Sunday, March 24, 2019

LITTLE DARLINGS Review

Little Darlings: A Novel by Melanie GoldingAn April 2019 Library Reads Pick!

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother.


Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe. (synopsis from Amazon)

My thoughts....3.5 stars

LITTLE DARLINGS creates a creeping atmosphere of ominous dread while keeping the reader guessing and questioning.

Did Lauren's nightmare delivery, her abandonment by the hospital staff; left alone to care for her twins to care for her twins while being unable to move from the waist down, and the crisis the next day combine to start her descent into psychosis? Or is it a case of "there are more things in heaven and earth"?

I vacillated between the two options as events unfolded and the past events were revealed.
Did she or didn't she? Were the Riley and Morgan switched with changelings? 
You'll have to judge that for yourself. 

If you enjoy a book that keeps you off balance and builds slowly, LITTLE DARLINGS should be on your to read pile.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A LORD APART & perfectly nerdy giveaway with Jane Ashford




After his parents' sudden death, Daniel Frith, Viscount Whitfield, is struggling to unravel a web of chaotic family records. He is astonished to learn his father's will contains a mysterious legacy: a house left to a complete stranger. He knows nothing about the beautiful Penelope Pendleton and he's not sure he wants to...until she turns out to be a whiz at all those nasty tasks involved in estate administration... 

Penelope has no idea why Rose Cottage was left to her. But it's a godsend after her brother's reckless actions disgraced her family. She had planned to stay out of Viscount Whitfield's way, not grow ever closer to him. But when they discover how entwined their families really are, Daniel and Penelope must collaborate to avoid a scandal that reaches much higher than they could have guessed... 

The Way to a Lord's Heart: 
Brave New Earl (Book 1) 
A Lord Apart (Book 2) 

Amazon           B&N          Apple          Kobo          Indiebound          Visit Jane 



“They taste good even if they look ridiculous,” said Daniel. He took a second bite of a Shrewsbury Cake that he’d shaped so ineptly. The room seemed different with Miss Pendleton installed in a chair beside his at the desk. Fresh and lovely in a blue cambric gown, she transformed it from a place of dry drudgery to a chamber full of possibility. She’d seemed harried when she first came in, but the sight of his documents, and the donning of her oddly charming dust sleeves, had visibly settled her. 
She finished her cake. “That’s the great thing about pastry,” she said. “It’s still delicious even when you’ve sat on the box. Although eclairs are rather a challenge in that regard.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like wisdom drawn from direct experience.”
Miss Pendleton nodded. “The…rather squashed looking Shrewsbury Cakes reminded me.” 
“I must hear the story.”
Her smile was pensive, a little distracted. “As a special treat, my mother and I sometimes visited a bakeshop in a town near where we lived. Mama used to say the owner was an artist of the oven. On this particular day I insisted on carrying the box with its wonderful pink string. I was so proud, like an altar boy bearing the chalice.” She glanced at him. “I was four years old, you understand. I put the box on the seat of the carriage while I climbed up. Mama stepped in after me and sat on it.” She shook her head. “I hadn’t thought of that in ages.”
Daniel imagined how his own austere mother would have reacted to this misstep. “Was she annoyed?”
“Oh, worse than that.”
He had visions of a thundering scold, even a boxed ear. 
“She burst into tears,” said Miss Pendleton.
The picture in his mind underwent a quick revision.
“She’d picked out a lemon tart, one of her favorite things in the world. She was looking forward to it as much as I was to my ├ęclair. More, perhaps. And now they were both ruined.” She made a melancholy face. “So I had made my Mama cry.”
“Difficult.” Daniel started to point out that it wasn’t entirely her fault. Her mother might have been more careful about where she sat. But Miss Pendleton went on before he could speak.
“Utterly tragic for a small girl.”
“You might have gone back to the shop and replaced them.” 
“I suppose. We didn’t. Perhaps there was a reason Mama had to be back. But in any case, she soon recovered. She was wonderful that way. She turned setbacks into…festivals.”
Rather like her daughter did with an upended life, Daniel thought. “How does one redeem squashed pastry?”
“Ah.” Miss Pendleton’s smile was impish now. “We took our flattened box to her sitting room and hid it away until a maid had brought tea for Mama and a glass of milk for me.”
“Hid it? Why?” 
“We didn’t want to hurt Cook’s feelings by letting her know we’d bought pastry. She was very skillful, but not with sweets. So we always ate our treats in secret.”
“That was kind,” said Daniel. Had his parents had any such concerns about Frithgerd’s cook? Or any of the servants? He didn’t think so. 
Miss Pendleton blinked rapidly. “My mother was extraordinarily kind.” She took a deep breath. “When the coast was clear, we spread open the box and ate spoonfuls of the…contents. We decided to call it an eclart. Which I still think is a very fine word.” 
“Like a burst of excitement in your mouth,” he replied.
“Exactly!”
As their eyes met, alternative meanings for this phrase seemed to unfold between them. Daniel was suddenly conscious of the beautiful shape of her mouth, not far away at all. He wasn’t aware of leaning forward until he noticed that she’d done the same. They were inches apart. He wanted to wrap his arms around her, pull her close, and kiss her passionately, repeatedly, until they were both dizzy. He could just barely make himself sit back. The effort left him rigid, in more ways than one. 
Penelope caught her breath. She hadn’t touched him, but it felt as if she had. The sense of connection had been as intense as an actual caress. She’d never experienced anything like it. She was suffused with longing. Did it show on her face? Was he wondering what was wrong? Her hand twitched. Their fingers brushed, and another bolt of sensation coursed through her. 
Whitfield moved his hand away. He raised it, left it hovering in the air for a moment, then reached for another Shrewsbury Cake. 
Penelope ordered her hands to stop trembling, and they obeyed. She’d learned to hide her feelings in the past year, as she discovered that a person being questioned by the authorities, particularly a woman, had to appear calm and rational at all times. Emotion roused suspicions and drew contempt. Interrogators might shout, and be seen as forceful, but they would pounce on the slightest tremor in their prey and call it instability. Not that Lord Whitfield was like that. She was muddling two very different things. She had to get hold of herself.

Picking up a page from one of the piles she hadn’t yet investigated, Penelope scanned the contents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

This super cute gift set includes a pack of Bloom floral file folders, three pretty gold pens, a Lemome Original notebook (it has pockets!), and two lovely floral teacups. What better prize to honor the two loveable nerds in this Regency Romance?! 

Praise for Jane Ashford: 
"An endearing, optimistic story of second chances."—Publishers Weekly for Brave New Earl 
"A refreshingly different, sweetly romantic love story [readers] will long remember."—Booklist for Brave New Earl 
"[P]lenty of wit, matchmaking, sweetness and sensuality to keep readers highly entertained."—RT Book Reviews for The Duke Knows Best 
"Expertly crafted...another triumph of nuanced characterization and sparkling wit."—Booklist for Nothing Like a Duke 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Jessica Scott Print Giveaway!!





Jessica Scott, the premier author of military romances, is giving away 3 print books (author's choice) to 3 commenters.  Please share her PB post link below anywhere on social media & let us know where. Winners will be chosen at random. Please be sure & leave your email so we can contact you if you win! Good luck!

https://bit.ly/2GXROyq


Monday, February 25, 2019

TUMBLE & Giveaway w/ Adriana Locke



Splat!
The sound of the hammer crushing my thumb—swung with more force than was necessary, to boot—ricochets across the front lawn. The tool falls from my hand, striking against the sawhorse, and flips into the soft grass with a gentle thud.
“Son of a...!” My hand shakes, the top of my thumb threatening to explode. I tilt my head to the sky and try to find some peace in the clouds.
I come up empty. “Matt!” I call to my younger brother. “I’m taking ten.”
He nods from halfway up the ladder leaned against the side of the house.
Wrapping my good hand around my thumb, I head toward my truck. Sounds of construction ring out behind me. It’s usually music to my ears, the lifeblood of the Madden name. But each cut of a sawblade, buzz of a power drill, and swing of a hammer feels like a distraction this morning. I have a throbbing thumb to show for it.
Beads of sweat cluster along my forehead. I remove my hat with my good hand and run the back of my forearm along my brow.
“Damn it.” Everything feels sticky. Mildly irritating. And the progress on the project that usually energizes me has failed me epically this morning. I just don’t want to be here. Not that I have a better place to be. Quite frankly, I have a lot of places I shouldn’t be, and with Neely, or thinking about Neely, is one of them.
I would’ve recognized her anywhere. Same gray eyes that glimmer like she’s about to tell you a secret. Full lips that spread into a smile so infectious you can’t help but feel your own mouth following suit. The hint of floral perfume, the golden hair that may as well be silk, and the aura about her that’s just as strong as the day she left Dogwood Lane and me—it’s all the same. It’s like time forgot to age her. She somehow has become more beautiful, sexier, stronger.
The world hates me. I’ve postulated this for a long time, but it’s obvious today.
The tailgate of my truck lowers. Scooping a handful of ice from the cooler in the bed into a bandanna, I wrap it around my injured digit. The relief lasts only a few moments.
“What are you doing down here?” Penn rests his forearms over the side of the truck, the tattoos carved in his skin like mini masterpieces on full display. He eyes my makeshift bandage. “What happened to you?”
“Hammer,” I groan, adjusting the ice.
“That’s interesting.”
“How you figure?”
“Never knew you to hit yourself with a hammer before. I find that interesting.”
“If that’s interesting, you need a hobby. Or you could work like I’m paying you to do . . .”
“I have a hobby, thank you, and you should’ve seen her last night,” he says, smacking his lips together. “Lord Almighty, she’s a—”
“Penn.”
“Yeah?”
The tip of my finger sticks out of the bandanna. It’s bright red and hot to the touch despite the ice packed around it. “All your escapades really sound the same at this point.”
“Is that jealousy I hear?” He cups his hand to his ear. “I thought so. Not my fault you’re in a dry spell.”
Leaning against the truck, I look at him. “Jealousy isn’t how I’d describe it. But if that makes ya feel good, go for it.”
“My hobby makes me feel good.” He moves his lips around, like he’s fighting the next words trying to pop out. He does this when he knows he shouldn’t say something but can’t quite convince himself not to. “From the looks of you, I’d say you’re more than jealous. I’d say you’re . . . tempted.”
My tongue presses on the roof of my mouth. “Tempted to what?”
He leans against the truck, too, the gold St. Christopher’s medal he’s worn since elementary school clamoring against the side. The corners of his lips nearly touch the corners of his eyes. He knows.
“Word travels fast, huh?” I say, prodding around to see if my guess is right.
He slow blinks. Twice.
“What?” I ask.
“That’s all you have to say about Neely being back in town? ‘Word travels fast.’ What’s wrong with you?”
We don’t have time for that conversation.
I sigh. “What do you want me to say?”
“I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for that little run-in.” Penn snickers. “Did you stutter around like I imagine? Or did you not manage to say an entire sentence?”
Working my jaw back and forth, I point a finger his way. “You better stop while you’re ahead.”
He reads me correctly, and his animation drops a notch. “Really, though. How’d it go? But before you answer that, let me toss out there that I heard sparks were flying all over the diner so hot Claire had to call the fire department.”
I shake my head. “Shut up.”
“Just telling you what I heard.”
“The firemen were there to order food, you idiot.”
He thinks he’s onto something. There’s a glee in his face that means only one thing: it’s going to be a long day around here.
“So, what happened?” he asks, resting his arms over the truck bed.
“You know, sometimes I think you should’ve been a girl with all the gossiping you do.”
“This isn’t gossip,” he contends. “This is Neely-freaking-Kimber, man. Every memory I have of my entire adolescence has her in it. She bailed me out of jail when I was too scared to call my dad and you and Matt were passed out on moonshine. Remember that?”
My chuckle is so hard, it causes my thumb to throb. “I forgot about that. She was pissed.”
“Neely came through, though. God, I miss her.”
Those last words echo through my mind.
I have shoved her out of my head for the last few years. Took over Dad’s business, took care of my business. Trudged forward without her because that was the only choice I had. I hardly even think about her anymore unless someone brings her up in conversation.

So why do I itch to crawl into the truck and hunt her down?
***

About the Book

Title: Tumble
Author: Adriana Locke
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Montlake Romance

Summary

After being burned by her dream job in New York City, sports journalist Neely Kimber suddenly finds herself jobless and paying a long-overdue visit to her hometown in Tennessee. Her plan? Relax, reset, and head back up the corporate ladder. There’s just one unexpected step. Neely’s back in Dogwood Lane for barely a day when she sees the man she ran from nine years ago: the bad boy next door who was her first kiss, her first love, and her first heartbreak.

Devoted single dad Dane Madden knows he hurt Neely in the worst way. He’s got a lot to make up for. And as passionate as their reconnection is, it’s a lot to hope for. Having her back in his arms feels so right. But falling in love all over again with a woman who wants to live a world away is bound to go so wrong.
What’s it going to take for Neely to give him—and Dogwood Lane—just one more chance?

Website    FB     Twitter     Goodreads


USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke lives and breathes books. After years of slightly obsessive relationships with the flawed bad boys dreamed up by other authors, she decided to create her own. She is the author of Tumble, the first novel in her Dogwood Lane series; the Exception series; the Gibson Brothers series; and the Landry Family series.

She resides in the Midwest with her husband, her sons, two dogs, two cats, and a bird. She spends a large amount of time playing with her kids, drinking coffee, and cooking. You can find her outside if the weather’s nice, and there’s always a piece of candy in her pocket. Besides cinnamon gummy bears, boxing, and random quotes, her next favorite thing is chatting with readers. She’d love to hear from you! Look for her at www.adrianalocke.com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

THE COLOUR OF MURDER (British Library Crime Classics) Review


 WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MARTIN EDWARDS

'One of our most ingenious and stylish home-grown crime novelists' — Spectator
'A book to delight every puzzle-suspense enthusiast' — New York Times

John Wilkins meets a beautiful, irresistible girl, and his world is turned upside down. Looking at his wife, and thinking of the girl, everything turns red before his eyes — the colour of murder.
But did he really commit the heinous crime he was accused of? Told innovatively in two parts: the psychiatric assessment of Wilkins and the trial for suspected murder on the Brighton seafront, Symons' award-winning mystery tantalizes the reader with glimpses of the elusive truth and makes a daring exploration of the nature of justice itself.

Synopsis from Amazon




My thoughts....4 stars

Despite the focus on psychology and early scientific forensics, both understandable given the era it was written, THE COLOUR OF MURDER holds up to the passage of time well.

The first half of the book is narrated by John Wilkins. John informs the reader about his job, meeting his wife, his marriage, and other facets of his life. All these bits are important as is so often the case in mysteries. It's your job to figure out which bits matter.

The second half focuses on events after the murder, specifically the procurement of legal representation (so similar yet so different from our system), the investigation, the trial, and aftermath once the verdict is handed down.

The pace of THE COLOUR OF MURDER may seem slow but this is, first and foremost, a character driven story and murder. You'll be rewarded for sticking with it.
Also interesting is the social/societal aspect. The TV parties may be passe but much of the rest hasn't changed all that much.

If you can deal with the slower pace and the dated portions, THE COLOUR OF MURDER isn't as predictable as one might believe and is worth your time.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

THE SILENT PATIENT REVIEW Y'all don't want to miss this one.


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

 Promising to be the debut novel of the season The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive…


Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.... (Synopsis from Amazon)



My thoughts....5 stars


Alicia is fascinating. Did she or didn't she and why won't she speak? How far and how much is Theo willing to risk in his effort to reach her and discover what really happened the night Gabriel died?

THE SILENT PATIENT lulled me into a false sense of complacency then snatched the rug from under my feet. Never saw it coming but it fit perfectly upon reflection. Such a kick. 
Kudos!
If you enjoy psychological thrillers this is one you don't want to miss!

Seriously, y'all. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Available after over 25 years Jane Ashford's EARL TO THE RESCUE excerpt & giveaway

 A beloved Regency romance from Jane Ashford, now available after over 25 years! 



Who needs a knight in shining armor when there’s an earl at your side…? 

Gwendeline Gregory doesn’t know what to think when she encounters the dashing Alex St. Audley, Earl of Merryn. She’s in over her head in London Society, trying to fend off a scoundrel who will stop at nothing to ruin her. On the brink of a devastating scandal, the earl arrives just when she needs him most. But are his motivations trustworthy? And can he avert ruin for both of them? 

Amazon    B&N      Apple    IndieBound  



Alone in her bedchamber later in the day, Gwendeline thought over what the countess had told her. Why had such a sought-after gentleman, the type her father had called a real out-and-outer, taken an interest in her? Why had he been the one to come and fetch her, or the infant he said he’d expected? If he was a leader of the ton, and Gwendeline saw no reason to doubt his mother’s description of his position, what was his interest in her? Friendship with her parents seemed the only possible explanation, but he never spoke to her of them or appeared eager to answer when she tried to do so. Quite the opposite, in fact.
This thought reminded Gwendeline of a series of odd remarks she’d caught since coming to town. Both Lady Merryn and her son had made references she didn’t understand to her “situation.” Gwendeline hadn’t been aware that she possessed a situation in the sense that they used the word; seemingly, it was an awkward one. And she was becoming more and more interested in finding out exactly what it involved. She didn’t relish the thought that the people surrounding her knew more of her circumstances than she, especially since the knowledge must be widespread. Gwendeline’s chin came up. She was determined to find out the truth and not to flinch from it if it turned out to be unpleasant. Anything was better than this uncertainty.
But no opportunity presented itself in the following days, and thus, as Gwendeline stood beside Lady Merryn in the drawing room doorway three weeks later, ready to meet their guests, she felt rather nervous.
She thought she looked well in a dress of white sarsenet; her hair was newly cut and dressed in a cloud of curls called a Sappho by Lady Merryn’s hairdresser. A silver ribbon was threaded through it, and she wore a new silver filigree bracelet, a gift from the countess for her debut, on her wrist. But as Allison called out the first names, and an elegant couple strolled languidly toward them, she wondered what these world-weary Londoners were thinking about her and what she would find to say to them.
An hour later, she was just as uncertain. The countess had introduced her to what seemed scores of people, and she had said “how do you do,” and smiled a great many times. The guests and their names were jumbled together in her mind, and she knew she would never remember what to call anyone. She thought that they’d looked at her with sharp curiosity; indeed, sometimes she’d felt ready to sink under a particularly piercing glance. She longed to sit down for a moment away from the crowd and gather her thoughts.
“I think we can leave the door now, Gwendeline,” said Lady Merryn. “I can greet latecomers inside, and we must give you a chance to become better acquainted with our guests. Come along.” But as they were turning, the Earl of Merryn was announced, and they held back to greet him.
“Alex,” cried his mother. “I’d nearly given you up. You promised you’d come early tonight.”
The earl raised his eyebrows. “But Mother, I am come early. I haven’t arrived at an evening party before ten in years. Your guests will consider it a great compliment.”
His tone annoyed Gwendeline. “Perhaps we should be grateful that you came at all.”
“Indeed you should, Gwendeline,” he replied. “I never attend come-outs. They are uniformly dead bores.” She stifled a tart rejoinder as he went on. “You’re looking delightful. You’ve done an excellent job of fitting her out, Mother.”
Lady Merryn smiled complacently. “She does look well, doesn’t she?”
“I chose my own clothes, sir,” Gwendeline snapped. “I’m not a child.” She faltered. “Of course, I’m very grateful for your help, Lady Merryn, I didn’t mean…”
“Shall we go in?” said the earl, smiling. He offered each lady an arm. His mother accepted, smiling. Gwendeline hesitated but could see no way of avoiding entering the party on his arm. As usual, she was forced to fall in with his plans.
They paused just inside the drawing room doorway. The large space seemed completely filled with people. Heads had turned to look at them, and she knew that the subject of many conversations must be herself, a daunting thought.
The countess stopped to speak to a friend, and Gwendeline continued into the room on Merryn’s arm. A couple left the sofa against the near wall as they advanced, and the earl guided her toward it. “Shall we sit for a moment?” he asked, handing her to a seat. She sank gratefully onto the cushions. He sat beside her and smiled. “You look a trifle uneasy,” he said. “You don’t find your first London evening party altogether pleasant?”
“To be honest, it’s more frightening than pleasant,” said Gwendeline. “Your mother has been so kind and gone to such trouble for me, but I have no idea what to say to any of these people, and the thought that they have all come to see what I’m like is terrifying.”
The earl laughed. “Many of them would be very pleased and flattered to hear you say so.”
“Are they such horrid people,” wondered Gwendeline, “that they enjoy frightening strangers?”
“They enjoy their power to do so, a great many of them.” He looked over the crowd with some contempt. “However, you needn’t fear the ton. It will find you charming.”
“Because you tell it to, my lord?” asked Gwendeline, remembering what his mother had told her.
“Yes,” replied the earl simply. “And there is no conceivable reason for you to look daggers at me because of it. I never asked anyone to care what I thought. Perhaps that’s why they do so.”
Jane Ashford, a beloved author of historical romances, has been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, and Spain, as well as the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Follow her at www.janeashford.com.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Meet "Mountain Mercenary" Ronan Cross From DEFENDING CHLOE & enter the giveaway



1) Greetings Ronan, or can I just call you Ro?
Ro is fine. 2) I understand that you are part of Mountain Mercenaries, a secret group of ex-military men who save women and children from dangerous situations. Can you comment on this group?
No. As you said, it’s a secret group. 3) What about your handler Rex? He is particularly secretive.
Rex is amazing. I’ve never met him, but I don’t have to have met him to know he’s one scary bad ass dude. He knows people from all levels of law enforcement, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had the President’s phone number programmed into his phone as well. But, like anyone in this line of business, he’s got some demons. Me and my fellow Mercenaries just hope they don’t come back and bite us in the ass one day. 4) There have been some major changes within the Mercenaries lately -- especially with the introduction of Allye your teammate Gray Rogers’ significant other. How has having a civilian woman in the mix changed things? Does it make you think of anything that you may want in your future?
Allye is great. Love her. None of us had ever thought much about women…or at least having anything permanent with any specific woman, but seeing Gray with Allye makes me realize that one day I’d love to have a relationship like theirs. I want a woman who can stand up to me when I’m being a wanker but who isn’t adverse to letting me be a guy. And before you ask, what I mean is that I know myself, I’m gonna want to open her door and pay for shit. I’ll have no problem telling my woman that I love her, but I don’t want someone who will lose their shit if I track a little bit of mud in the house. Does that make sense? 5) Definitely. So what do you do for fun? You know, when you aren’t saving damsels in distress!
I’m a mechanic. I tinker with cars for fun. There’s nothing like taking in a car that won’t run, and turning it inside out to figure out what the problem is. The best feeling ever is when that beauty is driven off after I’ve given her new life. 6) And finally, tell us a bit about women in your life. Do you have a special someone?
Not yet. Although I have to tell you, I met the most intriguing woman the other day. There was just something about her that I can’t forget. Of course, there’s the little matter of figuring out who gave her the bruise she was sporting on her back and making sure she’s safe, but otherwise….
***
Chloe stared at all the clothes on the bed. Allye had arrived with a dozen bags in hand and told her she’d picked up a “few things” to tide her over.

“A few things?” Chloe asked in disbelief.

Allye laughed. “Ro said money was no object, and he wanted you to have enough things so you could have a choice of what to wear and not have to do laundry every night. I had to guess at your sizes, but I got some stuff with elastic waists just in case I was wrong in my assumptions.” Then the other woman began dumping the bags and showing off what she’d bought.

A shy smile formed as Allye’s words sank in. The thought that Ro wasn’t thinking about money, only her comfort, made Chloe feel good. Really good.

Allye smiled back as she said, “Ro doesn’t have to let you stay here, Chloe.”

“What do you mean?”

“Rex has a ton of contacts. And I mean a ton. This is what the Mountain Mercenaries do. They help get women out of bad situations. Ro could’ve asked Rex to set you up with one of the underground resources he has. You know, a safe house? You’d be just as safe there as you are here. But for some reason, Ro refused to even consider it. I know for a fact Gray suggested it. But you’re still here. He gave me his own money to get you stuff to wear. And he insisted that I find this for you.” Allye pulled out a bottle from a small bag she’d been holding.

Chloe recognized the brand of lotion she used.

“I’m going to say this only once, then I’ll never bring it up again . . . but I feel like I kind of have to.”

Chloe tensed.

“Don’t hurt him,” Allye said. “These guys . . . they’re total badasses. Professional soldiers. They can kick ass like you’d never believe. They go into situations no one else would dare. They take chances, and they’ll do whatever it takes to rescue women. I don’t know the other guys all that well yet, but I know Gray, and I have a feeling that deep down, they’re all scarred in one way or another. They’re all committed to saving women and children from the evils in the world, and there must be a deeper reason behind that than just wanting to do the right thing. And if Ro is anything like Gray, once he’s committed, he’s committed. He’ll move heaven and earth to make sure you’re happy, content, and safe. That’s how Gray is with me. I know without a doubt that Gray will never cheat on me, and he goes to great lengths to make sure I’m satisfied . . . in every way, if you know what I mean.”

Chloe stared at Allye with wide eyes as she continued.

“Ro strikes me as the same kind of man. I’m still getting to know the guys on the team, but I feel they wouldn’t be as close as they are if they didn’t have the same values and beliefs. Ro acts like the standoffish Brit more often than not, but he feels as deeply as anyone I’ve ever met. He likes you, Chloe. I was surprised when he actually left you here alone. He thought you’d bolt. Hell, thought you’d leave. But you didn’t. And that means something to Ro.

“All I’m saying is that if you’re using his help to get away from your brother, good, I don’t blame you . . . but don’t lead him on. Ask if you can go into witness protection. Or into the underground program the Mountain Mercenaries have set up. Don’t stay here and make him think there’s something between you if you don’t feel that way.”

It was a long speech from the other woman, and Chloe felt the butterflies in her stomach again. She hadn’t thought much about how Ro was feeling because she was so uncertain herself and felt so out of control. But the idea of Ro keeping her around for a personal reason was appealing. More than appealing. She thought about how he’d washed her hair, how his hands had felt on her scalp. A man who was simply rescuing yet another woman from a bad situation wouldn’t do that, would he?

Allye cleared her throat, and Chloe realized she was waiting for her to say something. “I won’t lead him on,” Chloe said quickly. She hadn’t thought she’d want a boyfriend for a very long time after living under her brother’s controlling thumb, but Ro was nothing like Leon. He was bossy and tended to do things without asking her, but Chloe somehow knew if she objected or pushed back, Ro would listen to her and be flexible.

“Cool,” Allye said with a relieved sigh. “Now, shall we figure out which of this stuff you like and want to keep?”

Chloe smiled tentatively at the other woman. “Yeah. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I have a feeling we’re going to be good friends,” Allye said, handing the bottle of lotion to Chloe and turning back to the bed.

Watching her dig through the clothes and start to put them in some sort of order, Chloe gripped the plastic bottle tightly. Allye would never know how much her words meant. It had been a long time since Chloe’d had a friend. A true friend.

***
Gorgeous women don’t just stumble onto Ronan Cross’s remote property. But this one—vulnerable, victimized, and needing the kind of help only Ronan can offer—tells a story that makes his blood boil almost as hot as his need to protect her.

Since her father’s death, Chloe Harris has become a prisoner. Her own brother, a flesh peddler and low-level player in the Denver Mafia, is forcing her to sell her body for an endgame Chloe never saw coming: control over a vast fortune. Her only way out is to run—straight into the arms of the one hard-bodied man she can trust.

Defending Chloe could rain punishment down on the Mountain Mercenaries. Her brother has Mob connections and the local police in his pocket. But Ronan still has an edge—the unshakable loyalty of his deadly teammates. As well as an unquenchable thirst for retribution…and Chloe.


Susan Stoker is a New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose series include Ace Security, Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Unsung Heroes: Delta Force, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri to California to Colorado to Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, www.stokeraces.com, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorsusanstoker.

Social Media Links