Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Michael Valiant from “The Valiant Chronicles” by Val Tobin

Three Exciting Novels from Award-Winning Author Val Tobin

The Experiencers
Not killing her might be the death of him.

Black-ops Assassin Michael Valiant questions his agency's motives when he's ordered to silence a group of UFO enthusiasts who look less like terrorists than they do housewives and nerds. Michael finds himself running for his life and dragging his intended target along with him.

Can he save them both, or will the Agency and the aliens find them first?

A Ring of Truth
Some heroes come disguised as monsters.

To ensure her daughter’s safety, Carolyn Fairchild has surrendered to the Agency and the aliens. In retaliation, Michael Valiant, Agency assassin, has gone rogue. He’s made his way to the Northwest Territories to find the alien base in The Valley of the Headless Men. But time is running out, and the abductees might be executed before he can save them.

Nothing says bad day like waking up dead.

Who killed Jayden McQueen? Why? How?

In her quest to find answers, Jayden sets in motion events that propel humanity towards a future already written. But just because events appear inevitable doesn't mean you shouldn't fight them. Does it?

Today we’re talking to Michael Valiant from “The Valiant Chronicles,” a Sci/Fi Thriller Romance by Val Tobin. According to the author you are only a secondary character in Earthbound, which is told from Jayden McQueen’s perspective, but you are the glue that binds all three stories together. Let’s get started. I’m sure our readers are eager to learn more about you.

What is your relationship status?
When Earthbound begins, I’m married to Jessica, a woman I’ve loved since university. Our marriage is troubled, which doesn’t surprise my partner, Torque. He warned me that assassins shouldn’t marry, but I loved her—I still love her. When The Experiencers opens, I’m afraid she wants a divorce, but I’ll do anything to keep her, even if that “anything” involves avoiding her and lying to her.

She believes I’m a scientist studying climate change. In reality, I’m a pawn of the Agency and beginning to realize I’ve been duped. When I figure it all out, my life implodes, and I take everyone around me down with me. In the end, I find a love I hadn’t known possible that helps me heal on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

What is your best memory to date?
The night I spent with the love of my life hiding in a cave in Algonquin Park. We’d only just discovered one another, and we were hunted by the Agency and the aliens, but I lost my heart to her that night. She became my lifeline, my reason to fight and to do the right thing.

What are you most afraid of?
As I look back on everything that happened in the Chronicles, my biggest fear is losing those I love. I lost everything and everyone dear to me once, and my biggest fear is that it’ll happen again. While my near-death experience taught me that we’re all connected and destiny is a moving target, losing the love of my life right now would devastate me. We’ve been through too much and deserve a respite from trauma and grief.

What was your first impression of her?
I won’t name names, but when I first saw the woman who is the love of my life, I didn’t recognize her as such. She was simply a target, and I’d have shot her on first sight if the Agency would’ve demanded that of me. Yet when I confronted her in her home, when I met her face-to-face for the first time, something within me recognized the connection. I couldn’t cause her harm after that, though I pretended to myself that I could.

What would you most like to forget?
I’d most like to forget the way my partner betrayed me and ruined my life. Torque recruited me to the Agency. He mentored me. He molded me into a killing machine. Too bad his killing machine turned out to have a conscience.

If you could go back in time, what one thing would you change in your life?
I’d make different choices when I was in Nahanni and searching for the alien base in Valley of the Headless Men in A Ring of Truth. I wish I’d turned away immediately when I spotted Althaea, my former partner, in the forest in Nahanni. The shock of seeing her there when I thought her in the US paralyzed me. That stupid lapse cost me and cost those around me.

But if you haven’t read the story, you don’t understand what happened between us, and as it turns out, she was manipulated by the Agency to such an extent she’d lost herself. They’d programmed her the way they’d programmed me—worse, because they’d manipulated her mind in horrific ways.

I’m not excusing whatever transpired between us, whatever decisions we made, but we didn’t know the truth then. I didn’t know Torque had manipulated to throw Althaea and me together. I didn’t know what she’d suffered at the hands of the Agency. We were monsters and thought we were heroes.

Do you see morality as black-and-white, or with shades of gray?
I’m as morally grey as the aliens who abducted the experiencers I was ordered to silence. Most of them hate the term “experiencer,” but that’s what the Agency taught me to call them. It was a euphemism. In reality, they’re abductees because they had no choice in the matter. The aliens kidnapped them as much as the Agency did afterwards to silence them.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most want it to be, and why?
I want Jessica to show up—but I’ve already had that, haven’t I? She came to me more than once after Torque destroyed us. Even so, I miss her and would welcome seeing her again.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most NOT want it to be, and why?
My former boss, Jim Cornell, can stay out of my life forever. He’s evil—a sociopath. If I saw him now, it would take all my self-control not to kill him, if killing him were possible, and I never want to kill again.

Who in your life has the power to hurt you the most and why?
Those I love the most have the most power to hurt me. I’m not talking about physical pain—I can endure a great deal of physical pain. Physical torture can’t touch me, but if the woman I’ve pledged my life to were to betray me, I’d never recover. When she held a gun on me and threatened to shoot me in A Ring of Truth, I’d rather have died than live with the hatred she displayed then.

Describe a typical Friday night.
After everything that happened to all of us, my Friday nights are simple but special. With minimal television and no movies being made for a long time to come, we gather together in the common room and play games the old-fashioned way. Do you know, I’d never played Charades in my life before this? I’d never been close to other people—never opened myself up like this to other people. Fun wasn’t a big part of my repertoire in my life before the world fell apart. Ironic, isn’t it?

The Valiant Chronicles” is available through:

BOOKS2READ (link to all retailers)

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Friday, March 16, 2018

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Kinky Briefs, Quatro” by Seelie Kay

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Seelie Kay, and an excerpt from her Erotic BDSM Romance, “Kinky Briefs, Quatro.”

Ah, the Friend Zone. That elusive place where friendship and romance are oxymorons. Also, that place to which you are sometimes relegated by a moron…Anyhoo, they say the best relationships are based on friendship, because once sexual prowess abandons ship, that’s all you have left. And if you can’t be friends when the fireworks fade, you’ve got nothing. However, you can yearn, you can dream, you can fantasize, but until the one you love opens the gate and sets you free, happiness will elude both of you. Lawyers, unfortunately, are more guilty of friend-zoning than most. We may be warriors in the courtroom, but when it comes to love? Not so much.

First Kiss Excerpt

“For crying out loud, Kenny, I’m not five-years-old anymore. I sprained my ankle, I didn’t break it. Stop mothering me. I already have one of those, and as you know, I don’t need another.”
Kendall adjusted the ice bag on Luke’s ankle, which was currently resting on an ottoman in front of the sofa in her living room. “Hey, you’re the one who begged me to take you home so I could take care of you. I’m just trying to make you comfortable before the movie starts. But, whatever. Do it yourself.” She sashayed out of the room. “Popcorn in five,” she said over her shoulder.
Luke smiled at her cute little ass, swaying back and forth as she walked. Who would have thought the squirrelly little girl with the long blonde pigtails, upturned freckled nose, and smart rosy red mouth would have turned into such a fine-looking woman? Okay, admittedly, he had been slow to notice. He had been friend-zoned long ago and no cock-throbbing thoughts were allowed. When his friends had started making suggestive comments about his best friend in the entire world, however, he had become furious. At first, he thought it was because some of the comments had been crude, but then he realized he was jealous. Damn. He had the hots for his best friend.
Kendall returned with a bowl of popcorn, juggling two cans of beer under one arm. She handed one to Luke, set down the popcorn and her can of beer, and plopped down beside him.
“You didn’t, by any chance, shake this can up so it would explode, did you?” Luke asked. His eyes narrowed with suspicion.
Kendall giggled. “Maybe.” Her clear blue eyes gazed up at him, her thick black lashes fluttering in feigned innocence. Her perfect little tongue settled into the corner of her full lips and she smirked.
That familiar tightening of the groin demanded that Luke pay attention. What the hell? He could always blame it on the painkillers. He set down his can of beer and lunged for her. Holding her arms above her head, he kissed Kendall, expecting her to fight back. Instead, her body relaxed and her arms crept around his neck, pulling him more tightly against her. Kendall’s mouth fell open at the insistence of his tongue, and the sensual dance began. Years of frustration, of holding back, keeping their friendship in check, bled out with that kiss. Damn.
One kiss turned into two, then he moved to his best friend’s neck, nipping and kissing and biting. Oh great, now I’m marking my territory like a caveman. But Kendall didn’t protest. In fact, she began to rub her lower body against his, writhing and moaning—damn.

“Kinky Briefs” is available through:

Available soon from all major booksellers!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Ramsey Locke from “Cora’s Promise” by Sunny Marie Baker

Cora Sutton keeps her promise to a dying friend.

She makes the treacherous journey and delivers Berta’s most cherished possession to Ramsey Locke in Rabbit Glen, Texas. Now what? Cora doesn’t have a thought. Doesn’t have a plan. Doesn’t have anywhere to be.

Ramsey is caught by complete surprise. He never anticipated such a gift. The truth is, he spends hours in the saddle running his ranch and doesn’t have the time required to honor and preserve Berta’s Treasure. He strikes a deal with Cora. She’ll stay on to tend the household needs and make sure Berta’s last wish is upheld. He’ll sleep in the barn. No strings attached.

When the town biddies discern that Cora is pregnant, the church demands Ramsey take responsibility for her condition. “I’ve never so much as kissed the woman,” Ramsey protests. “I’m not the father of her baby.” However, the church folks get out their calendars, and it all adds up for them.

Ramsey gives Cora his name to save her reputation, but will he ever give her his heart?

Today we’re talking to Ramsey Locke from “Cora's Promise-Book One of the Texas Strong Series,” an Historical Western Romance by Sunny Marie Baker. Let’s get started. I’m sure our readers are eager to learn more about you.

Ramsey Keaton Locke, you are the hero in Sunny Marie Baker’s Book One of the Texas Strong Series, Cora’s Promise.
Yes, ma’am.

We first see you on your ranch outside the town of Rabbit Glen, Texas. What brought you to Rabbit Glen?
That’s a subject I don’t reckon to talk about that much, but since you asked I guess I can share a bit. I am…I was a trained physician in Cold Springs, Kansas. My fiancĂ©e arrived on the stage to join me so we could plan our wedding. That morning some rowdies rode into town and got into a bar brawl. As Caroline stepped off the stage and was walking toward me, all smiles, a stray bullet hit her. She died in my arms. None of my training as a medical doctor could save her.

Oh, dear, I’m so sorry. So, you left then and went to Rabbit Glen?
No, ma’am, not exactly. I stayed pukin’ up in the air, fallin’ down drunk for a year. If it hadn’t been for my friend, Berta Minors who pulled me in out of the cold and rain, tucking me into a warm bed, I’d most likely have died.

Berta was the madam for the local house of pleasure in town. I knew her well because my mother was a midwife and I assisted her in keeping Berta’s girls clean and healthy.

So you came to Rabbit Glen, then what?
I’d heard there was a spread for sale. The owner had died, and his wife took the kids and returned to Oklahoma. She wanted to sell. I contacted her, and we made a deal. Working the Lost C, as I called it, got my head screwed on straight.

You’d been on the ranch five years when Cora showed up. How did you feel about that?
I’d gotten a telegram telling me that Berta had passed, and she was sending me her treasure. I couldn’t imagine what that might be. She made a living but certainly wasn’t a rich lady by no means. I wasn’t hankering to wait on another stage, figured that’d mess with my mind a bit more than I could handle. Reverend Hollister offered to pick up my parcel in town and deliver it to me. I could spit nails when he showed up with this petite woman and a kid. He just dropped them on my doorstep and took off.

That was Cora, correct?
Yes, ma’am, sure enough.

So, why did Cora come to your ranch? You didn’t know her.
It seems she’d come to hand deliver Berta’s most cherished possession.

Which was?
Her young’un.

A child? I don’t understand.
I didn’t either until Cora explained it all to me.

Do you want to talk about that?
Don’t reckon. Folks can read the book and find out for themselves.

So, what then?
Heck, I didn’t know anything about raising a child, had no time for it either. Since Cora had no place to return to, I made her an offer. She could stay on, tend to the house chores and care for the boy. No strings attached. I’d sleep in the barn.

How did that work out for the both of you?
Well, I thought it was working pretty well, until Reverend Hollister and most of the church folks showed up at the house, demanding I make a decent woman out of Cora. I didn’t have an inkling what they were talking about.

Did they explain?
They pretty much accused me of being the daddy of the baby Cora was carrying. Hell, I didn’t know anything about that. I’d never so much as kissed the woman. About that time, I told the folks I needed to have a little talk with Cora, and we headed to the barn.

Then what?
Cora told me she was pregnant with her deceased husband’s baby but had only just figured it out. That left me between a tree and a saw. I knew there was no convincing the church people that I wasn’t responsible, since Cora was living under my roof, so I offered to marry her, to save her reputation, and to keep hurtful words from falling on the kid’s ears. You know how small town gossip goes?

So, you and Cora marry, did that change anything between you?
If I were honest, I’d say I wanted it to, but I picked up from Cora that she wanted things to stay just as they had been between us. I respected her wishes, although I pushed against it some.

You and some ranch hands leave to take wild mustangs to the railhead in Abilene, Kansas. Were you worried to leave Cora and the child alone?
I worried some, but Cora assured me the baby wasn’t due for months yet, and the kid, well, he was more grown man than six-year-old. I figured they’d be fine until I got back.

And was that the case, Ramsey?
Cora got in a bad way, while I was gone. The kid knew something was wrong, and he was determined to do what he thought I would, if’n I was there. He went out in a storm to get help.

Did the situation end up working out okay?
I don’t think you can expect a young boy, riding an old slow mule in a treacherous storm to end well.
Ramsey, you can’t leave us hanging. What happened?
Let’s just say I arrived back at the ranch to find Cora and her unborn baby in great distress and the boy was long gone. I figured it was my fault since I’d delayed coming home to make a bit more money while in Abilene.

What did you do?
What I had to. Got Cora situated best I could and went to look for the kid. The rain had turned to sleet and temperatures dropped. There was lightning too. I knew there was a good chance that the old mule he was riding could have bucked him off and he was out in this storm freezing and alone. Maybe dead.

Did you find the boy and was he all right?
Well, ma’am, that answer is for another day. I’ll just say this, you folks reading this interview with me, get to real quick and get yourself a copy of Cora’s Promise to see how the story ends.

“Cora’s Promise” is available through:

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring is in the Air Mulit-Author Giveaway

Welcome to Spring is in the Air 
Multi-Author Giveaway!!!

Load your eReader up with some fantastic books or boxed sets plus earn a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card or Kindle Fire. Enter today! 

Visit the event:
~ or ~

Friday, March 9, 2018

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Hooked on a Phoenix” by Ashlyn Chase

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Ashlyn Chase, and an excerpt from her Light Paranormal Romance, “Hooked on a Phoenix (Phoenix Brothers Series).”

Locked in a bank vault together...

Misty Carlisle works as a bank teller in Boston's financial district. She's had more rotten luck in her life than most, except when her childhood crush shows up to cash his paycheck. Then her heart races and her mouth goes dry.

They might redefine the meaning of "Safe Sex."

Gabe Fierro is a firefighter--and a phoenix. Like his brothers, his biggest challenge is finding a woman open-minded enough to accept a shapeshifter into her life. When his boyhood friend asks him to watch over his little sister, Misty, he reluctantly agrees. But when the bank she works at gets held up,

Gabe does everything he can to protect her. The two of them get locked in the bank's vault...where things get steamier than either of them ever imagined.

First Kiss Excerpt

“Gabe? When this is all over, can we go out for coffee or something? I don’t want you to just walk out of my life. I’m betting that as soon as your firefighter buddies show up, you’re going to drop me like a hot potato and saunter off with them.”
He tried to muffle his laugh in his sleeve. She didn’t know he was supposed to be keeping an eye on her, but even if he weren’t, he wouldn’t just walk off with his buddies and leave her there.
“Sure. Coffee sounds great.”
He opened his eyes briefly to check the progress of the hole in the ceiling. More light shone through now, and he could see they were working on two sections at the same time. More voices were rumbling. He wondered how many guys were up there. Probably a dozen or more. It wouldn’t be much longer.
Gabe suddenly became aware of the fact that he was stroking Misty’s arm from her elbow up to her shoulder and down. She sighed and sagged against him. The impulse to enclose her in his arms and hold her close was something he had been battling since this all started.
The dust was almost overwhelming. Misty’s voice was muffled when she asked, “Are you sure you’re okay? You’re trying to breathe through a leather jacket. I have the only handkerchief. Maybe we could share it.”
He almost snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“Gabe!” She kicked him.
“Am I that hideous that you don’t want to look at my face up close?”
“Of course not. It’s just that… Well, it’s the opposite.”
She seemed to take a deeper breath and relax into him a little more “Oh. Well then, here.” She slapped her hand behind his head and pulled him down to her face, then dragged the handkerchief over their eyes, noses, and mouths. They were not only sharing a cloth; their mouths were inches from each other. Not even inches.
He suddenly felt her lip touch his, and without even thinking, he leaned in and increased the pressure.
It started as a chaste kiss, but soon grew in intensity. She opened her mouth, and their tongues found each other. She cupped the nape of his neck. This girl could kiss! Before he realized it, his hands were pulling her closer and wandering over the dip in her lower back. Trying to stop at her hip was killing him. He wanted to squeeze her delectable buttocks.
He didn’t know how long they stood there kissing, because his brain had left the building. At one point, he realized what he was doing and knew he should pull away. But another big part of him—growing bigger by the second—thought, that ship has sailed, and it won’t be turning around.

“Hooked on a Phoenix” is available through:

ALL RETAILERS (Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Google Play)

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Meet the Characters – An Interview with Cat Kincaid from “Beloved Enemy” by Hywela Lyn

Cat Kincaid is obsessed with killing the man she believes is responsible for the torture and death of her sister, but when she eventually catches up with him, survival becomes a greater priority than revenge.

Kerry Marchant, haunted by memories, regret, and self-blame, shields himself from the pain of the past by committing himself totally to the starship, Destiny, of which he is part owner. However, the beautiful, red-haired woman who reminds him of his lost love, and who he suspects is working for a corrupt regime, represents a possible threat not only to the ship, but to his heart.

Marooned on an inhospitable planet, they need to work together to stay alive, fighting not only unknown assailants, but their growing attraction. But how can they learn to trust each other when he has vowed never to get close to a woman again, and she made a solemn pledge to destroy him?

Today we’re talking to Cat Kincaid from “Beloved Enemy, Volume 3 of the Destiny Trilogy,” a SciFi Romance by Hywela Lyn. Let’s get started. I’m sure our readers are eager to learn more about you.

What is your relationship status?
I’m in a ‘committed relationship’ with my soulmate. We’ve been together a while now and he still makes my heart flutter every time he looks at me with that special smile he has.

Name three of your favorite things.
1.      Apart from Kerry you mean? Well there’s Shifter. He’s an animal rather than a thing though – and a very intelligent one. He has the ability to merge into the background – a bit like a chameleon on Earth, although he’s really more like a big cat, which is why I call him a ‘chameleopard’. Kerry always refers to him as a ‘wolf’. That used to annoy me but I find it quite amusing now. I guess you could say I ‘rescued’ Shifter. I fought the man who bred him to fight. I hate that sort of thing. I made that lowlife give him up to me. Shifter may be an animal, but he’s also my friend, and was my sole companion – and protector - for a long time.
2.      As a qualified starship pilot, I love that I can pilot a ship travelling in space and visit new planets,  and the times when Kerry and I are at the controls of the Destiny, together, are very special.
3.      My third favourite thing – being a member of the Destiny’s crew. As I said, I was alone for a long time and thought of myself as a ‘loner’. The other members of the crew are the nearest thing I have to a family now, and I hadn’t realized how much that would mean to me.

What are you most afraid of?
Snakes. I’m not sure why but they make me shudder. I’d do anything to avoid contact with the creatures. I’ve fought some strange and monstrous creatures, and I actually like most animal lifeforms but snakes – urgh! Cat gives a little shiver and bites her lip as if remembering something.

What was your first impression of Kerry?
Apart from the fact he was amazingly good looking? I thought he was arrogant, ruthless, sarcastic and a heartless killer.  (You’re right, I didn’t like him – but I didn’t know him very well then.)

If you could go back in time, what one thing would you change in your life?
I would not have become involved with a certain Dorian Krell. I met him when I was young and gullible and his actions caused me to become a fugitive, hunted down by the very regime I ended up working for. He had a lot to answer for.

Do you see morality as black-and-white, or with shades of gray?
If I’m honest, I’d have to say shades of gray. While I have very strong ideas of what is right and wrong, I have learned that things are not always as straightforward as they seem, and sometimes one has to change one’s preconceived notions. I won’t go into details here, but when I first met Kerry I had to completely re-think my single minded determination to bring about what I saw as ‘justice’, and which I know now would have been wrong on so many counts. I give thanks every day that I had a change of heart. There are always times when the edges are blurred and sometimes one has to just do the thing that seems right even if it seems to go against what you’ve always believed.

Do you care about what others assume about you?
It really depends on who they are. I care very much what people I respect or care about think about me. It doesn’t really bother me what casual acquaintances think.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most want it to be, and why?
My mother. We were very close. She died a long time ago, and I would welcome the chance to speak to her again, there are things I’d like to ask her.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most NOT want it to be, and why?
My father. He left my mother with two young daughters and I’ve never forgiven him. I believe he made my sister very bitter and divided our family.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Oh, head me to the nearest pleasure planet – with my beloved Kerry of course! On second thoughts, make that a deserted paradise planet, with a warm tropical earth type climate, where he and I can relax for the whole day and enjoy being together—alone! Cat grins conspiratorially.

“Beloved Enemy” is available through:

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

We ♥ Small Town Romance Blog Tour – Marrying the Wedding Crasher by Melinda Curtis AND “Always the Hero” by Anna J. Stewart

Marrying the Wedding Crasher by Melinda Curtis
This bachelor’s pretend girlfriend just made a shocking discovery
She’s pregnant!
Although they dated for only a month, Harley O’Hannigan just agreed to be Vince Messina’s plus-one at a Harmony Valley wedding. Big mistake, given her deepening feelings for the tall, dark, unavailable bachelor. And what about Vince’s long-buried family history? Then there’s the growing secret that could transform this pretend relationship into the real thing…

Praise for Melinda Curtis:
“Wonderfully entertaining!” Jayne Ann Krentz, NYT Bestseller (referring to Playing for Love)
“Reading Slade and Christine’s story reminded me of why I enjoy romance. SEASON OF CHANGE has found a place on my keeper shelf!” Brenda Novak, NYT Bestseller
Harley opened the creaky door to her hot truck cab and climbed in. She missed her Lexus. She missed auto-start and powerful air-conditioning.
She turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. Not so much as a tick of the starter.
She missed reliability.
“Not today,” she muttered.
The truck was finicky. It didn’t like to run when the Houston temperature dropped to the thirties or in thunderstorms, but the day had been hot, the skies clear.
“Come on, baby,” she chided the old vehicle. Don’t leave me stranded with Mr. Carrots and that grin.
Vince, aka Mr. Carrots, locked up his tools and leaned on his truck, staring at hers.
Still nothing. Her backside was growing damp with sweat.
Vince walked toward her with the swagger of a man who knew what his purpose was in life. And, right now, that purpose was to rescue a damsel in distress. “Pop the hood.”
She did, hopping out and joining him at the grille. Not that she knew anything about engines. Her mechanical ability stopped at turning power tools off and on.
Vince tsked and gave Harley a look that disapproved and teased at the same time.
“Hey, don’t judge,” she said. “It runs.”
“It’s not running now.” He drew a blue rag from his back pocket. It was the kind of scrap mechanics used to wipe their hands and touch hot engines. “You might want to spray your engine off every once in a while.” He used the rag to check battery connections, hose connections and to prod the engine compartment as if he knew what he was doing.
“I barely clean my apartment. Why would I clean my engine?”
“So a mechanic can see if you’ve got leaks anywhere, for one thing,” Vince said straight-faced. “Why don’t you try it again?”
She hurried back behind the wheel. The truck started right up. “Traitor,” she accused under her breath.
Vince shut the hood and came around to her window, wiping his hands.
“Thanks.” Harley gave him her polite smile, the one she reserved for helpful salesclerks and the receptionist who squeezed her in at the doctor’s office. “I owe you.”
“Yeeeaah.” He wound out the word and ran his fingers through that thatch of midnight hair.
“About that. I need a favor.” Those kind black eyes lifted to her face.
Don’t believe in fairy tales… Don’t believe in fairy tales…
Despite their history, despite knowing better, silly fantasies about princely rescues and Mr. Right fluttered about her chest like happy butterflies on a warm spring day.
She should go. Instead she lingered and asked, “So what’s the favor?”
The devilish grin returned, making the butterflies ecstatic. “I need a date to my brother’s wedding.”
Author Melinda Curtis
Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today Bestseller of over 40 romances. She writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming, sweet romantic comedies and sexy sports contemporary romances. When not working on DIY projects around their home, Melinda and her college sweetheart enjoy watching Duke mens basketball and visiting their three kids and one grandchild. Sign up for her mailing list to receive two free reads.

Always the Hero by Anna J. Stewart
He never relied on anyone but himself…but he needs her now!
Butterfly Harbor deputy Matt Knight wants two things: to date Lori Bradley and the chance to adopt Kyle, a troubled teen. Wounded in Afghanistan, Matt knows he can’t move forward anchored to the past. But once he regains the guarded hotel manager’s trust, will his need to protect those he loves cost him a future with this extraordinary woman?

Praise for Anna J Stewart
“The talented Anna J Stewart delivers every time.” ~NYTimes Bestselling Author Brenda Novak
“Anna J. Stewart will tug at your heartstrings more than once while leaving you utterly besotted with her characters.” ~The Romance Reviews

“What’s wrong?” Matt rested his arms on the table and leaned in. She could feel the warmth of his breath, feel the heat of his concerned gaze.
“Nothing.” She shifted in her seat. “It’s…nothing.”
“Now who’s lying?”
Her chin shot up at his accusation but it was then she saw he was teasing her.
“Come on, Lori. Tell me what’s bothering you. You’ve been acting weird since before we came in here. Are you embarrassed to be seen with me?”
“Why on earth would I—” She took a deep breath. “You’re making fun of me.”
“How else am I going to disarm you enough to tell me what’s going on in here.” He reached up and tapped a finger against the side of her head.
“It’s not important.” Darn it, why did she always let this get to her? Why hadn’t she just been honest and told him she didn’t want to go to breakfast?
“Given we’ve spent the last couple of minutes debating that fact, I’ll say you’re wrong. What is it?”
“I just…” Could her face feel any hotter? “I don’t like eating out, okay? There. You got me to confess, copper. Take me to jail.” She held out her wrists, palms up.
“Why don’t you like to eat out?”
“Oh, for…” She tucked her hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s silly.
Stupid even.”
“Clearly, it’s not. Tell me.”
Tell him? Tell him one of her most embarrassing secrets? Tell him about how even her own parents were disgusted by her? Yeah, that should kill off any residual feelings he might have for her. “When I was a little girl and we went out to eat, my mother would constantly criticize me. I shouldn’t have that or what will people think, a chubby girl like you eating that. I embarrassed her. And she made sure everyone knew it.” All these years later and it still messed with her head. “I told you it was stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.” He reached over and held out a hand. She stared at his open palm, heart pounding as she realized how much she wanted to take it. Instead, she pulled her hands into her lap and locked her fingers together. “No child should ever be made to feel less than. For any reason.”
“I totally agree. Which is why I haven’t talked to her in about a gazillion years.” That neither of her parents seemed interested in reaching out to her—or Fletcher—didn’t help the situation. It was one thing to be a child and suspect your parents didn’t like you; it was another to be an adult and know it to be true. “So, there you go. I don’t like to eat out because my mother used to make fun of me for being fat. Bring on the chocolate pudding.”
“Have I mentioned how much I loathe self-deprecating humor?” He sat back and pinned her with a stare that made her shiver. “We’re being honest with each other now, yeah? Stop making fun of yourself. I don’t find the jokes funny and I don’t agree with them. What on earth does your dress size have to do with the type of person you are? I like who you are, Lori. I have from the first time I saw you, so suck it up and deal with it. And while you’re at it, stop making light of things that cause you pain. It’s irritating.”
“Yes, it is.” She didn’t want to take what he said to heart. She didn’t want to believe he meant what she’d always wanted someone to say to her; someone who might actually care for her, love her. “It’s also the one defense mechanism that’s worked for me, so forgive me if I don’t bow to your lack of expertise in this matter.” She meant for the comment to tick him off, drive him away. Offend him to the point he’d settle her firmly in the friends column. Instead, she watched the anger lines around his eyes ease and the
corners of his mouth flicker.
“You’d be surprised what I know about parental disapproval, but that’s a conversation for another time. Look at us, getting to know each other. Being honest with one another. It’s almost like we’re starting a new relationship or something.”
Lori shook her head, wanting nothing more than to walk away and forget that whenever she was with him she didn’t want to be without him. He had a way of making her forget everything that shouldn’t be important. “What’s wrong with you? Everything that should make you angry makes you laugh.”
“And sometimes vice versa,” he confirmed with a shrug. “You have your coping mechanisms, I have mine. And for the record, I’ll give you time to work on that bad habit of yours. Not a lot, but some.”

Author Anna J. Stewart
USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart writes sweet to sexy romance for Harlequin’s Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense lines. Early obsessions with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wonder Woman set her on the path to creating fun, funny, and family-centric romances with happily ever afters for her independent heroines. Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Sherlock addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates an overly affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it’s Snickers who tolerates her). When she’s not writing books or her monthly blog for USA Today’s Happy Ever After, you can find her at fan conventions or at her local movie theater, or building her client list for her content editing services.

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