Related to: 'Jaci Burton on heroes, heroines and romance'

Headline Eternal

Play-By-Play Collection 1: The Perfect Play, Changing The Game, Taking A Shot

Jaci Burton
Authors:
Jaci Burton

Books 1, 2 and 3 in the sensationally sexy Play-By-Play series from New York Times bestseller and queen of sports romance, Jaci Burton. Perfect for fans of Lori Foster, Maya Banks and Jill Shalvis.In THE PERFECT PLAY, the last thing event planner Tara Lincoln needs is the jet-set lifestyle of a football pro like Mick Riley; even though their steamy and passionate one-night stand proved that Mick is an all-star - both on the field and in the bedroom. Tara played the game of love once and lost big, and she doesn't intend to put herself out there again, especially with a certified heartbreaker. But when Mick sets his mind to win, nothing will stop him. And he has the perfect play in mind to catch this sultry vixen.In CHANGING THE GAME, win at any cost has always been the mantra of sports agent Liz Darnell. When she carries things too far, she loses a major client in Mick Riley and figures his brother - baseball pro Gavin Riley - will be the next to go. With little left to lose Liz decides to get one taste of the player she's had a thing for since she first laid eyes on him. But Gavin has a mind of his own, and Liz soon finds herself agent and lover to the bad boy of baseball. And when love unexpectedly enters the field, neither is ready for the biggest game changer of them all.In TAKING A SHOT, the last thing Jenna Riley needs is more sports in her life. While her brothers are off being athletic superstars, she's stuck running the family's sports bar, whether she likes it or not. Then in walks pro hockey stud Tyler Anderson. As much as Jenna would like to go to the boards with him, she's vowed to never fall for a jock - even one as hot as Ty. Ty, intrigued by the beautiful bar owner, becomes a regular. He senses that Jenna wants to do something more with her life. And as he gains her trust, the passion between them grows, as does Ty's insistence that Jenna should start living for herself. With his encouragement, Jenna starts to believe it, too... But first, Jenna has to figure out what she wants, what she needs, who she loves, and if she has the passion and pride to take a shot at having it all - including Ty...Want more sexy sporting romance? Don't miss the rest of this steamy series and check out Jaci's gorgeously romantic Hope series beginning with Hope Flames.

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Hope Ignites: Hope Book 2

Jaci Burton
Authors:
Jaci Burton

Hope Ignites is the second in the sexy, heartwarming Hope series from Jaci Burton, New York Times bestselling author of the Play-By-Play series. Perfect for fans of Bella Andre, Jill Shalvis and Nora Roberts.Welcome to Hope, Oklahoma. The small town that's sure to warm your heart. Full of big hearts, fiery passion and love everlasting...She is one distraction he simply can't resist... When a move crew asks to film on his cattle ranch, Logan McCormack doesn't expect Desiree Jenkins, the young star with the bad-girl rep, to be so open, so down-to-earth...or so intimately interested in him.Des is desperate for an escape from paparazzi and gossip columns, and she's found it at Logan's ranch. But more than that, she hoping that this real-life cowboy will be the one to accept her for who she is, and give her the kind of happily ever after that can't be found in the movies...For more romance to warm your heart, check out the rest of the Hope series which began with Hope Smoulders, or look for Jaci's sexy sports romance series, Play-By-Play, beginning with The Perfect Play.

Headline Eternal

Hope Flames: Hope Book 1

Jaci Burton
Authors:
Jaci Burton

Hope Flames is the first in the sexy, heartwarming Hope series from Jaci Burton, New York Times bestselling author of the Play-By-Play series. Perfect for fans of Bella Andre, Jill Shalvis and Nora Roberts.Welcome to Hope, Oklahoma. The small town that's sure to warm your heart. Full of big hearts, fiery passion and love everlasting...When it comes to love, they already know the rules...by heart. Thirty-two and finally setting up her veterinary practice in the town she once called home, Emma Burnett is on her own and loving it. Independent and driven, she's not letting any man get in the way of her dreams - not again. That's fine with Luke McCormack. Divorced and hardly lacking in female company when he needs it, he's devoted to the only faithful companion in his life - his police dog. Still, there's something about Emma he can't shake. When a series of local break-ins leaves Emma vulnerable, she seeks help from the first man to spark her desire in years. And now they're giving each other something they thought they'd lost forever...hope.For more romance to warm your heart, check out the rest of the Hope series, or look for Jaci's sexy sports romance series, Play-By-Play, beginning with The Perfect Play.

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Thrown By A Curve: Play-By-Play Book 5

Jaci Burton
Authors:
Jaci Burton
August Book of the Month

Rush to meet Ares Kincaid...

October Book of the Month

Get ready for The Weekend...

December Book of the Month

Who wants to Cowboy Up?

July Book of the Month

Complete Me: a peek at J. Kenner's explosive finale

Fear yanks me from a deep sleep, and I sit bolt upright in a room shrouded with gray, the muted green light from a digital alarm clock announcing that it is just after midnight. My breath comes in gasps, and my eyes are wide but unseeing. The last remnant of an already forgotten nightmare brushes against me like the tattered hem of a specter's cloak, powerful enough to fill me with terror, and yet so insubstantial that it evaporates like mist when I try to grasp it. I do not know what frightened me. I only know that I am alone, and that I am scared. Alone? I turn swiftly in bed, shifting my body as I reach out to my right. But even before my fingers brush the cool, expensive sheets, I know that he is not there. I may have fallen asleep in Damien’s arms, but once again, I have awakened alone. At least now I know the source of the nightmare. It is the same fear I have faced every day and every night for weeks. The fear I try to hide beneath a plastic smile as I sit beside Damien day in and day out as his attorneys go over his defense in meticulous detail. As they explain the procedural ins-and-outs of a murder trial under German law. As they practically beg him to shine a light into the dark corners of his childhood because they know, as I do, that those secrets are his salvation. But Damien remains stubbornly mute, and I am left huddled against this pervasive fear that I will lose him. That he will be taken from me. And not just fear. I’m also fighting the damnable, overwhelming, panic-inducing knowledge that there isn’t a goddamn thing in the world I can do. Nothing except wait and watch and hope. But I do not like waiting, and I have never put my faith in hope. It is a cousin of fate, and both are too mercurial for my taste. What I crave is action, but the only one who can act is Damien, and he has steadfastly refused. And that, I think, is the worst cut of all. Because while I understand the reason for his silence, I can’t quell the selfish spark of anger. Because at the core of it all, it’s not just himself that Damien is sacrificing. It’s me. Hell, it’s us. We are running out of time. His trial will begin only a few hours from now, and unless he changes his mind about his defense, it is very likely that I will lose this man. I squeeze my eyes shut, forcing the tears to remain at bay. I can push the fear back, but my anger is like a living thing, and I am afraid that it will explode no matter how hard I try to quell it. For that matter, I’m afraid that suppressing it will make the ultimate explosion all the more brutal. When the indictment came through, Damien had tried to push me away, believing that he was protecting me. But he’d been wrong—and I’d flown all the way to Germany to tell him so. I’ve been here for over three weeks now, and there has not been a day when I have regretted coming, and I do not doubt that what he said when I arrived on his doorstep is true—he loves me. But that knowledge doesn’t diminish the sense of foreboding that has been rising within me. A trepidation that is especially potent at night when I wake alone and know that he has turned to solitude and Scotch when I want him in my arms. He loves me, yes. But at the same time I’m afraid that he is pushing me away again. Not in big steps, but in little ones. Well, screw that. I peel myself away from the cool comfort of our bed and stand up. I’m naked, and I bend to retrieve the white, lush robe provided by the Hotel Kempinski. Damien brushed it back off my shoulders after our shower last night, and I left it where it fell, a soft pile of cotton beside the bed. The sash is a different story, and I have to dig in the rumpled sheets to find it. Sex with Damien is always intense, but as the trial comes closer, it has been wilder, more potent, as if by controlling me Damien can control the outcome. Idly, I rub my wrists. They bear no marks, but that is only because Damien is careful. I can’t say the same about my ass, which still tingles from the feel of his palm against my skin. I like it—both this lingering sting and the knowledge that he needs my submission as much as I need to give myself to him. I find the sash shoved down near the foot of the bed. Last night, it had bound my wrists behind my back. Now, I tie it around my waist and tug it tight, relishing the luxurious comfort after waking so violently. The room itself is equally soothing, every detail done to perfection. Every piece of wood polished, every tiny knickknack and artistic addition thoughtfully arranged. Right now, however, I am oblivious to the room’s charms. I only want to find Damien. The bedroom connects to an oversized dressing area and a stunning bathroom. I check briefly in both, though I do not expect to find him, then continue through to the living area. The space is large and also well-appointed with comfortable seating and a round worktable that is now covered with sheafs of papers and folders representing both the business that Damien continues to run despite the world collapsing around our ears, and the various legal documents that his attorney, Charles Maynard, has ordered Damien to study. I let the robe drop where I stand and pull on the stunning trompe l’oeil patterned sheath that Damien cavalierly tossed over the arm of a chair after peeling it off me last night. We’ve spent a few hours escaping reality by shopping on Munich’s famous Maximilianstrasse, and I have acquired so many shoes and dresses I could open my own boutique. I run my fingers through my hair as I cross the room to the phone by the bar. I force myself not to go into the bathroom to primp and freshen the makeup that has surely rubbed off. It’s more challenging than it sounds; the mantra that a lady doesn’t go out unfinished has been beaten into my head since birth. But with Damien at my side I have thumbed my nose at many of the tribulations of my youth, and right now I am more concerned with finding him than with applying fresh lipstick. I pick up the receiver and dial zero. Almost immediately there is an accented voice on the other end. “Good evening, Ms. Fairchild.” “He’s in the bar?” I do not need to explain who “he” is. “He is. Shall I have a phone brought to his table?” “No, that’s all right. I’ll come down.” “Sehr gut. Is there anything else I can do for you?” “No, thank you.” I’m about to hang up when I realize there is something. “Wait!” I catch him before he clicks off, then enlist his help with my plan to distract Damien from his demons. Despite the age of the building and the elegance of the interior, the hotel boasts a modern ambiance, and I have come to feel at home within these walls. I wait impatiently for the elevator, and then even more impatiently once I’m in the car. The descent seems to take forever, and when the doors finally open to reveal the opulent lobby, I aim myself straight for the Old English–style bar. Though it’s late on a Sunday, the Jahreszeiten Bar is bustling. A woman stands by the piano softly singing to the gathered crowd. I barely pay her any heed. I don’t expect to find Damien among the listeners. Instead, I wander through the wood and red leather interior, shaking off the help of a waiter who wants to seat me. I pause for a moment, standing idly beside a blond woman about my age who is sipping champagne and laughing with a man who might be her father, but I’m betting is not. I turn slowly, taking in the room around me. Damien is not with the group at the piano, nor is he sitting at the bar. And he does not occupy any of the red leather chairs that are evenly spaced around the tables. I’m starting to worry that perhaps he was leaving as I was coming. Then I take a step to the left and realize that what I thought was a solid wall is actually an optical illusion created by a pillar. Now I can see the rest of the room, including the flames leaping in the fi replace set into the opposite wall. There is a small love seat and two chairs surrounding the hearth. And, yes, there is Damien. I immediately exhale, my relief so intense I almost use the blonde’s shoulder to steady myself. Damien is seated in one of the chairs, his back to the room as he faces the flames. His shoulders are broad and straight, and more than capable of bearing the weight of the world upon them. I wish, however, that they didn’t have to. I move toward him, the sound of my approach muffled by both the thick carpet and the din of conversation. I pause a few feet behind him, already feeling the familiar pull I experience whenever I am near Damien. The singer is now crooning “Since I Fell for You,” her voice cutting sharp and clear across the room. Her voice is so mournful that I’m afraid it is going to unleash a flood of tears along with all of the stress of the last few weeks. No. I’m here to comfort Damien, not the other way around, and I continue toward him with renewed resolve. When I finally reach him, I press my hand to his shoulder and bend down, my lips brushing his ear. “Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?” I hear rather than see his answering smile. “That depends on who’s asking.” He doesn’t turn to face me, but he lifts his arm so that his hand is held up in a silent invitation. I close my hand in his, and he guides me gently around the chair until I am standing in front of him. I know every line of this man’s face. Every angle, every curve. I know his lips, his expressions. I can close my own eyes and picture his, dark with desire, bright with laughter. I have only to look at his midnight-colored hair to imagine the soft, thick locks between my fingers. There is nothing about him that is not intimately familiar to me, and yet every glance at him hits me like a shock, reverberating through me with enough power to knock me to my knees. Empirically, he is gorgeous. But it is not simply his looks that overwhelm. It is the whole package. The power, the confidence, the bone-deep sensuality that he couldn’t shake even if he tried. “Damien,” I whisper, because I can’t wait any longer to feel his name on my lips. That wide, spectacular mouth curves into a slow smile. He tugs my hand, pulling me onto his lap. His thighs are firm and athletic, and I settle there eagerly, but I don’t lean against him. I want to sit back enough that I can see his face. “Do you want to talk about it?” I know what his answer will be, and yet I hold my breath, praying that I am wrong. “No,” he says. “I just want to hold you.” I smile as if his words are sweetly romantic, refusing to let him see how much they chill me. I need his touch, yes. But I need the man more. I stroke his cheek. He hasn’t shaved since yesterday, and the stubble of his beard is rough against my palm. The shock of our connection rumbles through me, and my chest feels tight, my breath uneven. Will there ever come a time when I can be near him without yearning for him? Without craving the touch of his skin against my own? It’s not even a sexual longing—not entirely, anyway. Instead, it’s a craving. As if my very survival depends on him. As if we are two halves of a whole and neither can survive without the other. With Damien, I am happier than I have ever been. But at the same time, I’m more miserable, too. Because now I truly understand fear. I force a smile, because the one thing I will not do is let Damien see how terrified I am of losing him. It doesn’t matter; Damien knows me too well. “You’re scared,” he says, and the sadness that colors his voice is enough to melt me. “You’re the one person in all the world I cannot bear to hurt, and yet I’m the one who put fear in your eyes.” “No,” I say. “I’m not scared at all.” “Liar,” he says gently. “You forget that I’ve seen you in action, Damien Stark. You’re a goddamn force of nature. They can’t possibly hold you. Maybe they don’t know it yet, but I do. You’re going to walk away from this. You’re going home a free man. There’s no other way that this can end.” I say the words because I need to believe them. But he is right. I am desperately afraid. Damien, of course, sees through my bullshit. Gently, he tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “You should be scared. This is the kind of case that has prosecutors salivating.” “But you were only fourteen,” I say. “Which is why they’re not trying me as an adult.” I frown because even though he was only fourteen, he’s looking at a decade in prison. “But you didn’t kill Merle Richter.” That, after all, is the most important point. His expression darkens. “Truth is a malleable thing, and once I walk into that courtroom, the truth is what the court says it is.” “Then you need to make sure the judges know the real truth. Dammit, Damien, you didn’t kill him. But even if you had, there were mitigating circumstances.” Only recently had Damien told me what happened. He and Richter fought, and when Richter fell, Damien held back, refusing to step forward to help the coach who’d abused him for so many years. “Oh, Nikki.” He pulls me against him, his arm swooping around my waist and shifting me on his lap so quickly that I gasp. “You know I can’t do what you’re asking.” “I’m not asking anything,” I say, but the words sound brittle, because of course I’m asking. Hell, I’m begging. Damien damn well knows it, too. And yet he is denying me. Anger flares within me, but before it explodes, his mouth crushes against mine. The kiss is deep and raw and all-consuming, and warm desire blooms within me. It doesn’t erase my anger or my fear, but it does soothe it, and I shift closer to him, wishing I never had to leave the safety of his arms. His body tightens beneath mine, the bulge of his erection under his jeans teasing my rear as I shift my weight and lean closer, deepening this kiss and wishing like hell we were in our suite instead of in a very public bar. After a moment, I pull back, breathless. “I love you,” I say. “I know,” he says, and though I wait for the reciprocal words to come, he doesn’t say them back to me. My heart twists a little, and I force a smile. A pageant-quality All I Want Is World Peace kind of smile. The kind of smile I show the public, but not Damien. I tell myself that he’s just tired, but I don’t believe it. Damien Stark does nothing without a purpose. And though it is impossible to truly get inside that head of his, I know him well enough to guess at his motivations, and I want to jump to my feet and scream at him. I want to beg him not to push me away. I want to shout that I get it, that he’s trying to protect me because he knows that he might lose the trial. That he might be ripped from me. But goddammit, doesn’t he know that all he’s doing is hurting me? I believe with all my heart that Damien loves me. What I fear is that love isn’t enough. Not when he’s determined to push me away in some misguided attempt to protect me. So I don’t lash out. That’s not a fight I can win, but I can play the game my own way. With renewed resolve, I kick the wattage up on my smile and slide off his lap, my hand extended to him. “You have to be in court at ten, Mr. Stark. I think you’d better come with me.” He stands, his expression wary. “Are you going to tell me I have to get some sleep?” “No.” His gaze slides over me, and my body quivers in response as if he had physically touched me. “Good,” he says, and that one simple word not only conveys a world of promises but takes the edge off the chilly fear that has filled me. I allow the corner of my mouth to quirk up into a hint of a smile. “Not that, either. Not yet, anyway.” The confusion on his face brings a genuine smile to my lips, but he doesn’t have the chance to ask, as the concierge has approached. “Everything is ready, Ms. Fairchild.” My smile broadens. “Thank you. Your timing is perfect.” I take the hand of the very confused man that I love and lead him through the lobby, following the concierge to the front of the hotel. There, parked on the street beside a very giddy valet, is a cherry red Lamborghini. Damien turns to look at me. “What’s this?” “A rental. I thought you could use a little fun tonight, and the A9’s just a few miles away. Fast car. German autobahn. It seemed like a no-brainer to me.” “Boys and their toys?” I lower my voice so that the concierge can’t overhear. “Since we already have some interesting toys in the room, I thought you might enjoy a change of pace.” I lead him closer to where the valet stands by the open passenger door. “I understand she’s very responsive, and I know you’ll enjoy having all that power at your command.” “Is she?” He looks me up and down, and this time the inspection is tinged with fire. “As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I like. Responsiveness. Power. Control.” “I know,” I say, and then slide into the passenger seat, letting more than a little thigh show as I do. An instant later, Damien is behind the wheel and he’s fired the powerful engine. “Drive fast enough, and it’s almost like sex,” I tease. And then, because I can’t resist, I add, “At the very least, it makes for exceptional foreplay.” “In that case, Ms. Fairchild,” he says, with a boyish grin that makes this all worthwhile, “I suggest you hold on tight.”

Valentine's Bonus Treat

A Valentine’s treat for fans of Working Girl!

Enjoy this bonus scene from Shana Grey's sexy serial WORKING GIRL!

Meet Luke McCormack...

From Jaci Burton's heartwarming and fiery Hope series...

February Book of the Month

In the Green Mountain state it's time to fall in love

The short ride into town was full of awkward silence. Sensing his irritation with her, Cameron chose to stay quiet instead of peppering him with questions about the town, the state and what he might know about the Green Mountain Country Store. "You got a name?" he asked. "Cameron." "What kind of name is that for a girl?" Instantly on the offensive, Cameron glared at him."It's the kind of name my parents gave me - and I had it long before Cameron Diaz was famous." "Who?" Astounded, Cameron swiveled in her seat. "Tell me the truth - have I been abducted by aliens? It’s okay. You can give it to me straight. I can take it." “I don’t know about aliens, but I may as well tell you I have no idea who Cliff Clavin is either.” Cameron’s mouth fell open. “The know-it-all mailman from Cheers? One of the top-rated shows of the eighties and nineties?” “So you think I’m a know-it-all, huh?” “You sound rather proud of that.” “Well, you don’t have to be a know-it-all to get that wearing suede boots to Vermont in March isn’t the brightest idea you’ll ever have.” “Pardon my ignorance, but I’ve never been here before.” “All that technology laying in your lap, and you never got the 411 on the mud.” He snorted out a laugh. “Anyone ever tell you that you can be somewhat insufferable?” Arching an eyebrow, he smirked at her. “Only somewhat? I’ve fallen short of my goal.” Exasperated, Cameron shifted to look out the passenger window. “Was it something I said?” She shook her head in disbelief. The guy was too much. “What’s your name anyway?” “Will Abbott.” That got her attention. “Any relation to Lincoln Abbott?” “That’d be my dad. How do you know him?” “I don’t actually know him. Yet. I’m due to meet him tomorrow.” “For what purpose?” “To build a website for his store.” “Damn it!” Will slammed the heel of his hand on the wheel. “I can’t believe him! We told him we didn’t want it!” “We?” Cameron made an effort to keep the waver out of her voice. Would this interminable day ever end? “My siblings and I. We’re his partners.” “Oh.” Since the company had no website, she’d found precious little information about it online and had planned to start from scratch once she got to town. “Let me guess - when he hired you he never mentioned that his children voted against a website.” “Um, no, that didn’t come up.” “This is so typical. He brings one of his big ideas to us, we tell him we aren’t interested, and then he does it anyway.” “If you’re partners, how does he get away with that?” “Because he owns the majority - fifty percent. The other fifty percent is split between the ten of us. Five of us help him run the store and vote proxy for the others. The other fi ve provide a variety of products to the store.” “Ten of you?” “I’m one of ten.” “You have ten kids in your family?” “Yeah, so?” “I’ve never known anyone who had more than four kids in their family.” “Well, now you know someone who has ten.” As an only child, Cameron tried to wrap her head around what it might’ve been like to grow up with nine siblings. “What are their names?” “You want to know the names of my siblings?” he asked, as if that was the stupidest question he’d ever heard. “Yeah, I guess I do. If I’m going to be stuck in the middle of your family feud it would be good to know the people I’m dealing with.” “Feud is kind of a strong word, but we do argue. A lot.” He sighed and tightened his grip on the wheel. “Hunter and Hannah are the oldest. They’re twins.” “Ten kids and twins too?” “Two sets of twins. Lucas and Landon are second from the youngest. They’re identical twins.” “That’s so cool.” He glanced over at her, seeming confounded by her interest in his family. But to Cameron, who’d grown up painfully alone, families like his only existed on the TV shows she’d glommed on to, looking for a family anywhere she could find one. “I’m after Hunter and Hannah. Then comes Ella, Charlotte, Wade, Colton, Lucas and Landon and then Max.” “Wow. That’s a lot of kids.” “Yep.” “Is your mom in an asylum?” His bark of laughter took her by surprise. “Nah. She rolls with it all. I’ve never met anyone as quietly efficient as she is. She always made it look easy.” “How do you make ten kids look easy?” “I don’t know, but somehow she did.” “So which five are involved in the business?” “That’d be me, Hunter, Ella, Charlotte and Wade. Several of the others are involved in businesses that feed products to the store. Colton runs the family sugaring facility that makes maple syrup, and Max helps him out when he’s able to between classes. He’s a senior at UVM. Landon has a woodworking business and oversees the volunteer fi refighting department in town. Hannah makes jewelry. Lucas manages the family’s Christmas tree farm and helps Landon with the fire department. I think that’s everyone accounted for.” “Just out of curiosity— why don’t you and your siblings want a website?” “Because we don’t need one. We have a very nice business just the way it is. A website will bring a bunch of issues we aren’t interested in dealing with.” “Such as?” “We’ll have to hire people to fulfi ll orders, set up a distribution center, figure out shipping. So many headaches.” “But it could grow your business exponentially.” “We don’t want to grow our business. It’s fine the way it is.” He drove into a quaint little New England town with a signature white-steeple church, a volunteer fire department, a combination café and gallery, and there, in the middle of everything, the Green Mountain Country Store. In the dark, it was hard to see much, but it seemed small next to some of the other buildings and boasted a quaint front porch. They were past it before she could ascertain much of anything else. Will pulled into a parking lot behind a large white Victorian house. “Where are we?” “I assume you’re staying at the inn since it’s the only place in town that takes guests.” Cameron pulled out the confirmation message she had printed at home. “The Admiral Frances Butler Inn?” “That’s it.” He cut the engine and got out of the truck. By the time she emerged onto thankfully dry pavement, he’d fetched her luggage from the back. “Can you hand me the black bag? My running shoes are in there.” He retrieved the bag she pointed to and dropped it in front of her. “You don’t have to shoot the messenger, you know,” she said. “What does that mean?” “Just because you’re mad at your dad for hiring me doesn’t mean you have to be cranky with me.” “You were irritating me long before I knew my dad had hired you.” “You’re just full of charm, aren’t you?” she asked as she pulled on sneakers. “So I’m told.” “By who?” He waggled his brows at her. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” “Actually, I really wouldn’t.” “Suit yourself,” he said with a shrug as he led her into the back door of the inn. He seemed to know his way around, so she followed him through a series of hallways to the front desk where he rang the bell on the counter. The place smelled like potpourri and lemon-scented furniture polish. An older woman came through the door wearing a housecoat, pin curlers in her hair and a warm, welcoming smile on her plump face. “Hi, Will. What a nice surprise. What brings you in tonight?” “Hi there, Mrs. Hendricks. I’ve brought you a guest. Cameron . . .” “Oh,” the older woman said, resting a hand on her head as if she just remembered her curlers. “I look a sight.” “You’re pretty as a picture, just like always,” Will said. “Will Abbott,” Mrs. Hendricks said as her face turned bright red, “you could charm a bird out of a tree.” Will sent Cameron a smug smile, as if to say “Told ya so.” Cameron cleared her throat, hoping to remind Mrs. Hendricks that a paying customer was waiting to check in. “Cameron Murphy. Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Hendricks.” The other woman fi nally looked at her and gasped. “Oh my! What happened to your face?” Cameron raised her hands to her face, remembering the moment of impact and how her nose had hurt afterward. “What?” “You have two black eyes,” Mrs. Hendricks said. “And your nose . . .” Alarmed, Cameron looked around for a mirror. “What about my nose?” She walked across the small lobby to a framed mirror and shrieked at what she saw. Her nose was swollen and sure enough, dark bruises were forming under her eyes. “Oh my God!” Turning back to find Will leaning against the counter and Mrs. Hendricks looking on with concern, Cameron marched back over to confront him. “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Tell you what?” “That my face was all banged up!” “Um, maybe because I figured you’d hardly need me to tell you that something had smacked you in the face.” “It must’ve been the airbag,” she said, remembering that moment of utter blackness. Had she passed out? She’d been ignoring the pain in her face as she tried to get her bearings with Will, but now that they mentioned it, her nose was throbbing rather insistently. “The airbag would also explain the burn on your neck,” Will added. “Burn?” Her voice was a shrill squeak. “What burn?” He leaned in closer to her, and she swore her heart skipped a beat as she caught a whiff of his outdoorsy scent. The touch of his finger on her neck sent a shocking bolt of heat straight through her, landing in a tingle between her legs. What in the name of hell was that about? “There.” As if he’d touched something hot, Will pulled back his hand and straightened out of that insolent slouch he did so well.The two of them stared at each other for a long heated moment. “Was there an accident?” Mrs. Hendricks asked, interrupting the intense interlude. “She hit Fred,” Will said gravely. Mrs. Hendricks brought a hand to her ample chest. “Oh! Is he okay?” “He seemed no worse for the wear,” Will said. “Good thing it was a small car.” “It was a new car!” Cameron said, wondering if anyone in this godforsaken town would care that her adorable little car was no longer adorable. “Well, as long as he’s okay,” Mrs. Hendricks said as if Cameron hadn’t spoken. Then she turned to Cameron. “I can call Doc Edwards for you, if you’d like.” “Thank you, but that’s not necessary.” All Cameron wanted was a warm bath and an ice pack for her throbbing nose. “Could I borrow the phone to call Nolan about her car?” Will asked. “Of course.” Mrs. Hendricks handed him the portable phone, and he dialed a number from memory. While Cameron completed the check-in paperwork and handed over her credit card, Will filled Nolan in on the accident. “Yep, she ran smack into poor old Fred.” A pause. “He seemed fine, but we might want to send the doc after him in the morning to make sure.” Glowering at him, Cameron whispered, “The car. Remember the car?” He met her glower with a scowl. “Now, about the car.” Finally, Cameron thought, signing on the dotted line for Mrs. Hendricks and accepting the key to her third-floor room. Will handed the phone back to Mrs. Hendricks. “Nolan’s going to fetch the car tonight so no one hits it out on the road. He said to check in with him in the morning. The garage is across the street.” Pointing toward the front door. “That way.” “Thank you.” Cameron forced herself to look up at him and all his beauty. “I appreciate your help.” His eyes, she realized were light brown, almost gold. Why did he have to be so spectacularly gorgeous and so outrageously cranky? “You need help getting your stuff upstairs?” The idea of him following her to a hotel room sent more tingling awareness rippling through her. “I can do it.” But before the words were out of her mouth, he was already heading to the stairs with her bags. Uttering a quick thank you to Mrs. Hendricks, Cameron scurried after him. On the third floor, he deposited her suitcases outside Room 18. He stopped so suddenly that Cameron nearly ran into his broad back. Turning, he caught her inches from his chest, and the awareness that had sizzled between them downstairs chose that moment to reappear. Cameron had never experienced such an overpowering need to touch another person. She rolled her hands into fists to keep from acting on the impulse. “Listen,” he said, haltingly, “you seem like a nice enough person.” “Wow, thanks.” Charming? Whatever. His expression turned stormy. “What I was going to say is that things are apt to get a little heated tomorrow at the meeting. Don’t take it personally, okay? Our beef is with him, not you.” “I’m here to do a job. Nothing about this is personal.” “Good,” he said, apparently picking up on her double meaning as she’d hoped he would. “Let’s keep it that way.” “Fine by me.” “You might want to put some ice on your nose,” he said as he headed down the stairs. Too bad he missed the gesture she made at his retreating back.

January Book of the Month

Meet Max in An Ounce of Hope...

Read a gorgeous excerpt from Sophie Jackson's AN OUNCE OF HOPE...

December Book of the Month

A saucy sample of Owning Violet

Indulge in this steamy excerpt from the first novel in Monica Murphy's new Folwer Sisters trilogy, OWNING VIOLET.

January Book of the Month

Are you prepared for the End Game?

January Book of the Month

Wanted. You Loved Damien Stark. Now Meet Evan Black.

I know exactly when my life shifted. That precise instant when his eyes met mine and I no longer saw the bland look of familiarity, but danger and fire, lust and hunger. Perhaps I should have turned away. Perhaps I should have run. I didn't. I wanted him. More, I needed him. The man, and the fire that he ignited inside of me. And in his eyes, I saw that he needed me, too. That was the moment that everything changed. Me, most of all. But whether it changed for good or for ill . . . well, that remains to be seen. Even dead, my Uncle Jahn knew how to throw one hell of a party. His Chicago lakeside penthouse was bursting at the seams with an eclectic collection of mourners, most of whom had imbibed so much wine from the famous Howard Jahn cellar that whatever melancholy they’d brought with them had been sweetly erased, and now this wake or reception or whatever the hell you wanted to call it wasn’t the least bit somber. Politicians mingled with financiers mingled with artists and academics, and everyone was smiling and laughing and toasting the deceased. At his request, there’d been no formal funeral. Just this gathering of friends and family, food and drink, music and mirth. Jahn - he hated the name Howard - had lived a vibrant life, and that was never more obvious than now in his death. I missed him so damn much, but I hadn’t cried. Hadn’t screamed and ranted. Hadn’t done anything, really, except move through the days and nights lost in a haze of emotions, my mind numb. My body anesthetized. I sighed and fingered the charm on my silver bracelet. He’d presented me with the tiny motorcycle just over a month ago, and the gift had made me smile. I hadn’t talked about wanting to ride a motorcycle since before I turned sixteen. And it had been years since I’d ridden behind a boy, my arms tight around his waist and my hair blowing in the wind. But Uncle Jahn knew me better than anyone. He saw past the princess to the girl hidden inside. A girl who’d built up walls out of necessity, but still desperately wanted to break free. Who longed to slip on a pair of well-worn jeans, grab a battered leather jacket, and go a little wild. Sometimes, she even did. And sometimes it didn’t end right at all. I tightened my grip on the charm as the memory of Jahn holding my hand - of him promising to keep my secrets - swept over me, finally bringing tears to my eyes. He should be beside me, dammit, and the swell of laughter and conversation that filled the room was making me a little sick. Despite the fact that I knew Jahn wanted it that way, it was all I could do not to smack all the people who’d hugged me and murmured softly that he was in a better place and wasn’t it wonderful that he’d lived such a full life. That was such bullshit - he hadn’t even turned sixty yet. Vibrant men in their fifties shouldn’t drop dead from aneurysms, and there weren’t enough pithy Hallmark quotes in the universe to make me think otherwise. Antsy, I shifted my weight from foot to foot. There was a bar set up on the other side of the room, and I’d positioned myself as far away as physically possible because right then I wanted the burn of tequila. Wanted to let go, to explode through the numbness that clung to me like a cocoon. To run. To feel. But that wasn’t going to happen. No alcohol was passing these lips tonight. I was Jahn’s niece, after all, and that made me some kind of hostess-by-default, which meant I was stuck in the penthouse. Four thousand square feet, but I swear I could feel the art-covered walls pressing in around me. I wanted to race up the spiral staircase to the rooftop patio, then leap over the balcony into the darkening sky. I wanted to take flight over Lake Michigan and the whole world. I wanted to break things and scream and rant and curse this damned universe that took away a good man. Shit. I sucked in a breath and looked down at the exquisite ancient-looking notebook inside the glass and chrome display case I’d been leaning against. The leather-bound book was an exceptionally well-done copy of a recently discovered Da Vinci notebook. Dubbed the Creature Notebook, it had sixteen pages of animal studies and was open to the center, revealing a stunning sketch the young master had drawn - his study for the famous, but never located, dragon shield. Jahn had attempted to acquire the notebook, and I remember just how angry he’d been when he’d lost out to Victor Neely, another Chicago businessman with a private collection that rivaled my uncle’s. At the time, I’d just started at Northwestern with a major in poli sci and a minor in art history. I’m not particularly talented, but I’ve sketched my whole life, and I’ve been fascinated with art - and in particular with Leonardo da Vinci - since my parents took me to my first museum at the age of three. I thought the Creature Notebook was beyond cool, and I’d been irritated on Jahn’s behalf when he not only lost out on it, but when the press had poured salt in the wound by prattling on about Neely’s amazing new acquisition. About a year later, Jahn showed me the facsimile, bright and shiny in the custom-made display case. As a general rule, my uncle never owned a copy. If he couldn’t have the original - be it a Rembrandt or a Rauschenberg or a Da Vinci - he simply moved on. When I’d asked why he’d made an exception for the Creature Notebook, he shrugged and told me that the images were at least as interesting as the provenance. “Besides, anyone who can successfully copy a Da Vinci has created a masterpiece himself.” Despite the fact that it wasn’t authentic, the notebook was my favorite of Jahn’s many manuscripts and artifacts, and now, standing with my hands pressed to the glass, I felt as if he was, in some small way, beside me. I drew in a breath, knowing I had to get my act together, if for no other reason than the more wrecked I looked, the more guests would try to cheer me. Not that I looked particularly wrecked. When you grow up as Angelina Hayden Raine, with a United States senator for a father and a mother who served on the board of over a dozen international nonprofit organizations, you learn the difference between a public and a private face very early on. Especially when you have your own secrets to keep. “This is so goddamn fucked up it makes me want to scream.” I felt a whisper of a smile touch my lips and turned around to find myself looking into Kat’s bloodshot eyes. “Oh, hell, Angie,” she said. “He shouldn’t be dead.” “He’d be pissed if he knew you’d been crying,” I said, blinking away the last of my own tears. “Fuck that.” I almost laughed. Katrina Laron had a talent for cutting straight through the bullshit. I’m not sure which one of us leaned in first, but we caught each other in a bone-crushing hug. With a sniffle, I finally pulled away. Perverse, maybe, but just knowing that someone else was acknowledging the utter horror of the situation made me feel infinitesimally better. “Every time I turn a corner, I feel like I’m going to see him,” I said. “I almost wish I’d stayed in my old place.” I’d moved in four months ago when Uncle Jahn’s aneurysm was discovered. I’d taken time off from work - easy when you work for your uncle. For two weeks I’d played nurse after he came home from the hospital, and when he’d been given the allclear by the doctors - yeah, like that was a good call - I’d accepted his invitation to move in permanently. Why not? The tiny apartment I’d shared with my lifelong friend Flynn wasn’t exactly the lap of luxury. And although I loved Flynn, he wasn’t the easiest person to cohabitate with. He knew me too well, and it always made me uneasy when people saw what I wanted to keep hidden. Now, though, I craved both the cocoon-like comfort of my tiny room and Flynn’s steady presence. As much as I loved the condo, without my uncle, it was cold and hollow, and just being in it made me feel brittle. As if at any moment I would shatter into a million pieces. Kat’s eyes were warm and understanding. “I know. But he loved having you here. God knows why,” she added with a quirky grin. “You’re nothing but trouble.” I rolled my eyes. At twenty-seven, Katrina Laron was only four years older than me, but that didn’t stop her from pulling the older-and-wiser card whenever she got the chance. The fact that we’d become friends under decidedly dodgy circumstances probably played a role, too. She’d been working at one of the coffee shops in Evanston where I used to mainline caffeine during my first year at Northwestern. We’d chatted a couple of times in an “extra cream please, it’s been a bitch of a day” kind of way, but we were hardly on a first-name basis. All that changed when we bumped into each other on a day when extra cream wasn’t going to cut it for me - not by a long shot. It was in the Michigan Avenue Neiman Marcus and I’d been surfing on adrenaline, using it to soothe the rough edges of a particularly crappy day. Specifically, I’d just succumbed to my personal demons and surreptitiously dropped a pair of fifteen-dollar clearance earrings into my purse. But, apparently, not as surreptitiously as I’d thought. “Well, aren’t you the stumbling amateur?” she’d whispered, as she steered me toward women’s shoes. “With a shit technique like that, it’s a wonder you haven’t been arrested yet.” “Arrested!” I squeaked, as if that word would carry all the way to Washington and to my father’s all-hearing ears. The fear of getting caught might be part of the excitement. Actually getting caught wasn’t a good thing at all. “No, I didn’t- I mean-” She cut off my protests with a casual flip of her hand. “All I’m saying is be smart. If you’re going to take a risk, at least make it worth the trouble. Those earrings? Really not the bomb.” “It’s not about the earrings,” I’d snapped, then immediately cringed. The words had been a knee-jerk response, but they were also true. It wasn’t about the earrings. It was about my dad, and the grad school lectures and the career-planning talks, and the never-spoken certainty that no matter what I did, my sister would have done it better. It was about the oppressive, overwhelming weight of my life and my future that was bearing down on me, harder and harder until I was certain that if I didn’t do something to break out a little I’d spontaneously combust. Kat had glanced at my purse as if she could see through the soft Coach leather to the contraband inside. Then she slowly lifted her eyes back to my face. The silence hung between us for a full minute. Then she nodded. “Don’t worry. I get it.” She cocked her head toward the exit. “Come on.” Relief flooded through me, and my limbs that had frozen in both fear and mortification began to thaw. She steered me to her car, a cherry-red Mustang that she drove at more or less the speed of light. She careened down Michigan Avenue, maneuvered her way onto Lake Shore Drive, and came so close to the other cars as she zipped in and out of traffic that I’m surprised her convertible didn’t lose a layer of paint. In other words, it was freaking awesome. The top was down, the wind was whipping my hair into my face and mouth, and all I could do was tilt my head back and laugh. Kat risked our lives long enough to shoot me one sideways glance. “Yeah,” she said. “We’re going to get along just fine.” From that moment on, I’d adored Kat. Now, with Jahn’s death sending my universe reeling, I realized that I not only loved her - I relied on her. “I’m really glad you’re here,” I said. “Where else would I be?” She scanned the room. “Are your mom and dad around somewhere?” “They can’t make it. They’re stuck overseas.” The familiar numbness settled over me again as I remembered my mother’s hysterical sobs and the deep well of sorrow that had filled my father’s voice when he’d learned about his half-brother. “I hated calling them,” I whispered. “It felt like Gracie all over again.” “I’m so sorry.” Kat had never met my sister, but she’d heard the story. The public version, anyway, and I knew her sympathy was real. I managed a wavering smile. “I know. That means a lot to me.” “The whole thing sucks,” Kat said. “It’s so unfair. Your uncle was too damn cool to die.” “I guess the universe doesn’t give a shit about coolness.” “The universe can be a raving bitch sometimes,” Kat said. She exhaled loudly. “Want me to crash here tonight so you won’t be alone? We could stay up late getting so wasted that there’s no way in hell either one of us will dream.” “Thanks, but I think I’ll be okay.” She eyed me uncertainly. She was one of the few people I’d confided in about my nightmares, and while I appreciated the sympathy, sometimes I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. “Really,” I said earnestly. “Kevin’s here.” “Oh, yeah? And how’s that going? Engaged yet?” “Not quite,” I said wryly. I supposed we were dating since I’d slept with him twice, but so far I’d dodged the let’s-be-exclusive conversation. I wasn’t sure why I was so reticent. The sex wasn’t mind-blowing, but it did the job. And I did genuinely like the guy. But I’d spent the last few months holding him at arm’s length, telling him I needed to keep my attention on Jahn’s surgery, then his recovery. Obviously, I hadn’t planned on his sudden death. How horrible was it of me to think that now Jahn was gone, I had no more excuses to hand Kevin? Beside me, Kat craned her neck and scoped out the crowd. “So where is he?” “He had to go take a call. Technically, he’s working today.” “What are you going to do now?” Kat asked. “About Kevin?” Honestly, I was hoping to avoid doing anything on that front for the foreseeable future. “About your job,” she countered. “About the roof over your head. About your life. Have you thought about what you’re going to do?” “Oh.” My shoulders sagged. “No. Not really.” My job in the PR department of Jahn’s company might pay my bills, but it was hardly my life’s ambition, and Kat was one of the few people to whom I’d confessed that deep, dark secret. Right then, however, that wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have. Fortunately, something across the room had caught Kat’s attention, effectively erasing my lack of direction and purpose from her mind. She stood slightly straighter and the corners of her mouth tilted a bit, almost hinting at a smile. Curious, I turned to look in that direction, but saw nothing but suits and dresses and a sea of black. “What is it? Kevin?” I asked, praying he wasn’t heading our direction. “Cole August,” she said. “At least I thought I saw him.” “Oh.” I licked my lips. My mouth had gone suddenly dry. “Is Evan with him?” I forced my voice to sound casual, but my pulse was racing. If Cole was around, it was always a good bet that Evan was, too. Then I remembered what day it was and my pulse slowed as disappointment weighed down on me. “Isn’t tonight the ribbon-cutting for the hospital wing Evan funded?” Kat didn’t even spare me a glance, her eyes still searching the crowd. “Not sure.” She shot me a quick look. “Yeah, it was. You invited me before, you know, all of this happened.” I blinked back the sudden prick of tears. “Evan’s going to hate missing this. Jahn was like a dad to him.” Beside me, Kat took a quick step backward, startling me. “What is it?” She dragged her gaze away from the crowd, then frowned at me. “I . . . Oh, shit. I have to go make a call. I’ll be right back, okay?” “Um, okay.” Who the hell did she need to call right now? That wasn’t a question I pondered for long, though, because I’d caught a glimpse of Cole. And right beside him - looking like he owned the world and everything in it - was Evan. Immediately, my chest tightened and a current of electricity zinged across my skin. Technically, I saw him first, but it was my body’s reaction that caught my attention. Only after I felt him did I truly see him. And what a sight he was. Whereas Cole might be sex on wheels, Evan Black was the slow burn of sin and seduction - and tonight he was in rare form. He must have come straight from the hospital, because he was still in a tux, and although he was clearly overdressed, he appeared perfectly at ease. Whether in a tux or jeans, where Evan was concerned, it was the man that mattered, not the garment. He had the kind of chiseled good looks that would have gotten him plucked from obscurity in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the kind of confidence and bearing that would have made him a box-office draw. A small scar intersected his left brow, giving the angel’s face a hint of the devil. He both came from money and had made his own fortune, and it showed in the way he held himself, the way he looked around a room, managing to take control of it with nothing more than a glance. His eyes were as gray as a wolf’s and his hair was the color of cherrywood, a deep brown that hinted at golds and reds when the light hit it just right. He wore it long in the back so that it brushed his collar, and the natural waves gave it the quality of a mane - which only enhanced the impression that there was a wildness clinging to the man. Wild or not, I wanted to get close. I wanted to thrust my fingers into his hair and feel the locks on my skin. I imagined his hair was soft, but that’s the only part of him that was. Everything else was edged with steel, the hard planes of his face and body hinting at a dangerous core beneath that beauty. I didn’t know whether the danger was real or an illusion. And right then, I didn’t care. I wanted the touch, the thrill. That desperate need to fly I’d been feeling all night? So help me, I wanted to fly right into Evan’s arms. I needed the rush. I craved the thrill. I wanted the man. And it was just too damn bad that he didn’t want me, too.

What Happens In Vegas . . . stays in Vegas!

Catch up with Lauren Layne...

Catch up with bestselling author Lauren Layne...

June Book of the Month

Discover the Lost and Found Sisters

Have a chat with Sierra Kincade

Sierra Kincade discusses the inspiration behind THE MASSEUSE, the first novel in her Body Works series, out in paperback on 15th January!

April Book of the Month

Stay behind with Master Professor...