Chapter Reveal – Mister Wrong, Nicole Williams

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February 17, 2017 By

 

 

 

 

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Cora Matthews grew up with the Adams boys, twin brothers and best friends who wouldn’t let anything come between them except for one thing—her. One of them became her best friend, the other, her fiancé.

She always knew she’d wind up marrying one of them, and Jacob Adams is the very epitome of Mister Right. At least he is up until he fails to show up for their wedding day. Not that Cora realizes it. At first.

As Jacob’s best man, and identical twin, Matt makes a split second decision, but one that will affect the three of their lives forever—he steps in to take his brother’s place. In front of the altar, exchanging vows with the woman he’s secretly been in love with for years.

Cora eventually finds out about the groom swap. The morning after the wedding. As if realizing she just slept with her fiance’s brother wasn’t disturbing enough, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Matt Adams she thought she’d buried years ago.

Matt’s wrong for her. In every way. But through the course of her real honeymoon with her fake husband, she starts to uncover truths both Adams brothers were hoping to keep hidden, for opposite reasons. One to protect himself, the other to protect her.

She married the wrong brother, but what if he’s been the right one all along?

 

CHAPTER ONE
Matt



He was wrong for her.
That was the only thought running through my head as I rechecked every inch of the church. So completely wrong for her. This latest disappearing act, the most recent proof. He’d skipped out on her before, but today was different.
Today, they were supposed to get married. Today, Cora Matthews would become Cora Adams. She’d have my last name. But not in the way I’d hoped for—not that I hadn’t accepted that years ago.
She’d chosen him. My brother. My twin brother. She’d chosen him forever ago, and that was that. She’d been as good as Mrs. Jacob Adams since the day Cora Matthews first showed up in our lives eighteen years ago.
At least until today, when Cora was going to be marching toward an empty altar in fifteen minutes if I didn’t find the supposed Mister Right. Jacob wasn’t the right one—for a dozen reasons I could list—but he was who she wanted and he’d done his best to convince her she was all he wanted too. But I knew better.
My brother had always been indulged; being the “firstborn” son—by a whole three minutes—to a wealthy family has a way of doing that. The problem arose when the boy grew into a man who wanted to be equally indulged in all sorts of ways that a wife would likely frown upon. Jacob wasn’t the right one for her. I knew that. Hell, I think even he knew that when he surfaced from his self-adoring stupor every so often.
Not that I was the right one for Cora either. I was just as wrong for her as Jacob was, but in a different way. See, where he’d always loved her too little, I’d loved her too much. So I’d kept my secret for years and watched the girl I loved fall in love with the brother I’d shared a womb with for thirty-eight weeks. The brother I loved and looked after, despite his faults.
God knew I had a shit ton of my own.
That was why I was about to start tearing this church apart in order to find him. I was looking after his interests as well as Cora’s, because even though he had a piss-poor way of showing it, he loved her. In his own way. If you could call what Jacob felt for anyone love. In a way, it was love, but in another way, it was the opposite.
“Where the hell’s Jacob?” The senior Adams, also known as Dad, asked when I circled into the lobby again, hoping my missing brother had magically appeared. He was holding my brother’s tux zipped up in an expensive bag and looking at me like I was failing the task of keeping track of my brother as I’d failed all the rest presented to me in life.
Where the hell’s Jacob? How many times had I asked myself that question? How many times had I probably known or had a good idea where he was?
“He’s back in one of the church offices waiting. Just got here.” I had to slow myself down when I heard the words wobble. It had been years since I’d stuttered over a word, and now was not the time to resurrect that old habit. “I’ll take it down to him.”
I grabbed the tux from Dad and backed down the hall, trying to ignore the stuffed sanctuary and the orchestra playing some song that sounded more fitting for a funeral than a wedding.
That was what this was about to become if I didn’t do something. Whether it would be my dad murdering me for flunking my best man responsibilities of keeping track of the groom, or me murdering Jacob when I finally found his pathetic ass after doing this to Cora on today of all days, someone was going to die.
“That tux isn’t going to put itself on a groom, Matt. Get after it.” Dad motioned me down the hall before he marched toward the sanctuary like he was ready to get this over with.
He wasn’t thrilled about the wedding. Didn’t exactly approve of the match. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Cora, because he did, like a daughter. He just didn’t find her fitting as a daughter-in-law, especially to his prized firstborn who was incapable of doing wrong. He probably wouldn’t have cared so much if she was marrying me, which was disconcerting to say the least. The only person who’d approve of Cora and me ending up together was my dad.
As I jogged down the hall, carrying a found tux to a missing groom, Dad’s last words replayed through my mind. That tux isn’t going to put itself on a groom.
A groom.
A groom.
My plan was already forming as I ducked into a dark church office, my fingers working my tie loose. Jacob wasn’t just my twin brother—he was my identical twin brother.
I was maybe a little bit taller and he was maybe a little bit fuller, but not enough that anyone would notice. Not enough, I hoped, that Cora would notice. She used to confuse us all the time when we were growing up together and still, on occasion, she’d mistake me for Jacob and Jacob for me. Like the last time I’d been at her and Jacob’s condo when she’d thrown a surprise party for him. I’d been talking with a group of old friends, she slid by me, found my hand, and gave it the briefest of squeezes. She’d thought I was Jacob. I knew that because she never touched me anymore. At least not on purpose. We used to be comfortable enough with each other that she’d hug me without thinking, but that changed when she and Jacob became a thing. An official thing.
She didn’t touch me anymore, not even to nudge me for saying something stupid, which I said all too often in her presence. But that night, she’d touched me. And a year later, I could still remember the way her small hand felt falling into mine.
Cora would be distracted today—nervous. I knew because she’d told me how panicked she was about standing in front of five hundred people. She’d be so distracted by trying to keep herself from passing out or hyperventilating, so would she really notice if the man standing across from her in front of that altar was me?
I was banking on the chance that she wouldn’t, as I changed from my suit into Jacob’s tux as fast as humanly possible. The clock on the wall was fast, hopefully, or else I had two and a half minutes to get my ass up front so that when Cora started down the aisle, she’d have someone waiting for her.
Someone who loved her.
As I tied the shiny dress shoes, I tried to put aside all of the inner voices telling me how wrong this was. How utterly and unforgivably wrong this was. I knew it was wrong. I knew that. But it was just as wrong to do nothing. It was wrong to let Jacob ruin another moment for her. By doing something that I knew was wrong, I hoped I was ultimately doing the right thing.
Maybe he wasn’t where I thought he was, hungover and waking up in some girl’s bed. Maybe he’d gotten into an accident or been kidnapped or . . . damn, then I’d feel like a real piece of shit for thinking the worst about my own brother. Maybe something legitimate had come up and he’d have some great explanation and I’d pull him aside to let him know I’d stepped in and no one besides us would know what had gone down.
And maybe Jacob had decided to turn over a new leaf and not be such a selfish prick, I thought with a sigh.
Pausing in front of the picture hanging beside the door, I adjusted the bowtie as best I could before tearing the door open and jogging down the hall. Jacob’s tux was a little big for me, and his shoes a little small, but those were minor discomforts compared to what my psyche was putting me through.
The ring.
Fuck.
After sprinting back to the office, I wrestled the ring box out of the pocket of my jacket, along with my wallet and phone—just in case I didn’t make it back here anytime soon—then I kicked my suit behind a bookcase in the event that someone stumbled into the room to find an abandoned suit and started asking questions.
My dad’s face was red by the time I made it inside the sanctuary, but when he saw me, his face relaxed and he smiled. It took me a moment to realize he wasn’t smiling at me—he was smiling at Jacob.
Dad never really smiled at me too much. Smirks were more the way of it.
“Where the hell’s Matt?” one of the groomsmen, Hunter, whispered when I passed.
God, this church was stuffed to capacity. And hot. And lacking in oxygen.
“Barfing up his guts,” I answered quietly, reminding myself that I was Jacob and needed to talk and sound like him.
The groomsmen rocked with silent laughter. They were all Jacob’s friends; none were mine.
“Go figure. We’re the ones drinking places dry, and it’s your brother, the DD, yacking his insides out today.”
My shoulder lifted in the dismissive way Jacob’s did. “Some guys have all the luck.”
“And some guys named Matt Adams have none,” Aaron, another groomsman, whispered up the line.
Didn’t I know it?
They didn’t make any more jokes or jeers at my expense because they knew better. Jacob and I might have seen things differently and been as unalike as two people could be, but we were twins. He stood up for me and vice versa. He had my back, I had his.
As my current predicament proved.
The orchestra broke into a new song—the “Wedding March”. The collar of Jacob’s dress shirt felt like it was strangling me at the same time it felt like someone had just dialed up the temperature in the room by twenty degrees.
What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it right? Or wrong?
The answers to those questions didn’t have a chance to form because that was when I saw her. Like the thousands of times before, the world faded away when Cora Matthews walked into the room. When she started down the aisle, I swayed a little and had to step out of line to keep myself from toppling into the minister.
“Easy there, big guy,” Hunter said under his breath, elbowing me. “Too late for cold feet. Bride is en route.”
I wanted to tell him it wasn’t cold feet I had, but something else. It was the feeling of being so sure of something that the rest of the world seemed off-kilter. So sure of something that the rest of the world just didn’t make sense. I’d never been as certain of anything as I was about the woman walking toward me, about to marry me.
Under false pretenses.
I had to remind myself of that when Cora’s eyes found mine and her plastered-on smile crumbled behind a real one. She was smiling at me the way she smiled at him—like I was her world.
Matthew Adams had never been her whole world, but unknown to her, she’d been mine. That was why I was standing here now, posing as my twin brother, as his fiancée took the final steps toward me. I was doing this for her because I knew she loved him, and I didn’t want to see her hurt again at my brother’s hand.
Marry the woman you love, Matt, then let her spend the rest of her life with the man she loves.
The orchestra was just playing its final chords when Cora stopped beside me, her eyes matching the real smile still on her face. God, she was beautiful.
Too beautiful, I thought again, as I noticed the line of groomsmen appraising her with more than just casual regard. Cora had always been more than another one of the pretty girls; she was the standout. Every guy knew the type. The girl who shouldn’t be real, but there she was, passing you in the hallway every morning. The girl who’s noticed by every person she passes, male or female. She was so beautiful on the outside, few people took the time to get to know the beauty hiding underneath, but I had. I knew she was beautiful everywhere.
Jacob. Channel Jacob, I reminded myself as everyone took a collective seat behind us.
“Hey,” I whispered to her, winking.
Hey? What a moron. Who says hey to the woman he’s about to marry when she stopped beside him looking so damn perfect. I couldn’t feel my lungs.
“Hey,” she whispered back, like she didn’t think anything of it.
Because, yeah, Jacob totally would have said hey to his bride like a moron.
Cora had been versed in moron for practically two decades.
As the minister started droning on about something I probably should have been paying attention to, I tuned out. This wasn’t my wedding. This was hers. This was his. So instead I watched Cora, memorizing every detail of her face as she stared at the man across from her, who loved her like she was both a poison and an antidote.
When the pastor asked if I promised to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, that was the easiest question I’d ever had to answer. It was the simplest part of this mess of a day.
“I will.”
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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
 
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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Blog Tour & Excerpt – Broken Pieces, Toni Aleo

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January 27, 2017 By

 

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Can be found in the Once upon midnight anthology

From the moment Oceanus von Stein, second-in-command to the Patchwork family, caught sight of Taegan Conner, daughter of the leader of the Wolves, he knew he would never love another. Only now, she has been promised in marriage to another, an arrangement to strengthen her family’s alliances–and she gets no say in the matter. Can they find a way to be together, or will they both always be two Broken Pieces?

Take place during Pieces.

 

 

As I watch my father sit, he doesn’t do so smoothly. His movements are jerky before he folds his old, leathery hands together and his eyes scan the room. The scars are very prominent on his face and hands. All the experiments he did on himself are visible, along with the scar tissue that is ancient and freakish on him. While his eyes are bright, from the new pair he just obtained, he looks like death. And tired. Very tired.
Clearing his throat, he lets his gaze fall on me, and I meet it head on.
“I had a meeting with Kurt Conner.”
Kurt Conner.
The pack leader of the wolves.
My love’s father.
Clearing my throat, I sit up straighter as my forearms lay against the cool top of the old oak table. Before I can comment, though, he is going on. “He needed a loan for the wedding of Taegan.”
What?
My world stops.
I feel all eyes on me. My father is staring at me, waiting for a response, but I don’t have one.
Because what the actual fuck is going on?
Did I hear him wrong?
“A wedding?”
“Yeah, she is marrying some other pack leader’s son—you know how those wolves are. Wanting to unite families with arranged marriage and all that wolfish nonsense, I don’t know. But I didn’t give him the money until—”
“Until?” I gasp, my heart in my throat, my stomach on the ground, and every piece of me feeling as if I am falling into the fiery depths of hell because surely I am hearing my father wrong.
Taegan is to marry me.
“He offered up some information on Frank Kelley—”
“He hasn’t died yet?” Jonas asks, and I know it’s to give me time. To let me think, to let me process, but I can’t. Taegan is to marry someone else? She didn’t even tell me. We were together last night! Had she known? Was she playing me? Damn it, what the hell? How could she allow me to find out this way? I mean, I knew my time was running out, but hell, did she keep this from me? I’ve never experienced heartache or true heartbreak, but I’m pretty sure this feeling of my chest caving in and blowing up is just that.
She’s marrying someone else?
She isn’t waiting for me?
Gasping for breath as I try to push the bile back down my throat, I watch as my father shakes his head. “Not yet. And apparently, they are wanting to attack us in one more attempt to get the formula for him. They think they can kidnap Rebekah and use her as leverage.”
I feel Rebekah move as she squeaks. “Me?”
“You. So we are on high alert. Keep your eyes open, and, Rebekah, I don’t want you working at the bar until this is taken care of. I have a meeting with Frank Kelley on Friday.”
“Father, I’m fine at the bar. It’s owned by our family, most of our family is there, along with JJ. The Kelleys don’t even come that much.”
“Yes, but other families come to the bar, and that makes me uncomfortable.”
“I’m fine, I can take care of myself.”
He leans on his desk, and I don’t care about their melodrama. I can’t. Even though I know I should intervene, calm both sides—because my father is right, we need to keep Rebekah underground while this goes on—I can’t help but think of the fact that my love is marrying another. Someone other than me. How in the world is this fair? Why didn’t she fight them? She told me she was mine, and I was hers. Why didn’t she wait for me?
And then it’s like I’m being slapped back into reality.
She didn’t wait for me because we can’t.
We can’t be selfish and love each other because we have commitments to our families. Yes, we love each other. Yes, she is my world, and I’ll love only her. But just like I have to, she has to protect her family. I’m sure there is something more to this, and while I wish she had told me, I know I can’t be upset. I have to respect the process of our families.
Being the eldest, we have no choice.
We don’t get to be greedy.
Wow, I don’t even believe I’m trying to convince myself.
How could she?

 

 

My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?
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Chapter Reveal – Broken Pieces, Toni Aleo

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January 18, 2017 By

 

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Can be found in the Once upon midnight anthology

From the moment Oceanus von Stein, second-in-command to the Patchwork family, caught sight of Taegan Conner, daughter of the leader of the Wolves, he knew he would never love another. Only now, she has been promised in marriage to another, an arrangement to strengthen her family’s alliances–and she gets no say in the matter. Can they find a way to be together, or will they both always be two Broken Pieces?

Take place during Pieces

 

Chapter One  
Being the oldest isn’t always easy.
Everyone depends on you.
Looks up to you.
You are the poster child for the family.
Plus, you worry about everything.
Well, at least, I do.
Which means being selfish isn’t possible. Maybe not selfish—that word is harsh and I’ve
never really liked it, but something along those lines. What I mean is that my needs, my wants
are not important when I have three younger siblings and a father to worry for.
You see, I’m a very busy man. I have many jobs. The first and most important being to
protect and love my family. With everything inside of me. It is my job to guide my brothers and
sister in the right direction to be future leaders of our community. The community my family
runs. A community that is unseen to the human eye, which is fine by me. Dealing with witches,
wolves, shifters, and vampires, along with the Patchwork citizens is enough in my opinion. They
cause enough drama for one man, yet I love them. I want to protect them.
They are my extended family.
Even if a faction of our Works—the shifters—wants to overthrow my family and take
over, I still care for their well-being. I have to. It’s my job as a future leader of the Works. When
my father decides to step down, which could be at any moment, it will be my job to step up and
be the king this community needs. Not that my father isn’t doing his job; he is. It’s just…he’s
old-school. Very old-school, and while all his parts are working at their full capacity, he isn’t the
man he used to be. So much has changed. This isn’t the 1800s anymore, but my father apparently
missed that memo. He’s budged a bit, adapted some, but he still has the same notions he had
back then, and they drive me absolutely mad.
Beyond furious, actually.
But what do I expect? He lived in a time where a man was always right and you followed
your father, your leader. After he lost his father to the plague, he became the leader and led his
family. I don’t think my father meant for his life to go where it did, but it all changed when he
found his grandfather’s old lab books.
That grandfather was Dr. Frankenstein.
The guy who made Frankenstein’s monster himself. Yes, the stories are true. But what
the stories don’t tell you is that he had a son, who had four more sons, my father being one of
them. With Father’s grandfather gone, and then his own father dying, I doubt anyone expected
for Dr. Frankenstein’s work ever to surface again. But my father was and may be smarter than
his ancestors. For when he found the books, he became obsessed with them, and soon he
developed a formula that granted a man immortality.
True immortality.
He soon administrated the formula to his brother, Samuel. But after their mother and two
other brothers died when the formula didn’t work on them, Samuel and Father were discovered.
So, of course, they fled. They had no choice. But they did have a choice when they decided to
come to America and make their own clan.
A clan full of immortal people who would follow and bow down to them. Or, really, to
my father. I doubt Samuel had much say in it, but my father, yeah, he was drunk with the power
he had. He knew he was the best, a god in his mind, and people flocked to him. They begged for
the formula, needed it, and soon my father had his clan.
His Patchwork.
You would think that would be enough, but it wasn’t. Soon he reached out to the other
supernatural groups. The vampires were first. The main reason was the simple fact that my uncle
loved to sleep with them. The vampires didn’t need anything from my father, but he offered them
an alliance, a way to get them constant blood since he had turned the owner of the local hospital
immortal. As long as the vampires followed my father, he would be there to help them. As
creatures of the night, and being killed off almost every other night by hunters and humans, they
signed on quickly.
Next were the witches. My father promised to export and import anything they needed or
wanted on his fleet of ships. In return, he would use their spells and rituals for things he was
unable to fix.
The wolves signed on for the money. My father needed lots of guards and security
support, and he paid very heavily for them. At first, it was just employment. But somewhere in
there, my father worked out some kind of alliance. It’s beyond me, but he did it, and now they
are basically eating out of his hand.
No pun intended.
The shifters are a whole other story. The resisted us, only coming to us with offers for the
formula itself. Father denied them, of course, but he did ask them to join us. He offered that we
would protect them and even employ some of them. He wanted to make our community
complete with the five strongest clans of supernatural beings. But the shifters didn’t want any
part; they were independent. That was, until people started dying and they needed the protection
my father offered since no one could catch who was killing off their clan. I believe my father had
a part in it, that he hired people to kill them, but he denies it.  
Either way, my father got his underground clan, and soon, the rules were in place.
Do what your clan is expected to do. All of us have a particular job to keep the Works
running. The guard support the wolves offer—along with their construction work. The spells and
treatments the witches provide. The political connections the vampires play a part in. And we
can’t forget the connections on Wall Street that the shifters give us. It’s simple, really. Everyone
plays their part and reports back to Father. Well, the clan leaders do, at least.
Another rule is paying your taxes. For obvious reasons, if my father is protecting your
group, curing diseases, providing good housing, and everything else he does, the least you can do
is pay the monthly tax.
Lastly, don’t mix clans. Father wants to keep the purest of bloodlines, to make the future
children of the Works the strongest and best—my father’s words, not mine. Now, that is the rule
that gets broken the most. Mostly by my uncle Samuel and his obsession with vampires. But
even with his lust for the creatures, he has never fathered a child, mostly because vampires can’t
have children. That isn’t the case for other clans, though. And when it happens, I mean, when a
mixed-clan child is conceived, it isn’t long after birth that the child is killed.
That sickens me and will be one of the first things I change when I am the leader of the
Works.
I just have to get there.
“You’re thinking way too hard for someone who just woke up.”
I smile, my heart filling with such unadulterated tenderness for the wide blue eyes that
soon trap me in their gaze. A grin pulls at my sweetheart’s lips, her long, flowing strawberry
blond hair falling every so delicately along her jaw and onto my chest as she traces the scar on
my stomach.
“I thought you were sleeping,” I whisper, my lips pressing against hers as my hands grasp
the thick globes of her ass. Holding her tight against my side, I kiss her. Softly, ever so slowly,
memorizing every single thing about her lips and the way they make me feel.
Perfection. Pure perfection.
When she pulls back, her eyes darken a bit as she throws her leg across me, straddling me
as her nails bite into my chest. “I’m not sleeping,” she says, her cheeks dusting with color as I
drink in the gorgeous freckles along her body. She is covered head to toe in them, and I swear, I
want nothing more than to spend the rest of my days tracing each of them with my tongue, my
fingers, anything. As long as I’m touching her.
My love.
As she moves her hot center against my growing erection, I smile. “I can see that.” My
hand comes up to cup her full breast. “Whatever are you doing up there?”
She scoffs, her wet core making every single thought from before disappear within
seconds. “If you have to ask, I worry for ya,” she jokes, and I smile, my eyes falling shut a bit.
Her voice, her thick Scottish brogue, does the dirtiest things to my body. Turns me on to the
point of no return.
“I thought you had to leave?”
“I think I have a wee bit of time. Maybe we can spend it?”
Bringing her down by a hand at the back of her neck, I kiss her jaw as her breasts press
into my chest. “I know we can,” I say before rolling her over, my body pressing into hers as I
push her legs back into her chest and enter her quickly. She is hot, accepting me and squeezing
me, making me breathless as I stare down into her beautiful, flushed face.
She stuns me, and I just look at her, my lips curving as my cock throbs inside of her,
begging for release. But I can’t move. Not when she is looking at me like that. She reaches up, a
grin pulling at her lips as she runs her thumb down my jaw.
“Gonna stare at me, my love? Or fuck me?”
“Stare,” I say simply, my body heavy against her legs. “I swear I’ve never seen anyone as
beautiful as you.”
Her grin grows, her body flushing even more, and my heart explodes in my chest.
Cupping my face with her other hand, she threads her fingers through my hair. My body breaks
out in gooseflesh as she holds my gaze. When she looks at me, I know she doesn’t see the scars
or the wounded flesh, the cut marks or the gunshot wounds. She sees me, her lover.
Because that’s all I can ever be.  
“I love you, Oceanus,” she whispers, her eyes so dark, so full of lust, and of course, love.
Fuck, I love it when she says those words. Those three words that are ever so beautiful—but
more tragic than one could think. Well, that is until I take over the Works. The moment that
happens, which pray God is soon, I will marry my love. I will make her mine, I will put my child
in her, and together we will lead the Works.
She will be my queen.
I don’t care that she is Taegan Conner, the princess of the wolves, because I don’t see her
faction or even her family name.
I see her heart.
And it’s mine.
All mine.
Moving her hair out of her eyes, I kiss her nose before sliding mine against it. “I love you
too, my love.”
When her mouth captures mine, I lift her up, holding her ass in my hands as I fall back on
my haunches, thrusting up into her. Her breath is harsh against my mouth, her breasts heavy
against my chest, and as I drive into her, I don’t care about anything but her and me.
I’m being selfish.
I’m taking what I want.
And I don’t care one bit.
It doesn’t happen enough in my opinion, but I guess, being me, I don’t get that luxury.
Truth be told, being Oceanus von Stein isn’t easy.
But it’s who I am. And while I lose myself inside of this beautiful woman, I don’t think
of anything but her, and that’s okay for now.
Eventually, I’ll be able to do it for the rest of my days.
I just have to be patient.
Because my time is coming.  

 

 

My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?
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Blog Tour, Review & Excerpt – Hate Story, Nicole Williams

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December 30, 2016 By

 

 

 

 

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Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free.

Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong.

But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him.

This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.
4.5 Stars

I’ve been a fan of Nicole Williams’ for years and Hate Story is one of my favorites. I love her writing. It’s always funny, romantic and filled with emotion. I love her characters and the depth she always uncovers. Max and Nina enter into a contract. Be married for three years. In the end, Nina gets one million dollars, Max gets his green card. It’s a win-win as long as their emotions don’t get involved. Nina is an independent woman just trying to save her home. She’s smart, sassy and hilarious. She needs to hate Max for this arrangement to work. She can’t fall in love with her husband. Everyone who she’s loved has left her. She won’t fall in love. Max needs a no string marriage so he can stay in the US. He loves his home and is willing to do anything to stay here. The good thing about being tied to someone is that you can be yourself, so Nina and Max are being real with each other. Sharing their lives and pasts. But, will that make it harder to not get involved? Max and Nina have incredible chemistry. Their connection is so deep that they are both fighting their feelings. I loved watching them fight to not care. Fight to continue to hate. Fight to not love. Hate Story is a beautiful story about wanting love, trying to hate and getting what you need in the end. Max was perfect. He was strong, smart, caring, and has truly genuine feelings for Nina despite her own issues. And I loved his sexy accent!

 

He was pretty much female catnip in a six-foot-three bundle of ego and muscle.

 

So what? He had an ice butt. And a nice face. And a nice everything else in between. So he was fun to look at.

 

“Why would you want me?”

“Because every part of me wants every part of you. That’s why.”

 

He hadn’t stopped smiling at me, and it wasn’t the friendly kind of smile. It was the kind that made it seem like he was in on some secret I wasn’t privy to. The kind of smile that made me feel like I was being trifled with and made the punch line of a hundred jokes I had yet to hear.
I wanted to wipe the cocky smile off his face, but that would have required touching him and even I wasn’t gutsy enough for that. A woman did not touch a guy like him unless she wanted him to be her undoing. Nope. You didn’t play with fire. You didn’t touch it. You didn’t even come close.
Fire. That was all I saw when I looked at him. I was playing with it by agreeing to this kind of arrangement with him.
Even the way he lounged in the chair was smug. Like it was his throne and he was just waiting for minions to come bow before him.
“You’re younger than I thought you’d be.” He broke the silence first.
Though it was faint, I could just make out an accent. It was European, but I couldn’t nail down the country. To look at the bastard, you’d think he was Scandinavian—blond hair, blue eyes, commanding frame—but his accent was too sharp to hail from the land of Vikings.
I was tempted to glare at the tipped smile aimed at me, but I didn’t want to lead him to the impression I cared. I gave him my version of the same smile, abandoning my “no expectations” policy for the prospect of pissing him off. “You’re older than I thought you’d be.”
His smile shifted into the realm of a smirk, like he knew I was lying. So yeah, maybe I was lying about thinking he was older, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of confirming his silent accusation. He was older than me, but not by much. He might have been closing in on thirty, but he wasn’t past it.
He leaned forward in the chair. When his gaze circled my face to my fiery red hair, his brow elevated. Yes, I am the stereotype. Be warned.
“Prettier too.”
I stiffened. He was fucking with me now. I’d already agreed to marry him. How much more did he think he could screw me over?
I gave him a cursory glance and kept the unaffected look on my face. “Uglier.”
He cocked a brow like he knew better. “And the personality of ten women rolled into one.”
“Intimidated?”
His head shook once. “Intrigued.”
“Irritated?”
His eyes investigated me again. It felt intrusive, definitely not cursory. “Impressed.”
“As impressed by me as the woman in heat who was just mauling you over by the bar?”
“You mean the woman who gave me this?” He pulled something out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket and set it on the small table between us.
It was a hotel card key. With a lipstick kiss pressed into it.
“Classy place, this five-star hotel.” I glanced back at the woman at the bar. She was still there, watching him as though he was the height of the male species. “Did you tell her the reason you were here?”
His attention stayed on me. “Yes, I told her I was here to meet the woman I was going to marry.”
My stomach wrung. This was the man I was going to marry.
Holy shit.
“And she didn’t ask for her room key back?” I asked.
“She didn’t give it to me until right after I mentioned that.” His stare was intense. Too intense. I felt like every secret—every piece of who I was—was strewn out on that table for him to see. “Women love a man who isn’t afraid of commitment. It’s like an aphrodisiac.”
“You know what else women like?” I didn’t pause for an answer because I guessed he didn’t have a clue. “A man who’s humble.”
He fought a smile and leaned back in his chair when a server approached with a couple of drinks on a tray. “No, they like to think they do, but they don’t.” His head shook authoritatively. “They like the cocky bastard who goes after what he wants and doesn’t take no for an answer.”
Because the server was shielding some of me from his view, I allowed myself to shift. I was getting fired up, and if he kept saying the same kinds of things with the same kinds of looks on his face, that drink was going to wind up in his face.
That was when I noticed what the server had set in front of me. A tumbler with something amber in color. The same thing she was setting in front of him. Although from the curve of her smile, she was offering to give him a blow job on the side, compliments of the house.
“What is this?” I asked. Him. Her. Whoever wanted to answer.
“Scotch,” he answered, ignoring the server lingering between us.
My nose curled at the drink.
“Expensive scotch.”
“I don’t care if it came from the fountain of youth. I won’t drink it.”
His forehead creased with what appeared to be irritation, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was confusion, like he couldn’t decide what to make of me. “You would have me believe you wouldn’t take a sip of that if you knew it would give you eternal life?” When I shook my head, his head tipped. “Why?”
“Because I value my free will far more than long life.” I pushed the drink away until it clinked against his. “I’d rather live one day free than an eternity in a cage.”
He was quiet for a moment. The server stayed between us, staring at him, waiting.
“Then why are you here?” he asked me finally.
I leaned forward and hoped my stare was as powerful as his. “Because free will is expensive.”

 

 

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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Release Day Blitz & Excerpt – Hate Story, Nicole Williams

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December 26, 2016 By

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon US
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Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free.

Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong.

But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him.

This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.

 

“Okay. So how do you think this is going?” Max tipped the broom handle between us. “You and me?”
My forehead pinched together. “You and me the plan? Or you and me the surprise?”
Max’s brow answered my question.
“And this topic is what you consider not-so-deep?” I nudged him and moved to finish stocking syrups.
“All I’m looking for is a simple estimation. Since we were just talking about school, give us a grade for how you think this is going.”
“A grade? Like A, B, C, D, F?”
“Exactly like that.”
I shook my head. “Did you have a rough day at work today? Lose an Olympic-size swimming pool of money or something? Are you needing your daily ego stroking to come from somewhere else today?” When I glanced back at him, I found Max leaning into the door he’d relocked, arms crossed and waiting.
“Our relationship is unique,” he said. “Intricate. I’m asking not because I need my ego stroked, but because I care. If I need to make some changes, I’m willing to. Anything you need, whatever you want, that’s what I’ll give you. But first, I have to know how I’m doing.”
If a man could get a woman pregnant from a piercing stare and a collection of words, I’d just gotten myself good and knocked up. With twins.
“You know how it’s going,” I said, trying to focus on the syrups instead of what—or who—I wanted to focus on.
“I know how I think it’s going. I’d like to know how you think it’s going.”
My mouth went a little dry. Having these kinds of talks was hard for anyone—they were next to impossible for me. “Well, you haven’t gone and confessed your undying love or scared the hell out of me by asking me to be your baby mama, so you’re keeping your promise to take it nice and slow.” When he gave a mini bow, I rolled my eyes. “Not to mention you aren’t too shabby in the sack, you don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, and you share the remote well.”
Max’s face went flat. “Not too shabby?”
“Oh, please. You know how good you are. Stop fishing for compliments.” A flush crept up my neck as I thought of the most recent evidence to support that theory.
A slow, crooked smile spread across his face. “I want a grade.”
“Like comprehensive? Or broken down by category?” I was stalling, and Max knew I was stalling.
“You’re making this way too difficult,” he grumbled.
“An A minus,” I said abruptly. “I’d give you an A minus.”
“Why not an A plus?”
I kept my head turned so he couldn’t see my smile. Only Max Sturm would be outraged by an A minus. “Because there’s always room for improvement. And I wouldn’t want it to go to your head, that’s why not an A plus.”
The door creaked when he shoved off of it. He made no move to tame the way he was checking me out, leaning into the counter as I organized the syrups. “Something’s definitely going to my head.”
My gaze roamed his zipper region. “I was talking about the one north of your neck.”
“And I’m talking about the one at the end of my dick. My, at present, hard dick, thanks to you.” He came up behind me, fitting himself against my backside as his hands moved around to work on my jeans.
“Max,” I protested, my eyes closing a second later when his dick nuzzled deeper into my backside.
“Nina. I’m taking your body. Here. Now.” His chest pressed into my back as he lowered my zipper. “Accept that so we can move on to the next part.”

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
 
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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Release Day Blitz & Excerpt – Face-Off at the Alter, Toni Aleo

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December 26, 2016 By

 

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Markus Reeves is sucking. Big-time. Toiling away on a minor-league hockey team hundreds of miles away from home, he’s watching his dreams of an NHL career fade away. Add in the lingering guilt he has over the dramatic demise of his relationship with college girlfriend, Mekena, and he’s a mess on and off the ice.

 

But the family of his heart, the Sinclairs, won’t let Markus suffer any longer. When he arrives himself back in Nashville for a trial run on the Assassins, it feels like his life may be making a turn for the better. If only he could get Mekena to forgive him…

 

Mekena Preston has been hurting since fleeing Nashville following the horror of Markus’s betrayal with her sister. Now a professional photographer, Mekena finds herself in the same place at the same time with Markus to celebrate Lucy and Benji Paxton’s wedding. Neither of them has been able to move on—and they’re starting to wonder if they really want to.

 

They’re headed for a face-off at the altar unless they can confront their past and unearth the truth about what really happened on that fateful night.

 

Watching as Elli crossed the ice, saying hi to everyone she passed, Mekena knew she had to go. Standing, she wobbled a lot, but she still made it to the entry to the ice. She could do this. It wasn’t that hard. Just like walking—on water. No big deal.
Oh, God, she was going to die, and everyone was going to see it.
Swallowing hard, she stepped out on the ice and figured she could ride the side of the boards to him. Elli was already there, gushing over the kids and kissing all over the guy Mekena assumed was her nephew. And holy hot genes. Dark hair, bright blue eyes, and a jawbone that could slice the ice. He was beautiful, just like his uncle and his momma. Tall, too, and thick. Obviously a hockey player. That should have given her a little more confidence to skate over there, but instead, her fingers dug into the siding as she slowly made her way toward them.
When Elli looked up, Mekena let go of the sides and waved. “I’m a little slow. I’m coming!”
Elli said something to Ryan, whose eyes lit up when he looked over at her. As he detangled himself from the kids that were trying to climb him like a wall, she figured he was coming to help.
Oh, no, that was embarrassing.
No, she could skate. She had it!
Letting go of the siding, she went with ease. And at first, things were good. She was skating! But as well as it was going, it suddenly went very bad. She felt her knee bend funny and then her body start to fall. And as the ice came into view, she let out a cry, waiting for the ice to break not only her glasses but her nose too. Maybe her teeth.
But she didn’t fall.
No, instead, someone had her by her hips, pulling her up and to her feet.
“Whoa there, girlie. I thought you knew what you were doing?”
Markus.
Everything inside her went hot. Not from embarrassment but from pure, burning desire. Trying to catch her breath, she looked up at him, his eyes so dark, his mouth so close to her cheek as he smiled.
Crap. Crap on a cracker.
“Markus.”
“Yup, it’s me,” he said, grinning as he stood her on her feet. “Saving your life.”

 

 

My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?
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Chapter Reveal – Hate Story, Nicole Williams

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December 19, 2016 By

 

 

 

 
Coming December 26th
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Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free.

Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong.

But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him.

This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.

 

 

 

   Second thoughts. I was having them.
   Experiencing these any time before stepping into the lobby of the swanky hotel I was meeting him at would have been helpful.
   “Sure you’re ready for this?” my best friend, Kate, asked, surveying the lobby like he was going to be lurking there with a sign hanging above his head.
   “I’m sure.”
   It was a lie. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but I didn’t have a choice. The bills had gone from a pile to a pillar, and if I didn’t do something soon, I would lose the house. I couldn’t lose the house. Not ever. It was the only home I’d ever known.
   “You don’t have to do this, you know? There are other options. When I mentioned this a few months ago, it was just a far-off suggestion, not one I thought you’d actually run with.” Kate slowed down as we got closer to the hotel lounge where he was supposed to be waiting.
   “There are no other options that include me keeping the house. At least not ones that are any less illicit than this one.” I licked my lips out of nervousness. With the way things had been lately, it was a miracle they hadn’t turned into sandpaper.
   “You know you could go to jail, right?”
   My tongue touched my lips again. “Only if I get caught.”
   Kate shook her head, and her light hair whipped across her shoulders. She was everything I wasn’t. Tall, rail-thin, straight blond hair that cooperated, skin that looked like she’d been gilded in something ethereal, and dressed like life was one endless party. Our personalities were a stark contrast as well. She was effervescent, where I fell somewhere closer to the jaded end of the scale. She wrung the life out of each day, loved like she’d never been hurt, and laughed like she’d never known sorrow.
   What she saw in me that kept our friendship enduring, I didn’t know. I just hoped she hadn’t hung around when others bailed because she felt obligated. I didn’t want to be anyone’s pity penance.
   She snagged my arm when I walked in front of her, braking me to a stop when I was a few steps from the lounge’s entrance. “Do you know what he looks like?”
   I tempered my irritation before glancing at her. She was coming from a place of concern, but I was committed. I just needed to get this over with already. “No.”
   “About how old he is?”
    My armpits were starting to sweat. I hadn’t even seen him yet and I was already pitting out. “No,” I answered, lifting my arms a little for ventilation.
   “Do you know what he’s going to be wearing tonight?” Kate glanced over my shoulder, almost glaring into the lounge.
   “No.” I twisted from side to side to create as much of a breeze as I could. I so should have splurged for the clinical strength deodorant instead of this cheap dollar-store junk that was probably going to give me cancer one day. If my budget hadn’t been worked out to the last quarter, I would have.
   “Do you know anything about him?” Kate sighed, motioning at me like I was the lamb who’d just brayed as the first volunteer for the slaughter. “Other than, you know . . .” She swallowed. “What he wants?”
   My stomach rolled. I definitely knew what he wanted.
   “I know his name.”
    Kate waited a moment. “And his name is . . .?”
   “Sturm.”
   Her nose wrinkled. “What kind of a name is that?”
   “Sturm’s his last name. I don’t know what his first is.”
   Kate’s nose went back to normal, but a high eyebrow took over its job of disapproving. She was especially expressive. That was another way we were different. Kate seemed to have no desire or inclination to hide what she felt, whereas I had every desire and inclination to hide.
   “So what is he expecting you to call him? Mister Sturm? Because this twenty-first-century feminist is so not okay with one of her best friends addressing this guy like that.”
   “Yeah, neither is this twenty-first-century feminist.” I flapped air in the direction of my armpits because they were only getting worse.
   “The same feminist agreeing to marry a man for money?” Kate drew her hand up to her hip and stretched into every inch of her nearly-six-foot frame.
   The word still sucked the air out of my lungs, but it had lost some of its potency. “Exactly—agreeing to marry him for money instead of lame reasons like love or feelings or to grow old together. How much more feminist does it get?”
   Kate looked down at me. “Eh, how about instead of marrying him for money, you could turn him into the authorities for trying to commit green card fraud?” She peeked over my shoulder and craned her neck to look into the lounge. “Besides, what is a million dollars really? That chick in that Indecent Proposal movie got a million and she only had to spend one night with him. Plus if you factor in inflation, since that movie’s almost as old as I am, you are getting the proverbial and literal shaft. In the ass.”
   I gave up the armpit sweat battle and hung my arms at my sides. Why did I care if this guy’s first impression of me was as a profuse sweater? I wasn’t asking for his approval or even expecting it. He was a business transaction to me. I was a means to an end to him.
   A case of two people embracing the capitalist spirit of America.
   “Yeah, but she had to sleep with the guy. That’s not part of our deal,” I argued. “But if it was part of the fine print, believe me, I’d ask for a hell of a lot more.”
   We had an agreement. Kind of. It was more a rough draft that had just as many amendments as it had bullet points, but I preferred having everything ironed out in advance. I wanted to know exactly what I was getting into before sinking up to my neck in it, which I was minutes away from doing.
   “So you’re saying you would sleep with him if the price was right?” Kate’s other hand flew to her hip.
   I gave her the most indifferent face I could. I might have been able to look the part, but I certainly didn’t feel the part. “Hey, Morality Police, I’m already agreeing to marry a guy so he can get a green card. Give me a break.”
   Kate’s phone chimed in her clutch. She’d wrangled up a couple of friends to meet her at this lounge tonight so she could keep an eye on me. I guessed she was worried the guy might not be on the up-and-up and might be using a green card as a cover for wanting to sell me off for internal organs or into the sex trade. I wasn’t worried about that, but I was thankful she was here for support if nothing else.
   After punching in a quick text, Kate circled her phone at me. “And what are you wearing? Did you think there was going to be a ribbon handed out at the end of the night for the most colorful outfit?”
   I glanced down at myself. I liked color. Lots of it. Living in a place like Portland, Oregon, a person had to find a way to fight off the perpetual gray. This was my chosen method.
   “I wanted to make sure he knew who I was,” I said, just barely peeking inside the lounge. Dozens of bodies, all of them different shapes, sizes, and colors, and all of them were dressed like they’d conspired to match. “If I’d known everyone would be in some shade of gray or blue, I wouldn’t have dressed in a green polka-dot dress, fuchsia shoes, and a blue checked scarf.”
   Kate bit her lip to keep from laughing. “You’re a fashion intervention begging to happen.”
   I stopped rubbing at a wrinkle in my dress. If an iron hadn’t been up to the challenge of smoothing it out, my thumb wasn’t going to do it. “I don’t care. I’m not here to impress him or earn his approval.”
   “Yeah, that’s obvious,” she mumbled just loud enough for me to hear. When I went to give her a little shove, she slid out of the way. “And if you’re not trying to impress him, why are you wearing the first dress I’ve seen you in since, god, probably when you wore that very one at spring fling of our senior year?” Kate was looking inside the lounge now, her gaze skimming the space like she was looking for something. Her friends must have already been there because she waved at someone before lifting her finger in a just-a-minute kind of way.
   “Because I didn’t think this place was a holey jeans and sneakers kind of place,” I argued, wondering why I was defending my wardrobe choices to someone who dressed by the less-is-more standard.
   “Let’s hope Mister Sturm is fashion blind.” The way she said it earned her another little shove.
   “He’s a single, foreign man who’s paying someone a hell of a lot of money to marry him.” I crossed my arms at her as she kept peeking into the lounge. “I think it’s safe to say I’m not about to come face-to-face with a guy who spends his nights flipping the pages of GQ. And if you call him Mister Sturm again, I’m going to pull your hair.”
   Kate winked at me. “My scalp’s a little sensitive from the hair pulling last night.”
   I rolled my eyes. “Alexander?” The last man du jour she’d mentioned to me.
   “Trenton.” She kind of sighed his name. Actually, it held the hint of a moan. God. I could never imagine sighing-slash-moaning some guy’s name. Ever. The closest I’d ever gotten to a sigh-moan was over the peanut butter pie my grandma had made for my last birthday.
    “Fine,” I said, interrupting the last notes of her moan.
   “Then I’ll slap your ass if you say it again.”
   She flashed a wicked smile my direction before giving her hips a shake. “Just as sensitive.”
   “God, fine,” I groaned. “Just stop. Your sex life nauseates me.”
   “Jealous is not a good look for you. Besides, someone needs to make up for your lack of it.” Kate waved at me like my sex life was visible for all to read.  
   “At your rate, you’re making up for the entire city’s lack of sex life.”
   She nodded solemnly. “You’re welcome.”
   “Besides, sex is not all it’s cracked up to be.” At this point, I was stalling, but I was nervous.
   “Believe me, with the right person who knows what they’re doing, it is all, and more, it’s cracked up to be.” Kate bounced her brows. “Some guys just know how to use their dick better than others.”
   I frowned. “Wow. I’m about to orgasm all over the place.”
   Kate laughed as she slid in front of me and teased my hair with her fingers.
   “Oww,” I whined as she ripped and pulled at my hair. “And I hope you washed your hands with bleach after the last dick you touched.”
   She responded by smearing her hands down the sides of my face. “Most action you’ve ever seen.” She scrubbed them down my face one more time. “You’re welcome.”
   I stepped out of the reach of her filthy little paws and waved her toward the lounge.  
   “I’ll be right there. Just give the signal if the guy turns out to be a serious creeper, okay?” She waited for me to nod, then she kissed the air in my direction. “Go get him, tomcat.”
   I didn’t know how to reply to that, so I went with an okay signal.
   I waited a minute after Kate had disappeared into the lounge. Then I waited one more before forcing my feet forward. It wasn’t like my dwindling courage was going to find its way back the longer I stalled.
   Taking in a slow breath, I pictured my house. The one I’d grown up in. The one that had housed a Burton for sixty years. The one that would probably be gutted or ripped down and replaced by whatever rich a-hole bought it at the foreclosure sale. I pictured relief from the stack of bills, the freedom to have choices, and a future that wasn’t already painted with bleak hues and dark strokes.
   Then I moved inside the lounge and took my first step toward my future husband.

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
 
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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Cover Reveal – Face Off at the Altar, Toni Aleo 

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December 9, 2016 By

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Coming December 29th
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Markus Reeves is sucking. Big-time. Toiling away on a minor-league hockey team hundreds of miles away from home, he’s watching his dreams of an NHL career fade away. Add in the lingering guilt he has over the dramatic demise of his relationship with college girlfriend, Mekena, and he’s a mess on and off the ice.
 
But the family of his heart, the Sinclairs, won’t let Markus suffer any longer. When he arrives himself back in Nashville for a trial run on the Assassins, it feels like his life may be making a turn for the better. If only he could get Mekena to forgive him…
 
Mekena Preston has been hurting since fleeing Nashville following the horror of Markus’s betrayal with her sister. Now a professional photographer, Mekena finds herself in the same place at the same time with Markus to celebrate Lucy and Benji Paxton’s wedding. Neither of them has been able to move on—and they’re starting to wonder if they really want to.
 
They’re headed for a face-off at the altar unless they can confront their past and unearth the truth about what really happened on that fateful night.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.
I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.
I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!
When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.
I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.
… and did I mention I love hockey?
 
 
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Excerpt Reveal – Hail Mary, Nicola Rendell

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December 7, 2016 By

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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At a boxing gym in Chicago, Mary Monahan accidentally knocks out the most handsome man she’s ever met. After she wakes him up with a few slaps and some smelling salts, the very first thing he does is ask her out for ribs and beer. His name is Jimmy. He looks like a Gillette model. And he’s just too hunky to resist.

Jimmy “The Falcon” Falconi is mystified that Mary has absolutely no idea who he is. Mystified and refreshed. He is, after all, not your everyday NFL quarterback. He shops at Costco, has a soft spot for Pinterest, and is in the midst of an epic losing streak.

Jimmy falls for Mary fast and hard, the way he does everything—balls out and like it’s fourth and long. And he realizes he’s finally met his match. That stamina he’s so proud of? Doesn’t stand a chance against her Kegels.

But what they don’t know is she’s also his new physical therapist, recently hired by the Bears to work on his rotator cuff…and groin injury. If she can’t help him, he’ll be traded faster than they can say “offensive penetration.”

In spite of the thousands of internet memes featuring Jimmy’s face with captions like: “HEY GIRL, WANT TO TOUCH MY BALLS?” Mary finds herself falling for him and his unrelenting desire to make her his.

Until a toddler shows up at Jimmy’s door.

And throws their lives into total chaos.

***

To the reader: Contents includes love, sweetness, naughtiness, honey, champagne, and an HEA. Safe.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jimmy


Joe Namath said it: “When you win, nothing hurts.”
And I might be flat on my back with a headache like I just sucked down a smoothie too fast, but I’m fucking winning. Because look at that goddamned face. Fucking gorgeous. Freckles, those lips. Everything. Her body is hella hot, but that face. That face seals it.
Also, those tits. I groan and pretend I’m rubbing my temples. Actually, I’m looking at the curve of her stomach—the crease across her belly button. The edge of the tattoo just wraps around her side, accentuating the line of her waist. God, yes.
“I’m so sorry,” she says. “I’m not allowed to fight my own weight class anymore, but I thought you’d be able to take it.”
“Ouch.”
“Oh no.” She puts her hand to her mouth. “I mean…sorry. Just…I’m really sorry.”
I know she’s lying. She’s probably left a trail of unconscious guys from here to wherever she came from, but I’m not proud. I’ll be the next man in line. I sure fucking will. “What do you weigh? A buck fifty? And you knocked me out like that?”
“One fifty-seven!” The way she says it, she’s proud of it, and I love that. A buck fifty-seven. Sold.
“You can hit.” I explore the damage with my tongue. The hot, metallic taste of blood fills my mouth, and my saliva stings the cut on my bottom lip.
I glance around. Nobody’s paying any attention at all. Further proof that she’s done this before.
“Sorry. I wasn’t even thinking. Let me…” She dabs at my lip with a washcloth. I can smell the sweat, the salt, the heat. The sharp lingering smell of ammonia in my nostrils. A drop of her sweat runs down off her neck and lands on my chest with a plop.
She takes my face in her wrapped hands, looking from eye to eye. “I don’t think you’re concussed.”
Okay, so I know I’m not—I don’t know much, but I do know a concussion when I get one—but I’m going to go along with it because I need her to stay exactly like that. “Might be.” I follow her eyes with mine. “Head trauma can be very complicated.”
Slowly, a smile creeps up across her face, and a little dimple crimps her cheek. But she bites it back. “Your pupils look normal.”
Coconut. I can smell it. Definitely coconut. Good thing I’m already flat on my back. She holds up one finger and moves it to and fro in front of my eyes. I don’t follow it. I leave my eyes right there, on this fleck of brown in her left iris.
“If you can’t follow my finger, I think we have to call 911…”
I sniff, the ammonia still stinging my sinuses. “If I let you knock me out again, can I get you to keep doing this all night?”
She pouts and makes a fist of her wrapped hand. “Let me? Let me knock you out?”
“Oh yeah. Let you.”
She cocks her head, her eyes saying, Bullshit!
“Fuck, yes, I took the fall. Sometimes you got to throw the fight to get what you want.”
She lets go of my face, and my head lands in her lap. The curve of her thigh supports my neck. She gives me that look again, the one she gave me right before the lights went out. “Yeah? And what do you want?”
“I think you know.” I let my stare fall to her cleavage.
She presses her lips together, like she cannot believe I just said that.
Booyah. Now who’s on her heels?
I rip off the Velcro cuff from the glove on my right hand and shake it off. “I’m Jimmy.” I hold out my hand to her. She shakes it softly, and then her grip tightens and she pulls me up to a sitting position in the middle of the ring. She keeps her right hand knitted in mine, thumb over thumb, and gently supports my back with the other. “I really am sorry about that.”
“I’ll deny it forever.”
“There were witnesses.” She glances over her shoulder at the assorted groups of guys around the gym.
“Are you familiar with the down-low?”
“They took pictures. For the Knockout Wall,” she says, grinning.
Fuckers. Great. Just great. JIMMY FALCONI KNOCKED OUT BY GIRL IN PINK GLOVES. I can see it on Bleacherreport.com right now. “Polaroids burn super easy.”
Now she’s really smiling, and fuck is she pretty. Like, drop-dead gorgeous. The knockout with the knockout punch. “I’m glad you’re okay. If you never woke up, that would have been a lot of paperwork.”
I grunt-laugh, which also hurts because of that one-two-three combination to my spleen earlier. I grab my stomach and flop back down on the mat.
“Need ice?”
“Let me die with dignity.”
She gets stern. “Ten-four. We’ll remember you fondly.” And then she salutes me.
All this and she’s funny?
Alright, Falconi. Time to head for the end zone. Time to bring the Super Bowl ring home. “Fine. I’ll give you the win if you let me buy you dinner.”
Her eyes move over my face. “Dinner? There’s a blizzard coming. Also, you might need a stitch for that lip.”
“No way. I’ll get some superglue. Fuck the blizzard. Come out with me.”
“Tough guy.”
I study that hollow at the base of her throat and then meet her eyes to hold her stare. “Dinner and drinks.”
She stands and offers me a wrapped hand. Toe to toe, she sizes me up like we’re locked in some full-body arm-wrestling match. Christ.
But she still hasn’t said, “Don’t you play for the…” like everybody else always does. So I ask, “You like any other sports besides knocking totally unsuspecting strangers unconscious? Like maybe…football?”
I hold the ropes open for her and she steps through. Goddamn, those hips. That skin. The curve of her waist. The petals of the lace that barely touch her spine. And my mind kind of unravels in imagining where that tattoo goes and how sexy that ink must be on the skin of her ass.
“Nope. Is that a problem?” she asks. “That I wouldn’t know my touchdown from my…whatever? Going to put a cramp in our conversation, champ?”
“No problem at all.” Doesn’t matter if she knows me or not, because pretty quick here, I’m planning to have her saying my name. Over and over again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
 
 
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Release Day & Excerpt – Hail Mary, Nicola Rendell

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November 28, 2016 By

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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At a boxing gym in Chicago, Mary Monahan accidentally knocks out the most handsome man she’s ever met. After she wakes him up with a few slaps and some smelling salts, the very first thing he does is ask her out for ribs and beer. His name is Jimmy. He looks like a Gillette model. And he’s just too hunky to resist.

Jimmy “The Falcon” Falconi is mystified that Mary has absolutely no idea who he is. Mystified and refreshed. He is, after all, not your everyday NFL quarterback. He shops at Costco, has a soft spot for Pinterest, and is in the midst of an epic losing streak.

Jimmy falls for Mary fast and hard, the way he does everything—balls out and like it’s fourth and long. And he realizes he’s finally met his match. That stamina he’s so proud of? Doesn’t stand a chance against her Kegels.

But what they don’t know is she’s also his new physical therapist, recently hired by the Bears to work on his rotator cuff…and groin injury. If she can’t help him, he’ll be traded faster than they can say “offensive penetration.”

In spite of the thousands of internet memes featuring Jimmy’s face with captions like: “HEY GIRL, WANT TO TOUCH MY BALLS?” Mary finds herself falling for him and his unrelenting desire to make her his.

Until a toddler shows up at Jimmy’s door.

And throws their lives into total chaos.

***

To the reader: Contents includes love, sweetness, naughtiness, honey, champagne, and an HEA. Safe.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter 1
Jimmy


She’s got a hell of a left hook, and her jab is no joke either. It’s hard to tell what she really looks like, with the big blue rubber mouth guard between her teeth and the black padded headgear covering her jaw and cheeks. But I know this: I want to get my hands on that body. Her tight pink tee is low cut and skin tight, and across her breasts are the words: “NOBODY’S PUSSYCAT.”
A cold draft blows in from the window, making goosebumps ripple up her arms. A thin stream of sweat runs down into her cleavage, and then I watch her nipples tighten. Christ. With little bounces, she heads back to her corner and bends over for her water bottle. Stretchy black leggings and no panty line.
Fuuuuuck.
The buzzer dings and we square up. She holds her gloves up to her face, ready to go. They’re bubblegum pink with white cuffs; the girliest weapons I’ve ever seen.
But never mind the gloves. It’s those eyes that have me. Shit, those eyes. This crazy deep green. Packers’ green. Jets’ green. Green like cash. Green that could make a guy go right out of his mind.
Pow goes a jab into my stomach and I double over, tasting my Gatorade from an hour ago. Before I can breathe, before I can even get up my gloves to slow her down, she pelts me hard with a cross to my sternum that knocks the wind straight out of me. I gasp for air and stagger back into the ropes.
“Jesus Christ,” I moan. “Who are you?”
Her eyes light up in this smile. This beautiful fucking smile that I feel way down inside. Then she bounces on her toes and smacks her gloves together out in front of her. Whap, whap. “I’m Mary!” she says around her mouth guard. “And you’re slow!”
Cute. But, yeah…no. Nobody talks to me like that. Nobody. I hurl myself off the ropes, colliding with her in the center of the ring, skin against skin now. I press into her sexy shoulder with my bicep, feeling the sweat between us. She nails me in the gut again; a solid, low-slung straight, and I think, I can’ t hit a girl, can I?
No. Fuck, no.
So I stretch my arm between us, the padding of my glove holding her steady right below her collarbone. She swings for me but I’m a foot taller and she doesn’t stand a chance. “Jerk!”
Obviously.
But on the upside, now I can really get a good look at her the way I want to; close up, but not so close that she’s pummeling me. Her legs are solid and I can even see that little curve of her hipbones barely showing through her leggings. I let my eyes follow the line of sweat to her inner thighs, to that wet, hot place where everything comes together. Fuck. I want my hands on that place. I want to feel the softness and the strength. I want to know the taste of that sweat. The way that softness gives under my tongue.
Ding goes the buzzer. I push her away, padded knuckles to her shoulder. She spins and gets into her corner, so I do the same.
I grab my water bottle and squirt it into my mouth, watching her all the time. She’s fucking beautiful, this one. Fucking gorgeous. The woman of dreams. Of fantasies.
From a pink Nalgene, she takes one big gulp, two, and a little water dribbles down her lips, rolling in drops down her throat. Her eyes stay right on mine. Her chest heaves. Her eyes flash. Her lips tighten. And that’s when it happens. She peels off her T-shirt and tosses it to the floor so that the only word showing is PUSSY.
Ding.
Her body is fucking perfect. I mean perfect. I moan into my mouth guard and I look her up and down. Lean but not thin. Sexy and strong. A fighter’s body. A woman’s body. A body strong enough to take everything I want to give it. And then some.
She turns to set down her water bottle, bending at the waist. And that’s when I see it. The tattoo. It’s a ribbon of black lace that runs in a beautiful, feminine line down her back from right shoulder to left hip, curving down into her pants. Tough as hell, pretty as can be. And with the sexiest tattoo I’ve ever seen in my life.
Stick a motherfucking fork in me. I’m done.
“Nice ink,” I tell her as we square up again.
“Thanks,” she says, leaning in to my shoulder.
“I’ve never seen one like it.” I hook my arm around her again and pull her in. I smell something familiar. I can’t place it. She slips free and moves behind me. For one second, all I can hear is her shoes on the mats.
“I rebelled when I turned 30. It was either this or a tramp stamp.”
“Of what?” I pivot so my face is close against hers.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” She smiles tight around the mouth guard. Her glove comes through the air, cutting through the noise of the gym. Whooosh.
I get my right hand up just in time to block her with my glove. The impact rolls down my forearm like I’m nothing but Jell-O.
She lets another jab fly but misses me—barely—and I slip around behind her. The hair at the nape of her neck is curly and wet, and a long dark braid runs down her back. That strip of wet fabric at the top of her pants, dark with sweat. “Why are we fighting?” I growl as I get closer. “Why aren’t we out drinking? Making trouble? Fucking around? Let me take you out.”
She spins to face me, her eyes wide open, surprised. “You wanna drink with me?”
“Hell yes, I do. And a lot of other things.”
“You want me? Fight me.” She fires her bubblegum pink cannons at my stomach with a one-two combination that makes me feel like I’m nothing but a 283-pound heavy bag.
I try to get in a left cross, but she’s way faster than I am and comes up from under with a hook straight out of Manila.
That one got me in my brainpan, in my marrow. “Fuck that,” I snarl.
“Atta boy!”
No way. Nobody atta boys me. I’m Jimmy Goddamned Falconi. I’m nobody’s boy. Never.
“Atta girl.” I nudge her in the shoulder with my chest.
Around her guard, she says, “You fight like you’re in molasses. But you’re strong. You some kind of athlete?”
At first, I’m about to laugh. For about one second, I think I might be on Candid Camera or something. I mean, I can’t walk to the bathroom on an airplane without someone asking me to sign a cocktail napkin. I can’t get through Costco without someone asking me to sign their shopping list. Some kind of athlete?
I’m Jimmy “The Falcon” Falconi. Quarterback for the Chicago Goddamned Bears. I’m somebody.
But there’s zero recognition in her eyes. No flicker of the fangirl. No sign she’s playing it cool either. To her, I’m just a guy getting his ass kicked by a girl in pink gloves.
“Hello?” She presses into my chin with a slow uppercut from the right.
I snap out of it. I don’t even know how to answer her. I play quarterback for the Bears. Ever heard of them? Or maybe, Ever heard of football? America’s Game? Fuck. I wouldn’t even know how to start. I’ve never had to explain it. People just know. “Yeah, I like to work out.”
“Then act like it,” she says, all piss and vinegar, and puts her guard back in her mouth. Wham comes that jab into my gut. Pow goes the straight to my pecs. I loop one arm around her and pull her body in close, hooking the back of her neck with the crook of my elbow. I pull her closer, tighter, both arms around her, to get a feel for her…but also to give myself a goddamned break.
She struggles a little, trying to squirm free, but I see the smile on her face, the crinkle of the skin at her eyes.
I pull her head closer to mine. I must be twice her weight; no way is she going to get free now. We are the welterweight and the super heavyweight. Wrong class totally. But then she wedges her forehead in against my chest. I watch her wind up, her biceps flexing, and, boom-boom-boom.
Every time she connects, I lose a little more air and groan, “Fuck-fuck-fuck!”
“Atta boy!”
Fuck. That.
So I keep her pinned and she starts fighting harder, which makes me want to hang on to her more. I press my nose against her head. In her thick brown hair, I can smell her shampoo, her conditioner. Coconut.
While I’m distracted by that smell, thinking of sunscreen and ukulele music and drinks with umbrellas and her on a beach, she slips out from under my arms and pops up in my face.
Well, shit.
“What, you chicken? Gonna hit me back? Or do you want to dance around for an hour or two? Because I can totally do that. I just have to go home to feed the dog.” Whap-whap go her padded fists.
Oh no, no way. No way am I going to let a pretty little thing talk to me like that. I sniff hard and man up.
I give her a jab. A hook. A cross.
And she blocks me every damned time. Blocks me like she’s fought me before, or like she’s known all along what I’ll do when it comes down to it.
Fucking wax-on-wax off, one-two-three.
Pow-pow go her gloves into my side, and fuck. I think I feel those it in my spleen. Enough. Enough. Anger boils up through me like cheap vodka after a long night.
I’m Jimmy Falconi. And I’m gonna make this girl know my name.
I crack my neck side to side and get serious. I suck air through the holes in my mouth guard and get my fists up. I edge her into the corner and those eyes flash at me. She’s sweating hard and her mascara is smudged. Her hair is mussed and her skin is slick. It makes her look dangerous. Angry. I’d like to smudge that mascara a little more. In bed. Immediately.
But first, I’m going to show her who’s boss.
The more she works herself up, the hotter she gets. That’s when something catches my eye. There’s something written on the white cuffs of her gloves. All fuzzy, written in black marker:
On the right glove: HERE COMES…
On the left:…TROUBLE!
Whomp.
She nails me in the jaw with a haymaker, and my molars shake. “Come the fuck on,” I growl back at her, with my glove pressed to the side of my face.
She smacks her gloves together, and lowers her chin. “Are we sparring or chatting? Hit me!” Bounce, bounce, bounce. Butterfly, bee. Whap, whap, whap. “I’m not going to break!”
I work my jaw open and closed a few times thinking, Okay. Fine. Fine. I didn’t think it was going to go like this, but I can roll with a hostile defense, sure. Wouldn’t be the first time. I give her the old elevator stare—up, down, up again—and get stuck on her belly button for a little too long. But then I get a game plan together. I figure I can hit her in the stomach. Not too hard, not hard enough to hurt her, but hard enough to let her know who’s in charge here.
Which would be me. Me, pussycat. Me.
Nudging the edge of her shoulder with my glove, I drive her backwards. Our eyes lock and I get this…this…prickle all through me.
This woman.
This one. Right here.
I want her. So fucking bad.
The fucking gym with its ten phones playing mariachi goes silent. The guys by the cooler egging her on go silent. It’s just her and me and the sweat dripping between us. Soft skin, sparkling eyes. She smells like a summer day and she’s looking at me in a way that no woman has ever looked at me. Ever.
Like she’s gonna own me and she knows it.
Which is bullshit.
She gives me a little lift of her chin and tightens her lips around the guard. She wipes her nose with her glove and then lowers her head. “Come on! You going to fight or are you just going to screw around?”
With my left hand, I jab her softly in the stomach. With the right, a play-hook to the jaw. I raise her chin on my glove so her eyes come up to mine. Then I pull her close, my arm around the back of her neck again. “You wanna screw around?” I say into her ear.
Bam, another hit to the stomach. “I haven’t even gotten started,” she answers.
Fuck it.
She wants to play? Fucking fine. I’ll play. I’ll play hard. I square up. But she gives me this eye. This champion eye. A winner’s eye. Cocky like no eyes I’ve ever seen before. Tom Brady doesn’t have anything on this kind of cocky right here. My luck, this girl’s some UFC champion. Christ.
But I can take her. Yeah, I sure fucking can.
Probably.
I decide on a straight jab; a no-fail straight jab that I plan just hard enough to send her reeling but not hurt her, not actually injure her. I know the punch. It works in bar fights and brawls on the field. An all-American move. As I wind up, everything slows down. I’m 6’6”, 283 pounds, and I throw a football for a living. When I wind up, I wind up. As I do, she ducks, fast as fucking lightning. Greased. Elegant. Lethal. So as my arm is powering through the air, as my momentum gets caught behind 12-ounce training gloves, she pops back up like a goddamned whack-a-mole.
Those eyes flash again and she smiles so hard I can see her dimples.
Dimples. Oh, fuck.
I watch her shoulder tighten, her tricep pucker, and that’s when she lets me have it for real.
The punch comes from left to right, blocking out my view of everything. I don’t see the Mexican flag on the wall. I don’t see the graffiti mural over the windows. Nope. The universe turns bubblegum pink.
It doesn’t hurt, not at first, and as I’m flying backwards, airborne, I have just enough time to think to myself, I wonder if this is what a knockout punch feels like…
Before everything flickers to black.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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