It’s the time of year where I share with you the best things I read in the last twelve months! I read 38 books in 2017. Not my best effort in recent years, and it’s definitely something I want to concentrate more on in 2018.
Okay, here the books I loved reading in 2017…
Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo
When I looked back to last year’s list, the first book of this trilogy was on it. The Grisha Trilogy started strong and ended strong. I LOVED it! Fabulous high-fantasy YA trilogy with a Russian bent. These books kept me turning the pages like crazy. The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
This won’t be for everyone. It’s a thriller about a Cam Girl who won’t ever leave her apartment because she has the desire to commit murder. However, she’s forced to leave the sanctity of her home when the life of a young girl is at risk, and she’s the only person who can save her. Another page-turner. Highly recommend!
Wicked Sexy by J.T. Geissinger
Romantic suspense novel with a kick-ass Hello Kitty-wearing hacker heroine. I might be in the minority here in Romance Land, but I read as much for the heroine as the hero. If the heroine doesn’t grab me, I’m out. This book is the perfect blend of great writing, snappy banter, and awesome tech suspense. Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren
Super fun. This is another quite heroine-centric story which involves a drunken Vegas wedding and a subsequent whirlwind romance in Paris. There’s sexy costumes and role play, great writing and and a totally sweet HEA.
The Shattered Court by MJ. Scott
Wonderful high-fantasy romance that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. I’m not at all surprised it was a RITA finalist in 2016. Beautiful writing, great world building and an interesting magic system all compliment an interesting, unique romance. A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Another fantasy romance. I know, it must be turning into a favourite subgenre of mine! This one is glorious. Interesting magic system, gruff by swoon-worthy hero and a spitfire heroine. Even if you’re not normally into fantasy, I still recommend giving this a shot. Impeccable character development make this worth the read!
My TBR for 2018 is already crazy overflowing, but here are a few books sitting high up on the list:
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
The Forbidden Heir by M.J. Scott
The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Pretty much anything and everything by Lauren Layne and Sarah Morgan (I’m trying to get up to date with both their backlists)
All the books coming out with Harlequin’s new Dare line!! So excited for this launch.
After the closure of Harlequin’s Blaze imprint (sob!) I was thrilled to be asked to write two stories for their brand new, soon-to-be-launched Dare imprint. Dare stories are super sexy, contemporary reads with an international flavour. My duet, Melbourne After Dark, features two best friends who sneak into a high-society masquerade ball to capture their targets in disguise. One girls gets the right guy, and one gets the wrong guy!
Book #1 Unmasked will be out in April 2018 and I am so excited to share the cover with you. Dun dun duuuuuuuuun!
Cinderella is about to get wicked… But can a naughty fantasy have a happily-ever-after?
Lainey Kline has one goal before she leaves Melbourne forever: transform herself into a sexy siren, sneak into the season’s most glamorous masquerade ball and seduce Damian McKnight. Only there’s a teeny little problem—one deliciously hot night isn’t nearly enough. Now Lainey wants more. But while getting naked is one thing, taking off their masks is quite another…
“Dare is Harlequin’s hottest line yet. Every book should come with a free fan. I dare you to try them!” —Tiffany Reisz, international bestselling author
The cover above is the North American cover, and this will only be available in digital. In the UK and Australia Dare books will be available in print as well as digital, and will have their own Mills & Boon branded covers. The UK edition is the one with pink writing and the Aussie cover is the one with blue writing.
If you’re in the US or Canada and you want a print copy, Book Depository is your friend. Unmasked is already up for pre-order and they offer free international shipping.
I’m so excited for these books to be out in the wild. The Dare line will feature a variety of stories with everything from bikers to CEOs to royalty. My books will have the same laugh-out-loud rom com vibe as the rest of my stories, but will be a little higher on the heat spectrum (if you’ve read and enjoyed my Blaze books, you can expect a similar heat-level.)
Happy Saturday!! Millionaire Under the Mistletoe is currently on sale for only 99c across retailers. It’ll be discounted for a limited time only, so if you’re looking for a sexy and emotional holiday romance then one-click away!
“With the beauty of a white Christmas, some funny encounters, and a little holiday magic, MILLIONAIRE UNDER THE MISTLETOE is a charming romance that will warm you up this Winter. ” – Books of All Kinds
Stella Jackson would rather stab herself in the eye with her own stiletto than return to England. Especially in winter. But to fulfill her grandfather’s last wish, she has to spend Christmas at the estate she inherited from him…with the one man she wishes she could forget.
Self-made millionaire Evan Foss wants one thing from Stella—her estate. But thanks to their rocky past, he’s the last person she’ll sell to. So when she takes him up on a bet, with the estate as the prize, Evan can’t believe his luck. The only problem is that seeing her now, sexy and all grown up, tempts Evan to finish what started years ago between them.
An excerpt from Millionaire Under the Mistletoe…
“We’re having fun now, aren’t we?” She sipped her wine, trying to figure out how to handle the situation.
You’re on thin ice right now. What are you going to do if you get back to his apartment and he puts the brakes on again?
There was a big difference between now and four years ago—she had something he wanted: the estate. Which meant she had the upper hand.
“I am.” He carved off a piece of his steak and chewed. “But that wasn’t exactly the type of fun I was talking about.”
The way his lips moved as he ate was startlingly erotic. The man was talented with his lips, he’d given her a kiss hotter than the depths of hell—a kiss that’d been branded into her memory and continued to replay over and over in the back of her mind like a needle skipping at the end of a record.
“And what kind of fun were you talking about?”
“The primitive kind.”
The close ceilings and dim lights of the restaurant gave a false sense of intimacy, but she’d have to remind herself that they weren’t alone. Not yet. There was still time to back away, before she started sliding into bad decisions.
Would it be so bad? Sex is just sex, you can keep it separate.
“The carnal kind,” he said. “The kind that’ll leave you aching tomorrow morning.”
She was already aching from the low tone of his voice. The sound rubbed over her, creating sparks against her nerves and causing a tight bundle of heat at the apex of her thighs. At this rate, the fancy lace knickers she’d purchased today would be soaked through before they got done negotiating terms.
“What’s changed?” she asked, stalling.
“We’re adults now.” He leaned forward. “We’re free to make our own decisions.”
Her stomach fluttered, and she couldn’t seem to tame the pulsing deep within her. Hearing the invitation in Evan’s voice was doing nothing to help her gain control of the situation.
“And how do you know I’m attracted to you?”
“It’s obvious.” He laughed, the low, gravelly sound made goose bumps break out along her skin. “I knew it the second you kissed me back.”
Her face grew hot. Had she been that transparent? He had kissed her, not the other way around. “You’re overconfident.”
“You’re bluffing.” The words came out as a growl. There was something about it that roused her primal side, the side that wanted to take control. “Tell me, I want to hear you say it.”
“Tell you what?”
“How much you enjoyed it.”
“Do you want me to lie?” She tipped her chin up at him, desperate to put him off his game the way he’d done to her. But Evan was a master at upsetting her grip on solid ground—he had her slipping and sliding, her heart thudding in her chest. This game of cat and mouse pleased her far more than it should have.
You can’t keep up. He’s better at this than you are, he has more experience.
But she wanted to play. She wanted to best him…and then she wanted to be taken to bed.
I’m SO excited to share a sneak peek at my upcoming romantic comedy release, Trouble Next Door. It features a larger-than-life makeup artist heroine, a introverted yet sexy IT nerd hero and a box of wayward sex toys.
Trouble Next Door is out on November 13th!
McKenna Prescott stared at the invoice on her phone, her eyes narrowed at the Real Skin Whoppers eight-inch vibrator, and had two questions. One, was there such a thing as too much veining on a vibrator? And two, why would they name it after a hamburger?
Hungry Jack’s associations aside, it didn’t look half bad. It certainly had a little extra length on her previous model…but she couldn’t really blame her ex for that. He could only make do with what God had given him.
You’re just angry because you didn’t pull the pin first. But you’ve learned your lesson—no more guys for the foreseeable future. It’s time to focus on you.
McKenna was engaging in what she’d decided to call Operation Self-Love. There was no point crying over douchebags. Two nights ago that had been hammered home for good. Her eye makeup had been on point—a smoky dark sapphire blue with glitter and the most kick-butt set of false lashes ever—but by the time she’d come home she looked like Britney Spears circa 2007. Total hot-mess meltdown.
And to think she’d worn blue because she knew Gage loved it and then he’d gone and tossed it back in her face by saying he wanted a classy, elegant woman on his arm. Like she was trash because she liked shiny things.
Ugh, Gage. He wasn’t the man of her dreams, by any means. But he’d impressed her parents and given her a brief taste of their approval. His rejection last night hadn’t hurt her heart the way it should have, but it had shown her that she’d been setting the bar so low that she barely had to lift her foot to step over it. And then, once again, she’d failed. Failed to hang on to a man like Gage, failed to be impressive enough that he would want her by his side for the next step in his career.
But what about the next step in her career?
Screw Gage. Screw all men, actually. And screw her family, too.
McKenna was sick of being the sore point in people’s lives. She was sick of choosing men who treated her like a disposable makeup wipe. It was time she started living for herself. This was the last time she was ever going to waste mascara on a man.
McKenna cringed as she glanced at the empty bottle of Red Hill Pinot Noir she’d consumed last night sitting on her desk. It was a fancy wine. A gift from her parents after they had visited a friend’s vineyard. Probably not intended for wallowing in post-breakup pity while drunkenly shopping for sex toys. But it certainly explained the eye-bulging total amount of her order. Three hundred bucks wasn’t too much, was it? Who the hell cared? At this point, her browser knew more about her life than any man who’d drifted in or out in the last few years. So, she was going exclusive. She could be in a committed relationship with her laptop…and Mr. Whopper, as she’d decided to call him.
Unfortunately, the drain on her credit card wasn’t her biggest worry. It was the email saying her package had been delivered even though she hadn’t received a notification from the building’s concierge. Those guys were like clockwork when something arrived.
McKenna grabbed her keys and decided to go investigate. If she was going to spend Friday night alone, wallowing in her newly single status—again—then she may as well have a battery-operated friend.
She headed downstairs and caught the attention of the person manning the concierge desk. A small trolley behind him was piled high with packages, which meant the mail had definitely been delivered today.
“Ms. Prescott.” The gentleman beamed. “How can I help you?”
This was the one time she hated the fact that the guy somehow managed to remember everyone’s name and what floor they lived on. A little anonymity would not have gone astray on this occasion.
“I’m trying to find a missing parcel. According to the tracking information, it arrived today.” McKenna frowned. “It’s, uh, quite a…valuable parcel.”
God, of all the bloody packages to go missing…
She scanned the email with the tracking information, then told him, “It says it was delivered at three forty-two p.m.”
“I’m sorry,” the older man said, scratching his head. “I haven’t had anything arrive for you and I’ve logged all the packages that came in today. Nothing had your apartment number on it.”
The universe must have her name on a hit list somewhere. Who up there had she pissed off so royally? Not only could she not keep a guy around for more than five minutes, but she was also destined not to have an artificial replacement, either.
She braced her hands on the concierge’s desk and leaned forward, giving him her most charming smile. “Please, Matthew. If you could do some digging, I’d really appreciate it.”
“Let me look up the freight company.” He tapped at the computer screen. “We had three parcels come in from them today. Delivered at three forty-two p.m.”
“That’s the right time.”
“They were logged under apartment 601, 312, and 110.” He cocked his head. “You’re on level one, right? What apartment number, again?”
“101,” McKenna said, a sinking feeling settling into the pit of her stomach.
“What name was on the parcel? Yours?”
She cringed. “Noelle Smith.”
It was her alias for any time she didn’t want to give her real name out—like if a creepy dude wanted her number…or if she happened to be ordering several hundred dollars’ worth of sex toys online. If the box gave anything away, she could claim ignorance and blame it on her “friend,” Noelle.
“It’s a gift for a girlfriend,” she added, meekly.
“Looks like it was logged under apartment 110. The shipping company must have gotten the address wrong.”
McKenna checked her email with the shipping confirmation. Shit. Looks like she was the one who got the address wrong—clearly, drunk typing was not her forte. Great, now she’d have to convince him that it was her parcel…and that meant showing him the invoice with all her dirty little secrets in black-and-white print.
“Uh, actually, looks like that was my fault.” She put on her best sheepish expression. “I typed the number in wrong. Fat fingers, I guess.”
Matthew nodded. “It happens.”
“If I show you the invoice will you still let me have it? I know it doesn’t have my name on it, but I have proof of purchase.” McKenna sucked in a breath when he frowned. “I really need my parcel.”
“I’m afraid that’s out of my control, Ms. Prescott. 110 already picked it up.”
Double shit. Can this day get any more embarrassing?
“Looks like I’ll have to go knock on their door then.” And hope to God that they hadn’t opened her parcel. “Who’s in 110, again?”
She tried to think. Who was on her floor? There was the sweet older couple with the adorable terrier who always wore a tartan coat. They weren’t at 110, she was sure of it. Then, there was a father and daughter a few doors down, a guy who only seemed to be around a week or so everything month. And…
She knew exactly who was in 110. The only guy in the building who’d ever made her look twice—Mr. tall, blond, and handsome who had an equally tall, blond, and gorgeous girlfriend. Or was she his wife? She’d only bumped into him a few times and he’d always had this broody, far-away look about him like his brain was operating on some other level. On the few occasions she’d said hello, he had done little more than grunt a barely passable return greeting.
Not him. Please, anyone but him.
“Beckett Walsh,” the concierge said.
Of course it was him. The universe was not going to cut her a break today. As if it wasn’t bad enough that her ex had dropped by her work today to “check that she was coping” after their breakup two nights ago—seriously, who did that?—and she’d had to play nice because her area manager was visiting, when all she’d wanted to do was grab Gage’s face and mush it into the lipstick rack.
“Thanks for your help,” McKenna said.
She headed toward the elevators, her shoulders slumping. Maybe she should cut her losses and move to the outback where she could live as a hermit. It wouldn’t be all bad. She could adopt a dingo and be some kind of local urban legend. The girl who turned her back on a box of vibrators.
Ugh. Three hundred bucks wasn’t that much…was it? On a retail wage, it was. A few freelance jobs would help her make it up, but work was hard to come by at this time of year. Late July was miserable in Melbourne, oscillating between windy and cold, and rainy and colder. Not exactly peak bridal season. And the school formal calendar wouldn’t kick in for months. Not to mention they were in the public holiday dead zone.
Yeah, and your hopes of giving up shitty retail work to be a real makeup artist will be all for nothing if you keep it up.
This was what she got for “wasting money on frivolous things,” as her mother had once said to her. Maybe she wasn’t entitled to sexual pleasure.
McKenna stepped into the elevator and jabbed at the button for the first floor, tapping her chunky black boot. Screw it, she’d go to apartment 110 and claim back her box of debauchery. Then she could start hunting for a new place to live.
The elevator pinged and she strode down the hallway, deciding not to go home first for fear of chickening out. When she got to apartment 110, she stood in front of Beckett Walsh’s door. The gold numbers glinted at her, as if reveling in her forthcoming mortification.
Hovering, McKenna pulled her compact out of her bag to check her makeup. If she was going to throw her dignity to the wolves, she may as well look good while doing it. The plum and black eye makeup she’d worn to work had the right amount of don’t-fuck-with-me vibes. Plus, she’d swapped out her matte nude lipstick for a more exciting wet-shine gloss at the counter today, which made her look even more fierce. She might get out of this unscathed.
I’m so excited to be bringing you a brand-new series about a wealthy Australian family dealing with the scandalous fallout of their father’s secret family…and we’re kicking it off with a sexy office romance!
It was only supposed to be a little white lie. When Emmaline Greene pretends to be Sarah, the confident, sexy woman she wishes she could be, she figures no harm, no foul. Her one-night stand will never find out. Wrong. The gorgeous guy she slept with isn’t just amazing in bed…he’s also her new boss.
Parker Wentworth has just been appointed CEO of his family’s company and is tasked with repairing its scandalous reputation. He can’t afford any distractions. So why can’t he forget the incredible night they spent together and move on?
I LOVE writing an office romance story. Add to all that an evil Chihuahua, a rogue olive, a pair of impossibly sexy blue heels and a healthy dose of family drama, and you’ve got Taken By The CEO in a nutshell. I truly hope you enjoy the start of this new series!
MEET THE WENTWORTHS:
Parker, the CEOand eldest child. Driven, ambitious, focused on his career. Currently estranged from his father. Now the CEO of the Wentworth Group.
Ian, the playboy and family joker. Loves fast cars, jet-setting and living by his own rules.
Beau, the secret child. Trying to find his place in his new family, used to making it on his own. A lone wolf.
Sydney, the rebel and youngest child. Used to getting what she wants. Charming, feisty and persuasive.
Here are some more fun facts about the book:
Taken by the CEO is a cross-over with my Behind the Bar series! If you’ve read The Rules According to Gracie, you might remember the heroine’s sister, Emmaline. Well, this is her story.
The Wentworth company is loosely based on a real family-run retail giant in Australia. The family, however, is totally imagined.
The bar where Emmaline and Parker have their first date, is the same one my Behind the Bar series is based on.
While he was talking to two men from his cyber security team, a flash of white caught his attention. A woman stood across the room, facing away from him. Her long, blond hair tumbled down the back of a white lace dress.
He almost laughed out loud. Ridiculous. Clearly he’d gotten a little too worked up over the amazing sex he’d had last night. There’s no way his schoolteacher date would turn up at his work.
But something pulled his eyes down. The bottoms of her legs were obscured by the end of a metal stool. “Excuse me,” he said to the men in front of him. He moved toward another group, switching up his position so that he’d be able to see past the furniture.
You’re crazy. You think there’s only one blonde wearing a white dress today? Why the hell would she be here?
He was losing his mind. But Parker was the kind of person who couldn’t shuck a thought once it burrowed into his head. Besides, a quick peek at her shoes would confirm what he already knew: that he really needed another coffee.
Except that one look made his blood run cold. A pair of incredible, sexy, light blue shoes made his head pound as he remembered the way they’d looked on her when she wore nothing else. Leave them on…
Either he’d stepped into a parallel universe or something about last night wasn’t as it had seemed.
She didn’t turn. But her hand raked through her hair as she laughed at a comment made by one of her companions. The movement sent a shot of pure arousal straight through him. In one night, he’d come to know those hands so well, to relish inviting those hands to become confident touching him. To crave the rake of her nails against his scalp while he kneeled in front of her.
A brunette girl turned, a nervous smile pulling up the corners of her mouth. “Hello. You’re Mr. Wentworth, right? Are you looking for someone?”
The group’s conversation halted as they turned to him. Sarah’s smile disappeared faster than a rock thrown from the edge of a cliff. Her skin turned chalk white as her eyes blinked—once, twice, three times. Disbelief was painted in the part of her glossy pink lips. An olive speared on a toothpick hovered midair, her hand frozen on its way to her mouth.
“This is Ariel from Operations, Kimberly from Corporate Communications, and Emmaline from Human Resources.”
Not Sarah, the sweet, slightly inexperienced woman who’d crashed into his life and his head. Not Sarah, who’d been coy and shy and delightfully awkward. Not Sarah, the schoolteacher who’d teased him about not wearing any panties to work.
“Emmaline.” The name sounded strange on his tongue.
The other women stuck their hands out to shake his. One by one he responded, until it was her turn. His heart hammered against his rib cage, anger filling his head like a fog. He’d been duped by this pretty face, tricked into believing a false name and false story. Taken for a fool.
What in the hell had he done? More importantly, why on earth would one of his employees have lied to him to get him into bed?
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a story finally come to fruition. When I’ve finally gotten the characters out of your head and given them wings, when they find a satisfying Happy Ever After, I can’t help but feel like a proud mamma.
I’ve recently had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with 6 other amazing Aussie and NZ romance authors (whom you might recognise from the LoveCats DownUnder blog) to pull together this fun and sexy box set. Hot Christmas Nights features seven holiday stories set in Australia and New Zealand (so no snow and warm cocoa in these Christmas stories!)
We’ve got second chances stories, summer storms, friends falling in love, cowboys, millionaires and more!
My story, Sleighs Bells in the Sand, is part of my Kite Harbor series even though it takes place in Sorrento, Victoria. For those who read A Kiss in Kite Harbor, you might remember a reference to the hero’s travelling sister. Well, this is her story…now we get to find out what happened while she was off globe-trotting while her family was left behind.
Read on for a sneak peek at chapter one…
Pre-Orders are available now! Amazon US | CA | UK | Aus
American Neve Ritter has traveled all the way to Australia to avoid her family for the holidays. But her plans did not include accidentally breaking into the house of a hunky lawyer who’s looking for a little solitude of his own. When a summer storm traps them together, Neve realizes that maybe Santa has been listening to her wishes all along.
Neve Ritter turned her face up to the sun and breathed in deep. She was finally here, in the picturesque coastal town of Sorrento, way down at the bottom of Australia. Miles and miles away from home—a whole hemisphere, in fact.
Ready to spend Christmas all by herself.
It was more than a little daunting. She’d never spent Christmas alone, ever. Even last year when she’d packed her bags and left her family, she’d spent the holidays in an English hostel surrounded by people and warmth and cheer. But now she needed to think, to reflect. And that wasn’t exactly a group activity.
Her muscles protested as she stretched her arms above her head and forced her blood to get moving. The nine-and-a-half-hour flight from Thailand followed by a two-hour drive from Tullamarine airport had made her as stiff as over starched sheets. And the air had been hot and dry like the blast from an open oven when she’d stepped out of her rental car.
It was weird to think that so many people celebrated the Christmas in the summer. Did their greeting cards have snow on them? Did they still drink mulled cider and have turkey for lunch? It was hard to believe anyone would want to roast a bird in this heat. Maybe that’s why all those Aussies were always throwing shrimps on the barbie.
No, not shrimps. Prawns. Better get the lingo right while she was here.
The scent of ocean salt and eucalyptus danced along the warm breeze as she took in her surroundings. The tourist beach wasn’t far from the house she’d been told, but here—among the looming trees and shrubbery in every shade of green and brown—she felt far away from everything, especially civilization.
Popping the trunk on her rental car, she set her bag on the gravel driveway. The wheelie bag—which converted into a backpack—contained the not-so-worldly possessions she’d left home with twelve months ago, her sights set on adventure and truth. And she’d gotten both of those things, but the truth hadn’t set her free as the old saying suggested.
Maybe skeletons were kept in closets for a reason. More fool her, she’d not only let them out but she’d chased them around the world…and for what?
A lump lodged in her throat but she swallowed it down. She wasn’t going to feel sorry for herself. Pity was for chumps. Besides, she had a beautiful beach house all to herself. She could laze around for the next week doing nothing but swimming in the ocean, catching some sun and reading. Who wouldn’t want that?
A voice niggled in the back of her mind, telling her she’d be lonely. It had been a long time since Neve had chosen to be alone. But this was different. Peace and quiet would help her figure out how to come clean with her family.
Regardless, she had a flight booked for New Year’s Day. Her return to her hometown of Kite Harbor was inevitable, and while it wasn’t set in stone it was set in non-refundable plane tickets. And that was kind of the same thing.
She jabbed the passcode into the house’s pin pad a little harder than she needed to. When a soft click confirmed her access, she entered. The air was surprisingly cool considering the house had been apparently unoccupied for some months.
All the shades were drawn, and the house was clean and tidy. A puffy green sofa sat in the middle of the open living area, flanked by two small side tables. There was a flat screen TV, shelves heaving with well-loved books and board games, and a rug that looked soft and cozy as though it had been designed for bare feet.
Tempting as it was to start with the grand tour, Neve was desperate for a coffee. Leaving her bag in the main room, she wandered over to the kitchen and within minutes the air was filled with a delicious aroma. Cradling the coffee cup between her hands, she leaned back against the kitchen counter and sighed.
Guilt was already winding its suffocating arms around her. It would take a while to come to terms with what had happened this past year. Of what it meant to close the door on a relationship she’d always hoped to rekindle. But the words ‘I don’t want anything to do with you’ were forever etched into her brain.
And then there was her family, aka the people she’d ditched after promising she’d be home for the holidays. She hadn’t even been able to break the news via Skype or over the phone. A quick email—barely two lines—had informed them she wouldn’t be returning home as planned.
You’re a freaking coward. They deserve better than that.
Perhaps her inner critic was right. She was a coward, but the thought of facing them—of coming home a failure—seemed even harder to bear at such a special time of year. The New Year would give her a fresh start. An opportunity to make things right, she just had to work up the courage to tell the truth.
The sound of something clicking against the floorboards startled her. The hairs on her arm stood on end. She wasn’t alone in the house.
A low rumbling growl sent a tremor through her as a hulking, black dog blocked the entrance to the kitchen. Its fur was dark as ink and the beast stood almost to waist-height. As it bared its teeth, another low growl rumbled from the back of its throat.
Holy hell, its teeth looked sharp as knives. Long and pointed and perfectly shaped to pierce through flesh.
Shit, shit, shit!
“Easy,” she said, flattening her back to the counter and setting her coffee down. Her stomach clenched as she forced herself to breath slow and steady. She’d be fine against anything—bugs, spiders, snakes…but not a dog.
Don’t just stand there, do something!
Her eyes darted around the kitchen. The counters were bare, but a frying pan sat on the stovetop just out of reach. She didn’t like the idea of hitting an animal but if it tried to bite her she was going to need something to defend herself with. She reached out but the dog took a step forward and let out a sharp, warning bark.
Neve flinched, her heart hammering against her ribcage. How the hell had it gotten inside the house? She was sure she’d closed the front door behind her.
“Be calm,” she muttered under her breath. “Don’t let it know you’re scared.”
Terrified was a more accurate descriptor. All she could focus on was the way the dog’s eyes were locked onto her. Like it was hungry and she was a big, tasty bag of bones.
Writing every book is a unique experience. Sometimes the words flow and the characters speak loudly, other times it can be like pulling teeth. Writing A Dangerously Sexy Christmas was one of those flowing books, a huge welcome after I’d spent a few months working on another book that was giving my trouble. I was thrilled when I got the news that Harlequin Blaze wanted Rose and Max’s story and I could not be more excited about joining the Blaze line. Even better, the love the security company featured in this book so much that I got the go-ahead to write more stories in this world!
Aspiring jewelry designer Rose Lawson doesn’t want a bodyguard. Especially the hot, muscle-y one her father hires after a break-in at the jewelry shop where she works. It’s only when her home is also ransacked that Rose realizes the sexy (but infuriating) bodyguard might come in handy…especially on a cold winter’s night.
Max Ridgeway is a former Aussie cop who’s got something to prove in New York. He’s convinced that someone dangerous is behind the robberies and that Rose needs protection. His protection. But what’s even more dangerous is the sexy tension between them—because a hot little fling could compromise their lives…and his heart
Here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter! I hope you enjoy it <3
PERSONAL SECURITY DETAIL was a lot like baby-sitting. All Max Ridgeway had to determine was whether the person under his protection would be the model child or the toddler from hell.
“Do you always disregard your personal safety, Miss Lawson?” he asked.
Two cat-like eyes glowered at him. But if he was going to protect her, he needed to know if she would throw herself into harm’s way. Or run. Or walk down a dark alley in the middle of the night.
“You say you don’t want my protection. Tell me if I’ve misunderstood you.” He leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head.
She squared her shoulders against his visitor’s chair and displayed what he imagined was her most dazzling smile. Rose Lawson’s eyes were almond-shaped and a most unusual shade of yellow-green. She had thick curling lashes, a heart-shaped face and glossy pouted lips made for sin. The whole sexy package probably turned other men to goo. But her appearance—while thoroughly enjoyable—would not distract him.
“You’ll have to excuse the mix-up,” she said in a smooth voice that sent a shot of heat through him. Her accent was strange. Definitely American, but the gentle lilt of her words suggested extensive time overseas. London, according to his research. “My father hired you, but he can be a little…overprotective. I won’t be needing your services.”
Her insistence on refusing his protection meant she would be a royal pain in the butt to have as a client. Only she wasn’t the client; her father was. She stood up and raked a hand through her chin-length brown hair, the artfully curled lengths falling back into place as she released them. Her eyes flicked over him, lingering on his face before she checked her phone.
“Sorry to waste your time,” she said in a tone that didn’t sound sorry at all.
The wall clock of his office ticked loudly in the silence. Each second was another he couldn’t have back.
Rose walked toward the door, her heels clicking against the office floor. Skin-tight black jeans accentuated her legs, and a loose top in black silk acted as a canvas to the ornate red, gold and yellow necklace that hung down to her navel. Her file indicated she was a jewelry designer. Perhaps she’d made the necklace herself.
He let her get to the door of his office before stopping her. “I didn’t say you could leave.”
Her shoulders stiffened and she spun to face him. The charming smile slipped and she regarded him coolly. “I wasn’t aware I required your permission.”
She pulled on a heavy black coat. Jewel-studded gold bracelets clinked, making her movements seem musical.
“As of now you’re in my charge.” Max stood, walked over to her and leaned his back against the wall. “Your father hired me to look after you until we can figure out who broke into your store.”
At the mention of her father Rose became wary, distant. “Probably a bunch of kids. I work in a jewelry store. It’s not hard to believe it was a crime of opportunity. Besides, it’s not even my store. The owner doesn’t seem to think she needs protection, so why should I?”
“Your father obviously thinks you need it.” Max tossed the comment out to see what reaction he’d get.
“He doesn’t know what’s best for me.” She gritted her teeth. “Besides, this happened two whole days ago. If someone was after me, wouldn’t they have done something about it by now?”
“Not necessarily. And as for your ‘kids’ theory, the store was broken into, but the perp didn’t take anything.” He cocked his brow. “That doesn’t sound much like a crime of opportunity to me.”
“All the jewelry is locked in a safe, as are the stones in the workshop.” She tilted up her face to his, exasperation clear in her eyes. “They’re high-grade safes, not something that can be pried open with a crowbar. And I lock the safes whenever I close up. We also have a security system, cameras and a duress button.”
Max couldn’t help but notice the way the colored beads around her neck sparkled like fire…the same fire that lit up her eyes. She was feisty, all right. He’d have his hands full keeping her safe, especially if her father’s suspicions turned out to be true.
“The security system was disarmed and the cameras turned off. And yet they left without touching the safe or stealing anything. You don’t find that strange?”
“No, I don’t. Perhaps they were interrupted, or it was just a random act of vandalism.” She stepped toward the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
If it had been the act of a bunch of kids trying to vandalize the neighborhood, then why had they stopped at her store in particular? A store with a high degree of security. Why not bust up a few windows of the shops next door?
Rose Lawson was definitely in danger. Max pressed a palm to the door frame next to her head, blocking her exit.
“We haven’t finished.”
Her cheeks flushed deep pink, making her fair skin seem even lighter and her yellow-green eyes even more vivid. “Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the guy who’s going to protect you, Rose.” For some reason his heart was beating a little too fast, his blood pumping a little too hard. “And I take that seriously.”
“Look,” she said, jabbing a finger into his chest. “I don’t need anyone to protect me, least of all some beefed-up GI Joe wannabe.”
Ouch. The lady had an acid tongue. That shouldn’t have surprised him. Women as beautiful as she was often had the world at their feet and they didn’t appreciate it one bit. He resisted the urge to tell her just how wrong her assessment of him was, how totally off base and ignorant and narrow-minded—
“Hit a nerve, did I?” She smirked, the pale pink shine of her lip gloss catching the light.
“Sticks and stones.” Max leaned forward, bringing his face closer to hers. “I’ve endured a lot worse in my life. So you can throw those petty little insults around as much as you like, because they won’t change the fact that from now on I’m going to be your shadow.”
In the silence that followed the raggedness of her breath amplified. Her fingers danced at the edge of her necklace, tracing the beads and counting them as if it were a rosary.
“Now,” he said, stepping back and dropping his arm. “I’m taking you home.”
“The hell you are.” Rose glared up at him. “I don’t want a bodyguard, or whatever you’re called.”
“Security consultant,” Max corrected, inwardly laughing as she rolled her eyes.
“I don’t need one of those, either. I’m fine. It was just a one-off incident.” She pushed a stray tendril of hair from her face.
“I’ll see you home anyway, just to be sure.”
He’d been hired to protect Rose, and he’d do just that. Max’s gig with Cobalt & Dane Security might not be the career he’d dreamed of as a young lad in Australia, but the job had come when he’d needed it most. It was all he had. His old career was in tatters, his fiancée was a distant memory and his best friend…
Max swallowed. He would succeed at this, and if that meant following Rose home against her wishes, then so be it.
One of the things I had on my list of writing goals for 2015 was to try branch out. Namely in the form of self publishing. I knew I wanted to be a hybrid author (meaning an author who does both indie and traditional publishing) as soon as I started writing but last year was all about getting some stories out into the world via the two publishers I’m signed with.
This month I’m making good on my goal. The Small Town Summer box set is now out *happy dance* Working with these eight amazing author was an absolute dream and the final product is something I am truly proud of. My story, A Kiss in Kite Harbor, is the kick-off to my new small town contemporary romance series which will have all of the hallmarks from my Harlequin & Entangled books, in addition to a fun and diverse cast of small town characters.
For a very limited time we’ve got the box set at 99c! You can find out more about my story where to find the box set here.
For the writers who follow this blog, I’ve also done a discussion video on my thoughts around the pros and cons of indie vs. traditional publishing. Hopefully it might help some of you who have a manuscript near complete and are wondering which direction to take! As always, these are just my thoughts and experiences…it’s no gospel by any means ;)
Phew! That was a long post. Next week I’ll be away at the Romance Writers of America conference, which is very exciting! But I always look forward to coming back home and getting stuck into some more writing and, of course, chatting with my lovely readers <3
Just in time for the warm weather (or, for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, just in time to be in denial about winter) – the Small Town Summer box set is available for pre-order!! *happy dance*
Here’s our glorious cover:
Doesn’t it just scream summer? I absolutely love it. A huge thanks to Talina from Bookin’ It Designs for working her cover magic. Now, what’s inside the box set?
From warm sunny days to long sultry nights, spend your summer falling in love in a small town! These nine contemporary romance novellas featuring sassy heroines, sexy heroes, and lots of heartwarming romance make the perfect beach read. Whether your pleasure is sweet small town romance or smolderingly sexy love stories, there’s something in the Small Town Summer box set for everyone!
AWAKENING ANNA, by Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Terri Osburn ANYWHERE WITH YOU, by Heatherly Bell MOONSHINE & MAGNOLIAS, by National Bestselling author Jamie Farrell SUMMER IN STRINGTOWN PROPER, by Liz Flaherty SUMMER STOCK, by Regina Kyle SERENA’S SOLDIER, by Amy Lamont A KISS IN KITE HARBOR, by Stefanie London HER LAST SHOT, by Megan Ryder SWEET HOME ALASKA, by Rebecca Thomas
Sound like the Small Town Summer box set might be your cup of tea? Why not pre-order so you can have it the second it goes live?
Did I mention it’s on sale for 99c until just after release day? Get it now if you want to take advantage of the special price before it goes up to $3.99.
A Kiss in Kite Harbor is the first in my new small town romance series.
Twelve years ago they shared a life-changing kiss…
Now she’s coming back for more…
When successful plus size model, Shelby Jenkins, is forced to return to her hometown of Kite Harbor, Maine, she must face her past demons. But asking for help doesn’t come naturally and it’s doubly hard when she needs it from the boy who broke her heart. Now he’s all grown up and is more tempting than a double fudge sundae with a cherry on top.
Nate Ritter loves being a teacher in the small town where he grew up. When the woman who stole his teenage heart returns, he’ll do anything to prove he’s no longer the insecure boy who betrayed her. As long as he makes sure he doesn’t fall for Shelby since she has a big, exciting life waiting for her back in the city.
Can his shot at redemption be enough to convince her to stay?
Read on for the short blurbs of each story in the set!
AWAKENING ANNA (Terri Osburn) – Librarian Anna Robinson is fascinated by Max Marshall, the hot young writer occupying the bestseller lists, and the apartment above hers. In one night, Max awakens Anna to true sexual pleasure, but the new lovers quickly learn that one night is never enough.
ANYWHERE WITH YOU (Heatherly Bell) – Welcome to Starlight Hill, California, where the wine flows freely and so does the gossip.
Celebrity stylist Kailey Robbins wants a second chance with ex-military pilot Joe Hannigan, but can she convince him that this time she’ll settle down into small town life?
MOONSHINE & MAGNOLIAS (Jamie Farrell) – Shelby’s a newly single mother learning how to be herself again. Zack’s the hot military man next door who loves a good adventure. And a chance encounter at a steamy summer softball game will challenge what they both thought they knew about their hearts, their lives, and their forevers.
SUMMER IN STRINGTOWN PROPER (Liz Flaherty) – Banker Molly Linden never expected to be alone and unemployed at fifty. Buying hunky carpenter Joe Rahilly’s saloon takes care of the employment situation, but she’s still alone. Or is she?
SUMMMER STOCK (Regina Kyle) – Jax Donovan left his hometown—and high school sweetheart Georgi Petersen—for the bright lights of Broadway. Now he’s back, but can he convince the lovely librarian that their romance is worth rekindling, on stage and off?
SERENA’S SOLDIER (Amy Lamont) – Young nurse Serena Adessi can’t wait to be reunited with the soldier she’s loved for as long as she can remember. But when Mace Palmer sustains a career-ending injury while deployed, can she convince him he still has a future worth fighting for?
A KISS IN KITE HARBOR (Stefanie London) – When plus size model, Shelby Jenkins, returns to her hometown she must face up to the bullies from her past, but the only person who can help her is the one who broke her heart. Small town advocate Nate Ritter is ready for redemption, but will he lose the woman of his dreams to the big city again?
HER LAST SHOT (Megan Ryder) – Girl next door Rachel Darling has been in love with local baseball hero, Bastien LeBeau, for her whole life. Now that he’s back in town, can she convince him that she’s the right woman for him or will he lose the best thing that might ever happen to him?
SWEET HOME ALASKA (Rebecca Thomas) – When Lauren Kinkade abandons her Hollywood dreams to run the family business back in Alaska, she reaches out to a former schoolmate to help get things off the ground. Trey Briggs has his reasons for turning her down, but can he really resist the girl he’s always wanted?