Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Leo Laporte and Scott Schaeffer are teammates on the ice and roommates off it who also share women. They’ve been coming into Kelly Chase’s bistro after games for months, and they know they want her. As the attraction grows, the men realize they want more than a one-night stand – they want forever.
Kelly’s not so sure. Yes, she wants both men. But a permanent ménage relationship? That’s taking giving her heart away to a whole new level, and a chance she’s hesitant to take. Then Leo is injured and Scott’s on the trading block, and she realizes this may be her only shot at true, everlasting love.
There are so many questions swirling around inside Kelly’s head. Can she believe in Leo and Scott’s love? And will her business and her reputation survive once people find out she’s with two men?
Why do you need to read this book?
This story is a great menage story. It is realistic and the chemistry between the guys and Kelly is off the charts hot!
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Today we are going to talk about A Naughty Little Christmas by Randi Alexander, Ann Bruce, Aliyah Burke, Opal Carew, Dawn Halliday, Yvette Hines, Christin Lovell and Paige Tayler.
This book has been released for the Christmas season at 99 cents. I, like quite a few others have grabbed a copy of this anthology and enjoyed reading it! How can you lose buying 8 books for 99 cents?
Like most anthologies I’ve read, I liked some of the stories more than others, but all in all, a great deal!
* * *
COWBOYS, COPS, AND KILTS FEATURING EIGHT BESTSELLING AUTHORS & EIGHT SEASONALLY SEDUCTIVE ROMANCES Only 99 cents for a limited time! 646 PAGES – YOU SAVE $20.88!
THIS YEAR, HIT THE NAUGHTY LIST! 18+
COWBOY JACKPOT: CHRISTMAS
Cowboy Jackpot Series, Book 1
Award Winning Novella. A lucky first kiss in front of a Las Vegas slot machine pays off big for bull rider Boone Hancock and college student Gigi Colberg-Staub.
A NAUGHTY NOELLE
The 19th Precinct, Book 1.5
It’s cold and snowing and dark when a vice cop meets the perfect woman for him, all the while bad men with guns are chasing after him.
HOLIDAY SURPRISE: UNWRAPPED
Recuperating in wintery Massachusetts, Heath Dixon gives cold-hating Kassia Green something much hotter to focus on. But can he keep her after Christmas? Like…forever?
Given one chance to break the curse which has held Angelique in its grip for two hundred years, she is faced with a heart-rending decision. Can she sacrifice Nick’s happiness for her own freedom?
A HIGHLANDER FOR THE HOLIDAYS
In the wintery Highland mountains, Aileen and Niall unleash their forbidden passion. But Aileen is promised to another this Christmas, and the wicked Lowlander will stop at nothing to have her.
Even during the holidays a woman can have one reckless night that will change her life forever…especially when the man she was with is determined to prove they belong together.
HER XMAS PRESENT
After being apart from each other for a year, Libby and Tyler realize their feelings for one another are more than platonic. Are they willing to risk years of friendship on a chance at love?
ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS
Hayley Knowles has always fantasized about getting spanked by her husband, Conner. But how can she possibly ever get her husband to do it, especially since she’s too shy to tell him? This is the holiday season, though, so maybe Hayley might get exactly what she wants for Christmas!
A Naughty Little Christmas is available:
Randi Alexander @Randi_Alexander
An award winning author, Randi Alexander’s romance novels, cowboys and cowgirls are “Rode Hard and Put Up Satisfied” for your reading enjoyment. She loves to hear from fans at http://RandiAlexander.comand https://www.facebook.com/
Ann Bruce is the pseudonym for a self-professed computer geek who, in between snowboarding, reading comic books, and wearing out the buttons of her PS3 controller, writes because it’s an acceptable means of explaining all the voices in her head.
Aliyah Burke is a bestselling author who writes across multiple genres with one paramount belief …happily ever afters are a must. With four dogs, one cat and a military man who married her, her days are full. Join Aliyah at: http://www.aliyah-burke.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/
Opal Carew @OpalCarew
As a USA Today Bestselling author of steamy contemporary romance, Opal Carew writes about passion, love, and taking risks. Her heroine’s follow their hearts and push past the fear that stops them from realizing their dreams… to the excitement and love of happily-ever-after
Dawn Halliday @JenniferHaymore
Yvette Hines @sasseYvetteH
Christin Lovell @christinlovell
An author of paranormal and contemporary romance for the old and the young, Christin Lovell likes her coffee strong, and her alphas stronger. Connect with her at http://www.christinlovell.com andwww.facebook.com/
Paige Tyler @PaigeTyler
“Aaah!” Looking up she saw a man walking along the side of the road. “Oh, my God, don’t let me hit him.” Honking her horn and jerking the wheel left toward the street she swerved around, barely missing him, until the rear of her car fishtailed. Thump!
Tires screeched as she slammed on the brakes. Throwing the car into park, she slung the door open, vaulted out of the car and ran towards the back of it. A man lay on the ground illuminated in the red glow of her taillights.
“Are you okay? Are you okay?” She kneeled down beside him and fanned her hand over his face. “Sir…sir?”
“If there’s any mercy left in the word, you’ll stop yelling.” His head rolled toward her, gaze locking.
Reaching out, she brushed her fingers along the side of his forehead. “You’re bleeding.”
“And I’ve just been touched by an angel. A pretty caramel-brown angel.” He smiled.
Her stomach flipped. “How do you feel? Can you sit up?”
“You betcha.” Proving his words true, he sat up. He reached his hand up to feel his head and winced. Looking at the blood on his fingertips, he declared, “Good thing I have a hard head. I think I’ll live.” Sitting there with his dark hair falling over his brow made him look like a modern James Dean.
Unwillingly, her lips turned up on the sides. The humor behind his words caused her to do what she hadn’t done in a year–smile. What was it about this man?
“I’m sorry…my car hit a bump…and I didn’t see you…until it was too late.” She knew she was rambling.
The lopsided smile he gave her let her know he knew it too. “No sweat. I shouldn’t have been walking in the dark.” He held her eye contact.
His level gaze caused her stomach to flip-flop again. “Were you headed somewhere?”
Rising to his feet, he closed his eyes for a moment and took a breath as if to stabilize himself. Opening them again, he swiped his hand across the back of his pants removing the dirt and gravel. “My car broke down before the exit ramp. I was on my way to town.”
She stood as well, almost meeting him eye to eye. He had to be an inch or two over six feet, she was five ten and he still had her by a bit. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Noticing her height, his gaze traveled down the length of her body. Returning to her face, he lifted an eyebrow and inclined his head. It was an appreciative gesture like when one sees the value in a work of art. “Peachy.”
Tingling sensations ran down the front of her body everywhere his gaze touched. She cleared her throat. “I’m going into town. I could give you a lift.”
“Didn’t your mother teach you not to pick up strangers?” he questioned.
“Yea.” She looked at his wound. “I could leave you out here to bleed to death if you’d prefer?”
The sky chose that moment to open up and present a show of force. Cold, fat drops of rain battered their clothes.
“I believe I’ll take you up on your offer.”
They darted towards her car. Once inside they closed the door against the heavy wind. “It’s always great when a man can see reason.” She rolled up the driver’s side window.
He laughed, deep and masculine. She liked it.
The interior of the car was dark, caused by the overhead lamp that broke years ago. Doug promised to fix it, but never got around to it.
Thunder rumbled outside.
Not wanting to think about her ex, she stuck her hand out in his general direction. “Amber.”
Lightening shot from the sky, light flashed in the car as if someone were taking a picture of them. Of that moment.
Seeing her hand, he grasped it. “Chris.”
For a moment, they sat just like that, in silence, neither of them moving.
His thumb stroked the back of her hand then let go.
* * *
A HIGHLANDER FOR THE HOLIDAYS
By Dawn Halliday
Aileen smiled. “Do you remember the tree stump?”
“Aye. How could I forget?”
Whenever either of them had seen Munro in one of his rages, they’d lay a piece of heather over the stump of a fallen birch tree in the bailey to warn the other to stay clear of Munro that day. Her warnings had saved Niall from beatings at least a dozen times.
“The stump is gone,” he mused. Upon riding through the castle gates, he’d been assailed by memories of his time here, and he’d looked for the stump, only to find smooth ground where it had once been.
She nodded. “’Twas dug up a few years ago. I miss it. It saved me many times.”
“Aye,” he said gruffly. “Me too.”
The reminiscent look on her face called to him. His body resonated with the urge to draw her lush body into his arms, to hold her, comfort her…make love to her…
He shook himself free of that thought. “’Tis good I have been gone so long. Otherwise, I dinna think…” I could have kept my hands off you.
“Is that why you went away?” she asked. “You felt you couldna protect me from him?” She laughed, a soft, smooth sound that slipped under his skin like a warm caress. “If you defended the honor of every wife whose husband took a mistress, you’d be occupied every minute of the day.”
“I’ve no desire to defend every wife,” he said. “Only you.”
Her gaze strayed away, and she didn’t speak. Instead, she took his hand and drew him toward the fire. The gold glow of the lantern light caught the subtle sheen of tears in her eyes before she knelt at his feet to remove his shoes.
Niall stiffened at the gesture. This was inappropriate. He touched his fingers to the top of her head. “Please dinna kneel.”
She bowed her head. “Let me help you prepare for your bath, Niall. ’Twill me great pleasure.”
“I’m your servant, milady.” He’d do anything she asked of him. Even watch her bow at his feet when he ought to be bowing before her.
His fingers itched to stroke her head, to touch that sleek black fall of hair, to caress the gentle slope of her cheekbone. But the Mackenzie had sent Niall here to fetch his sister, to accompany her to Ellandonan as her protector, not to seduce her. To touch her would be to betray his oath to the laird.
There would be no way to hide his arousal when she undressed him. He would shame himself.
As her deft fingers worked the laces on his boots, he tried to think of anything but the thought of her hands on his body. He forced his mind to saddling a temperamental horse. To the puffed cheeks of a man playing the bagpipes. To haggis…
She moved behind him and with skilled precision untied his belt, which she placed on the table beside the bed. Niall helped her to lift off his mail shirt and unwrap his plaid. Her fingertips skimmed over the side of his arse as she worked it off him. Just like that, all thoughts of haggis and everything else fled, until there was only Aileen and her touch. Niall gritted his teeth so hard his jaw ached.
Was her touch deliberate? An invitation?
Of course it wasn’t. The mail shirt and plaid dropped to the planked floor. Still standing behind him, she reached down to clasp the bottom of his shirt. In one motion, she pulled it over his head.
He stood naked, his arousal painfully thrust out. Thankfully, she didn’t move from behind him.
“You must be weary,” she said quietly, touching the back of his shoulder with gentle fingers. “One of your men told me how hard you rode from Ellandonan. I…” Her voice caught. “Please,” she whispered. “The bath is ready.”
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Kami has fallen for her boss, J.C., who can’t bring himself to cross the employer-employee line. Until someone pushes him.
When Kendall’s house nearly goes up in flames, Wynne saves the day. She soon learns she needs to do some saving herself to awaken his heart.
Kacey finds success in business and pays the price by losing her husband Daniel to another woman. She needs to be reawakened and reminded why she married him in the first place.
Jaded Kat has been hurt too many times to let love in. It takes a double dose of love from Kaden and Rock to help her see there is hope.
Welcome to Olympus, where Eros, the God of Love seems to be losing his touch. Eros joins forces with Apollo to spread love and lust all over the earth, joining couples everywhere! ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND LUST is a steamy little story that starts with an interesting problem. Love and lust seem to be disappearing on earth. Something or someone seems to be interfering with the path of true love. Eros, the God of Love, is determined to get to the bottom of this problem because without love and lust, there will be no more earth! So, Eros kisses his wife Psyche goodbye and heads to earth to solve the mystery. The clue in the mystery seems to be Eris, the Goddess of Discord. She interferes with the first couple that Eros shoots with his arrows. To overcome the effects of the Goddess of Discord, Eros has to shoot this couple with several arrows and even brings in Apollo as reinforcements. It seems that the problem is much larger than it first appears. Eris isn’t the only god messing with love and lust on Earth. Eros finds and gets rid of several messengers from Hades before righting things on earth. This short little story rocks along! Eros is determined to solve his mystery and we follow him through his work on several couples. The sex is hot, scorching the pages as Eros goes from couple to couple shooting them with arrows. He even mistakenly shoots Apollo in one scene resulting in a steamy hot ménage. This book also serves as a little refresher on the Greek gods as quite a few of them are featured in this story. This book is well written, fast moving, and gripping. At under 200 pages it is possible to read it in one sitting, so pull up a comfy chair and settle in for a good read!
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
On the rebound from the tumult of his bisexual lifestyle, notoriously sexy rock guitarist Trey Mills falls for sizzling new female guitar sensation Reagan Elliot and is swept into the hot, heady romance he never dreamed possible.
She Can’t Get Enough of His Body
Ecstatic to be on tour learning the ropes with Trey’s band, The Sinners, Reagan finds she craves Trey as much as she craves being in the spotlight.
They Both Need More…
When Reagan’s ex, Ethan Connor, enters the scene, Trey’s secret desires come back to haunt him, and pleasure and passion are taken to a whole new level of dangerous desire.
Why do you want to read this book?
I love reading Olivia Cunning’s work! The books that I’ve read of her’s are ultra hot and this one is no exception. A must read!
Excerpt: (R rated)
(from Olivia Cunning’s website)
The pretty, young nurse who had woken him with smelling salts stood just outside the delivery room door. When he walked past her, she perked up and grabbed his arm. She’d been waiting for him. Too easy.
“Hey,” she said breathlessly. “Hey, um, Trey, right?”
He offered her a crooked grin and she flushed, before lowering her wide blue eyes to his chest. He watched her, noting the submission in her stance, the way she swayed toward him slightly. The way her thumb stroked his bare arm just above his elbow.
“Um…” she pressed onward. “I was just about to take a break and wondered if you’d like to go grab a cup of coffee with me.”
Trey’s heart rate kicked up a notch. He turned and took her firmly by both wrists, pressing her back against the wall, their bodies separated by mere inches. He bent his head so his breath would caress her ear as he spoke to her in a low voice. “You don’t want coffee.”
Her pulse raced out of control beneath his fingertips. “I don’t?”
“No, but I know what you do want.”
“What’s that?” Her dark blue eyes flicked upward to meet his. She’d already surrendered and he rarely turned down a good time.
“A hard, slow fuck against the wall.”
“Here?” she whispered, her eyes wide.
He didn’t dare laugh. That would have broken his spell over her. “In that supply closet.” He nodded down the hall.
He held her gaze in challenge, daring her to deny him. She tore her gaze from his and peeked around his body for witnesses before grabbing a handful of his shirt, racing down the hall, unlocking the supply closet, and dragging him inside. The instant the door closed, she wrapped both arms around his neck and plastered her mouth to his. He let her kiss him. Let her touch the hoop piercing his eyebrow and the ones in his ear. He’d show her the one in his nipple, but she was still a little skittish and he knew if he took the upper hand too quickly, she’d balk and either leave or pretend he’d taken advantage of her.
“You’re so sexy,” she murmured against his lips. “Why are you so sexy? I shouldn’t be doing this.”
By this, he assumed she meant unfastening his belt, tugging at his t-shirt, rubbing her firm breasts into his chest, biting his lip.
“I don’t want you to think I normally do this kind of thing,” she said, her hand slipping into his silk boxers to toy with his hardening cock.
He did this kind of thing almost daily, but he wouldn’t make the mistake of telling her that.
“Take off your pants,” he whispered.
When she obeyed, he knew she was in this until the end. Which he estimated would be approximately fifteen minutes in the future.
“Are you really in a rock band?” she asked.
Trey chuckled. Couldn’t help it. Did she seriously not know who he was? It had been a while since a woman had jumped him without knowing he was notorious for this kind of thing. “Yeah, I’m really in a rock band. And I play an actual instrument.”
He grinned. “How did you guess?”
The excitement in her eyes led him to believe she wasn’t half-naked in a supply closet at work because she wanted famous-guitarist Trey. She was pantsless and submissive because she wanted bad-boy Trey. He was all about giving her exactly what she wanted. The walls were concealed behind floor-to-ceiling shelves, so he pressed her back up against the door and trapped her arms on either side of her head. She gasped when he lowered his head to kiss her neck. He nibbled, suckled and licked the pulse point under her jaw until she began to fight his hold with impatience.
“You’re driving me insane,” she said. “Do you have a condom?”
“Are you in a hurry?” he murmured.
“Kinda. My fifteen minute break is almost over.”
“You’re going to be late.” He nipped her earlobe and released her wrist. Trey’s left hand moved down her body and gave her breast a gentle squeeze before moving between her legs. She clung to his hair and then fingered the tiny hoops in his ear, his eyebrow again.
“Do you like piercings?” he whispered. “I have a couple more.”
“Where?” she whispered.
“I didn’t wear the one in my tongue. Didn’t realize I’d have a sweet pussy to lick this early in the morning.”
She moaned in torment. When Trey’s fingers found her clit, she cried out. Damn she was swollen. And wet. And eager. He liked eager. The chase meant nothing to him. He just liked to fuck. Kissing her neck, he stroked her clit rhythmically.
“There’s another in my nipple,” he whispered.
Her hand moved to his chest. She found the ridge of his jewelry under his T-shirt and then she slid her hand up under his clothes to finger it.
“Pull it,” he encouraged. “It makes my balls throb.”
“Do you like that?”
“Try it and see.”
She tugged and he shuddered. “Oh,” she gasped when his hard cock leaped against her thigh.
“Come for me.” He rubbed her clit faster in wide circles until she shuddered hard with orgasm. Her gasping breaths in his ear made him want to join her in bliss. He lifted his head to look at her then. “Where do you want it?”
Dazed, she gazed up at him. “Where do I want what?”
“I have more than one choice?”
He slid a finger inside her slippery pussy and she jerked. “There’s here.” A second finger probed her ass and her eyes widened. “Back here.” He licked her lip and then the ridge of her teeth. “In here.” He slid his hand up from her wrist to intertwine their fingers. “Your capable hands.” He lowered his head to whisper in her ear while he palmed her full breasts with both hands. “Or you can hold me between these. If you’re really kinky…”
“What do you want?” she asked breathlessly.
“No preference.” Which wasn’t exactly true. Seeing the startled look on her face when he’d probed her ass made him crave some backdoor action, but that probably wasn’t the best choice for her if she had to go back to work.
“Regular,” she whispered.
Regular? Since when was anything he did regular? He stifled a laugh, trying to be sensitive to her feelings. “I assume by regular you mean vaginal sex.”
He found a condom in the back pocket of his jeans and tore it open with his teeth. She watched him as if amazed, but didn’t say a word as he applied it.
“Tell me what you want,” he pressed. He had already decided she needed the added psychological stimulation to get off. Demands and directions. Whatever she liked was fine by him. He was game. “I want you to say it.”
She grabbed his hair in both fists and said, “A slow, hard fuck against the wall, just like you said.”
“Where do you want me?”
She shuddered as if the very thought had her near orgasm. “Inside.”
Her hands tightened in his hair and the last shred of her resistance crumbled. “My cunt. Fuck it hard, Trey.”
He lifted her off the floor, pressing her against the door for leverage, and then directed his cock inside her. He loved losing himself in mindless fucking. No worries. No heartache. Just pleasure. He gave her what she wanted, possessing her with hard, deep, slow strokes, but she gave him what he needed to. A temporary reprieve from his turbulent thoughts and his perpetually broken heart. Trey concentrated solely on sensation. He felt no emotional connection as he thrust into her. Never did. Hadn’t since Brian had made love to him back in high school and he’d tossed his heart at the guy’s feet. Twelve years of sex without love. Twelve years of love without sex. And now that Trey had given up on Brian ever loving him or making love to him, he just felt hallow. Empty. Desolate. He doubted anything could fill the empty chasm inside. Certainly not some pretty nurse he’d just met and was fucking in a supply closet. He didn’t even know her name. Didn’t care to.
When she came, he followed her over the edge, his release bringing him that state of tranquility he craved. He wished it lasted longer than thirty seconds. And didn’t have to be followed by a whole lot of awkwardness. He pulled out and removed the expended condom, tossing it in a convenient garbage can on the janitor’s cart and then refastened his jeans and belt. He let her find her panties and scrub pants. Waited until she was dressed before he looked at her. Not that he didn’t want to watch the hot stranger he’d just fucked slide her panties up her legs. He just knew that if he did, she’d start seeing things that weren’t there. Feelings. With feelings came attachment. With attachment came complications. That was the last thing Trey ever wanted.
“I…” she said breathlessly.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said. He pinned her with the look that got him almost anything he wanted. He’d perfected it as a child, modified it as a man, used it unabashedly. She flushed and leaned against the door for support.
“Sometimes a beautiful woman just needs a hard, slow fuck against a wall with a perfect stranger. I understand.”
She gazed at him, looking more dazed than a pothead at a Grateful Dead concert. “Yeah… Perfect.”
“I’ll leave first. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.”
He waited for her to collect enough sense to move out of the way of the door. One hand on the doorknob, Trey took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and kissed her trembling lips. “That is the best sex I’ve ever had against a door in a hospital supply closet.”
“You’re an amazing woman.”
“Will you call me?” she gushed.
He shook his head slightly. “I want to keep my memory of this moment untainted. Let’s not complicate it. Let it be what it’s meant to be. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure.”
Her face twitched with disappointment, but she nodded.
He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead and then let himself into the corridor. He strode towards the bank of elevators at the end of the hall.
Hot nurse a fuzzy memory already, Trey dug his cell phone out of his pocket and called his brother.
“What’s up?” Dare answered.
“Brian and Myrna had a boy.” Trey smiled at the thought of holding Brian’s perfect son for the first time. “They named him Malcolm Trey.”
Dare sniggered. “What the fuck are they thinking? Poor kid.”
“Yeah, but I’m busy.”
Trey grinned. “Busy, huh? What’s her name? I’ll help you entertain her.”
“Not that kind of busy. Remember that stupid contest our publicist came up with: Guitarist for a Year with Exodus End? Today we’re auditioning studio musicians to identify the winner. We do need find someone to take over for Max on rhythm guitar, but this is fuckin’ stupid.” Max was the lead singer of Dare’s band, Exodus End. Max had also played rhythm guitar until recently. “We hoped he’d his carpel tunnel surgery would get us out of this mess, but the surgery fucked up his hand even more. He can’t stand the pain of playing and he’s been advised not to move his wrist for several weeks.”
“That should make jerking off a challenge,” Trey said.
“As if Max needs to jerk off.”
True. The man could have any woman he wanted.
“Hey,” Dare said, “you should come try out. We can make it seem like you entered the contest.”
“You know I can’t do that. I’d never leave Sinners. Not even for you.” Trey stepped on the elevator and made his way down to the lobby. The well-built guy in the elevator smiled at him and let his eyes drift down Trey’s body with appreciation. Trey had to admit he was tempted by the open invitation, but he had a powerful need to hang out with his big brother. Dare understood him. Trey needed that at the moment. More than he needed more meaningless, but amazing, sex with yet another attractive stranger.
“You can help us decide then,” Dare said, drawing Trey’s attention from the way elevator-guy was gnawing on his lips and making Trey want to kiss him. “We’ve narrowed it down to five guitarists based on their demos, but there’s no way to know how many times they redid them before sending them in. They’ll all be playing live for us in about an hour. They can’t fake that.”
Trey stepped off the elevator, winking at Open-Invitation before wandering toward the exit to find a cab.
“Okay, sure. Sounds like fun.” Trey’s phone beeped. “I’ll be there in a few. I’ve got another call.”
Trey disconnected and checked his phone’s screen. Mark? Shit. He considered ignoring him, but knew Mark would just keep calling and calling until Trey finally talked to him. The guy could not take a hint. Might as well get this over with.
“Hey,” Trey answered.
“Are you in town?” Mark asked.
“I’m on tour. You know that.”
“The Sinners News Blog said you flew in to LA this morning because Brian’s wife was in labor.”
Trey wasn’t sure how the owners of that blog knew what was going on with Sinners so quickly. Sometimes they knew more about Sinners’ goings on than Trey knew and he was living it. He guessed he couldn’t deny that he was in town. “Yeah, they had a little boy. Adorable little shit.”
“Yeah, that’s what the site said. 7 pounds 9 ounces. 21 inches. Named him Malcolm Trey. Are you still at the hospital? I could stop by.”
Stalker alert! “Mark, we’ve been through this. I’m not interested in a relationship with you.” Men! They could be such a pain in the ass. Especially if they didn’t know what they were doing back there. Trey had slept with Mark more than once. They’d met in Portland over a year ago and after relieving him of his anal and oral virginity, Trey had taken him to get a tattoo. The guy had moved to Los Angeles a few months later. Trey suspected it was because of him as Mark was relentless in his pursuit. Trey had no problem fucking him, but when Mark had started trying to forge a commitment, Trey was finished with him. The guy could not take a hint. Or blatant rejections. Or flashing neon signs that read: Go the fuck away.
“Who said anything about a relationship? I just wanted to congratulate Brian,” Mark said.
“Do whatever you want. I’ve already left the hospital.”
“Oh.” Mark hesitated. “Are you hungry? I could take you out for breakf—”
“No, I’ve got plans.”
“What kind of plans? Are you seeing someone else?” The jealousy in Mark’s voice was so fucking annoying Trey considered hanging up on him. But then Mark would just call back and blame a bad connection or some stupid shit.
“Yeah,” Trey lied. “I am seeing someone. I’m seriously dating a woman right now.”
“Bullshit,” Mark said.
“It’s not bullshit. I’ve sworn off men for the rest of my life.” When the lie had formed, Trey hadn’t meant it, but now that he’d said it, he decided it was the best idea he’d ever had. Women he could deal with. Men either broke his heart or complicated his life. Exhibit A was upstairs bonding with his son. Exhibit B was on the phone. Exhibits C through triple X were scattered across the US and Canada waiting for Sinners to pass through their area again.
“Whatever, Trey. Come over to my place tonight and I’ll make you dinner. Suck your cock.”
Mark was a decent cook. And he did suck good cock. He was also exceedingly easy on the eyes and had a spectacularly tight ass, but the guy needed to move on. Trey had tried to hook him up with a few different men, but Mark was too hung up on Trey to consider anyone else.
“Can’t or won’t?” he challenged.
“Don’t want to, how’s that?”
Mark sighed loudly. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Mark, what do I have to do to convince you that it’s over between us?”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Shit. Trey was going to have to get his number changed. Again. He honestly didn’t understand why some people couldn’t take a hint. He didn’t want to be in a relationship. Why was that concept so difficult for his sex partners to grasp?
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Margot manages a failing resort on a private tropical island. When the owners demand she turn the business around or they will sell the island, her boyfriend, Jake, suggests contacting a magazine for swingers that runs vacation tours. Nichole, who owns the magazine flies down and makes a proposal for saving all their jobs. But for Margot, it is a two-edged sword. Her sex life with Jake is already faltering due to her insecurities, and the same fears might mean she gets left out of the new plan. Jake convinces her to try new sexual freedoms that might save her job and their relationship. With the help of Jake and some new friends, Margot learns what really constitutes respect, and how to unleash her passion while earning even more of it.
Why do you need to read this book?
It is a cute, ultra hot spicy read
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Publisher: Elora’s Cave
Release: Apr 27, 2012
Source: I purchased a copy of this book to read and review
Blurb: Every spring, Kate risks her life chasing violent storms. Tired of watching her take unnecessary chances, two of her closest friends offer a different thrill. Devoted lovers Snyder and Tripp don’t just share a passion for nature’s fury; they long to have the fearless woman between them.Though reluctant, Kate finds the proposition is too irresistible to refuse. Her acceptance leads to an explosive night of no-holds-barred sex for the threesome. However, when morning dawns, she realizes this type of unusual relationship isn’t one she belongs in.Despite her best efforts to keep the men at arm’s length, Kate is soon facing down the storm of the century with Snyder and Tripp by her side. When Mother Nature intrudes, the trio discovers shelter in each other’s arms. With the hurricane raging outside and passion raging inside, everything is at stake.
* * *
Chasing Sin is an unusual erotic menage. It involves a gay couple that falls in love with a straight woman. Kate studies storms and teaches storms, and as a result is a ferocious storm chaser. She is without fear as she races over county roads to capture data needed in her research. Her two sidekicks, Snyder and Tripp are increasingly concerned about her fearless behaviour. After one particularly heart wrenching close call, the truth ends up coming out. Kate is reluctant at first, but the chemistry explodes between the three of them resulting in an ultra hot night for the three of them.
The next morning, Kate takes off and the boys are lost without their friend and lover.
I found this story to be fast moving and intense. The sex is hot between the three of them and the interaction firey! Ms Brookes has created a great story line that rocks along and great characters that make a believable storyline that is an enjoyable read!
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Distinguished Service by Tori Carrington
Subject: U.S. Marine Mace Harrison
Current Status: On his last leave of absence
Mission: A Secret Undercover Operation…as a Bogus Boyfriend!
Obstacle: This business arrangement is turning a little too pleasurable…
Mace Harrison is a decorated Marine. In his country’s eyes, he’s a hero. But in six months his last tour ends, and Mace’s next step is unclear. Then he meets graphics designer and diner waitress Geneva Davis, and an immediate friendship turns into…well, a business deal. The terms? They feign a relationship to keep her ex-boyfriend off her back, and matchmaking pals off his.
It’s uncomplicated. It’s convenient. And as far as Geneva is concerned, uniformed dudes are entirely resistible—or so she’d always thought. But Mace is wickedly, mouthwateringly hot. And now she’s in a heap of trouble, because this soldier is veryready, willing and able to serve…to her complete satisfaction!
Why do you need to read this book?
Mace Harrison is one of the coolest characters I’ve read in a Blaze book in quite a while. A great, fast read!
(taken from the Harlequin Website)
Lazarus Security was exactly the type of well-oiled engine he could see himself willing to get his hands dirty with.
Mace Harrison squinted into the watery early November sunlight where he stood near the back of the training center strategically located behind the building. Everything at the company was top of the line, including personnel. Situated on several acres just outside Colorado Springs, Lazarus was an extraordinary operation that in a short time was already gaining notable momentum within the private security industry. It was one of the reasons why he was there.
The other was Lazarus partner Darius Folsom.
He nodded at his old friend now.
How far did they go back? Fifteen years, at least. To the first time Mace’s parents had shipped him and his older brother Marcus off to live with his paternal grandfather for the summer? Their military family had moved to yet another house in yet another city and he’d been young enough to need supervision, and old enough to cause trouble because he’d hated moving. And then there was his need to escape the shadow his brother cast that threatened to suffocate him. Dari and his family had lived around the block from his grandfather and he and Mace had become fast friends.
They’d enlisted in the Marines at around the same time—by that point Mace choosing to live at his grandfather’s house, which offered him greater independence—but they hadn’t been stationed together until the past year.
Darius Folsom had recently completed his second tour, but Mace still had a six-month stretch ahead of him. He was back home for a brief week break, investigating job opportunities, Lazarus at the top of the list.
Of course, it was also possible he’d take on that counter-terrorism desk job he’d been offered in Washington, D.C.
And he was purposely ignoring the fact that he was also there to accept an award he didn’t deserve and didn’t want.
The Navy Cross…
A small bit of metal that might as well be the size of a Humvee as far as he was concerned.
Of course, some brave men and women went their entire lives without receiving such an honor.
He supposed he should feel guilty for not wanting it. But considering everything…well, many had made the ultimate sacrifice and received nothing more than a military burial.
How would his brother feel about the medal? He imagined Marcus would give him one of his trademark smirks and slap him hard on the back. “Still running after me, little bro? Think you’ll catch up? You might want to pick up the pace.”
Of course, Mace could only guess at what he’d say. Because Marcus wasn’t there. Not anymore.
But Mace still felt shadow hands choking him from behind, a sensation that was even stronger when he was within a hundred miles of his parents.
A time like now.
“So what do you think?” Dari said hesitantly, after having given him the nickel tour of Lazarus Security, apparently having noticed the darkening of his expression.
“Impressive,” Mace said, shaking off his thoughts although he knew better than to try to rid himself of the shadow; that would be there forever. “Very impressive.”
Darius’s grin was his response.
“Good job, old pal.” Mace squeezed his shoulder. “This is really something. You can tell you’ve put a lot of work into it.”
“Thanks.” it still amazed him that Dari drew such words close to heart. Oh, not from anyone. The big, tough Marine wasn’t easily flattered. But when it came to his friends… Amazing. “Don’t let the success go to your head,” he teased now.
Dari laughed. “Don’t worry. This is a joint endeavor and i had very little to do with the start-up. I was too busy overseas getting my ass shot and saved by someone we both know.”
Mace grimaced as he glanced at his friend’s leg. “You’d have made it out on your own.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
What went unsaid was that several of their team hadn’t made it out.
And it was that incident that not only still gave Mace—and very likely Dari—nightmares, it was what had ultimately earned him that damn medal he’d be accepting at some sort of bigwig event that Saturday.
He wondered if it wasn’t too late to hop onto the first transport out. He’d take full-on assault from enemy forces over what he was facing in days.
“That’s how you earned it,” Dari said.
“i was just doing my job.”
“No, Mace, you always do more than your job.”
“You’d have done the same.”
“Would I have? I’d like to think I would. But I don’t know. While I would have ultimately done what was needed, I would have likely hesitated that split second to assess the situation before diving in. You.. ” Dari fell silent, undoubtedly reflecting on that late afternoon in the mountains of Waziristan when they’d been lied to by villagers and surrounded by enemy forces the instant they were outside town. “You charged straight in, to hell with the consequences.”
“Some would say that’s stupid.”
Dari squinted at him. “If you had hesitated, a leg wound would have been the least of my worries. And you’d have returned home to attend a very different event.”
Mace didn’t even want to consider that possibility. Not then, not now.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “I’d prefer it if everyone looked forward rather than back.”
Dari half-smiled. “Yeah.” He nodded. “Yeah.”
Mace shifted his weight from one foot to the other, wishing the subject done.
“Come on,” Dari said, seeming to pick up on his mindset. “Let’s go into town and grab some grub. I’ve got a favor to ask. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, I told Megan we’d meet up with her at The Barracks afterward for a drink.”
Mace nearly sighed audibly in relief. “Fine with me.” He’d known Dari’s wife since she was little more than the reason his friend bought acne cream when the occasional zit popped up on his face. He’d only been in town for a few days and he’d enjoy the chance to catch up with her, find out what both of them had been up to outside their working at Lazarus together.
“She’ll be alone, right?” he asked, a thought occurring to him.
His friend had never been any good at lying. “Hell, Dari, I’m not in town for that long. I’d like to spend some time with my friends before heading back.”
“Surely there’s a little room for some friendly company.”
“No. There isn’t.”
“Aw. She’s a real sweetheart. I promise you’ll like her.”
That was the problem, he thought.
He didn’t want to like anyone. Not right now. Not without knowing where he was going to land in six months, if, in fact, he landed at all.
Not after what had happened the last time he’d tried to make a long-distance relationship work.
“Sorry,” Dari said. “I know you asked me not to do it. And I really haven’t. It’s Megan’s idea. I know how you feel about people knowing your business, so while I made your feelings on the matter known to Meg, I didn’t tell her why you felt that way. Without that.”
Without that, she couldn’t understand why he was adamant about not dating while on this leave.
“You’ll understand if I pass on that drink then,” he said.
Dari looked disappointed, but finally he nodded.
They walked back to the main structure, passing armed recruits making their way out to the state-of-the-art shooting range along the way. He shared his friend’s disappointment. He truly would have enjoyed having a beer with him and Megan tonight. But to be placed next to a woman hoping to be swept off her feet, one who looked at him with big doe eyes, who promised forever and then moved on to someone else while he was overseas.
And that meant a long night stretched out in front of him with nothing to do but stare at his motel room walls.
He could go over to see his grandfather again, but he’d gotten into hot water with the nursing home attendants for having stayed past regular visiting hours once already. He didn’t want to risk having his visitation privileges revoked.
Mace grinned even as he shook his head. The old man had one foot in the grave and still somehow managed to chase around anything female like a spry twenty-year-old.
Well, okay, maybe a spry twenty-year-old with a walker.
He remembered their last conversation. “Give me something, kid,” Dwayne Harrison had requested that morning. “Good-looking stud like you? Them skirts gotta be falling all over you. Surely you could send some sweet stuff my way.”
Mace had merely smiled.
Oh, he planned to date again. Hopefully soon. Once he was able to get rid of the bad taste Janine had left in his mouth.
Of course, he could always go over and visit his parents. They’d settled back in his father’s hometown five years or so ago when his dad finally retired.
Still, somehow, he didn’t look at their house as home.
And the shadow hands tightened at the thought.
Dari cleared his throat. “I don’t think I’ve had a chance to say it yet, but…well, I was sorry to hear about Janine. You deserve better than what she did to you.”
Mace turned his head so quickly to stare at Dari, his neck cracked. It wasn’t like his friend to mention something so personal in such a casual setting. At least, not without downing a few beers first.
“What?” Dari asked.
Of course, his friend couldn’t know that Mace had no sooner switched his cell phone on after his flight than he’d received a voice mail from the woman in question. He’d stopped dead in the middle of the airport terminal, staring at the notification. He hadn’t heard from her in nearly eight months. What could she possibly want now?
He’d found out soon enough. Her words still reverberated through his mind.
“Welcome home, Mace. I know I’m probably the last person you expected to hear from, but… Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry…again. And to tell you I’d love to see you while you’re in town. Call me…please.”
Curiously, hearing her voice hadn’t moved him in the least. But her apology and her request to see him again had elicited a very specific response: Hell no.
He opened the door and stepped aside so his friend could precede him inside. “Something tells me you’re getting a bit soft around the middle.”
Dari rubbed a rock-hard six-pack.
“Not that middle.”
They chuckled and walked back to Dari’s office in the front of the building.
While Mace could make light of his relationship woes when the situation called for it, there was nothing but heaviness in his heart at the memory of Janine’s betrayal.
“So, rocky’s Diner after I close up shop here.”
He nodded. “Rocky’s Diner. Meet you there in an hour.”
They shook hands and gave each other a bro hug. Then Mace headed out to the parking lot where his rental car waited, trying not to think about Janine…or the phone call he’d gotten from her that morning.
Geneva Davis took three meat loaves out of the industrial oven, swiping the back of one of the oven mitts across her brow after placing the last on the stainless-steel counter. Two of the kitchen staff had called in sick this afternoon, leaving her and one of the other waitresses to pick up the slack at Rocky’s Diner. Monday’s Meat Loaf Mania was one of their busiest nights when all staff was present. Handling it with two people short was going to make the evening hell on earth.
Trudy Grant, the mercurial owner who was a combination of Betty White witty cuteness and Bea Arthur brashness, hung up the phone on the wall near the door. “Cindy just called in.” She shook her head. “This damn flu is going to put me out of business.”
Make that three people short.
Of course, Trudy’s proclamation was an exaggeration; something or other was going to put her out of business at least three times a day. Still, somehow she’d managed to keep the diner’s heart beating for the past twenty years when she’d bought the previous owner out.
Tiffany, the other waitress, breezed by with warm pies to stock the counter displays in the other room. “Cindy ain’t sick. Cindy has a blind date tonight.”
Geneva shared a smile with Mel, the main cook, but didn’t say anything as she slid off the mitts and gave the large pot of homemade mashed potatoes a stir. As expected, Trudy went off like a bomb, filling the kitchen with inventive curse words. Everyone moved around her, giving her the wide berth she required. They all knew the steam would dissipate and Trudy would be operating on full throttle again soon without risk of being scalded.
Geneva moved around Mel, where he tossed burgers, to turn off the alarm for the French fries. She took the basket out of the oil and hung it on the rungs above to drain.
“Oh, and Gen?” Tiffany poked her head back inside the kitchen. “Your Baby Daddy Dustin just took up residence in his usual place at the counter,”
Geneva stood perfectly still for a moment, staring un-seeingly at the golden potatoes, battling back a sudden surge of nausea.
She glanced at where Mel had leaned in to quietly ask the question.
“Yeah. Fine.” She smiled. “Thanks.”
She removed her hand from where it lay against her stomach, a spot she often found it resting lately, and then tipped the fries out onto two plates and salted them.
Lately, it was getting harder and harder to face Dustin. She didn’t know how to explain in a way that would register with him that just because she was pregnant, it didn’t mean they were a couple. And that she didn’t expect anything more from him but to be a good dad. But he seemed determined to make something out of nothing. And his unwanted attention was eroding what had once been a great friendship.
A friendship that had accidentally become more for five whole minutes a little over two months ago.
It wasn’t that the sex had been bad…
Okay, maybe it had been.
But that wasn’t the reason she didn’t want to be anything more than a joint parent with him. They were friends—period.
And the one-nighter had happened on the day she’d buried her mother in the ground and her sadness in a bottle of tequila.
“I remember my wife couldn’t even keep crackers down during her first try,” Mel said, putting two cheeseburgers onto buns and then handing the plates to her.
“Thankfully I haven’t been sick once.” She smiled as she dressed both burgers and then balanced all four plates on her arms. “I only feel like I’m going to be.”
Trudy gathered her wits. “With my luck, your first time will be all over one of the tables. A full one.”
“Knock wood,” Geneva said, edging through the swinging doors to deliver the burgers to Table 6, passing Tiffany as she went.
“Trade you Table 7 for 3,” the too-pretty nineteen-year-old said.
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
His Kind of Trouble by Samantha Hunter
Berringer Bodyguards File #3
Name: Chance Berringer
Trademarks: Chance by name…chance by nature!
Biggest weakness: Adventure and beautiful women—especially when combined in one caliente cook!
Danger is bodyguard Chance Berringer’s first, last and middle name. Protecting celebrity chef Ana Perez—a hot little firecracker with a mouth to match—for two weeks in Mexico is more vacation than job. Just keep his eyes on her, and his hands off. How hard can it be?
Ana doesn’t want a babysitter during the holidays. Even if Chance’s muscled hotness (complete with wicked grin) makes him a mouthwatering dish…. But when the heat starts sizzling in the bedroom—and beyond—will this hot tamale cause more trouble than Chance can handle?
(taken from Harlequin’s website)
It was the day after Christmas, and Ana Perez had worked through the holiday. Something that had happened two years in a row since she’d started hosting her reality show,If You Can’t Take the Heat…
She’d been taping for the next season every day, nonstop, and while the group of chef-wannabe contestants for this season were the best they’d ever had, that came with its own problems. Soon they would start their short midwinter hiatus before the taping of the finale. She was alone on the set, reviewing her notes concerning the contestants’ progress so far.
Unlike the shows where players were voted off or eliminated by failing a task, on If You Can’t Take the Heat. the decision about who won was always Ana’s. That had been written into her contract; that had been a deal breaker. She wasn’t about to have her name associated with any chef recommendation that wasn’t from her directly, so winners could not be selected by chance or by personality wars. The tide was turning, however. The studio executives were being more intrusive in the show’s format, and in her life. Sometimes the producers wanted her to do stupid things—like a staged food fight on one show. Ana won a lot of those battles, but not all of them. It seemed as if the more famous she became, the less control she had over her life.
Every meeting was deteriorating into a fight. Recently, they were debating taking control of the final decision away from her.
Luckily, Ana was a fighter. No way was she giving that up.
There was a lot of pressure on her, not just from the studio but from the audience and from the contestants. Not everyone agreed with her choices; some were almost pathological in letting her know what they thought, if her email or the show’s blog were any evidence.
The recent harassment she had been experiencing was also the price of success. Ana didn’t pull punches or take it easy on her contestants, though she was rarely genuinely angry with them. Her tough treatment of them was in part for ratings—viewers liked the conflict—and also because she was a perfectionist who demanded the best of them.
Ana couldn’t be a best friend to the people she was judging—better that they were afraid of her or didn’t like her than have them feel hurt or betrayed when she didn’t choose them to win. She’d made that mistake the first season with someone who had mistaken their friendship for an automatic win. Ana took a deep breath, shaking the memory off. It was wearying, sometimes, to say the least.
If nothing else, every person on the show would benefit simply from the exposure of being here. Most got good job offers afterward, even when they didn’t win. For the ones who showed real promise, she sometimes connected them with someone who might further their training, behind the scenes. For Ana, it meant a big paycheck to help people back home in Mexico, and security for her and her family.
That was important enough to put up with all the rest, she reminded herself.
Shifting her attention back to the files on her lap, she reached for the glass of wine she’d poured before sitting. It had been the pairing for the smoky mole she’d had contestants working on for the past two days. Viewers saw only the final taping of the show, but Ana worked with contestants in the kitchens every day, all week long, teaching. Preparing.
Making mole was an art in the small town on the Yucatan where she had lived until she turned twenty and came to the United States to attend cooking school, eight years before. The complex cooking project had allowed her to educate people about her home country and their traditions, as well.
Bailey Knowles was the front-runner in her mind so far, a young woman from the Bronx who had no formal training and an uncanny ability to match tastes, textures and combinations in extraordinary ways. But she also had no classical culinary background and no interest in accumulating one.
Still, Ana felt that training was an important companion to natural talent and couldn’t help but hesitate at selecting Bailey as her winner for the season.
James Benois was next in line, an older contestant in his forties, making a comeback after being laid off from his corporate job two years before. He had a culinary education that he had let lapse in the eighteen years since he’d earned the degree, choosing to make a steady paycheck with a technology firm. Still, his story resonated with viewers and with Ana. He was good, solid and dependable, though not extremely creative. That could change as he loosened up a little. He was too anxious to please, perhaps too laid-back to run his own kitchen. Kitchens were busy, difficult, stressful places to work—a head chef had a lot of responsibility—and James had to be able to show he could stand up to the worst of it. Still, his easygoing manner was calming, and Ana found the contrast a positive one.
There were four more, all having their own pluses and minuses, some exceptional in a particular way but less so in others.
She stared down at Lionel Jenkins’s photo. She didn’t have many notes on Lionel. She knew his type and she didn’t like him on principle. From a wealthy Philadelphia family, Lionel was an excellent chef with perfect references and education. He could handle himself in the kitchen—she’d give him that—and he was very handsome, which was a big score with female viewers.
Too bad he was also a total jerk. He cared about nothing but money and ambition, and while he could have walked into a lot of high-level chef positions, or probably have even started his own restaurant with his family’s money, he’d pulled strings to end up on the show. He was using them for the free promotion, a stepping stone in his career. He’d as much as told her so, which was why he was resistant to her criticism.
Granted, that attitude would probably be a benefit when he ran his own kitchen—many chefs had egos bigger than their hats—but Ana wanted her winner to care about more than money. Ambition was important, but so was some demonstrable caring about food, community, the craft…all of it.
Rubbing her eyes, she took a breath and closed the files. At least they were done with the taping, and now she only had to review all of the shows, interview her contestants one more time and make her decision. But for right now, she was ready to go home.
Her heart swelled at the thought. She loved New York and the winter, which she had never known as a child in Mexico. But it wasn’t home.
Soon, she reassured herself. Two weeks of heaven, where things were lovely, warm and welcoming. Where she could be herself among friends and family, with no stalkers or studio executives scrutinizing her every move.
She missed having her own small cooking show, where she had happily instructed others to make authentic Mexican dishes. When she had started doing it in college—Ana’s Kitchen—they’d had one camcorder and had held the show in the dorm kitchen, uploading it to the internet.
It took off, becoming one of the most highly rated cooking shows online. She’d then been offered a real cable TV show for the Cuisine Channel and, ultimately, the reality TV gig, If You Can’t Stand the Heat… And here she was. The show had been on for only two years, but it felt like ten.
With a tired sigh, she packed everything up to head back to her dressing room and call it a night. A glance at her watch told her that it was actually close to being the next day.
She hadn’t realized it was so late. Ana had meetings in the morning—they were foisting some protective detail on her because of the harassment issue—and she was supposed to come in and meet whoever was assigned to protect her over the hiatus.
She had no intention of agreeing; she planned to leave all of this behind her. Whoever was bothering her would probably lose interest in her over the break. Things like this flared up from time to time; it was part of the business. She received all kinds of crazy letters; if she took all of it seriously, she’d have no time to cook.
Walking down the dimly lit hall of the soundstage, she dismissed the thought. She entered her dressing room and closed the door behind her. Turning, she found a man sitting on the sofa. Immediately, her fingers fumbled for the doorknob as she dropped her files, and panic rose tightly in her throat.
“Ana,” he said, and she spun to face him.
He wasn’t what she expected, to be sure.
A tall, broad, huge man with dark blond hair—and incredibly clear green eyes—looked at her with curiosity more than anything else.
Her phone. She fell to her knees, looking for her phone among the papers, and gasped in relief when she had it, pounding out security’s number, her eyes on the intruder.
He didn’t seem concerned.
“This is Ana. I’m in my dressing room. There’s a man here. He’s broken in. Please come now,” she said urgently, not taking her eyes off the guy, but then she realized she was talking to a recording.
Her stomach dropped. Where was the night guard?
The green-eyed hulk blinked at her, then smiled.
“You’re Ana Perez,” he said calmly, taking a seat in the chair across the room, crossing long legs as if he had nothing to worry about.
Her eyes searched desperately for something to defend herself with, landing on a little red box on the wall.
As she dived for it, he stood, putting his hand out.
“Ana, no,” he said, but it was too late.
She pulled the fire alarm and let it ring.
“I am. And you’re about to be arrested,” she said. “No way am I letting you out of here, no matter what you do to hurt me.”
He sighed and shook his head.
“Ana, I’m not going to hurt you. Quite the opposite. But security won’t be here anytime soon. The fire department will, but not security.”
“And why’s that?” she asked, fearing he had done something horrible to Ben, their night guard. Ben had lost his wife the year before, was near retirement and was celebrating the arrival of his first grandchild. Ana chatted with him every night before she left. He was a sweet, good man.
“What did you do to Ben? If you hurt one hair on that man’s head, I’ll—” she threatened as she took a step forward, then stopped. She had no idea what she would do.
The man reached into his pocket, pulled out a small black phone. “Your security guy left his phone on the front desk when he went to the men’s room,” the man said laconically. “The studio definitely needs to beef up the night watch. It was easy as kittens to get in here. I could have been anyone. Someone who does want to hurt you.”
She blinked. “What do you mean?”
He walked toward her and put out his hand, and she had another chance to appreciate the solid mass of muscle that allowed him to move with a dangerous kind of masculine grace. Cocky, self-assured, powerful and not at all worried about being caught. Certainly not afraid of her.
She was dismayed to hear a panicked squeak emit from between her lips.
As if he was dealing with a frightened animal, he bent down to her level.
“Ana, my name is Chance Berringer. I’m your bodyguard,” he said, holding out his hand just as she heard the sound of heavy footsteps landing outside the door.
Chance stood at the end of the hall near Ana’s dressing room, watching her sign autographs for some of the firemen who gathered around. The least she could do, she said, after dragging them out for a false emergency. One guy suggested filming their show at the firehouse one week, feeding all the guys, and Ana seemed to seriously consider it.
The men were rapt. Chance didn’t blame them. She was even more striking than in her picture.
Petite—not more than five foot two, tops—Ana Perez packed every inch of her small frame with succulent curves and intriguing angles that he enjoyed studying as she worked the crowd.
Too bad she’s a client, he thought with a sigh. Hands off. Chance liked women—lots of women, all women, in all shapes and sizes and colors—and he never experienced a shortage of female company. But clients were always off-limits when they were on a job.
Well, unless you counted how all of his brothers had met their wives and current significant others, he thought with a smirk. All of the women had been principals, or clients needing protection, when they’d met.
Not that Chance was looking for a wife. Women were wonderful and he loved them, but he had no intention of ever putting anyone through the experience his friend Logan had just suffered. That had affected him more than he liked.
Chance had never actually seen such a serious injury up close; Logan had almost died. So much violence done to the human body as his friend lost control and plummeted down the icy ridges of the mountain they had been skiing, landing in a patch of trees. It had been one of the few things that had ever truly frightened Chance. Luckily, Logan hadn’t hit any of the big pines or he would have died on the spot.
Chance had stayed with him through the helicopter ride out and had listened to Logan’s earnest, painful request for what to tell his wife, Jillian, if he didn’t make it. Chance had to call her and had picked her up at the airport, had taken her to the hospital.
Jill was one of the exceptions. A former Olympic athlete herself, she understood competition, drive and the need for adventure. She not only understood but encouraged Logan’s need to do the things he did, whether it was extreme skiing or any of the other potentially life-threatening adventures he enjoyed.
Sometimes she even went with him.
But Chance still remembered how her legs had weakened, how she’d started to sink, as if her life had fallen out from under her when they had been let in to see Logan for the first time after surgery. Chance had done what he needed to, helping her stay strong for Logan, but it hadn’t been easy.
It had shaken him to the core. He knew his family worried about him, and that was hard enough. It was the kind of thing that could get in your head, hold you back, make you hesitate. That was what could kill you.
Chance didn’t want to ever hold back, and if he thought he could cause anyone the kind of pain that Jillian had suffered, he would have to quit living his adventurous lifestyle. And then, well, what would be the point?
Better to keep things loose. A woman in his bed but not in his life was what he often said.
Logan was going to be okay. He might never be able to extreme ski again, but he’d recover. He’d live to be with Jillian. Chance never told her what Logan had said on the plane. It hadn’t been necessary, but it was in his head for good.
Now Chance needed to do something to stabilize that place inside him that had tilted off its axis. The accident had happened to Logan, not to him, right? He was fine. He was on a job doing work he loved. By the sound of it, the threat was local, and once they were in Mexico, it was likely that he would largely be on a babysitting vacation. Given the principal and the location, he wasn’t complaining.
But they weren’t there yet.
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
The Risk-Taker by Kira Sinclair
Subject: Totally buff ranger Gage Harper
Current Status: Walking wounded—both physically and mentally
Mission: Finally get the girl he could never have
Obstacle: She may just be the biggest risk he’s ever taken
All returned POW Gage Harper wants to do is forget, even if he has to let some gym rat beat him to a pulp to do it. He certainly doesn’t want to tell the tale of his heroism to the tabloids. Especially since he’s no hero…. But one journalist is determined to get the inside scoop—and she’s the only girl Gage has never been able to resist.
Hope Rawlings never took Gage’s romantic advances seriously growing up. After all, she was just his buddy, and a guy like Gage could have any girl he wanted. But now she needs his story to get her dream job in the city. And she’s willing to do anything to get it.
Why do you need to read this book?
I loved the character of Gage! Returned, damaged POW, finds the right woman to heal him.
(taken from the Harlequin Website)
A heavy fist connected with his jaw. Gage Harper’s head snapped backward and the crowd, pressed tight against the raised platform, roared.
All Gage heard was the rush of adrenaline as it poured through his body. It drowned out the words that had been haunting him all night. “In a war that brings mostly sad news, tonight there is a brighter story to tell.” Someone should tell the solemn man who delivered that statement to the world that bright and war should never be used in the same sentence.
But Gage wasn’t going to be the one to do it.
Instead, he squared his feet beneath him and countered the blow he’d received with several of his own. Head, gut, kidneys. This wasn’t the sort of place that worried about rules. The backwoods fighting ring was exactly what he needed to distract him from the memories he didn’t want.
Micah’s flag-draped casket being loaded into the transport for home. A hard-eyed insurgent yelling into his face before ripping both of his thumbnails out with pliers. The screams of his friends as they endured torture.
Torture he could have prevented if he hadn’t screwed up.
Yeah, this was a great use of a Thursday night even if he’d had to drive an hour out of Sweetheart, South Carolina, to find it. The blessed numbness would be worth every fist to the face.
Grounding his weight onto his left leg, Gage lashed out with a roundhouse kick. Channeling all the frustration, rage and guilt built up inside him, he put more power behind it than he’d meant to, aiming straight for the guy’s gut. He was finding it difficult to hold back after months of fighting for his life. Those kind of hard-won instincts were a bitch to get rid of. Luckily the other guy blocked.
Scenes he thought he’d dealt with flashed across his mind. Gunfire. Smoke-filled hallways. A dark, dirty cell with barely enough room to lie down. Tanner, a fellow Ranger, bloody and broken before they’d even been thrown into that room, moaning in pain. Needles. Knives. Pliers.
But he didn’t break. He hadn’t told them a damn thing.
Gage ground his teeth and pushed the memories away. Nothing could change what had happened to Tanner.
Or bring Micah back. The man he’d met in jump school was gone. Killed when his gun misfired while cleaning it. That, more than anything, was what bothered him about his friend’s death. He knew Micah. Had trained with the man. Micah could disassemble, clean and reassemble his weapon in his sleep. They all could.
Dying in battle, that he could have dealt with. They’d all signed up for that possibility. But not some freak accident.
That anger, grief and skepticism were what sent him out into the scorching desert looking for the same kind of fight he’d found tonight. Something to silence the racing thoughts and numb the pain he didn’t want to deal with. He’d gotten a distraction, all right. And several good men had been pulled straight into hell with him.
He never should have watched the national news story his mama had saved. The latest in a long line of shouldn’ts.
Who knew she could operate the DVR? When he left for basic training twelve years ago she could barely get a DVD to play. He’d been looking for something mindless, like old football games or episodes of CSI. Instead, he’d found hours of news stories detailing his capture and high-profile rescue from Taliban insurgents.
The worst had been the leaked propaganda videos. The close-up shots of his own dirt- and blood-streaked face as they’d forced him to deliver their messages to the U.S. government. He could still taste the bitter words, hated himself for saying them even if he’d done it to save Tanner from more torture he wasn’t strong enough to survive.
He’d wanted to turn them off. Should have. But couldn’t. What those slick news anchors with their perfect white teeth hadn’t said was that what happened was entirely his fault.
His thumbs began to throb where his missing nails should have been. Gage clenched his fists tighter, asking for more. He relished the pain. The reminder. His injuries were nothing compared to Tanner’s. If he hadn’t let grief and a mindless need for a distraction blind him to the warning signs…
If he hadn’t taken unnecessary risks and pushed them all straight into a trap, his buddy wouldn’t be lying in a hospital bed looking at months of rehab, learning to live without a limb and the possibility that his military career was over.
The guy in front of him, clearly some gym rat trying to show off the muscles he’d honed in air-conditioned luxury, twisted on his heel and threw out a leg aimed straight for Gage’s head. He easily blocked the kick, letting the other guy’s foot glance off a shoulder.
He could wipe the floor with this guy. It had taken Gage less than ninety seconds to pick up on his weaknesses, and if they’d been in the middle of the desert instead of a crude ring made from worn padding, plywood and rope, he wouldn’t have hesitated. But he wasn’t there to defend his life or a set of ideals he wasn’t even sure he believed anymore.
He was just there to forget. And the quickest way to that was to let this guy beat the crap out of him so he could concentrate on something other than pointless regrets and decisions he couldn’t take back. Besides, he didn’t need the prize money these guys were after. Better to let some struggling father win the pot so he could buy something nice for his family.
Gage’s lip split. Blood splattered across the floor. His head wrenched sideways and something in the audience caught his eye. The familiar flash of green-gold eyes and dark blond hair he hadn’t seen in twelve years.
Well, unless you counted dreams. And he didn’t.
Hope Rawlings. His belly tightened, a sensation that had nothing to do with the repeated blows he’d taken.
Gage twisted, skillfully maneuvering his opponent so he could scour the faces surrounding them. But whatever he’d seen was gone.
Or maybe he was imagining things. Was it crazy that he would think of her now that he was back?
Given their history, yes, it probably was. Although, while he was reviewing regrets.
In that single moment of distraction the force of Gym Rat’s fist exploded across Gage’s left cheekbone. The pain reverberated through his entire face. The crunch of bone on bone burst in his ears.
“Shit.” He spat out with a mouthful of blood. Well, the guy had gotten his attention again. With a sigh, Gage resigned himself to a good tongue-lashing when his mama saw him at breakfast in the morning. And decided there was no way he was letting this guy win. The next guy could take the purse.
Hope Rawlings watched Gage get the crap beat out of him. For fun. She tried to stay dispassionate about it. After all, it wasn’t a new occurrence for him. Well, this underground, full-contact fighting for money was—maybe she could turn this into an expose on men shedding their suits in an attempt to connect with their inner caveman—but not his penchant for finding trouble.
If they awarded medals for that… Instead, he had the Bronze Star, Prisoner of War Medal and Purple Heart. Just the thought of what he’d gone through to get those made her chest ache. And her head swell to the point of explosion. She fought against the urge to climb into that ring, snatch him by the ear and drag his ass out. Hadn’t he given them all enough heart palpitations recently?
But that wasn’t her place. Not anymore.
Years ago she would have been right beside him, turning blue in the face as she unsuccessfully attempted to talk him out of whatever dangerous scheme he’d hatched. They’d been friends since Gage stole her sippy cup and hit her over the head with it. They were neighbors. Their parents were best friends. They were best friends. Or had been. Once.
He’d been home for a couple days and was already jonesing for a hit of adrenaline. It had taken a long time for Hope to learn that she’d end up the only one hurt by hitting her head against that brick wall. Gage did what he wanted and always had. Screw anyone who stood in his way or challenged him.
That didn’t make watching the smackdown any easier. Especially knowing the physical hell he’d just been through. When, exactly, would he finally say uncle? When would he have enough?
Although watching Gage was far from a hardship. They might have been friends, but she wasn’t blind. Even as a teenager he’d been gorgeous, and knew it. Girls, attracted by the pretty face and edge of danger, had thrown themselves at him. She’d been right there beside him, dismissed by the ones who bothered to notice she was even there.
The familiar spurt of jealousy came out of nowhere. Hope pushed it down. She hadn’t liked the reaction then and she definitely didn’t like it now.
Wearing nothing but a pair of gym shorts, everything he had was on display. War might have left him with scars—visible and unseen—but it had definitely honed his body into something beautiful. The way he moved should have been a sin, all smooth grace and deadly calculation.
The guy he was fighting was an idiot if he couldn’t see the way Gage sized him up. His stomach muscles bunched as he went on the attack. Shoulders and biceps strained. He maneuvered the other guy into a corner, limiting his opponent’s range of motion. His thighs and calves flexed with every step.
Hope tried not to notice, but it was hard to tear her gaze away.
Gage was vibrant. Alive. Electric. Just being close to him always left her with the same warm buzz, like a contact high. And yet, it scared the hell out of her, too. He attacked everything so hard—life, love, danger, war. That kind of intensity was intimidating and draining for anyone standing in the fallout zone.
Dammit, when would this match end?
She wasn’t here to ogle him or reminisce. She was here to interview him. He’d been avoiding her ever since he got home two days ago. Hope tried not to take it per-sonally—he was avoiding everyone. But it still hurt.
Although, considering the things they’d both said the last time they’d spoken…she wasn’t surprised. If it wasn’t for the phone call she’d received three days ago she might have been avoiding him, as well. But she couldn’t.
Gage Harper was her ticket out of Sweetheart.
“You want a permanent position with us, Ms. Raw-lings?” Mr. Rebman had asked. He was the managing editor for the Atlanta Courier, a gruff man who’d only spoken to her once before for about sixty seconds—the length of time it took him to say her experience managing the Sweetheart Sentinel for her father did not make her a journalist. He was a real winner, but the man had the power to grant her every wish.
She’d practically tripped over her own tongue answering, “Yes, sir.”
“I understand that Gage Harper is from your hometown.”
And immediately Hope’s stomach had seethed with sickness.
Somehow she’d found herself answering, “Yes.” At least she hadn’t told the man that they’d grown up together.
“He’s refusing all interview offers. If you can get me an exclusive, I’ll consider finding a place for you here.”
Hope frowned as Gage landed another punch. So here she was, in the middle of backwoods South Carolina on a Thursday night, stalking Gage.
That sick feeling was back in the pit of her stomach.
With a sigh, Hope melted into the back of the crowd. In her four-inch heels—out of place amid the roughed-up cowboy boots—she could still see the ring just fine. Enough to know Gage had stopped playing cat and mouse and was finally going in for the kill. His opponent, a guy who never stood a chance, dropped to the floor with a groan and stayed there.
Gage bounced on his heels away from the guy, staying alert for any sign of deceit. As the nice man who’d spilled beer on her jeans had explained, there weren’t any rules so dirty fighting was more than allowed. But the guy stayed down. Some in the crowd cheered and some booed.
An older guy who looked to be in charge jumped into the ring. He announced Gage as the winner, using his loud voice instead of a PA system to combat the crowd. Hope got the impression this was a traveling circus and that kind of equipment would have been a little too expensive to abandon if the cops showed up.
The guy at the door, probably a recent graduate from a halfway house, only let her in after she told him she was with one of the fighters and pointed out Gage. Even then, the way he’d eyed her with skepticism made her uncomfortable.
The crowd shifted. Someone called out demanding another fight. And with a smile and a nod of his head, the guy in charge waved the next fighter into the ring with Gage. Apparently, this wasn’t the kind of place that worked off brackets. No winner-against-winner here, Gage was going again.
Hope groaned and closed her eyes, but she couldn’t keep them that way for long. Not with the sound of flesh on flesh ringing in her ears again. Her overactive imagination was far worse than watching the beating. She cracked one eyelid.
Like before, Gage played with the guy for a few minutes, sizing him up. He took a few shots and gave a few back. It was clear, at least to her, that Gage had his opponent’s number. So it surprised her when he left himself wide open for an uppercut beneath the chin. His back hit the floor with a resounding crack.
A man close to her groaned. He passed a handful of bills across to another guy wearing a gleeful grin. Gage didn’t move. The crowd was thick enough that she couldn’t tell if he was unconscious or just stunned.
Her heart fluttered uncomfortably in her chest, an echo of the panic she’d felt when news of his capture had come into the newsroom just a couple weeks before.
Here she’d thought his rescue would cure her of the unwanted reaction. Apparently not.
Hope fought against the mass of people, trying to get closer to the side of the ring. The breath she hadn’t realized she was holding leaked slowly from her parted lips when he finally started to stir. His hands spread wide on the floor and he pushed upward. His head hung between those straining shoulders, as if it were too heavy for him to hold up.
Her gaze searched him for signs of serious injury. She jostled the handful of men standing between her and the ring. She yelled, demanding they let her through, and slapped at the ones who didn’t listen.
Gage finally picked up his head. His gaze connected with hers through the flimsy barrier of ropes. The same punch she always felt hit her, as if she’d been the one taking shots to the solar plexus. But just like always, she ignored it.
Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. His right eye was already swelling and bruising. Hope’s hands curled around the edge of the ring floor. The sharp pain of a splinter pierced her left palm.
His golden-brown eyes flared with recognition and something warmer before narrowing down to indecipherable slits. He frowned and asked gruffly, “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”