Tag: Excerpts

Sunday Spotlight: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Posted May 31, 2020 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 0 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

I seriously love this series and I really, really love this book. We’re all reading this series right now and loving it so we’re flooding the blog with lots of Kate Daniels content and this week’s Sunday Spotlight features just one of the many reasons I love this series. Kate and Curran have amazing chemistry and they’re such a kick ass couple right now but man did I enjoy them together even before they started dating. Gah, this short excerpt from Magic Strikes showcases the kind of humor between them that I freaking love.

If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it. Start at book 1, obviously, but don’t worry by the time book 3 rolls around, you’ll be hooked!

Sunday Spotlight: Magic Strikes by Ilona AndrewsMagic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #3
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Tests, Magic Stars, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Magic Breaks, Iron and Magic
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: March 31, 2009
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 322
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-half-stars

When magic strikes and Atlanta goes to pieces, it’s a job for Kate Daniels…

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate's werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games—an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament—she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta's shapeshifting community…

Excerpt

“As he passed me, he leaned to Curran and handed him a paper fan folded from some sort of flyer.

Curran looked at the fan. “What?”

“An emergency precaution, Your Majesty. In case the lady faints.”

Curran just stared at him.

Raphael strode toward the Pit, turned, flexed a bit, and winked at me.

“Give me that,” I told Curran. “I need to fan myself.”

“No, you don’t.”

Kate Daniels

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Ilona Andrews

“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored four NYT and USAT bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels, rustic fantasy of the Edge, paranormal romance of Hidden Legacy, and Innkeeper Chronicles, which they post as a free weekly serial. For complete list of their books, fun extras, and Innkeeper installments, please visit their website at Ilona-andrews.com.


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Sunday Spotlight: Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen

Posted May 17, 2020 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 6 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Another Brooklyn Bruiser book? Yes, please! I really like that Bowen has connected her True North and Brooklyn Bruisers series. In this book, we’re getting Dave Berringer from Bountiful’s sister’s book and she falls in love with a Brooklyn Bruiser so yippy skippy, I can’t wait to read this one! I’m super stoked to be featuring an excerpt from this book for this weeks Sunday Spotlight. Check it out.

Sunday Spotlight: Sure Shot by Sarina BowenSure Shot by Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #9
Also in this series: Rookie Move, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter , Pipe Dreams, Pipe Dreams, Pipe Dreams, Brooklynaire, Rookie Move, Overnight Sensation, Superfan , Superfan
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 307
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

A new stand-alone hockey romance from USA Today bestseller Sarina Bowen.

On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, sports agent Bess Beringer is ready to make some changes. Armed with a five-year plan—indexed and color coded—she’ll tackle her personal life with the same zeal that she brings to her successful agency.

A big, tall, ripped hunk of hockey player who’s just been traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers is not a part of that plan. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz has a lot of baggage. He’s a ride-or-die loner with a bad reputation. He’s on the rebound. He’s also the sexiest thing on two legs, and for some crazy reason it’s Bess that he wants.

She knows better. But then she falls stupid in love with him anyway. And for a while it seems like maybe he’ll do the same.

Until she asks him for the one thing he can never give her…

Excerpt

“Hey, Rebecca!” another player says, grabbing the owner’s attention. He’s not just any player. Eric Bayer is one of the veterans I was meant to replace. Bayer is only a year or two older than I am, but he retired last season after one too many knee surgeries. “Did you happen to see… Oh, there it is!” Eric Bayer reaches under the caterer’s table and emerges with a tote bag. It’s covered in bright pink bunny rabbits. He pulls a baby’s bottle out of the sack and begins to shake it. “Just in time,” he says.

I search my brain, trying to remember if I ever met his wife. But I come up blank. I thought he was single.

“Do you need to heat that up?” Becca offers.

“Nope. The little miss likes it cool or warm or any temperature at all.” He pops the protective top off. “Here she comes now.”

I glance toward the half flight of stairs to the house, and my heart fails. Because it’s Bess who’s carrying a chubby little baby girl out into the yard. The baby is propped snugly on her hip and clutches a lock of Bess’s striking red hair in her tiny hand.

Bess is too distracted by the baby to look at me, which is a good thing because I know there’s shock written all over my face.

“Wow, Rookie,” she says to Eric. “That’s a very manly diaper bag you have there.”

“You shut up,” he says with a smile. “Thanks for the free babysitting.”

“Who says it was free?” Bess asks, handing the baby over.

That’s when I remember to breathe. Because Bess isn’t Eric’s wife, and that’s not her baby. Not that I should care. It doesn’t have a thing to do with me.

What the heck is wrong with me? Back in the day, Bess and I weren’t even serious. We had a wonderful, physical fling.

Before she broke it off, without telling me why.

Brooklyn Bruisers

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is the RITA® Award winning author of over two dozen contemporary and LGTB romance novels. She most recently hit the USA Today bestseller's list in February, with Brooklynaire. Formerly a derivatives trader on Wall Street, Sarina holds a BA in economics from Yale University.

Sarina Bowen is a New Englander whose Vermont ancestors cut timber and farmed the north country since the 1760s. Sarina is grateful for the invention of indoor plumbing and wi-fi during the intervening 250 years. On a few wooded acres, she lives with her husband, two boys, and an ungodly amount of ski and hockey gear.

Sarina's books are published in a dozen languages on four continents. In 2016, The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with a RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.


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Sunday Spotlight: (im)Perfectly Happy by Sharina Harris

Posted April 26, 2020 by Rowena in Features | 2 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sharina Harris contacted us a couple of months ago and brought her book to my attention. After reading through her email and then checking out her book, I knew that I was going to read it. I’m a big fan of books that feature a strong set of female friendships and (im)Perfectly Happy looks like it fit the bill. This book comes out on Tuesday so you don’t have a long wait but check out an excerpt from the book.

Sunday Spotlight: (im)Perfectly Happy by Sharina HarrisImperfectly Happy by Sharina Harris
Publisher: Davina
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
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When four college friends formed the Brown Sugarettes Mastermind Group, they had very different goals--but matched each other in ambition. Yet ten years later they can't help wondering what happened to the hopeful, confident, driven women they used to be--and how to get them back . . .

Radio personality Raina, known as "the black Delilah," hates the wholesome persona that's made her a success. Doling out syrupy versions of her grandma's wisdom feels worlds away from the sarcastic, tell-it-like-it-is woman Raina really is.

Kara Jones was sure she'd be a master sommelier by thirty. Life and loss interfered with that plan. Now she has one more chance--but it's taking a toll on her self-esteem and her marriage.

Nikki Grayson hardly recognizes the stay-at-home mom she's become. When her band signed a record deal, she swapped the limelight for a minivan and a sensible 'do. Now she's wishing she had followed her heart. Instead, she's drowning her regret in alcohol.

Public defender Sienna Njeri willingly put her city council aspirations aside to support her fiance's bid for office--and now she's wondering if her loyalty is misplaced.
Longing for the support, advice, and tough love they once shared, all four resolve to start meeting up again. After all, their dreams may still be within reach. But are they worth the price they'll pay to achieve them?

Excerpt

What in the hell have I gotten myself into? My palms were a soupy mess, I wiped them on my shorts, while my heart pounded against my chest. The screechy squawks of packing tape being ripped off cardboard and the sound of occasional grunts coming from Cameron, who was unpacking boxes and shifting furniture, forced tendrils of guilt down my spine.

He was grinding away getting things done while I sat motionless, alternating between Disney Princess happy and trembling like a frightened kitten. My phone buzzed, and I grabbed it from the pocket of my cutoffs. Nikki’s name flashed across the screen. I pressed the answer button, but before I could greet her, she said, “How’s your scary ass doing?”

“I’m good. Just getting things organized.” I lied easily to my best friend from college. And like all best friends, she knew I was full of shit.

“You’re a damn lie.”

“What’s up, Nik?” My annoyance was clear in my tone. “You know I’m busy.”

“The girls and I were talking . . . and anyway, I volunteered as tribute.” The girls she was referring to were my two other best friends from college, Sienna and Kara. We were always up in each other’s business, so I wasn’t surprised they’d gotten together to discuss God knows what.

“Volunteered for what?”

“Volunteered to talk some sense into you. We know you have cold feet about moving in with Cam.”

What did they think I would do—run away from home? I squelched down the flare of irritation that prickled my skin. My friends meant well, but I wasn’t in the mood for the all men aren’t like your daddy lecture. I knew that already. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing a bunch of domestic shit like buying mulch and analyzing a dozen gray paint samples with stupid names like Mole’s Breath. A roll of sweat trickled from my neck onto my chest. I used my hand as a fan. I was pretty sure the sweat was from the heat, not anxiety.

“Hellooooo, Raina? You still there?”

“Yes.” I modulated my tone to my late-night radio personality I used for my job. “I’m perfectly fine.”

“Sure you aren’t. And don’t take on that bougie-ass radio therapist tone with me. You’re talking to a friend, not a caller from your show.” She smacked her lips. “Anyway, can you talk?”

I looked at my guy, who was whistling as he drilled studs above the fireplace to mount our big screen TV. “Not right now,” I whispered.

“Good. You can just listen. Cam is a great guy, and this is a good step. You’ve been together for six years, and he’s been more than patient with your crazy ass. Who else would propose three times, get rejected, and then buy a house with you?”

“First of all—” I stopped myself when I caught Cameron’s attention. His eyebrows crinkled, and his eyes scanned me. I knew he was checking to see if everything was good. I gave him a smile and thumbs-up. “It’s Nikki. She’s just wishing us good luck.”

“No, I’m not. I’m convincing your crazy-ass girlfriend to calm down,” Nikki yelled over the phone line.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: April 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Sharina Harris

Sharina Harris earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgia State University. After college, she pursued a career in digital marketing and public relations. Although her profession required writing, she decided to pursue a career in writing in 2012.

Sharina’s contemporary romance series under the pen name, Rina Gray, was named Book Riot’s 100 Must‑Read Romantic Comedies. When Sharina’s not writing, she can be found with her head stuck in a book, rooting for her favorite NBA teams, and spending time with friends and family.

Sharina resides in Atlanta with her husband and son. Visit her at SharinaHarris.com.


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Sunday Spotlight: Love Hard by Nalini Singh

Posted March 15, 2020 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 5 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

I have been waiting for this book for ages now. I’m so stoked to finally be getting a Samoan romance. A sexy Samoan rugby player? Yes, please! Jake and Juliet sound like all kinds of fun so I’m all in. We’re pretty stoked to be sharing an excerpt from Love Hard so check it out!

Sunday Spotlight: Love Hard by Nalini SinghLove Hard by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #3
Also in this series: Cherish Hard, Cherish Hard (Hard Play, #1), Cherish Hard (Hard Play, #1), Rebel Hard (Hard Play, #2), Cherish Hard (Hard Play, #1)
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh brings you the next sizzling story in her Hard Play contemporary romance series…

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.

As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.

Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.

Excerpt

Jake checked on Esme—who was having a grand old time running wild with the other children—then went hunting Jules.

He was starting to think she’d ditched the reception when he finally saw her seated in a hidden alcove with a giant slice of wedding cake on a saucer. She cut into it with a fork as he watched, slipped the tines into her mouth. Her lashes drifted shut, her lips pursed; he could almost hear her moan of pleasure.

His cock twitched.

No, no, no. He couldn’t twitch for Juliet.

Yet he haphazardly grabbed a slice of cake for himself before going over to join her in the alcove.

She glared at him. “This is my spot. Go. Away.”

“I don’t see your name on it,” he said and took a seat. The alcove wasn’t that big, and his shoulder brushed hers, his hip pressing into a lush feminine curve. He was crowding her on purpose. Because the thing was… he wanted to fight with Juliet. Dangerous as it was, he hadn’t felt this alive in a long, long time.

Her eyes flashed. Then she elbowed him under the guise of getting comfortable.

“Oof.” He rubbed his ribs.

“Oh, did that hurt?” She pointed her fork in his direction. “So, so sorry.”

Jake was grinning when his father appeared nearby.

“Son,” he said. “Sorry to interrupt, but Uncle Tama wants to get home and his car isn’t starting.”

“I’ll have a look.” Jake took the keys his father held out… before he turned to Juliet and said, “It’s dark out. Mind coming and holding the torch for me?”

Joseph Esera broke in. “Oh, I can do that.”

“No, Mr. Esera.” Juliet’s smile was warm and generous. “It’s your son’s wedding. Stay, enjoy. I’m sure it won’t take Jake long to fix things.” She kept up that smile as Joseph patted her on the shoulder and told her she was a good girl before he walked away to tug Alison into a dance.

At which point Jake got the death glare magnified.

Driven to antagonize her by a madness he couldn’t shake, he took a bite of cake before rising to put his plate down on the alcove seat. “Cake’s gonna have to wait, Jules.”

“Where’s the damn torch?” She put down her own cake and stood.

“In my car,” Jake said automatically before realizing they’d come here in a limo. “On second thought—we’ll have to use our phones.”

Juliet took his phone when he handed it to her, then swung by the head table to pick up hers too. They’d just stepped outside when his phone flashed with light, a message popping onto the front screen.

Shuddering, Juliet handed it over. “I think it’s one of your groupies. Take it before I gag.”

The text was from a Trixi Kitten. “For your information,” he muttered after quickly scanning it, “that’s the name of my great-aunt’s cat.”

Juliet stared at him. “Do I look like I was born yesterday?”

“Read the message.” He held it out.

Folding her arms, she tilted her head to the side, just daring him to continue.

He held it up right in front of her face so she couldn’t miss the message: Jake, dear, are you checking your uncle’s car? Can you come look at Great-auntie’s in the next week? It’s making a strange noise and it scares me. Meow – Trixi Pussy

A kind of strangled sound erupting in her throat, Juliet nudged aside his phone. “Does she always…”

“Write messages as if it’s her cat?” He nodded. “She’s a perfectly sane human otherwise. Last week she beat everyone in her local pub quiz so she could win a nodding-cat thing.”

“The whole… er… pussy thing?”

“She’s eighty-nine. As far as she’s concerned, it means cat.” Jake rubbed his face. “She stood next to me while I was inputting her number and kept asking me why I didn’t list her as Trixi Pussy.”

Juliet’s laughter sounded like it was torn out of her. And the cock twitching got worse.

That didn’t make sense. Why was her laughter turning him on? Or maybe it was the way she looked when she laughed, so open and warm and… as if she’d make him that way. Not this staid, solid stranger he sometimes felt he’d become.

Shaking off the thought because his solid and staid nature was what made him a good dad, he pointed to a pale blue VW Bug. “That’s it.”

The two of them walked across the parking lot, which was empty of all other signs of life. Just rows of cars—some bedecked with flowers and streamers in honor of the wedding—and a few standing lamps that cast just enough light so people could find their vehicles.

Useless, however, for looking at an engine.

The land sloped down on the other side of the car, the old theater surrounded by manicured grounds that often hosted outdoor plays. Maybe he’d bring Esme to one of those, he thought absently as he unlocked his uncle’s car, then tried to start it to see what sounds it made, if any.

Juliet stood outside, tapping her toe on the tarmac and looking like a fantasy straight out of the midnight hours, times when Jake’s brain went its own merry way. Sex dreams weren’t exactly a surprise for a single male who had a sex drive he hadn’t been feeding, but the dreams had always been amorphous and erotic. No faces, nothing but sensations that led to frustrated arousal.

He had a feeling that was about to change.

When the hell had Juliet grown those curves?

Wishing he hadn’t left his jacket in the event space, he popped the hood before getting out of the driver’s seat; hopefully the dim lighting would conceal the interest in his pants.

“Here.” He handed her his phone. “I think I know the problem,” he said, propping the hood open.

The scent of Juliet washed over him as she stepped close enough to shine the torchlight from both phones into the engine.

“Tell me where you want it,” she said, and his brain decided to put those words in a totally different—and dirty —context.

Gritting his teeth, Jake said, “Where you have it is good.”

*

Not responding to Jake’s comment because she’d become fascinated by the way his muscles moved under the fine white fabric of his formal shirt as he bent over the engine, Juliet told herself to breathe. She also reminded herself that she’d already had this conversation with herself and decided the physical attraction was pure nonsense.

But jeez, did the universe have to make him so gorgeous?

There, fine, she’d admitted it. The gearhead jock had grown up into a panty-melting adult who adored his daughter, loved his family, and was kind to his elders. Even a great-aunt who liked to text using her cat alter ego. He might have a stick up his butt, but Juliet would still like to see that butt.

Juliet Nelisi, you stop checking out Jake’s butt. STOP.

But the man was muscled everywhere. It was hard not to eat up the eye candy when it was right in front of her. Also, since a visual was all it would ever be, she might as well enjoy… except, this wasn’t just a random hot guy.

This was Jake.

Hard Play

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: March 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Nalini Singh

I've been writing as long as I can remember and all of my stories always held a thread of romance (even when I was writing about a prince who could shoot lasers out of his eyes). I love creating unique characters, love giving them happy endings and I even love the voices in my head. There's no other job I would rather be doing. In September 2002, when I got the call that Silhouette Desire wanted to buy my first book, Desert Warrior, it was a dream come true. I hope to continue living the dream until I keel over of old age on my keyboard.

I was born in Fiji and raised in New Zealand. I also spent three years living and working in Japan, during which time I took the chance to travel around Asia. I’m back in New Zealand now, but I’m always plotting new trips. If you’d like to see some of my travel snapshots, have a look at the Travel Diary page (updated every month).

So far, I've worked as a lawyer, a librarian, a candy factory general hand, a bank temp and an English teacher and not necessarily in that order. Some might call that inconsistency but I call it grist for the writer's mill.


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Sunday Spotlight: Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee

Posted February 9, 2020 by Rowena in Features | 4 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

This week’s Sunday Spotlight features a new to us author that has a new book coming out that we’re mighty interested in. Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee is a billionaire romance that looks pretty cute. Fake romances are my jam so I’m looking forward to jumping into this one. But for now, let’s get to that excerpt, shall we?

Sunday Spotlight: Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci LeeTemporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Add It: Goodreads
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Much more than he bargained for…

“You want me to find you a wife?”

“No. I want you to be my wife.”

Garrett Song is this close to taking the reins of his family’s LA fashion empire…until the Song matriarch insists he marry her handpicked bride first. To block her matchmaking, he recruits Natalie Sobol to pose as his wife. She needs a fake spouse as badly as he does. But when passion burns down their chaste agreement, the flames could destroy them all…

Excerpt

Garrett resisted the urge to glance over his shoul¬der to check on her. Natalie was a grown woman and he didn’t need to protect her from being swarmed by admirers. Besides, she was the one who had proposed they refrain from other relationships, so she wouldn’t do anything to hurt his reputation or hers.

Earlier, at her apartment, he’d caught fire at the sight of her in her little black dress. It was demure compared to the one she’d worn at Le Rêve, but it hugged her hour¬glass figure and highlighted the curves underneath just enough to tease his imagination.

He walked to the bar for his Scotch and grabbed a flute of champagne from a server on his way back. As he’d anticipated, Natalie was now surrounded by a group of men and he lengthened his strides to reach her.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, sweetheart.” He pressed a light kiss on her lips and handed her the champagne.

“Thank you.” She leaned her head against his shoul¬der when he pulled her to his side, playing her part like a pro.

“Natalie was just taking us to task about USC’s new head coach. It seems neither he nor I truly understand college football,” said one of Mike’s college friends.

“Is that so?” Garrett raised an eyebrow at her and she shrugged.

“Taking you to task is a bit harsh.” She hid her grin against the rim of her champagne flute as she took a long sip. “It’s just that I have a better understanding than you guys.”

The audience winced and guffawed at her cheeki¬ness. As Natalie continued with her lecture, all the men listened intently, as did Garrett. She was funny and down-to-earth, and her mind was quicker than light¬ning. Lost in her words, Garrett belatedly noticed the crowd had grown. Her champagne glass was depleted and her smile was becoming strained.

He leaned down close to her ear. “Tired?”

“And hungry.”

“All right, gentlemen. I’m whisking away my date now. I’m tired of sharing her.”

When the crowd finally dispersed, Natalie slumped against him with a groan. “I need food, champagne and somewhere to sit.”

A server walked over with a tray of bacon-wrapped shrimp and Natalie snatched a couple of them. She popped one in her mouth and mumbled around her food, “Not necessarily in that order.”

Garrett laughed and guided her toward the French doors leading out to the garden. Natalie ate every sin¬gle hors d’oeuvre she met along the way and finished another glass of champagne.

“Holy cow. Is everything really, really delicious, or am I just famished? I would totally go back for that crab cake if my feet weren’t screaming at me to get my butt on a chair.”

He glanced down at her zebra-print high heels. They did amazing things for her legs but didn’t look remotely comfortable. “There’s a bench around the corner.”

“Oh, thank God.” She kicked off her shoes as soon as she plopped onto the seat.

Garrett shrugged out of his jacket and draped it around her shoulders before sitting next to her.

“Thank you,” she murmured, gazing at the garden. “It’s so beautiful out here.”

“Is it?” He and Mike had grown up tearing apart that very garden, but Garrett had never sat still and taken it all in, like they were doing now. “I guess you’re right.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

He studied her profile, her high, regal cheekbone and the graceful curve of her neck. Half of her hair had escaped the loose knot behind her head and fell down her back and shoulders. He wanted to sweep aside her hair and feel the softness of her skin, which he abso¬lutely should not do.

“So how do you know so much about college foot¬ball?” He tore his gaze away from her and stared at an old maple tree ahead of him, hard enough to make his eyes water.

“Long story.”

“We’ve got time.” He made a show of checking his watch. “I’ll give you ten minutes.”

Her laughter filled the garden, then ended on a wist¬ful sigh. “My dad and I, we weren’t very close. The only time he didn’t mind my company was when we watched college football together. He was a huge fan. I don’t think he even noticed I was sitting there half the time.”

Garrett understood what that felt like. As soon as he finished graduate school, he’d thrown himself into his work. It was satisfying in its predictability and it created a common ground for him and his father. His dad had stepped down from the CEO position when his mom died, but returned to Hansol a few years later as an executive VP.

“I thought if I learned enough about the sport, he’d like me a little better.” Her shrug told him it hadn’t worked, but Natalie told her story without an ounce of self-pity—like she owned her past, hurt and all. His respect for her deepened. “But soon I noticed I wasn’t faking my enthusiasm anymore. I’d grown to love the sport. Who knew it’d come in handy at an intimate birthday party for a hundred people?”

“You certainly won over quite a few of them.”

“I did?” Her eyebrows shot up in genuine surprise.

He huffed out a laugh. “Why did you think that crowd was hanging on to your every word?”

“Watch yourself, Garrett Song.” Natalie narrowed her eyes and pointed a finger at him. “I know where you live.”

He snatched her hand and tugged her to her feet. “Yes, and you’ll be living there with me starting Sunday.”

“Ugh.” She hooked an index finger in each of her shoes, not bothering to put them back on. “Do you ever stop thinking about work?”

“Yes.” He cocked his head and pretended to con¬sider her question. “But only when I’m thoroughly distracted.”

Her lashes fluttered and color saturated her cheeks, and his gut clenched with heat. She could definitely become his most dangerous distraction.

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Sunday Spotlight: February 2020

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About Jayci Lee

Jayci Lee writes poignant, funny, and sexy romance. She lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. She is semi-retired from her 15-year career as a defense litigator, and writes full-time now. She loves food, wine, and travelling, just like her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal. She hopes her books will do the same for you.


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