Excerpt Reveal – Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

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Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne
Series: Love Unexpectedly #4
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

Synopsis

Sparks fly between a misunderstood New York socialite and a cynical divorce lawyer in this lively standalone rom-com from the New York Times bestselling author of Blurred Lines and Love Story.

Pampered heiress Georgianna Watkins has a party-girl image to maintain, but all the shopping and clubbing is starting to feel a little bit hollow—and a whole lot lonely. Though Georgie would never admit it, the highlights of her week are the mornings when she comes home at the same time as her uptight, workaholic neighbor is leaving to hit the gym and put in a long day at the office. Teasing him is the most fun Georgie’s had in years—and the fuel for all her naughtiest daydreams.

Celebrity divorce attorney Andrew Mulroney doesn’t have much time for women, especially spoiled tabloid princesses who spend more time on Page Six than at an actual job. Although Georgie’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also everything Andrew resents: the type of girl who inherited her penthouse instead of earning it. But after Andrew caps one of their predawn sparring sessions with a surprise kiss—a kiss that’s caught on camera—all of Manhattan is gossiping about whether they’re a real couple. And nobody’s more surprised than Andrew to find that the answer just might be yes.

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Excerpt

Georgie

Tuesday morning

Let’s talk about five a.m. for a second.

Also known as the worst hour of the day, am I right?

Here’s why:

If you’re awake to see five in the freaking morning, it means one of a few things, all of them heinous.

Scenario one: You’re on your way to the airport for an early morning flight. Heinous.

Scenario two: You’ve been out all night, and now your vodka buzz is fading, and you’re just sober enough to realize that the rest of your day will likely involve Excedrin, carbs, and indoor voices. Heinous.

Scenario three: You’ve got a crap-ton on your mind, and you’re lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, hating your life. Maybe hating yourself a little bit, I dunno, who am I to judge? Heinous.

Now brace yourself, because scenario four is the most heinous of them all: You’re awake at five a.m. because you’re an uptight prick whose schedule is even more rigid than your posture, and your life is an endless string of working out, the corner office, repeat. You’re also likely the type of person who subsists on protein shakes and kale smoothies, and you have been known to utter the phrase the body is a temple, thus solidifying what we already knew about you.

You have no friends.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

See, it’s five a.m., and I, Georgie Watkins, am . . . kind of excited about it.

I know. I know. Four months ago I’d have bet my favorite vintage Chanel bag that there was exactly zero chance I’d actually look forward to the ghoulish hour of five in the morning.

And yet here we are.

I guess you could say there’s a scenario five on reasons to be up this early.

“Good morning, Ramon,” I sing, pushing through the revolving doors of the luxury high-rise on 56th and Park, the place I call home.

The concierge/security guard/all-around good guy glances up and gives me a friendly smile. “Ms. Watkins. Good morning.”

Usually the massive front desk is a bustling, busy affair. Starting at around seven, an army of well-dressed concierges will be smoothly facilitating the needs of impatient residents, as tiny dogs let out sharp, high-pitched barks of greeting from their Louis Vuitton carriers.

But that’s later.

Right now, the luxurious lobby is mostly silent, with just the lone overnight guy working the front desk, holding down the fort until the day guys arrive to handle the morning crush.

My new Tory Burch clutch tucked into my armpit, I hold up the box in my hands and waggle my eyebrows. “Brought you something.”

Ramon’s smile grows wider, brown eyes lighting. “My wife says you’re going to make me fat.”

“Tell Marta that the dad bod is totally in style right now,” I say, setting the box of donuts on the counter and lifting the lid. “Unless, of course, you don’t want a maple bacon donut?”

Ramon is already reaching inside the box, shaking his head in reverence as he lifts the sugary treat. “Still warm.”

“Well, technically the shop doesn’t open until five, but I’m such a loyal customer, they let me in a bit early,” I say, surveying the array of donuts and trying to decide if I’m in a chocolate kind of mood or if I want to risk the powdered sugar one.

Since my Alexander McQueen minidress is black (the archnemesis of powdered sugar), I reach for the chocolate as I set my clutch on the counter and fish out my phone: 4:58 a.m.

Two more minutes.

“How’s Marta dealing with the pregnancy of baby number three?” I ask, taking a bite of the donut and shifting attention back to Ramon, who’s already polished off his donut and is contemplating a second. I nudge the box toward him.

“She’s good,” he says. “Excited that we’re finally having a girl.”

“A girl!” I say, reaching across the counter and squeezing his massive forearm. “Congratulations, I hadn’t heard!”

“Just found out yesterday,” he says with a happy smile, apparently deciding that the occasion calls for another donut.

“Oh my gosh, I have the perfect baby gift,” I say, nibbling at a piece of my donut. “I saw this adorable Burberry onesie in Bergdorf’s the other day, with this precious little red bow—”

“Yes, because that’s what every infant needs,” a low voice interrupts. “A four-hundred-dollar piece of fabric that needs to be dry-cleaned. Don’t be ridiculous, Georgiana.”

I don’t have to look at my clock to know what time it is.

Five o’clock.

On the dot.

Not even bothering to turn around, I roll my eyes as my red nails tear off another piece of donut and pop it into my mouth. “Ramon, do you think you could talk to maintenance about adjusting the temp? It just got a little cold in here.”

Ramon’s been working here long enough to know my request isn’t for real. He’s not even paying attention to me. He’s already set his donut aside and has straightened up, practically saluting the newcomer.

“Mr. Mulroney. Good morning, sir.”

“Mr. Ramirez.” The voice is low and serious, a touch impatient, although not quite rude.

You know that adage that you catch more flies with honey? I’m not so sure it’s true. I bring donuts to the front desk guys just about every morning, and they adore me. I know they do.

But they respect him.

Giving in to the inevitable, I finally let my eyes flick to the side, my gaze colliding with a stern brown scowl.

I put on my widest, sparkliest smile, only because I know it drives him crazy.

As always, I see a muscle in his jaw twitch as I flutter my eyelashes.

“Good morning, Andrew,” I say sweetly.

“Georgiana.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. Only my late grandmother has ever called me that, and I’m pretty sure that’s because I was her namesake. Everyone else calls me Georgie. Well, okay, not everyone. Ramon and the other guys still insist on calling me Ms. Watkins, but I’m working on it. See: daily donuts.

I smile wider and push the box in Andrew’s direction. “Donut?”

His lip curls. In case you haven’t already gotten a read on this guy, he’s the type that sneers at donuts.

He lifts a boring black travel mug. “Already have my breakfast.”

“Blended-up quinoa sprinkled with a few bits of spinach and pretension?” I ask.

“Whey powder protein shake.”

“Sounds immensely satisfying.”

He takes a sip of the nastiness and watches me with cold brown eyes. “The body is a temple, Georgiana.”

There it is.

Full circle to my above commentary about what sort of people are up and about at five a.m.

Giveaway

ENTER HERE for a chance to win an Audio Book CD set of the Oxford Series by Lauren Layne, including IRRESISTIBLY YOURS, I WISH YOU WERE MINE and SOMEONE LIKE YOU!

About Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen romantic comedies.

A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career.

She lives in midtown Manhattan with her high-school sweetheart, where she writes smart romantic comedies with just enough sexy-times to make your mother blush. In LL’s ideal world, every stiletto-wearing, Kate Spade wielding woman would carry a Kindle stocked with Lauren Layne books. 

Connect with the author: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

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Cover Reveal: Crow City Series by Crow City Series

1 The Lost Ebook Cover

#1 – The Lost

Synopsis

There’s something wrong with Leigh.

She’s known it her whole life. She knows it every time she spreads her legs. Every time she begs for the pain, the pleasure, the heat of a hard man driving deep inside. She’s a slave to her own twisted lusts–and it’s eating her alive. She loves it. She craves it. Sex is her drug, and she’s always chasing her next fix. But nothing can satisfy her addiction, not even the nameless men she uses and tosses aside. No one’s ever given her what she truly needs.

Until Gabriel Hart.

Cold. Controlled. Impenetrable. Ex-Marine Gabriel Hart isn’t the kind of man to come running when Leigh crooks her pretty little finger. She loathes him. She hungers for him. He’s the only one who understands how broken she is, and just what it takes to satisfy the emptiness inside. But Gabriel won’t settle for just one night. He wants to claim her, keep her, make her forever his. Together they are the lost, the ruined, the darkness at the heart of Crow City.

But Leigh has a darkness of her own. A predator stalking through her past–one she’ll do anything to escape.

Even if it means running from the one man who could love her…and leaving behind something more precious to her than life itself. 

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1liYeJq
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/20Ke0xj
B&N: http://bit.ly/1QgcTli
iBooks: http://apple.co/1MJ5C6M
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1Qs4zOj

1.5 The Fallen Ebook Cover

#1.5 – The Fallen 

Synopsis

Gabriel Hart is a broken man.

And everyone close to him dies.

His military unit. His sister. His parents. Everyone he’s come to care for has been taken from him, leaving him with nothing but a crippling war injury, a Vicodin addiction, and a scraggly, chewed-up rag of a cat. It’s enough to make anyone want to check out. And when he holds his service pistol in his hand and presses it against his temple, for the first time in a long time the world feels right.

But he’s not as alone as he thinks. And when grizzled bar owner Gary challenges him to honor his sister’s memory by repairing her houseboat before he gives up on life, he discovers she left more for him than her belongings. And her letters lead him on a trail through discovering himself, discovering what he truly wants…and discovering that he has the strength to choose his own path.

PURCHASE LINKS – FREE

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2gqKlWE
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2hkgOlZ
B&N: http://bit.ly/2aCJBL7
iBooks: http://apple.co/2b3hUkP
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2aLfjqn

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#2 – The Found 

Witness to a murder. Kidnapped by a monster. Life hanging on a whim. Willow Armitage’s world was already falling apart; between getting fired and caring for her chronically ill father, she’s had little room for anything but survival. But that survival hangs in the balance the night she stumbles into a back alley – and watches a stranger die at the hands of the most beautiful man she’s ever seen.

Lethal. Powerful. Unstable. Terrifying. The contract killer known only as Priest is a dangerous unknown, and when Willow wakes tied to a chair in his hideout, the only thing she sees in his fox-gold eyes is death. Yet for Priest, Willow is a dilemma: an innocent, a saint among the sinners he cuts down in the streets of Crow City. His code of honor forbids shedding innocent blood. Releasing her will send her straight to the police. The only answer is a warped game, and his promise: that he will find the darkness inside her, expose it, and prove that deep down, everyone is just as monstrous as he…and just as worthy of death.

Yet he unearths not a monster, but a smoldering and secret desire – one that has always terrified Willow, and may be her undoing. His touch sets her alight. His strength burns through her like flame. And his control melts her each time he binds her virgin body, possesses her, teaches her the strength in weakness and the passion in submission. But that passion may be her damnation, and in the end Willow must choose: Priest’s love, or her own life.

When his every kiss is pure sin…can she resist damnation long enough for Priest to find his way to redemption?

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2hkn3ng
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2hCYAc2
B&N: http://bit.ly/2gQ5drr
iBooks: http://apple.co/2hknQnY
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2hkrK0i 

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#2.5 – The Saved

For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. – Leviticus 17:11 

Before he was a mysterious, silent killer stalking the streets of Crow City, the strange man known as Priest (THE FOUND, Crow City #2) was a lost and broken soul—and part of Willow Armitage’s world in ways she could never have imagined. Shattered by the Afghanistan War, left with no companions other than fellow survivor Gabriel Hart (THE LOST, Crow City #1), ex-Marine Priest turns to his lost faith for answers when his life has lost all meaning…but in searching for his God, he finds a new religion. A religion of blood. Of pain.

Of vengeance.

And from that religion rises a mission to replace everything he had lost, to set right just a few of the small wrongs in the world…and to ease the constant bleeding of his broken heart, filled with sins without number.

Revisit Crow City and meet Priest as he was before the fateful night that brought him into Willow’s life…and reconnect with beloved names and faces as we discover what—and who—set him on his dark and merciless path.

PURCHASE LINKS – FREE

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2hwai9t
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2gImuH8
B&N: http://bit.ly/2mR9IrA
iBooks: http://apple.co/2mZ7KFZ
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2htXlzM

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#2.75 – Autumn

**RELEASING MARCH 27, 2017**

There are worse things in life than loving a man who hates you.

Unfortunately, Walford Gallifrey can’t think of many.

Ever since a ghost from his past kidnapped his niece, Willow (THE FOUND, Crow City #2), Wally’s life has been nothing but grief, turmoil, and loss. With no idea if Willow is dead or alive, Wally’s only comfort is in caring for his grieving brother-in-law and Willow’s father, Joseph Armitage. For the past twenty years, Wally has never hoped to be anything but the backdrop to Joseph’s life; between marrying Wally’s sister and decades of mistakes building walls of enmity and resentment between them, Joseph has been firmly cemented in Wally’s mind as unattainable.

But the pain of Willow’s loss forces them to face the demons sleeping between them, find common ground—and more. Together, they explore mutual grief. Shared memories. Quiet respect. Warmth. Camaraderie. The joy of learning to live again.

And an unspoken attraction, buried beneath the scars of hurtful words and terrible missteps.

Yet even as they work through the thorns and tangles of old wounds, Joseph has his own struggles to face. The struggle to leave his ex-wife in the past. To let his daughter go. And to trust Wally to love him, to see him as more than just his multiple sclerosis, when so many have treated him as less than a man. The only way forward for them both is forgiveness. Trust.

And a second chance to discover what it means, to truly be in love.

Note: While most full-length Crow City novels can be read as a standalone, AUTUMN is best read as a companion to THE FOUND (Crow City #2) and THE SAVED (Crow City #2.5), which detail both the events of Willow’s kidnapping and Walford’s prior relationship with her kidnapper, Vincent Manion. 

PRE-ORDER LINKS 

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2mjw9T8
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2nmcYcr
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2mjPIe6
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2ngtMEC

AUTHOR BIO

Cole McCade is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in Seattle. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant and business writer, and his nights writing contemporary romance and erotica that flirts with the edge of taboo—when he’s not being tackled by two hyperactive cats.

He also writes genre-bending science fiction and fantasy tinged with a touch of horror and flavored by the influences of his multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual background as Xen Sanders. He wavers between calling himself bisexual and calling himself queer, but no matter what word he uses he’s a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA and POC representation and visibility in genre fiction. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts.

AUTHOR LINKS

Email: blackmagic@blackmagicblues.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thisblackmagic
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/xen.cole
Tumblr: http://thisblackmagic.tumblr.com/
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ColeMcCadeBooks
Website & Blog: http://www.blackmagicblues.com
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/mccadesmarauders/

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Cover Reveal: Seat 2A by Dela

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Seat 2A by Dela
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 27, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon

Synopsis

When Jessie Evans, a Georgia Southern University cheerleader, leaves for her best friend’s wedding the last thing she expects is for the seat next to her to be taken. After all, she’d only canceled Seat 2A hours prior after catching her boyfriend cheating. 

Kendal Vargas, son of a Spanish emigrant fashion guru, is on his way to Whistler for a “mancation”. Running to buy a neck pillow before his flight, Kendal bumps into Jessie Evans. Kendal is in a hurry. Kendal does not stop to help her. Kendal forgot his neck pillow and the plane is about to leave and hey—who could travel without a neck pillow?

Charmed by Jessie’s beauty, and watching her board his very plane, Kendal takes a whim and changes his seat to one he hopes would be next to her. Jessie ignores Kendal’s attempt to be chatty but when their connecting flight gets canceled overnight, the pair has a chance to make a real connection.

Seven years later, Jessie bumps into Kendal in the produce aisle of a Portland grocery store. No neck pillow is involved, except there is a beautiful little girl who looks just like him. Fate has given them another shot but will Kendal’s whims keep them apart?

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About Dela

Dela is the author of newly released SEAT 2A, a Contemporary Romance about two strangers having a second chance at fate. She’s also written THE 52NDsaga, a paranormal romance for young adults centered on the bloody Aztec tradition of human sacrifice. The sequel, BEYOND THE NEON SHORE, will release Summer 2017.

You’ll most often find her in gym clothes, taking pictures of books in the desert, or eating peppermint patties writing her next book. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband, three kids, and one exceptionally fat Chihuahua. Her website is http://www.delaauthor.com.

Connect with the author: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

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Excerpt Reveal: Stalemate by Lisa Suzanne

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Stalemate by Lisa Suzanne
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon

Synopsis

Emme Ford loves her job as a bar promoter. She runs in the same circles as musicians and socialites, getting paid to party with them. She’s content with life just the way it is, and she has no interest in marriage, kids, or growing up. But what happens when the party’s over? 

Axel Jones wants to marry Emme, but she denied his proposal. They both pretend it didn’t affect their relationship, but it did. A wedge divides them, and now they’re stuck in a stalemate. What do you do when one person wants more and the other doesn’t?

Excerpt

“I know you desperately need to clean this office, but I don’t think drunk Emme is the best maid for you.” I giggle as he flips on the light then kicks the door shut behind him.

His eyes land on me, and it’s only when I feel their searing burn wherever they land on my body that I realize the real reason he brought me back here. “We didn’t come back here to clean.”

I want to sass him, but my words die on my tongue as his gaze heats me all over. “Oh?” I say instead of something more articulate. “Then why are we here?”

He takes a step toward me, and my heart races. This man still gives me butterflies even though we’ve been together for six months. Sometimes the haze of tequila gives those butterflies wings, and right now they’re flying around my stomach like they’re trying to find their way out.

“I think you know.” He steps closer to me, reaches out his arm, and runs a knuckle from my cheek to my jaw.

I look up at him.

“God, Emme, when you look at me like that…and that tequila you drank…a man can’t even form a goddamn sentence.”

“What are you going to do to me?” I whisper.

His lips lift into a smile, but his beard hides it. He leans in close to me, so close I can smell him.

His lips close in toward my ear. “I’m going to fuck you on my desk.”

“Just on your desk?”

“Maybe against the door, too.”

“What makes you so sure of that?”

He leans back and grins at me. “You had tequila tonight.”

I nod in confirmation. “I did. A lot.”

“You know I love it when you drink tequila.”

“Remind me why again?”

“Panty. Dropping. Juice.” He presses kisses to my skin between each word, trailing from my ear toward my mouth, and then his mouth covers mine and there’s no more talking.

About Lisa Suzanne

Lisa Suzanne is a romance author who resides in Arizona with her husband and baby boy. She’s a part-time college instructor and former high school English teacher. When she’s not cuddling baby Mason, she can be found working on her latest book or watching reruns of Friends.  

Connect with the author: Website / Facebook / TwitterGoodreads / Newsletter

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Review: Cherry Picked by Kristen Hope Mazzola

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Cherry Picked by Kristen Hope Mazzola
Series: A Yeah, Baby & Shots On Goal Crossover
Genre: Romance, Sports, Hockey
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Buy Now: links coming soon

Synopsis

One chance encounter – that’s all it took. 

Nikki Jennings is dancing her way into the big time. She has gone from a shy, small town girl to a New York City Ballet star. She had everything to offer the world and she was taking it by storm. 

Chase Harding is a cocky jock that has always gotten exactly what he’s wanted. Most recently, the rookie spot on his dream hockey team. He has everything he could ever want until he meets Nikki. 

She won’t give him the time of day. 

He won’t take no for an answer. 

Will Chase be able to score the v-card of his latest prospect or is he going to shoot and miss for the first time in his life?

Review

I generously received this ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review…

If you are looking for a short and sweet love at first sight kind of story then look no more because that is exactly what you will get when you pick up a copy of Cherry Picked by Kristen Hope Mazzola! I think that the author did an extraordinary job with character development in just a few short chapters. You can’t help but instantly fall in love with Chase (a young hockey player for the Otters) and Nikki (a young ballerina). This is certainly a “one-sitter” read that will have your heart singing at the insta-love between these two! Cherry Picked is certainly a must read so make sure you pick up a copy!

About Kristen Hope Mazzola

I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams. I have a full time “day job” and by night I am an author. I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those). I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.

Please feel free to contact me to chat about my writing, books you think I’d like or just to shoot the, well you know.

A portion of all my royalties are donated to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.

Connect with the author: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads 

Pre-Order Blast: Dishonorable by Natasha Knight

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Dishonorable by Natasha Knight
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Dark
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

Synopsis

Sofia

I knew little of Raphael Amado’s history with my family, but when he turned up on our doorstep demanding restitution, my grandfather quickly conceded. That restitution? Me.

Six months later, on my eighteenth birthday, Raphael came for me. He stole me from my home, taking me to his Tuscan estate, where from the crumbling chapel to the burnt-down vineyard, to the cellar that haunted him, the past stalked him like a shadow. It waited for him, hid behind corners for him and trapped him at every turn. 

As much as Raphael’s cruelty terrified me, his darkness seduced me. But in the end, it was his tenderness that devastated me.

Raphael

Sofia came to me like an offering. Like a virgin to be sacrificed at the altar. But truth was, her grandfather betrayed her. I guess we had that in common. He’d screwed me too.

I knew hate. I’d vowed vengeance. This was never supposed to be about anything else. But in the end, her innocence broke me. The very thing I would destroy, destroyed me.

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About Natasha Knight

USA Today Bestselling author Natasha Knight writes dark romance as well as spanking romance in a variety of genres including contemporary, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, science-fiction and fantasy. She is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in multiple categories forever searching in every story for that single most important element of love. All of her stories contain at least one kinky Alpha male, lots of dirty talk and a well deserved happily ever after.

Connect with the author: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Newsletter

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Excerpt Reveal: Wounded by Abby Brooks

Wounded by Abby Brooks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 20, 2017
Pre-Order: iBooks

Synopsis

For every wound, there is a scar.

Raised on fame and fortune, Liam McGuire is a spoiled man-child. His handsome face blinds the world, but I see through it to what he is inside.

Ugly.

When his tour bus rolls off the road, Liam’s rushed to the hospital where I work. A jagged scar runs the length of his face, ruining his good looks and jeopardizing his career. As his nurse, I’m around him more than I’d like, but the more I get to know him, the more I realize the world wasn’t blind to him.

I was.

Liam McGuire feels deeply and loves wildly, throwing himself into everything he does with more passion than I ever dreamed possible. With that intensity aimed at me, the scars slashed across my own heart start to heal. He is fire and I’ve been cold my whole life. 

Am I ready to thaw? Or is life better—safer—when I’m cold and numb?

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Excerpt

I close the front door behind me and head straight to the piano. Sit at the bench and stare out through the open window and play.

I play for them.                                                     

I play for Tyler.

I play for who Michael and I were, and for who we’ve become. The music rips itself out of me and tears fall from my eyes, dropping on my hands, but still I play.

Before long, I sense movement at the doorway. My fingers slow and then stop, cutting off the melody on a harsh note.

“Don’t stop.” Liam sounds groggy. “It’s beautiful.”

“It hurts,” I say, sniffing.

“Ahhh.” There’s more movement and then he’s sitting next to me, his shoulder pressing against mine, his sleep-warmed skin almost too hot for me in my agony. “That’s why it’s beautiful.”

I pull my hand from the keys and put them in my lap. “There’s nothing beautiful about pain.”

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.”  Liam puts his hands on the keys, lets them wander around a melody. “I think Bob Dylan said that.”

The urge to lean into him, to borrow some strength from his size and his warmth is so strong I almost succumb to it.

Almost.                                   

Instead, I put my hands on the keys and wind my melody around his.

“What’s wrong, Bailey?” Liam keeps his voice low, almost a whisper.

“It’s just a bad day,” I whisper in return.

His fingers chase the melody towards mine. His skin brushes mine and chills rush through my body. I stop playing and stare up at him.

“Why are you being nice to me?”

“Maybe I’m still mostly asleep.” Liam smiles, the moonlight streaming through the window catching the scar winding down his face.

Without thinking, I run my finger along it. My touch light, just a whisper of contact. “Does it still hurt?”

Liam leans into my hand, pressing my palm against his cheek, and closes his eyes. “Deeply.”

The low rumble of his voice touches the aching part of my soul and I know he’s not talking about the scar. I pull my hand away and study his face as he opens his eyes and stares down at me. The space between us takes on a life of its own, shrinking and contracting with each and every one of our breaths. I lean into him, needing contact. Needing sensation and oblivion and a reason to step outside of myself for a while.

“Today’s the day they died.” I blink several times but don’t look away. “My parents.”

“How?”

I shake my head and the world spins drunkenly. It hurts to be this exposed, as if my whole body is a raw nerve, our words grinding against it until the pain forces me to cry out.

“I’m sorry,” he says, bringing his hand to my cheek and threading his fingers into my hair.

I lean into him and close my eyes, swimming in grief and guilt, desperate to feel anything but the way I’m feeling right now. I lick my lips. Open my eyes and find him close. So close. He drops his hand from my cheek, his eyes searching my face.

There’s a moment. The two of us knowing what’s about to happen and trying to decide if we should let it, and then Liam kisses me. His hands slide up my arms and clutch my shoulders. His lips are warm and supple against mine. Our breath fills the room, twining with the rustle of fabric as I bring my hands to his back and grip his shirt in my fists.

I breathe him in. His clean skin and the scent of his cologne are so foreign to me. They’re unlike any of the smells that I sometimes imagine still linger around this house, triggering memories with the power to bring me to my knees. Liam is different. Nothing about him reminds me of my past, and there’s salvation there. Safety in his newness. In his total lack of knowledge of me from before. I can be anything with him.

Our kiss deepens, the stubble of his beard scraping the delicate skin on my cheeks. I open to him, lean into him, and his tongue darts out to meet mine.

He pulls back but keeps his hands on my face. “Have you been drinking?”

I nod. “It’s a bad day.”

Liam’s eyes burn into mine, moving across the planes of my face. He takes a breath like he wants to speak, only to close his mouth and look away. “I’m sorry, Bailey,” he says after a moment. “I don’t want this because you’re drunk and hurting. And I know, deep down, neither do you.”

And then he stands and walks out of the room, leaving me to stare after him, cold in the wake of his fire.

About Abby Brooks

Abby Brooks is a romance author who lives with the love her life and their three kids in a small town in Ohio. She loves dancing in the kitchen, laughing with people she loves, and reading way too late into the night. She also loves hearing from her readers! 

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