Definitely Not Dating
(Love Lottery #2)
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
Published by: Tule Publishing
Publication date: May 4th 2021
It’s a chance to start over for both of them… Everleigh Girard always dates the wrong men at the worst times. The last debacle cost her a job and an apartment. But thanks to a crazy lottery win, she and her friends have a fresh start restoring a historic inn. Determined to make it a success, Everleigh swears off the dangers of dating entirely. Except…the town’s police chief is distractingly hot. So how much trouble could friends with benefits really cause? Police chief Matt Halliday always puts protecting his town first. He’s blindsided when his house mysteriously burns down, and grateful his friends rent him a room at their inn while they finish renovations. It’s a great deal. Mostly. It’s hard to resist the very beautiful Everleigh. Love is permanently off the table for him—but lust is definitely on. After their first red-hot kiss, keeping it casual is impossible. Can Everleigh teach Matt to trust again—especially when he’s keeping a secret that may put him and his new friends at risk?
Matt could tell she’d keep filling the silence with rambling unless he stopped her. Did he make her nervous? Or was she just second-guessing one of the nicest freaking things that anyone had ever done for him?
He put a hand on her upper arm. Tried with all his might to keep it more of a casual tap, and not let it turn into a squeeze or caress. “Sorry. You caught me off guard. I didn’t know what to say. ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough. This is all way beyond thoughtful.”
Her cheeks pinked up. The flush was adorable.
It made him wonder what else could make her flush like that. And then Matt cursed his one-track mind.
“Oh, it was no big deal.” Everleigh shrugged both shoulders.
No. He couldn’t let her dismiss such a meaningful gesture. Or not understand what an impact it’d made on him.
So Matt stroked his hand up to her shoulder. Did the same on the other side, as well, to prevent her from another shrug. And if his thumbs made contact with creamy skin due to the wide neck of her tee, well, he didn’t regret it.
“Stop. It was unnecessary. Took time and effort from your packed day. It was considerate. And I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate it. You made me feel like this really is a place I belong. That’s exactly what I need right now. Somewhere I can feel anchored.”
“Well, good. I’m relieved. I just wish there was more I could do.” Everleigh licked her lips. “To make you comfortable.”
Matt was a lot of things. A police officer. Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard Reserve. Son. Boss. Friend.
But he wasn’t a saint.
It had been a hell of a rough week. And it was only Wednesday. A drop-dead gorgeous woman was at 11 out of 10 on the flirt scale. If Everleigh wanted to make him feel better, what kind of a chump would he be to resist?
“Oh, I’m plenty comfortable.” Matt moved his hands up the sides of her neck until they framed her heart-shaped face. “Let’s see if the two of us can move that needle up to something way better than comfortable. For both of us.”
It wasn’t as far down to her lips as expected, because Everleigh stood on tiptoe to meet him halfway. This was no tentative first peck. No cautious easing into things.
Matt knew what he wanted. And Everleigh seemed just as eager.
They skipped over all the first kiss slowness. They skipped about five minutes ahead. Matt took her mouth like it was already his. Because she offered it so willingly. Because she molded her tight, lithe body against his.
Everleigh tasted faintly of…strawberry ice cream. And an inherent sweetness that was all her. There was warmth. Pliable softness, yet also a firmness as she returned his kiss. Equal want, equal giving. Which made it the perfect kiss.
They were swaying in tandem, almost like an unheard melody played. Or maybe it was just their pulses syncing up.
Matt tilted her head to the side a bit more. Then he unleashed the desire he’d been working so hard to ignore since their first meeting.
His tongue swept into her mouth. Immediately, hers danced and twined around his. Teasing, just like Everleigh herself. Fun, sweet, but with a backdraft of heat. Like one of those jalapeño margaritas with a kick that made you crave more.
Matt wanted so much more.
USA TODAY bestseller Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. Christi lives in Maryland with her husband.
(A Small Town Mystery Romance)
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Publication date: May 4th 2021
Everyone hits rock bottom, only the brave escape.
Welcome to 1314 Rattlesnake Road.
A quaint two-bedroom log cabin nestled deep in the woods of the small, southern town of Berry Springs—the perfect hideaway to escape your past.
Tucked inside thick, mahogany walls lay mysterious letters, forgotten and untouched for decades. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame breathtaking views of jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and endless lies. Mature oak trees, tall enough to touch the clouds, carry the whispers of the haunted, of stories untold.
Inside sits Grey Dalton, emotionally battered and bruised, her only wish to pick up the broken pieces of her life. But outside, await two men, one a tattooed cowboy, the other a dashing businessman.
One will steal her heart, the other, her soul.
Rattlesnake Road is a standalone mystery romance about love, loss, hitting rock bottom, and clawing your way to the other side.
Your escape awaits…
(Due to serious subject matter and mature content, please be aware that this book might be an emotional trigger for some readers.)
Wiping the motor oil from his hands, the mechanic looked over my shoulder to the BMW in the parking lot, then refocused on me. “You lost?”
Lost? The man had no idea.
“My car is smoking.”
The corner of his lip quirked. Something about me amused him.
“In that case, let me grab a beer and switch over to Marley.”
I rolled my eyes. My time, and patience, with this small-town country-boy was rapidly waning. “I meant—the hood is smoking. Under it, the engine, whatever, and trust me, I’m not laughing about it.”
“No, I can see that. Did you hit something? Run over anything?”
“Aside from the handful of potholes in this Godforsaken road?” I gestured past the trees to the red dirt road.
“Where in the middle of the road?”
“I don’t know.”
“What were you doing down Rattlesnake Road?”
“Ma’am, I can do this all day.” Unfazed by my impatience, the man sauntered over to a rolling toolbox and picked up a Coke. Sniffing at it, he scowled and set it aside—but not in the trash can. He picked up another and sniffed with the same result. Then he grabbed a bottle of water, opened it, and chugged.
“Home.” I fisted my hands on my hips, annoyed with not only his aloofness, but also how unaffected he was by me. “I was driving home.”
The man lowered the bottle from his lips. It was the first time I saw a flicker of something other than amusement behind his blue eyes. “You live down Rattlesnake Road?”
“Since not long ago.”
“I’m not sure that’s your business. Can you help me or not? This is a mechanic shop, right?”
He gestured to the dismantled cars.
“Then why don’t you have a sign out front?” Careful not to bring attention to my foot that was still stuck to the cement floor, I curled my toe around the thong of my flip-flop and tried to lift it from whatever the hell had stuck it in place. No luck.
“Don’t need a sign.”
“All businesses need signs. People don’t realize it’s a mechanic shop.”
“What’s your name?”
“Declan. What’s yours?”
“Are you a mechanic?”
“Where are you from?”
“What does that matter?” I asked. “You gouge prices on tourists?”
He took another sip of water, eyeing me over the rim. A thin trail trickled from his chin, wetting his T-shirt. He didn’t bother wiping it.
“How do you know I’m not from around here?” I asked.
“Because a local would’ve already unwedged themselves from the gum that’s got you stuck in place.”
“This is no ordinary gum.”
“You’re right. It’s watermelon Bubblicious.”
“I didn’t know six-year-olds worked on cars.”
He grinned. “You’re a Yankee, aren’t you?”
“As much as I’m enjoying this little tit-for-tat, can you help me or not?”
“I don’t know.” Declan downed the rest of his water, then tossed the plastic bottle into an overflowing recycle bin in the corner. “Oil leak, yep, I can fix, but it depends on what else I find under that hood.”
His eyes narrowed with the first sign of disapproval of my attitude. He picked up a towel and wiped his hands, then grabbed a handful of paper towels from a roll sitting next to a tin cup oozing with something. He strode toward me, his gaze on mine.
The man truly was massive. My instinct was to back up, but thanks to the damn gum, I was stuck in place. My stomach tickled as he knelt at my feet. A waft of air enveloped me, scented with fresh soap and that musky scent of man, with a motor oil finish.
The tickle turned to butterflies.
A strong grip slipped my ankle from my shoe, sending a wave of tingles over my skin. After sliding the paper towel under the shoe, Declan pried my flip-flop from the floor, then twisted the gum and rolled it into the paper towel.
As I balanced on one foot, he carried the shoe to one of the many sinks and dabbed a towel in something that resembled nuclear waste. After a few scrapes of the bottom of my shoe, he returned, kneeling again to grab my ankle and slip my gum-free flip-flop back onto my foot.
I felt like a redneck Cinderella.
Heat mixed with the tingles this time—followed by total humiliation when I remembered I hadn’t shaved my legs in a week.
“My, uh, razor’s . . . broken.”
He pushed to his feet. “I’ve got a bush hog out back.”
My jaw dropped.
He grinned widely. “All right. Let’s have a look-see at this smoking silver car of yours.”
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
Winking, Declan strode past me and I got the feeling I’d just met my match.
Falling for Another Darcy P
Love Manor, #3
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Women’s Fiction
May 5th 2021
Don’t miss this laugh-out-loud, heart-warming final instalment in the Love Manor romantic comedy series for fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, Sinéad Moriarty, and Bridget Jones’s Diary.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. Right?
That’s the way the song goes, anyway. For Emma Brady, marrying her Mr. Darcy was a road to happiness that is about to take a sharp turn to trouble. Creating a tiny Mr. Darcy isn’t exactly proving to be easy. Sure, being newly-weds mean they’re more than happy to give it a good shot, but as time ticks along, Emma and Sebastian’s efforts come to nothing.
It’s time to call in the big guns.
For Emma, that means mood swings, hot flashes, ovulation kits, and more needles than a haystack. Add that to an increasingly-disapproving granny, and Sebastian and Emma’s love is being put to the test in a way they never saw coming.
Will they get the family they so desperately want? And will their love survive? Or will Emma’s fairy tale ending with her Mr. Darcy slip between her fingers?
“You looked so sexy in those wellies,” he murmurs, referring to my rubber boots. “Do you think I could get a private viewing of you in those and…let’s say nothing else?”
“Nothing else? Sebastian Huntington-Ross, I am deeply outraged.”
“Are you now?” he asks with a laugh that rumbles through me.
“I didn’t know you’ve got a thing for gardeners.”
“Actually,” he says with another kiss that has my head spinning, “I’ve got a thing for my hot Texan wife.”
“I’m guessing you’ll want me to team a ten-gallon hat with those wellies, huh?”
“Now we’re talking.”
As he reaches under my top and slides his hands up my bare back, sending a jolt of anticipation through me, I hear the creak of the door and look up in surprise to see not only Sebastian’s mom, but his granny with disapproving look on her lined face.
Not that this is anything new. The day that woman gives me a look that’s not disapproving I think I might faint from shock.
I instantly dismount Sebastian and readjust my top in an attempt not to appear as though we were about to engage in, well, marital activity. We might be a newly married couple who do what newly married couples do, but getting caught out by my mother-in-law and judgmental grandmother-in-law still puts a halt to proceedings pretty quick. As you would expect.
“Mother, Granny,” Sebastian says in a surprisingly steady voice as he rises to his feet. I’ve had to get used to that here. Sebastian always stands whenever his mom or grandmother enter a room. It’s super formal and weird to me. Where I’m from, you only got up to go fetch another Coke.
“Don’t let us interrupt, you two,” Jemima trills in an unnaturally high voice. She must be feeling about as comfortable as I am right now. “Come, Geraldine. Let’s, err…go for a stroll in the garden.”
Geraldine scoffs. “Jemima, it’s after nine at night and it’s raining cats and dogs out there. Have you gone completely mad?” She clunks her way across the room with the aid of her cane and sits down carefully on one of the seats facing us. “It’s fortuitous that we found you in such a position.”
I blink at her in disbelief. It is?
Jemima is still hovering by the door, clearly uncomfortable. “What about the library, Geraldine? There’s a book collection I thought you might be interested in. I only came across it a few weeks ago, and I think you’ll find it quite fascinating. It’s about the history of bridges in the British Isles, which is a thoroughly enthralling topic—”
“Oh, Jemima,” she scolds. “I haven’t got the least interest in bridges. Take a seat, will you?”
Defeated, Jemima replies, “All right.” She slinks into another one of the armchairs and shoots us an apologetic smile.
“We thought you were both out for the evening,” Sebastian begins.
“We’re back,” Geraldine replies, pointing out the obvious.
“How are you this evening, ma’am?” I say to Geraldine as she steadily lowers herself into a seat by the fire with the aid of her cane. It has a brass handle in the shape of a wolf, which appropriately casts her as a Bond villain. All that’s missing is the hairless cat.
“I’ve told you before, Emma. In England ‘ma’am’ is what we call the Queen. Please remember to call me ‘Granny’ now that you’re family. You’re no longer on your Texas ranch here.”
I open my mouth to reply and shut it again. Having grown up in a modest house in inner-city Houston, the only time I’ve been on a Texas ranch was when I was filming Dating Mr. Darcy. “I forgot…Granny. Habit, I guess. You can take the girl out of Texas, as they say.”
Geraldine purses her lips in obvious distaste. “Quite. Now. I have something I must say to you both.”
“It’s gratifying to see you’re still engaging in what is characteristically considered the honeymoon phase of a marriage.”
Sebastian’s eyes find mine briefly before he replies, “Thank you?” Because what do you say to that? Yes, we’re at it whenever we get the chance. Can’t get enough of it, actually. We’re at it like the proverbial rabbits. Our room, the living room, the garden, even your room when you’re out at the opera (okay, we’ve never actually done it in Geraldine’s room, and nor do we plan to, but you get the picture).
She steeples her fingers, fixing us with her glare. “An heir. That’s what we need.”
“An heir?” I swallow. She’s already made it abundantly clear that as Lady Martinston, it’s my duty to provide the family with the next generation. The first time she mentioned it, in fact, we’d literally been married less than three minutes. You’ve got to admire the old girl’s tenacity, I guess.
“Yes,” she snaps, “an heir. How often are you engaging in marital relations?”
“Mummy, I hardly think—” Jemima protests as Sebastian’s eyes widen at me.
“Let them answer, Jemima,” she quips. “It’s been a year and still not even a sign. You’re not getting any younger, you know, Emma. I’m certain your fertility has already begun to wane. When I was your age, I’d finished having my children.”
I offer her a weak smile. That was because it was the 1800s and there was no TV.
“Granny, we haven’t even had that conversation yet,” Sebastian says. “Give us a chance, please.”
“What’s the delay? You’re clearly raring to go if that little display earlier is anything to go by. Make it mean something, my dear boy.”
I suck in air, every part of me cringing. The mood has gone from sexy rubber boot fun to creating an “heir” in two minutes flat.
Could this get any more awkward?
“Thank you for your concern, Granny, but when Emma and I decide we’re ready to start a family, we will be sure not to tell you until we actually have something to tell you.”
“Does that mean you’re already trying?” Jemima asks, a healthy dollop of hope in her voice. “Because we can leave right now and let you get on with it if you like.”
Oh, no. Awkward!
Jemima rises to her feet. “Can’t we, Geraldine?”
“I suppose,” Geraldine grumps.
I squeeze my eyes shut, fantasizing that I’m not in the living room with my mother- and grandmother-in-law, my clothes and hair disheveled next to my husband as they discuss our sex life.
“Good-bye, you two,” Sebastian says with a tone of finality in his voice.
Jemima bustles over to the door, clearly keen to get far away from this whole thing as quickly as possible, while Geraldine rises from her seat onto her creaky bones as though she’s an arthritic sloth in no hurry to get anywhere.
It takes forever, stretching the awkwardness out to a breaking point.
Eventually, she reaches the door and turns back to us. “Missionary position. That’s the best for procreation. That’s all your grandfather and I ever did, and we had all the children we wanted.”
Why did she have to put that image into my head. Why?
“Good-bye, Granny,” Sebastian says firmly, and thankfully, she leaves the room, closing the door after her.
Alone once more in the cavernous room, we catch one another’s eyes and instantly dissolve into peals of embarrassed laughter. Catching his breath, Sebastian says, “I’m so sorry about that, Brady. The word awkward doesn’t even begin to describe that exchange.”
Sebastian’s shoulders shake as he laughs. “Granny can be very direct when she wants to be.”
I think of the way in which she announced that I wasn’t good enough for her grandson and that I would be doing everyone a big favor if I just simply disappeared. “Ah, yes. That’s very true.”
He laces his fingers in mine and claims my lips with a kiss. “Brady, I have an idea. How about we grab those wellies of yours and head up to our bedroom away from any prying eyes.”
“And lock the door?” I ask.
His eyes sparkle as his face pulls into his sexy grin. “Lock it, bolt it, and hide the key.”
Kate O’Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s a scruffy dog too. He’s not: he’s a cat. When she’s not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), traveling to different countries, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.
Visit kateokeeffe.com to sign up to her newsletter to keep up to date on new releases, great deals on books, and more.
Text Wars: May the Text be With You … ,
(An Accidentally in Love Story, #3)
Melanie Summers, Whitney Dineen
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
Publication date: May 13th 2021
May the text be with you… Seraphina Lopez is not your typical airy-fairy astrology fanatic. First and foremost, she’s a businesswoman who happens to have a fascination with the stars. Her lifestyle app, “Live for Your Star Sign” is blowing up, and when she’s asked to be a guest on New York’s most watched Morning Show, she knows the exposure will launch her app into the stratosphere. Astrophysicist Ben Williams just landed his dream job at NASA’s Goddard Institute, Not only is he heading a multi-disciplinary team in search of habitable exo-planets, he’s also been tapped to be the spokesman for the project. While he’d much rather be crunching the numbers to pinpoint the location of Earth II, he also has to sell the concept to the American public. When Seraphina and Ben meet on the set of the Morning Show, sparks fly! Sera is there to show viewers how to dress for their star sign. Ben is there in the name of science. Their explosive chemistry sets records for the network’s viewing audience. As such they’re asked to host a regular segment–together. Ben and Sera hate each other so much, they resort to texting instead of talking when they’re off air (and sometimes on). Yet somewhere in the haze of dislike, they start to realize they have more in common than they thought possible. Is love written in the stars or will it burn up on impact? Find out in the Text Wars, the third installment of the deliciously funny and romantic Accidentally in Love Series.
Once I’m dragged off into the Green Room with all the gorgeous women, I sneak a peek at myself in one of the full-length mirrors propped against the wall. Who am I? And where is astrophysicist Ben Williams under all that hair gel and bronzer? This is going to be the single most humiliating experience of my life. Not only am I dressed like a banana for his first day of school, my manhood is on display like it’s about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. How is anyone going to take me seriously?
They won’t. That’s how.
Not to mention, everyone I know, including my co-workers, will be watching. NOOOO!!! I have to stop this. Panic starts to build inside of me until my chest cavity feels like it’s about to explode.
The bossy woman who made me take my underwear off loudly declares, “You all look great! This is going to be an amazing show!”
I have no idea what she’s talking about, but I don’t have time to ask because someone else comes in and says, “You’re on next. Follow me.”
I tug at these ridiculous pants in hopes they’ll magically grow three sizes and turn black. Or a nice brown, even. That would be good too. Although I don’t know if brown would go with this awful green vest.
Oh, for pity’s sake, Ben, it doesn’t matter! Your pants aren’t going to change color so forget it. Unless …what if I change into normal pants? Yes, that’s the answer. As we march down the hall and pass my dressing room, I decide I’m going to put on my own clothes no matter what anyone says. As I open the door to dressing room three, I hear Serafina demand, “Where are you going?”
She doesn’t wait for an answer. Instead, she takes my hand and leads me to the third spot in line. “There. You’re right behind our Taurus.”
Grinning broadly, she says, “Okay, everyone, you look fabulous. Just get out there and strut your fine selves.”
Strut my fine self? What in the world is she talking about?
“Listen, I-I think there’s been a mistake,” I call out to her.
“I know, the pants aren’t exactly the right fit, but you can really get away with it, trust me.” She boldly winks which causes me even more distress.
“No, not that …”
That Justin intern rushes over and says, “Ms. Lopez, you’re on!”
I try to get his attention, but he disappears, leaving me with no one to ask for help. I wait for what feels like forever, but I’m sure is only a couple of minutes, before Justin comes back and starts to lead us backstage. “When I point to you, walk onto the stage, turn left at the X, strut down the catwalk toward the studio audience. Pause for a count of two, then spin back around and go out the other way.”
He points to the woman in front of me. As she goes, I watch her carefully, trying to memorize what she’s doing. Okay, that doesn’t look so hard. It’s just walking, right? I can walk. Do they introduce all of their guests like this? My confusion equals my horror. I should have watched an episode of this show, so I knew what I was getting into.
When the woman turns back my way, she’s not smiling. Are we not supposed to smile? Do we pout? Yes, pouting seems right. How do you pout?
Turning to the woman behind me, I say, “Does this look right?” then I push my lips out and try to look like I’m really angry about something. Which is actually true because I’m going to lose it on Dev when I see him.
She wrinkles up her nose and answers, “You look like you’re trying to poop.”
Well, that was rude. I’m trying to learn. I give her a glare and she snaps her fingers. “Perfect! Now you’ve got some serious smolder going on.”
“Gemini Guy! Gemini Guy!” Justin whisper-yells.
I spin around, realizing he means me. He points to the stage wearing a completely disgusted look. As I walk by, I hear him say something about models with rocks for brains into his headset. Models? I’m not a model.
My heart is thumping like a rabbit surrounded by a pack of bears as I walk, trying to keep time with the music which is some airy-fairy crap that doesn’t even have a beat. That bossy Serafina person is sitting on a chair next to the show’s hosts talking … about me … it turns out.
“Geminis absolutely love to be the center of attention, almost to a fault. They’re known to be intelligent, passionate, fun, but also sometimes unreliable and are even called flighty.”
I keep walking toward center stage while I glare at her, causing me to miss the big X on the floor.
“As you can see, our model truly is a flighty Gemini. He just missed his mark.”
I hate this woman. I hate her with every cell of my being.
Hal lets out a laugh. “Other way, buddy!”
“Wow, those are some tight pants!” Lacey inserts. “I can see his center of attention!”
The audience laughs as I scramble to find the damn X. It’s actually quite large and is in bright green tape, so it’s pretty hard to miss. I stalk down the catwalk feeling like a piece of poorly-dressed meat. The audience—mainly older women—start to hoot and whistle and, I swear to God, one woman is waving a five-dollar bill at me.
How the hell did I end up here? I have my PhD. I work for NASA.
I head back toward the hosts while that awful Serafina woman talks about astrology. I’m so busy trying to make sure I land on the X this time I almost don’t hear Hal say, “Geminis really must be flighty because our other guest, Dr. Ben Williams, didn’t bother to show up for Star Day. I understand he’s a Gemini as well.”
I stop in my tracks and stare at him, sweat trickling down my back.
Hal looks at me while making a scooting gesture with his hands. “You can go now.”
Astrology girl gives me an urgent head nod toward the exit. Now is my only chance to fix what has gone terribly, terribly wrong. “I’m Ben Williams.”
All three of them stare at me like I’ve just said I’m from planet Zorbits. Lacey gives me a sympathetic look, as though she feels so bad for the male model who’s so dumb he doesn’t know his own name. “Um, no. Ben Williams is a rocket scientist. You’re a model.” She says this slowly like it’s the only way I’ll be able to understand her.
I wait while the audience has a good laugh at my expense while ignoring Justin and some other woman with a headset who are frantically waving at me. “I’m not a rocket scientist.”
Giving me a condescending look, Hal says, “We know you’re not, buddy. But you’re still special, okay? Now, off you go!”
The fashion show music stops, and the audience becomes so still you’d think they were waiting for me to perform a magic show. Off to the side, I see two security guards at the ready. I swallow hard, then keep going. “There’s no such thing as a rocket scientist,” I say. “What you’re thinking of is actually called an aeronautical engineer or an astronautical engineer. Rocket scientist is a dumbed down word for the job.”
“Wow,” Lacey says, blinking at me. “You know a lot about rocket science.”
I shut my eyes at her inane statement, then open them and say, “That’s because I’m an astrophysicist.”
The astrology “expert” (and I’m using that term lightly) seems to be the first one of the three geniuses to figure out who I am. “Wait, if you’re Dr. Williams, why are you masquerading as a male model?”
“What did you do with my model?” I hiss at Ben Williams as soon as he’s seated next to me.
He rolls his eyes. “Obviously I murdered him and stuffed his body in the closet so I could make my lifelong dream of coming on national television as a complete ass come true.”
Before I can slay him with a witty comeback, Lacey waves her hands frantically to shut me up. Then she turns to the camera and gushes, “Welcome back to Wake Up America! In case you’re just joining us, we have astrophysicist Dr. Ben Williams on today, here to talk about NASA’s Earth Two project. But before we get to Dr. Williams, Serafina Lopez, creator of the smashing Live for Your Star Sign app, is going to give us a fashion-forward look for your star sign.”
Hal continues, “We had a surprise model in the form of Dr. Williams here. Tell us, Ben, are you really a Gemini?”
“I have no idea.”
“According to our research, you are,” Lacey hurries to say. “You’d think you’d know that, being a rocket scientist and all.”
Dr. Grumpy Pants pauses, then slowly explains, “Science is the systematic, logical, and relentless pursuit of knowledge to help us better understand the universe and all things in it. Astrology is the pursuit of unsuspecting people’s money through trickery, predictions so vague they could apply to anyone in any given location, and blatant insensitivity to empirical evidence.” He glances at me, then turns back to Lacey. “For you to presume I should possess the knowledge of which utterly irrelevant category I land in based on my date of birth is about as useful as knowing which house I’d fit into at Hogwarts. It’s meaningless. It’s nothing more than a party game.”
“A party game?” I blurt out. “I’ll have you know that the practical use of astrology dates back to the third millennium BC. It is rooted in the calendrical system as a predictor of seasonal shifts and even helped drive the development of modern-day astronomy.”
“Please, that’s like saying the first grunt from an Australopithecus is responsible for modern literature.”
“Australo-what-a-cus?” Hal asks, hamming it up for the audience.
“Australopithecus—the first ancestor of man.”
I jump in, righteous indignation bubbling in my chest. “I would argue that the first grunt from an Australopithecus is the origin of modern literature and speech.”
“You’d be wrong. Just because ancient astrologers looked into the sky, doesn’t mean they had the first clue what they were seeing.” He gives me a satisfied smile that I’m tempted to slap off his face. Then, turning away from me as if I’ve been dismissed, he leans closer to Lacey. He smiles at her and shrugs his eyebrows in a sleazy fashion. “What’s your sign? Can I buy you a drink?”
Lacey doesn’t seem to gather that he’s being facetious because she winks back and answers, “How about if you take me for a ride on your rocket ship?”
“Okay, there, Lacey,” Hal laughs nervously. “We don’t want to get sued for sexual harassment.”
“Then Dr. Ben shouldn’t have worn those pants,” Lacey says.
The audience laughs appreciatively, and one woman even calls out, “Stand up and show us your rocket ship again!” This of course leads to more hilarity.
Dr. Jerkface grins, before instructing, “Eyes up here, ladies.”
Oh great, now they’ve burst into applause and are hooting. How did this become the Dr. Ben show? I need to take back control of this segment before I lose the viewers’ interest in my app. So, I do the only thing I can think of. I stand up to draw attention to myself and loudly say, “If you’ll start the music again, I’d like to introduce Cancer!”
The mystical flute soundtrack I chose for this segment starts to play as a forty-something model with long silver hair and rose-colored sunglasses sashays out. She’s wearing a flowing batik-patterned summer dress, “Our celestial hippy chick likes to be comfortable while showcasing her innate psychic abilities. Just don’t cross her or she might pinch you like the crab from her astrological symbol.”
Lacey gushes, “I would so wear that dress! I love how you paired it with sandals that lace up the calves. Really chic.”
“Cancer thrives while displaying their carefree fashion sense,” I tell her brightly.
“No, they don’t,” Dr. Jerky McIHateHimFace mutters. “Because that’s not a thing.”
“Yeah, it is,” I tell him as my Cancer model finishes her walk. When she’s offstage, I announce, “Leo is the royalty of the zodiac.” My model is in her twenties, and she has bright orange curls that are slightly teased around her head like a lion’s mane. She’s wearing a gold lamé evening gown that only has one strap, the other shoulder is completely bare. “Leos love to strut their stuff, so if this is your star sign, going bold with your fashion is going to help bring you to your best life.”
“I doubt that very much,” Dr. Ben grumbles. “I can tell you for a fact I wouldn’t be living my best life in these ridiculous banana pants.”
When my Leo model reaches the end of the catwalk and walks back toward us, Hal growls like a lion while gesturing with his hands like he’s the aforementioned cat about to pounce. “Rooooooar! I like that one. She looks like a queen!”
“Who’s getting sued for sexual harassment now?” Lacey seemingly jokes. I say seemingly because I don’t think Hal and Lacey actually like each other. I’m guessing a good deal of their success as a hosting duo is based on discord as it keeps everyone on their toes. Even so, I would absolutely hate to work with someone I couldn’t stand on a regular basis. Talk about upsetting my sense of balance.
Standing in the wings of the Wake Up America! set, I listen while Hal says, “When we come back from commercial break, Serafina and Ben will tell us all about their trip to the Kennedy Space Center!” The live audience claps like they’ve just been promised a brand-new Buick, Oprah-style.
As soon as I hear, “We’re in commercial.” I hurry out on set and sit down. There are four chairs instead of two, which is the tip-off that Hal and Lacey are going to be sitting in.
As Ben takes the seat opposite mine, I whisper to Lacey, “I didn’t think you guys were going to be sitting in on our segments anymore.”
“Just this once. The producer said something about having concerns about you and Ben?”
“What concerns?” I demand. So help me, if Ben ruins this publicity opportunity for me, I’m going to send daily glitter bombs. Speaking of which, I can’t help but smile when I see some shiny flecks coming from his hairline. Looks like my first offering has already arrived.
“We’re back in five, four, three …” someone off set counts.
“Welcome back to Wake Up America!” Lacey practically shouts. “Serafina and Ben are back from their trip to Cape Canaveral, and they have a lot to tell us. Isn’t that right, Ben?”
“Sure,” Ben says but doesn’t offer anything more.
“Tell us about it,” Hal encourages.
“It was hot.” Ben looks beyond annoyed.
I decide to do my part to keep the conversation rolling. “As you know, Hal and Lacey, Florida is a steamer this time of year, but the Space Center didn’t fail to deliver its one-of-a-kind, out-of-this-world excitement.”
They both turn to me while Ben stares daggers at me. I continue, “I, for one, have been there no fewer than a half a dozen times and I can’t get enough.”
“What do you like about it most?” Hal asks.
“When you see all of those rockets and shuttles and realize they’ve all been to outer space, it’s, well, it’s just awe-inspiring.” I’m playing my part of the happiest woman on the planet. My face is so frozen into place, my cheeks are starting to cramp.
“I think something else happened in Florida too, am I right?” Lacey asks with a secretive smile on her face.
Damn, I thought Waltraut was going to tell the producers the kiss tape was off limits. I decide to play dumb on the off chance she’s talking about something else. “What are you referring to, Lacey?” Then I shoot her a panicky look that doubles as a plea not to do her job and show the tape of our kissing.
Ben seems to finally clue into what’s about to go down, because he jumps to his feet and starts to babble, “I’d like to take a moment and tell our viewers about the fantastic opportunity to send their kids to space camp. The program includes a full week of space activities, like the anti-gravity simulator. All meals and snacks, and even a graduation ceremony and certificate, are provided at no additional cost!” He sounds like he’s trying to sell blenders on late night television.
Hal interrupts him, “I hear you two got to actually suit up and visit the moon. That had to be fun.”
Rats, here we go. We watch the television monitor off-set, the same one I know they’ve cut to on camera. Ben and I are hand-in-hand, walking toward the photo op. Video Ben says, “I can’t wear that. How long has it been since it’s been cleaned?” The audience laughs. When he says “You can’t wear loafers in space,” they’re in near-hysterics.
Then, as expected, they’ve spliced the tape together to show us against the green screen, followed by the photographs we were given at the end—us in the space shuttle, floating in space, and on the moon. As I watch, I feel like a defendant in a courtroom waiting for the jury to come back with a death sentence.
Lacey looks into the camera and announces, “Just when you think Ben and Serafina will never like each other …” We all turn to look at the screen as our first kiss is unveiled right there on national television. Words escape me. That is one hot kiss and even though I’m annoyed it ever happened, my skin still heats up like I’m a pig on a spit.
The audience oohs and ahs, whistles and claps. Hal interrupts them by asking, “Is there something you two kids want to tell us?”
I merely look down and stare at my hands while shaking my head.
Ben, on the other hand, announces, “I’ll tell you what happened. Serafina here laid on the charm super thick during our trip and I momentarily lost my mind.”
“Are you saying that what we just saw was a one-off?” Lacey asks.
I say, “Yes,” at the same time Ben gives a firm, “NO!”
Whitney Dineen loves to laugh, play with her kids, bake, and eat french fries — not always in that order.
Whitney is a multi-award-winning author of romcoms, non-fiction humor, and middle reader fiction. Basically, she writes whatever the voices in her head tell her to.
She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jimmy, where they raise children, chickens, and organic vegetables.
Gold Medal winner at the International Readers’ Favorite Awards, 2017.
Silver medal winner at the International Readers’ Favorite Awards, 2015, 2016.
Melanie Summers also writes steamy romance as MJ Summers.
Melanie made a name for herself with her debut novel, Break in Two, a contemporary romance that cracked the Top 10 Paid on Amazon in both the UK and Canada, and the top 50 Paid in the USA. Her highly acclaimed Full Hearts Series was picked up by both Piatkus Entice (a division of Hachette UK) and HarperCollins Canada. Her first three books have been translated into Czech and Slovak by EuroMedia. Since 2013, she has written and published three novellas, and eight novels (of which seven have been published). She has sold over a quarter of a million books around the globe.
In her previous life (i.e. before having children), Melanie got her Bachelor of Science from the University of Alberta, then went on to work in the soul-sucking customer service industry for a large cellular network provider that shall remain nameless (unless you write her personally – then she’ll dish). On her days off, she took courses and studied to become a Chartered Mediator. That designation landed her a job at the R.C.M.P. as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator for ‘K’ Division. Having had enough of mediating arguments between gun-toting police officers, she decided it was much safer to have children so she could continue her study of conflict in a weapon-free environment (and one which doesn’t require makeup and/or nylons).
Melanie resides in Edmonton with her husband, three young children, and their adorable but neurotic one-eyed dog. When she’s not writing novels, Melanie loves reading (obviously), snuggling up on the couch with her family for movie night (which would not be complete without lots of popcorn and milkshakes), and long walks in the woods near her house. She also spends a lot more time thinking about doing yoga than actually doing yoga, which is why most of her photos are taken ‘from above’. She also loves shutting down restaurants with her girlfriends. Well, not literally shutting them down, like calling the health inspector or something–more like just staying until they turn the lights off.
She is represented by Suzanne Brandreth of The Cooke Agency International.
Grave Robbing and Other Hobbies
(Grave Concerns #1)
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Reverse Harem, Romance
Publication date: April 20th 2021
Ghosts, corpses and four hot men—what’s a girl to do? Abandoned at three—whose parents want a kid who sees ghosts?—I learned the world is quick to punish misfits. I try my best to be a normal, boring human, but the call of the supernatural just won’t be ignored. When a stranger shows up on my doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s no sexy tryst. Instead, I’m off to the graveyard, digging up the corpse of a murder victim at the demand of the local vampire coven—and that small felony is just the start. The spirit of the woman has gone missing—something that shouldn’t be possible—and everyone is looking to me for answers. There’s Kase, a vampire who’s both terrifying and secretive. Grant, a mage with a bad attitude and a lot of power. Troy, the possessive werewolf-detective next door and Hunter, a mysterious bad boy who isn’t even close to human. It’s a race not just against time but against everything to figure out where the spirits are going, who’s behind it and if I can trust the men who now share my bed. And all because of a little grave robbing…
Hunter didn’t remove his hand from my mouth. It made me realize he was also entirely pressed against me, and despite it not being possible, he felt better than he’d looked. His skin was warm, even through my robe.
He took his hand off my mouth but didn’t move away. “Stay still,” he whispered against my ear.
“Why? Is it coming back?”
“No. I just really like looking down your robe.”
As soon as his words sank in, when I moved past the adrenaline and the purr of his voice, I realized that yes, my robe had bagged open and he had a perfect view down the front.
I elbowed him, but he didn’t seem to even feel it. He released me, though the way he did it implied my little move hadn’t meant a thing.
“I am so tired of people breaking into my house,” I said.
“You aren’t human, and you don’t have any wards. That’s the same as a ‘come on in’ sign in our world.”
“I am human.”
“Sure, shadow-girl.” He sent me a conspiratorial wink, as if we were on the joke together.
“No, I actually am. No funky teeth, no freaky eyes. Human.” I pointed at my face as though that drove the point home.
He waved at himself. “No funky teeth, no freaky eyes. Very much not human. Sure, though, if you want to pretend, I’m not one to turn down a bit of good roleplay. You want to be innocent Little Red Riding Hood? I’ll play the wolf.”
His suggestion derailed me. How could it not? Any girl who claimed she hadn’t had entirely inappropriate dreams about the wolf in that story was a damned liar. Once I’d reached a certain age, ‘all the better to eat you with’ had taken on a very different meaning.
I pictured a dark, heavily wooded forest as I ran, something on my heels, gaining ground. His warm breath on my neck when he caught me…
Suddenly I didn’t care what he’d said, why he was there or what exactly he meant by him ‘not being human’.
Until I recalled he’d broken in, and clearly him showing up at my office wasn’t a coincidence.
He snorted. “I liked where your mind was going before.”
“What are you doing here? And what was that thing?”
“Don’t we have better things to discuss? Or we can do away with talking all together.”
“I don’t sleep with people who might kill me, but thanks.”
“If someone might not kill you, are they even worth sleeping with in the first place?”
I nodded, then handed the ice pack back to him. When he took it, he frowned at a red mark that remained on the white pack.
“Sorry.” I turned my hand over, the one Grant had cut, to find that sure enough, I’d managed to tear open the scab.
“Grant needed my blood for the wards.”
He frowned, as though he disliked the idea. “He could have done less damage.”
“That’s what I said, but he said it was about the sacrifice of the action.”
Kase lifted his thumb to his mouth and pressed it against the tip of his fang. He didn’t grimace, didn’t show any reaction to the wound.
Blood welled at the top, a red so dark it was almost purple.
Which sent me bolting. I jumped to my feet, wanting that blood nowhere near me.
Kase didn’t grab me—and I knew damn well he could have, because vampires were terrifyingly fast—but he stared. “Really?”
“I may not always love my life, but I do love being alive. No thanks to that.” I waved at his thumb.
“How can you be so ignorant of our world? You can’t be turned into a vampire from a little blood.”
“That sounds like men who say a girl can’t get knocked up because it’s just the tip.”
“I am sterile, so that isn’t an issue I deal with.” Kase spoke with such flatness of his voice, I almost missed that he’d made a joke, even more so because he so quickly moved on from it. “To be changed from mortal, a person has to die. My blood will help to heal you, but it won’t change you since I, again, don’t plan on killing you.”
I pressed my lips together, then responded slowly. “You know, I normally don’t spend so much time around people who have to keep telling me they don’t plan on killing me.”
“Would you rather I not tell you that?”
“I’d rather you not need to tell me that.”
“You need to do something,” I said as Kase and Troy struck a wall and knocked off a painting. Sure, it was a cheap one I’d picked up at a chain store, some mass-produced image of cherry blossoms I’d always thought would make me a calmer person, but it was my stupid painting and they’d ruined it!
“You’re right,” Grant said and snapped his fingers, whispering a few words.
The two fighting seemed unaffected, however, as Troy flung Kase off him and Kase sailed back, almost faster than my vision could follow.
I was about to tell Grant it hadn’t worked when I realized he held a bowl of popcorn now.
Had he really used his magic to summon popcorn? Hunter reached over me to grab a handful.
“You said you couldn’t use magic for frivolous things,” I stammered.
“You used it to get popcorn!”
Grant lifted the popcorn as though to make a point. “This isn’t frivolous, Ava. There is a man-on-man fight here—that requires snacks to properly watch. Get your priorities straight.”
My mouth hung open. Every time I thought I had my feet under me with these men, they showed me how wrong I was.
“They could kill each other,” I finally said.
“Sure, but they won’t.” Hunter stole another handful of popcorn and tossed some in his mouth, a few pieces falling to the couch. “Troy hasn’t fully shifted and Kase isn’t biting. This is just one of those macho alpha dominance shows. Let’s all be glad they’re doing this instead of actually measuring dicks. Trust me, that just hurts feelings.”
I went to get up, but Hunter wrapped an arm around me to keep me there. “Nope. This? This is the sort of thing where an accidental stray punch could end a fragile thing like you. Best to stay out of fights between immortals.”
“They’re wrecking my place,” I complained and winced as they destroyed yet another small table. It splintered into a million pieces, and even though I couldn’t for the life of me recall where I’d gotten it from, the loss made me sigh.
“They’ll fix it. Hell, they’ll probably get you nicer stuff just because they feel bad. Make sure you milk that. I want a large-screen TV here,” Grant told me before offering me some popcorn.
And, really, what was a girl to do? I couldn’t stop the fight and the two people who could—Hunter and Grant—didn’t seem all that driven to do so.
So I took some of the popcorn and joined in on the show.
Apparently saving the world would need to wait for these two to work out their little testosterone-driven fight.
It seemed all men were alike, immortal or not.
Jayce Carter lives in Southern California with her husband and two spawns. She originally wanted to take over the world but realized that would require wearing pants. This led her to choosing writing, a completely pants-free occupation. She has a fear of heights yet rock climbs for fun and enjoys making up excuses for not going out and socializing.