’s desktop. The sterling-silver letter opener glinted in the golden glow cast by the overhead chandelier.

Releasing her face, Surry cocked his head. “So, what shall it be? The truth? Or the knife? The choice is yours.” There was an emptiness in his voice when he asked the questions. Like he didn’t really care what the answers would be. Like he was tired or bored or maybe…resigned?

Oh, that doesn’t bode well.

Of course, the truth was out of the question. She would never rat on the Black Knights. No telling what Morrison, a.k.a Spider, with all his power and connections, could do with that information. So that left…the knife.

But there’s still so much I want to do!

She had never learned to make her mother’s she-crab soup. She had never tried her hand at writing fiction like that of Tolkien or Rowling or Martin. She had never married the love of her life and given him two bouncing, chubby-cheeked babies.

A cold finger of terror dragged up her spine, and for a second she considered spilling her guts and saving her hide. But then, from somewhere deep inside, a well of strength erupted, filling her with determination and the will to do what must be done.

Her mind briefly touched on her mother, and a great sadness weighed down her heart. Grace Duvall would be devastated by the death of her only child. But Chelsea took comfort—cold comfort, but comfort all the same—in knowing that her life insurance policy would be enough to pay her mother’s debts. That was something. Something to hold on to.

“Well?” Surry demanded. “What will it be?”

Chelsea licked her lips. Fear was a living thing inside her, crawling through her chest like a centipede on prickly legs. She squashed it and sealed her own fate. “Do your worst, you sorry, low-life sonofagun!”

Surry’s beard-stubbled chin jerked back as if he couldn’t believe the choice she’d made. Then his eyes narrowed, and grim determination transformed his face.

Closing her eyes, Chelsea waited on the inevitable. That centipede was going crazy inside her, making her chest ache and raising the hair on her head. She braced herself for the deathblow as a million regrets, a million joys, a million memories flittered through her brain.

Funny how many of those regrets and joys and memories feature Dagan.

She held her breath, savoring it, knowing it was her last and—

“Drop. The. Knife.”

With a cry, she blinked open her eyes and craned her head around to see three figures dressed from head to toe in black. Each of them wielded a weapon as if it were an extension of himself.

The Black Knights…

Even had Dagan not spoken the three most beautiful words she’d ever heard in that smooth moonshine voice, she would have known the trio anywhere. There was no mistaking those broad shoulders or those defiant, cocksure stances.

Her eyes homed in on Dagan. He was in the middle and slightly forward of the other two. It wasn’t his height or carriage that gave him away. It was his stillness. Ace and Christian seemed to vibrate with barely leashed power. But Dagan was a statue. Not a muscle quivered. Not a tendon or ligament cracked. Chelsea was reminded of a pair of tectonic plates under intense pressure. She knew what came next. The earth would rip open, and hell would spew forth.

Surry must have felt the doom behind Dagan’s stillness, because his voice sounded wheezy when he demanded, “And who the fuck are you?”

“Worry less about who we are,” Dagan snarled, “and more about what we’ll do if you don’t drop the knife.”

Proving he had more balls than brains, Surry spun Chelsea’s chair around and palmed her forehead to wrench her head back. The sharp tip of the letter opener nicked at the skin pulsing over the large vein in her neck. She hadn’t had time to scream, and now she didn’t dare breathe.

“Ring up the police, sir,” Surry said. From the corner of her eye, Chelsea saw Morrison/Spider make a move toward the desk.

“Take one step in the direction of that phone, and you’ll be eating a bullet for breakfast.” There was no mistaking Dagan’s words or his tone. He meant what he said.

Morrison must have come to the same realization. The old man stopped in his tracks.

“Good man,” Dagan acknowledged. “Now, there’s one thing you both need to understand. We’re leaving here with Chelsea. That can be over your dead bodies or your live ones.” Even though his words were calm and his body as motionless as a mountain, rage burned inside him. It was there in his eyes, glowing red like the fires of Mordor. “So what will it be? The choice is yours.”

It was the same option Surry had given her, spoken in the same words. How long had the three of them been outside listening?

“You have no bloody idea who you’re fucking with,” Morrison snarled, his chest heaving with every furious breath. “I have—”

That’s all he managed. In a flash, the statue, a.k.a. Dagan Zoelner, came to life. He moved faster than the human eye could follow, certainly faster than Chelsea could track with her head angled back in Surry’s grip. One second he was staring at her and Surry, and the next he aimed at Morrison and pulled his trigger.

The gunshot was oddly muffled and Morrison stumbled back, hitting his hip on the edge of the desk. Surry bellowed his outrage and released her head. Free from his brutal grip, she turned to Morrison and understood the strangeness of the weapon’s sound.

It wasn’t a bullet that had exploded from the end of Dagan’s gun. It was a dart. She had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the fuzzy yellow end protruding from the center of Morrison’s chest before Dagan fired again. This time the dart whizzed over her head. Surry made an awful gurgling noise. When she pulled her chin back, she saw the projectile sticking from his neck.

He reached for the dart, stumbling into her chair. His hand hit the back of her head, looking for leverage and forcing her chin into her chest as every vertebra in her neck threatened to crack under the pressure. She couldn’t see what happened next. But she heard it. Heard the boots that pounded against the tiles as the Black Knights raced into the room.

Surry released her head when Christian tackled him. From the corner of her eye, she watched Ace catch Morrison right before the old man toppled face-first onto the floor. And Dagan? Well, Dagan knelt in front of her.

She gasped when his big, warm hands cupped her cheeks, gently lifting her head. Her neck ached, but it wasn’t broken. All her fingers and toes still worked when she gave them an experimental wiggle.

“Chels… Christ. Are you okay?” His stormy eyes searched her face.

She nodded her head. That’s all she could manage because a giant lump was centered in her throat. She had put on a brave face throughout the entire ordeal, but now that it looked like she was saved, all her shock and terror rose to the surface, crumbling her mask of courage.

“Thank God.” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

It was the first time he had hugged her. The first time she had been in his arms. Oh, how she wanted to hold him tight in return. But with her hands still trapped behind her back, the only thing she could do was turn her face into his warm neck and breathe him in.

She had always loved the way he smelled. A mixture of worn leather, dryer sheets, and shampoo. All clean and healthy and…male.

“I was afraid m-maybe I didn’t press the button long enough to send out the Mayday,” she said in a rush, her lips moving against the rough fabric of his ski mask. “And th-then they found the thumb drive. But they were so quick to stop questioning me and…and…” She had to stop. “Thank you. Thank you for coming for me.”

His wide palm cupped the back of her head, holding her close. Was it trembling? “Always, Chels. Never doubt it.”

Oh great. Now the lump in her throat had grown to the size of a Carolina pine.

She wanted the moment to last forever, to stay just like this, safe in his arms. But all too soon, he pulled back. “What were you thinking, telling them to do their worst? You were baiting them, egging them on. You stupid, stubborn, self-sacrificing fool.”

And just like that, happiness and relief morphed into incredulity that slid quick as a whistle into anger. Seriously? He was going to stand there—er, squat there—and call her names?

He may be hotter than the door handles of hell, but when he gets all Me Tarzan, You Jane, I want to dump his limp body in the River Thames and feed him to the fishes. After she’d killed him with mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms, natch. And she could probably cop to his last two accusations. She was stubborn, and in that instant she had been willing to sacrifice herself. But the first one?

S-stupid?” she sputtered. And good news! The lump in her throat vanished. “Screw you, Dagan! In case you’ve forgotten, I pulled off this op w-with…”

She stumbled to a stop because he’d ripped off his mask. And there it was. The Beard.

Looking at him dressed all in black, shoulders as broad as the Lowcountry, she couldn’t help but think he resembled a god. One of the mythical beings she read about in her fantasy novels. Formidable. Powerful. Gorgeous.

And here I am, a mere mortal.

The look he pinned on her was one she recognized. She liked to call it his Clint Eastwood gunfighter squint. He tended to whip it out right before he laid into her for something. She braced herself, mentally running through her standard list of comebacks. But he didn’t give her a tongue-lashing. At least not a verbal one. Instead, he took her face in his hands and sealed his lips to hers.

She was so surprised that her mouth formed a startled O. Dagan took advantage, his tongue surging between her teeth. His lips were firm yet amazingly soft, and his beard abraded the tender flesh of her cheeks.

Holy mother! Dagan Zoelner was…kissing her!

Oh. My!

Reading Order: Black Knights Inc. series

  
   
   

#1 ~ Hell on Wheels: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ In Rides Trouble: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Rev It Up: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#4 ~ Thrill Ride EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#5 ~ Born Wild: EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads
#6 ~ Hell for Leather: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#7 ~ Full Throttle: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#8 ~ Too Hard to Handle: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#9 ~ Wild Ride: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#10 ~ Fuel for Fire: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (July 4, 2017)
#11 ~ Hot Pursuit: EbookPaperbackGoodreads (Oct. 3, 2017)
#12 ~ Built for Speed: Goodreads (release date TBA)

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Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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