Dec 12

The One Night Stand by Elizabeth Hayley Review Tour with Excerpt

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Gabriel Torres thought his life after Major League Baseball would be simple and quiet, or at least quieter. However, as he takes over running the exclusive Players Club, he finds himself continually embroiled in scandal and drama. Surely nothing, and no one could make his life any crazier…Right?

Rachel Adler is a blast from Gabe’s past who crashed back into his life with the finesse of a freight train. But she’s a welcome distraction. At least for a night.

Rachel has been working hard to become one of the top sports journalists in the country. She doesn’t have time for a long-term romance or irresistibly charming baseball players. A one-night-stand with the man who she knew would hit it out of the park was all she wanted.

But when she gets a tip that Gabe could have ties to one of the biggest sports stories in history, a story that could make her career, Rachel decides that maybe she has a little time for the sexy baseball player after all. As she gets in deeper with both her story and Gabe, Rachel begins to question who she is, what she wants, and what exactly she’s willing to sacrifice for her career.

Will the potential grand-slam romance be stopped short or will Rachel and Gabe be able to go the distance?

 

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Check out our 4.5 smooches review HERE.

 

“You have too many clothes on,” she said as Gabe nipped at her neck.

“I agree. We should probably do something about that.”

“We definitely should,” Rachel replied.

She’d barely gotten out the words before Gabe had her moving through his hotel room toward the tall king bed and placed her on it, letting her legs dangle over the sides as he backed away to pull his Commanders jersey off. She gave him this little grin as she brought a finger to her lip and bit on its edge. He wondered if she knew how hot she was–if the act was intentional. But truthfully it didn’t matter.

“Is it weird that I want to tell you how hot your chest is too?” she asked. The comment made Gabe smile as he popped the button of his jeans and unzipped them. He’d just begun to pull them down when Rachel said, “Leave them on.” Then she sat up and grabbed his waistband to pull him toward her.

His erection, which was still straining against his jeans, perked up even further as Rachel’s lips slid over his lower abs. It was an image he’d file away in his brain for future use: her head moving near his cock as his fingers tangled with her dark hair. He let out a low groan when her hand pressed against his dick. She played with it over his pants for a while before pulling down the zipper the rest of the way and yanking down his boxers enough to free him. She stroked him a few times before Gabe needed his lips back on hers.

His thumb stroking her cheek as he kissed her. Her moans grew louder as he rubbed against her, but finally he was able to pull himself away from her long enough to undo her skinny jeans and slide them down her legs. Her thong was next, and he savored the visual as the black lace traced over her skin.

He fished a condom from his wallet and tore it open. Squeezing himself as he rolled it on held back his orgasm. Jesus, he couldn’t wait to be inside her. He hadn’t thought about her in a while, but God, when he used to think about her he’d imagine how warm and wet she was. And it was that thought that had him returning to her, guiding her down on the bed to he could press into her.

Somehow all of his fantasies couldn’t even come close to the real thing. Her legs wrapped around his ass as her nails dug into his jeans to guide him even deeper inside. Then they began to move together, their bodies responding to the other’s in a way that he wasn’t sure he’d experienced before. She seemed to almost melt against him.

The moans and choppy breaths that escaped her had him speeding up, though he didn’t exactly want this to end. He used his forearms to prop himself up so his weight wasn’t on her completely as he thrust into her. Her nails were on his back, scratching over his shoulder blades before sliding under his boxers. He tensed as her fingertips brushed over his ass, and he willed himself not to come anytime soon.

He never thought he’d have Rachel Adler in his bed, and now that he did, he wanted it to be fucking memorable. And not just for him. He knew he’d never forget this. Though her legs were clamped around him, he pulled out almost completely and then drove back in. His thumb went to her clit the next time he withdrew, making her practically quiver beneath him. She was close, and he knew it.

A few more steady thrusts into her had Rachel begging him not to pull out again. Her words only increased the pleasure of the moment for him, and he thought about how he’d never get enough of Rachel’s soft please. “Please, Gabe. God, yes. Make me…” But she never finished her sentence before her body quaked with the orgasm that Gabe could feel too. Gabe continued to pound into her until her climax faded enough that he could speed up to find his own release. He wasn’t even sure what he said as he came, but whatever it was he couldn’t help it. It was probably the hardest he’d come in a while, and Rachel had been the one to make him do it. Jace wasn’t the only one who’d won tonight.

 

 

Elizabeth Hayley is actually “Elizabeth” and “Hayley,” two friends who love reading romance novels to obsessive levels. This mutual love prompted them to put their English degrees to good use by penning their own. The product is Pieces of Perfect, their debut novel. They learned a ton about one another through the process, like how they clearly share a brain and have a persistent need to text each other constantly (much to their husbands’ chagrin).

They live with their husbands and kids in a Philadelphia suburb. Thankfully, their children are still too young to read.

Elizabeth Hayley’s writing motto is best captured by the words of Patrick Dennis: “I always start with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”

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Dec 12

The One Night Stand by Elizabeth Hayley Review

4.5 Smooches

Synopsis

Gabriel Torres thought his life after Major League Baseball would be simple and quiet, or at least quieter. However, as he takes over running the exclusive Players Club, he finds himself continually embroiled in scandal and drama. Surely nothing, and no one could make his life any crazier…Right?

Rachel Adler is a blast from Gabe’s past who crashed back into his life with the finesse of a freight train. But she’s a welcome distraction. At least for a night.

Rachel has been working hard to become one of the top sports journalists in the country. She doesn’t have time for a long-term romance or irresistibly charming baseball players. A one-night-stand with the man who she knew would hit it out of the park was all she wanted.

But when she gets a tip that Gabe could have ties to one of the biggest sports stories in history, a story that could make her career, Rachel decides that maybe she has a little time for the sexy baseball player after all. As she gets in deeper with both her story and Gabe, Rachel begins to question who she is, what she wants, and what exactly she’s willing to sacrifice for her career.

Will the potential grand-slam romance be stopped short or will Rachel and Gabe be able to go the distance?

Review

As a longtime fan of Elizabeth Hayley, I am always excited to one of their books on my kindle. One Night Stand is the third standalone in The Players series and yet another one I couldn’t put down.

Rachel and Gabriel have a past that formed in college but never developed into more when they both went their separate ways after graduating. Now they have run into each other once again and the passion they feel is instant and dynamic. While on a personal level they seem perfect — they generally like each other, have insane chemistry, and overall just have a good time together — on a professional level they couldn’t be more wrong. He is a retired baseball player now in charge of a secret club and she is a journalist dead set on finding out any and all information on the club.

If you are a fan of sports romance than this is one you will want to grab. The heat is strong and the story is engaging. Don’t miss out on this one.

~miranda

Dec 12

Law & Beard by Lani Lynn Vale Cover Reveal

 

Today we have the cover reveal for LAW & BEARD by Lani Lynn Vale!

Check it out and add to your Goodreads today!

 

Title: LAW & BEARD
Series: The Dixie Warden Rejects
Author: Lani Lynn Vale
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Day: March 8th

 

About LAW & BEARD

Winnie thinks she has the perfect life.

Two beautiful, healthy children. A police officer husband. A job that she loves. Oh, and let’s not forget that she’s a nationally ranked marathon runner.

Fast forward six months, and her perfect life has imploded.

Winnie finds herself in a completely new world, and this new world is a brutal bitch.

In this new life of hers, her husband is gone. He realizes, at the worst possible time, that he’s no longer in love with her. He’s in love with her best friend. So he leaves, and doesn’t look back.

Her sixteen-year-old daughter is in trouble with the law, and she’s barely making ends meet thanks to losing the job that was keeping her and her tiny family afloat.

Then, the last thing that could make it all bearable, her running, is ripped out from under her, too. Thanks to a spinal stroke that leaves her unable to walk, let alone run, she’s having to relearn how to do the simplest of tasks—such as putting on her own pants.

She’s at the lowest of lows, and the last thing she wants is a sexy, bearded, motorcycle riding alpha to tell her how to live her life.

But Steel Cross never asks her what she wants.

***

The moment Steel Cross sees Winnie’s daughter steal some shoes for her younger brother, he knows he’s in trouble.

He’s a sucker for misunderstood teens. After all, he was once one himself.

He knows he can’t just walk away, and the moment he sees that troubled teen’s mother, he doesn’t just know it, he feels it. Down to the very bottom of his soul.

With his share of hard knocks, he knows that he shouldn’t step in and make his move on a fellow police officer’s ex. There’s a code, after all, yet he just can’t seem to help himself.

He’s done being the good guy. Sometimes he just wants to be bad.

And Winnie makes him realize that being bad is still kind of good. As long as you’re with the right person.

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Excerpt

I’d never, not once, had the pleasure of giving a blow job.

Yet, I wanted to give one…to Steel.

Jesus Christ, did I want to give him one.

The man turned me on in ways that I had no clue I could be turned on by, yet here I was, wondering what it would feel like to give the man a blow job.

My curiosity got the better of me as I googled more tips—which they’d said they’d done as a comparison—and then I got lost in the World Wide Web.

My first stop had been Cosmopolitan!

My second had been some random Joe-Blow (literally, that was the name of the website) blog that gave the men’s top ten best blow job tips—according to men.

1. Maintain eye contact.

2. Tie your hair back, it shows your dedication.

3. Allow him to put his hand in your hair and control the movements.

That, I could do! In fact, the idea of Steel putting his hands in my hair and controlling all of the movement was downright arousing.

4. Use your hand as well as your mouth. Twist it side to side lightly as you pump and suck him.

Okay, pump, suck, and twist. Check!

5. Don’t use your teeth. Ever.

I shivered at the thought. That would suck, accidentally biting Steel’s dick. He’d probably never let me near him again and kick me straight the hell out of his bed. Though, I had to get in his bed first…

6. Drop down so he’s standing and you’re kneeling. There’s nothing more arousing than watching a woman get on her knees.

That thought made me shiver. Would Steel like me on my knees?

I sure the hell hoped so. I’d love to get on my knees for him.

Then again, I was doing good with my rehab…he still might have to help me back up.

I winced. Maybe I should just get on the bed between his splayed thighs…yes, that was how I’d do it.

7. Suck his balls.

Suck his balls? How the hell did I put those in my mouth? There wasn’t enough room!

8. Go slow. It’s not a race.

9. Swallow.

Well, that was self-explanatory. But I didn’t know if I could swallow. I’d try, but what if I gagged?

10. We like it when you gag.

Did they? What if I accidentally threw up? That would completely ruin the mood.

“What are you doing?”

I squeaked and jumped as Steel came out of the bathroom.

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About Lani Lynn Vale

Lani Lynn Vale is a USA Today Bestselling Author of over thirty titles. She is married with three children, two dogs, two cats, a donkey, and a couple (a couple also meaning over twenty) chickens.

When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up in her favorite chair reading.

Lani is married with three children, and lives in the Great State of Texas.

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Dec 12

Torrid Little Affair by Kendall Ryan Release Blitz

 

 

Click HERE for our 4.5 SMOOCHES review!

 

TLA AmazonThe best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. And I have the perfect candidate all picked out.

My new assistant is tempting beyond belief with her curvy body and take-no-shit attitude. All those luscious curves, and a juicy ass I’m already in love with. God, the things that I would do to that ass…

But it’s the haunted look in her eyes that speaks to me. Like she’s taken just as much shit in her past as I have—maybe more. We both deserve a little fun.

Love can’t fix everything. Mind-blowing sex and a few killer orgasms, on the other hand?

I have a feeling those might do the trick.

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A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen titles, Kendall Ryan has sold over 1.5 million books and her books have been translated into several languages in countries around the world. She’s a traditionally published author with Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins UK, as well as an independently published author. Since she first began self-publishing in 2012, she’s appeared at #1 on Barnes & Noble and iBooks charts around the world. Her books have also appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than three dozen times. Ryan has been featured in such publications as USA Today, Newsweek, and InTouch Magazine.

Visit her at: www.kendallryanbooks.com for the latest book news, and fun extras

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Dec 12

Torrid Little Affair by Kendall Ryan Review

4.5 SMOOCHES!

   

SYNOPSIS:

The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. And I have the perfect candidate all picked out.

My new assistant is tempting beyond belief with her curvy body and take-no-shit attitude. All those luscious curves, and a juicy ass I’m already in love with. God, the things that I would do to that ass…

But it’s the haunted look in her eyes that speaks to me. Like she’s taken just as much shit in her past as I have—maybe more. We both deserve a little fun.

Love can’t fix everything. Mind-blowing sex and a few killer orgasms, on the other hand?

I have a feeling those might do the trick.

This is book three in the Forbidden Desires series, and while it can be read as a standalone, it’s recommended you start with Dirty Little Secret.

 

REVIEW:

Torrid Little Affair is the third book in Kendall Ryan’s Forbidden Desires series, which began with Dirty Little Promise, a book that has earned a spot on my 2017 top favorites list. Ryan created an intriguing, sexy and emotional series in Forbidden Desires, and after finishing the first two books, I was very excited for Cooper’s story. Technically Torrid Little Affair can be read as a standalone, but I strongly recommend reading this series in order.

Love triangles aren’t exactly my favorite, but Kendall Ryan did a phenomenal job with the one she created in Dirty Little Promise and Dirty Little Secret. Despite his difficult childhood, Cooper really is a good guy. He’s sweet, romantic and he was so good to Emma, even as it pained him to be there for her while she was falling for his brother. He knew going into that situation that he was going to get his heart broken, and that portion of Cooper’s story leaves off with him heading out of town to lick his wounds.

Torrid Little Affair picks back up six months later when Cooper’s brothers summon him back to work. I’d like to say that Corinne and Cooper had a sweet little meet cute, but this is no workplace romcom. What these two did have, though, was some seriously sizzling chemistry. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, right off the bat, they just clicked. A bombshell beauty, Corinne seemed to lack confidence and experience with men, something that Cooper seemed to pick up on right away. He makes her a very unconventional offer, after carefully considering his proposal, she takes him up on it.

These two were so sync that there was no fighting the pull even though Corinne tried. It was obvious that she was holding back, but Cooper didn’t know why. When her secret finally is revealed, Cooper can either allow himself to once again be the man left broken hearted, or he can instead become the man with a plan. Cooper’s determination to make this relationship work was endearing and as admirable as Corinne’s loyalty in her situation.

Not quite as intense as the first two books in the series, Torrid Little Affair was emotional and sexy and a fantastic addition to this incredible series. I loved Cooper and Corinne, I loved their story, and I’m very much looking forward to the oldest Kingsley brother, Quinn’s story. Torrid Little Affair by Kendall Ryan gets 4.5 smooches from me!

~ Danielle Palumbo

 

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Dec 12

Over Us, Over You by Whitney G. Release Blitz with Giveaway

[

Over Us, Over You

by Whitney G.
Publication Date: December 7, 2017
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Subject: Delete this message after you read it…

Dear Hayley,

I’m assuming you’re still hungover, so I’ll make this brief.

Last night, you slipped under my sheets (without my permission), and we almost had sex. I got the hell out of the bed once I realized it was you, and I took you home.

That’s the story.

The end.

Period.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, you’re my best friend’s little sister. We will never be anything more. (We can’t be anything more.) Our previous friendship is still unresolved–or “over” in your terms, so I’d prefer if we worked on becoming ‘just friends’ again since you’re in town.

Nonetheless, I’m not a man who leaves questions unanswered–even the drunken ones, so to properly close our inappropriate conversation:

1) Yes, I liked the way your lips felt against mine when you were on top of me.
2) Yes, I do “prefer” rough sex, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t rough with you.
3) No, I had no idea you were still a virgin…

This message never happened,
Corey

 

About Whitney G.

Whitney G. is a twenty-eight-year-old optimist who is obsessed with travel, tea, and great coffee. She’s also a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of several contemporary novels, and the cofounder of The Indie Tea–an inspirational blog for indie romance authors.

When she’s not chatting with readers on her Facebook Page, you can find her on her website at http://www.whitneygbooks.com or on instagram: @whitneyg.author. (If she’s not in either of those places, she’s probably locked away working on another crazy story.)

Don’t forget to sign up for Whitney’s monthly newsletter here: http://bit.ly/1p9fEYF

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Dec 12

Over Us, Over You by Whitney G Review

4 Smooches

Synopsis

Subject: Delete this message after you read it…

Dear Hayley,

I’m assuming you’re still hungover, so I’ll make this brief.

Last night, you slipped under my sheets (without my permission), and we almost had sex. I got the hell out of the bed once I realized it was you, and I took you home.

That’s the story.

The end.

Period.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, you’re my best friend’s little sister. We will never be anything more. (We can’t be anything more.) Our previous friendship is still unresolved–or “over” in your terms, so I’d prefer if we worked on becoming ‘just friends’ again since you’re in town.

Nonetheless, I’m not a man who leaves questions unanswered–even the drunken ones, so to properly close our inappropriate conversation:

1) Yes, I liked the way your lips felt against mine when you were on top of me.
2) Yes, I do “prefer” rough sex, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t rough with you.
3) No, I had no idea you were still a virgin…

This message never happened,
Corey

Review

Over Us, Over You was a fast and fun standalone novel from Whitney G. I am a HUGE sucker for a brother’s best friend book so when this arrived on my kindle I was excited to jump in feet first. The story of Corey and Hayley flashes from the present when she is staying with him while her brother, his best friend, arranges for her to get settled in San Francisco, and the past when she used to climb into his room to help stave off the nightmares of being abandoned and left in foster care.

This story was a spin-off of Resisting The Boss, the only series of Whitney’s I have yet to read, and can easily be read as a standalone. I was not confused at all. I will say for readers of the Mid Life Love series will enjoy all the cameos they will get in this story. My only gripe about this hilarious and sexy book was that at times the story felt a bit rushed. It wasn’t a huge hindrance to reading the story and considering I read the entire thing in one night it obviously didn’t lessen my enjoyment or desire to continue but it is worth noting.

Overall, Over Us, Over You was supremely fun and just what I needed at the end of a very bad day. The book put a smile on my face and has me itching to go out and grab a  copy of Resisting The Boss asap!

~miranda

Dec 12

Law and Beard by Lani Lynn Vale Cover Reveal

Title: Law & Beard
Series: The Dixie Warden Rejects #8
Author: Lani Lynn Vale
Genre: MC Romance 
Release Date: March 8, 2018

Photographer: Furious Fotog
Cover Model: Joe Adams

Winnie thinks she has the perfect life.

Two beautiful, healthy children. A police officer husband. A job that she loves. Oh, and let’s not forget that she’s a nationally ranked marathon runner.

Fast forward six months, and her perfect life has imploded.

Winnie finds herself in a completely new world, and this new world is a brutal bitch.

In this new life of hers, her husband is gone. He realizes, at the worst possible time, that he’s no longer in love with her. He’s in love with her best friend. So he leaves, and doesn’t look back.

Her sixteen-year-old daughter is in trouble with the law, and she’s barely making ends meet thanks to losing the job that was keeping her and her tiny family afloat.

Then, the last thing that could make it all bearable, her running, is ripped out from under her, too. Thanks to a spinal stroke that leaves her unable to walk, let alone run, she’s having to relearn how to do the simplest of tasks—such as putting on her own pants.

She’s at the lowest of lows, and the last thing she wants is a sexy, bearded, motorcycle riding alpha to tell her how to live her life.

But Steel Cross never asks her what she wants.

***

The moment Steel Cross sees Winnie’s daughter steal some shoes for her younger brother, he knows he’s in trouble.

He’s a sucker for misunderstood teens. After all, he was once one himself.

He knows he can’t just walk away, and the moment he sees that troubled teen’s mother, he doesn’t just know it, he feels it. Down to the very bottom of his soul.

With his share of hard knocks, he knows that he shouldn’t step in and make his move on a fellow police officer’s ex. There’s a code, after all, yet he just can’t seem to help himself.

He’s done being the good guy. Sometimes he just wants to be bad.

And Winnie makes him realize that being bad is still kind of good. As long as you’re with the right person.


I’m a married mother of three. My kids are all under 8, so I can assure you that they are a handful. I’ve been with my paramedic husband now for ten years, and we’ve produced three offspring that are nothing like us. I live in the greatest state in the world, Texas.



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Dec 10

Thresholds by Kate Canterbary Cover Reveal

Thresholds Banner_CR

Snowy days, steamy nights.
The Walshes are home for the holidays.

Thresolds

Title: Thresholds
Series: The Walsh Series #8

Author: Kate Canterbary
Cover Design: Okay Creations
Release Date: December 14, 2017

Blurb

‘Twas the weekend before Christmas, when all through the North End
Not a Walsh had his life together, not even his friends;

The parties were planned by the foodies with care,
In hopes that Wes and Erin would soon find their way there;

The men were stressing over last minute shopping lists and plans,
While the ladies were busy with work and nesting and finding the right paella pans;

When out in the dining room there arose such a clatter,
The Halsted dogs sprang from their beds to see what was the matter;

They whistled and shouted and called each other names,
While the secrets and announcements and surprises quickly came;

So onto another adventure they flew
With the sleigh full of Walshes, and the Commodore too—

As they continued arguing and clamoring around,
Down the road an unexpected visitor came with a bound;

But it wasn’t long until couples were all nestled snug in their beds,
With new memories of steamy holiday nights dancing in their heads.

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#4 The Cornerstone

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#7 Preservation

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Author Bio

Kate Canterbary doesn’t have it all figured out, but this is what she knows for sure: spicy-ass salsa and tequila solve most problems, living on the ocean–Pacific or Atlantic–is the closest place to perfection, and writing smart, smutty stories is a better than any amount of chocolate. She started out reporting for an indie arts and entertainment newspaper back when people still read newspapers, and she has been writing and surreptitiously interviewing people—be careful sitting down next to her on an airplane—ever since.

Kate lives on the water in New England with Mr. Canterbary and the Little Baby Canterbary, and when she isn’t writing sexy architects, she’s scheduling her days around the region’s best food trucks.

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Dec 08

Bad For You by J. Daniels Excerpt Reveal

 

 

 

“If you’re a fan of Kristen Ashley, then you will love this book.” -Aestas Book Blog on Four Letter Word

 

He didn’t want to be bad. He just didn’t have a choice…

Shayla Perkins isn’t the kind of girl who makes the same mistake twice, especially when it comes to Sean “Stitch” Molina. So when he gives her the world’s biggest rejection, that’s it–she’s done. Until the sexy, silent, unavailable Sean makes Shay a very personal offer. Of course, it still doesn’t mean he’s interested in her. Or does it?

Sean has done things in life. Bad things. And he’s paid the price. All he wants now is to make up for his past by doing good in the present. And no one deserves more good than Shay. Beautiful on the inside and out, Shay is the kind of woman who should be cared for and protected–especially from a man like Sean. He’s tried to keep his feelings for her in check, but a single, reckless impulse pulls them closer than ever before.

 

Soon the two are sharing their biggest dreams and satisfying their deepest desires. But what will happen if the only way to truly give each other what they want most…is to let each other go?

 

“The perfect mix of funny, hot and heartwarming. I enjoyed it immensely!” –Mia Sheridan, New York Times bestselling author, on Four Letter Word

 

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Chapter One

Shayla

I wanted to tell her no. I wanted to lie to Gladys or Dorothy, whatever this sweet old lady’s name was seated in my section, and say we were fresh out of ranch dressing, and the little cup of it that came with her large garden salad was the last drop. If I didn’t and obliged her request, it would mean walking back over to the kitchen window I avoided like the plague and speaking to him—Sean “Stitch” Molina. The keeper of the dressings. The cook at Whitecaps Restaurant. He hoarded the ranch back there, and the only way to get more of it was with words.

And we didn’t do words anymore. Not as of eight months ago.

So, instead of doing my job as a waitress, I contemplated the dishonest route, which could very well get me fired.

Was I willing to roll those dice? Maybe. It might be worth a shot. My boss, Nate, could overlook my wrongdoing. He was understanding enough.

We’re fresh out of ranch, I could tell the lady. And all other dressings, for that matter. I am so sorry. Could I maybe get you another refill? Or something else not located in the kitchen?

I thought on this plan—it could work. Maybe she would believe me. Or maybe she would rethink her request and decide she no longer needed more dressing.

Help a fellow woman out here, Millie. Christ.

“I just need a little bit more,” the lady requested with a gentle smile. “Would you be a dear? I won’t trouble you for anything else, I promise.”

“Of course,” I replied, the response compulsively leaving my tongue. I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t lie. I’d feel terrible.

Besides, this was my job. If someone requested more ranch dressing, I got them more ranch dressing, even if it meant speaking to the man I was completely and pathetically infatuated with, no matter how badly it hurt me to do so.

I gave the lady a smile in return before moving away.

My steps were slow as I weaved between tables and headed toward the kitchen. I tried to keep my head down, to focus on the tile floor disappearing beneath my feet, but I couldn’t.

I had to look.

Who was I kidding? I wanted to look.

As I approached, Tori was leaning close to the window that separated Sean’s domain from everyone else’s. She slid two plates of food off the ledge, commenting, “Looks good. Thanks, Stitch,” before walking off to deliver her orders, winking at me as she passed.

Sean only went by Stitch when he was here, I was assuming. I wouldn’t know for sure since I’d never spent any time with him outside of work. It was a nickname Tori and I had given him when he’d cut himself a bunch of times during his first week on the job, and he didn’t seem to mind being called that.

Back then, he didn’t seem to mind a lot of things, like listening to me talk and talk about anything and everything, putting my problems on him in between waiting tables, my stresses, my fears, needing a person to vent to and him being the only person I wanted to vent to because of the way he listened and looked at me.

No one had ever seemed so interested in what I had to say before.

Like what I was saying meant everything to them. Like it was a privilege just to listen.

And no one had ever looked at me the way Sean did—glances that only ever lasted a few seconds at a time, but those few seconds of eye contact—holy crap. I thought my skin was going to combust it would tingle and heat up so quickly. The man had a stare unlike any stare. Equal parts intense and intimidating. But his eyes, sweet mother of God, his eyes were unreal, this rich, golden copper color. And when they were on you, you didn’t just see that beauty—you felt it.

It was a two-punch combo that turned me into a puddle. No man had ever affected me that way before.

And that effect wasn’t going away. I was still feeling it.

Even now with us not speaking to each other, or rather, with me not speaking and him not listening, I still couldn’t get Sean out of my head. I missed what we used to have, yes, but it was more than that. It was so much more.

A man I barely knew, who seldom spoke, and who had never showed interest in me in that way had somehow taken hold of my heart and twisted it all up. I didn’t understand how it had happened, I just knew it happened.

Pathetic, right?

I reached the counter silently, which was a miracle considering how loud my heart sounded in my ears. Keeping my breathing quiet, I looked through that window and peered into the kitchen.

Sean had his back to me as he flipped burgers and stirred something in a pot. I allowed my eyes to travel the length of him, something I hardly ever let myself do anymore. We shared quick glances now, that was it.

Sean was well over six feet tall—way taller than me. His back was broad. His hair was long, a beautiful caramel color, and almost always pulled back; his arms were covered in tattoos and roped in muscle; and he had a thick, short beard that hid what I just knew was a strong jaw.

Sean was beautiful. And he was intimidating. Not just how he looked, but how he acted too.

He smoked. He drove a motorcycle. He never smiled. He rarely said a word. Everything about Sean said leave me alone, but eight months ago I couldn’t.

And eight months ago, I didn’t think he wanted me to.

I thought that was why he looked at me the way he did and listened so well. I wasn’t even nervous when I finally asked him out after hearing about a local party. I was excited.

I wanted Sean. I wanted to kiss him and touch him and God, hear his voice more. I had gotten so little of it. I wanted to do everything with him. And I thought we would. I thought we’d go to that party together as friends and leave as something more.

But Sean wasn’t interested in the more I’d been after. He wasn’t interested in me at all.

Now, that was perfectly clear.

Sensing me, or maybe he was finished minding the burgers and whatever he was stirring in the pot—I didn’t know for sure, since I was still letting my eyes wander—Sean spun around and stepped forward, snapping my gaze off his body in a panic. Our eyes met.

Mine widened.

His narrowed angrily, like I’d pissed him off and he hated me for it, and further hated me for catching him pissed off about it.

I didn’t understand that look, but no way was I asking about it. I was doing what I came over here to do, and then, hopefully, staying far away from this window the rest of the day.

Maybe I could convince Tori to put in my orders.

“My lady needs more ranch,” I informed Sean, swallowing thickly when my voice came out sounding stressed and distorted. “Could I get a little more for her?”

Sean’s gaze lowered to my mouth like he was waiting for more words, which didn’t make sense to me, until I considered the one word I left off he was most likely waiting for.

“Please?” I added.

His eyes lifted to mine and stayed narrowed. His nostrils flared. His jaw set.

I almost apologized for being polite and for not lying to that woman about our condiment supply. Things were so awkward now, I couldn’t stand it. I missed how easy this used to be.

Memories flooded my mind in an onslaught as I stood there waiting, and my back stiffened. I pictured Sean watching me with care and concern. I remembered the smiles behind his beard I used to catch, and the way his eyes would follow me through the restaurant and brighten when I would wave. We were friends. I wanted to scream at him for ruining that. I wanted to scream at myself for still caring. What was wrong with me? He had completely shut me out. We were nothing now. We were this.

But with a quick hand, Sean snatched a dressing cup off the shelf and ladled some ranch into it before I spoke another word. He sat the cup on the ledge, removing his hand before our fingers touched, and briskly turned back to the grill without giving me another glance.

“Thank you,” I mumbled at his back, turning before I lingered another second.

He shut me out. I needed to do the same to him.

I delivered the cup of ranch to the sweet old lady, picked up a check for a table who didn’t wait for change, and took care of their tab at the register. Then because I didn’t have any other tables needing anything from me at the moment, I moved to a vacant booth far away from that window and busied myself filling ketchup bottles.

The next time anyone needed extra dressing, I’d send Tori.

Three Days Later

I am getting one of everything.

Twisting the dial on the radio, I quieted the music I was listening to when the truck ahead of me pulled forward, allowing room for my Civic to squeeze up next to the speaker.

Mouth already salivating, I rolled my window down.

“Welcome to Taco Bell. Can I take your order?”

My stomach growled as I surveyed my choices.

I eyed the fiesta taco salad. The quesarito. The never-ending list of combos and the specialty options. Everything intrigued my taste buds.

I stuck my head out the window and directed my order at the speaker. “Can I have a number six, please? Chicken supreme with a soft taco? And a Mountain Dew.”

“That’ll be six fifty-seven at the second window, please.”

I couldn’t pull forward yet, so I kept my foot on the brake, and just as I was about to roll up my window to keep the cool March air from filling up my car any more, a song I knew and loved began playing low through the speakers.

I had no idea what the name of the song was or who sang it, but I knew every single word. And this was not a song you didn’t crank up and sing along to with your windows down.

Fingers twisting the dial until music poured out of my car, I started moving my hips in time with the beat and smacking the steering wheel, eyes closing and fingers snapping as the lyrics left my mouth.

“Oh oh oh oh oh oh,

You don’t have to go, oh oh oh oh oh

You don’t have to go, oh oh oh oh oh

You don’t have to gooo.”

The drum kicked up. I shook my head and felt pieces of my short, dark hair lash against my cheeks.

The girl giggled through the speaker.

Smiling and not feeling one bit of shy about the audience I was entertaining, I leaned halfway out the window and sang to her as loud as I could, reaching and pointing like she was front row at my concert.

“Ay ay ay ay ay ay

All those tears I cry, ay ay ay ay

All those tears I cry, oh oh ah ay

Baby, please don’t goooo.”

She laughed harder this time, whooping and cheering me on.

“How’s that?” I asked. “Think I got a career in singing if all my other options fall through?”

“You bet!” the girl yelled. “That was sick!”

Giggling at myself, I sat back in the seat and turned the volume down halfway, noticing through the windshield the space between the truck in front of me and the car in front of it.

My eyes narrowed. I beeped twice. I was starving, and this was not the time to be messing around. What was this person doing?

The truck jerked forward, gears grinding over the music, loud enough I actually cringed. It was an old, beat-up Chevy, covered in dirt and rusted all along the back, with most of the paint chipped off and the muffler barely hanging on by a thread. The well loved and very well used vehicle was probably on its last leg, as was the worn smiley-face sticker half peeled from the bumper, leaving only one eye and half a mouth showing.

That thing had definitely seen better days.

Staring at all that rust, I had a moment of panic when I imagined the truck dying on its owner and blocking my path. Come hell or high water, I’d get my chalupas. Though I really didn’t feel like stepping out of my car and walking inside where the lunch rush sat. I was wearing sweats covered in bleach stains, a baggy sweatshirt, zero makeup, and not a lick of dry shampoo. No way was I presentable for the public yet.

This was why God invented drive-throughs and curbside service—so women like me could sleep in on their days off and rush out the door when a hankering hit without even bothering to glance at themselves in a mirror.

But when the truck made it up to the window to pay without a hitch or stall, most of that panic left me.

And when the driver pulled away after collecting their order and turned out onto highway, all of that panic left me.

I rubbed my hands together. Come to Momma.

“Hello!” I greeted the young girl with a smile and a wave, feeling like we had one of those lifelong friendship connections since I’d just serenaded her.

Grabbing my bag off the floor in front of the passenger seat, I dug around for my wallet.

“No need for that!” she said, turning my head and pausing my search. “That guy just totally paid for you. God…I love it when that happens. It doesn’t happen enough. It’s such a treat!”

I sat up and looked at her more fully. “What? What guy?”

“The guy in the truck.”

“Really?”

Nobody had ever done that for me before, and I used drive-throughs a lot. Well, shit on my head. My first random act of kindness, and I had rushed the poor thing along.

I suddenly felt bad for beeping.

“Yep,” the girl said, smacking her gloss-covered lips. “He asked me how much your order was and gave me enough to cover you both. And he wasn’t bad looking either.”

I leaned closer to the window, my interest in this mystery man spiking off the charts. “Yeah?”

“Oh, yeah. He had that dark, smoldering look about him. Real sexy.”

Nice.

“Did he say anything? Leave his number on a napkin or something?”

“No.” She shrugged. “Just paid for you and left. He acted in a rush.” The girl turned to pack up my order.

Huh.

If he was interested, he would’ve gone beyond just paying for my food. I would think he would’ve at least waited before speeding out of here—at least pulled over and given me opportunity to thank him.

Maybe he was just doing a good deed?

Letting myself think on that, I smiled and took my drink. “I’d like to pay it forward. How much is the person’s order behind me? I’ll take care of them,” I said while blindly digging my wallet out of my bag.

Really?” The girl clapped her hands together and squealed. “This is awesome! And they say there’s no good people left in the world.”

I laughed and made a face like I was agreeing with her, though I really didn’t. I knew a lot of good people. Dogwood Beach was full of them.

And I was blessed to have a lot of those people in my tribe, supporting me, giving me friendship and love, and others, not necessarily in my tribe, but around me enough I got to see their good.

Still, I understood this girl’s excitement. It wasn’t every day a complete stranger did something out of sheer generosity. And selfless to boot. Who didn’t stick around to take credit when credit was due? That was practically unheard of.

It’s funny how a simple gesture can affect you. But kindness was powerful that way. It not only had the ability to alter moods, but it was also infectious. People wanted to spread that good around once they got it put on themselves.

Hell, I was doing it. Maybe the person behind me would do it too, and so on. We could all pay it forward.

Smiling, I thought about that mystery man in the beat-up truck, wondering if he knew just how inspiring he was. How good he was. I hoped someone was telling him.

After safely securing my bag of deliciousness in the front seat, I got the total of the order from the car behind me, paid, got my change, cranked up my stereo again, and sped off, leaving my window cracked so I could serenade Highway 355.

 

 

 

 

 

 

J.Daniels is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Sweet Addiction series, the Alabama Summer series, and the Dirty Deeds series.

She would rather bake than cook, she listens to music entirely too loud, and loves writing stories her children will never read. Her husband and children are her greatest loves, with cupcakes coming in at a close second.

J grew up in Baltimore and resides in Maryland with her family.

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