Excerpt Reveal – Well Played, Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

October 21, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt | By

 

Title: Well Played
Authors: Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 25, 2021
Excited about Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward’s upcoming release, Well Played? 
Check out this SNEAK PEEK!

 

Presley

 

Harper picked up the notebook that contained my to-do list from the table and opened to a fresh page. Clicking the pen open, she scribbled across the top.

 

To do with Levi

 

I chuckled. “Are we making a dirty to-do list?”
She wiggled her eyebrows and put the pen to the paper. “We certainly are.” “Tell me one thing you fantasize about doing with him.”
Yep, I was definitely drunk, because sober me wouldn’t have participated in this. Though, even in this state, I felt my cheeks blush. “Well, every day he goes out back and does pull-ups in that big oak tree. Sometimes I imagine he’s naked while doing them, and then I walk out naked, too. I wrap myself around him like a koala and he’s a tree, and he keeps doing the pull-ups. Hoisting us both up and down.”
Harper smirked. “Nice start.” She then jotted down koala pull-ups. “What else you got?”
“Well, I also have this running fantasy that I’m watching him do the pull-ups from my bedroom window with binoculars, and then I lie down on the bed and…you know…go to town on myself. And when I’m just about to orgasm, I look up at the window and see Levi with the binoculars. He’s watching me masturbate from outside.”
“Oooh… I like that one.” Harper wrote down voyeur masturbation.
For the next half hour, we polished off our spiked lemonades, laughed a lot, and added more than a dozen sexual to-do tasks to my list. It was the most fun I’d had in ages. But Harper had to fly home in the morning, and I didn’t want her to have a raging hangover. So rather than make another pitcher of spiked lemonade, I grabbed her a water bottle and some Motrin and told her to drink up before going to bed.
But as I walked around and shut off the lights, another fantasy hit me. “That peach cobbler we had for dessert at the restaurant was orgasmic, wasn’t it?”
“It sure was.”
I pointed to the notepad. “Sit on Levi’s face while eating that pie.”
Harper had been drinking water and spit it out all over the place. “Oh my God. That is most definitely going on the list!” She picked up the pen and spoke while jotting something down. “Double orgasmic peach cobbler.”
We started to crack up, but a knock interrupted our laughter. At least it interrupted mine. I looked up to find Levi standing in the doorway to the living room.
My eyes widened. “Levi… What are you doing here?”
His brows lifted. “I own half the place.”
“No, I meant I didn’t know you were back.”
He looked between Harper and me and seemed to smirk. “Oh, I’m back.”
My palms started to sweat. “I didn’t hear you come in. How long have you been…standing there?”
Levi tilted his head, and his smirk elevated to a cocky smile. “Not too long.”
Oh my God. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. What if he heard? I suddenly felt pretty damn sober. “Umm…well, this is my friend Harper. She’s leaving early tomorrow, so we were just going to bed.”
He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Harper.”
Harper stood and hiccupped. She covered her grinning mouth. “Nice to meet you, too. Your family’s inn is beautiful.”
“Thank you.”
Her eyes shifted to me. “Although there’s a lot to do around here. Presley and I made a list. You might want to take a look at it and get going on some of the new to-do tasks we added.”
My eyes nearly bulged out of my head, and I lunged for the notebook on the table.
Levi squinted at me. “Everything okay, Presley? You seem stressed.”
“I’m fine!”
He nodded slowly. “Right.”
“Alright….” I grabbed Harper’s arm and tugged. “We’re going to bed. Welcome home.”
Levi never moved from the living room doorway as he watched me drag my friend out of the room.
Harper waved over her shoulder. “’Night, Levi. Enjoy your to-do list!”
Somehow I managed to get Harper to her room without her yelling anything too obscene. But for the next half hour, I lay in my bed with my heart pounding. What if he’d heard us? What if he’d been standing there listening the entire time? Oh my God. I covered my face with my hands. The things I said I wanted to do to him. My head began to ache, and tomorrow’s hangover hadn’t even started yet.
After another twenty minutes of lying there freaking out in the dark, my mouth was so parched that I needed a bottle of water. But there was no way I wanted to run into Levi again. So I cracked open my bedroom door and listened for any sounds of someone moving out in the common area. Finding it quiet, I snuck down the hall and peered around the corner to see if any lights were still on. They weren’t, so I breathed a sigh of relief and went to the kitchen for a drink.
I guzzled half a bottle of water before turning to slink back to my bedroom. But I froze at the sight of Levi standing in the kitchen doorway. My hand flew up to cover my racing heart. “Oh my God. You scared me.”
“Sorry. I was just going to head out to grab a bite to eat.”
“Oh…there are leftovers from lunch in the fridge, if you want. I made chicken pot pies this morning.”
Levi held my eyes for a moment. “Thanks, but I think I’m going to go out.” He walked over and leaned down to whisper in my ear. “I have a real hankering for peach cobbler.”

 

Oh.
My.
God.

 

My jaw dropped to the ground. I had no idea what to do or say.
Levi winked as he walked to the door. “Get some sleep. I wouldn’t want you to be too tired to work on that to-do list.”

 

 

★★★ 

 

 

 

Excited? We are too!

 

RELEASING
OCTOBER 25th!

 

 

 

Please note: There will not be an Amazon ebook pre-order, but it will be available on Amazon in Kindle Unlimited on release day.

 

 

Sign up for Vi and Penelope’s mailing list now and be the first one notified when it goes live!

 

 

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
PENELOPE WARD

 

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 

 

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism. 
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.

 

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Excerpt Reveal – The Aristocrat, Penelope Ward

August 26, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt | By

 

Title: The Aristocrat
Author: Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 30, 2021
BLURB

 

 

From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone novel.

 

The one that got away. Every girl has one, right?
Mine was a charming, British aristocrat who turned my world upside down one summer.
From the moment I first spotted Leo in the distance through my binoculars, I’d been captivated. I certainly never expected to find a man showering outside of the property across the bay in his birthday suit.
Then I noticed his housemate staring back at me with binoculars of his own—watching me watching Leo.
That made for an interesting conversation starter when I inevitably ran into them.
Turned out, the handsome Brits were only renting that house for the summer in my seaside town.
Leo and I formed an instant connection, even though we were technically opposites by all appearances. I taught him how to dig for clams, and he taught me that not all wealthy and powerful guys are pretentious.
Despite knowing he was totally wrong for me, I couldn’t seem to stay away.
It was a wild and crazy few months. And before I knew it, we’d fallen in love.
We both had one wish: more time together.
But Leo had obligations back home. He lived a life I’d never fit into. And I was going to law school. So, we decided to end it and never look back.
A part of me always felt like I’d let my soulmate walk away.
I believed our story was over.
Until five years later when he sent me a letter that shook me to my core.
I’d thought my world was turned upside down that first summer?
Well, I knew nothing yet.

 

 

 

 

PRE-ORDER LINKS

 

EXCERPT

 

Hell.

 

Hell was the moment I stepped into the grocery store a few days later and nearly knocked right into him.
“It’s you.” He held up a long, phallic-looking baguette and shook it. “Remind you of something?”
My face felt hot. “Very funny.”
“I haven’t seen much of you outside over the last couple of days. Did we scare you?”
This was not Shower Guy, but rather the one who’d caught me peeping. He had a strong British accent and was extremely tall, with dark hair.
“I’ve just been taking a break from the backyard.”
“Too hot outside for you, eh?”
“Look, I didn’t intend to see what I saw. I’ve been into…birdwatching this summer. Then one day you two moved in, and I—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” The other guy had appeared next to his housemate. “I’m sorry for anything he might have said to you just now. Rest assured, it’s all shite. He’s just playing around.” He, too, had a strong British accent. “I don’t believe we’ve properly met.”
“Although, you’ve improperly met…” his friend chided.
“Put a sock in it, Sigmund.”
Okay, so the asshole is Sig—or Sigmund. The previously naked one must be Leo, then. They were both tall and good-looking, but Leo, with his chiseled features, lustrous hair, and striking eyes was on another level—a total Adonis, and intimidatingly gorgeous.
Sigmund shrugged. “Surely she knows I’m just kidding.”
“But you don’t know when to stop. That’s always been your problem. Can’t you see how red her face is getting? You’re embarrassing her.”
Uh…how red is my face getting? This was mortifying. I couldn’t control that about myself. After all, I was a redhead with fair skin covered in freckles. Whenever I got embarrassed, I basically turned red from head to toe.
Leo’s tone softened. “I apologize for his rude behavior.” He held out his hand. “I’m Leo Covington.”
I took it, enjoying the warmth of his skin. “Felicity Dunleavy.”
The other guy offered his hand. “Sigmund Benedictus. But please call me Sig.”

 

Benedictus?
Been a dick-tus.
He sure had.
Fitting.

 

“Good to meet you,” I said.
“And you, as well, Freckles.”
Freckles? He couldn’t have come up with a more original nickname? I was self-conscious about my freckles, and typically wanted to murder anyone who dubbed me Freckles.
“Do you mind not calling me that?”
“Do you prefer a different nickname?” Sig asked. “Peeping Tom, perhaps?”
Leo gritted his teeth. “Enough. Seriously.”
“All right. I’ll behave. Going in search of tapenade for this bread.” He winked. “Be back.”
Relief washed over me as he walked away.
“I’m…really sorry about him,” Leo said.
“Well, given how you came to know of me, the ridicule is warranted. I shouldn’t have been spying.”
“I don’t reckon you anticipated seeing me in my birthday suit. That was the first time I’d ever done that. I assumed no one was in the vicinity, of course. For the record, I don’t make a habit of showering for all the world to see. I never had an outdoor shower in England. So it’s a novelty.”
Leo was simply striking. His hair was light brown with golden undertones. He had beautiful bone structure and full lips that were difficult not to stare at. There wasn’t one thing I would change about his face. His eyes were a deep blue. They reminded me of a piece of sea glass I’d used to make a necklace once.
I cleared my throat. “What brings you to Narragansett?”
“I’m taking six months off from life. It seemed like a good location to get lost. We picked this place randomly on a map, actually. Sigmund and I have spent our time in a few different locales. First was California, then New York, and now Rhode Island.”
“Are you two…together?”
His brow lifted. “What do you mean by together? We’re rooming together. But if you mean romantically together, then no. Exactly what did you assume?”
“I thought you might be gay.”
“If I were gay, I’d have far better taste in men than that wanker cousin of mine. What in God’s name made you think we were gay?”
“I don’t know. Two handsome men…living together in a big house…”
“So, if I’m a guy living with another man, I’m automatically shagging him?”
“You’re right. That was a hasty assumption.”
“Thank you for the compliment, by the way.”
I just called him handsome, didn’t I? Feeling suddenly hot, I looked toward the produce section. “Well, I’d better be going…”
“Before you do, I want to apologize for the flowers he sent your way the other night. I urged him not to. Not everyone appreciates that sense of humor.”
I shrugged. “It was fine. And they were pretty. I was embarrassed, at first, but then I ended up laughing about the whole thing. Mrs. Angelini certainly got a kick out of it.”
His brow lifted. “Mrs. Angelini?”
How do I explain who she is without unloading my history on this stranger? I kept it simple. “She’s my roommate.”
“Ah. Roommate. So she must be your lesbian lover, then.” He raised an eyebrow, and I had to smile. “Anyway, why do you call her Mrs. Angelini? She doesn’t have a first name?”
“Well, she’s seventy. It’s more of a respect thing. It’s what I started calling her some years back, and it stuck. She’s always asked me to call her by her first name, but I got used to calling her Mrs. Angelini.”
“I see.” His eyes seared into mine for a moment. “Your roommate is seventy. And how old are you, might I ask?”
“Twenty-four. What about you?”
“Twenty-eight,” he answered. His eyes lingered on mine for a bit. “Listen, we’re going to be renting the house across from you for the entire summer. We know virtually nothing about Narragansett. I’d love to pick your brain about places to go and things to do here. Maybe you wouldn’t mind coming over for tea sometime this week?”
“Tea? You really are British, aren’t you?”
“Guilty as charged.” His white teeth gleamed.
Looking down at my feet, I said, “I don’t know.”
“I promise not to take off my clothes…” He added a crooked smile.
I let out a much-needed laugh. “Well, since you put it that way.”
“Tomorrow at two, then? Or whatever time works for you.”
A part of me wanted to refuse, but why? It wasn’t like I had anything more exciting going on. I didn’t quite understand whether he genuinely wanted my expertise on Narragansett, or if there was something more to the invitation, now that I knew he wasn’t gay.
“Sure. Two tomorrow works.”
“Brilliant. You know how to get to the house without having to swim across, I take it?”
“Yes.” I smiled.
“Very well, then. And I promise, Sigmund will be on his best behavior.”
“I can handle it if he’s not.”
This seemingly rich traveler had no idea just how much I could handle. I might turn red when I was embarrassed, but I’d grown a pretty-thick skin over the years.
That’s the way it is when you always had to fend for yourself.
Copyright © 2021 Penelope Ward

 

AUTHOR BIO
Penelope
Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling
author of contemporary romance.
 
She grew up
in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a
television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son,
and beautiful daughter with autism.
 
With over two
million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author
of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen
languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.
AUTHOR LINKS
OTHER BOOKS BY PENELOPE WARD

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New Release, Review & *Giveaway* – Rules of Play, Lane Hayes

July 23, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, Giveaway, Release Day Blitz, Review | By

Title: Rules of Play

Series: The Script Club #2

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: July 16, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 53K

Genre: Romance, Brother’s Best Friend, Geek/Jock, Friends to Lovers, Bisexual-awakening, Contemporary MM Romance

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Synopsis

The genius, the mechanic, and a new playbook…

George-

My brother’s friend is hot. If you’re into flannel-wearing lumbersexual former jocks who eat donuts for dinner and still scribble to-do lists on their palms. I’m not. I’m a serious scientist in my final of grad school. Okay, I admit I have few quirks of my own. I also have a broken truck and a boss who thinks I can help him find love. I’m in over my head. Help!

Aiden-

A few quirks? Really? George the weirdest dude I know. He wears capes in public, brings a book everywhere he goes, and loves all thing spooky. He’s also the smartest person on the planet—who somehow thinks I can help him write a How-To-Get-A-Date playbook for his boss. Yeah, that sounds suspicious. I know baseball; I don’t know anything about love. But I can’t say no. I’ve always had a soft spot for George. I just didn’t count on falling for my best friend’s nerdy brother. This is against the rules, isn’t it?

Rules of Play is an MM bisexual awakening story where opposites attract and shenanigans ensue!

Excerpt

“The Script Club?”

I grimaced. “Well, yeah. That name came later.”

“You really are a little weirdo, aren’t you?”

The twinkle in Aiden’s eyes and his affectionate tone paired with an unlikely term of endearment were exactly what I needed to pull me from my infatuation-induced awkwardness.

I smacked his biceps playfully, then leaned against his side, staring up at the crescent moon in the twilight sky. “I am weird and I am proud.”

Aiden chuckled. “I like that about you. I like your idea too. It’s a good one. I should get in on that and collect a few new experiences before I quit the garage and move on to my next venture.”

“What would you do? I mean, what would you want to try?”

“I don’t know. Maybe something will come to me.” He set the half-eaten container of meatballs down and reached for his beer. “As for your boss…he needs a rule book.”

I shifted to face him. “What kind of rule book?”

“A dating rule book. It would be the equivalent of a sports playbook…a list of strategies and a backup plan if things go awry.”

“Okay, that makes sense. Step one, ask for a date.”

Aiden shook his head. “No. Don’t go in hot. Gotta practice a little finesse. It’s better to get to know someone—ask about their interests, share yours, and see if there’s anything there. Theoretically, that’s how I think it should work.”

“You’re right. They have to build a rapport.” I squinted. “He’s going to need an icebreaker.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Hit me with your best shot.”

“Uh…what do you mean?” I stammered.

“Pretend you’re into me and you want to get to know me.” Aiden quirked a brow and wiggled his fingers. “Ask me something.”

“What are your interests?”

He made an obnoxious buzzer noise and rolled his eyes. “Wrong. That’s a date question. A lame one, too. Would you really walk up to someone and ask them what they’re into?”

“No, of course not.”

“Redo. You’re trying to get to know me, but you can’t be too forward, and you can’t make assumptions. Got it?” He waited for my nod of agreement and continued. “Pretend we’re standing at the coffee machine at work on a Monday morning. And…action.”

“O-kay…what did you do last weekend?”

Aiden smiled. “Good one. And my answer…not much. I went to that college ball game I told you about last week, watched a lot of basketball, made arrangements to schlep your Bronco here, and played pool with Kenny and a couple of high school buddies. You?”

“I studied and hung out with my friends.”

He stared at me long enough for me to wonder if I had meatball between my teeth.

“If that’s all you have to say, you just killed this conversation,” he deadpanned.

I chuckled. “I did not. It was your turn to ask <em>me</em> something. That’s how it works in real life. I’m not that big of a dork!”

“But what about your boss?”

Good point. “Newton is a big dork. Very big.”

“Right, so this is where rules come into play. You have to pay attention and take hints and clues to heart. Almost everything I mentioned about my weekend had a theme…sports. I told you what I’m interested in without announcing, ‘I like sports.’ If you really wanted to get in my pants, you’d ask me a sports-related question.”

I shot to my feet, whirling my cape like a true badass. “Who said anything about getting in your pants?”

Yes, I was entirely in favor of the idea, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t said it aloud.

“Isn’t that the end game?” Aiden flashed a devilish grin my way.

“No! I mean, maybe for you, but not for Newton. I don’t think he’s hoping for sex.”

“Then what’s the point?”

“Love!”

Aiden widened his eyes comically. “What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed in defeat, reclaiming my spot on the stoop next to him. “That’s why this is complicated.”

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Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Rules of Play is the second book in the Script Club series by the talented Lane Hayes. This is an bisexual awakening romance with his best friend’s brother! We met George in Following the Rules, he’s Simon’s brother. Aiden is Simon’s best friend. Aiden has known George since he they were young. He always had a thing for him, but he never really knew what it was. When he saves the day and helps him repair his car, he realizes now what it is. Attraction. To a man. But not just any man. Just to George. Aiden isn’t scared or nervous, he wants to see where the attraction goes. George had a crush on Aiden when he was a kid. He’s big, burly and sexy. But he’s straight, right? Not if that kiss is any indication. Aiden needs George’s brain and George needs Aiden’s help when his boss asks for dating advice. It’s the perfect plan. They get to spend time together getting to know each other as adults and they get to explore their attraction with sexy kisses, make out sessions and so much more. They promise to always be friends no matter what happens. This is the happiest Aiden has ever been but he’s not quite ready to come out as bi. George wants Aiden to be happy, to live his best life. Will they be able to admit their feelings and have a future together? I can’t even express how much I LOVE Aiden and George. I was invested in them from the first paragraph and they have quickly become one of my favorite couples of Lanes! Aiden is so sexy in his plaid shirts, chest hair a few extra pounds. George is the best kind of weird with his penchant for wearing a cape and having a book with him everywhere he goes. I was laughing out loud, getting hot and bothered and not wanting this story to end!

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Bookbub

Did you miss book 1 in the series? Get Following the Rules at Amazon

The geek, the jock, and a new set of rules…

Also available in Audio

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Excerpt Reveal – The Spark, Vi Keeland

July 8, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt | By

 

Title: The Spark
Author: Vi Keeland
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 12, 2021
Excited about Vi Keeland’s upcoming release, The Spark? Check out this SNEAK PEEK of CHAPTER 1!

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Autumn

 

I’m definitely getting too old for this.

 

I tossed a pile of mail on the couch and plopped down beside it. It was barely six o’clock, and I wouldn’t have minded climbing into bed and calling it a day. I needed a vacation from my four-day mini vacation. Thank goodness I’d scheduled myself a weekend to recover. My girls’ trip/early bachelorette party in Vegas for my friend Anna—the one where we were all going to relax by the pool and get spa treatments—had turned into all-night clubbing and almost missing my flight home earlier today because I’d overslept. It had definitely been a while since I drank more than two glasses of wine in the span of a week, and I was feeling my ripe old age of twenty-eight before the sun had even set this Friday night. Thank God I didn’t have to work tomorrow.
I briefly considered going the hair-of-the-dog route and sucking back a vodka cran while zoning out on Netflix, but then my phone rang, crashing me back to reality.
Ugh…
Dad flashed on the screen. I should’ve just gotten it over with and spoken to him, but I didn’t have the energy. Nonetheless, allowing myself to avoid the stress speaking to my father would inevitably cause reminded me of the other thing I needed to do that I’d been avoiding all afternoon. Laundry. One of my least-favorite tasks—mostly because it required me to sit downstairs in my building’s dingy basement laundry room. Up until a few months ago, I would start my laundry and come back forty-five minutes later to make the switch to the dryer. But that practice had come to a halt after one of my loads went missing—an entire load of wet bras and underwear. Who the hell stole wet clothes? At least nab dry ones. Nevertheless, it was an expensive lesson, and now I didn’t leave the basement until my clothes were washed and dried.
Sighing, I begrudgingly went to the bedroom, where my suitcase still sat on the bed, and unzipped it. I’d packed a linen skirt on top that I hadn’t wound up wearing, and I figured I’d hang it in the bathroom and hope the wrinkles worked themselves out over the course of a couple of steamy showers. I hated ironing almost as much as I hated doing laundry downstairs.
But when I flipped open the top of the suitcase, my linen skirt wasn’t on top. At first I thought my bag must’ve been selected for search, and things hadn’t been put back in order… Though the wingtip shoe I lifted was most definitely not mine.

 

Shit.

 

I rummaged through the suitcase in a panic.
Slacks, running clothes, a men’s dress shirt… A sickening feeling washed over me, and I scrambled to look at the luggage tag. I’d never filled out the identification card inside, but the leather had my initials embossed on the outside.
And this one…had no initials.

 

Crap. Crap. Crap.

 

I’d grabbed the wrong bag off the luggage carousel. I started to sweat. All of my makeup was in that bag! Not to mention a week’s worth of my best outfits and shoes. I needed to get it back. Rushing to the kitchen, I grabbed my cell from the charger on the counter and Googled the number for the airline. After wading through a half-dozen prompts, I reached a recording.
“Thank you for calling American Airlines. Due to unprecedented call volume, your estimated wait time is approximately forty-one minutes.”
Forty-one minutes! I blew out a rush of air. Great. Just great.
In the meantime, while I waited on hold on speakerphone, listening to staticky music, it hit me that whoever’s luggage I had might very well have mine. I hadn’t even checked the luggage tag to see if, unlike mine, the identification information was filled in.
I zipped back down the hall to my bedroom.
Bingo!
Donovan Deckerkind of a cool name. And he lived here in the city! Thankfully, Donovan even had his phone number listed. It couldn’t be that easy, could it? I doubted it, but considering I still had forty minutes before I could speak to someone at the airline, I wasn’t losing much for trying. So I swiped to end my call. I started to punch in the numbers on the tag, and then decided to hit *67 first to make my number private. With my luck, the guy wouldn’t have my luggage, but he’d be a total creeper.
I was caught off guard when a man’s deep voice answered on the first ring. I hadn’t yet figured out what I was going to say.
“Uhhh. Hi. My name is Autumn, and I think I might have your luggage.”
“That was quick. I just hung up with you guys two minutes ago.”
He must’ve thought I was calling from the airline. “Oh, no. I don’t work for American. I traveled home this morning and must’ve grabbed the wrong bag at JFK.”
“What are your initials?”
“My initials?”
“Yeah, you know, the first letter of your first name and the first letter of your last name.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know what initials are. I just don’t understand why you would ask—Oh! Does that mean you have my luggage? I have my initials embossed on the luggage tag.”
“That depends on what your initials are, Autumn. The first letter matches.”
“My initials are AW.”
“Well, then it seems you are indeed the thief who clipped my luggage.”
Sure, I hadn’t checked my luggage tag, but it offended me that he was calling me a thief. “Wouldn’t we both be thieves? Since you’re in possession of my luggage?”
“I only took yours because it was the last one left rotating around the carousel. You see, unlike you, I checked the luggage tag the first time it passed, and when I saw it wasn’t mine, I left it for the rightful owner to claim. But the line at baggage customer service was twenty deep, and I had a meeting I was already late for. So I took the one I have hostage until the airline could sort it out.”
My shoulders slumped. “Oh. Sorry.”
“It’s fine. Are you here in the City?”
“I am. Could we possibly meet to swap bags?”
“Sure. When and where? I’m out now, but I’ll be back in an hour or two.”
The tag had an address on the Upper East Side, but I lived on the West Side, farther downtown. “Could we meet at the Starbucks on 80th and Lex?” That was closer to him, but at least I’d only have to drag the suitcase onto one subway.
“I can’t think of any excuse not to. What time?”
That was sort of a weird way to phrase a yes, and the way he emphasized the word excuse seemed odd. But hey, I was getting my bag back. So what if he turned out to be a little strange? At least I’d hidden my phone number, and we were meeting in a public place.
“How about eight?”
“I’ll see you then.”
It sounded like he was about to hang up. “Wait…” I said. “How will I know it’s you?”
“I’ll be the one holding your luggage, Autumn W.”
I chuckled. “Oh, yeah. Sorry…long week in Vegas.”
I bent and lifted the shoe from the top of the bag. Ferragamo. Expensive. And big, too. A quick peek revealed it was a size thirteen. The inner teenager in me couldn’t help but think big feet, big…. Plus, the guy had a deep, sexy voice. I would definitely be exploring more of the dude’s luggage after we hung up.
“I’ll meet you at eight,” he said.
“See you then.” I was just about to swipe my phone off when something hit me. Oh God! “Hello? Wait…are you still there?”
It took a heartbeat or two, but the sexy voice came back on the line. “What’s up?”
“Ummm… Did you…open my bag?”
“I unzipped it at the airport to make sure it wasn’t mine when I noticed the luggage tag initials.”
“Did you…see anything?”
“There was a pink thong on top, so that pretty much sealed the deal that it didn’t belong to me. But I didn’t rummage through, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I forgot I’d shoved that thong in at the last minute. It had been at the back of a drawer when I’d checked the hotel room one last time on my way out. But I’d take him seeing my underwear over the other stuff inside my bag. I blew out a sigh of relief. “Okay, that’s great. Thank you. I’ll see you at eight at Starbucks.”
“Whoa. Hang on a second—not so fast. You sounded pretty nervous that I might’ve gone through your bag. Are you hiding something sinister in there? I’m not going to be walking around with a suitcase full of drugs or something, am I?”
I cracked a smile. “No, definitely not. I just…I’d prefer if you didn’t go through it.”
“Did you rummage through mine?”
I glanced at the shoe in my hand. Taking out one measly piece of footwear wouldn’t be considered rummaging, right? Nah. “No, I didn’t.”
“Are you planning on it?” he asked.
I had no idea what the man looked like, yet I could tell by his voice that he was smiling now.
“Nope,” I lied.
“Alright. Then we have a deal. I won’t go through your bag, and you won’t go through mine.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
“Do I have your word on that, Autumn W? I might have some things I’d prefer you didn’t see in there.”
“Like what?”
He chuckled. “See you at eight.”
After we hung up, I tossed the shoe back into the suitcase and bent to close it. But as I reached for the zipper, my curiosity got the best of me. Was he just screwing with me, or did he really have something in here he didn’t want me to see? Of course, I knew what I had in mine, which made me extra curious.
I shook my head and started to pull the zipper closed. About halfway, I laughed out loud. Who was I kidding? Now that I didn’t have laundry to do, I had almost a full two hours to kill before I met Mr. Bigfoot. This suitcase would taunt me all that time. I’d most certainly give in eventually, so why not put myself out of that misery and just take a little look-see inside now? Then I’d be able to relax. He’d never know I hadn’t lived up to my end of the bargain. Not to mention, for all I knew, he was elbow deep in my suitcase right now. In that case, it would only be fair that I got to go through his, right?
I nibbled my lip for a few seconds as a wave of guilt washed over me. But I quickly forced that out of my mind. Of course I’m right.
Feeling justified now, I unzipped the suitcase and took a minute to mentally note how everything was packed: a white dress shirt was folded on top, and two shoes were set on either side, heels facing up. I carefully unpacked those and placed them on the bed next to the suitcase in the same order. The next layer had more folded clothes: two expensive dress shirts, a pair of sweats, boxer briefs, and a few T-shirts, one of which had something emblazoned on the front—familiar lettering that began HA—so I unfolded it to see what it said. Harvard Law.
Ugh. One of those. No wonder he could afford Ferragamo shoes.
Underneath the pile of clothes was a white laundry bag—the kind a hotel gives you to put your dry cleaning in, but most people used it to separate their dirty clothes. With no desire to sort through smelly socks, I started to fold the clothes back into the suitcase, feeling a twinge of disappointment. But when I smoothed out the layers of the pile, I felt something lumpy and hard underneath in the plastic laundry bag. So I took the clothes back out and looked inside, hoping to find…I’m not sure what. Though what I found was definitely not what I expected.
The bag was filled with at least twenty or thirty of those little shampoo bottles hotels give out. Actually, a closer inspection revealed some were conditioner and a few were moisturizer. Buried on the very bottom were also three little sewing kits and half-a-dozen toothbrushes wrapped in plastic—the kind you could get at the front desk of a hotel when you forgot yours.
What the heck had Mr. Bigfoot done? Rob a housekeeping cart? This kind of stuff, though a lesser quantity, is what you’d usually find in my suitcase since I was broke all the time. But it wasn’t the type of thing you’d expect in the suitcase of a man who had gone to Harvard and wore seven-hundred-dollar dress shoes.
Now I was even more curious to meet Donovan Decker.
***
I arrived at Starbucks almost twenty minutes early, so I went online to treat myself to a flat white with honey almond milk. Even ordering it had me salivating, thinking about the sweet, creamy drink. Expensive coffee was my indulgence, but it didn’t happen too often with the five-dollar price tag and my skimpy budget.
I stood at the end of the counter, waiting for my drink and mindlessly scrolling on my phone, when a man walking through the front door caught my attention.

 

Oh, wow.

 

Now that was one good-looking man. Describing him as merely tall, dark, and handsome didn’t cut it, not by a mile. Jet-black hair framed a magnificent face with a chiseled, masculine bone structure, full lips, and a Romanesque nose. I wasn’t the only one to notice, either. I watched as the Adonis took a step back outside to hold the door open for a woman exiting the store, and the poor lady caught one glimpse of him and literally tripped over her own feet.
Seemingly oblivious that he’d caused the incident, he extended a hand to help her up, flashed a killer smile, and strolled inside. His bright blue eyes scanned the room, stopping right on my ogling ones. Embarrassed at being caught, I quickly diverted my attention back to my phone. A few seconds later, I was still pretending to be enraptured by my screen when footsteps came to a halt in front of me. I glanced up and blinked a few times. The guy from the door flashed a crooked smile.
“Were you able to control yourself?”
My forehead wrinkled. “Excuse me?”
His eyes danced with mirth, and his voice lowered. “I bet you couldn’t.”
I stared at him for an awkward moment before finally shaking my head. “What on Earth are you talking about?”
The man’s brows furrowed. “We made a deal, remember? I wouldn’t go through yours, if you didn’t touch mine?”
I’d watched the man walk in, stood right in front of him staring for at least a solid minute, and it took until now for me to notice he had something in his hand.
“Oh my God. You have my suitcase!”
He laughed but still looked perplexed. “What did you think I was talking about?”
“I…I don’t know. I was thoroughly confused.”
“I thought you saw me walk in.”
I did. But I hadn’t made it past your face. “No, I hadn’t noticed. Sorry. I guess I was just zoning out.”
The barista behind the counter yelled my name. I was glad for an excuse to put some distance between this guy and me. I needed a moment to gather my wits. Though when I returned, I still felt a little off-kilter.
“Thank you for meeting me to swap suitcases,” I said. “I’m really sorry I took the wrong one.”
“No problem.”
I rolled his case forward and released the handle. But the Adonis didn’t do the same. In fact, he pulled my bag closer to his side.
“Before we switch…” He tilted his head and studied my face. “I’m curious to know if you kept your word.”
I mimicked his pose and tilted my head. “What if I say I didn’t?”
“Well, then you’d have to pay a penalty for violating the terms of our deal.”
I raised a brow, intrigued. “A penalty?”
He nodded. “That’s right. There’s a penalty.”
I laughed as I lifted my coffee for a sip. “I just got back from a girls’ weekend in Vegas. Pretty sure this overpriced drink just used up the last five dollars in my bank account.”
“I wasn’t referring to a monetary penalty.”
“What kind of a penalty, then?”
He stroked the stubble on his chin for a moment. “You’d have to have coffee with me.”
Did this guy really think that would be a hardship? I debated how to answer. If I told the truth, it would be embarrassing. I mean, I went through the man’s personal belongings. But the flipside was I’d get to check him out some more over coffee. Then again, I’d be agreeing to spend time with a complete stranger. Though…whenever I met a guy online, I usually met him at a coffeehouse, and I probably knew more about this guy after going through his suitcase than I would from an online chat. Not to mention, none of my online dates had looked like Donovan Decker lately. In fact, none had made it further than coffee in a while.
Adonis had been watching my face as I debated my answer. His smirk made me think he already knew I’d checked out his bag. So, what the hell?
I stood tall and met his stare. “Was the lady from housekeeping harmed in the robbery?”
His eyes narrowed for a heartbeat, but then a giant smile spread across his face. He held his hand out toward the seating area. “After you, Autumn W.”

 

 

★★★ 

 

 

 

Excited? We are too!

 

RELEASING
JULY 12th!

 

 

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AUTHOR BIO
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
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Release Blitz, Review, Excerpt & *Giveaway* – Following the Rules, Lane Hayes

May 13, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, Giveaway, Release Day Blitz, Review | By

Title: Following The Rules

Series: The Script Club #1

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: May 7, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50k

Genre: Romance, Nerd/Jock, MM Romance, Bisexual Awakening, Best Friend’s Brother,

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Synopsis

The geek, the jock, and a new set of rules…

Topher-

My friend’s brother needs an academic assistant and I need a job. Problem…jocks are my weakness. Seriously. I lose my ability to speak coherently around muscle-bound hotties. Oh yeah, I lose my inhibitions too—not a good look for a guy with a genius IQ. So what am I going to do about Simon?

Simon-

Finishing college isn’t high on my list of priorities, but my future in professional football is looking bleak. I need a plan B or C, and I could use some help navigating life as an undergrad. Topher is perfect. He’s also a little strange…but in a good way. And I like the way I feel when I’m around him—as though anything is possible. Maybe if we follow our hearts, we’ll find what we’re looking for. But that means changing the rules…

Following the Rules is a MM, bisexual awakening romance starring a lovable nerd, a cool jock, and some extracurricular fun.

Excerpt

I served us both a slice of each kind of pizza and slid a plate his way, gesturing for him to help himself to the cheese or whatever else he might want.

“I don’t care about money,” I said around a mouthful of food. “Eat up. This is tasty, but it won’t be as good when it’s cold.”

Topher flashed an anxious sideways smile and took a mouse-sized nibble. “Mmm, that’s delicious.”

I washed down my pizza with a healthy swig of wine, nudging his knee as I swiveled to face him. “Are you okay?”

He wiped his hands on a napkin and drained half his water, setting it on the island with a decisive thud. “Yes, I’m just a little nervous.”

“Nervous? Oh. I’m sorry.” I frowned and before I could rein my tongue, blurted, “You seemed fine when we were joking about tiny gorilla penises, and hell…you saw my dick and—”

“I wasn’t joking. I was reciting a fact and as far as your penis is concerned…”

I twisted to face him, unable to contain a mischievous grin.

“Yes? I’m waiting,” I singsonged, biting into the ham and pineapple pizza.

“I told you, Simon…I was simply doing the math,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Six and a half inches.”

“Nine.”

Topher narrowed his eyes, his features softening in amusement. “Six and three-quarters, max.”

I scoffed and hooked my thumb under the elastic waistband of my sweats. “Wanna see?”

“No! Geez. You know, it’s very difficult to stay on topic with you. And staying on topic is the only way this will work.”

“Okay, fine. Back to dick size. What animal has the biggest schlong on the planet?”

He gaped at me for a hot second. “The blue whale. It’s estimated to be seven to ten feet long.”

“Whoa!”

“Although I don’t know that it’s ever been measured during intercourse. Or if that’s even possible.” He reached for his pizza with his brow knit in concentration as though pondering whale dick…as one does.

“Whales are huge. It makes sense. What about land animals?”

“Elephants. They’ve legitimately measured specimens in excess of thirty-nine inches.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” I snort-laughed. “Christ, I’m feeling very inadequate with my mere twelve inches.”

“Six,” Topher scoffed. “Look, before we get sidetracked again, I just want to—”

“I’ll pay you double.”

“What? Why?”

I sighed as I picked up my wineglass. “I don’t want to fail. No…it’s more than that. I need to look smart. I can’t come across as the fuckup wide receiver who got dumped from the NFL and blew the cushy back-door admittance to a prestigious university by failing his first semester. I thought I might be able to muddle through with a few pointers from George, but it’s going to take more than that. I need a real assistant.”

Topher widened his eyes, then blinked in disbelief when I named an exorbitant salary. I had a hard time keeping my own expression. What the hell was I thinking? Did I really need an assistant?

I didn’t know, but I needed…something.

“Oh, that’s a lot of money,” he whispered breathlessly.

“It’s the going rate for a personal assistant. Ironically, I never had one while I played ball, but I need the help now. I want the best, and George says that’s you.”

Topher smiled. “George didn’t say he was the best?”

“Actually, he did. But we can’t be in the same room for an hour without wanting to take a swing at each other.”

“You and George fight?”

“Not as much now that we’re older, but…yeah, I guess we still fight. We don’t have much in common.”

“You and I have even less in common,” he replied.

“That’s a good thing. Trust me, it’s better for me that you don’t know that I slept with a teddy bear until I was thirteen…or that I still have that damn bear for reasons unknown.” I gave a self-deprecating chuckle, then sipped my wine and set it on the island. “So…are you in? Make me smarter, Toph. I need your brain!”

He stared at me for a long moment, inclining his head. “Okay.”

“Yes!” I fist-pumped the air as if I’d just scored a touchdown and held out my hand for a high five.

Topher left me hanging for a few long seconds before gently tapping his palm to mine. I grabbed his wrist to hold him steady for a redo. The contact was light and breezy…and spontaneous. But that was how I rolled. For a guy who played professional football, it was nothing.

However, this didn’t feel like nothing.

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Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Following the Rules is the first book new series, The Script Club, by Lane Hayes. It’s a brother’s friend, awakening story full of fun, sexiness, dorkiness and little angst. My favorite kind of book! It’s a feel good story about Simon, the jock and Topher, the nerd. An unlikely pair who happen to be perfect for each other. They are both at pivotal places in their life. Simon needs to finish college while he’s waiting to hear about his future in football and Topher is about to start grad school and looking for the perfect job. Simon needs help with school and Topher is a genius who needs the money. Win win. And the added extra bonus, they have crazy chemistry! I loved their fun banter and the way Simon is so laid back and never questioned his attraction for Topher. Topher cracked me up with his facts and his nervous talking. I couldn’t love these two more if I tried! Looking forward to the next one!

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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Blog Tour & Excerpt – The Rise of Fortune and Fury, Sawyer Bennett

May 9, 2021 | Posted in Blog Tour, Excerpt | By

From New York Times Bestselling Author Sawyer Bennett comes the Chronicles of the Stone Veil, a five book urban fantasy/paranormal romance series. A departure from contemporary romance, the Chronicles of the Stone Veil is a return to fantasy/paranormal romance, where Sawyer started her fiction publishing journey. Readers can expect to find all the elements they love from Sawyer’s books—strong heroines, alpha heroes, and an epic romance—with a fantastical element to add to their reading experience. You can get the fifth, and final, book in the series, The Rise of Fortune and Fury, now!

Details for the Chronicles of the Stone Veil series are below:

 

You can start the series today with The Revelation of Light and Dark.

Go to Sawyer’s website for details: Click here to learn more about The Chronicles of the Stone Veil series

The Rise of Fortune and Fury is available now:

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The Rise of Fortune and Fury

Chronicles of the Stone Veil, book #5 | Available Now

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Book Blurb:

It’s time to meet my destiny.

Kymaris has everything she needs to bring down the veil between Earth and the Underworld. If she’s successful in completing the ritual, Earth will be darkened by evil. Demons will swarm our lands and the human race will be decimated.

It’s up to me to stop her.

My fate is to thwart the prophecy, but I’m not sure what to do. While I may have some gifts, I am still merely a human facing the queen of the Dark Fae who holds unimaginable power.

But I have something she doesn’t. Something she could never comprehend.

I have love.

Deep, abiding love which gives me the strength and courage to face down evil. Family, friends, and unexpected allies, who will stand shoulder to shoulder with me against this enemy. Should I fail, they are prepared to go down with me, but only after we have given our all.

My sacrifice may destroy everything I am. Fate may require my demise. But if that happens, I will leave this realm without regret, knowing that I have loved and been loved in return.

The Rise of Fortune and Fury is book five of the Chronicles of the Stone Veil series and is best enjoyed if read in series order.

 

The Rise of Fortune and Fury is available now:

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AVAILABLE NOW

The Revelation of Light and Dark

Chronicles of the Stone Veil, book #1 | Available Now

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A Discovery of Secrets and Fate

Chronicles of the Stone Veil, book #2 | Available Now

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The Evolution of Fae and Gods

Chronicles of the Stone Veil, book #3 | Available Now

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A Battle of Blood and Stone

Chronicles of the Stone Veil, book #4 | Available Now

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The Rise of Fortune and Fury

Chronicles of the Stone Veil, book #5 | Available Now

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————————-

AUTHOR INFORMATION:

New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Sawyer Bennett uses real life experience to create relatable stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From contemporary romance, fantasy romance, and both women’s and general fiction, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.

A former trial lawyer from North Carolina, when she is not bringing fiction to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to her very adorable daughter, as well as full-time servant to her wonderfully naughty dogs.

If you’d like to receive a notification when Sawyer releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter (sawyerbennett.com/signup).

 

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Cover Reveal, Excerpt & *Giveaway* – Reel, Kennedy Ryan

May 5, 2021 | Posted in Cover Reveal, Excerpt, Giveaway | By

Reel, Kennedy Ryan’s new breathtaking standalone romance set in the glamorous world of film and theater, is coming June 8th, and we have the beautiful cover and your first look!

Award-Winning Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Kennedy Ryan launches a brand new series with a Hollywood tale of wild ambition, artistic obsession, and unrelenting love.

One moment in the spotlight.

For months I stood by, an understudy waiting in the wings, preparing for my time to shine. I never imagined he would watch in the audience that night. Canon Holt. Famous film director. Fascinating. Talented. Fine. Before I could catch my breath, everything changed. I went from backstage Broadway to center stage Hollywood. From being unknown, to my name, Neevah Saint, on everyone’s lips. Canon casts me in a star-studded Harlem Renaissance biopic, catapulting me into another stratosphere.

But stars shine brightest in the dead of night. Forbidden attraction, scandal and circumstances beyond my control jeopardize my dream. Could this one shot—the role of a lifetime, the love of a lifetime—cost me everything?

Reserve your copy today! Amazon: https://amzn.to/3xwekW8 Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/Reel Apple Books: https://apple.co/3dWwUyG Kobo: https://bit.ly/2QCKcHS Nook: https://bit.ly/3nsKKfr Google Play: https://bit.ly/3gHMDUc Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2RpXgAe Barnes and Noble Paperback: https://bit.ly/3nsKKfr

➜ Enter the Goodreads Giveaway! Kennedy is giving away 10 Signed Reel Paperbacks! http://bit.ly/REELGoodreadsGive

➜ Follow Hollywood Renaissance series on Instagram: @TheHollywoodRenaissanceSeries

Keep reading for the very first excerpt from Reel!

When the show reaches its climax, at the very end, the song pries the final note from my diaphragm, pulls it from my throat and suspends it—leaves it throbbing in the air. The theater goes quiet for the space of a breath held by 800 people and then explodes.  Applause. The relief is knee-weakening. I literally have to grab John, the lead actor’s arm for support. He doesn’t miss a beat, pulling me into his side and squeezing. “Bravo,” he whispers, a broad, genuine smile spread across his face. The last song made me cry, and my face, still wet from those tears, splits into a wide, disbelieving grin. I did it. I survived my first Broadway performance.  The lights drop and we rush backstage, a cacophony of laughter and chatter filling the hidden passageways. When the curtain call begins, the cast return to the stage in small waves, the applause building as the principals take their bows.  And then it’s my turn. On legs still shaky, I leave the safety of the wings, the long skirt of my costume belling out around me. I take center stage. The applause crescendos, approval vibrating through my bones and jolting my soul. Someone thrusts flowers into my arms and the sweet smell wafts around me. Every sense, every molecule of my being strains, opens, stretches to absorb this small slice of triumph. I can’t breathe deeply enough. The air comes in shallow sips, and I’m dizzy. The world spins like a top, a kaleidoscope of colors and light and sound that threatens to overwhelm me. The whirl of it makes me giddy, and I laugh. Eyes welling with tears, I laugh. These are the moments a lifetime in the making. We toil in the shadows of our dreams. In the alleys of preparation and hard work where it’s dark and nothing’s promised. For years, we cling by a thread of hope and imagination, dedicating our lives to a pursuit with no guarantees. But tonight, if only for tonight, it’s all worth it. I’m still floating when Takira bursts into the dressing room. “Neevah!” she screams, throwing her arms around me and rocking me back and forth. “You did it. You chewed that performance up and spat it out. You hear me?” I laugh and return her squeeze, new tears trailing down my cheeks.  “Thank you.” I pull back to peer into my friend’s face. “I can’t believe it.” “Well, believe it. You served notice.” She snaps her fingers and grins. “Neevah Saint is here.” “Now to do it seven more times.” I laugh and start taking pins from the wig, which is as hot as a herd of sheep on my head. “Oh, you got it, unless Elise hears how amazing you were and cuts her vacation short.” “Not happening. She was ready for a break, but she’d never missed a show.”  I strip off the costume and stand in only panties, unselfconscious. Modesty is one of the first things to go in this business. I’ve undressed hurriedly in a roomful of actors and dancers in smaller shows where there was a dressing room, so we get real communal real fast.  I tug on skinny jeans with a tight-fitting orange sweater, and layer it with a brown leather jacket, scarf, boots. I wipe away the heavy stage makeup. It feels like my skin can breathe for the first time in hours. I assume there will be some fans at the stage door, even if it’s just a few. They’ll have to get the real Neevah because I don’t want anything more than a slick of lip gloss and a bit of mascara. A brown, orange and green plaid newsboy cap covering the neat cornrows I wore under my wig is all I’m doing for hair. Slim oversized gold hoops in my ears finish the look. “Ready?” I ask Takira, hefting a slouchy bag on my shoulder. “Let’s do this. Hopefully your adoring fans won’t take all night, ’cause your girl is starving.” We’re still laughing, and I’m so preoccupied with my empty stomach, I’m completely unprepared for the crowd at the stage door. Are they here for John? For some principal player because surely they’re not all here for the understudy. “Neevah!” a young girl, maybe ten or eleven, calls. “Can you sign this?” She thrusts a pen and a Splendor playbill toward me. She glows, her smooth brown cheeks rounded with a wide grin. Her eyes shine with . . . pride? “Oh, sure,” I mumble dazedly, taking the pen and signing my name.  She’s the first in a long line of girls, all shapes and colors and ages, saying what it meant to see me onstage. Mothers whispering how impactful it was for their Black and brown daughters to be in the audience tonight. The impact is on me; what could feel like a weight or burden or responsibility feels like a warm embrace. Feels like strong arms encircling me. Supporting me. The first time I saw someone who looked like me onstage, it planted a seed inside of me. It whispered a dream. That could be you. It makes me emotional to think I might have done that for any of these girls tonight, and I spend the next twenty minutes scribbling my name on playbills through a film of tears. “Neevah!” a deep male voice calls from the back of the now-thinning crowd. I squint at the tall man, frowning until I place him. “Wright!” I take a few steps and he meets me halfway, giving me a tight hug. “Oh, my God. You were here tonight?” “Was I here?” When he pulls back, a warm smile creases his handsome face. “You blew it out of the water. I knew you were good, but damn.” Laughter spills out of me and I don’t think this night could get more perfect. I randomly met Wright Bellamy a few weeks back at a gig when he subbed for the pianist, giving the audience more than they bargained for with such a famous musician tickling the ivories that night. “Thank you.” I step away and shove my hands into the pockets of my jeans, huddling in the leather jacket against the chill of an October night. “I was nervous as hell.” “Didn’t show. Your voice is spectacular. I knew that from the gig we did, but I had no idea you were that good. Wow. Glad I saw your post on Instagram or I would’ve missed it.” I’m stone-still, shocked that he came tonight specifically to see me perform. “I’m so glad you made it. You’re still in LA, right?” “Yeah, but I’m here for some stuff. Heading back home in a few days.” Takira walks up, linking her arm through mine. “Girl, if we don’t get some food,” she whispers. “Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I turn back to Wright. “Takira, this is Wright Bellamy. Wright, my friend Takira.” “Nice to meet you,” Takira says. “You got any food on you? I’m about to eat your hat.”  As usual, Takira never meets a stranger and has us laughing right away. “We’re actually headed to Glass House Tavern,” I tell Wright. “Come if you want. It’s a group of us from the show. Just some of the cast celebrating, but you’re welcome. We can catch up.” A small frown dents between his thick brows and he glances over his shoulder. “I mean, no pressure obviously,” I rush to assure him. This is one of the biggest names in music, and here I go, inviting him to dinner with a group of strangers.  “No, it sounds cool,” he says, looking back to us. “Lemme check with my boy. Can he come?” I glance over his shoulder and spot a tall man turned away from us, his broad shoulders and back straining a wool blazer, a hoodie pulled up to cover his head and face in the cold. His hands burrow into the pockets of his blazer and he’s nodding like he’s talking to himself. “He’s on the phone,” Wright explains. “But lemme see if he wants to roll.” He steps away toward the man and Takira immediately squeezes my hand and squeals. “Neeve.” Her eyes are wide and bright. Mouth dropped open. “That’s Wright Bellamy.” “I know. He’s cool as a fan.” “You know him? How—” “We’re in,” Wright says, stepping back up beside us. “He’s finishing a call, but we’re ready. Lead the way.” It’s just a few blocks, and the three of us chat about the show and what Wright’s been doing in New York. All the while his friend’s deep voice rumbles a few paces behind. I don’t want to be rude or nosy and look back, but the rich timbre, his towering height, his face obscured by the hoodie—I’m intrigued. He hangs back on the sidewalk, still on his call, when we enter the restaurant.  Our friends already have a table and a shout goes up, congratulating me on popping my White Way cherry. My three understudy buddies came. John’s here, too, and one other principal. A few from the stage crew. Our little troupe has become a family and, as if eight shows a week isn’t enough time together, we gather and eat every chance we get.  “You’re not paying tonight,” John says, holding out the seat beside him. “And drinks are on me.” “Awwww.” I plop into the chair and drop my bag to the floor. “You’re so sweet. You don’t have to do that.” “You were fantastic,” John says, baby blue eyes sincere and smiling. “Let’s do it again tomorrow.” Takira is already sitting beside me, so Wright takes the seat next to her. “Hey,” he says to Janie across the table. “Could you hold that seat beside you for my friend? He’s wrapping up a call, but’ll be in soon.” “Sure.” Janie blushes. “I love your work, by the way. The score of Silent Midnight . . . gah.”  “Thank you. That was a special project. Lots of fun,” Wright replies with a smile. “Now tell me about the show.” Wright’s a genius, but he’s so unassuming and modest. A man as famous as he is could easily make this conversation about him, let everyone at this table give his ego a real nice hand job, but he doesn’t. He talks about our show, compliments the performance, asks John about his process. I liked him when we did that last-minute gig, and we’ve interacted some on social media since. My impression of him holds up. He’s a good guy.  Not to state the obvious, but also fine. Like fine fine. He has this Boris Kodjoe vibe. Real smooth. Kind of golden–brown. Clean-cut, close-cut. I can objectively recognize his appeal, even though he’s not my type.  Not that I have a type lately. I’m so deep in this dick drought I’m past the point of thirst.  At first I thought it was merely the grind. Auditioning constantly, taking craft classes, doing commercials and voiceover work to not just keep bills paid, but to save. This business is feast or famine. I’m eating now, but I’ve been hungry before. Not again. I’m thirty. Too old to still be living gig to gig and buying into that starving artist thing. I need health insurance and regularly scheduled meals, thank you very much. So yeah, the grind could account for my semi-disinterested libido, but I suspect it’s more.  Maybe I’m disinterested. I need a man who doesn’t think that because he has a dick and I don’t that I should defer to him—shrink my dreams down to a more manageable size. I’m cautious not only about who I share my heart and body with, but I’m also protective of my dreams; of my ambition. I won’t endanger my future for a man who can fuck. Though . . . a man who can fuck? I wouldn’t turn it down, but it will take more than that to pique my interest. “What are you getting?” Takira asks, leaning over to read my menu instead of hers. “Anything here meet your high standards?” My standards aren’t that high. I’ve just cut out red meat and stopped drinking as much alcohol. My health demands it.  “I’m thinking about the salmon, but I—” A chair scraping across the floor catches my attention. Wright’s friend has finally come inside to join us. The table shrinks immediately when he settles his imposing frame into the seat beside Janie. He peels the hood away from his head and I bite off a gasp. It’s Canon Holt. Like the Canon Holt. The director I, and probably every actress at this table and in this dining room, would sacrifice a pinky toe to work with. Canon Holt is at my table sitting across from me.  Takira’s expression doesn’t register this massive earthquake of a revelation, but she kicks me under the table and hisses from the corner of her mouth. “Did you know?” I pretend I need to reach for something on the floor so I can whisper back, “Do you think I would have kept my shit together this long if I knew?” “True. True.” Takira casually glances up from her menu and smiles in Canon’s general direction, but he’s not looking at her. He’s studying his screen. He’s apparently in an exclusive relationship with his phone, and no one at this table tempts him to stray. Which means I can look at him. Good. God. He’s not that handsome, but that’s irrelevant. Some might even call his features, examined on their own, unremarkable.  They’d be wrong. It’s a Maker’s sleight of hand. Now God knew this man did not need lashes that long and thick, a paradox against the hard, high slant of his cheekbones. Canon hasn’t looked twice at anyone here as far as I can tell, but I’ve stolen enough glances to know there’s a fathomlessness to his dark eyes that is arresting. His unsmiling mouth is wide, the lips full in the blunt elegance of his face. A five o’clock shadow licks the ridge of his jawline. There is a geometry to him—angles, lines, edges—that disregards the individual parts and illuminates the compelling sum.WANT MORE REEL? Click here for the rest >> www.thehollywoodrenaissanceseries.com/excerpt

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Cover Designer: Lori Jackson Design Photographer: Sophia Barrett Studios Models: Jasmine Raiford and Ajayi Bodden

About Kennedy Ryan

A USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Kennedy Ryan and her writings have been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Cosmo, TIME, O Mag and many others. A RITA® Award winner, Kennedy writes empowered women from all walks of life and centers those who have found themselves perennially on the margins of traditional storytelling.

Her Hoops Series (Long Shot, Block Shot and Hook Shot) and All the King’s Men Series (The Kingmaker, The Rebel King and Queen Move) have been optioned for television.

An autism mom, Kennedy co-founded LIFT 4 Autism, an annual charitable initiative, and has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other media outlets as an advocate for autism families. She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son.

Connect with Kennedy

Text KennedyRyan to 797979 for release alerts! Subscribe to Mailing List: subscribepage.com/kennedyryan Reader Group: http://bit.ly/2GY6eyb Instagram: http://bit.ly/2TaYiAi Facebook: http://bit.ly/2GUq0uF Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Fvhqiz Pinterest: http://bit.ly/2NE0cU0 BookBub: bookbub.com/authors/kennedy-ryan Website: http://kennedyryanwrites.com

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Excerpt Reveal – Not Pretending Anymore, Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

April 8, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt | By

 

Title: Not Pretending Anymore
Authors: Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 12, 2021

 

Excited about Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland’s upcoming release, Not Pretending Anymore?
Check out this SNEAK PEEK of CHAPTER 1!

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Molly

 

“So, what do you do for a living?”
The woman drummed her fingers on her thigh. “I’m a musician.”
I glanced down at the renter’s application in my hand. Lyric Chords was the name listed at the top.
I bit my tongue and tried to keep an open mind. This was the twelfth woman I’d interviewed as a prospective roommate. Just because she had a few safety pins in her eyebrow and what looked like a dog collar around her neck didn’t mean I should rule her out.
“Oh. That’s nice. Are you a singer?”
Lyric shook her head. “Drummer. Do you know the dimensions of the bedroom I’ll be sleeping in? I have two sets of drums I need to fit.”
“Umm… I think it’s fourteen by fourteen. But you don’t practice at home, right? I wrote in my ad that I’m looking for a quiet roommate because I work nights.”
“I do. But no worries. I’ll practice in my room.”
My bedroom and my potential roommate’s bedroom shared a wall, so that was the end of interview number twelve. I sighed and forced a smile. “Thank you for coming. I have a few other people left to meet with before I decide. I’ll let you know.”
“Great.” The woman stood. “Also, I know your ad said two months’ rent up front, but I’m running a little short right now. Would one be okay?”
I smiled. “Sure, no problem.” Since you’re not going to be living here.
After Drummergirl, I interviewed two more candidates. One wanted her boyfriend to move into the room with her, even though my ad had specified I was only looking for a single. And the other arrived twenty minutes late, reeked of alcohol, and slurred her words…at three thirty in the afternoon.
Why in the hell was it so difficult to find a roommate in a city of almost three-million people? I needed my last interview of the day to be a miracle, or I was going to have to shell out money for another ad and start the entire process all over. And I definitely didn’t have the time or the funds for that. Rent was due in two weeks. If I got stuck paying the full amount on this place myself again, I’d be eating cat food for a month.
When my last appointment knocked right on time, I took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, and asked the big guy in the sky for a little assistance.
Opening the door, I blinked a few times.

 

Uhhh. I think you answered the wrong prayer, God.

 

A man stood in my hallway—and not just any man, an absolutely gorgeous one with a perfect, straight nose, cheekbones to die for, a masculine, square jaw, full lips, tanned skin, and the sexiest chocolate brown, almond-shaped eyes I’d ever seen in my life.
“Uh. Can I help you?”
He flashed a killer smile, one that I immediately suspected had made countless women remove their panties.
“Hi. I have a four-thirty appointment with Molly Corrigan.”
“You do?” I had the last application in my hand and looked down at the name on the top. “I don’t think so. My appointment is with a D. Tate?”
He extended a hand. “That’s me. Declan Tate.”
“But…you’re…not a woman.”
He smiled again. “You’re correct. Very observant. I am most definitely not a woman. But my last roommate told me I should’ve been because I use moisturizer at night and cried at the end of Marley and Me. And if I’m being honest, I also got a little watery at the end of Toy Story, so maybe I’m a bit of a wuss. Either way, I think you should consider those my positive feminine qualities.”
I was thoroughly confused. “Umm… I’m sorry. You must’ve missed that my ad said female only.”
“Actually, I didn’t. But if you’ll give me just five minutes, I think I can convince you I would be a better roommate than a woman.”
I chuckled. “Let me get this straight… You hid your first name—what did you say it was again?”
“Declan.”
“Right. Declan. Anyway, you applied to an ad for a female roommate, intentionally deceiving the person who is going to decide if you get the room by leaving your first name off. And your strategy is to convince me I don’t really know what I want in less than five minutes? Do I have that right?”
He flashed that boyish charm again. “You sure do.”
I debated how to handle the situation. On one hand, he was going to waste my time, and I had done enough of that today. But on the other, my curiosity was definitely piqued. Something about his grin told me this could be amusing. Screw it. I had nothing better to do anyway.
I opened the door wider and stepped aside, holding my hand out for him to enter. “I’m setting the timer on my phone, and I’m getting a glass of wine before you start. I like a drink while I’m being entertained.”
Declan smirked and strolled into my apartment.
I motioned to the couch. “Have a seat. I’ll just be a minute.”
When I got to the kitchen, he called after me, “Hey, Mollz?”
I turned back. “Yes?”
“How about you make that two glasses of wine?”
I chuckled. “Sure. Why not, Decs.”
I poured a couple of glasses of pinot grigio and returned to the living room.
“Here you go. Hope you like white.”
“You see? We’re perfect together already. I prefer white over red.”
I brought my wine to my lips. “Yes, perfect. A match made in heaven. I think we might even be soul mates.”
Declan showed me his pearly whites once again. He really did have a great smile, nice teeth, too. Too bad he also had a penis. I knocked back half the contents of my glass and placed it on the coffee table. Picking up my cell, I swiped to the timer app and set it for five minutes.
I showed him the screen. “You ready?”
“I’m always ready.”
I pressed start, placed the phone face up on the coffee table between us, and folded my hands. “Go.”
“Okay. Well…what’s your favorite color?”
“My favorite color?”
Declan pointed to the timer. “Time’s a ticking, Molly. I’m going to need you to not repeat questions.”
I laughed. “Fine. My favorite color is pink.”
Declan reached into one of his pant pockets and pulled out a set of keys. The keychain had a bunch of pink beads with white letters between each one. The letters spelled out his name. “Mine too.”
I arched a brow. “Did you make that yourself?”
“No. My niece, Arianna, made it for me.”
“So how do I know that isn’t just Arianna’s favorite color?”
“Good point. Let’s move on. Your ad said you work nights.”
“That’s right. I’m a nurse. I work the night shift on the maternity ward.”
“So you sleep during the day, then?”
“I get off at seven, and I try to get to sleep as soon as I get home.”
He held his hand to his chest. “I work days. I leave for the gym by six and usually don’t get home until after seven at night. So the apartment will be quiet when you need it to be.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll give you that that would make you a good roommate. But most people work days, so it’s not really something that makes you too special.”
“Do you cook?” he said.
“Does macaroni and cheese count?”
“I grew up in a multigenerational Italian home. My nonna taught me how to make sauce from scratch.”
“So you’re going to cook for me?”
“If that’s what it takes to get this apartment, yes.”
“As tempting as that might be, there’s an Italian restaurant around the corner that makes great food. Funny enough, it’s called Nonna’s Place, and an actual nonna makes most of my meals. Not a knockoff.”
Declan took an exaggerated breath and blew it out. He glanced at the cell on the table. “Three minutes and thirty-eight seconds. I can see you’re not going to make this easy. How about you tell me why you can’t have a male roommate so I can address that head-on. Is it because of the toilet-seat thing? Because I have four older sisters, so I’m appropriately trained. When I was eight, I made the mistake of leaving it up once, and my sister sat down where I’d accidentally left a little pee. She dunked my head in the toilet bowl before she flushed. That was the last time I left the seat up.” He held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor. It won’t be an issue.”
I smiled. “It’s not because of the toilet thing.”
“Alright. So why don’t you want a male roommate, then?”
I’d actually never given much thought to why my roommate had to be female. It just seemed natural to have another woman sharing the apartment. “Well…I don’t really have a specific reason. I would just be more comfortable living with another woman. For example, I sleep in a T-shirt and underwear. When I get up to start the coffee, I don’t get dressed. It would be weird to do that in front of a man.”
“Why?”
“Why would it be weird to walk around with my ass cheeks on display in front of a man and not a woman?”
“Yes.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It just would. I guess because the women I’ve lived with aren’t attracted to other women, so it doesn’t feel sexual in any way.”
“Ah. Now we’re getting to the crux of your issue. So you’re afraid of some sexual tension going on between you and me? Is it because I’m so handsome?”
“What? No! And aren’t you full of yourself, assuming I think you’re handsome, and I’m worried I won’t be able to control myself.”
“Just keeping it real, Mollz. You’re only giving me five minutes, so I’m trying to get to the heart of the reason.”
“I guess I just don’t want to feel like I have to cover up to come out of my bedroom. When I dry my hair, I wear a towel or a bra and underwear—that type of thing.”
“Would you feel you had to cover up if I told you I was gay?”
That question gave me pause. Would I? I wasn’t sure. “Are you?”
“Fuck, no. I was just trying to pinpoint your issue. Is it the fact that I’m a man, or the fact that I might admire your ass if it were on display? Sounds like it’s the latter. So let me put your mind at ease: I won’t.”
I felt oddly offended. “What’s wrong with my ass?”
He chuckled. “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t looked. You know why?”
“Why?”
“Because I’m in love with someone else.”
As insane as it was, I felt a pang of jealousy. “Oh. Well, why aren’t you moving in with her?”
“Because she doesn’t return the feelings…yet. So basically, if your concern about having a guy for a roommate is that he’s going to be checking you out, you have nothing to worry about with me. I’m a one-woman man. If you want, I can give you the numbers of some of my exes for references. I’m no cheater.”
Hmmm… “I don’t know…”
Declan looked down at the clock. Thirty-one seconds were left. “We’re running out of time, so we need to speed things up. How about if I just give you the facts you need to know?”
“That would be good.”
“I’m twenty-eight years old. I make six figures. My credit score is eight hundred and ten, and I have references from previous landlords. I’m neat and clean up after myself. I’m not home a lot, but when I am, I’m pretty quiet. I’m also damn good with a hammer.” He glanced around my apartment and pointed at a hole I’d accidentally made in the wall when I flung the closet door open too hard. “I can spackle that and put on a door stopper so it won’t happen again.” He pointed to the kitchen. “And those cabinets are pretty tall. I’m six foot one. No more having to stand on a chair to reach something on the top shelf. And—”
The timer on the stopwatch buzzed.
“Can I just say one last thing?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“I’ll share my Hulu and Netflix passwords. I have the premium Hulu account.”
I laughed. “Well, those are some pretty enticing qualities for a roommate.”
He smiled. “So I’m in?”
I sighed. “I’m sorry. While I appreciate your tenacity, unfortunately, you’re not. Though I interviewed fourteen other people today, and I have to say, you do seem like you’ll make some other lucky person a fantastic roomie.”
Declan frowned, but nodded. “I figured it was worth a shot. This is a great building, and I work right around the corner. It’s hard to find an apartment where it’s only a six-month commitment.”
“My lease is up then, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to extend or not.”
“See? That’s another reason I’d be perfect. I’m only in town for six more months.”
“I’m sorry. This is definitely a case of it’s me and not you.”
He picked up his wine and guzzled it down before standing and extending his hand. “I appreciate you giving me your time. And thanks for the pinot.”
We shook. “It was nice to meet you, Declan.”
After I walked him out, I shut the door and leaned back against it. What a shame; he really seemed like a nice guy and the best candidate I’d met by a mile. I was just about to go wallow in another glass of alcohol when there was a knock at my door. Checking the peephole before opening, I found Declan standing there.
“I forgot something important,” he said.
“Oh? What’s that?”
He took out his wallet and produced a photo of a nun. “This is my sister Catherine, and it’s not a costume from Halloween. She’s a legit nun. How bad can a person be if his sister is a nun?”
I laughed. “Is this the sister who dunked your head in the toilet?”
He grinned. “It is, actually.”
“Well, I’m not sure there’s a direct correlation between your sister deciding to dedicate her life to the church and you being a good person. Though, even if I take your word for it, it still doesn’t change my answer.”
Declan’s shoulders drooped. “Had to try. She tells me her being a nun won’t get me into heaven. Thought maybe it was good for something.”
“Goodbye, Declan.”
“Later, Mollz.”
***
“So…how’s the roommate search going?” Emma poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the small table in our break room.
I sighed. “Why is it so hard to find a normal person these days? I’ve interviewed more than a dozen people, and not one suitable candidate.”
“Did you post an ad on the employee bulletin board, like I suggested?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want another nurse or tech. It makes it weird at work if things don’t work out.”
“Maybe Dr. Dandy will apply.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I heard he’s sleeping on Dr. Cohen’s couch until he finds a place.”
That information certainly perked me up. “Really? Will and whatshername broke up?”
“Yup. Lisa in X-ray told me Dr. Cohen told her he’s staying with him. Apparently he and the wannabe actress are finito.”
“Wow.”
Emma smiled. “Yup. And fair warning, my friend… I’m allowing a ten-day grace period for him to grieve the end of a year-long relationship. But after that, I’m going to be up your butt making sure you let the man know you’re interested. He’s not going to be on the market for long, and you missed your opportunity last time he was single. You can’t keep pining for the guy.”
Of course she was right. And while I felt elated that Will was back on the market, the thought of coming clean to him about my feelings made me want to throw up. Will Daniels—or as Emma called him, Dr. Dandy, because of his last name and uncanny resemblance to a male model named David Gandy—and I had been good friends for four years now. We’d started on the very same day at the hospital and had gone through orientation together. I’d had a boyfriend back then, and he’d been seeing a girl from med school at the time, so even though I’d always thought he was insanely handsome, things didn’t bloom until two years ago. And most of the time since then, he’d been seeing one woman or another. Emma was right that the man never seemed to stay single for long.
“He’s going to be at happy hour this Friday night,” I said. “A few of the crew from CCU are meeting up over at McBride’s. I’m curious to hear what he says about the breakup.”
“Does he know you’re looking for a roommate?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, he needs a place to sleep, and you need a roomie.” Emma shrugged. “Timing is everything. Maybe it’s fate and he’ll move in and take care of two of your needs.”
“I think your imagination might be getting ahead of itself. Why don’t we start by seeing if things are really over with him and whatshername? They’ve split up a few times, but he always winds up going back.”
“Okay. But I have a good feeling about you two.”
“Could you possibly have a good feeling about me finding a roommate instead? I just had to pay for another damn ad.”
Emma shook her head. “I can’t believe you didn’t find one decent candidate.”
Remembering my last interview, I said, “Actually there was one who would’ve been perfect—great credit score, neat, cooks, leaves early in the morning, and works long days.”
“So why didn’t you take her?”
“Because she was a he.”

 

 

★★★
 

 

Excited? We are too!

 

 

RELEASING APRIL 12th!

 

 

PRE-ORDER LINKS

 

Please note: There will not be an Amazon ebook pre-order, but it will be available on in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon on release day.

 

Sign up for Vi and Penelope’s mailing list now and be the first one notified when it goes live!

 

 

PENELOPE WARD

 

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 

 

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism. 
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.

 

VI KEELAND

 

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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New Release, Exclusive Excerpt, Review & *Giveaway* – Changing the Rules, Catherine Bybee

March 23, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, Giveaway, Release Day Blitz, Review | By

 

Title: Changing the Rules

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: March 23, 2021

Publisher: Montlake 

Exclusive Excerpt from Changing the Rules by Catherine Bybee

 

“Wow, why are you girls all dolled up?” Lars asked before he sat down. 

 

“Jax has a date,” Claire announced. 

 

“What’s your excuse?” Cooper asked. “Do you have a date, too?” His eyes walked up and down her body. She was wearing a dress, which she didn’t often do unless she was painting the town with her best friend. 

 

But sometimes, when she’d been cooped up too long and hadn’t been able to shop or let her hair down, or be something other than a girl trapped in a world she didn’t want . . . yeah, at those times she needed to get out. It was her release valve. 

 

Jax started to laugh. 

 

And laugh. 

 

Claire followed Cooper’s gaze in Jax’s direction. 

 

“Claire doesn’t date!” 

 

The hair on her neck started to stand on end. 

 

“I date.” 

 

Jax leaned her head back and laughed. “No, what you do doesn’t classify as dating.” 

 

Much as Claire wanted to disagree, she knew her friend spoke the truth. It wasn’t that she had an aversion to dating, there just didn’t seem to be enough datable guys out there. 

 

“What the hell does that mean?” Cooper’s tone was anything but happy as he asked the question. 

 

Claire was about to ask why he cared when Neil stepped forward. “Are we done with the chitchat and ready to work?” 

 

“Technically this is my day off.” 

 

Neil’s expression told Claire he wasn’t amused. 

 

Cooper looked like he had more to say, but kept his lips shut. Lars patted Cooper on the back as he walked by. “I need coffee.” 

 

“There’s a fresh pot in the surveillance room,” Claire informed him. 

 

“We start in ten,” Neil said before heading to his office. 

 

Once the door was closed, Cooper slid beside Claire. “Mind elaborating about this ‘doesn’t date’ thing?” 

 

“Why are you so interested?” And why was Cooper standing so close and watching her as if an expression was going to give something away? 

 

When his eyes dropped to her lips, her belly did a little twist. 

 

It was then that her brain started to short-circuit and the coffee felt bitter in the back of her throat. 

 

There were two reasons a man stared at a woman’s lips. 

 

The first was if they were a family member or possibly a gay friend that wanted to comment on the shade of lipstick. 

 

And the second . . . he wanted to kiss her. 

 

She blinked several times. 

 

Cooper wanted to taste her. 

 

The realization of that fact had her head spinning. Then, because she couldn’t stop herself from looking, she took in his lips, and then the expression on his face. 

 

So many things clicked together. With them, a thousand questions. 

 

Lars pushed through the door from the surveillance room talking and had Cooper taking a step back. “Have you met the new guy?” 

 

Claire’s eyes stayed on Cooper. “Yes, I have.” 

 

Cooper blinked and turned away. “I have not.” 

 

A few more steps and Cooper walked into the other room. 

 

“What the actual hell?” Claire asked the universe out loud. 

 

Lars walked by, oblivious to what had just happened. 

 

“What?” 

 

Claire glanced over at Jax to see her soft smile. 

 

In German, Claire asked, “Did you see that?” 

 

“I felt the static in the room,” Jax replied. 

 

“You know it’s rude to speak in a different language, right?” Lars said. Jax shook her head and went back to writing on the whiteboard. “Sorry,” she replied in English. 

***

Summary 

As an employee of MacBain Security and Solutions, Claire Kelly can certainly hold her own. Armed with an impressive set of covert skills, she’s more than prepared to tackle any job that comes her way…except one involving Cooper Lockman.

Cooper and Claire used to work together before his feelings for her sent him packing to Europe for six long years. But now he’s back and determined to ignore the still-smoldering heat that lingers between them.

Their current mission: go undercover together at a California high school to root out the mastermind behind a prostitution ring targeting young girls. The closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, however, the deadlier their task becomes. As Claire and Cooper risk their lives to bring down their target, will their hearts be the final casualties?

Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Changing the Rules is the first book in the Richter series by Catherine Bybee. We met Claire and Cooper in Say it Again and I was so happy when I heard they were getting a book! I loved Claire as soon as she said “Put it away Cooper. You’re too old for me.” And not only that, we get to see Neil, Gwen and Sasha again. I was so engaged with this story that I didn’t want to put it down.  Claire isn’t a kid anymore. She’s grown up, working for Neil and loving her job. Cooper left town for six years and now he’s back. Claire hasn’t seen him since and she’s so happy to have her friend back. But Cooper can’t hide his feeling for Claire anymore and when she sees what everyone else sees, she can’t stop thinking about him. They have a job to do though and she’s going undercover as a student and he as a teacher. While they are at school it’s business, but after Cooper is just glad she’s not eighteen anymore. They have a serious job to do, tracking down a group of sex trafficking people, some of which might be teachers or undercover cops. I didn’t even know who to trust! I had my favorites and prayed it wasn’t them! I loved Claire’s teenage antics and her confidence and attitude. Cooper was swoonworthy as he put it all on the line with Claire. His honesty just made him sexier! And then she was saying “Put it away Cooper. We don’t have time for that right now.” I’m already loving the secondary characters and can’t wait for more from this series (Give me Leo!) Overall, I loved Cooper and Claire. There were fun, hilarious, sexy and sweet!

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About the Author

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than five million copies and have been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series.

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New Release, Review & Excerpt – Featherbed, Annabeth Albert

March 17, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, New Release, Review | By

Release Date: March 15, 2021
Purchase here: https://geni.us/AmazonFeatherbed
Add to Goodreads here: https://bit.ly/3mKWKXJ
Vino & Veritas Series Page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas/

Cover Design: Christine Coffey

Blurb:

When a bookworm on borrowed time meets a younger, free-spirited chicken farmer, sparks and feathers fly…
Harrison Phillip Fletcher, III isn’t supposed to be here. Not in Burlington, Vermont, not running Vino & Veritas, a quaint inclusive bookstore and wine bar, and definitely not still alive, at forty-two. Also not supposed to be here? An unexpected delivery of chickens.

Finn Barnes knows chickens. The burly organic farmer knows all about rare breed poultry, but dealing with a hot, older bookseller is an entirely different matter. City slicker types like Harrison never end up staying in Vermont for the long-term.

They should steer clear of each other. But the flare of attraction is mutual. And somehow amid book discussions and farm tours, they discover plenty in common. Now they’re stealing kisses in Finn’s barn, sneaking out like teens, and burning up the sheets.

What starts as a fling brings very real feelings for two lonely souls, but a future together seems as unlikely as chickens in a bookstore. Feathers may be flying, but learning to trust takes time neither may have. Can they take a leap of faith together before it’s too late?

Featherbed is a stand-alone novel in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. This opposites-attract, age-gap romance features a low-angst, fluffy—and feathery—romp as a fish out of water discovers the home he never thought he’d find.

 

Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Featherbed is Annabeth Albert’s newest fun, sexy romance with an older bookstore owner and a young chicken farmer. I love a good age gap romance and this one was so good! This is a standalone in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. All of these books are going to be awesome! This is Finn, the sexy farmer and Harrison, the new to Vermont bookstore/wine bar owner. A mix-up with a chicken delivery brings these two together and the instant attraction keeps them coming back for more. Excuses to see each other again. Brief, hot kisses that lead to more. But they are both so busy so it’s just going to be casual. Until it’s not. Finn is afraid Harrison won’t be able to stick it out in Vermont. Harrison has anxiety about his future. But can they work past their fears and admit it’s more than they asked for? It’s actually everything. I love this story! It was funny and sexy and sweet and a little dirty and I don’t mean the chickens! I loved the way Finn and Harrison bantered and just meshed their lives without even really knowing it. It’s a feel good romance with fun characters, family, sexiness, books and cute little animals. What’s not to love!

 

Excerpt

“What’s next?” Harrison was so serious that I wasn’t sure whether he meant us or the shelf project, but I couldn’t resist messing with him a little.

“Screwing,” I deadpanned.

Predictably, Harrison made a sputtering noise. “Pardon?”

“With a drill, Harry.” I held up the trusty cordless I’d retrieved. “With a drill.”

“No one calls me Harry.” His mouth pursed. I wanted to kiss it. Perversely, the more uptight he got, the more I wanted to unravel him.

“Not even your mom?” I found the correct drill bit for the project and slotted it in.

“Ha.” Harrison had locked his gaze on my hands in a way that made me both self-conscious and more than a little turned-on. “I call her Mom only because she dislikes the formality of Mother.”

“Whereas you love the formality. I get it. Harry.” I put deliberate emphasis on the nickname, so that I could categorize all the different shades of pink and purple he was turning. Besides, it was a good distraction from how his shrewd eyes made me feel.

“I said—”

“You’re fun to harass.” I grinned at him, which earned me an eye roll in return.

“I try. Now give me something to do.”

“Okay, okay. Back to work. You can help by measuring to mark each of the screw holes.”

“Why do construction terms always sound so suggestive?”

“Because you have a dirty mind, Harry.” I gave him an exaggerated leer.

“You better stop that.” He didn’t sound particularly convincing.

“Stop teasing or stop looking at you?” Laughing, I waggled the drill in his direction. “I’ll remind you that I’m the one holding power tools.”

“So you are.” Harrison kept holding my gaze, eyes soft and expectant behind his glasses, tongue darting out to lick at his lips. In that moment, he was infinitely appealing and nothing at all like Astin.

Maybe I’d been mistaken in thinking he was a branch of the same tree of rich dudes who had no issues taking what they wanted. Like him, Astin had favored designer clothing, pricey-looking watches, and the same luxury brand car, and had also dropped clues about inheritances. But unlike Astin, there was a certain humility to Harrison, and he didn’t try to tell me how to do my job.

Oh, Harrison was still a city slicker, and probably not sticking around, but he wasn’t an entitled asshole either. He wanted to kiss me. That want was all over his face, but so was his restraint. As with the woodworking, he’d let me lead. He’d wait for me to make my move and didn’t have a ready arsenal of slick lines. His uncertainty was perhaps the most charming thing about him.

And so, still meeting his eyes, I set the drill back down on the workbench. “No power tools now. You still want to shut me up?”

I stepped closer, in case he had any doubt as to my intent. He smelled good. Expensive, like someone had married delicate herbs and leather scents in an aftershave that probably cost more than a year’s supply of my soap.

“Yeah. I think I do.” His cultured voice had gone husky, but still contained that vulnerability I found so damn intoxicating.

“Show me.” Touching the sleeve of his waffle-knit sweater, I turned him toward me. There. I’d made my move. The next was his.

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