Blitz | River of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor

River of Ashes
Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor
(St. Benedict, #1)
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication date: August 2nd 2022
Genres: Adult, Psychological Thriller

“A psychological portrait akin to Lord of the Flies.” ~Midwest Book Review

SOME TRUTHS ARE BETTER KEPT SECRET. SOME SECRETS ARE BETTER OFF DEAD.

ALONG THE BANKS OF THE BOGUE FALAYA RIVER, sits the abandoned St. Francis Seminary. Beneath a canopy of oaks, blocked from prying eyes, the teens of St. Benedict High gather here on Fridays. The rest of the week belongs to school and family—but weekends belong to the river.

And the river belongs to Beau Devereaux.

The only child of a powerful family, Beau can do no wrong. Star quarterback. Handsome. Charming. The “prince” of St. Benedict is the ultimate catch.

He is also a psychopath.

A dirty family secret buried for years, Beau’s evil grows unchecked. In the shadows of the haunted abbey, he commits unspeakable acts on his victims and ensures their silence with threats and intimidation. Senior year, Beau sets his sights on his girlfriend’s headstrong twin sister, Leslie, who hates him. Everything he wants but cannot have, she will be his ultimate prize.

As the victim toll mounts, it becomes clear that someone must stop Beau Devereaux.

And that someone will pay with their life.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

EXCERPT:

A howl came from the direction of The Abbey.

Andrea leaned away from him, listening. “What’s that?”

Beau nuzzled her neck. “Wild dogs. They live on The Abbey grounds. There’s a couple of legends about them.”

“What legends?” She stepped out of his embrace.

He watched her hips beneath her coat. “They say the dogs stay around The Abbey waiting for the lady in white. She was a gamekeeper for the seminary school and a lover of one of the monks. She died on the grounds, betrayed by the man she loved. Her dogs were kept to manage the varmint population. The wild dogs are said to be their offspring.”

Beau slipped the coat from her shoulders. “The gamekeeper was found hanging from a tree in a white hooded cloak. It was all kept very hush-hush at the time. After the woman’s death, the dogs roamed the grounds and lived off the land. They’re said to only appear when death is near.”

Beau looked at Andrea to see if she was sufficiently unnerved.

“That’s just creepy.” She glanced at his hands as he tugged at her jeans. “But a guy who brings girls to these abandoned cells is into creepy.”

He liked the image the cells portrayed. It was his laboratory, like he’d read about in Frankenstein, where he could experiment and create his own monsters.


Author Bio:

Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author of over twenty-seven novels, a screenwriter, ICU Nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective and began writing at the age of eight. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable. A member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers Association, Weis writes mystery, suspense, thrillers, horror, crime fiction, and romance. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans where she is a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and rescues orphaned and injured animals.

Lucas Astor is from New York, has resided in Central America and the Middle East, and traveled through Europe. He lives a very private, virtually reclusive lifestyle, preferring to spend time with a close-knit group of friends than be in the spotlight.

He is an author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but right next door behind a smiling face.

Photography, making wine, and helping endangered species are just some of his interests. Lucas is an expert archer and enjoys jazz, blues, and classical music.

One of his favorite quotes is: “It’s better to be silent than be a fool.” ~Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)


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Review | Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house.

With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was not a hard book to get into as Mallory’s voice from the beginning is likeable and relatable. I really enjoy that not everything was revealed about her at the building, but her narration definitely laid a foundation for herself as a character and the place she’s in in her life. It does lay ground work for a suspicion that she may not be entirely reliable later on. The story itself was wonderfully creepy especially with the question of if there was something supernatural going on and the decades old murder mystery that might be tied to current events. This story was a great read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a creepy thriller.

Happy reading!

Blitz | The Fiddler of Dawn and Dusk by Katheryn J. Avila

The Fiddler of Dawn and Dusk
Katheryn J. Avila
(Greylea Spells, #2)
Publication date: May 19th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Camilla Vargas, gifted violinist unwilling to ever play again.

When I said I wanted to start over somewhere new, being pulled into a world of monsters and magic is not what I had in mind. Caught in the grips of a faulty spell, my only hope of getting home is picking up a violin and completing a goddess’ quest. Add to that a handsome but less-than-willing, divinely appointed bodyguard, and this whole fiasco runs the risk of ruining my new life plan.

But maybe that’s not so bad.

Valmong, prodigy cleric ignoring the voice of his patron god.

When Tenebrin’s voice rings in my mind, I’m usually better at tuning him out. But he’s persistent, and as a cry rings out through the trees, I can’t ignore the order to help. Camilla is odd — for a bard — refusing the violin that’s clearly hers and unfamiliar with the magic she can wield. Her quest for Claritas’ Insight will probably get me killed, but the longer I’m with her, the less I care.

I just want to keep her safe — even if it means I’ll never see her again.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Valmong
Could she be any slower?

We’ve been walking for close to two hours and she’s lagged behind the whole time. Though I’m not eager to reach Swynton, I’m not moving as fast as I’d like, and at this rate we might not get there before nightfall. Every time Camilla tries to catch up — either with a jog or a ridiculous walk where she constantly pumps her arms — it’s not long before her breath is short, almost ragged.

I have a half a mind to offer to carry her.

“Sorry…can we take a break? Please?” She leans against a tree, closing her eyes.

“Sure.” I take a step closer to her, “Is it your head? You seemed fine earlier.”

“Yeah. Every time I try to pick up speed, it feels like the world is tilting.” She takes a deep breath. “I think I’ll be okay after a short break.” Camilla sits on a fallen tree. “Sorry again, for slowing you down.”

I shrug, trying to dismiss her concern. “It’s fine. To be honest I’m in no rush to reach Swynton.”

“Why?”

I don’t expect a follow up question, and once more I’m taken aback by how much she doesn’t know. She’s probably the only person in the entire region who doesn’t know who I am.

Or why I’m not exactly welcome in Swynton.

“They’re not very fond of me there.” I leave it at that.

“Should I be nervous, then? If you’re not welcome there, what’s to say I will be?” She fidgets in place, her hands twisting the hem of her top, teeth worrying her bottom lip.

“You’ll be fine.”

She finally drops the topic and sits in silence for another few minutes.

By the time we reach the main road, the sun is high in the sky. The forest lines either side of the road, and I’m surprised there aren’t more people on it. Swynton’s festival starts tonight, and there should be thousands making the pilgrimage here, for the shrines to Tenebrin and Claritas.

Fresh horse tracks and the tell-tale signs of wagon wheels tell me we might have just missed the crowd.

“Do you always travel by foot?” Camilla’s voice cuts through my thoughts.

“Yes. Horses are more trouble than they’re worth.” I turn to look at her without stopping. “Why? Getting tired again?”

“No. And even if you had one, I’ve never ridden before.”

The longer we’re on the road, the lighter the air around us gets, especially as the forest thins the closer we get to Swynton. Beside me, Camilla seems more at ease.

“So…does this happen often? Finding people in the woods like you found me?” She really has a hard time with silence.

“You run into others now and then. This is the first time I’ve had to save anyone, though.”

“You don’t just go around rescuing people?”

“No. Not the rescuing type.” Maybe in another life.

“What type are you, then?”

Will the questions ever cease? I stop, unable to hide my annoyance as I look at her.

Be nice. Tenebrin’s voice only doubles my irritation.

“The ‘does things for money’ type.” I stare her down as I speak, hoping she takes the hint to stop. Maybe trigger some of that same fear I provoked the previous night.

“Was that supposed to intimidate me?” She tilts her head, warm brown eyes trying to find the answer to her question on my face as they squint against the sun. Her face is so open, soft. Curious. Does she know she quirks her lips like that when she asks a question?

She is quite pretty, isn’t she? Tenebrin shocks me from the path my thoughts were taking.

“It was supposed to make you stop talking.” I adjust the strap on my shoulder, breaking her gaze and fixing my attention back on the road. A few minutes later, the gate to Swynton comes into view.

Author Bio:

Katheryn is a software engineer in the Philadelphia area, writing fantasy and paranormal stories when she’s not fighting technology. In 2013, she graduated from King’s College in Pennsylvania with degrees in Computer Science and Professional Writing — so she’s always writing, be it software or fiction. She lives with her husband, Eric, and their furbaby, Ada.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Review | This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book at first was very confusion. While I understand the choice to lay little to no foundation about the world, etc. – it made it harder for me to really be immersed in the story immediately. Once I realized what was going on and really got into the rhythm of the story I did really enjoy it. The constant back and forth between the main characters as well as their references to the different spots in time was really fun and fast paced once it got going. Overall I did really enjoy it, but the initial confusion was a little disconcerting.

Happy reading!

Cover Reveal | To Wake a Kingdom by Nisha J. Tuli

To Wake a Kingdom
Nisha J. Tuli
Publication date: September 20th 2022
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Sleeping Beauty meets A Court of Thorns and Roses in this twisted fantasy romance retelling, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Raven Kennedy.

After 100 years, I awake not to true love’s kiss, but to a blade at my throat.

Enchanted into an eternal slumber to escape an evil fae, Thorne is awakened, not by true love’s kiss, but by a man with a sword at her throat. So she does the only thing a princess can do—nails him in the balls and sticks him with a dagger.

But something has gone wrong because now her entire family isn’t waking up and Ronan, a warrior from an enemy kingdom, arrives on her doorstep seeking answers she doesn’t want to give.

Bent on revenge, the evil fae returns to claim the princess and kill everyone asleep in the castle. So Thorne strikes a bargain—thirty days to break the curse or Thorne becomes her property forever. But Thorne has no idea how to break a hundred-year-old spell that’s gone awry.

As time ticks away and she scrambles for a solution, her feelings for Ronan become entwined in her fate. Now she must find a way to protect her heart, save herself, and rescue everyone she’s ever loved.

To Wake a Kingdom is the first book in a duology. There is no cliff-hanger at the end of book one and it can be enjoyed on its own.

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order


Author Bio:

Nisha writes steamy fantasy romance featuring Fae, vampires, witches and anything else that’s magical and hot. When she’s not busy writing about heroines with swords in glittering dresses, she’s re-reading A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas or watching The Princess Bride for the millionth time. If you like her books, she recommends you also check out Jennifer L. Armentrout or Raven Kennedy.

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Review | Haunted Theaters by Barbara Smith

Some personalities simply won’t accept that final curtain call. Best-selling Ghost Stories author Barbara Smith has conjured up an entertaining collection of tales about spirits and unexplained phenomena that sometimes steal the spotlight in North America’s theaters.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have picked up a few books in this series of books about hauntings and some of them I have really enjoyed, but some of them like this one, have been a bit hard to get through. The stories and history included in this book were really interesting, especially considering it covered not only theaters in the U.S. but also in the U.K. and Canada, but the writing style was a bit dry and dense. It took me a while to finish this one just because it was so slow for me. There was nothing wrong with it, just the way it was written really made it slow.

Happy reading!

Blitz | Guardians of the Sea by Eva Pohler

Guardians of the Sea
Eva Pohler
(Vampires and Gods, #3)
Publication date: May 14th 2022
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

After enduring Delphine’s dangerous training regimen, the young gods and demigods embark on a mission to take down the corrupt shipping company once and for all, to liberate victimized communities up and down the Mediterranean and nearby seas. But unforeseen conflicts cause the young gods and demigods to question the nature of their mission, their purpose, and their relationships with one another.

In the face of impossible choices, how important are love, loyalty, and friendship? Moreover, how far should one go to defend those who can’t defend themselves? Should one sacrifice everything?

Read the surprising conclusion of The Vampires and Gods Series. For lovers of Greek mythology, paranormal romance, and action adventure stories.

Here’s what readers are saying about this series:

“Vampires and Greek Mythology combined in one fabulous adventure!”–Brie Strauss, Amazon Reviewer ★★★★★

“I absolutely cannot wait for more Adventures. I tried not to read so fast but honestly I couldn’t be patient. This book blew me away and I honestly just need more.”–Southernmermaid85, Amazon Reviewer ★★★★★

“Must read!! Anything this author writes is amazing to read. It’s what got me into loving anything about the greek gods! And her vampire series is so interesting as well! This book combines both and draws you in!!”–Amazon Reviewer ★★★★★

“Everything I’ve come to love and expect from Eva’s book, was to be found in this latest episode, constant drama, intrigue and adventure, not forgetting the romance. Can’t wait for more!”–Traceyann, Amazon Reviewer ★★★★★

“I really liked the new characters that were introduced in this book. The story was interesting and had a lot of twists and turns.”–Kathy E, Amazon Reviewer ★★★★★

If you like enemies-to-lovers romance and heart-breaking love triangles combined with fast-paced, high-stakes action, then this series is for you.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

EXCERPT:

Gertie stood in the foyer of the great hall on Mount Olympus, waiting for Hector to finish his tour with Hephaestus. Hector had invited her to join him to see the magical forge, but she’d wanted him to have this chance to be alone with his father. She hadn’t thought about her own comfort—or lack of it as she stood there with the Olympians on their thrones only a few yards away. Although she’d earned their respect in the battle with the old man of the sea and his entourage of monsters and was about to become a goddess herself, she didn’t dare presume that she was free to speak with them.

She pushed a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear and glanced nervously at the gods before averting her eyes to her boots. Her stomach hurt, and her heart wouldn’t slow down no matter how deeply she breathed. An eternity seemed to pass when Hector finally emerged with his father.

Just seeing Hector’s face again made her less nervous. Although people often mistook them for brother and sister because they both had blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, fortunately for them, they weren’t, even though they were both descended from gods.

“Are you ready for the council meeting?” Hephaestus asked her.

Gertie took a deep breath. “I think so.”

“Of course, she is,” Hector said. “She hasn’t stopped talking about it for days. Have you, Gertie?”

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Hephaestus asked again.

“Yes,” she said, this time without hesitation. “I’m just a little nervous about how it will feel and how I’ll adapt. There isn’t much written about apotheosis. I feel unprepared.”

Hephaestus laughed. “Preparation has its virtues, but surprises make life exciting.”

“I like that.” Hector beamed up at his dad.

Gertie would rather be prepared.

“Good luck,” Hephaestus said as he turned to walk away.

“Thanks again for showing me around, Father,” Hector said. “I hope I’ll have the chance to see you again soon.”

The god gave Hector a polite, if not distant, nod before taking a few strides to his throne, next to Apollo and across the white marble floor from Aphrodite.

“How did it go?” Gertie whispered to Hector, who hadn’t stopped smiling since he’d emerged from the forge.

“I’ve never felt happier,” he said, his blue eyes bright. “My father has finally acknowledged me publicly and has given me more than a moment of his time. It’s a dream come true.”

“Oh, Hector.” Gertie squeezed his hand. “I’m really happy for you.”

“Thanks. Being here has made it easy for me to make a decision.”

Gertie tilted her head to one side. “What decision?”

“I want to be a god, and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to prove I’m worthy.”

Gertie’s mouth dropped open, and she felt like jumping up and down with joy. “What?”

“I know . . . I was against it before. I wanted a normal life, so I could give my kids a better childhood than the one I had. Now I know things don’t have to be the way they were with my mom—alienated from my father and from the other gods.” He circled his arm around Gertie’s waist. “We can be a part of this life here on Mount Olympus. We can be gods together.”

Gertie thew her arms around him. “Really?”

“Really.” He reached down and kissed her.

As much as Gertie enjoyed the kiss, she soon came to her senses and noticed that some of the Olympians were watching her. “I’ll make my acceptance conditional. If they want me to become the goddess of vampires, they’ll have to make you a god, too.”

Hector furrowed his brows. “What if they refuse?”

“They won’t, especially if your father speaks up for you.”

He kissed her once more, and, together, they made their way to his father’s side, to await the others.


Author Bio:

After earning her Ph.D. in English and teaching writing and literature for over twenty years, Eva Pohler became a USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels in multiple genres, including mysteries, thrillers, and young adult paranormal romance based on Greek mythology. Her books have been described as “addictive” and “sure to thrill”–Kirkus Reviews.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Bookbub / Instagram / Amazon / Youtube


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Review | My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic Vol 1

Welcome to Ponyville, home of Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and all your other favorite Ponies! Something’s not right in the town though, as some of the inhabitants are acting very, very strange! It’s up to the Mane Six to find the source of the weirdness before it’s too late! Collects issues #1–4 of the biggest hit comic of the year!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m a little hesitant about the new generation of My Little Pony as I grew up with the original generation of ponies, but lately I have picked up some of the graphic novels to see if I might warm up to the new characters and stories. I have so far enjoyed what I’ve read of the new series and so far the Friendship is Magic series is off to a promising start. The art style and character voices are very similar to what I’ve seen on the tv show, so I think that’s a good thing since they can sync up.

Happy reading!

Blitz | In the Trap by Jessica Cranberry

In The Trap
Jessica Cranberry
(Hazel & Maeve: The Campus Mysteries, #1)
Publication date: May 10th 2022
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Suspense

For Hazel, an introvert with a knack for people watching, campus life is awkward and hard and…lonely. That is, until she starts to let her guard down around her roommate, Maeve—who’s fun and has a wicked flair for drama. Could there be more than just a friendship here? Maybe. But Hazel has a lot of family trauma to work through before figuring out the other big parts of her life. For now, she’s just happy to have someone to talk to.

All seems to go well until a night in the Trap—the university’s green space—leads to a tense encounter with some drunk guys. When one of the guys ends up dead, Hazel is implicated, and she and Maeve set out to solve the crime before police can connect either of them to it. But how can two amateur sleuths put together a solid case to hand over to the police in time? By following the campus online diaries, that’s how.

Set at the beginning of the internet age, people are just starting to share all their deepest, darkest secrets via the World Wide Web, yet the assumption of online anonymity may be a critical mistake. As the perpetrator posts their criminal diary for public consumption, Hazel and Maeve scramble to use technology to piece together the murderer’s identity. Can they hack their way out of becoming suspects? And if so, could they ever go back to their boring majors?

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

“The rain subsided a little; its pounding beat softened to a patter, and Aunt Liddy relaxed her shoulders. She punched the radio back on, and the soothing tones of “I Can See Clearly Now” filled the car.

As Aunt Liddy hummed along, I worried a hangnail on my thumb, savoring the little sting of pain. It reminded me who I was, where I was going, and that I was doing it alone. The road stayed slick with water and sounded like its own river as we drove over and through puddles.

Suddenly, a sharp bite stole my breath as I lurched forward in my seat, the seat belt digging into my collarbone and chest. Aunt Liddy put her arm in front of me as if that would be enough to stop my head splitting against the windshield. The dashboard was mere inches from crushing the bridge of my nose.

She stomped the brakes and yelled and cursed. Bright red taillights filled our windshield, sparkling and reflecting in the last of the raindrops that hadn’t been swiped away. The back of our car started to edge around. Back and forth, fishtailing as Aunt Liddy tried to gain control. Her face flushed pink, expression strained.

Life was supposed to flash in front of my eyes, but I hadn’t lived long enough for anything to really show up. I saw my mom smiling and heard my dad laughing, and nothing more. Were they—and everything they’d been through—all my life had amounted to?

Miraculously, Aunt Liddy steadied the car. She laid on the horn. It blared long and loud.

“Did you see him? He cut me off!”

The truck in front of us was massive, with a set of mud flaps showing the curving silhouettes of two naked women. Classy. The truck driver stuck his middle finger out the window.

“Stupid dick.” Aunt Liddy drew in a deep breath. “He’s gonna get someone killed.” She turned to me. “I’m sorry. Are you okay, hun?”

I could barely breathe. My heartbeat pounded in my throat and ears. My eyes watered and felt as though they were barely in their sockets. But sure, I was fine and said as much. That stupid song continued. Its singer insisted life was all clear blue skies and obstacles could be seen from far off, which was a damn lie. Trucks came out of nowhere, and so did bad people. Red flags didn’t look like red flags until after the fact.”


Author Bio:

Jessica Cranberry lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills with her family and spends days striking a balance between parenthood, teaching, editing/proofreading, and writing–suspense novels and eclectic short stories mostly. When she’s not doing those things, she’s reading, attempting to garden, or hiking around town. She’s an okay baker, and has been known to paint on occasion.

Website / Goodreads / Instagram


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Blitz | Unchain My Heart by Nadia Blair

Unchain My Heart
Nadia Blair
(Mephisto, #2)
Publication date: TBA
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

What’s a bad girl to do when the world won’t let her be good …

With her thirtieth birthday looming, actress Natasha Bernard wants to reinvent herself as something other than Hollywood’s favorite villainess. When she hears rumors that a tell-all exposé reveals details of her love life with her rockstar ex, she decides to put a stop to it. Even if that means confronting his bandmate, Richard Mac—the man who let the world brand her with a scarlet ‘A.’

She’s his nemesis … his secret obsession … and the only woman who can incinerate his life …

Guitarist Richard Mac is a control freak, whether he’s working on a new album or using his custom leather toys in the bedroom. When “Hurricane” Natasha storms back into his life, he risks everything to claim her. But he can’t risk losing control and letting her guess his darkest secret … that she’s the one woman he’s always wanted and could never have …

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Mac dug his cigarette case and lighter out of his pocket. For a while he smoked in blessed silence.

Movement caught his eye. A woman wandered up the beach, flirting with the waves teasing around her bare feet. In the light of the rising moon, she was all ember-bright hair and pale skin. The wind plastered her short white dress to her long legs. She waded knee-deep, laughing softly, her head tilting back as she watched a seagull gliding overhead. Something about the purity of her profile in the silver moonlight caught him. He paused for a second look, cigarette smoldering forgotten between his fingers.

A high wave crashed over her. With a yelp, she staggered back. The sodden dress clung to her skin, the white fabric gone transparent. Mac told himself he wasn’t a crude sod and he shouldn’t look.

But he did. He had a pulse, didn’t he? Her braless breasts were clearly visible beneath the flimsy fabric, the rosy nipples puckering into hard points. The sight was more erotic than if she’d bared it all to go skinny-dipping.

“Oh, bollocks! Bloody fucking fuck.” Her curses, uttered in a posh English accent, made him chuckle.

Mac strode forward as she squelched across the sand. “Here.” He offered his jacket.

She gaped at him. “Where the devil did you come from?”

“Melbourne.” It was an asinine response, but her husky voice, so at odds with her prissy accent, was doing strange things to him.

“You’re laughing at me,” she muttered as she draped the jacket over her shoulders.

Altruistic impulses were overrated. Her gorgeous curves, those lovely pink-tipped breasts, were now hidden beneath black leather.

“I am.” Somehow, a statement of the obvious seemed necessary.

“Thank you,” she murmured. “I never imagined the Pacific would be so cold.” She swept windblown hair from her face and met his eye.

As he finally got a good look at her, that tight, tangled knot within him came loose, and for the first time in ages, he could breathe. Mac tossed away his half-smoked cigarette. It spun, glowing, into the darkness.

He wanted to say, Oh, it’s you.

What he said was, “Who the fuck are you?”

She cocked her head. “Of course, you’re Richard Mac. I should have known one of Sloan’s mates would have the looks of a Viking and the manners of a caveman.” She offered her hand. Her palm was cool against his, but her touch seared straight through him. Her breath caught, as if she felt it too. When he skimmed his thumb across the pulse fluttering at her inner wrist, she trembled.

“I’m Natasha,” she said. “Sloan sent me to fetch you. Said you should stop chain-smoking and pretend to be sociable for a bit.” She glanced down at her hand, still clasped in his. With a gasp, she tugged free.

Natasha. The name roused a dim memory—Sloan going on and on about his new girl, with legs up to here and long, red hair.

Christ.

Never in all his twenty-nine years had he begrudged Sloan anything—not his poster boy good looks, or his voice, or even his effortless charm. Mac had always known his own talents complemented his mate’s. He’d always been content to let Sloan have center stage.

For the first time in twenty years, he contemplated taking something of his.


Author Bio:

Nadia Blair writes steamy contemporary romance featuring outrageous bad boys and gutsy girls who give as good as they get. She has a thing for snappy dialog, humorous situations, and swoon-worthy happily-ever-afters.

When she’s not having conversations with fictional people, she enjoys summer thunderstorms, top-shelf whiskey, and rockin’ out to a classic guitar solo.

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