She thinks she needs to put her family before herself. He’s determined to prove her wrong.
Maggie is the heiress to the Reinhardt Department Store fortune. Her father died and the board of the company expect Alex to run the company but they’ve never had a nonfamily member run the company. The board has a simple solution—she needs to put the family first and marry Alex. Forget the fact that she isn’t his type and she loves someone else. Jonathan Best has been in love with Maggie Reinhardt since high school. Everything he’s done has been for her including escaping from his family’s clutches and opening a 5-star hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip. He can’t forget their last time together and how after so long it was so right. So, after picking up the pieces he formulates his plan to stop the wedding and that when things get really interesting.
House of Cards is a standalone romantic suspense novel with a happy ending. It’s the first in the Billionaire Tech Series featuring the team members from the Venture Capitalist and Clear Security series.
A little while later, I’m dressed, and as rested as I can get. I’ve worked out,
snacked on leftover Chinese, and caught up on my sports teams. It’s time to tackle
what’s left of my day.
Caden meets me outside my door, and I walk with him down to see Travis in
“All right, Travis, what the hell happened last night, and what did you learn over
the last twelve hours?” I ask when we arrive.
“Let’s start with the easy part.” He gestures to a guy sitting behind a computer.
“This is Kevin.”
“Thanks for your help, Kevin.”
Travis points to the closest fifty-inch screen, and the feed from the bar comes up.
It’s high-resolution digital and they’ve pieced together multiple angles. We watch a
customer enter, not real steady on his feet, and take a seat at a perimeter table. He
seems to talk to women as they pass, but they don’t appear to respond.
Karen, the server, arrives, and it looks like she takes his order.
“Can we pull the audio?” I ask.
“We’re working on that,” Travis says. “The guys are trying to clean it up some.”
That makes sense. We don’t record a lot of audio, but we do have devices set up
in certain areas. Mostly they just seem to pick up a lot of background noise.
We see Karen stop at several other tables and then put an order in. Everything is
going as it should. Now her tray is full of drinks, and she begins to deliver them.
The drinks she places in front of wobbly man is clear, on ice, and has a lime
“Did you see that?” Travis asks.
I shake my head. “Can you please play it back slowly, Kevin?”
Kevin rewinds the feed to where she walks up to the table and plays it in slow
“Watch his right hand at the back of her leg,” Travis says. “He slides it up and
tries to slip it underneath her skirt.”
I see the same thing, and I don’t like it. “It’s subtle, but she brushes it away,” I
“She’s graceful about it, which is a sign that this happens often,” Travis says.
“I’ll meet with the head of food and beverage and make sure we do some training
on how to address this. No one should have to work that way.”
We continue watching Karen help other patrons. She’s happy, smiling, and
seems courteous. A large group of young guys come in, and she cards them and scoots
“How long until she clocks him?” I ask.
“It’s coming up,” Kevin says. “It’s at the twenty-three-minute mark.”
We’re at twenty-one minutes when the man drains his drink and motions Karen
over. There’s talking between the two. His hands are wandering, and she keeps shaking
“We need to get the audio,” I say through clenched teeth.
“Agreed, and we’ll get it transcribed so the video and audio match. But just wait.
It gets better,” Travis warns.
“I know she slugs him,” I say.
Her tray is full, and she delivers drinks around the bar. When she comes back to
his table, she leans over to put the drink down, and we watch him reach right into her
top. You can tell she’s startled, and she dumps the remaining drinks in his lap. He
immediately stands and grabs her by the hair as his hand disappears down the front of
“Holy shit,” I say. We watch her nail him with a right hook.
He tumbles like a ragdoll and hits the table.
I shake my head. “Well, it appears to be a clear case of defending herself.”
We watch the interaction a few more times in slow motion, double speed, and
normal speed. It looks terrible every time.
“He was definitely the aggressor, but why didn’t she follow protocol and call
security when he sat down? He was obviously drunk. Why did she serve him?” I ask.
“We need to pull his drink orders, too.”
“I have that somewhere,” Travis searches through a pile of paper. “Here it is. The
first was a gin and tonic, and the second was just tonic. So it appears she was
addressing his drink situation.”
“That’s good. But I still want to know why she didn’t follow protocol. And it’d be
great to get the audio ASAP,” I tell him.
“Agreed,” Travis says. “Okay, now for the missing boyfriend. It’s not as climactic.”
“That’s good,” I mumble, rubbing my hand over my face. Assault, theft, and
kidnapping in the same evening is not a good night.
Kevin pulls up the new feed. “The boyfriend is playing blackjack in the third spot.
He’s having a good night with Tom Carpenter, the dealer at table forty-two.”
We watch as the evening pit boss, Vincent, changes Tom out for a break.
“This is when his winning streak seems to falter,” Travis says.
The man stands up and changes to a table where the bid increases to forty
“This is just bad luck,” Travis notes.
The dealer wins two hands in a row.
“Tough for the players,” I lament.
“Exactly, but it happens. You can see he runs out of chips.” The feed shows him
leaving the table and crossing to the ATM, but he doesn’t seem to get any money from
it. Either he’s over his daily limit, or he doesn’t have any to withdraw. He walks out of
the casino, stops and looks back, and then walks to the elevator.
“Does he think someone is following him?” I ask.
“I don’t think so. I think he’s looking at all the activity and still wanting to
participate. You’ll see why I say that in just a few minutes.”
Kevin fast-forwards, and the feed picks him up exiting the elevator alone on his
floor. No one else is present. He lets himself into his room with a thumbprint.
“It’s nine thirty-seven p.m., and he walks out at ten-oh-three,” Kevin says. “No
one comes after he leaves.”
He zooms in on what the man is holding, and it’s a pouch like his girlfriend
The camera follows him back to the lobby and out the front door.
“We checked with the cab company, and he caught a ride to Serena’s Pawn
“Did you see him come back?”
“Couldn’t find that. The room is accessed again at eleven forty-two p.m., and the
video shows it’s the girlfriend.”
Kevin switches to that feed, and the woman I met in the lobby last night sticks her
head out of the room and searches down the hall.
“In a minute she leaves her room, and she caught your attention at twelve ten
p.m. in the casino in front of table thirty-two,” Travis says.
“There’s a distinct possibility he pawned her jewelry and went gambling
elsewhere,” I say. “Get this to the officer overseeing missing persons on this.”
Kevin clicks a few keys on his computer keyboard and brings up the camera feed
outside Queen Diva’s dressing room.
“Now for the most puzzling one,” Travis says.
Queen’s shows are choreographed to the second, so we know she should hit her
dressing room at nine thirty-eight, which she does. She walks with two dressers
following her, one unzipping the costume and helping to remove jewelry and
adornments, and the other collecting the pieces she’s taking off. Her security guard,
who is standing outside the room, opens the door for her. It’s controlled chaos, and
Frankie is nowhere to be seen.
Queen emerges with her entourage in a different costume in less than fifteen
seconds, and then she’s back to the stage.
“We obviously lose her each time she goes into the room, but no one else enters.
I checked with the guard outside her door, and he confirmed that,” Travis says. “Could
she be trying to set us up? Trying to get out of her contract?”
I keep staring at the door, willing Frankie or anyone else to sneak in, but it’s just
the guard and an empty hallway. “I suppose anything is possible, but I don’t think so.”
I ruminate over his suggestion. She wanted this. This is a good deal for her. She
takes in half the money we collect on her shows, and she’s home each morning to help
her kids off to school and pick them up after and have dinner with them before she puts
in four hours here at the hotel. She wants her kids to put down roots, not have private
tutors and live out of a suitcase while she’s on the road. With this gig, she goes home
every night and makes more money than she would if she was traveling. Something’s
“Do you have this ready to go for the police interview?”
“Sure thing, boss,” Kevin says.
“What else happened today while I was sleeping?” I ask.
“Typical stuff—shoplifter at Louis Vuitton on The Boardwalk, two card counters
playing five-card stud, and a man tried to go skinny-dipping in the pool. A typical day at
I sigh. I need more sleep than I’m getting. I need quality time to sort out this mess
with Maggie, and I need to get laid. “At least it’s always exciting. I’m going to check in
with Gillian, and I’ll be back before the police arrive.”
Caden walks out with me, and I text Gillian.
Me: Where are you?
Gillian: VIP room 3. Come on by and let our big spenders feel your love.
I smile. They don’t care about me. It’s the thrill of outfoxing the fellow players. I
alert Caden where we’re headed, and he leads the way.
As we pass the craps table, I notice it’s three people deep all around. Someone’s
hot, and the crowd cheers. A tall, very sexy blonde sidles up next to me.
“Looks like someone’s beating the house,” she says in a sultry voice that wakes
up my cock.
I chuckle. “It happens all the time.” If I asked her, she’d probably join me for a
drink. But I only want my Magpie. I consider texting her, but I don’t know what to say.
Hopefully after I meet with Christopher, I will.
Instead, I walk into the VIP room to find six tables packed with Chinese women.
Smoke hangs heavily from the ceiling, and they’re deep in a game of pai gow. I love
watching them play. They move Chinese domino tiles around and laugh, speaking what
I guess is Cantonese. The game makes zero sense to me. I can’t tell which hands are
high and which are low—what wins one time and doesn’t the next is strange to me.
There’s a lot of pushing, so not a lot of money changes hands, but they’ve all dropped a
quarter of a million to play.
I stand against the wall as Gillian explains who’s here. They’re a group who
comes twice a year from mainland China. New money—I can relate to that. Gillian has
told me before that these women easily spend six figures each between food, shows,
shopping, and of course, the pai gow. This is a big win for us.
When they notice me, the game stops and thirty women pull out their mobile
phones and take lots of pictures. They speak excellent English, and I smile as they
bombard me with information.
“You’re much more handsome in person.”
“My daughter is single.”
“You have a beautiful hotel.”
“How do I get a discount?”
After their enthusiasm subsides, I thank them for coming and head down to
Queen Diva’s dressing room for our meeting with LVPD.
Travis, the police detective, and I stand around waiting. Usually people wait for
me, but as usual, we wait for Queen Diva. She arrives in a flurry. She’s wearing jeans
and a sweater, and without her wigs and makeup, she’s almost unrecognizable. But it’s
still as if the room was black and white and with her arrival came all the color. She
shoos her entourage out, including Frankie, and the policeman gets down to business.
“Queen Diva, I’m Detective Alan Kincaid,” he says, offering his hand.
“Nice to meet you,” she says.
Together we watch the video. As she told us, the ring is on her hand when she
goes into the dressing room and not there when she goes out. Detective Kincaid asks a
lot of questions—of us and her—but no one is able to explain how the ring disappeared.
“Queen, as you know, we don’t have a recording of anything in your dressing
room,” Travis reminds her. “It might help if we could set up a temporary camera that
only you would know about. It could be positioned in such a way as to capture the whole
room. The feed would go directly to a drive that is not on our main server, so it wouldn’t
be visible to anyone unless you permitted someone from my team or me to view it.
What do you think?”
She nods. “I think we have to. My costumes are brought in by your team each
day, so I only see them when I’m performing. If something’s going on in the room, we
need to see it.”
Detective Kincaid nods. “I’m sure this is something you want to share with your
family and staff, but I strongly encourage you to keep it to yourself. In my experience,
these kinds of thefts are usually perpetrated by someone cozied up to someone close to
you, and they don’t even realize it.”
I can see her wanting to fight the advice, but she nods. “I need to find out who’s
behind this and who’s not behind my success.”
We all agree on a timeline, thank her for her cooperation, and Detective Kincaid
walks out with Travis and me.
“Is there possibly another way in or out of her dressing room that we aren’t
covering?” he asks.
I shake my head. “I built this place. I don’t think so.”
“Do you have any suspects you didn’t want to mention in front of her?”
I smile. This guy is smart. “We think it might be her husband, Frankie, or
someone he knows.”
“Interesting. I was thinking the same thing.” He smiles.
When we reach the front door of the hotel, he extends his hand. “I look forward to
our next visit next week.”
He heads out, Travis returns to security, and I go back to my apartment.
Through an app on my phone, I order pizza for dinner from a hole-in-the-wall
place off the Strip. It’s my favorite spot, and I eat and enjoy a basketball game in my
underwear, sitting on my leather couch.
I’m tired, and I hope I can return to a normal sleeping schedule tonight, since
tomorrow will be a long day.
The following afternoon, I make myself comfortable on the plane. Squeezing ten
hours of work into less than five isn’t easy, but I’m a man on a mission, and I need to
get to Christopher. I’m even leaving a little earlier than planned for San Francisco. One
of our whales, Kevin Driscoll, was ready to return to the Bay Area, so it made sense to
“Mr. Best, so wonderful to share this ride to San Francisco,” he says as I stow my
“Mr. Driscoll.” I extend my hand. “How was your stay at the Shangri-la?”
“Excellent. This time I’m leaving with more money than I came with.”
“Great news. That’s what I like to hear.” Usually, whales tip my staff well and
spend all sorts of money—probably more than they ever win.
“What kind of business are you in, Mr. Driscoll?”
The flight attendant places our preferred drinks in front of us.
“I’m in semiconductors.” He proceeds to talk at me, not to me, for the duration of
the sixty-five-minute flight. After he explains his current business, he moves on to his
past businesses. Then I learn why he loves poker and that he and his wife are no longer
The flight lands none too soon in San Francisco. Kian exits the plane before me
and takes the keys to the waiting Range Rover. I’ve never been so glad to be off the
plane, though it was a gift that Kevin Driscoll talked the whole way, since it kept my
mind off why I’m here.
Kian navigates through traffic on the 101, and before I know it, we’re sitting in
front of a San Francisco row house in what Christopher describes as the Mission. All I
know is they’re above a neighborhood park and have a stunning view of downtown San
Francisco and the Bay Bridge. The last time I stayed in their guest room on the third
floor, I could see the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day.
We’ve barely come to a stop before Christopher is outside to greet me and direct
Kian to where he wants him to park. “I hope you’re hungry. Bella made authentic
tamales, chicken, and her grandmother’s pork green chili. Brother, we’re in for a treat
tonight. We’re going to eat well.”
Bella comes out behind him, and I give her a hug and a kiss. “I didn’t bring
anything. I’m sorry. I thought I was making this guy take me out for an expensive dinner.
Instead it sounds like you cooked all day, and he’s getting off rather easy.”
He puts his arm around her, and she smiles up at him. “I’m thrilled to cook for
you. I figure you aren’t served many home-cooked meals, and after dinner, I’ll go up to
my office so you two can have your secret conversation.”
I chuckle. Bella is nothing like the girls Christopher dated when we were growing
up. She’s absolutely perfect for him—an incredibly smart biochemist, beautiful long dark
hair and big brown eyes, and she doesn’t care a thing about the money in his bank
Dinner with Christopher and Bella is a lot of fun. I share plenty of his escapades
from when we were in school together.
“Here we were, from two of the wealthiest families at the Carlson Academy, and
rather than attend any old private university like many of our classmates, we went to a
state school. Talk about blowing the lid off of their stats.”
He laughs. “Well, if Hazel hadn’t pushed me, and if my grandfather hadn’t set up
funding for my college, I’d never have been able to afford even the U. The tuition was
ridiculous. My mother was so pissed at me for emancipating myself. She wouldn’t pay
for a thing.”
This is the opening I’ve been looking for. “Why didn’t Stevie and Maggie
“Self-preservation,” he says immediately. “My mother was not going to let that
happen a second time or a third, and I’m sure she made that clear to them. Plus, we’d
always known a son—well, turns out just an heir—in good standing must run the
company, and I obviously wanted nothing to do with it, so she had to keep them in her
“So is Stevie going to take charge now?”
“God, no! You remember that mess with Stevie when he graduated from high
school. He was wild, and that didn’t go over well at all. Doesn’t look good, you know.”
He rolls his eyes. “And he doesn’t have any business training either. He’s doing great,
though. Genevieve grounds him, and they stay far away from my mother down in Key
West. No brutal Minnesota winters for them.”
“I can’t blame him for that.” My heart sinks. “So it’s left for Maggie?”
“Well, yeah, unfortunately.” He sighs. “I mean, she’ll be great—she certainly
knows what she’s doing. We set it up so someone else is running the company, and she
just has to be board chairman. She’ll still be mostly focused on the Foundation. I’m sure
the marriage to Alex is part of the merger with Elite, but Maggie doesn’t talk to me about
that kind of thing.”
“You could call her and find out,” Bella reminds him.
“I should, because if my mother is forcing her to marry Alex, that is truly fucked
Bella stands. “Jonathan, thank you for coming. I need to get some work done.
She gives me a warm embrace and a kiss. “Come again soon.””
“That’s your cue, eh?” I laugh as I reach for her hand and give it a squeeze.
“Dinner was truly outstanding. I hope to see you very soon.”
“I’m guessing we’ll see you at Maggie’s wedding,” she says, looking at
Christopher as if transmitting a message with her eyes.
My heart clenches, and I’m sure it stops pumping for a few moments. We have
got to find a way out of this. If Christopher is against it too, maybe we can band
“Maggie’s here next week,” Bella adds as she goes, looking at me now.
“Foundation work for Bullseye. They’re working with a local nonprofit on a program they
want to take nationwide. She comes out every six weeks or so to meet with the director.
This time she’s squeezing in some time with her big brother.”
“I didn’t know she was due to come out and stay.”
I need to focus on how to fill Christopher in on Maggie’s situation, but I’m not
sure it’s my place. Plus, I’m not ready to admit my relationship with her just yet. Though
I don’t know quite what I’m waiting for now.
“She’s not just a pretty face,” Bella says over her shoulder. “The guest room is
ready if you need it, and the guest house has clean sheets for your team.”
“Thanks, Bella, but we have a flight at eleven.” I turn to Christopher. “I was out of
town earlier this week, and everything went to hell in a handbasket. I can’t be out of
She waves goodbye and disappears.
“Come with me.” Christopher leads me down the hall to his man cave, where we
sit in two leather chairs opposite a gas fireplace. “What’s going on?” he asks as he
pours twenty-five-year-old amber liquid into a glass.
I take a deep breath and prepare myself for yelling and possibly a black eye. “I
need some help.”
“Sure, anything. What’s going on?”
“You’ve been my best friend since we were five. Your family is my family.”
“I feel the same way.”
I take a deep pull of my drink and look him in the eye. “I’m in love with Maggie.”
He sits back in his chair. I can see his jaw set, and he looks away. I brace myself.
He slowly turns to me. “Okay, and?”
I’m so stunned that I don’t know where to start.
“Jonnie, you’ve been in love with Maggie since we were in high school. You were
more serious about keeping boys away from her than I ever was. Plus, I saw you
disappear with her after my wedding. I knew you’d tell me when you were ready.”
I feel my mouth fall open and quickly shut it. He’s known all along? “Are you okay
with this? I mean, I remember you threatening to cut off my balls if I got involved with
“You’re adults, not ridiculous teenagers anymore,” he says with a shrug. “She’s
the one you built the Shangri-la for, right?”
I nod and stare down at my now-empty glass. “She came to see me a few weeks
ago, and I was ready to ask her to move to Las Vegas. I bought an engagement ring the
day after your wedding. I love her, man.” I sigh. “But the moment I saw her, she shut
everything down and told me she was marrying Alex.”
He nods soberly. “So I’m guessing my mother is behind this marriage?”
“It sounds like she waited until you and Stevie left to inform Maggie that she
couldn’t get around the marriage clause—and then she presented her with a ready-
“I have the most fucked-up family. How does Maggie feel about you?”
“I feel like she cares about me too. For months after your wedding, we’d been
flirting and texting back and forth. We talked just about every day until she dropped the
bomb about marrying Alex and ran off. Now it’s hit or miss.”
“What’s happened since then?”
“She’s shutting me out, though I’m trying not to let her. We’ve connected a few
times, and she finally came clean about everything, but she’s convinced she’s the only
one who can preserve the company, and she has some sort of stupid loyalty to Alex, so
she’s resigned herself to going through with it.”
Christopher nods and looks at the ceiling for a moment. “My mother has her
hooks in everything Maggie does—she always has. But she can’t throw her life away,
especially when she has another option on the table—you.”
I almost feel relieved, but the situation still feels overwhelmingly awful. I sit back
hard in my chair. “Help me talk some sense into her. We have to find another way to
meet the terms of the will—or get them changed.”
He gets the bottle of scotch and pours me another glass. “The wedding isn’t until
next month, so let me see what I can find out when she’s here next week. That way we
don’t tip my mother off.”
It’s been one hell of a week, but it’s finally Saturday. I’m making today a pajama
day, but that doesn’t mean I’m not productive. So far, I’ve spent the morning going
through my to-do lists for the Foundation, and I reviewed the latest batch of Reinhardt
Hudson P&L statements so I’m not walking in blind when I take the job of chairman.
It’s late morning, and I haven’t even gotten dressed. I love that I can work from
Or not-work from home. I pause to daydream a little. It’s been several weeks
since I argued with Jonnie at the spa. He didn’t respond when I texted to apologize, so
I’ve left him alone. I’m sure this is for the best, though I still think of him every day.
But I shouldn’t. I lay back in bed, set aside my spreadsheets, and leaf through a
magazine. It is Saturday, after all.
A few minutes later, a knock at my bedroom door distracts me from the article in
Cosmo on “How to Make Your Orgasms Last.” Just as well, as it seems a bit cliché, and
thanks to my current life predicament, I won’t be having orgasms any time soon.
Opening the door, I find my mother’s private secretary standing with an acrylic
clipboard, wearing her usual sensible skirt and shoes.
“There’s a Mr. Patrick Moreau here to see you,” she announces.
“Me? Why is my mother’s attorney here to see me?”
She looks at me blankly. Her job is not to wonder, but to do, and do it efficiently.
She waits for me to agree to meet him.
“Have him meet me in the library.”
She gives a curt nod, turns, and leaves.
So much for a day in my flannel pajamas. I could meet him like this, but that’s
probably not the image of myself I want to project. I pick up the crumpled jeans I wore
yesterday from the floor and pull them on, making sure the underwear isn’t going to
creep out the leg later today. I grab an Irish wool sweater to complete the outfit. My
mother would turn up her nose, but I won’t be caught dead in one of her St. John knit
suits. He arrived unannounced. What does she expect?
As I walk downstairs, I consider what might bring him to speak to me. Maybe my
mother has melted the ice in Lake Louise and drowned? Not likely.
When I enter the room, his back is to me, but I can see he’s drinking coffee and
studying the shelf of first editions my father collected. I’ve always thought he was a little
smarmy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tucked a book into his briefcase before I arrived.
I’ll have Richard check the inventory after he leaves.
I take a big breath and paint a smile on my face. Extending my hand, I say
“Welcome Mr. Moreau. What brings you to Reinhardt House?”
He’s a slight man, barely equal to me in height. Rather than clasp my hand, he
does what he always does and shakes my fingers. His father was my grandfather’s
attorney, so we inherited him, though I’m not sure why we kept him.
“Thank you, Miss Reinhardt.” He opens his briefcase, which is sitting on the side
table, and extracts several packets of papers. “Your mother thought you might want to
go through the papers she gave you recently.”
My smile is tight. I may not have gone to law school, but I’ve been reading
contracts since I could read. I know what they say and why I’m screwed.
“I’ve been through them.”
“Do you understand your father’s will?”
“You explained his will to us when you read it after he passed.”
“You understand that with Christopher not interested or able to assume
responsibility of Reinhardt Corporation, and Steven unable to meet the requirements at
this point to assume leadership, the company falls to you.”
“That’s what you explained and what I read.”
“Did you read that you can only inherit the management of the company if you’re
married? Your grandfather was a man of a different generation,” he explains.
I’m seething. “I did notice that.” Does he think I’m marrying Alex because I want
“And you read the documents in which you authorized Herbert Walker of Elite
Electronics to extract over a million dollars from the Reinhardt Foundation for his
personal use? This action was against the rules of the Foundation and a violation of the
law. You’ve embezzled from the Foundation.”
Ah yes, here we go. “I did no such thing, as you know. And that isn’t my
signature.” I will myself to keep my cool. My mother is trying to pull a fast one here, but
I’m not going to let her get away with this. Smarmy or not, Moreau is an officer of the
court, and he needs to abide by the law.
“But it is your signature,” he counters. “I witnessed you signing that document. I
told you at the time that if anyone found out, you’d be fully prosecuted by the Reinhardt
Corporation and find yourself in jail.” He clasps his hands in front of himself and looks
me up and down like a piece of meat. “You told me no one would ever know.”
That’s complete bullshit. I walk toward him until I stand less than a foot away. In
the sweetest voice I can muster, I ask, “What does my mother have on you to make you
lie for her?”
“I was there. There’s nothing to hold over my head. I assure you that would be
against the law.”
“You know as well as I do that I didn’t sign this.” I can’t lose it here. That’s how
He shifts gears. “Did you read the paperwork Alex signed?”
“Those documents indicate that he’s stolen over a million dollars from his own
I shake my head. He’s among the Walkers’ fleet of attorneys too. “You control his
accounts; Alex couldn’t have done that without you.”
Moreau rocks back on his heels. “He tricked me. His mother contacted me, or so
I thought, and authorized the disbursements. But actually, it might have been you who
called. We can’t be sure, but she’s made it clear it wasn’t her.”
After a moment, he hands me an additional stack of papers. “These will be filed
by my office with the Hennepin County DA. They outline your misappropriations and
malfeasance with the corporation and Alexander’s embezzlement. It will no doubt result
in warrants for your arrest.”
He pauses, seemingly for dramatic effect. “Of course, these will never see the
light of day if you go through with your wedding to Alexander and remain married to him.
Any divorce will also set these documents into motion.”
There it is. Blackmail, plain and simple—well, not too simple. What on earth is
going on here? This is not just about the company. It can’t be. My mother has lost her
mind. It’s finally clear that I can’t just go along with this. Otherwise the whole rest of my
life will unfold this way—something new and horrible waiting for me around every turn,
anytime my ideas and my mother’s don’t exactly match up.
I need to talk to a professional of my own, but anyone here in Minneapolis will
likely report that to Mr. Moreau. I need to figure this out.
“I appreciate you stopping by,” I say absently, still evaluating how I’m going to
“I just wanted to make sure you understood the gravity of your situation.”
He’s not yet closing up his briefcase, and suddenly he licks his lips.
I want to vomit. “Thank you,” I manage. “Anything else?”
He steps forward and stares me down. I flinch as he moves the hair away from
my face, and I try to step back but find the wall behind me.
“I look forward to servicing you the way I do your mother.” The innuendo drips
from his mouth, and goosebumps cover my arms.
I’m flooded by the desire to knee him in the balls.
“You can leave now,” I seethe.
He closes up his briefcase and puts his coat on, watching me.
Mr. Moreau is clearly knee deep in this mess, and once I can prove that, I will
happily have his law license revoked.
He finally goes, but I remain in the library, pacing back and forth. I’m not sure
what to do. I didn’t sign the documents attributed to me, but I can’t be certain Alex didn’t
sign his papers.
I’ve made it clear I don’t want to marry Alex, but I’m still here, aren’t I? My mother
has to be reasonably certain I’m going to tow the line like always. Why the strong-arm
Fortunately I have a trip to San Francisco for the Foundation on Monday,
because I need to talk to Christopher. He knows what kind of crap happens in our
family. If anyone can help me sort this out, it’s him. If I have to get married to preserve
the future of the company, I’m for damn sure going to do it with eyes open. No shady
business, no blackmail, and no surprises about what lies ahead.
I read through the documents again, and Moreau has included a profit and loss
statement for the company as proof of my crime. I look through every line item, as my
father always taught me to do. Then I spot something.
My heart beats a bit faster. The gray clouds separate ever so slightly.
Finally, a bit of leverage for me.
I hear my mother at the front door and go to greet her. “Hello, Mother.”
“Hello, my darling.”
She’s looking way too smug.
“Your sleazy lawyer came by to see me.”
She gives me a plastic smile. “I thought it best that he go through all the
paperwork with you, so you knew what you were up against.”
“I’m perfectly capable of reading. I’m curious as to your deal with Herbert
“He’s been a long-time friend and ally to your father and me.”
“He was Father’s best friend. Did you fuck him to get back at Father for having an
affair with Nancy and fathering her child?”
It occurs to me that if Murphy hadn’t died in a car accident a few years ago, he
could’ve been the heir to run the business. He’s also the one thing my mother really
resented. She never cared that my father had affairs, but the fact that his relationship
with his secretary resulted in a child? That put it all right out in the open. And then
Father left Nancy a quarter of his estate, so clearly he loved her. And that’s not what his
arrangement with my mother was supposed to be.
“Your father’s relationship is none of your business.” She bristles.
“Well… Patrick offered to service me the same way he does you,” I tell her. “Do
you fuck him? I wonder what Herbert would think if he knew you were screwing him,
Her hand trembles, which I know is a sign she’s nervous. It’s her tell, as Jonnie
“You know I have great respect for the company and everything Father and
Grandfather built,” I tell her, moving closer. “You’ve played on my love, knowing I’m
loyal and not usually one to fight you. But you went too far when you pushed me to
marry Alex in some big society wedding. You don’t get to parade around like this is the
fabulous event of the century. This is a business arrangement. Alex and I will marry at
the Hennepin County Courthouse to meet the requirements of the will, and you’ll vacate
this house immediately afterward.”
She shakes her head and points a finger at me. “You will have the wedding I’m
I smile because I know I have her. “No, I won’t. While I may be willing to do
almost anything to sustain our family business and the Foundation it supports, you
depend on the company. Your stipend comes from the corporation. You have no money
of your own because Grandfather’s will set it up to go to Father, the direct heir, and he
kept the same structure in his will. I don’t know how I missed this at the reading, but no
part of it provides for you. And there are no requirements for a fancy wedding.”
Her face morphs from pained to horrified and angry. I’ve figured her out. My
mother never saw me as smart like Christopher. He went to medical school, but I went
to business school, and I’m successfully running the Foundation. I’ve prepared for being
on the board of my family company my entire life. My ridiculous mother aside, I do
believe in what my family has spent generations creating.
I take a deep breath. “If you force me into a big wedding, I promise you’ll never
see another penny from the Reinhardt Corporation.”
“Don’t you dare threaten me,” she growls.
“What are you going to do, Mother? Dissolve the company and lose everything?
Thanks to that enlightening session with your attorney, I just realized all the money you
support yourself with goes away if the company goes away. The will is clear that you
didn’t inherit anything. So, as I said, Alex and I will marry at the Hennepin County
Courthouse when we’re ready. I’ll let you know the date. You will move out and go to
Florida or wherever you want to go. And just remember, if you bother me, I’ll make sure
you don’t get another penny.”
I leave her standing in the foyer. I walk upstairs and feel better than I have in
months. This is still a tremendous mess, but I have a little bit of autonomy. Mother
inadvertently gave me all the aces in her house of cards.
I text Alex.
Me: I just learned something very interesting, and I need a high five
because I actually won an argument with my mother.
Alex: What happened?
Me: I‘ll explain in person sometime. We’ll talk soon.
Ainsley St Claire is a Romantic Suspense Author and Adventurer on a lifelong mission to craft sultry storylines and steamy love scenes that captivate her readers. To date, she is best known for her series Venture Capitalists.
An avid reader since the age of four, Ainsley’s love of books knew no genre. After reading, came her love of writing, fully immersing herself in the colorful, impassioned world of contemporary romance.
Ainsley’s passion immediately shifted to a vocation when during a night of terrible insomnia, her first book came to her. Ultimately, this is what inspired her to take that next big step. The moment she wrote her first story, the rest was history.
Currently, Ainsley is in the midst of writing a nine-book series called “Venture Capitalist.”
When she isn’t being a bookworm or typing away her next story on her computer, Ainsley enjoys spending quality family time with her loved ones. She is happily married to her amazing soulmate and is a proud mother of two rambunctious boys. She is also a scotch aficionada and lover of good food (especially melt-in-your-mouth, velvety chocolate). Outside of books, family, and food, Ainsley is a professional sports spectator and an equally as terrible golfer and tennis player.
A new stand-alone romance about trading favors, battling wills, and winning love.
When I joined Seattle’s NHL expansion team, I thought it was the start of something great. But nothing ever goes the way you expect. Take my introduction to my new neighbor. She came rolling in on the hot mess express at midnight, making a racket while she tried to get into my team captain’s apartment. Did I mention that he’s married to a woman who definitely was not her?
Imagine my surprise when I end up with an injury that has me out of the game for weeks, and she’s the one to offer to help me. I should probably add that she’s not the captain’s mistress. She’s his sexy, pastel-haired younger sister.
So we come up with an arrangement: she rehabs me so that I can get back on the ice sooner, and she can add a professional athlete that isn’t her brother to her client list. Seems simple enough. As long as I can keep my hands to myself and my hormones in check.
Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/AFFAF
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2msA1pY
Amazon Audible: https://amzn.to/2Gh4xtv
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2m17XK2
She makes me lift my arm and drapes it over her shoulder. She’s incredibly small compared to me. She tucks one arm under my knee and gently grips the back of my calf with the other. “On the count of three,” she orders. I tense up when she hits three. She gets my leg about six inches off the floor, which is when I scream bloody murder again and grab on to her with both hands.
“Okay. That’s not going to work. The angle is too awkward.” She taps her lip and holds her finger up. “I have an idea.”
She ducks out from under my arm and hooks her fingers in the waistband of her yoga pants.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Calm down. Some bathing suits have less coverage than my underwear. Besides, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”
She kicks off her yoga pants, leaving her in a T-shirt and panties. They’re plain cotton boy shorts, which should be a good thing, but apparently my body doesn’t care that it’s not a satin or lace thong. All it cares about is the proximity of almost-naked pussy.
Rook’s sister is standing in my bathroom in her underwear. If I had a sister who looked like Stevie and I knew that she was standing in one of my teammate’s bathrooms half-naked, I would probably kick the shit out of the guy. Thankfully, I have a brother.
I try to keep my eyes averted, sort of, but I catch her reflection in the vanity mirror.
She has fantastic legs. Athletic. Strong. And her ass. Goddamn. She definitely does a lot of squats, based on how round and firm it looks. The ache in my groin turns into that stabbing pain again because I’m getting hard. I think about my grandmother in a bathing suit to counteract the effect of Stevie being partly undressed.
She steps into the tub, and I force myself to keep my eyes down, bringing up the image of that hot chick in the tub who turns into a rotting old lady in The Shining. That helps a bit. At least until Stevie moves into my personal space and starts touching me again. I mutter a string of profanity, especially when I feel her boob pressed against my arm for a few seconds. I have no choice but to latch on to her shoulder as we lift my leg over the edge of the tub. I’m sweating, I’m angry, and I hate my dick.
“I need you to stop touching me!” It’s stupid because I’m still holding on to her, not the other way around.
“Why are you yelling at me?” she shouts back.
“Because you’re half-undressed in my tub, and I’m a guy, and apparently my dick is a fucking sadist. It honestly feels like my balls are on fire right now. A semi has never] been this painful.”
“Well, close your damn eyes and think about dead things.”
“It doesn’t matter if I close them. The image of you in panties is burned into the back of my lids, probably for the rest of my fucking life. It’s all I can see.”
“You’d think you’d never seen a set of bare legs before.” She helps me lower myself into the tub and steps out.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a pair up close,” I grumble.
“Such a surprise, with your warm, fuzzy personality.”
About Helena Hunting
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.
Connect with Helena
Facebook Fan group: http://bit.ly/2kN5yCD
Never miss an update! Subscribe to Helena’s mailing list:
I do admit that if I have a choice I’ll be picking a hockey romance before another sports romance. And if it is one written by Helena Hunting, it is on my auto-buy list. A Favor for a Favor is the second in HH’s All In series and I’ve been ready to read it since I heard there was a new series. A Lie for a Lie is book one and the intro to the series, giving us Rook Bowman’s story. Second in series has us reading the story of Bishop Winslow, Rook’s teammate, and Stevie Bowman, Rook’s younger sister. From the start I was hooked. I loved that there’s a bit of mistaken identity, snarkiness, and the need to look under the surface. The more I read, the more I fell for HH’s match up. I loved Bishop and Stevie together.
I’m very much looking forward to reading the next in series. It can’t come soon enough.
In the newest Night Rebel novel, set in New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress world, beautiful, daring vampire Veritas risks all to protect Ian…
Some promises are meant to be broken…
Veritas spent most of her life as a vampire Law Guardian. Now, she’s about to break every rule by secretly hunting down the dark souls that were freed in order to save Ian. But the risks are high. For if she gets caught, she could lose her job. And catching the sinister creatures might cost Veritas her own life.
Some vows are forever…
Ian’s memories might be fragmented, but this master vampire isn’t about to be left behind by the woman who entranced him, bound herself to him, and then disappeared. So what if demons, other Law Guardians, and dangerous, otherworldly forces stand against them? Come hell or high water, Ian intends to remind Veritas of the burning passion between them, because she is the only person seared on his mind—and his soul…
by Jeaniene Frost
Night Rebel (Night Huntress World)
January 28, 2020
“What’s so amusing?” I asked in my chilliest voice.
“You,” he said, still chuckling. “Knew you must fancy me to convince Crispin to lie his arse off to protect me from a demon I can’t remember, but I didn’t realize this.”
He gave me a sunny smile. “You’re madly in love with me.”
He waved away my gasp. “Nothing to be ashamed of. You’re in the company of multitudes, though none of them got me to the proverbial altar the way you did. Have I mentioned how impressive that was? Blimey, talk about making the impossible a reality.”
Outrage had me sputtering. “You are such an ass—”
“Can’t blame it on the Red Dragon, either,” he went on as if I hadn’t spoken. “I’ve been high on that several times, yet never woken up with a wife before. Means I must have wanted to marry you, too, shocking though the thought may be.”
“Your arrogance is astounding—”
“Then again, I do know you’re mine,” he continued, eyes gleaming now. “Did I tell you I sometimes feel things before they happen? Ah, I can see from your expression that I did. Imagine my surprise when I felt that you were mine the first time I saw you. Felt it again with every memory I had of you. Felt it when you were lying your arse off to the council about me, too, and I really felt it when I walked into your hotel room and breathed in your true scent.” He came close, letting me see him inhale again. “Knocked me right off my feet,” he murmured. “’Course, that also could have been the new memory it elicited, but either way, I know you’re mine. And so do you.”
“Bullshit,” I said with all the emotion I was denying.
Ian only smiled. “Keep pretending, then. I don’t need you to admit what you feel in order for you to help me recover what I’ve lost. You can show me.”
I regained enough control to ask, “How will I show you?”
“Being near you has already inspired one new memory. I expect more will come the longer we’re together.” His gaze turned knowing. “Did you realize that? Is that the other reason you’ve tried so hard to avoid me?”
“No.” But now that I did know, it would be.
If Ian remembered everything, he’d never let me pay the price for his resurrection alone. His sense of honor would demand that he hunt down the other souls along with me, danger be damned. I had to get away from him before that happened. But now that he could teleport, how could I escape him?
Of course. Ian was formidable, but he did have one rather large weakness.
I came toward him and dropped my glamour. My skirt suit was already ripped from the ghoul fight and being buried alive, so my real curves almost overflowed the torn fabric, now too tight. His gaze raked me from the top of my streaked, silvery hair all the way to my feet, and his nostrils flared when he caught my real scent.
“There you are,” he said in a throaty voice.
“Here I am,” I agreed softly.
Then I put my arms around him, steeling myself not to get lost in the feel of him. He pulled me close, his body flush against mine. Every nerve ending I had caught fire. So much for me maintaining control. Still, I couldn’t stop now. I tilted my head back and parted my lips, an invitation for him to kiss me.
His eyes glowed emerald as he took me up on it.
To celebrate the release of WICKED BITE by Jeaniene Frost, we’re giving away a paperback copy of Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Books. Giveaway ends 2/29/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
JEANIENE FROST is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the Night Huntress and Night Prince series, as well as the Night Huntress World novels. To date, foreign rights for her novels have sold to twenty different countries. Jeaniene lives in Florida with her husband, Matthew, rarely cooks and always sleeps in on the weekends. Aside from writing, Jeaniene enjoys reading, poetry, watching movies with her husband, exploring old cemeteries, spelunking and traveling — by car. Airplanes, children, and cook books frighten her.
A box of love letters from the past may hold the key to the future…
Jamie always adored True Love Bookstore and Café, and now she’s the owner. But businesses are struggling in her small town, and her beloved store is threatened by a new retail development scheme.
Sawyer, Jamie’s former high school sweetheart, startles her when he comes to town for the first time in fifteen years. She soon learns he’s the architect of the proposed development and he’s there to sell local business owners on his plan. Sawyer had no idea that Jamie had bought the bookstore and poured everything she had into it. If he takes it over, he’ll break her heart a second time.
Jamie’s discovery of a box of old love letters and valentines might hold the key to saving her shop. And after all this time, could love be in the cards for Jamie and Sawyer, too?
Sawyer glanced at the store and back at Jamie. “Wait, you…you bought the bookstore?”
“Yeah. Oh, yeah.” Had she not made that clear already? “I bought it a few years ago, just like I always said I would.”
Did he not remember, or did he simply think that everyone moved away from their hometown and never looked back?
“I had no idea,” he said, blinking rapidly before letting out a strangled-sounding laugh.
“Well, how would you? You’ve been gone for fifteen years.” There. She’d said it. “Unless Rick tells you everything.”
“Not that thing,” he said under his breath.
She was a little stumped as to why he seemed so surprised. He’d just seen her on top of a ladder shelving new books. Did he really think she was still working part-time in the afternoons for Mr. Ogilvy?
“Well, enough about me.” She pasted on a smile. “How are you? What are you doing back here?”
She was dying to know. Rick hadn’t breathed a word about Sawyer coming back. And Sawyer’s crisp blue dress shirt and the messenger bag that was currently slung over his shoulder kind of made it seem like this was more than simply a vacation—not that it seemed likely he’d come to visit on a whim after all this time.
“I…um…” His face went blank for a second, and then the chime of a cell phone had him reaching for his pocket. “Oh, excuse me. Hold on…”
Jamie nodded, wondering who would be calling him. Then she wondered why she cared as two bothersome words echoed in her consciousness: romantic hiatus.
Sawyer’s brow furrowed as he glanced at the screen of his ringing iPhone. “Oh. Um, sorry. I have to…”
“Oh.” Jamie nodded again while Sawyer held the phone to his ear. She couldn’t seem to stop.
“Hey, Dana. Can you hold on just a second?”
Sawyer glanced up from his phone with an apologetic smile. “I have to take this.”
Whoever Dana might be, she was clearly important to him. And that was perfectly fine. Jamie didn’t even know Sawyer anymore.
Seeing him again had been nice, though. Not quite as agonizing as she’d originally feared.
“Of course,” she said, shooing him off. “Yeah, go. It was great to see you again.”
“Good to see you too. Bye.” He was already walking away, practically sprinting toward the courtyard exit. “Hey, Dana. Yeah…”
He waved at her one last time before he disappeared.
“Bye,” she said, and her heart gave a little squeeze.
Then she took a deep inhale, squared her shoulders and marched back inside her book- store. This was nothing more than history repeating itself. Jamie had grown accustomed to saying goodbye to Sawyer O’Dell a long, long time ago.
Teri Wilson is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of romance, women’s fiction and romantic comedy. Three of Teri’s books have been adapted into Hallmark Channel Original Movies by Crown Media, including UNLEASHING MR. DARCY (plus its sequel MARRYING MR. DARCY), THE ART OF US and NORTHERN LIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS, based on her book SLEIGH BELL SWEETHEARTS. She is also a recipient of the prestigious RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction for her novel THE BACHELOR’S BABY SURPRISE. Teri has a major weakness for cute animals, pretty dresses and Audrey Hepburn films, and she loves following the British royal family. Visit her at http://www.teriwilson.net or on Twitter @TeriWilsonauthr.
“Read Carly Phillips for a guaranteed hot, sexy, sizzling chemistry, and characters you’ll love.”
— Jill Shalvis, New York Times Bestselling Author
Going Down Again, an all-new sexy Valentine’s Day themed short story in The Billionaire Bad Boys Series from New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips is out now!
Alphalicious and still demanding, Kaden Barnes has everything a man could want: a beautiful wife, an adorable toddler son, and a life most people would envy.
What he misses is being alone with his wife. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, he can’t think of a better gift than a vacation to the exclusive island of Eden where sensuality reigns.
But no sooner do they arrive than he realizes something is bothering his beautiful wife. Can he seduce Lexie into a revelation, and if so can he handle what she has to tell him that will upend their already chaotic life?
*A complete stand-alone for people who haven’t yet read GOING DOWN EASY but a special treat for those who want to revisit a favorite couple.
Download your copy today for only 99¢!
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2t3HlvS
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/goingdownagain
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2GsxO4p
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/3b2xSpA
Meet Carly Phillips
New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestseller, Carly Phillips gives her readers Alphalicious heroes to swoon for and romance to set your heart on fire. She married her college sweetheart and lives in Purchase, NY along with her three crazy dogs: two wheaten terriers and a mutant Havanese, who are featured on her Facebook and Instagram. The author of 50 romance novels, she has raised two incredible daughters who put up with having a mom as a full time writer. Carly’s book, The Bachelor, was chosen by Kelly Ripa as a romance club pick and was the first romance on a nationally televised bookclub. Carly loves social media and interacting with her readers. Want to keep up with Carly? Sign up for her newsletter and receive TWO FREE books at www.carlyphillips.com.
Connect with Carly
Stay up to date with Carly by joining her mailing list:
Sign up for Text Updates of New Releases: http://tinyurl.com/p3upm5s
Join Carly’s Addicts: http://bit.ly/2CM78tY
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan comes a new story in her Fractured Connections series…
It all started at a wedding. Beckham didn’t mean to dance with Meadow. And he really didn’t mean to kiss her. But now, she’s the only thing on his mind. And when it all comes down to it, she’s the only person he can’t have.
He’ll just have to stay away from her, no matter how hard they’re pulled together.
Running away from her friend’s wedding isn’t the best way to keep the gossip at bay. But falling for the mysterious and gorgeous bartender at her friends’ bar will only make it worse. Beckham has his secrets, and she refuses to pry.
Once burned, twice kicked down, and never allowed to get up again. Yet taking a chance with him might be the only choice she has. And the only one she wants.
**For fans of Carrie Ann’s Fractured Connections series, Taken With You is book four in that series.**
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
Add TAKEN WITH YOU to your Goodreads TBR here!
“Anyway, where have you been?” Violet asked.
I frowned. “Here? Where I am always.”
“You say that, yet you haven’t texted. No call. No note,” Sienna said, perfecting her perfect British accent as she pretended that she was Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series.
“I’m fine. Really. Just busy working. And after the wedding, I figured everyone would be busy with cleanup and honeymooning and everything that brides are supposed to do on their wedding night.” I looked at Harmony, and she blushed even harder.
Apparently, she’d had a very nice wedding night.
“Well, considering you ran out of the reception, I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
I looked at Violet, noting the concern in her eyes.
“I didn’t run. I said goodbye.”
“And then you ran like there was a demon on your tail,” Sienna said. “We saw. Are you okay?”
“I didn’t see,” Harmony said quickly. “I was a little preoccupied. And I’m sorry about that. But what happened? Are you okay?”
We settled on the couches, and I set my hands in my lap.
I thought I’d hid things well. But from the way they looked at me now, I knew I hadn’t been entirely successful.
I’d never been very good at hiding.
The bruises on my soul were evidence of that.
“What’s fine?” Violet asked, her voice stern.
“Beckham kissed me.” I hadn’t actually meant to say that. And as their eyes widened, and they leaned forward, I knew I was in for it.
That secret was supposed to go with me to the grave. The kiss hadn’t meant anything. It couldn’t.
“He did? Did you not want it?” Sienna asked, frowning. “Because I’ll kick his ass for you, or I’ll have Aiden do it if that’s the case. He may be big and bearded and a little broody—although he’s not really bearded right now since he shaved for the wedding—but anyway, I will totally kick his ass if I need to. Or have it kicked.”
I shook my head quickly as Sienna continued to ramble.
“I’m fine. Really. He didn’t hurt me. Didn’t do anything wrong. But it can never happen again. It can’t. Totally not going there again.”
I slammed my mouth shut as the girls looked at me expectantly.
“Carrie Ann Ryan never fails to draw readers in with passion, raw sensuality, and characters that pop off the page. Any book by Carrie Ann is an absolute treat.” – New York Times Bestselling Author J. Kenner
“With snarky humor, sizzling love scenes, and brilliant, imaginative worldbuilding, The Dante’s Circle series reads as if Carrie Ann Ryan peeked at my personal wish list!” – NYT Bestselling Author, Larissa Ione
“Carrie Ann Ryan writes sexy shifters in a world full of passionate happily-ever-afters.” – New York Times Bestselling Author Vivian Arend
Carrie Ann Ryan’s books are wickedly funny and deliciously hot, with plenty of twists to keep you guessing. They’ll keep you up all night!” USA Today Bestselling Author Cari Quinn
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan never thought she’d be a writer. Not really. No, she loved math and science and even went on to graduate school in chemistry. Yes, she read as a kid and devoured teen fiction and Harry Potter, but it wasn’t until someone handed her a romance book in her late teens that she realized that there was something out there just for her. When another author suggested she use the voices in her head for good and not evil, The Redwood Pack and all her other stories were born.
Carrie Ann is a bestselling author of over twenty novels and novellas and has so much more on her mind (and on her spreadsheets *grins*) that she isn’t planning on giving up her dream anytime soon.
HEARTLAND BY SARINA BOWEN
A standalone romance in the USA Today best-selling True North world.
January 28, 2020
Expect: cute goats, college parties, caramels, a hot, broody farm boy and a broken girl who can’t stop loving him.
An emotional friends to lovers romance full of risky secrets and late-night lessons in seduction.
Dylan is my best friend, and the only person in my life who understands me. He doesn’t mind my social awkwardness or my weird history. The only glitch? He doesn’t know that I’ve been hopelessly, desperately in love with him since the first day we picked apples together in his family’s orchard.
But I know better than to confess.
Now that I’ve joined him at college, I’m seeing a new side of him. This Dylan drinks and has a lot of sex. None of it with me.
Until the moment I foolishly ask him to tutor me in more than algebra…and he actually says yes.
One crazy night sets our friendship on fire. But now my heart lies in ashes, and nothing will ever be the same again.
Heartland is a standalone college romance set in the True North world. Expect: a young, broody farmer, a giant crush, tasty caramels, cute goats and late night confessions.
“So why were you having a bad day, anyway?” Ellie asks. “Man trouble?”
“Not exactly. It’s more like a lack of man trouble. I kissed my hot algebra tutor. And I wasn’t supposed to.”
Her big eyes widen. “Which hot algebra tutor? You never said.”
“He doesn’t work at the lab,” I say hastily. “He’s a friend. And he wants to stay that way.”
“Oh.” She looks deflated. “That is a bummer.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No.” She makes a face. “It would be nice, though. This year is kind of lonely. My roommate is a total bitch.”
“Oh, I have one of those, too.”
“Yeah?” Ellie’s eyes brighten. “Does yours steal your clothes and then lie about it?”
“Um, no. She wouldn’t want any of my things. We have singles, anyway. Just a common bathroom.”
“Lucky! She must be easier to stand, then.”
“You’d think.” I take a gulp of mint tea.
“My roommate took my brand-new scarf. With the tags still on! And when I called her out on it, she tried to gaslight me.”
“Gaslight?” I feel my cheeks flush like they sometimes do when I don’t understand the idioms that people use.
“You don’t know Gaslight? It’s a movie from the forties.”
“Ingrid Bergman,” says Dylan’s voice. “We haven’t got around to the classics yet.”
I startle, sloshing my tea over my hand. And when I look up, Dylan is right there. Clear brown eyes. Tousled hair. Tight, muscular body that’s clothed in a nice sweater and ripped jeans. A handsome face that I finally kissed.
Pain slices through me. Because I’m never going to get over him. There will never be a day when I look at Dylan and don’t wish for more.
“Can I talk to you for a quick second?” he asks, taking the mug and grabbing a napkin off the table. He wipes the tea off my hand.
“Now is not a good time,” I say quickly. Because I don’t want to cry in the coffee shop in front of my only new friend.
Dylan actually rolls his eyes. “Fifteen seconds, Chass. Give a man a break.”
“I’d talk to you.” Ellie raises her hand like a school girl. “Pick me.”
And that’s just what I need—another girl in my life who’s swooning for Dylan. Because that always turns out well.
“Fine. Fifteen seconds.” I jump to my feet. Let’s get this over with.
Dylan takes my arm and tows me gently over toward the bulletin board, where nobody is currently reading the flyers for meditation circles and ski equipment sales.
“Look, I’m sorry,” is his opener. “You’re avoiding me. Not that I blame you. I’m sorry things got so out of control.”
“Which things?” I ask warily. Because I don’t want an apology for fooling around with me.
“Pick one!” Dylan raises his hands. “All the things. I shouldn’t have been so inappropriate.”
“But…” I know Dylan was in a serious state of drunken depression when he kissed me. It’s not like I was expecting to hear those kisses made him as happy as they made me. But would it kill him to be a little less patronizing? “Dylan, I’m not twelve years old. It was just a kiss or two. I don’t think I’ll need a full course of therapy to recover.”
He blinks. “Okay. Good?”
“So did you really need to drag me over here to apologize a third time? Did you apologize to all the girls you kissed during Spin the Bottle in seventh grade?”
I heard about Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven only last year, by eavesdropping on Debbie and her buddies at another bonfire. I’d been transfixed by their tales of who’d kissed whom over the years and how often.
At thirteen, Spin the Bottle would have sounded like heaven to me. Seven minutes in a closet with a boy? I would have lobbied for eight. I was always the most inappropriate girl in the bunch.
Yet somehow Dylan sees me as some kind of innocent child.
“No. Good point.” He crosses his delicious arms and smiles at me. “You are in a feisty mood today.”
“Is that so wrong?”
“No.” He shakes his handsome head. “Not at all. Are we going to hug it out?” He opens his big arms wide.
Oh boy. I can’t resist stepping into them. And when he pulls me in, I experience the familiar hormone rush that always happens when I’m close to him. Rapid heartbeat? Check. Goosebumps? Check. My nose lands against his flannel shirt.
My mouth is mere inches from his, of course. But this time he has no interest in kissing me. It takes all my willpower to give him a squeeze and then step back.
“Be well, Chass. I’ll leave you to your tutoring session, even if you’re basically cheating on me right now. But we’re still making caramels this weekend, right? I told Griffin we could use six gallons of goat’s milk. Don’t make a liar out of me.”
“I won’t,” I say quickly. I might be slightly irritated at him, but it will blow over. My capacity to forgive him for not loving me back is basically infinite. “We’ll leave right after Friday classes?”
“You got it. And this is for you. Share it with your friend.” He pulls something out of his pocket. “More market research.”
He puts a little box in my hand and then walks away.
As always, it takes me a second to get over my hormone rush. I stand there blinking for a long moment until I realize Ellie is grinning at me from the sofa. So I go back over to her and sit down.
“Wow…” she says, stealing a glance at Dylan’s retreating backside. “Is that hot hunk of Vermont male your algebra tutor?”
“Yes.” My voice is gravel.
“And your future ex-boyfriend?”
“Nope. I’ll never get that chance. He’s my best friend, but…” There’s no tidy explanation.
“But you want more. I would if it were me.”
I nod, miserable.
HOMETOWN HEARTLESS by Carrie Aarons
Release Date: January 23
FREE in Kindle Unlimited!!
Add to Goodreads:
One year ago, the boy next door was captured as a prisoner of war.
The boy whose window faces mine.
The backyard buddy who bandaged up my skinned knees.
The childhood crush that kept me up at night, wondering if he’d ever be my boyfriend.
The town hero I wrote endless letters to after he shipped out.
The green-eyed charmer who promised me a kiss the day I turned eighteen.
And now, he’s home.
But he didn’t come back as the boy I once knew.
He’s a man now, one with demons I can’t comprehend.
The damaged soldier keeps telling me I’m not his anymore.
That the war took him, turned him into someone unrecognizable.
What he hasn’t considered is that it took me, too.
He swears there is nothing left between us, that his heart died overseas. But with each look through our windows, we both know his lies are just that. With each fated meeting, the truth only becomes more evident.
Everett Brock occupies the shadows now.
And as much as I try to pull him into the light, it seems the switch is permanent.
What he doesn’t realize is that I’m willing to follow him into the darkness.
About the Author:
Author of romance novels such as The Tenth Girl and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the love stories of her imagination, and the athleisure dress code, much better.
When she isn’t writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She’s a Jersey girl living in Texas with her husband, daughter and furry son.
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/carriescharmers
Newsletter Signup: https://www.authorcarrieaarons.com/subscribe
Carrie Aarons’ latest is her best yet. Hometown Heartless brings all the emotion. CA has us feeling all the emotions as we experience Everett and Kennedy’s story. I was feeling the heartache and the hope as I was reading. It may have been some time since I last felt like I needed a story to end a certain way and I admit I had that wil Hometown Heartless.
#WatingForMyQueen #GeorgiaCates #CoverReveal
When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her music and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.