Release Tour – What She Needs

WHAT SHE NEEDS

Castle Wolves Series Book 2

by Melissa Kendall

Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance

Cover Designer: Tibbs Design

Elizabeth Summers is sick of being the baby sister of Garth the pack alpha. Her brother with the help of his best friends has taken it upon himself to scare off every guy who has ever shown any interest in her. With a little nudge from her sister-in-law, she decides to seek Madame Eve’s help to give her one night of pure pleasure.

Ernest (Brute) Chalmers is Castle Wolves’ pack enforcer and best friend of Garth. make his move, he might miss out on his chance at love Out of respect for his friend, he has kept his feelings for Garth’s sister a secret. But when he over hears Lizzie talking about signing up for a 1Night Stand, he decides if he doesn’t, he might miss out on his chance at love.

Can Brute prove he has what it takes to meet Lizzie’s needs? Or will she send him packing for good?

Brute stared at the door and took a couple of deep breaths. Lizzie was not going to be pleased when he entered, but he’d practiced his speech over and over to get her to give him a chance.

Every night since he’d overheard Lizzie talking about signing up for a 1Night Stand, Brute had imagined this moment. He put his hand on the door handle and turned. The door opened to a room shrouded in darkness. Even with his shifter enhanced eyesight, he could barely see a thing. He could smell her though, her scent enticing as always.

“Remove every stitch of clothing and get on your knees.” Lizzie’s voice deep and sultry echoed around the room. He looked to the right where her voice came from, but still couldn’t make out any discernible shapes.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, sub. Naked and on your knees. You have two minutes and I will not ask again.”

What the fuck! Did she just say sub?

Brute had no idea what he’d walked into, but her tone of voice indicated he wasn’t to argue. Without further thought, he stripped until naked and dropped to his knees.

“Now what?” he asked.

“Now you wait, you insolent pup. Eyes to the floor, in silence until I am ready.” Brute did as she demanded, a million different scenarios running through his mind as to what could come next.

He’d seen something like this once on a porn network. The movie had been called Mistress something, but it had been about woman who liked having men service her. The survey Madame Eve had required him to fill about his sexual preferences made a lot more sense now. What he didn’t understand was why Lizzie wanted this for her 1Night Stand.

The click of heels on the wood flooring echoed in the room and it was obvious she was coming his way. She stopped right in front of him. Her shoes just in his line of vision. Her gaze was on him. He could feel it like a physical caress and it had him wondering how long it would take before she figured out who he was. It also had his cock at full alert. He liked having her admire him, had wanted it for so long.

“Well, well, Madame Eve, did good.” Something ran up his left arm and across his chest. As it passed his line of vision, he figured out it was a riding crop. It then continued down his right arm ending with a quick flick on the tip of his cock. “Definitely a wonderful specimen. It still remains though to see just how good you are at serving your mistress. On your feet.”

Brute kept his eyes on the floor knowing the moment she caught sight of his face whatever was happening would stop. And as much as he was out of his comfort zone, he didn’t want to stop.

“Hmm, someone at least has some manners.” Slowly, she moved around him. Any second now she was going to catch sight of his tattoo. “What the fuck!” Yeah, he hated being right. “Ernest Alexander Chalmers turn around and face me right the fuck now.”

Brute cringed at the use of his full name. No one ever called him Ernest unless he was in trouble. He turned around as she asked. He expected to see fury in her features, but she just looked defeated.

“What are you doing here?”

He mulled over whether to tell her the truth or lie but he’d come this far no point in adding any more lies to the pile. “I’m your 1Night Stand.”

“No you’re not. Why would Madame Eve set me up with you?”

Brute took a couple of deep breaths before answering. “Because I asked her to.”

AmazonB&NKobo

After a string of failed relationships, thirty-five-year-old Madeline Majors worries her life will never be complete. Her obsession with having a child and her inability to conceive even though a multitude of doctors have said there is nothing medically wrong with her drives her to Madame Evangeline as her last resort.

Garth Summers is a shape shifter with a problem. As Alpha of his pack, he must have an heir by the time he is fifty years of age or a new alpha is chosen from the eligible males in the pack. But as a wolf shifter, he can only conceive with his mate who he has yet to find. With only six weeks remaining, he turns to Madame Eve for help.

Can a one-night stand bring two people the one thing they most desperately want, or will the reality of what they are send them both running?

AmazonB&NKoboGoodreads

NOT WHAT HE THOUGHT

Coming Oct 21

NOT WHAT HE THOUGHT

Mason Taylor is beta of the Castle Wolves pack. Most people would describe him as a skirt chasing manwhore but in reality it had been years since he found any kind of satisfaction with a woman. Like his Alpha was, he is lonely and wants desperately to meet his mate. After seeing his Alpha find love and happiness through Madame Eve he decides to give it a try. He gives Madame Eve just one instruction – find him his soul mate. The moment he walks into the room, he catches his date’s scent and knows instantly they are his mate. When he sees the person though he is shocked there has to be some mistake.

Sebastian Cooke has always known he was gay but growing up in the wilds of Alaska, he has always found it hard to truly be himself. After his friend and fellow pilot, Kate, suggests he give 1NS a try he figures he has nothing left to lose. The last person he is expecting to show up in his hotel room is Mason Taylor.

Can two men get over the preconceived notion of who each other is to find the love they have been desperately looking for?

Melissa Kendall is a forty-year-old mother of two from Perth, Western Australia, the second-most isolated capital city in the world. Predominantly a stay-at-home mum, she works a few hours a week as a software support consultant. She has always loved to read and write, and spent most of her teens writing poetry and short stories. Over the years, daily life got in the way and she lost the passion for it, but after the birth of her first child, Melissa discovered e-books and her interest in writing rekindled. She is now the author of four published short stories. Matronly Duties is her first full-length novel.

GoodreadsTwitterFacebookAmazonWebsite

Tami 1
MoB Promotions

First Look – Cowboy Karma

See the First Look at the Newest Mia Hopkins Book, COWBOY KARMA…

“Who needs luck when you can get Lucky?”

About COWBOY KARMA

When Harmony Santos’s boyfriend dumps her on her birthday, she doesn’t get mad. She gets lucky…with a mysterious cowboy whose bedroom eyes and rough edges bring out her inner bad girl. But when their one-night rodeo turns into more than a rebound, Harmony worries her heart hasn’t healed enough to take on someone new—even if that someone is as sweet as he is sexy.

Tie-down roper Lucky Garcia can’t believe his good fortune. A shot at national finals and now this—his longtime crush, in his arms at last. The more time he spends with Harmony, the harder he falls for her. But financial demands and family responsibilities take him further and further away from her—as does his secret fear she hasn’t quite gotten over her dickhead ex.

Behind closed doors, Lucky and Harmony are filthy perfection. But when reality comes knocking, the star-crossed lovers must decide: walk away intact, or risk it all for a chance at happiness.

On Sale in Digital: October 4, 2016

Pre-Order Your Copy Today on Amazon!


Amazon


Add COWBOY KARMA to your TBR pile on Goodreads!

Excerpt:

They drove a short distance to a large, two-story house in an older part of town. Cars were parked up and down the street. The front of the house was lit up with floodlights. Lucky took her hand as they made their way up the concrete walkway.

“You look so beautiful tonight,” he said as they climbed the steps.

“Stop.”

“No. I won’t. Don’t you know how beautiful you are, Harmony? Hermosa. Preciosa.”

She smiled shyly at him. “You’re not so bad yourself, cowboy.” A little dimple formed in her left cheek. He wanted to lick it. He wanted to taste her. No—he needed to taste her.

“Wait.” Right before she rang the doorbell, he leaned down and kissed those cherry red lips. He whispered, “You know, we don’t have to go in. We can just…get back in your car…drive back to your place…and have our own party.” He dropped tiny kisses along her jaw. Desire roared in his chest when her breath hitched in her throat. Her cheeks flushed pink. She paused, staring at him as though she were a heartbeat away from taking his suggestion.

Lucky held her gaze. “I’ve been thinking about you all week.” He brushed his fingertips back and forth across the cool, silken skin of her throat. “How about you? Have you been thinking about how good it was?” He lowered his lips to her ear. “Don’t you want to play together again?”

Her eyes fluttered closed. “Lucky,” she murmured.

“You do, don’t you, belleza?” He rested his thumb lightly in the hollow of her throat. “Tell me the truth. You’ve been thinking about me, haven’t you?”

The pulse in her neck tapped wildly against his fingers. “Yes, but—”

“Come on,” he whispered. “Let’s go.”

See what people are saying about the Cowboy Cocktail series:



“Mia Hopkins knows how to put characters on a page.” – HEROES AND HEARTBREAKERS

“Mia Hopkins is an imaginative author who doesn’t take the easy road to a formulaic book.”
USA TODAY

“Sweet and filthy at the same time, just the way I like it. This book made me so happy.”
READ ALL THE ROMANCE

“The writing is excellent, the emotions leap off the page, and the sex is downright earthy.”
JILL SORENSON, AUTHOR

“Beautifully descriptive…hot, sexy and full of yearning!”  – DELILAH DEVLIN, AUTHOR 

“Off the charts hot.” – THE ROMANCE STUDIO

 “A tantalizing slow seduction of the senses.” – STRANGE CANDY REVIEWS

“Hopkins packs a lot of heat and romance on the pages…Caution: hot, sexy times ahead!”
READER GIRLS BLOG

 “Filled with sizzling chemistry, hot sex, and just enough sweetness to leave me wanting more…And those sex scenes…Holy hotness!” – CRYSTAL BLOGS BOOKS

Check out the other books in The Cowboy Cocktail series!

Forget chocolate and flowers. This homegrown honey is all the sweetness he craves.

Small-town life is nothing but a waiting room for eighteen-year-old honor student Corazón Gomez. Work and school leave little time for love, but with a full-ride Ivy League scholarship and a one-way ticket out of the boondocks, who needs it?

The answer appears on Valentine’s Day when her old cowboy crush ambles into the ice cream parlor where she works, inviting her to go on a late-night ride in his truck. For the first time she wavers between staying on the straight and narrow, and going off-road with the handsome heartbreaker.

After four years working on ranches all over the country, Caleb MacKinnon is back on the family farm helping out his mom and brothers while his father fights cancer. The one bright spot: smart, funny, and wickedly sexy Cora.

From the start, they both know this blazing-hot love affair can’t last. But when autumn comes and Cora has to leave for the East Coast, Caleb must find a solution to keep himself—and his heart—from falling apart.

Warning: Contains hard, cherry-poppin’ sex in a pickup truck and a cowboy charmer who talks dirty in two languages.

Book 1 Available at:

 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Google Books | Kobo | BAM | Goodreads

Ball-busting business woman meets no-holds-barred cowboy. He’s gonna need a longer rope…

Marketing hotshot Monica Kaur has put her big-city life on hold to help bail out her brother’s failing business. Now she’s got three months to plan and promote a rodeo, the first her tiny hometown has ever seen.

To ensure the rodeo’s success, Monica enlists a local hero, a rancher’s son who’s made a name for himself on the bull-riding circuit. Problem? She can’t stop daydreaming about the cocky bastard—and all the things she longs to do to him out behind the chutes.

Professional bullfighter Dean MacKinnon is home helping his family while his father fights cancer. Haunted by bad memories, jaded by love, Dean finds escape in a no-strings-attached go-round with brainy, sexy Monica, whose close-knit Sikh-American family would sooner run him out of town than see her with a notorious rodeo Romeo.

In private, Monica and Dean play as hard as they work. But as the rodeo draws near, that clean break they promised each other is getting more and more hung up in the rigging.

Book 2 Available at:

 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads

For eight years, Melody Santos played the game of love and lost—big time. Now she’s back in her tiny hometown looking after her younger sister, making ends meet with an assortment of odd jobs. When her childhood best friend hires her to help him sell his family’s grass-fed beef, the last thing she anticipates is falling in lust with the legendary, brown-eyed player.

To put his family’s cattle ranch back in the black, Clark MacKinnon has his sights set on big contracts—gourmet chefs and restaurateurs. If that means long hours traveling from farmer’s market to farmer’s market, Clark doesn’t mind. Particularly since his new assistant is his childhood crush, all grown up and sexy as hell.

One night in bed leaves them breathless and hungry for more. But when his love-’em-and-leave-’em reputation collides with her trust issues, Clark and Melody must face the truth about what they’ve become: not friends, not lovers, but players in a game that’s impossible to win.

Warning: Contains filthy banter, raunchy sex, excessive Johnny Cash references, and hundreds of pounds of raw beef.

Book 3 Available at: 

Amazon | Kobo | iTunes | B&N | Samhain | AllRomance | Google Play Books-A-Million | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. She’s a sucker for working class heroes, brainy heroines and wisecracking best friends.

When she’s not lost in a story, Mia spends her time cooking, gardening, traveling, volunteering and looking for her keys. In a past life, she was a classroom teacher and still has a pretty good “teacher voice” and “teacher stare.”

She lives in the heart of Los Angeles with her roguish husband and two waggish dogs.

You can also visit her online at the following places:

       Website | Facebook | Twitter 

     Amazon | Goodreads | Pintrest 

                       Instagram

Cover & Chapter Reveal – Almost Bad Boys Series 

Title: Almost Matched

Series: Almost Bad Boys Series, Book One

Author: A.O. Peart

Genre: Dark Romantic Comedy

Release Date: September 29, 2016 

Would you take another shot at love? Or just settle on a friend with benefits?

Their heartbreaking past will move you. Their passion will make you blush. Their antics will make you laugh out loud.

Twenty-five-year-old Natalie Davenport lugs substantial baggage. One boyfriend after the next has been a total disaster, leaving Natalie distrustful toward the male population in general. So when Colin Hampton crosses her path, she’s cautious. Her heart (and some other body parts!) nudges her to go for it, while her head wants her to run for the hills.

Colin is one of those gorgeous guys who attract women, no matter the age or marital status. With a successful career at a popular Seattle radio station, hard body, and charming personality, he is the complete package. But something dark lurks in the corners of his soul; some murky experience that has changed him—maybe for the better, but maybe for the worse.

Will he steal her heart and stomp over it like other guys did?

Will she let him into her heavily fortified world despite herself?

Or will they settle somewhere in the middle—establishing the emotional boundaries to protect them from falling in love?

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Title:  Almost Broken Up

Series: Almost Bad Boys Series, Book Two

Author: A.O. Peart

Genre: Dark Romantic Comedy

Release Date: September 29, 2016 

How far would you go to protect the one you love?

The terrors of Colin’s past are revealed and accepted by Natalie. Her doubts about letting him into her life are finally disbanded and replaced by a sense of security and commitment. But Natalie doesn’t know that Colin’s past hides more dark secrets unknown even to him.

When a delusional psychopath threatens Colin’s life, things quickly become complicated. Natalie’s stubborn character and desire to kick ass won’t let her step aside and allow the authorities to handle the danger. She gets herself tangled up with street hoodlums, befriends a Russian mobster’s high-maintenance girlfriend, and becomes expert at picking locks and hiding evidence.


••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Title:  Almost Too Far

Series: Almost Bad Boys Series, Book Three

Author: A.O. Peart

Genre: Dark Romantic Comedy

Release Date: September 29, 2016 

A martini glass of sizzling romance, a jigger of suspense and crime, perfectly shaken with a twist of wacky humor.

Where would you draw the line between love and trust?

When Colin’s feisty great grandma Helga mysteriously disappears, Natalie and the gun-toting Svetlana rush to the rescue. With the help of Russian mafia goons and Natalie’s girlfriends, they get more than they bargained for. Natalie invites trouble into her life all over again. She could find herself questioned by the police, or worse, her relationship with Colin could become rickety once more.

And so the race begins: with grandma Helga on the loose, Colin turns to the police for help, and Natalie is a stiletto heel tip outside of the law. But being in the wrong has never felt so vindicated.


Series Disclaimer

**Warning: contains explicit sex scenes, profanity, and high dose of both sarcasm and wacky behavior of the female characters. This is a tongue-in-cheek comedy with dark twist.

If you’re a prude or a killjoy with no sense of humor, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK, or do so at your own risk. May not be appropriate for readers under 18 years old. **You have been warned**




••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

SIX


“Coffee and love taste best when hot.”

German proverb

My head is crammed with thoughts about Ali, her guys, Colin, my past, and all in between. I don’t even realize when I take my exit from the freeway and maneuver my Dodge Caliber into my parking spot. 

After a quick shower, I dress, do my makeup and hair, and call a taxi. The Motto Bar and Grill isn’t far from my apartment, so it takes only about ten minutes to get there. 

I walk in, look around, and proceed to sit at the bar. The place is totally cool, and yes—there is the motto Colin mentioned: in the shimmery-black block letters plastered onto the wall right over the bar area, a foot or so below the ceiling. Speaking of that ceiling—it perfectly fits with the rest of the décor—beefy, unfinished logs run overhead, and rustic objects hang down from it: old copper pitchers, a few empty picture frames, a large chicken-wire basket, and two tiny, beat-up stools made of wood painted in white, the paint peeling off in places.

I lean over the sleek slab of wood that serves as the bar and signal the bartender. He frowns at me, murmurs something in response, and turns his back to me. O-kay, not a big deal, maybe he’s having a bad day. Or maybe he is a grumpy dickhead every waking minute of his life. I take my cell phone out and check for emails and texts. There is a text from Jena. She’s wondering if we could get together. Any other night I would say ‘yes’, but not tonight. 

I’m busy, typing the response to Jena and I don’t pay attention to what’s happening around me. But, apparently, The Grumpy Dickhead stands in front of me, buffing a tall beer glass, his mouth set in a grim line. 

“So what’s it gonna be?” he barks. 

He startles me, and so I jump, dropping my phone onto the bar. Fuck. My heart wedges itself semi-permanently into the bottom of my throat. The Grumpy Dickhead continues to stare as if I killed his first-born. If his first-born is as nasty as him, he probably deserves to die. No, I honestly didn’t just think that. 

“Uhm… appletini please,” I choke out. 

He grunts something and turns to mix my drink. I decide to watch him. You never know. Maybe his other job is delivering mail. He seems on the verge of going postal. I stretch my neck to monitor what exactly goes into my drink. And then I feel a pat on my shoulder and I jump again. Geez! What the hell? Am I destined for a heart attack today? 

But it’s Colin. His smile is nothing short of radiant. My heart does that little flip I know way too well. Steady, I tell myself. Steady, girl. 

“Oh, it’s you,” I sigh in relief, forcing a genuine smile onto my face. 

“You look nice,” Colin says, settling onto a stool next to mine. He doesn’t even realize he spooked me. 

Her Majesty Vagina, Queen of Lust is squealing in delight. I don’t have even an ounce of control over her. How embarrassing. 

“Thank you,” I murmur, horrified at the effect he already has on me. Because the tremors running over my body and the flutter of butterflies in my stomach are undoubtedly a response to Colin’s presence.

“Were you waiting long?” He glances at his watch. “I’m not late, am I?”

“Nah. I just got here.”

The Grumpy Dickhead slams my drink in front of me. The contents almost slosh, but I choose to ignore it. He takes Colin’s order and leaves. 

“What are you drinking?” Colin asks. 

“Appletini. I seem to always stick with appletinis. Unless I drink beer. Or sometimes red wine. Not so much white wine though. I guess, I don’t really care for white wine.” Why am I blabbering like a schoolgirl? It’s time to shut my mouth and dip it into my drink. 

“It sounds like good stuff.” Colin lifts his eyebrows in appreciation. “I need to try it next time.”

“You can try mine now.” Whoa! Where did that come from? That wasn’t my mouth speaking. It was that other body part—the one that always gets so brainlessly excited and doesn’t care about consequences. Stupid vagina. 

Colin wraps his long, slim fingers around the glass stem and unhurriedly lifts it to his mouth. He keeps his eyes on mine while taking a small sip. That’s way too sensual for me to remain calm. My hands start to shake and so do my thighs. I feel my mouth going dry. Dammit, Natalie. Keep it together.

He nods in appreciation. “It tastes great. Gentle but with a kick.”

“Yeah.” I laugh a bit too loud, but I have my fragile nerves to blame. Deep breath—yes, like that. One more. And again. Now close your eyes and say ‘Ohmmm’.

Am I nuts? My reactions to Colin are ridiculous. I’m not desperate for a boyfriend or even for a date, so what’s happening to me? 

Colin seems perfectly content and I realize he hasn’t any clue about my peculiar inner battle. Instead, he smiles, looking at me and asks, “So, your company—how long since you’ve opened it?” He leans his elbow on the counter, watching me. 

The Grumpy Dickhead brings Colin’s beer and gently—I swear, gently—places it in front of him. 

“Ali and I did all the planning and research during college. So when we graduated, we had all the marketing in place, the bank loans secured, computer program running, and such. Our parents loaned some money too. Finally, we rented the office, and the clients started to pour in almost immediately. It’s been non-stop really.”

“That’s such an inimitable concept. Who came up with it?” Lord, those blue eyes aren’t leaving my face, sliding from my own eyes to my mouth and back. How a girl could possibly stay sane under such an intense analysis?

“I came up with the idea kind of randomly. I always get those junk emails from dating services—legit and not so. And it made me think—professionals who work long hours or travel a lot don’t have the time or inclination to look for dates. And it was also that old movie Ali and I watched, Pretty Woman. You know it?”

He laughs. “Yeah. It’s a fun movie. I like it.”

“Richard Gere plays that successful businessman and ends up with Julia Roberts’ character. I remember telling Ali that instead of settling down with a hooker he should have tried some matchmaking service for millionaires. And that’s how the idea started to grow.”  

“And you’re still single? With all those successful young professionals around?” One corner of his mouth lifts in a tiny smile. Is he prying or is he making fun of me? 

I slowly shake my head. “We do not get involved with the clients. It’s against the company’s policy.” There. That’s evasive enough. 

“Would you like another?” He motions to my empty glass. Crap, I drained it way too fast. 

“Uhm… maybe in a moment. I’m good,” I say. 

Another drink would calm my nerves though. Why the hell is he making me unravel and melt inside like this? It feels as if he pulls on some invisible thread that connects straight to my heart. Well, and to that other body part which always starts trouble. 

I begin to panic inside. Maybe Colin is yet another pretty, bad boy who will charm me into his bed with no intentions of anything past that. Haven’t I had enough with the continuous string of heartbreaks? Suddenly I’m not sure what to do. Maybe I should just get the hell out of here and stop making a fool out of myself. But the last thing I need is to act like a complete loony. Running out of the bar would be just that. So I keep my butt in the chair and try very hard to appear unperturbed. 

Dammit, maybe I exaggerate. I bet you think that. What if he just wants to be friends? Yeah, like hell he does. Who am I kidding? No guy wants to be just friends. Unless it’s friends with benefits. Aha, here it is again—the idea Ali put in my head. I know why she suggested it to me. She’s well aware of all the screwed up assholes I somehow seemed to settle on in the last few years. There wasn’t one good guy there. Not even one! She had similar experiences, so her solution is to keep the boundaries, but not give up on fun. The result—a sex buddy. But would Colin be a good fit? No—that’s not the real question here. The real question is this: am I made of the right stuff to do it? 

Either way, I don’t have to decide tonight. I have to calm down and just enjoy his company. After all, he isn’t doing anything wrong. It’s my hormones that decide to take the driver’s seat in his presence. And I can’t blame the suckers. Colin is great looking and seems to be totally easy-going and fun. Oh, hell. 

“Earth to Natalie.” I hear Colin’s voice. 

Crap, I spaced out while having a heated debate with myself. 

“Oh, sorry.” I blush. “Maybe I will have another one of those.” I point to my empty glass. 

He smiles that little sexy grin that makes me want to lean forward and kiss him. What? Where did that come from? I should feel embarrassed. Yeah, I should. But, of course, I don’t.

“And some ice water too,” I add quickly. Yeah, a large enough bucket of ice water so I can stick my whole head in it.

Colin orders for me. This time the Grumpy Dickhead has my drink ready in record time. I excuse myself and go to the bathroom, muttering under my nose about chauvinistic bartenders. On the wall next to the women’s bathroom is a huge framed dry erase board. Dozens of phrases are written on it in colorful markers, each in different handwriting. A small sign next to the frame states:

No Crap. No Contact Info. No Body Parts “Art”. Only Cool Quotes Allowed. Period.

Huh. I start to read. Some are hilarious, some deep, and the others… well, just meh. 

‘You’re A Habit I’d Like To Kick, With Both Feet’

Or, 

‘Beauty Is In the Eye Of The Beholder, And It May Be Necessary From Time To Time To Give A Stupid Or Misinformed Beholder A Black Eye! Miss Piggy’

I step back, take my cell phone out, and snap a picture which I promptly text to Ali, Jena, and Caroline. I look at the wall behind me, next to the men’s restroom, and see a twin framed board with tons of quotes on it. I send a photo of that one to my girlfriends too. I know they would especially appreciate this one: 

‘Getting Married To Get Sex Is Like Buying A 747 To Get Free Peanuts. Jeff Foxworthy’

and a “matching one” on the women’s board: 

‘Men Should Be Like Kleenex: Soft, Strong, And Disposable. Cher’

I chuckle to myself and shake my head. Caroline texts back, asking where I am. I tell her about my date with Colin. Ali and Jena text when I’m inside the bathroom, washing my hands. Why am I not surprised that each of them wishes me to score high. They are under the impression that I’ll get laid tonight. 

I haven’t decided if I want to try out the sex buddy idea that Ali and Jena subscribe to, but even if, I wouldn’t have sex with Colin on the first date. Okay, so you may think I sound like a prude, but hey, a girl has to have some ground rules. My rule is to wait till date four. Yeah, I know, this is very old school of me. But it’s a brand new rule, and I need to test it. Well, he practically saw me half-naked the first time in the office, but I decide it doesn’t count. 

“Did you see the quote boards by the bathrooms?” I ask Colin while climbing onto my barstool. 

“Yeah, this place is famous for it. Some people take it very seriously. They search the internet and libraries for the best quotes to write there.” That sexy little smile is back. 

“Listen, about our first encounter…” I start, tucking a loose stray of my hair behind my ear and biting my lower lip. What? Where did that come from? No, wait… this is good—I want to straight things up, but I wasn’t planning on starting that discussion now. My mouth, as usually, has the mind of her own. 

Colin purses his lips, trying to suppress a bigger smile and waits for me to continue. 

I roll my eyes. “Go ahead, laugh,” I say in disdainful exasperation. 

And so he does, throwing his head back. I can’t help but grin and then join in with my own laughter. He not only puts me at ease, but he also looks sexy as heck. 

“Okay, sorry.” He still chortles. “You have to admit, it was the best first encounter ever.”

“Not for me it wasn’t. It was humiliating.” 

Colin tilts his head and looks at me from under half-closed lids. “You are gorgeous. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. But I get it—running into a stranger and only partially dressed in your office probably wasn’t making you feel great.”

“You’ve got that right.” I press my lips together. “Anyway…”

“Anyway, I dreamed about that bra you wore and what’s in it. More than once.” He smiles a little, watching me, his eyes sparkling.

My mouth drops open, and I can’t quite remember how to close it. When I finally figure out how to work my jaw muscles, he grins at me and puts the appletini glass in my hand. He raises his beer glass and says, “Come on, Natalie. You must have a better sense of humor than that.”

“If this was a sitcom, I would have dumped that drink into your lap.” I take a small sip. 

“I bet you would, you devilishly-tempered woman.”

“Is that even a word?”

“Sure it is.” He shrugs. “You know… I have a feeling that you think I’m one of those scums that only want to get in your pants, and then walk away.”

“You don’t want to get in my pants?” I pretend to be astounded. 

He looks at me for a very long silent moment, his lips gently curling up. He takes my hand in his and kisses my knuckles. He kisses my knuckles! “I want to get to know you, Natalie Davenport, before I allow myself to propose anything as deliciously inappropriate.”

Hell on wheels! My heart goes boing-boing between my stomach and my throat. Ohmigod, I am so freakin’ stunned, that I momentarily forget about any of my men-related apprehensions. I seem to forget a lot of thing around Colin.

“Fair enough.” I force myself not to look away, but, instead, keep my eyes locked with his. Slowly, I start to relax. Not completely, mind you, but enough to enjoy the evening. I really hope he isn’t a charming liar though. I resolve to be cautious and see where things are going before they go too far too fast. After all, he might not be a true bad boy, but an almost bad boy. And that can be potentially as dangerous. 

Colin lowers my hand down onto the counter and covers it with his. Still looking in my eyes and smiling he says quietly, “So what do you like to do in your spare time, besides exposing your half-dressed self to strangers?”

I glare at him and smack his arm. “You will rub it in forever, won’t you?”

“Forever is a very long time. You looked scrumptious enough that day to make me need a splash of cold water over my face.” 

“You could have taken a cold shower. We have one in our office.” I scowl.

“There wasn’t time before the meeting. And I didn’t see any bath towels.” He leans closer and pushes a chunk of my hair behind my ear. His fingers brush sensitive skin by my ear, and my stomach clenches in that delicious way that sends shivers down under my skirt. 

My brain immediately joins in the fool’s parade and produces visions of naked Colin covering my equally naked body in bed, his knee pushing my legs open, his hands lifting my thighs up until my bent knees rest over his shoulders. Okay, Natalie, get your thoughts out of the gutter. I suppress a shiver and take what I hope should pass for a casual sip from my water glass. I have no idea why his touch affects me like this, but I’d be damned to let him know. 

Thankfully, he decides to change the subject and put me out of my misery, bless his heart. “So, what do you like to do in your spare time?”

I shrug. “Well, I work out almost everyday at the gym, run on the weekends, read, spend a lot of time with my girlfriends, stuff like that. And I knit too.”

“Like socks?” He looks baffled. 

“No. Like sweaters. And pretty scarves. Well, I knitted a Christmas sock once, so sure—socks. How about you?”

“I don’t knit, but I’m willing to learn.” He sooo pretends to be serious about this. I have to admit, that’s good acting and funny as hell too, so I laugh. 

I learn that he plays guitar and piano and likes football. What guy doesn’t like football? He also knows how to dance, and that’s a really good prospect for a date. If there is to be another date. 

We both have to work the next day, so I declare the fun-quitting time around 10 p.m. Colin doesn’t object, only smiles and nods in agreement. He calls a taxi, and when it arrives, he opens the pub door for me and holds it until I step outside. Wow, a gentleman. I like that. I actually like all those little things that some women frown upon. Maybe they feel robbed of their feminism-driven personas. But I don’t have that issue. I actually like when a man opens the door for me; or helps me put my coat on; or holds the car door open; little things like that. Maybe it is old school, but that’s just the way I am—a helpless romantic. Which doesn’t mean that if a guy does something absolutely nasty to me, I wouldn’t have the nerve to punch him in the face. Twice. 

Right before we arrive at my apartment building, I turn to Colin and say, “It was really nice. I had a good time.”

He takes my hand in his, turns it so my palm faces up, and, looking straight in my eyes, kisses it. Long. God, it is a long kiss, and my insides turn to mush. My vagina sings Hallelujah!, and my lungs temporarily forget what their major function is, until I turn red in the face and realize I’m holding my breath. 

Continuing to hold my eyes hostage with his, Colin winks and then one corner of his mouth lifts up very slightly. Ohmigod, he looks like some freakin’ god of lust. Eros, Himeros, Pothos, Peitho—how the hell do I even remember all those naughty Greek gods’ names right now? 

“Can I call you sometime?” he whispers. 

Can you? Yes. Yes! Do you really need to ask? “Sure.” I smile sweetly. “You’ve got my number.”

When the taxi stops at my destination, Colin still holds my hand. I squeeze it, and he lets go. He jumps out of the vehicle, runs around the back, and yanks the door open for me. No way! He really does. My mouth usually has a mind of its own, so it opens now but doesn’t say anything. I clamp it shut, scolding my brain for not controlling the situation as it’s outlined in its job description. 

Colin hugs me lightly, and my pulse reaches the red zone. Hell on wheels, either my hormones are out of whack, or that man is irresistible to me. I don’t recall ever being drawn in such a primal way to anyone else before. 

“Sleep well,” he whispers in my hair. He smells faintly of something sensual—sweet and smoky cologne with leather-like undertones. The fragrance is amazing, and I think it is just like Colin—complex and mysterious. 

“You too.” I step out of his embrace, trying to look anywhere but at him. Because if I do, I won’t be able to stop myself from kissing him. And my brand new rule says: not until date number four. Well, that’s about sex, but I suspect if we kiss now, we will end up naked in my bed. 

I walk to the apartment building door, my body shaking from this sexually charged encounter. I enter the code on a small keypad on the wall and get inside. The hallway is dimly lit, and I welcome the lack of brightness, because my eyes feel tired and dry. 

Since I never bother with the elevator, I climb two flights of stairs to my apartment, and not long after, I slide under the covers. A long and loud sound of relief escapes me when my cheek rests on the cool fabric of my pillow. I turn the side lamp off and close my eyes, experiencing almost immediately that blissful feeling of drifting off into nothingness. And then my cell phone rings. 

“Gaaaah!” I growl. “What now?” I consider not answering. Whoever it is, can wait till morning. It was a stupid idea to leave the phone on—and on my bedside table. 

But I reach out and pick the damn thing up. I don’t recognize the number displayed on the screen. “Hallo?” I croak. 

“Natalie.” It’s Colin! 

I’m fully awake in a split second, my heart beating faster.

“I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” he asks, apologetically. 

“No,” I stifle a yawn. “It’s okay.”

“Just wanted to wish you a goodnight.” There it is—that velvety-soft voice with a bit of gruff edges. I want to capture it and keep it locked in a jar.

“That’s sweet. Thank you.” I manage to keep my own voice steady. It wants to quiver, matching my pounding heart. 

“I’ll call you tomorrow. Goodnight, beautiful Natalie.”

“Goodnight,” I choke out. I can’t remember any guy calling me beautiful. Hot, cute, sexy, but not beautiful. Ever. Holy smokes! Can this man get any better?


SEVEN

“I think everybody’s nuts.”John Depp


We creep out from the car and to the side of the house. There are no fences around any of the homes here, so getting close to Catherine’s residence is piece of cake. I tiptoe behind Ali with Svetlana right behind me. We get to the nearest wall and plaster ourselves against it. 



“Now what?” I whisper. 

“Now we need to figure out if there is anyone home. I’ll go and ring the bell,” Ali whispers back. 

I grab her wrist. “Did you lose your marbles? What are you gonna say? Besides, you have to keep that stupid scarf on your face.” 

“Nothing. I won’t wait for the answer. I’ll run.” 

Seriously? I roll my eyes. “Okay, fine. Just come back here before you give me a heart attack.”

Ali skulks to the front door, looks around, and then stands on her tiptoes, trying to see in the window to the left of the door. After a few seconds she glances around again and pushes the button on the wall. She presses her ear to the door, listening. 

I squeal quietly. “Shit, Ali. Get your ass over here. Now.” 

Svetlana steps away from the wall, trying to get Ali’s attention. She motions to Ali to return to us. As predicted, my heart is beating so hard that I start to hyperventilate. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Save it. 

“What the hell is she doing?” I whisper severely. “Ali! Come on!” I move closer to Svetlana and motion to Ali to get back to us.  

Ali turns and gives us two thumbs up. Jesus, what is wrong with her today? Her adrenaline glands must be completely dried out. 

Finally, she walks toward us, retying the scarf over her face. 

I whisper-yell at her, “Are you out of your mind? I almost shit my pants.” 

“Chill, Davenport. Nobody’s home.” She gives me a pointed look. Smart ass bitch. But I love her nevertheless. 

“Are you sure?” Svetlana asks. Her big blue eyes are the same color as her scarf. “Did you hear anything?”

“I heard the cat. Not sure if it was your cat, but a cat nevertheless.”

Svetlana presses her hand to where her mouth is under the blue scarf. “Moya Lenochka malen’kaya. Aeta ona’, Lenochka.” 

“Svetlana, English please.” I raise my eyebrows at her. 

“Lenochka. It must be. She’s there, my little Lenochka,” she says. I think it is a direct translation. 

“Ali.” I turn to my friend. “Are you sure there’s nobody there? Maybe she didn’t hear the door bell?”

“That fucking thing is like a monastery gong.” Ali snorts. “It shook the whole house. If she didn’t hear that, she won’t hear us.”

“Needless to say, that little fact really doesn’t make me feel confident about sneaking inside her house.” I think my whisper conveys well the frustration level I’m experiencing, and my features are probably arranged in a similar way as a face of a mother whose kids just did something nuts. 

“Come on.” Ali pulls on my jacket sleeve as if she didn’t hear or see me. “We might not have much time.”

“And that definitely doesn’t improve your previous statement.” I grunt. 

“Maybe the back door is open?” Svetlana offers. She also acts as if I’m transparent and mute. Some friends I have. 

Both Ali and I turn to look at Svetlana. Ali nods. “Let’s try it first.” 

I’m doomed but I have to stick with them, so together we creep around the back. The house is massive, and it takes us a while to get to the backyard. Dim outdoor lights are on, and a bit of interior light filters through the half-opened blinds from somewhere deep inside the house. Huge windows in the back allow an unobstructed view of the Lake. I look toward the water and see a speedboat moored by a nice chunk of the waterfront. I whistle to myself, thinking of how nice it would be to take it for a spin, especially with Colin.  

Carefully, we peek in the windows, but that part of the house is dark, allowing us to assume there isn’t anyone in there. Although, Catherine or someone else might actually be in another area of the house. 

I tap Ali on the shoulder. “Let’s hide in the bushes by the corner of the house and throw a pebble at the window.”

“Okay.” She nods. 

I tell Svetlana what we’re going to do. The two of us tiptoe back. Ali bends down and picks something up—must be a pebble. She throws it at the first floor window, swings her arm back again and throws another pebble at one of the second floor windows. Bent at the waist, she runs in our direction. We grab her, and the three of us peek from around the corner, listening.

Nothing. We look at one another. Svetlana motions to Ali and me to follow her. A moment later, she’s by the back door, picking the lock. Fuck! Really? 

“Svetlana!” I whisper-yell. “What the hell are you doing?”

“It’s easy. Look.” She shows me how to pick the lock. O-kay. Should I add this to my resume?

We hear a tiny meow. Another. I try to see where it comes from, but it’s too dim inside. 

“There!” Svetlana points. 

I follow her finger and see something wiggling by the massive granite island in the middle of the kitchen. Must be the kitten. Is she tied up to the bar stool under that? At that point, Svetlana pushes the glass door open, and all three of us freeze. No alarm, no beeping of any kind. Phew, we are in luck. We get in and quietly close the door behind us. 

Svetlana rushes to the kitchen island and squats down on the floor. “Maya malen’kaya,” she coos in Russian, picking up the tiny bundle of red-and-white fur. 

The kitten meows repetitively. Svetlana continues to fuss with it, while Ali and I look around the amazing kitchen in awe. 

“Look what money can buy,” Ali says under her breath, or, rather, from under her scarf. 

“I could get use to this.” I grin, running my fingers over the subzero fridge. “But we better go. Svetlana, get the cat and scoot.” I turn to look at her and right behind her see something peculiar. “What the…”

Ali follows my eyes and quickly walks into the adjacent room. In the corner, by the ornate fireplace stands a statue of a giant-proportioned black phallus. Ali and I stop in front of it and lift our heads to see to the top. The freakin’ thing is more than eight feet tall. 

“Where the hell do you even buy something like this? On the Internet?” Ali asks, amused. 

“Imagine the delivery guys setting this up.” I chuckle. “I would pay to see that scene.”

Next comment from Ali makes me avert my eyes from the oversized manhood on pedestal. Although, I do it somehow reluctantly. “Crap. Look around, Nat.” 

There are dozens of phalluses of various sizes, shapes, and colors all over the room: on the fireplace mantel, on the shelves, on the side tables by the sofa. Heck—even right behind the sofa stands another gigantor. This one is multicolored and it looks as if someone splashed several buckets of multicolored paint over it. 

Svetlana stands next to me, holding the kitty in her arms. “Would you say this is art?” She points to the colorful dick. 

Ali smirks, and I grin at her. “It might be to you and me. But something tells me Catherine likes her art practical, to be blunt.”

Ali hoots and claps her hands. She wants to go wander through the house to see what other man-part-inspired art we can find in Catherine’s possession. But I grab her by the elbow and drag her toward the door. “We have to go. Come on, we are freakin’ trespassing.” 

When she backs away from me and straight onto the black phallus, the thing dangerously wobbles. Ali turns in surprise, and I rush to steady it. Her arms end up wrapped around the questionable object. Svetlana and I burst in giggles, and Ali joins in. I take my cell phone out and snap a picture of her. She poses for me, and I laugh so hard, the tears start streaming down my face. 

And then we hear the front door open, and people talking. 

“Oh shit,” I whisper and frantically look around for a place to hide.


THREE


“You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely”



Anonymous

Helga and her three friends squeeze through the crowd in our direction. When she sees us, she grins big and says to me, “Come outside with us. You too, Colin.”

We look at each other, shrug, and then follow the elderly ladies. I notice that Melba moves rather quickly and her gait is curiously steady for someone who needs a walker.

Stella points to Melba, as if she heard my thoughts and, leaning close to my ear, says, “You would think she ought to use that walker, huh? She does when she wants some young guys to help her cross the street.” Stella laughs, and her laugh is contagious. “Once, Melba was walking on the sidewalk, leaning on that stupid walker, when some asswipe grabbed her purse and tried to tug it out of her hand. But Melba is strong like a bull. She pulled the purse out of the guy’s grasp, threw the hot coffee from her walker holder in his face, and then beat him up with that walker.”

“Are you serious? Well, remind me to never try to steal her purse then.” I chuckle.

“No kidding. She can do some serious damage regardless of being eighty-one,” Stella adds.

I like Stella. She acts like a twenty-something would. She’s hilarious and so are her friends, Helga included.

We step outside into the backyard, and Helga motions for all of us to sit down in the plastic patio chairs. There is a stack of blankets on one of the chairs, and everyone grabs one to fend off the evening chill. Colin wraps a large, thick blanket around my shoulders and then reaches to get his own. 

Helga tells Colin to bring the whisky bottle and the glasses from the inside. She takes out a small, metal container from her pocket. It is flat and ornately decorated. She opens it and passes it around. Each of the elderly ladies takes what looks like a joint, and my jaw drops to the floor. Holy Mother of Sweet Jesus, what else might the little old ladies surprise me with? 

When the container makes its way to me, I politely decline, much to the elderly women’s disappointment. Colin comes back, carrying a tray with glasses and a bottle of whisky. He puts it down on the small table and asks me what I would like to drink.

“Nothing right now, thanks. But later maybe you can make me an appletini.” I squeeze his arm.

“Of course.” He kisses my cheek and declines the joint as well.

“He doesn’t smoke anything. Never has,” Helga explains, lighting up.

It’s really comical to watch this group drink and smoke and listen to them talk. They are as funny as hell and a completely rare commodity.

Agatha pokes Stella, pointing to her joint, “Yours is crooked, just like your late husband’s dick was.”

“As if you knew his dick.” Stella snorts and takes a deep drag from her joint. “It was a good dick, no complaints here.”

“You told me it was crooked,” Agatha insists, waving her bony, wrinkled arm around.

“Maybe I was drunk. Hell, or maybe you’re making this shit up, girlfriend.” Stella shrugs, grinning. “Your late husband probably didn’t have a dick at all, since you were always so freakin’ whiny. Jeez, nothing would shut her up, remember, girls?” Shaking her head She turns to Melba, and her loose jowls shake

“Don’t even remind me. She would bitch and bitch, and I told her to find another guy, but no! Not Agatha.” Melba shakes her head.

Helga laughs. “Remember when we took Agatha to the lake?”

They all burst out in laughter, hooting and clapping in delight. I look at Colin and smile. He grins back and whispers in my ear, “Just listen. This gets really good. I’ve heard these stories countless times, but it never gets old.”

The women laugh so hard, they start wheezing and gasping for air, even Agatha who’s the subject of this funny tale.

Stella fans herself with her hand and, looking at me chokes out, “Oh, it was a long time ago, but it is still so funny. Okay, so what year was that, girls? Nineteen fifty six, right?”

“Fifty eight,” Agatha corrects Stella.

“No, it wasn’t,” Melba argues. “It was nineteen sixty. I remember like it was today, because the first Playboy club opened in Chicago, the bunnies and all. I wanted to go and see it for myself so badly, but of course the dear husband wouldn’t hear of it.”

“I thought you were going to say JFK won primary in West Virginia,” Stella gives Melba a pointed look.

“Oh, please. Don’t pretend to be such a self-righteous prude. We all wanted to be the Playboy bunnies, don’t deny it.” Melba huffs.

Stella looks in silence at Melba for a several heartbeats, and then shrugs. “Okay, fine. JFK won the primary, no argument here. He was a heartthrob anyway, easy on the eyes and all. But let’s continue with that damn story now.”

Helga jumps in and takes over the storytelling. “Agatha was complaining that her man ignores her. We asked her what she wears to bed, and she said just some comfy, old flannel pajamas. Helga took her shopping and chose some naughty but really pretty lingerie for her. Then, we convinced Agatha to put on the lingerie when we go to have a picnic somewhere. We said it’s to get used to wearing it, so she wouldn’t feel self-conscious when the time comes to seduce her hubby. And so she put it on. With a dress over it of course.”

This time Melba takes over retelling the story, “We wanted to have a picnic in the park by the lake, and when Agatha agreed to wear her new sexy underclothes, we arranged for some young guys from the shoe factory to come to the park and hide in the bushes.”

“We had to pay the suckers, so they would do as told,” Helga explains in her thick German accent and then takes a healthy sip of whisky, motioning for Melba to continue.

“We’re sitting on the blanket with the food and drinks nicely arranged in the center when Stella spills red wine all over Agatha’s dress,” Melba carries on.

“You all were such vicious bitches,” Agatha says, laughing.

“Sure, sure. Like you didn’t get a kick out of that little arrangement.” Stella waves her hand dismissively. “By the way, just so you know,” she looks at me and Colin, “that was many many years ago when Agatha was still curvy and hot.”

That earns Stella a smack on the head from Agatha. “At least at some point I was curvy and hot while you’ve never experienced such luxury.”

“She’s never been curvy.” Melba shakes her head. “She’s just been less wrinkly, that’s all.”

“Listen, listen,” Helga attempts to quiet everyone, which isn’t easy since Melba, Stella, and Agatha howl in laughter. “This gets really good. When Stella spilled that wine—and may I say it was not an accident—Agatha was livid because it was her favorite dress. She takes it off and says she needs to rinse it in the lake before the dye from wine sets in. She marches to the lake in her hot and skimpy lingerie, and the factory guys jump out of the bushes, pretending to take pictures of her. You shoulda heard her scream while running off into the woods!”

By now the four of them are laughing so hard, I’m afraid they will get hurt. I can’t help but chuckle too, and I see a big grin on Colin’s face as well. He slowly shakes his head, amused.

“We could tell you some hilarious stories from our youth,” Melba says, still giggling in her high-pitch voice.

“From our youth? Like there is nothing crazy going on almost every day with us?” Stella lights her joint again and raises her glass. “Happy birthday, Helga.”

Everyone follows Stella, and we all clink glasses—Colin and I have just water in ours. I look at the old ladies and realize they remind me so much of the group of my closest friends: Caroline, Ali, and Jena—and our newest addition, Svetlana. Are we gonna be still that close some fifty plus years from now? I can only hope so.

Helga stands up and says, “I’m going inside for a bit. I better mingle before all those guests forget it’s my birthday we’re celebrating today.”

Colin pulls me to my feet and wraps his arm possessively around my waist. “Come on. I want to show you the tree house.”

“The tree house?” I ask, surprised.

“My second husband built it for Colin when the kid was about eight. Ah, that man could do so much with his hands.” Helga sighs, opening the back door to the house. “Go, show her. I wish I could still climb up that tree. From what I remember, it was a great hide-a-way.”

A.O. Peart left beautiful but rainy Seattle for sunny but hot Arizona in summer 2015. She writes in several genres including romantic comedy, romantic suspense, dark contemporary, and paranormal.


Angela lives with her family and a chronically curious cat Cinnamon who behaves like a dog. 
You can often spot her in one of the Starbucks locations, feverishly typing on her computer and sipping coffee with cream–or rather, cream with some coffee in it. Don’t be surprised when a paperback you ordered from her arrives “decorated” with coffee and chocolate stains (kidding!)

To learn about the upcoming releases, giveaways, book signing events, and more, subscribe to the author’s newsletter: http://bit.ly/AOPeart_News


To help promoting the Almost Bad Boys series re-release, please subscribe to the author’s Promotional List: http://eepurl.com/RuvLX. You will only receive one email with a link to share. By sharing, you will be entered into a $15 Amazon gift card giveaway.

HOSTED BY:

Chapter Reveal – Enzo

 Title: Enzo

Series: Jinx Tattoos Book 1

Author: Shyla Colt

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Available Everywhere: September 30, 2016

Neglected, abandoned by a heroin-addicted mother, and placed in foster care at ten, Enzo Jordan has learned one thing…love hurts. At thirty-five, he has a successful tattoo shop and his choice of women. The one-night stands are getting old, and the love he holds for his best friend, Aibhlinn is impossible to hide. When the attraction between them reaches a boiling point, he’s forced to choose between facing his fears and walking away. 

Aibhlinn Leahy has been in love with her best friend for years. The Irish-born comic book artist has poured time, energy, and love into the wounded man. His choice to walk away breaks her heart but frees her to explore a new future.

Life is a cruel and amazing thing. An abandoned baby brings the two back together, and they’re forced to examine the love that has long existed between them. This is a story of pain, scars, and fear. We all have demons to battle. The real decision is who’s in control…us or them?

*** Enzo is Book One in the Jinx Tattoos Series but is a STAND ALONE novel***


Enzo Chapter One


Enzo

The alarm mocked him as he woke to limbs tangled with his own. The blonde from the night before snuggled into his side. He ran a hand through his hair and rested his head on the pillow. Overnights weren’t his norm, but waking up alone on today of all days wasn’t an option. He had a love-hate connection with the day of his birth, and thirty-four was too old to deal with shit with liquor. So…he fucked in excess and kept his liquor consumption to a minimum instead. Normally, he would be ready to go for round three, but all he wanted was silence…some peace. He moved away from the blonde and rolled from the bed, ready to wash away the night before.


“Time to go home, sweetheart,” he said.


She stretched her arms above her head, letting her blanket fall to her lap. Her perky breasts were perfection and obviously fake.


Still, Enzo took a moment to appreciate her investments.


“You sure I can’t tempt you into breakfast?” she purred.


“Positive, got somewhere to be.”


She pouted her plump red lips.

What kind of makeup shit lasts overnight? The thought of the chemicals involved made him shudder. “As amazing as you were last night, I’ll have to pass.”


She huffed and tossed the blankets aside, swinging her shapely legs over the side of the bed as she stood. She was petite, tanned, toned, and plastic. It made her easy to look at, have a good time with, and say good-bye to.


Not that he ever felt bad. She knew what she was getting into, they all did. He made it clear he didn’t do seconds and wasn’t looking for more than a mutual exchange of pleasure. Still, some of them seemed to think they would win some magical lottery, and things would change in the morning. He’d seen Tracee around the tattoo shop a million times. She was an ink chaser.

She wanted a tattoo artist for an old man in the worst way. He made it clear she was barking up the wrong tree, but she kept coming around. He wasn’t looking to have a significant other, and her desperation to land someone who would take care of her made his skin crawl. This would kill two birds with one stone.

“You’re a real ass, Enzo, you know that?” Tracee asked as she poured her body back into her skin-tight black dress.


“You already knew that, though, Trace. We knew this wasn’t more than a night of fun.”

She cocked her hip and narrowed her eyes. “You sure about that, sweetheart? We had a lot of fun. Imagine that in your bed every night.”


“Not looking for that, Trace,” he said with a shrug.


“Would you say the same thing if I had my head stuck in a book and my body covered from head to toe?” Tracee scoffed.

“What the fuck did you say?” Enzo asked, stepping forward.

The color drained from her face. She snatched up her sky-high heels and fled. “Nothing, see you around,” she muttered, skittering out the door before he could respond.


People wondered about him and his best friend, Aibhlinn. They didn’t think a man and a woman could be friends without jumping in the bed together. His theory was the exact opposite. Sex ruined things. It broke up lifelong relationships, made people paranoid, and upset the natural order you first had before romance entered the picture. No, his spitfire Irish lass with the piercing blue-green eyes and flowing chestnut mane would remain off limits forever.


The very thought of her made him smile. Even on his darkest day, she never failed to bring him a little happiness. He walked to the front door of his house and locked the door behind Tracee. A quick glance at the clock told him he had about thirty minutes to get his ass into gear. He walked back over the maple hardwood floor and into the bathroom. The white on white tiles and glass shower enclosure made the room appear more open and easy to get into and out of, which made the space tolerable.

Turning on the hot water, he sank onto the bench at the far end of the massive stall and let the gathering steam clear his pores and his muddled head. Lack of sleep and beer had him feeling sluggish. After a few minutes, he rose to his feet, stepped under the spray, quickly soaped down, and rinsed off.


He was pulling on his plaid button up when the doorbell rang. A few moments later, the lock turned.


“You decent, birthday boy?” Aibhlinn called with that slight lilt he’d grown to love.


“Yeah, I’m coming out now,” Enzo called back. He appeared in the doorway and smiled.


Dressed in a pair of black skinny jeans that hugged her thick thighs, and large ass, she was mouthwatering.


Off limits didn’t mean he couldn’t admire her assets. An off the shoulder Pink Floyd sweater displayed tantalizing porcelain flesh. She had her hair pulled up into a messy bun that showed off her long, slender neck.


“You ready to go?” she asked.


“What? No breakfast?” he shot back.


She rolled her eyes. “Smart ass. We’ll be back for that later. If you don’t hurry, we’ll miss the sunrise.”


He nodded his head and walked toward her, wrapping an arm around her waist as they hugged. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Thanks for coming, Ave.”


“Where else would I be?” she whispered.

Anywhere, with someone worthy of your time and affection. It was his deepest fear. That she would enter a romantic relationship and their friendship would go by the wayside. It was selfish wanting her to remain his number one girl…she deserved more. It worked for them now. They were both artists obsessed by the act of creating.

The years were passing swiftly, and she’d gone from unknown to sought after in her career field. First come loves, and then comes marriage. He snarled, pushing the thought of the day she, too, left him far in the background of his brain.

“Come on, I’ll drive,” she said, pulling him to the door.

He allowed her to manipulate him.

At five-foot-eleven, she still lacked the strength to move him if he resisted. Along with fucking, he liked to workout. It kept his head from getting overcrowded and allowed him a healthy way to work out his frustrations. Locking the door behind them, he followed her to the black SUV.


She hit the fob and unlocked the door.


Enzo was at the driver’s side, opening her door before she could protest. He knew how to treat a woman. He wasn’t so fucked up that he felt a sick need to use and abuse them. His mother, the angel who adopted him and straightened his ass out, would skin him alive if he ever went that route.


“Thanks, Enz,” she said, climbing into her seat.


He made his way to the passenger side then leaned his head back against the headrest, and zoned out as she pulled out of his driveway and headed for their destination.


Fog hung in the air, creating a thin layer of white. The haze turned the massive structure that was their destination into something mystical, or creepy, depending on how one looked at it. Bundled against the fall chill, they made their way from the car and into Ault Park, in the direction of the pavilion.


After the climb, his eyes drank in the frosted landscape. He shoved his hands in his pockets.


This park held good and bad memories. His birth mother brought him here many times. Originally, he thought it was because she was a good mother who loved the outdoors and knew he loved to be among the beauty the park offered. As he grew, he understood it was a public place to get her fix. No one thought twice of a man, a woman, and a child walking through the woods.


He would never forget the first time his brain registered the cash she gave Uncle Ian was for drugs. The tiny brown squares were heroin. They’d found her body here on his sixteenth birthday, needle still in her arm, eyes vacant, and body cold. She’d turned a day he already loathed into something even worse.


He inhaled, embracing the chilly air that crept down his throat and into his chest.


The ache meant he was alive. That he’d survived against the odds. Thinking of the days scrounging for food in garbage cans, stealing from the stores, and running drugs for dope boys to feed his starving gut…he shuddered. She’d always saved the most fucked up shit for his birthday, like an anti-birthday gift. That last day she’d left and never returned was his twelfth birthday.

He bowed his head in solemn remembrance. All the bullshit made it hard for a guy to feel joy on the day he came into the world and landed in a pile of festering shit. But that’s not where I am now. He glanced over at the woman standing beside him as the sky yielded from an inky blue to a purple, and a dusky orange. The sun’s rays turned everything golden, and for that moment in time, things were clean and new. The world was a hopeful place. The darkness was banished.


“Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay,” he whispered, quoting Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. There was a man who understood how to live in the moments before dawn ended. He hadn’t gotten there yet.

Ava tangled her fingers with his, and he let her. She was a blazing white light in the murkiness. His Irish angel on his shoulder, constantly encouraging him to do better, insisting he reach for his dreams, and repeatedly telling him he was worthy. She was the best present he’d ever received, on the same day his mother left this Earth. Perhaps that’s why he liked having her with him on his birthday.



Past

He sat in the back of the room, sketching in the expensive pad Mrs. Jordan had purchased for him as a birthday gift. As far as foster parents went, Karen and her husband Bill were one of the rare ones. Not only were they decent, they seemed to enjoy having him and the other boys there. The children who moved in and out were more than a paycheck; they were a chance to change lives. He thought it was an act at first. Now, he understood they were the genuine article. He’d been here six months, and other than bumping heads on being accountable for his whereabouts, it had been fairly smooth sailing. The high school was the same as any other, but he dug the art teacher, Ms. Leahy. The Irish woman with bright red hair, blue eyes, and a melodic accent encouraged him to hone his skills.

She said he had the potential to be a great artist. It was something he’d never really heard before. Writing and poetry were a means to escape from the shitty surroundings he often found himself trapped in. Artists and writers understood pain in the intimate way a boxing coach knew the mechanics of fighting.


“Hey, that’s good.”

He continued to darken the area of the crow’s wing.


“Hey, did you hear me?”


Peering up, he found himself lost in an ocean of an intense blue-green gaze. He blinked and took in the entire package.

The girl leaning over his shoulder was dressed from head to toe in a black dress with black tights and tall black boots. Her deep red lipstick stood out against her pale face and made her hair look more red than brown.


“You talking to me?” he asked.


“Yeah. I like the way you’re shading that in,” she replied, gesturing toward the paper.


“Uhh, thanks?”


She laughed. “That’s about the usual response to me.” She held out her hand. “Aibhlinn Leahy, I’m Ms. Leahy’s daughter. I just transferred to this high school.”


So, she didn’t know to stay away from the degenerate foster boy yet. “Enzo,” he said, quickly shaking her hand.


“Ahh, it’s nice to meet someone else around here with a unique name.”


He snorted. Heads turned to glance back at them. He scowled, and they faced forward. “Look, you’re new here, so you don’t know any better. But…I should warn you. Being seen with me will get you labeled as an outcast.”


“And now, you’ve intrigued me,” she said with a smile that showed the tiny dimple in her right cheek.


He shook his head, not willing to be the bad boy to some good girl gone wrong. “I should also mention, I don’t like people.”

“Oh, you’ll like me, I promise.” She sank onto the seat beside him and set down her pad. “You like comics?”

He blinked, trying to keep up with her crazy topic jumps. “Yeah.”


She opened her page. “Me too.


The impressive comic strip of Wolverine made him whistle. “You did this?”


“Yeah, need to work on my shading in certain areas. Which is why your work caught my eye.”

So, it’d been a self-serving thing. That he could understand. “Your detail is on point. I could use some pointers.”


“Then I’ll help you and you can help me,” she offered.


“Deal.”

He had no way of knowing it was the start of a lifelong relationship that would in many ways define him as a man.


Present


Aibhlinn


After they returned from Ault Park, Aibhlinn studied Enzo from beneath her lashes. He seemed more sullen this year than he had previously. “What’s wrong?” she asked, setting his bowl of steel cut oats and toast in front of him.


“You know I hate my birthday,” Enzo replied, and pushed the oats around with his spoon like a petulant child.

His pouty expression was adorable. She tried not to smile at the picture he presented. It was all too easy to imagine what little Enzo looked like once upon a time. “No, this feels like more than that,” she said, frowning.

He glanced up at her and sighed. “We’re getting old.”

She snorted. “Speak for yourself, grandpa. We’ve barely hit our thirties.”

“Yeah, but you know how fast time flies. We’ll blink, and it’ll be our forties.”


“So?” she asked, shaking her head.


He shrugged. “Makes a person wonder what their contribution to the world is, or why they were brought here in the first place.”

“What about Jinx Tattoos? You guys are taking names and kicking ass. You just did an interview with the local paper. That’s not something a mediocre shop does,” she said.

“Yeah, I mean, business wise I’m doing okay, just…”


“Ahh, so we’re talking about an ailment of a spiritual nature, then?”


“Ave.”


“What? If it’s not logical, it’s of the heart. Why do you always get antsy when I mention this?”

“Because I don’t know if I believe in this shit. I mean, what kind of God lets all this crap happen to innocent people”


“One who believes in free will. He allows us to do what we choose, even when it’s soul killing and bat shit crazy acts.”

“Why?”

“Because, if He didn’t, we’d be nothing more than puppets. This forces us to be accountable for our actions.”

“You believe that? After everything?” he asked.

She sighed. “After what happened to my father you mean? Yes. He made bad decisions, and it cost him his life. Catalyst being, my mother got out of there and made a better life for us.” Her heart turned to lead as she thought about her father and his obsession with purifying Ireland. They’d lost him to a bomb. He lived by the gun, and he died by it. Her mother had distanced herself from his associates and casually applied for a working visa. The rest was history.


“I’m sorry.” He set his spoon down and placed his hand over hers. “That was shitty of me.”

She shook her head. “No, it’s okay. You asked an honest question. I try not to think about that too much, Enzo. It’s no use rehashing a past none of us can change. If anything, I used it as a model for what not to do. We can’t control the things that happen to us. But we can decide what to do with the rest of our life afterward.”


“You make it sound so damn easy, Ave.”


“Ack, I never said that. I’m a bag full of crazy on a good day and fully aware I’m a thirty-four-year-old comic book author who has a sorely lacking social life, a D.O.A. love life, and very few friends.”

“You’re brilliant, and you know it,” Enzo countered.


She laughed. “To you maybe.”

“More than me. I’ve watched you work your ass off to get where you are. I remember when you were pounding the pavement submitting your resume everywhere, doing any sort of pro bono work you could to get your name out there. You worked a bevy of craptastic jobs to support yourself while you went after your dream. Now, you’re well on your way to achieving them. Own that shit.”

Heat rushed to her cheeks, and she glanced away. She would never possess his swagger. Some days her plentiful contracts felt like a streak of good luck, though she had the work history to prove it to be anything but that.


“One day some man is going to swoop in and whisk you away from me. Then who’ll be here to call me on my shit?”

“Your mother, and come on, you know that’s never going to happen. I’ll always have time for you.” It could be you if you’d let yourself try with me.

“Even after you get hitched and pop out a few babies?” He met her gaze, pinning her to the spot with his thoughtful expression.

Something she couldn’t name crossed his face.


“Well, thank you for marrying me off and knocking me up.”


“What? We both know you’re dying to have kids.”


“With the right man…someday, yes. At this point, I’ve never had a relationship make it to the one year mark. I’m a lot to handle, and it’s going to take one hell of a man to get me even half as well as you do.” She willed him to finally see what was in front of him. They were a key and lock, made to fit and always working in tandem. It was a rarity.

“We’re not getting any younger, Ave. That day is coming around the corner.”


Unless you step up to the plate. She glanced out the window, afraid he would see the longing in her eyes. Maybe he’s trying to tell me we are never going to happen and I need to move on without him. And my ass is too stupid to realize it. “I don’t feel the crush of age the way you do. I think it’ll happen organically. Life has a way of putting you on the right path eventually. For now, I’m in love with my life. I love my vintage two-bedroom apartment in the charming historic building. The freedom of being a freelancer, and the point I’ve reached in my career. Why borrow trouble worrying about what may or may not happen?”


“Just like that?” Enzo snapped.

“No, it’s a conscious choice I make daily. You know I live in my head. I’ve been in the dark before…really deep. I’m trying not to return there. I didn’t like it much the first time.”


Enzo nodded and shoveled a spoonful of oats into his mouth. He was a brooding thinker, her creative best friend. Most only saw the successful tattoo artist with a hot bod, and what they took for a short fuse. While he might have some anger issues about certain events, he never flew off the handle or did anything impulsive. He was a brooder. A deep thinking individual who camouflaged his sensitivity with humor, crassness, and walls.


She’d scaled them one by one over the years, but an unbreakable obstacle remained. She forced herself to eat her breakfast. Times like this, it was best to let the silence remain between them. His birthdate was always rough. She never really understood why he wanted her with him. He never went into detail, simply saying it made him feel better.

She was a sucker that way, not wanting to bring up painful memories of his past. Maybe I should practice tough love? How could she when the majority of his formative years had been hell? The things that happened to you in the first five years shaped your life forever, she knew that more than most.


They finished their meal, and she took the plates away, washing them by hand to give herself time to figure out how to best approach him.

“So what movie are we starting with?” she asked, wiping the kitchen island down. The horror movie marathon had grown legendary. People would show up with birthday offerings, popcorn, candy, and snacks. He celebrated the traditional way with family the day after his birthday. This day was just for them.

“The bloodier, the better,” he answered.

“Hmmm, classic or modern?”

He leaned in closer. “That depends on what you have in mind.”

“Dead Alive or Saw, the first film.”

“Hmmm. Dead Alive. I could use a bit of laughter with my gore.”

“Excellent choice. Morning margaritas?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow up.

He laughed. “Yeah right.”


She laughed with him and retrieved a bottle of scotch and two glass tumblers. Setting the personalized glasses onto the counter that she’d brought back from Ireland on a visit, she moved to the fridge for the ice. “You get the movie cued up, and I’ll be in a minute,” she said.


“On it.”


Aibhlinn then pulled out the plastic black ice tray and cracked the round ball of ice out of its mold. Setting one gently into a glass, she repeated the process, proud of the habits Enzo picked up from her. Her love of fine whiskey was another trait she’d inherited from her father. Back home, people took their drinks quite seriously. While her mother could drink with the best of them, she wasn’t as particular on her pick of poison.

She poured them both a healthy dollop and placed them—along with the bottle—onto a chocolate wood breakfast tray she’d bought. It was amazing how many of her touches she could see throughout his house. If she’d left it up to him, the place would still be a barren bachelor’s pad. The man could be his own worst enemy. It was like he didn’t believe he deserved happiness. She entered the room, set the tray on the black table in front of the couch, and sank onto the soft grey cushion.


“You ready?” he asked.


“Let the horrorathon begin,” she replied solemnly with a nod.


He snickered and pressed play.


As the movie began, she tucked her legs under her and leaned into his side. It was the only time she could get this close casually. His body exuded heat, and the scent of something dark and delicious seeped from his pores. She knew the brand of body wash he used, but it was something about his chemistry that turned the scent into an indescribable buffet for the senses. Content, she let herself get lost in the movie.


“The nineties gave us such great one liners,” Enzo noted as the priest showed off his ninja assassin skills while claiming to kick ass for the Lord.

She laughed. “Well, yeah, but so did Peter Jackson. He’s a special kind of sick and twisted, though he hides it well these days. I mean, Meet the Feebles?”


“Truth. I’d like to see him do another horror movie.”


“It’ll never happen. He knows where his bread and butter lies,” she said.


“That’s the double edge sword of fame I suppose. When you’re just making a name, you’re not expected to do anything in particular. The world is your playground, and the only limitation is your imagination. Then you get recognition, get labeled, and wind up stuck in a box. He’s still making Lord of the Ring films how many years later?”

“I don’t know, he has a cult film following, too, though. That’s something to be proud of. Plus, there was District 9. That was a step back toward those movies where he really flexed his creative muscles and stepped ‘outside of the box’,” she said using air quotes.

“Yeah, that’s true. I forgot about that one. I actually liked it a lot.”


“I know. I did, too.” She smiled up at him.

“Well, you do tend to have pretty good taste.”

“Shut up, I’m awesome,” she retorted.

“Yeah, you are. Thanks for hanging with me.”


“Hey, traditions are meant to be kept,” she replied, careful to keep things light.

They returned their attention to the movie, and she allowed herself to enjoy his closeness.


A knock sounded on the door halfway through the movie.

Enzo pressed pause. “Got to be Rhys. No one else gets up this early.”


“I’ll get it,” Aibhlinn said, eager to put some distance between the two of them. It was a little too easy to pretend things between them could be romantic behavior. She peered out the window above the door and grinned at the sight of the blond male with green eyes. The baby of the brothers, he had a lightheartedness about him. She opened the door. “Rhys.”


“Aibhlinn,” Rhys cried, sweeping her up into his arms.


“I told you about treating her like a doll,” Enzo barked from the couch.

Aibhlinn giggled.


“Should we royally piss him off, then?” Rhys asked.


She nodded her head.


“When are you going to let me make an honest woman out of you?” Rhys asked, loud enough for Enzo to hear.


“I don’t know. What do you have to offer?” Aibhlinn asked in a sultry voice.


“Okay, seriously?” Enzo grumbled.


She and Rhys laughed.


“What? I only came here to see Aibhlinn,” Rhys defended.


“No way, man, it’s my day. Get your own girl,” Enzo growled.

Rhys’ eyes widened.

Aibhlinn quickly looked away, ignoring the blood that rushed to her face.

“I am,” Rhys said.

“Pain in my ass,” Enzo stated as his voice drew near. He entered the living room and scowled at his brother who held out a bag.


“Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s from Mom.”


“And she told you to bring it to me at the ass crack of dawn?” Enzo asked.


“She said first thing, and then proceeded to call me to make sure.”

“What is it?” Enzo asked.

“No clue, bro. She gave it to me last night when I was over there for dinner. Happy womb liberation day.”

“Thanks,” Enzo grumbled.


“Well, I’ll let you two do whatever it is you do when you’re together,” Rhys said.

Enzo rolled his eyes. “I’m starting to think you have a crush on my girl for real,” Enzo accused, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.

“All I’m saying is, Netflix and Chill has led to many babies, so please be safe,” Rhys teased.

Enzo stepped forward.


Rhys moved back, laughing. “I’m headed to the gym now. I got an early appointment that’ll take a good chunk of my day up.”


“Where do they want it?” Enzo asked.


“A back piece. Luckily, it’s not their first. I always cringe when first times come in and try to do a back piece in one sitting.” Rhys shook his head.

Enzo snorted. “Call me if you need anything.”


“We won’t, and if we do, I’m calling Noah. It’s your day.” Rhys and Enzo fist bumped. “See you soon, pretty girl,” Rhys said, giving her a hug before he disappeared out the door.

She spun around. “Open the bag.”


He laughed and removed the red tissue paper. “Oh, man, she did good.” He pulled out a bulky box set. “We are watching Kill Bill next.”

She leaned in and read the description. It was a gift set featuring Quentin Tarantino’s best and bloodiest. “I love your mom. She’s so cool.”

“Trust me, the feeling is mutual with your mom. Come on, let’s finish our movie before we’re interrupted again.” Enzo led her back into the living room.


Once again, she was lost to her thoughts of what if. Enzo was the sun. She had no choice but to keep circling him.


We fight it down, and we live it down, or we bear it bravely well,

But the best men die of a broken heart for the things they cannot tell.



“Things We Dare Not Tell” ~Henry Lawson



Translations:



A leanbuh (uh LAN-uv): My child

Shyla Colt grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but has lived a variety of different places thanks to her wanderlust, interesting careers, and marriage to a United States Marine. She’s always loved books and wrote her very first novel at the age of fifteen. She keeps a copy of her first submission letter on her desk for inspiration. After a lifetime of traveling, she settled down and knew her time had come to write. Diving into her new career like she does everything else, with enthusiasm, research and a lot of prayers, she had her first book published in June of 2011. As a full-time writer, stay at home mother, and wife, there’s never a dull moment in her household.She weaves her tales in spare moments and the evenings with a cup of coffee or tea at her side and the characters in her head for company. A self-professed rebel with a pen. Her goal is to diversify romance as she continues to genre hop, and offer up strong female characters.

HOSTED BY:

Sneak Peek – Neighbor Dearest


NEIGHBOR DEAREST
(A standalone)
Release date: 8/15/2016

A Contemporary Romance Novel

New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Penelope Ward

***

Are you ready for Neighbor Dearest by Penelope Ward? The author has provided Chapter 1 for your sneak peek!

Read Chapter 1 Here:
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/653a5a8a7ab1ee6768e90841e/files/ND_FIRST_CHAPTER.pdf

★★★★ 
We hope you enjoyed this extended preview! 

Available for Pre-order on iBooks, Nook and Kobo now!

iBooks ➜ http://apple.co/29iqvtJ

Nook ➜ http://bit.ly/2akQ2aq 

Kobo ➜ http://bit.ly/2axt1SY 

***
Available for purchase on Amazon on release day.

Receive an alert when it’s live on Amazon ➜ http://bit.ly/2apKX0x

Add to your TBR on Goodreads ➜ http://bit.ly/29R29a2 

Blurb 

A STANDALONE NOVEL that does NOT need to be read in conjunction with any other book.

From New York Times bestselling author, Penelope Ward, comes a friends-to-lovers story with sexy new characters.
After getting dumped, the last thing I needed was to move next door to someone who reminded me of my ex-boyfriend, Elec.
Damien was a hotter version of my ex.
The neighbor I’d dubbed “Angry Artist” also had two massive dogs that kept me up with their barking.
He wanted nothing to do with me. Or so I thought until one night I heard laughter coming through an apparent hole in my bedroom wall. 
Damien had been listening to all of my phone sessions with my therapist. 
The sexy artist next door now knew all of my deepest secrets and insecurities.
We got to talking. 
He set me straight with tips to get over my breakup. 
He became a good friend, but Damien made it clear that he couldn’t be anything more. 
Problem was, I was falling hard for him anyway. And as much as he pushed me away, I knew he felt the same…because his heartbeat didn’t lie.
I thought my heart had been broken by Elec, but it was alive and beating harder than ever for Damien. 
I just hoped he wouldn’t shatter it for good. 
Author’s note – Neighbor Dearest is a full-length standalone novel. Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

About the Author:

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family-friendly career. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 11-year-old girl with autism and a 9-year-old boy. Penelope and her family reside in Rhode Island. 

Connect with Penelope Ward:
Stalk Her: Facebook | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Private Fan Group

Sign up for Penelope’s mailing list now and be the 
first one notified of releases! http://eepurl.com/MnXoH 
Join Penelope’s Peeps for early news of books, fun chats and giveaways!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/PenelopesPeeps/

Additional Books by Penelope Ward

RoomHate:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/294lIeT 

iBooks: http://apple.co/1PgsvE7 

Nook: http://bit.ly/1PLGnSL

kobo: http://bit.ly/1POvSnW 

Stuck-Up Suit: (co-written with Vi Keeland)
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1S3LnpZ   

iBooks: http://apple.co/1Qbwy57  

B&N: http://bit.ly/29vrQhV  

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/stuck-up-suit 

Cocky Bastard: (co-written with Vi Keeland)
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MvHLg2 

iBooks: http://apple.co/1PffE2J

Nook: http://bit.ly/1EjxNpY

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1UxCSUO

Sins of Sevin:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1F9tbc3 

iBooks: http://apple.co/1K8mzGg 

Nook: http://bit.ly/1hTKAKE  

kobo: http://bit.ly/1OaGY3D

Stepbrother Dearest:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1mFNMeg  

Nook: http://bit.ly/1taMFjG 

iBooks: http://bit.ly/YER0mT 

kobo: http://bit.ly/1fJaaBs 

Jake Undone (Jake #1):
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1dJrHBC 

Nook: http://bit.ly/1obAwJ6 

iBooks: http://apple.co/1fJayQ8 

kobo: http://bit.ly/1SPKl0M 

My Skylar
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1obOG2F 

Nook: http://bit.ly/SLO1qi 

iBooks: http://bit.ly/SLNOTR

kobo: http://bit.ly/1kNrtAB 

Jake Understood (Jake #2):
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1GFdves 

Nook: http://bit.ly/1FwJC0z 

iBooks: http://apple.co/1DQQwgC 

kobo: http://bit.ly/1LQ7Fvk 

Gemini:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1vgk1SE 

Nook: http://bit.ly/1KfmLHD 

iBooks: http://apple.co/1QTaONj 

kobo: http://bit.ly/1BGJ2wu 
THANK YOU!

Chapter Reveal – The Big O

Title: The Big O
Author: Nelle L’Amour
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
 Release Date: August 4, 2016

Blurb

From New York Times Bestselling author Nelle L’Amour, a new sizzling STANDALONE that’s guaranteed to make your panties melt!

The first time Owen King sets eyes on her, she’s in a focus group, biting into a cream-filled donut and having the most orgasmic reaction he’s ever seen. “Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” she cries out. He’s instantly obsessed.

Aspiring actress, Olive Cumming, has just lost her waitressing job and can’t pay her rent. But when the CEO of Donut King steps out from behind the one-way mirror and hires the curvy respondent to be his assistant, things are about to change. Big time.

Love at first sight has never been a reality for jaded, overworked Owen. And for sweet overweight Olive, love has never been within her reach. But when fate steps in, the king finds his unexpected princess, not knowing that someone is waiting in the shadows to keep them apart.

WARNING: Be prepared for over-the-top insta-love, a bit of kinky fun, and some yummy food play. This sugar-coated full-length novel is just waiting for you to take a bite.

Chapter 1

The Big O
©Nelle L’Amour 2016
All rights reserved

COMING TO ALL RETAILERS ON AUGUST 4, 2016!

 
CHAPTER 1


Owen

I studied the spreadsheet on my desk. The numbers for last quarter’s earnings. They sucked. We were operating in the red and facing bankruptcy. If my dick was the line of my P&L chart, it would look like it fell off a cliff. That’s how bad they were. For decades, Donut King had been the number one breakfast stop in the country, but year after year our market share had declined. Numerous locations had shut down. What the hell was wrong with our yummy donuts and coffee? Trust me, they were delicious. Customers loved them. But with little advertising, companies like Starbeans and Coffee Depot had taken over our business. I couldn’t even remember the names of their coffees or breakfast entries, let alone how to pronounce or spell them. A Venti Caramel Macchiato? What the hell was that? And what language were we talking? Had suddenly everyone in America become seasoned sophisticates and taken a Berlitz course? A familiar caustic voice cut into my disturbing thoughts.

“Owen, you’re missing the focus group.”

“Huh?” I looked up from the depressing data and met the steely eyes of our young marketing director, Mallory Clint. While only in her mid twenties, the mousy-haired Harvard MBA looked much older in her navy pinstriped pantsuit and horn-rimmed glasses. The daughter of financier Burton Clint, whose hedge fund was keeping us afloat, she walked around as if she owned me. She thought that her father’s clout entitled her to call me by my first name whereas everyone else in the company addressed me as Mr. King. It pissed me off, but I had to treat her carefully. What made me even more on edge was that I sensed that she wanted more than a professional relationship with me. Trust me, I had no interest in fucking her. She wasn’t for me. And lately, with business in the toilet, fucking anyone was the last thing on my mind. This was the longest dry spell I’d ever endured. I’m talking years.

“Sir, this is very important. It’s giving us consumer insights.”

I appreciated that she for once called me sir. I demanded and deserved respect. I was, in fact, known to millions from TV commercials as the eponymous “Donut King,” a title I inherited from my late father who started the chain. To be truthful, they should have called me “Your Majesty” or “Your Royal Highness” or at least, “My Lord.” But at this point, it was moot. Given our latest sales numbers, I was about to fall off my throne.

I hated research. Fuck this shit. I was the kind of guy who went by my gut instincts. Nothing in my life was fifty shades of gray. Everything was black or white. I want it or I don’t. I like it or I don’t. Even my love life was like that. Or should I say lack of one. I’d never found a woman to love. Someone who I’d fallen head over heels for. Sure I was one of Southern California’s most eligible bachelors with the fortune I’d amassed from my donut empire, but that didn’t help things in the love department. I obviously had very particular taste when it came to women. When the right one came along, I was positive I’d know it.

I followed Miss Know-It-All Clint, who’d convinced me to do the group, to the research facility at the end of the hall and took a seat on the couch next to her upon entering. A platter of donuts and a tin of coffee were spread out on a credenza behind me. I peered through the one-way mirror that spanned the length of the room. The group was already in progress.

Eleven motley women of various ages and ethnicities sat around a table. But one respondent, in particular, immediately captured my attention. Holy fucking shit! She was fucking gorgeous. Big, blond, and beautiful. I swear I felt the temperature in the room rise twenty degrees. And that’s not all that was rising. I loosened my tie. For some reason, she turned her head so she was facing me. I got a better look at her stunning face. Porcelain skin with just a sprinkle of freckles on her rosy cheeks…frosted rosebud lips…and a button nose. I swear I could feel her big chocolate brown eyes burn a hole in me right through the one-way mirror. My skin heated up, the flesh near my groin kindling. Sweat clustered beneath my shirt and my heart palpitated. I was having a hot flash.

I kept my eyes on her as the group moderator explained the “rules” of the group. She wanted the women to talk one at a time and to give their true and honest opinions.

“Who are these women?” I asked Mallory.

“They’re Donut King customers though some of them also frequent Starbeans and other coffee chains.”

“Who’s the blonde?”

“Can’t you read her name tag? Maybe you need glasses.”

I squinted my eyes. Shit. Maybe I did need glasses. But as I did, her name came into focus. Olive.

I said her name aloud in my head. AAAH-love. Her name took my breath away. It was almost orgasmic. I let out a loud sigh.

Clint snickered. “Please be quiet so I can take notes. The moderator is going to show the women the current Donut King commercial.”

Miss Bossy Pants. Sometimes I thought she was either a dyke or a dominatrix or both. She grated on my nerves and she’d done nothing to turn our sales around. In fact, since she joined the company three years ago, sales had eroded further. But because of her father, I was stuck with her.

After dimming the lights, the moderator grabbed the remote and our thirty-second spot began to play on the big screen TV. My eyes stayed on Olive as she swiveled her chair to watch it. Her profile was equally gorgeous and I loved the way her butter-blond hair fell over her shoulders. And holy shit. Those tits. Two gorgeous mounds that could be sweet melons; they strained against the flimsy fabric of her blouse, pulling at the buttons. Her fluttering eyes stayed glued to the TV while she put her hand to her mouth as if she was gasping. The rise and fall of her chest was noticeable. It was like she was having some kind of Pavlovian reaction.

I’d seen this commercial a zillion times and mock-said the lines as a mom and her son stepped into a Donut King shop.

“Mommy, look it’s the Donut King!”

“Welcome to my kingdom!”

Yup, that big burly guy with the shit-eating grin behind the counter was me, wearing my royal robe and a crown. A thick, cartoony beard was pasted on my face. I looked more like the Dork King. I hated this spot. But Mallory and her team felt we should be positioned as a family-oriented brand. My eyes darted back and forth between the commercial and the beautiful blond respondent, whose eyes never left the screen. The mom and the kid each ordered a donut, and as soon as they bit into them, sparkly crowns magically appeared on their heads. I looked into the camera and said…

“Donut King. Share the magic.”

The TV screen went black and the moderator clicked the remote. The lights went back on.

“So ladies,” began the moderator, “what did you think of the commercial?”

She went around the table soliciting responses from each of the women. To my dismay, the reaction was lukewarm at best, eliciting monotone words like: “It was okay…Nothing to write home about…I’ve seen better…Meh.” Every muscle in my body clenched. They fucking hated it. And then she got to my Olive. My gorgeous Olive.

“What about you, Olive? What did you think?”

She took a deep breath, her magnificent tits quivering as she did. “I thought it was amazing.” Her eyes did that fluttering thing again. “I love the Donut King.”

Her very first words. Her voice, despite her size, was like a sparrow’s. So sugary sweet. So full of sincerity and innocence. I thought I was going to jump right through the one-way mirror. No woman had ever said they loved me, let alone with such passion and conviction.

“Could you please elaborate,” responded the group moderator. “Are you talking about the donut shop or the man who plays the part of the Donut King?”

Mallory grunted. “The moderator shouldn’t be focusing on one respondent. I’m going to go in and give her a note to move on.” She rose from the couch.

Grabbing her by the elbow, I yanked her back down. “Sit down and shush up,” I gritted. “I want to hear what Olive says.” Oh man, did I love saying her name. I could say it over and over again. I was all ears as her lush mouth parted.

“Both. I love going to Donut King. I used to stop at one every day on my way to work. They have The. Best. Donuts.”

“You don’t go there any more?” The moderator, like me, was quick to pick up on her use of the past tense.

The dazzling dimpled smile on Olive’s face fell off. “I lost my job about a month ago, so I can’t afford to go there anymore. I can’t even pay my rent.” She paused, her eyes watering. “I may get evicted from my apartment.”

“Honey, that’s too bad,” chimed in one of the women.

“Hope you find a new job,” said another.

The rest concurred, a testament to the sisterhood of women.

“Thanks,” muttered Olive, quirking a small smile. Hot damn, she was cute. And I felt bad about her job loss.

The moderator brought the discussion back on topic. “So ladies, what do you think of the actor who plays the Donut King?”

I hated to think about myself as an actor. I was a salesman. A pitch person. So good I could sell ice to an Eskimo. So I thought. The fact that sales were down—way down—made me question my abilities.

The woman who was sitting closest to the moderator chimed in again. “My five-year-old is frightened by him.”

“Same here,” commented another. “He looks like a fairy-tale villain who gobbles up children.”

Yet another: “He’s more like a bad cartoon character with that stupid beard.”

The rest of the group laughed except my Olive whose mouth fell open in a big O. And then her face hardened, her eyes narrowing with fury.

“How could you say those things? I totally disagree. He’s beautiful. I mean, just look at those dreamy blue eyes. Those gorgeous big hands. His dazzling smile and that deep, sexy voice. I love everything about him. I’d be his princess any day.”

I was melting like milk chocolate. She was attracted to me. Insanely attracted to me. I couldn’t believe my ears. She saw in me what none of these judgmental women did. If only she could see me now in my custom-made Italian suit, perfectly groomed, and all buff. My heart was beating so hard in my chest I thought it would leap out and crash right through the one-way mirror. I wanted Olive to be my princess. I wanted to rule her body, her heart, and her soul. No woman had ever had such an affect on me. Not ever.

A heated argument broke out among the women, but my Olive, God bless her, held her own.

“I can’t believe you don’t see what I see in him,” she said convincingly, fending off the naysayers.

Truthfully, I wanted no woman to see what she saw. I could afford no obstacles. I wanted her to be mine. And mine alone. I was thankful when the group moderator intervened.

“Okay, ladies, let’s calm down. We’re going to move on to the fun part of our session. The taste test.”

While Olive’s eyes lit up, the reaction of the other respondents was lackluster. I watched as the moderator rose from her chair and retrieved a large box of donuts from the credenza behind her. She set it in the middle of the table.

“Okay, ladies, dig in.”

Not one woman moved.

“What’s going on?” I asked Clint.

“I don’t know.” Edginess peppered her voice.

“I thought these women were supposed to be donut lovers,” I grumbled.

“I thought so too.”

“Where the hell did you find them?”

“The recruiter ran an ad on Craigslist. I guess they lied.”

“Jesus.” Anything to make a buck. Each of these respondents was being paid one hundred dollars to be here and share their opinions. What good were they if they didn’t eat donuts? Adding in the cost of the recruiter and the report, my calculation for this qualitative research, as Clint referred to it, came close to ten thousand dollars out of my pocket. My blood curdled. I was so simmering mad I could see smoke coming out of my nostrils.

“Goddamn it, Mallory. This is a total waste of time and money.”

“No, this is very valuable. Obviously, the donut business is dead. My father should have never invested in your company.”

I was now breathing fire like an angry dragon. “It’s not dead. Everyone loves donuts. We’re just doing something wrong.”

And then as I was about to send her in to end the group, a sweet voice filtered into the observation room. My Olive!

“Would someone please pass me the box of donuts?”

“Be my guest,” said the woman closest to them, handing it down the line of respondents as if it were filled with dog shit. My gaze stayed focused on Olive as the box landed in front of her. She lifted the lid and peeked in. Her eyes sparkled and her lush mouth watered.

“Wow! These look so good! I haven’t had one in ages.” She studied the donuts. “Eenie meenie miney moe…”

I held my breath while my cock twitched.

“I’m going to help myself to my favorite…a cream-filled one.”

Oh yes, my favorite too. It had always been our top seller.

Like in a slo-mo scene ripped out of a movie, she reached into the box and put the donut to her lips. Her eyes closed as she slowly wrapped her mouth around the circle of dough. And then she did it. Bit into it, ripping off a large chunk with her teeth. My cock boinged as the creamy filling seeped out. Holy shit! It was like the donut was having its own epic orgasm. “Mmmm.” A soft moan drifted into the room. I felt like I was going to cream my pants

“Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” she screamed out, arching her back and squeezing her eyes shut as she savored the biteful.

A look of ecstasy swept over her face. Every eye in the room stayed on her as she swallowed and cried out “Oh God” before going for another bite.

“I want whatever she’s having,” shouted one of the respondents.

“Me too!” echoed another woman. And then another and another. “Someone pass the box.”

While Olive finished consuming her donut, the box got passed around, and within seconds, moans and groans filled the room. It was like an orgasmic choir led by my beautiful Olive. Even the group moderator joined the chorus and I could hear her moan.

As I watched my Olive lick a little of the cream off her upper lip, I was having my own mental orgasm. My ready-to-burst cock strained against my pants. My know-it-all marketing director was wrong; she’d jumped the gun. There was nothing wrong with our donuts. Fucking nothing. Olive’s “ohs” whirled around in my head. Ideas were spinning too.

An infuriated Mallory broke into my delicious thoughts. “This is ridiculous. It’s like an orgy in there. I am going to put an end to this group.”

“Be my guest.” I had all the research—and answers—I needed. A satisfied smile stretched across my face. Orgy coincidentally began with a big “O” too.

“These women shouldn’t even be compensated,” Mallory hissed. “Especially that big fat ball of trouble.”

Rage pulsed through me; I wanted to smack her.

“Don’t talk about her like that,” I growled. But then a bright idea hit me. “Actually, Clint, I don’t want her compensated. Please have her stay behind and bring her to my office. I will handle her personally.”

Mallory smirked as she headed out of the observation room. “You should give her what she deserves for disrupting the group.”

That’s exactly what I had in mind. And a lot more.

“And Clint, one more thing. Please fire our advertising agency and hire the hottest one in town to do a new campaign. I want a meeting set for this afternoon.”

Mallory fired me a puzzled what-the-fuck look. Before she could utter a word, I shut her up. “Do it.”

As a miffed Mallory disappeared, my eyes drifted back to my beautiful Olive.

She had single-handedly put the O back in our donuts. I broke into another big smile. Donut King was going to re-conquer the world. And I was going to conquer her.


Author Bio

Nelle L’Amour is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives in Los Angeles with her Prince Charming-ish husband, twin teenage princesses, and a bevy of royal pain-in-the-butt pets. A former executive in the entertainment industry with a prestigious Humanatis Prize for promoting human dignity and freedom to her credit, she gave up playing with Barbies a long time ago, but still enjoys playing with toys…with her husband. While she writes in her PJ’s, she loves to get dressed up and pretend she’s Hollywood royalty. She aspires to write steamy stories with characters that will make you laugh, cry, and swoon and stay in your heart forever.

Her bestselling series include Unforgettable, THAT MAN, Gloria’s Secret, Seduced by the Park Avenue Millionaire and critically acclaimed Undying Love. Writing under another pen name, she is also the author of the bestselling fantasy romance series, Dewitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen.

To learn about her new releases, sales, and giveaways, please sign up for her newsletter and follow her on social media. Nelle loves to hear from her readers.


Author Links