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Mercy Queens Birds of Prey By Kathi S Barton Release Day & Giveaway

Mercy and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia, their time of fighting in wars and conquering kingdoms now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she’d graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality. A gift that Mercy, to this day, was having difficulty coming to terms with. Living as a human was not what she was born to do, nor what she wanted to do. Being an immortal in a life she didn’t want left Mercy feeling angry at the world and turned her into a workaholic.

As an intervention, Blaze arranged an extended vacation and guilted her into taking it. She made all the arrangements and wouldn’t tell Mercy where she was going, just to be at the airport and do as she was told.

Joel Oliver needed this job. Finances were tight, and Blaze said all he had to do was chauffer a rich woman around town. What he would receive would catch him up on the mound of bills piling up and keep the roof over his—and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Miley’s—head for a few months longer. Miley was in a wheelchair—and as a result, had a lot of medical bills—but he loved her more than his own life. However, Joel was about to bite off more than he could chew.

The woman was gorgeous, and he found her snarky, hateful, attitude amusing until she interfered with how he was raising his daughter. Now, all bets were off.

Mercy would normally laugh in the man’s face for his hurtful remarks, but for some reason, her heart shattered instead. After a night of the most mind-blowing sex she could’ve imagined, he was treating her like it all meant nothing…. She had just realized he was her mate, and he hated her….

 

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Winner  of  Lucian   newsletter  is Teri Bellville     congrats

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Prologue

The castle was going down, thanks wholly to her birds. Queen Dante sat upon her
horse and watched as stone after stone crumbled to the ground. In a matter of moments,
not only were the walls to the fort destroyed, but the king inside his castle was dead as
well. Turning her mount, she headed back to the encampment to ready herself for the
long ride home. The birds joined her not half an hour later, their large bodies covered in
dust and blood.

“You have done well, my darlings.” They could understand her and she them, but
no one else could. She had made them what they were, and she would be the only one
to control them. “Have you fed well on his dying cattle? How does it serve a man to
have his food dying? His people, they were fed no better, I saw.”
The birds—she had never named them—told her that the people were headed west.
In a few months, maybe less, they would all be dead too. It bothered them when the
people suffered because of the king or queen of the castle. But it was to be. Dante could
not care for any more in her own keep.
No one would attack her keep. If they tried, she knew them to be too stupid or too
drunk on their own mead. She had her birds, all of them bigger than life, made large by
magic that she gave them. Looking at them as they landed around her, forever keeping
her safe, she wondered why she had not thought of it sooner, when her king was still
alive.

“I would have set you upon him. You could have eaten him for your dinner.
Though I suspect that it would have given you a great deal of belly pains.” The hawk
told her that she was lucky that he had died the way he had. No one would come for
her if she had killed him. “Yes, that is very true. But I suffered greatly when he was
living. No children with me to give me comfort in my olden age. Though they might
have been just like him, and that would have been too much to bear.”
She would never marry again. Love wasn’t something that she searched for. Not
that she didn’t have someone to warm her bed on occasion, but it was nice to be able to
send them on their way when she was finished with them. Her heart belonged to no
one, and she would not take another man to her bed by force.

All would be well, and no
one would threaten to come and take over her home, she hoped. The birds’ as well.
The hawk used her beak to put delicate things upon the backs of the others. There
was aplenty this time. Barrels and smoked meats. Pottery that they would use like it
wasn’t worth a king’s gold. They raided the castle each time they conquered. Hawk was
the best at getting in and out before they took the places to the ground.
The eagle took off toward home. She would let the people know that the queen was
returning simply by her showing up. They would have a feast this night. The food upon
her back would feed them for many days, and the barrels of spices that had been
hoarded in the lower levels of the king’s castle would go a long way toward trading
what they did not grow.

The phoenix, by far the most deadly of her birds, shed her feathers in anticipation of
getting new ones. After a battle she would become anew, each time getting stronger,
and her feathers, brilliant now, would be brighter still. She could flame a fire so hot that
stone would crumble under a man’s feet. The ground would no longer hold a seed
within its belly to produce food, and she could kill a man with a single breath so that
there would be nothing left of his body.

Dante loaded the last of her things onto the back of the owl. She might be small, she
had always thought, but she could carry more than her own weight. And she would
pick up her horse, used to flying through the sky like a bird himself, and take him back
to the castle. He would be fed and groomed before Dante ever landed on the ground.
The vulture squawked at her, and she turned to look at the two men there. They
looked as if they might have been about to kill her, but the sight of such large birds
threw them off their duty. In no time at all the vulture snapped both of them up and ate
them. A gruesome sight, but one that filled her heart with joy too. She was safe again.
The vulture took off once she was loaded up.

“Well, my falcon, it is just you and I left.” She told her that she was still armed.
“Yes, well, probably not too bad of an idea seeing that they nearly shot us.”
The falcon laid her body to the ground. She was the only one that was fitted with a
seat, one that Dante rode on. Scouring the area, Dante always made sure that she left
the places that she camped as neat and clean as she’d found them. Sometimes in better
shape. As she climbed onto the back of her bird, she held her breath.
“I do hate the height. I should have thought this through when I turned you into
my warriors.” Her laughter, should there have been someone around to hear it, might
have sounded insane. “Homeward, my love, and we shall eat well tonight.”
She took no one with her on her fights, except the birds.

That was why she
believed, her people were so loyal to her—she protected them. Fed them better than
herself and made sure that there was plenty for them to trade and share for things that
she did not provide for them.
The soil was rich and would give forth a bounty like no other gardens. Flowers that
were woven into pretty things and traded. There was a smithy, as well as a doctor who
doubled as a dentist. They had even acquired a gravedigger, who doubled as a man
who made markers.
A single merchant that came by, his wagon filled when he arrived, would leave
with the wagon near empty. He would bring the latest news with him, and any posts
that he had been asked to bring to them. He would also, for a small coin, take outposts
for the next time he was in the keep of a relative or friend.
And today there was such a missive, but it was for her, from someone that she had
hoped never to hear from again. The king of the land—the only man that she answered
to, though it wasn’t with any kind of happiness on her part.
After the others were settled down and the food that had been brought put into
storage, she sat down and wasn’t surprised that the falcon came to see her. The room
that she was in—the throne room, for lack of a better term—had no roof, and six perches for the birds when they wished to see her.

Otherwise, they sat upon the top of
the castle turrets, watching for anything that might befall them.
“I am to wed. The king of the land, he has decided that my castle, Duncan Castle, is
the best there is, and he will marry me himself.” They asked about his castle. “He says
that it will be his son’s, which he has none as yet. His last five wives only gave him
daughters, from what I have heard, and they did not last long afterwards.”
The falcon asked her what she would do. Dante knew what would happen to her
should he come here. He would kill her. Being in her fortieth summer, she was much
too old to bear children now, and he would be better with a younger bride. One that
could birth him the sons that he wanted.

“He will kill me, we all know that. And you six will kill him or be killed. I worry so
much for the people here too.” She thought of several plans and threw them out. It was
in her head that if she should die, then she would do so on her own terms. “I will need a
day to think on this. In the meantime, he says that he will be here in the new year. That
will give us a month to provide for the people and make sure that they are not
harmed.”
To be continued in book two, Hawk

 

 

MORE THAN MY WORDS BY ANN LISTER CHAPTER REVEAL

Chapter Reveal, More Than My Words by Ann Lister

HOSTING CR MTMW 19TH MARCH

Take a sneak peek and read chapter sixteen today.

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Special Chapter Sneak Peek

MTMW out now

Gay Erotic Romance ready for your reading pleasure.

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Mason Foxworth has spent the last several months recovering from injuries he received doing personal security while on tour during the horrific fire in Germany. He feels useless and alone, and the worst part of it, the physical scarring left behind from the burns has ruined his self-esteem. Who would want him now, when he is so damaged inside and out and has nothing much to contribute? He doesn’t have many friends and his co-workers feel it’s safer to keep Mason at a desk in the office pushing paperwork, rather than out in the field working security. Mason wants to change that status before he loses the last thread of his sanity, and the main obstacle in his way is a bum leg that’s taking far too long to heal.

Tessler is an enigma in the sci-fi literary world. A young, reclusive author, known for the mystery swirling around him, realizes he’s lost any real joy in his life until he suddenly starts to feel the strange emotion pumping through his veins. Barely beyond the age of twenty-five, and he’s already made more money than most see in a lifetime, but Tessler feels empty inside. What made him this way must remain the secret it is, or he feels he’ll lose the empire he’s created. But meeting a man who could possibly bring all his pieces together is challenging his reasons for anonymity, and Tessler suddenly finds himself wanting more from life and for himself.

Mason wants his life back and Tessler is just looking to have a real life. Can two vastly different men find a way to smooth out their hard edges and blend their lives to offer the one ingredient neither has? Personal growth comes in many different shapes and Mason and Tessler have a mountain of it to climb in order to find their HEA, but it’s a journey both of them are ready to take.

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Ann Lister is a native New Englander currently living on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with her husband. She has pulled details from her years living in the New England area and uses many local settings and landmarks in her novels.
After graduating art school, marrying, and raising two daughters, she established her own video production company. Her nearly two decades working in video production included work within the music industry and won her a coveted Telly Award. Her ‘behind-the-scenes’ exposure to the music world and her love of rock music is the inspiration for her erotic rock star romances.
The Rock Gods series gave her Bestselling Author status on Amazon. Beyond The Music, Book 7 in the series, hit #1 in the Gay Erotica genre during the Pre-Order and held that spot for several weeks. This last book in The Rock Gods series launches the spin-off series, Guarding The Gods, which releases in early Summer of 2016.
Fall For Me, Book One in the series was a Finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Award. Each book in this series brings her two favorite elements together: musicians and the love between two men. These stories focus on what it truly means to love; love unconditionally, love without restrictions or labels, love without fear or judgment – to just simply love.

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More Than Need You by Shayla Black Preorder Blitz

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Designer: Rachel Connolly

Photographer: Sara Eirew

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I’m Griffin Reed—cutthroat entrepreneur and competitive bastard. Trust is a four-letter word and everyone is disposable…except Britta Stone. Three years ago, she was my everything before I stupidly threw her away. I thought I’d paid for my sin in misery—until I learned we have a son. Finding out she’s engaged to a bore who’s rushing her to the altar pisses me off even more. I intend to win her back and raise our boy. I’ll have to get ruthless, of course. Luckily, that’s one of my most singular talents.

Sixty days. That’s what I’m asking the gritty, independent single mother to give me—twenty-four/seven. Under my roof. And if I have my way, in my bed. Britta says she wants nothing to do with me. But her body language and passionate kisses make her a liar. Now all I have to do is coax her into surrendering to the old magic between us. Once I have her right where I want her, I’ll do whatever it takes to prove I more than need her.

This book is the second in the More Than Words series. The books are companions, not serials, meaning that backstory, secondary characters, and other elements will be easier to relate to if you read the installments in order, but the main romance of each book is a stand-alone.

This book contains lines that may make you laugh, events that may make you cry, and scenes that will probably have you squirming in your seat. Don’t worry about cliffhangers. HEA guaranteed! (Does not contain elements of BDSM or romantic suspense.)

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More Than Want You, Book 1

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Shayla Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty novels. For nearly twenty years, she’s written contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances via traditional, independent, foreign, and audio publishers. Her books have sold millions of copies and been published in a dozen languages.

Raised an only child, Shayla occupied herself with lots of daydreaming, much to the chagrin of her teachers. In college, she found her love for reading and realized that she could have a career publishing the stories spinning in her imagination. Though she graduated with a degree in Marketing/Advertising and embarked on a stint in corporate America to pay the bills, her heart has always been with her characters. She’s thrilled that she’s been living her dream as a full-time author for the past eight years.

Shayla currently lives in North Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband, her teenage daughter, and two spoiled tabbies. In her “free” time, she enjoys reality TV, reading, and listening to an eclectic blend of music.

 

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Now and Then by Kate Hewitt Blog Tour & Rafflecopter giveaway 10/27/16

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Book Title: Now and Then Friends (Hartly-by-the-Sea Novel, #2)
Author: Kate Hewitt
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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The USA Today bestselling author of Rainy Day Sisters returns to Hartley-by-the-Sea…

Childhood best friends Rachel Campbell and Claire West have not only grown up, but after fifteen years, they’ve also grown apart…

After her father left, Rachel had to dedicate her life to managing her household: her two younger sisters, her disabled mother, and her three-year-old nephew. When Rachel’s not struggling to look after all of them, she makes her living cleaning the houses of wealthy families—including the Wests, where a surprise now awaits her. . . .

A lifetime of drifting in other people’s currents has finally left Claire high and dry. First it was her parents, then the popular crowd in school, and finally her fiancé. Now she’s returned to Hartley-by-the-Sea to recover. But running into Rachel brings back memories of past mistakes, and Claire wonders if she now has the courage to make them right.

Soon Claire’s brother, Andrew, asks Rachel to keep an eye on Claire, which is the last thing either woman wants. But as their lives threaten to fall apart, both Claire and Rachel begin to realize what they need most is a friend. The kind of friend they once were to each other, and perhaps can be again. . . .

excerpt

READ AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF NOW AND THEN FRIENDS

 

meet the author

Kate Hewitt is the author of over 45 novels of women’s fiction and romance. Whatever the genre, she loves to tell an emotionally compelling story. An American ex-pat, she lives in a small market town in Wales with her husband, five young children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can follow her adventures at http://www.acumbrianlife.blogspot.co.uk.

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Author J.S.Scott Spotlight Tour & Bonus Story 5/31/16

This complete collection of The Billionaire’s Obsession includes:
Mine For Tonight
Mine For Now
Mine Forever
Mine Completely 

Down on her luck, nursing student and full-time waitress Kara Foster
gets a massive blow to her already desperate financial situation that
will surely find her living on the streets. Needing nothing less than a
miracle to save her, Kara gets rescue from an unknown, unlikely and
overwhelming source. Billionaire Simon Hudson makes her an offer that is
impossible to refuse, but terrifying to accept from a man that she’s
never met. Will the handsome, alpha billionaire really be a solution to
her problems, or will he end up being a major complication and a danger
to her emotional sanity?

Reclusive billionaire Simon Hudson
would rather be behind a computer creating computer games than rubbing
elbows with the elite and he knows exactly what he wants…until he
meets Kara Foster. Something about Kara touches Simon in ways he’s never
experienced and definitely doesn’t like. For over a year, Simon watches
over Kara, but stubbornly refuses to admit his desire to possess her,
not even to himself. But when she ends up in a situation that could very
well be her destruction, Simon steps up to help her, not realizing that
in saving Kara, he might very well be salvaging his own soul.

(This is a erotic romance. It contains graphic language, very steamy love scenes and lots of emotion.)

Bonus story – Maddie’s Secret

One Summer Evening in July:

“I think Mom has a boyfriend,” Sam Hudson stated bluntly to Maddie as he walked intothe kitchen and dropped his briefcase on the table.

Maddie turned around from the dinner that was simmering on the stove and smiled at her husband, chewing on her lip just a little as she saw him. She wondered if there would ever be a day that his heart¬stopping, handsome face and masculine presence wouldn’t send her heart into overdrive. Every time she saw him, she wanted to drop her panties and jump on him. Even after a long day at the office, and just a little bit rumpled, her husband looked delicious in a suit and tie, his blond hair a little mussed, probably because he’d just run a hand through it from the frustration she could see on his face.

“And that would be a problem…um…why?” Sam didn’t look the least bit happy about the fact that his mother had an admirer, a fact that she’d already been aware of and hadn’t had a chance to mention to Sam. She’d just had coffee with Kara and Helen a few days ago, and she knew about the flowers, gifts and romantic notes Helen had been receiving. The older woman had been flustered, but she looked like she was glowing from the attention.

Sam came to her, wrapping his arms around her waist and moving her away from the stove, her ass hitting a cupboard behind her. “Because she’s my mother and she isn’t really sure where they’re coming from. It could be some nut job or a crazy stalker.”

Maddie pushed on Sam’s broad chest, lifting an eyebrow at him as she met his gaze, trying not to let herself fall into his gorgeous eyes. “Just because she’s your mother does not mean she can’t have a beau. If anyone deserves happiness, it’s her. And I doubt very much that a stalker or a nut job would send such thoughtful, respectful notes trying to court her.”

Sam looked startled. “You knew about it? And you didn’t tell me?” His surprised look turned into a frown.

“Yes. I just found out a few days ago and your mom looks happy. You and Simon need to leave her alone unless something inappropriate happens. This man obviously adores her and you don’t need to ruin it for her,” Maddie admonished him. “And I haven’t had a chance to tell you. We’ve been occupied the last few evenings.” Honestly, her husband had been insatiable. After returning from an overnight business trip a few days ago, it was like he had to make up for lost time by taking her straight to the bedroom. Or taking her on the couch. Or in the kitchen. Not that she was exactly complaining.

“We had to spend nearly forty¬eight hours apart. I missed you,” Sam replied huskily, his eyes riveted on her lips.

“I could tell,” she told him softly, her core clenching at the memories of the proof of just how much he’d missed her. “Just let things evolve with your mom, okay? I think it’s all very mysterious and romantic.”

“She’s my mother,” he grumbled.

“She’s also a woman who needs love,” Maddie reminded him.

“Simon and I love her.”

“And she loves you. But didn’t you still want me? She deserves to be romanced,” Maddie argued, pushing out of his embrace and crossing her arms stubbornly across her chest, tapping her foot impatiently, waiting for her husband to be reasonable. “Let her have this romance, Sam. Please. For me.” Okay. She was playing dirty and she knew it, but Helen was so happy, and she didn’t want to see Sam and Simon destroy it.

“Fuck! I hate it when you play that card. You know I can’t say no,” Sam answered, disgruntled. “But I’m keeping extra security on her to make sure this guy isn’t a psycho.”

Yep. She knew he couldn’t say no if she asked him to do something for her. And she rarely used that tactic because she did know that Sam would do anything for her, and she didn’t want to prey on his vulnerability. But dammit…this was important. “Thank you. I’ll return the favor when you want something,” she told him solemnly, still in awe that this strong, powerful man would bend to make her happy.

“Sunshine…I do want something,” he told her with a naughty grin, his hands dropping to the counter, imprisoning her against the cupboard.

Maddie sighed and placed her hands on his chest, wanting nothing more than to let Sam have his way with her, any way he wanted it. But…

“Wait. I have something I need to tell you,” she answered urgently, knowing she had to get Sam’s attention before he kissed her. Once that happened…she’d be a goner.

He straightened up and put his hands on her shoulders, rubbing up and down her arms as he asked, “What is it, Sunshine?”

Her heart fluttered as she heard the genuine concern in his tone. Sam had transformed from horny lover to concerned husband faster than she could blink. Her man was made up of so many layers, every one of them appealing as hell. No wonder she couldn’t resist him, loved him with every cell in her body.

She had no hesitation in telling Sam he was going to be a daddy. She’d planned a nice dinner and wine, imagined telling him after they had relaxed. But the joy she’d been feeling all day bubbled up inside her, clamoring to be shared with the man she loved. “I’m pregnant,” she blurted out, far from the delicate way she had planned on delivering the news.

Sam’s expression went from astonished…to ecstatic…and then to one of apprehension. “Why?”

Maddie smirked, unable to resist her husband’s stunned reaction. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she reminded him teasingly, “You took the job of getting me this way pretty seriously. I’m not sure why you’re surprised. Does Dr. Hudson need to give you a refresher on how a woman gets pregnant?”

Sam let out a whoop and grabbed her around the waist. Her feet left the ground as he twirled her in a circle before gently dropping her back to her feet again. “I can’t believe it. Are you sure?” he asked, his voice vibrating with emotion.

Laughing softly, she answered, “Sam…I’m a doctor. When I missed my period, I tried not to get my hopes up. I’m irregular. But I took three different tests, and they were all positive. So yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

Sam speared a hand into her hair and lowered his head, resting his forehead against hers, “Are you happy?” he asked her nervously.

“You know I am. Sometimes I feel like this is all a dream. You. Us. A baby. I’m so happy it’s almost frightening,” she answered honestly.

“It’s no dream, sweetheart,” Sam said, stroking her hair lovingly, his hand trembling slightly. “Oh, Christ!”

“What?” Maddie jerked her head back to look at his face. He was obviously upset. “What is it, Sam? You’re scaring me.”

“We had sex, Maddie. Rough, crazy sex. Over and over in the last few days. The baby—”

“It won’t hurt the baby, Sam. Sex is perfectly fine,” she answered with a soft laugh.

“I shouldn’t have been so rough. God, if I’d known you were pregnant—”

“If you would have known, we still would have had the same out¬of¬this¬world sex. Sam…our baby will be fine. Trust me,” she replied, unable to wait a moment longer to kiss him. Jerking his lips to hers, she buried her hands in his hair and savored the taste of him, nipping softly at his bottom lip before soothing it with her tongue.

Sam’s control lasted about a second before he grasped the back of her head and slid his other arm completely around her waist, bringing her tightly against him as he ravished her mouth with his tongue, hot and hungry, just the way she liked it.

After he’d kissed her senseless, he groaned, pulling his mouth from hers and rested his forehead against her shoulder. “I hope it’s a girl. She’ll be a beautiful miracle just like her mother.”

“I honestly don’t care. I just want your baby. Our baby.” Maddie sighed, her whole body tingling from his kiss and begging for Sam’s possession. She pressed her body closer, rubbing against him sensually.

“Maddie, stop. You know I can’t control myself when you do that,” Sam told her sternly, but his voice was filled with longing.

“I’m hoping you won’t,” she told him sensually, sliding a hand down his chest and tracing the hard lines of his cock with her fingertips.

“If you don’t quit, I’ll have you naked and on your back in ten seconds,” Sam warned her, but his voice was almost hopeful now.

Her fingers continued to torment him, persistent, her touch becoming firmer as she smiled up at him. She started counting out loud:

“One.”

“Are you sure it’s okay?” Sam asked, his desperate eyes meeting hers, his desire and concern appearing to be in conflict.

“Yes. Positive. I would never do anything to harm our child.”

“Fuck. That feels so good, Sunshine.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

Her shirt hit the floor.

“Four.”

Her bra hit the ground.

“Five.”

“Six.”

“Seven.”

The shorts she was wearing and her panties fell to her feet at the same time.

Sam picked her up with growl, “Fuck it. I trust you, Sunshine.”

They never made it to the bedroom and Maddie never made it to the count of ten. Sam had her on her back and moaning in record time, right there in the kitchen.

Dinner burned.

They happily ordered out a few hours later.

Heart Of The Billionaire (Book Two)

The Billionaire Salvation (Book Three)
 
The Billionaire’s Game (Book Four)

     Billionaire Undone – Book Five

Billionaire Unmasked – Book Six
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 Bililonaire Untamed – Book Seven 

Billionaire Unbound –  Book Eight 

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Billionaire Undaunted – Coming June 7th 

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J.S.
Scott is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of steamy
romance. She’s an avid reader of all types of books and literature.
Writing what she loves to read, J.S. Scott writes both contemporary
steamy romance stories and paranormal romance erotics. They almost
always feature an Alpha Male and have a happily ever after because she
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The Bureau of Holiday Affairs by Andi Marquette Sneak Peek &Rafflecopter giveaway 11/7/15

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Book Title:The Bureau of Holiday Affairs
Author: Andi Marquette
Genre: Holiday Romance (Novel)
Release Date: November 15, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

Executive Robin Preston has dedicated her life to climbing the corporate ladder, using whatever means necessary. In the shark-infested culture at Frost Enterprises, anything goes, and Robin is a master at the game.

On the verge of a major promotion, Robin receives a strange visit from Agent Elizabeth Tolson of the Bureau of Holiday Affairs, who informs Robin that, though Robin may be a lost cause, the Bureau has scheduled her for intervention. Robin will receive three visitors in the two weeks before Christmas, who will escort her on visits to her past, present, and future.

Robin will be forced to face not only who she’s become, but the parts of herself she left behind, when she was an art major in college and in love with fellow art student Jill Chen, in whom Robin found a kindred spirit—until Jill broke if off with her. In order for Robin to change her ways, she’ll need to reclaim who she was and open her heart again, to a past she thought she left behind.

The Bureau clearly has its work cut out for it, but Agent Tolson relishes a challenge, and she’s put together just the team for Robin’s case. They may have to cut a few corners and go outside a few lines, but Agent Tolson has a perfect salvage record and she’s not about to let that change. The question is, will Robin?

excerpt

Robin signed the paperwork and slid it aside. Maybe it was a dick move to fire people this close to Christmas— bleeding hearts would probably rag on her, but oh, well. The bottom line was the bottom line, and she didn’t need to burden the company with extra weight into the new year. Even though sales were up a bit, Robin didn’t want to take chances.

She answered a few emails and added a couple of figures to an upcoming presentation, which was sure to get her noticed as a CEO for a subsidiary, before she picked up the earlier paperwork. Robin walked the paperwork across the expanse of carpet in her office, past the sleek leather couch against the wall and the mini-fridge next to it, through the heavy mahogany doors to her assistant’s desk, positioned behind short cubicle walls.

“I need these scanned and sent to HR before lunch,” she said as she set the papers next to Laura’s keyboard. She retreated to her office before Laura could give her one of her questioning looks. Laura was damn good at her job, Robin conceded, but sometimes she acted like Robin’s conscience, like a little angel sitting on her shoulder. The last thing Robin needed or wanted was recrimination, silent or otherwise, on how she did her job.

Robin sat down and glanced at the clock on her laptop monitor. Not even ten yet. Her office door opened, and she looked up, irritated. Laura usually knocked.

“Good morning, Ms. Preston,” the newcomer said in a clipped British accent as she shut the door behind her. She wore a burgundy pants suit and sleek black high heels that looked like something a woman might’ve worn in the forties. Come to think of it, Robin thought as she studied her, the visitor looked a bit retro, like a forties professional woman. She also carried a classic black briefcase.

“And who are you?” Robin asked.

The woman approached Robin’s desk. “Your ten o’clock.” She smiled, pleasant.

“I don’t think—” Robin reached for her desk phone. How did Laura miss this? She picked up the phone. It was dead. She looked at her laptop. The screen was blank. She picked up her cell phone. Blank as well. She set it on her desk, wary.

The woman sat in one of the chairs in front of Robin’s desk and placed her briefcase on her lap. “I’ll just get right to it,” she said. “I’m Elizabeth Tolson, senior agent at the Bureau of Holiday Affairs.”

“Okay, you can stop right there. I don’t have an appointment with you, I have no idea who you are, and—” She stopped, puzzled. “The Bureau of what?”

“Holiday Affairs.” The latches on Tolson’s briefcase clicked as she opened it.

“This is a joke, right?” Had to be Robin’s brother. He was always trying to get her to loosen up, especially around Christmas.

“Absolutely not. The Bureau does not engage in such.” Tolson removed a small case from the briefcase, opened it, and took out a pair of gold-framed eyeglasses that she put on. The earpieces looped around her ears. Very vintage. Next, she took a thick brown accordion file from the briefcase and set the briefcase on the floor by her feet.

“What is that?” Robin leaned forward, unnerved.

“Your dossier.” Tolson undid the fastener—a string that looped around a small cardboard disk—on the accordion file. Robin hadn’t seen one of those in years.

“My what? Who the hell are you?”

Tolson opened the file and took out a manila folder, which she opened with a practiced flip. “Preston, Robin Anne. Date of birth, June 15, 1978.” She looked up from the file. “Seattle, Washington. Lovely city.”

“Okay, this isn’t funny. The joke is over.” Robin pushed back from her desk. She would kill Frank, if he was responsible for this.

“Bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon. Business.” Tolson regarded her over the top of her glasses. “But you started in art.”

Robin was halfway to the door before Tolson spoke again. “Master’s in business, University of Pennsylvania.” Robin’s fingers closed around the door knob, and she turned it. A strange sensation shot up her arm and into her chest, like a mild electrical shock. She pulled her hand back and started to reach for the knob again when she realized she was seated once again behind her desk. Her fingers trembled, and the small of her back was damp with nervous sweat.

“Somewhat of a business prodigy,” Tolson said. “Rose quickly here at Frost Enterprises.” She closed the file and let it lie flat in her lap. “The next logical step in your progression is CEO, most likely of an up-and-coming subsidiary.” She took her glasses off, disengaging them carefully from her ears. She held them in one hand.

“How do you have all that information on me? That has to be illegal,” Robin said, regaining some of her equilibrium amidst a flash of anger. “I assure you, Ms. Tolson, you will be hearing from my attorney.”

“Gerald Moorhouse, of Moorhouse, Sanders, and Craig.” Tolson sat back and regarded her with a gaze as readable as England’s cliffs of Dover. “The Bureau has scheduled a meeting with him, as well. But that’s neither here nor there.” She smiled, the kind of indulgent but patronizing smile Robin remembered from some of her childhood teachers who were about to phone her mom.

“How do you know my lawyer?” She picked up her desk phone receiver again and held it to her ear. Still dead. She replaced it with extra emphasis.

“Ms. Preston, in all honesty, I argued against this meeting. At your annual case review—”

“My what? What are you talking about?”

“The Bureau analyzes hundreds of individual cases each year. At its discretion, it assigns certain cases to agents based on several factors. Those include whether the Bureau’s Board of Advisors feels the individual is salvageable.”

Salvageable? Robin’s previous indignation dissolved into uncertainty. “What does that mean?”

“Redeemable, basically.” Tolson tapped the file on her lap with her glasses. “Strong childhood, good deeds interspersed with the usual foibles and mistakes of children that carried over into high school. Overall, you displayed general acts of kindness along with the usual high school drama and angst, the latter of which was exacerbated most certainly by your struggles to keep your sexual orientation hidden until college.” Tolson regarded her. “No doubt to cope with your father’s indiscretions and continued absences.”

Robin hadn’t realized she was gripping the edge of her desk until her fingertips hurt. She forced herself to relax her hands. “That’s personal. How the hell do you know that?” She would kill Frank. With her bare hands.

“We at the Bureau of Holiday Affairs know most everything about you, Ms. Preston. Within proper parameters, of course.”

“What do you mean?”

“We know when you’re sleeping. We know when you’re awake. And we know when you’ve been bad or good.” Tolson cocked her head. “Surely you’re familiar with that adage.”

Robin stared at her. She had to hand it to Frank. This was by far her brother’s best practical joke since…well, it had been a while. She was unnerved enough that she didn’t even remember sitting down after that weird shock at the door. And since it was clearly a joke—there was no other way anybody could know that much about her—she decided to relax and go along with it. Besides, who actually used that line from a goofy Christmas song?

“We noticed a change, however, your third year of college.” Tolson tapped the manila file again, this time with one of her fingertips. Perfectly manicured, Robin noticed. Her nail polish matched her suit. Once this was over, and after she chewed Frank a new asshole, she might track Tolson down and ask her out.

“We attributed the change to Jill Chen’s breakup with you, your mother’s death, and in the following months, an overall existential crisis that left you bereft of previous foundations. And, unfortunately, drove you to engage in indiscretions in your personal life. No doubt modeled by your father.”

“Really? An existential crisis? Care to elaborate?” She smirked, choosing to ignore the reference to her mother.

“I believe you would refer to it as, and I quote, ‘an increase in general asshole-ness.’”

Robin’s smirk shifted to a frown. That was a low blow on Frank’s part.

“Not to correlate that with business school or business in general. There are thousands of individuals engaged in business pursuits all over the world who do not slide into asshole-ness.” She added emphasis to the last word to indicate she was still quoting Robin. “In your case, however, it seems you used your new field as a way to mask older and better ways of approaching problems and to emphasize less desirable characteristics in their stead.” Tolson paused and took another sheet of paper out of the file and put her glasses back on. “I’ll cite one example here. Allison Wagner.”

Robin clenched her teeth. “Her résumé wasn’t as strong as mine.”

“Nevertheless, deliberately misdirecting her with regard to the deadline date for the fellowship was simply not sporting. And Matthew Jacobs?”

Frank was toast. How did he even know about that?

“Mr. Jacobs developed the business plan that you submitted as your own to win the seminar competition your last year of classwork during your master’s degree.” Somehow, Tolson’s accent made it sound even worse.

“To your credit,” Tolson continued, “you did appear to experience some remorse about that. And about Wagner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after the fact.” Tolson slipped the paper back into the folder and removed her glasses.

“It was just business.”

Tolson raised her eyebrows. “There are standards regarding ethics in business as well, Ms. Preston.”

Robin hunched her shoulders. “That was years ago.”

“Lydia Evans,” Tolson responded. “Joseph Spinelli.”

Robin sat up straighter. “There is no way in hell you could know that. I just signed those papers this morning.” Nervous sweat gathered at her collar. Had Laura tipped her?

“I told you, Ms. Preston,” Tolson said. “It is the Bureau’s job to know these things.” She retrieved her briefcase from the floor, put the manila folder in it, and returned her glasses to their case before she put it inside as well. She latched the briefcase and returned it to the floor.
“Now. As I was saying, I argued against this visit because I don’t think you’re redeemable.”

“Hold on. What does that mean?” Screw Frank. She’d drag more info out of Tolson.

“In more casual parlance, I believe you are a lost cause. Some people continue to engage in behaviors that are generally motivated by mean-spiritedness or a lack of empathy for their fellows. They learn these behaviors at some point during their lives and continue to use them as coping mechanisms. Some cases are, of course, genuinely unredeemable due to various psychological issues that the Bureau doesn’t handle, but others might be, given the opportunity to change their ways.” She tapped the arm of her chair a few times. “Many of these have what you might call an epiphany, and surprisingly, it does stick.”

“So you’re my epiphany?” Robin said, sarcastic.

Tolson smiled. “Of course not. I’m your current case manager. Not that I was pleased about that, since I have a one hundred percent rating at the Bureau for ensuring that my cases have their redeemable moment. Or moments. Some need a progression of smaller epiphanies to point them in the right direction.” She straightened. “But I don’t shy from a challenge, even though I am on record as strongly advising against this course of action where you’re concerned.”

Typical bureaucrat, Robin thought. Passing the buck.

“Regardless of your opinion regarding my place of employment and methodologies,” Tolson said, as if she’d read Robin’s mind, “I am here to do a job. With that in mind, you will have three more visitors between now and Christmas Day.”

You have to be kidding. Robin fought an urge to roll her eyes.

Tolson stood and picked up her briefcase. “They will, of course, keep me informed on your case.”

“Of course.” Robin put extra snark in her tone.

“They don’t necessarily share their tactics with me ahead of time, so I can’t speak to those. But they all know they have two weeks before Christmas Day to schedule their visits in coordination with each other. And once this process has begun, the Bureau does not stop it for any reason.” She paused, as if letting that sink in.

“What if I don’t want your visitors?”

“Our cases never do. No one likes the mirrors we hold up to them.” She smoothed the front of her jacket. “Good luck, Ms. Preston.” She turned and moved effortlessly to the door, which she opened with no problem. It closed with a soft click behind her.

Robin let out a breath. “Frank, you dick,” she muttered. She reached for her cell phone just as a knock sounded on the door. “Come in.”

Laura entered. She held a stack of papers up and moved toward Robin’s desk.

“Did Ms. Tolson leave a card?” Robin asked as Laura handed her the papers.

“Who?”

“Ms. Tolson. The woman who was just here.”

Laura’s brow creased in puzzlement. “Here? In your office?”

Robin studied her. “You didn’t see her?”

“No. You were just at my desk with the other paperwork.” Robin glanced at her laptop screen, which was functional now. The clock on it read 9:59 A.M. “What the hell?” she muttered.

“Ma’am?”

“Never mind.” Robin stood. She’d go for a coffee. A big, strong cup from the café at street level. That would cure anything. “I’ll be right back.” She left Laura in her office and headed for the elevators. She was just working too hard. She always got stressed this time of year. But she couldn’t shake the chill wrapped around her spine.

The elevator doors opened onto the spacious lobby of the Frost building.

“Good morning, Ms. Preston.” The guard at the info desk nodded at her. She could never remember his name.

“Did you see a woman come through here a few minutes ago? Burgundy suit, dark hair, briefcase?”

“No.”

“You’re sure? It would’ve been the last ten or fifteen minutes.”

“No, ma’am. Hold on and I’ll check the cameras.” He appeared to be looking at something beneath the counter. “No. Nobody like that. Would you like to see?”

She shook her head and continued to the exit. She was definitely working too hard.

Meet the Author

me n hatAndi Marquette is a native of New Mexico and Colorado and an award-winning mystery, science fiction, and romance writer. She also has the dubious good fortune to be an editor who spent 15 years working in publishing, a career track that sucked her in while she was completing a doctorate in history. She is co-editor of All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance. Her most recent novels are Day of the Dead, the Goldie-nominated finalist The Edge of Rebellion, and the romance From the Hat Down, a follow-up to the Rainbow Award-winning novella, From the Boots Up.

When she’s not writing novels, novellas, and stories or co-editing anthologies, she serves as both an editor for Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that features speculative fiction written by women and as co-admin of the popular blogsite Women and Words. When she’s not doing that, well, hopefully she’s managing to get a bit of sleep.

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The Rider List by JT Charles Sneak Peek 9/20/15

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Book Title: The Rider List
Author: J.T. Charles
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: September 28, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

Book Blurb

THE FADING LINE BETWEEN WANT AND NEED

Evan: She has no idea who I really am. It’s the perfect situation. After an incident that causes me to re-evaluate my life, I’ve come here to escape the demands of my career. The last thing I expect to find is a woman who doesn’t see me through the prism of my fame. She’s that woman, the one who allows me to unleash desires I’ve suppressed for years.

Audrey: He’s gorgeous and brazenly confident. He’s exactly who I don’t need to meet at this point in my life, but I have no choice. Drawn in by his relentless seduction, I’m soon taking chances I never thought I’d take, letting go of fear and letting him over my protective wall, while having the most sensual experiences of my life.

What starts as a perfect distraction for both of us quickly becomes an entanglement of scorching hot sex, closely held secrets that could tear it all apart, and moments that will shape us for the rest of our lives.

**Due to mature content, this book is recommended for readers 18 and older.**

(This is a full-length novel with no cliff-hanger.)

excerpt

The sun peaks out from behind the clouds, making a little steam rise from the wet sidewalk. This early, and already the humidity is setting in. I round the corner, beach view off to my right, the path lined with palmetto trees and knee-high beach grass in the sand.

I walk up the steps to the porch and knock on the door. As expected, there’s no answer. It wouldn’t hurt to do one walk-through of the place before he arrives, so I use my master key and go in.

Everything looks clean and perfect, the air conditioner is set at 72, drawing the humidity out of the air. There’s a welcome basket on the counter that contains nothing on his list. I consider removing it, but decide to leave it. I go upstairs and check the six rooms. Everything looks good.

If he’s staying by himself, he’ll surely be using the master bedroom, so I go back downstairs.

The blinds are closed, so I walk around to the other side of the bed to open them and almost trip over a set of bags.

“Hello.” The voice behind me is low and smooth.

I turn and see a man dressed in blue shorts. His white t-shirt is off but it’s slung over his left shoulder. He’s wearing a baseball cap, but I don’t know what the insignia on it means. His shoulders and chest are broad, and his left bicep flexes a little as he leans on the doorjamb. He looks like someone who just walked in off the beach, not at all like the guy I was expecting.

“I’m Audrey Mitchell. Mr. Lewis, right?”

“Yes.”

I step away from the window and toward him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were already here. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have—”

“It’s fine,” he says, cutting me off mid-sentence. “I’m used to finding strange people in my bedroom.”

I pause, unsure what to say. I’ve just apologized.

He smiles. “Relax.” He looks down at my chest and I think he’s appraising me, looking at my boobs, but he looks up immediately. “I’m just fucking with you, Audrey. Nice to meet you.” He lifts a hand.

This is the first time in my life anyone has ever said any form of the word “fuck” when we first met. I don’t sense arrogance from this guy, but rather a confidence I’ve never seen in anyone I’ve met.

I take his hand. “Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Lewis.”

“Please, call me Adam.”

I’m suddenly aware that he’s still holding my hand. Or am I holding his? I pull back a little, and he lets my hand go.

“Adam,” I say. “When did you arrive?”

“A little after four this morning.”

So Jeanine checked him in and forgot to mention that critical bit of information to me. She was hurrying out the door, though.

“I was just taking a walk on the beach.” He pushes off the doorjamb and walks past me, to the bathroom. I notice he has something in his mouth. It’s white, and I realize it’s a mint. I hear the water running in the sink, then splashing, and figure he’s washing his face.

This is the part that’s always hardest for me. The small talk. I’m not into small talk. It’s boring, it’s forced, usually meaningless. It’s the one part of the job that I don’t like, but that goes with any job, I suppose.

“Hope you didn’t get caught in the rain,” I say.

He steps out of the bathroom, blotting his face with a hand towel. He has taken his hat off. His hair is sandy blond and short. “How long have you worked here?”

I take his question as more small talk and answer, “Two weeks,” but I’m wrong about the chit-chat.

“How old are you?”

It’s an odd question. I’ve never been asked this before at this job or any other, but I see no smooth way to refuse to answer. “Twenty-two.”

He nods, then tosses the towel back in the bathroom. He takes a few steps toward me. Close enough that I can see his green eyes.

Usually, I would be put off by a guy staring into my eyes like he does, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I look back at him, then his gaze travels down to my chest, legs, feet, then back up. A brazen assessing scan if I ever saw one.

I’ve had guys check me out before, but they usually try to do it secretly. He doesn’t make the slightest effort. It’s almost like he wants me to know.

“I need to know that I can trust you. That I can count on your discretion.” I can smell the peppermint on his breath, and God, the hard lines of his jaw make me want to reach up and touch them.

I swallow hard, suddenly finding myself wondering about him. “Of course,” I say, and it’s no lie. In fact, I’d be breaking company policy if I were to violate any guest’s privacy. If that’s what he means. What does he mean?

Meet the Author

J.T. Charles lives in the southeastern United States and is the author of The Rider List.

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