"As if sleeping with the enemy wasn't disastrous enough..."
For Camryn Cox, living a private, purpose-driven, drama-free life is a top priority. And in her opinion, Maverick Woods represents everything opposite of that.
He's social media-famous, ultra fine, and completely irresponsible, making him something like the enemy as far as Camryn is concerned. But everything changes when a surprise moment of passion between the two of them results in a positive pregnancy test.
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“Please leave before I strangle you.”
“Damn. Violence ain’t gotta always be the answer, mamas,” he laughed, making his way to the door before turning back to add, “And besides, if your hands are ever wrapped around my neck, it damn sure ain’t gonna be cause you’re tryna hurt me.”
It was out of pure reflex when I grabbed the closest thing within arms reach and launched it at him, a little bit tickled to watch Maverick dodge the item before he snapped, “Cam, what the fuck?! Were those scissors?”
I shrugged, smirking mischievously as I told him, “Had to make sure my violence didn’t get mistaken for anything else.”
“What if they would’ve stabbed me? Or hell, poked my damn eye out?” he whined. “I could’ve been patch-bound like Slick Rick for the gala fuckin’ around with you.”
The thought alone made me cackle, even more so when I realized, “Considering this old ass artist you booked for us, it would’ve been very onbrand.”
Chuckling a bit himself, Maverick stepped back inside of my office and insisted, “You hatin’ now, but I bet you dinner she’s gonna kill it.”
My eyebrow piqued at his wager. “As in, I’ll UberEats you a meal of choice if you’re right and vice versa? Cause dinner with you, even with you treating, is still not exactly a win.”
“It’s a lotta women out here who would pay good money to have dinner with me, Camryn,” he immediately defended. And while I couldn’t exactly disagree, I also knew where I stood about it, laughing to myself as I rose from behind my desk and replied, “Oh, I’m well aware. And something is truly wrong with them all.”
Instead of responding right away, he took a second to ogle my full look of the day, an outfit I was too stressed to put much time into this morning after waking up to the news about our performer needing to be replaced. But considering the way Maverick slowly scraped his teeth against his bottom lip while sizing me up, you would’ve thought I had on nothing at all. And I was mad at myself for warming up a little in response to his gaze as he finally agreed, “Fine. UberEats then since you can’t even stand to break bread wit’ a nigga.”
Again, I laughed. “Oh my God, why are you acting so butthurt? I mean, do you really think I wanna be the first girl you’re seen out with after your breakup, even platonically? You tryna have the Banksy Boos coming after me too?”
“They ain’t even that bad,” he insisted with a shrug like Lillian’s fan club hadn’t been harassing his ass all over social media since the breakup and like he hadn’t already done something in an attempt to contain some of the harassment.
I had that to lean on when I pointed to the phone in his hand while replying, “Open your newly-private Instagram and tell me that lie again.”
“Aight, so maybe they are wildin’ a little bit,” he admitted. “But I didn’t say dinner had to be at a public place.”
“I know. It’ll be in the privacy of my apartment where I’ll devour fifty dollars worth of some good eats on your dime while binging old episodes of The Bernie Mac Show, alone.”
The way he frowned in response, I assumed he was offended by my desire to exclude him from my plans. But to my surprise, it was… “Fifty dollars? I mean, I know those little convenience fees and shit add up, but damn.”
“All that ballin’ you do for the ‘gram and you’re trippin’ over fifty bucks?” I asked amusedly, crossing my arms over my chest as he answered, “Nah, but you might be when you’re wrong and gotta spend that same amount on me. I know my mama pays you well, but…”
Before he could finish, I cut him off with a gentle shove towards the door. “I’ll see you Saturday at the gala, Maverick.”
“Looking forward to it, Camryn,” he replied with a wink that had my dimples threatening to make an appearance until I saw my boss lurking nearby, sending me on a not at all obvious dash back to my desk as Maverick told her, “Let me know if y’all need anything else, Auntie J.”
With a kiss to her cheek, he disappeared to wherever as she curled into my office. And while I tried my best to make it look like I was working, I assumed Janet was getting ready to call my bluff once she started, “Patiently waiting on the day you two stop playing and get together already.”
Wait a minute… huh?
My face went tight with confusion when I asked, “What two? Me and Maverick?”
Her enthusiastic nod in response made me snort a laugh that turned into much more as I told her, “Oh, Janet. I’m so sorry, but you’ll have to ship us in your dreams cause there is no way in hell I’d ever date that man.”
Like I was being ridiculous, she frowned while asking, “Why not? My nephew is cute!”
This time, it was me nodding as I continued to giggle and agreed, “He is cute. Very cute, and equally annoying.”
“He’s only like that cause he likes you,” Janet reasoned with a grin, though her explanation really only gave more fuel to my giggles.
“What is this? Kindergarten? And why are you so convinced that Maverick likes me as if he wasn’t just in a very serious relationship with someone else a literal two days ago?”
Brushing that off as nothing, Janet insisted, “Lillian was cool and all, but she’s no you.”
Truthfully, I wasn’t in the business of comparison and had no shortage of confidence. But her statement made it way too easy for me to counter, “Tell the rest of America that, and they’ll laugh right in your face the same way I’ve been doing.”
That brought her frown back as I continued, “All of this is irrelevant anyway cause I don’t even like Maverick like that.”
I was stating it as a fact. But for whatever reason, Janet seemed just as sure when she replied, “Camryn, please. The only reason that boy gets under your skin the way he does is because you’re trying so hard not to like him.”
Her assumption felt like a Michael Jordan dunking in Space Jam kind of reach. I tolerated Maverick out of respect for his mother, respect for his family. We could share a room without me attacking him… for five minutes at a time. And maybe when I first started working for the foundation, I might’ve had an insta-crush since he was the kinda fine you only saw on the internet. But all of that stopped once I got to know him and his online persona that was so perfectly disappointing I couldn’t help but laugh as I told Janet, “Trust me, I don’t have to try at all. He makes himself very easy not to like.”
All things must end.
I learned that lesson the day my mother died.
My step-mother was wicked.
My step-sister, cruel.
It was a relief when I revealed as an Omega because it was a chance to escape.
But it wasn't the end of my troubles.
What happens to Omegas is a secret.
And my troubles had just begun.
"I can save you from one monster, Verity," Lilly said when she accepted me into the program. "But I cannot save you from them all."
True to her word, she saved me from my step-mother.
Then Woodrow entered my life.
And I realized he was the other monster Lilly had warned me about.
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“I take care of the Omegas whom I take through the program. When I look at you, Verity, I see an Omega. Whatever happens, I will be in contact regularly. If you don’t reveal today, you will later, and I won’t have you out there vulnerable. If you need me, I expect you to call me at any time. Am I making myself clear.”
This fierce little Omega was like a lioness protecting a cub.
“Yes, Doctor Brach,” I mumbled.
A wry smile tugged her lips. “Call me Lilly, please.” Her smile faded. “You’re feeling excited, maybe even hopeful. Hold onto that feeling for as long as you can. You were ever doomed to be an Omega, we are merely…playing at god in hastening its approach. There will come a day in the not too distant future when you will curse both me and the program. That day is not this day. I can save you from one monster, Verity. But I cannot save you from them all.”
And with those ominous words, she tapped the interactive desk once more, and my stepmother was shown in.
Lessons. There were always lessons to be learned as we journeyed through life. I didn’t know what today’s lesson was yet, but I knew there was one and that it might be the most important of them all.
An abusive childhood and an accident in his teens left stallion-shifter, Malcolm Patterson, with a distrust for his father and a lot of holes in his memory. When his dad passes away, Malcolm returns to Horse Mountain to fulfill his obligation to settle his old man’s affairs but finds the shifter community’s near hero-worship of the late doctor disquieting. He’s further shaken to meet a curvy beauty at the funeral who makes his heart gallop and his primal instincts take over.
Suki Marks has been in love with handsome and noble Malcolm Patterson ever since he saved her from bullies who called her an abomination when she was ten. He was the first person to be straight with her about the reasons some people shunned her family and was quick to debunk those prejudices as the ignorant folktales and stupid superstitions they were. Even after Malcolm graduated high school and left town, she couldn’t forget him, but becoming Doctor Patterson’s live-in nurse in his last year of life was a coincidence. She never expected to be named in the wealthy physician’s will.
Malcolm assumed he’d be disinherited, but even from the after-life, his father continues to turn the knife, using his will to set up an elaborate scheme to taint Malcolm's feelings for the woman who might be his fated mate. To make matters worse, a dangerous shifter-purist movement is brewing among a small segment of the Horse Mountain Clan, and they’re determined to prevent Suki from passing on her genes to a new generation. Will Malcolm be able to work through his past in time to secure his and Suki’s future?
Warning: Saving Suki is a smoking hot romance with graphic, put-you-in-the-moment love scenes. If you're offended by sexual language, you might want to consider another book. The book can stand alone without reading the others in the series.
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A sorrowful expression crossed her face and he knew he’d already said too much about his unusual upbringing. As he contemplated a way to lighten the mood again, she found the answer without saying a word, reaching up to her shoulder and placing her hand over his. A squeezing sensation in his chest complimented the haze rolling over his rationality. So many mixed emotions vexed him since his return, especially the anger and regret he’d tried his best to lock away. Her tiny gesture and light touch sent all the pain scurrying. Warmth bloomed over his knuckles and radiated up his arm, gaining intensity and burning the hottest across his torso.
“You’re putting on a brave face, but how are you really holding up?”
Her words pricked at his brain as he breathed in her sumptuous fragrance. “Umm…honestly, if I try to think about my father being gone forever, I feel a bit numb.” As his own words hung in the air, an odd, sour sensation stirred in his stomach. Why the hell did I tell her that?
He hated thinking about his dad. Imagining how things could have been if they’d reconciled seemed useless since he'd never admitted he’d always wanted the old buzzard’s love. He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about his contradictory emotions on the subject, but even still he could hear his stupid mouth dropping more of his secrets like a huge drain sending washed-away filth out of the shower.
“Things were never good between us and during the entire funeral, I felt like a fraud.”
“The parent-child relationship is often a complicated one.” She rested her head on his shoulder while tucking herself in closer to his side, another comforting gesture that somehow had him ready to spill his guts to this woman he barely knew.
“No kidding. I know I’m supposed to be devastated…I can’t seem to muster up much feeling on his passing at all.” Why, why, why! Why can’t I keep my big trap shut around her? She’s going to think I’m a fucking sociopath.
“Perhaps you will when the shock wears off a little,” she replied.
“Maybe, but I doubt it. I know it sounds bad, but my dad wasn’t the man that all those people today thought he was. If they knew half of what he was really like…Shit, I must sound like a huge asshole. I’m sorry. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this stuff.”
She patted his knee. “Because you need to talk to someone and I’m here.”
Wrong! Wrong! If I wanted to dredge up all this bullshit until I choke on it, I’d be talking to Dash and Mama Carol; they know the real deal. Part of him wanted to call it a night if only to end the uncomfortable conversation, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. His heart raced as he swallowed the lump in his throat. Normally, the horse inside him would have been ready to bolt, but at this moment, the damn thing was more like a mule, digging its hooves in and refusing to budge.
“It’s not like I’m happy he’s gone. It’s more like I can’t force myself to feel sad about it.”
In 1996, three-year-old Maisie Matthews is abducted from a holiday resort in Spain. Twenty-three years later, someone is following romantic novelist, Anna Blake.
As Anna tries to discover her stalker’s identity, she finds herself embroiled in the mystery of the missing child. But finding answers only brings more questions and Anna becomes suspicious of the men in her life: Damien Davies, who has a grudge against her; old flame, Ewan Jacobs, who wishes to resume their relationship; and enigmatic Josh Fielding, who has recently moved into the village.
As events escalate and the search becomes a matter of life and death, Anna even doubts the people who are closest to her. Everyone is hiding something. Who is telling the truth?
How does she know Who To Trust?
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Under cover of night, the doctor slipped through the door and into the hospital. The reception area stood eerily empty in the half-gloom. Drink and confectionary machines stood silent as sentries; shuttered shop facades were the only witnesses.
The doctor strode down the deserted hospital corridor, stethoscope bumping in rhythm against the crisp, white coat. Without warning, a whey-faced nurse appeared from around a corner. A brief stab of panic, a slight nod of acknowledgement, then the woman was gone. Nothing to fear. Another turn; another empty space. Not far to go now.
Maternity ward. A moment’s hesitation before peering through the glass. A stroke of luck. The nurses’ station was unmanned. A bolt of elation fired renewed hope. It was possible. The doctor straightened, shoulders back, a figure of authority, before using a key card to gain entry. No-one saw. The murmured hum of voices drifted from the bay at the far end of the ward. Perfect. It was fate; it was meant to be.
The doctor crept into the nearest bay, enveloped in darkness. Only one bed was in use, a grey mound silently sleeping. A wheeled crib stood beside it. The baby girl briefly opened her eyes wide, pools of blue innocence, as the doctor loomed over her. An intake of breath. Waiting … The eyelids fluttered and closed. It had to be now. Slowly, gently, the doctor pushed the crib to the entrance of the bay and peered stealthily around the curtain. The coast was clear. Another deep breath. Now or never.
With a burst of feigned confidence, the doctor wheeled the sleeping infant out of the ward and along the corridor. The hardest bit was done. Swiftly along to a storeroom by the stairs at the rear of the hospital. Empty. A quick glance around. No-one there.
Abandoning the crib behind the door of the storeroom, the doctor cradled the baby, crooning softly. ‘Nearly there, my lovely.’
Down the stairs, the click of shoes beating a guilty tattoo and out into the night …
Later, looking back, I could pinpoint it exactly – a moment of silent recognition, a stab of disquiet. It was then. When it all started.
Driving to Norwich along the A47 in my black Fiesta, the sky benign with Mediterranean blues, I was unaware of what lay ahead. I’d turned off the dual carriageway, following the signs for the city centre and waiting at the first set of traffic lights. Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was playing on the radio and I was belting it out when the words caught in my throat. That’s when it was – a glimpse of blue in my wing mirror. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the significance. But that was when the fear started and my life changed for ever.
Then, it gave me pause and I adjusted my rear-view mirror for a better look. It was an electric blue Peugeot 206. I frowned, turning my head, craning my neck to see more. A beep from behind jolted me forward, foot twitching against the accelerator pedal. The road was busy and we crawled forward to the next set of lights. Another look in my mirror. Impossible to tell. The Peugeot was about six cars back and in the same lane. I was trying to see if it had a large dent on the nearside front bumper. As the lights changed again, I switched lanes and kept checking my wing mirror. After a few seconds, the Peugeot also pulled out; I could see the dent clearly. It was the same car. And it was following me. Again.
I’d first seen the car last Saturday, driving to Swaffham to visit my parents, noticing it only because they’d bought me one, the same colour and model, for my seventeenth birthday, nine years earlier. Since its sale, two years ago, when I bought my Fiesta, I’d looked out for my trusty, old car. On that occasion, I spotted the dent in the front bumper.
‘Poor Percy!’ I’d exclaimed, the name I’d christened it. ‘Have you had a bit of a bump with your new owner?’
As I reached the drive to my parents’ house, the Peugeot had continued onwards and I’d checked the number plate. It wasn’t Percy. If only I could remember the number. Unfortunately, as soon as I realised it didn’t start with AU, I’d dismissed it from my mind.
I noticed the Peugeot with the dented bumper behind me once again on route to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn where I was taking Edith Swainsthorpe, a client of mine, for a knee x-ray.
‘Obviously belongs to someone local,’ I observed to Edith after telling her the Percy story.
Having spotted the same car twice more that week, always behind me, I began to wonder, with creeping unease, if it was something other than coincidence. I started to look out for it every time I took to the road. Then, today, as I turned off the A47 towards the city, there it was again.
Still I couldn’t quite believe it. Why would anyone be tailing me? It must be a mistake. I clamped down on the first fluttering of panic and decided to use the next set of traffic lights as a test. They were red and I sat in the middle lane, heading for Norwich city centre, planning my move. When the lights turned green, I accelerated and indicated left, nipping in front of the white van beside me with an apologetic wave. My eyes flicked again to the rear-view mirror. The Peugeot had also manoeuvred across the lanes and now sat four cars behind me. I felt a surge of anger towards the unknown driver. Who was he? What did he think he was playing at? My fingers gripped the steering wheel as I pulled out to overtake a cyclist. The Peugeot remained, locked on to the rear of my Fiesta like a guided missile.
What could I do?
Anxiety stiffened my spine as I processed my options. Pull over; let him pass. My mind played out the scenario. The Peugeot might pull in behind, prompting a confrontation. The thought of that held little appeal. Maybe it would continue past me and lie waiting, further ahead – a nerve-tingling game of cat and mouse. I didn’t like that idea either. Another option would be to do nothing, to continue on to Chapelfield’s car park. Wait and see what happened. But car parks are dark, anonymous places where a person might easily disappear. The thought sent my pulse skittering. The remaining choice would be best. Somehow, I would lose him.
A rush of adrenalin, knuckles whitening. Images from film car chases flashed through my head – drivers shooting between cars, avoiding oncoming vehicles, tyres screeching, horns blaring. Don’t be silly, Anna. I wasn’t about to attempt anything like that. It would have to be something more subtle, slipping out of sight somehow before he realised. Think, Anna! The voice in my head sounded urgent, panicky. Despite the air-conditioning, droplets of sweat tickled my brow as I waited for my chance ...
Without indicating, I swung my car left down a tree-lined avenue and then first left again, veering wildly around a parked car and earning an angry blast on the horn from the vehicle coming the other way. I swerved left again and raced to the end of the street preparing to turn right, back to the traffic lights. Cars streamed ahead of me, coming from both directions, forcing me to screech to a halt. Another glance in the mirror. The blue Peugeot was just turning into the street, wary now, maintaining a distance between us, perhaps wondering if he’d been spotted. A tiny gap allowed me to shoot forward and take my place in the steady flow of traffic. This time the lights were green.
‘Come on, come on!’ I exhorted the drivers ahead of me. They were moving so slowly; the lights would change at any moment. Sure enough, the amber light flashed and the car in front of me braked, ready to stop. Then, at the last moment, the driver changed his mind and continued forward, deciding to risk it. As I also sped past, the lights had already changed to red. I checked my mirror; no blue Peugeot.
I exhaled, not realising until then that I’d been holding my breath. Still, my eyes flipped between the rear-view and wing mirrors. At any moment, I expected to see him behind me. Every red traffic light set my heart racing; the wait for a green light felt interminable; the fear he would catch up consumed my thoughts. Another look. No blue Peugeot. I shook my shoulders, trying to relieve the tension. Surely now I was safe.
As my breathing steadied, I started to feel a bit stupid. I’d over-reacted. Nothing in my recent sightings of the blue Peugeot suggested that the driver wished me harm, I reasoned. If he’d wanted to attack, abduct or kill me, there had been opportunities.
My fear had been amplified by panic. That happened. I’d suffered from anxiety for as long as I could remember. It crept up on me, sometimes stealthily but often unexpectedly, sheer, gut-wrenching terror which left my insides squeezed dry and my muscles stiff with knots.
Still, the voice in my head argued, he was definitely following me. Perhaps I should inform the police. Almost immediately, I dismissed the notion. What could they do? No crime had been committed and I had no clue to the identity of the driver. I couldn’t even tell them the registration number. No, I’d be wasting their time. After all, they’d been unable to do anything when Alice Drinkwater, another client, had been burgled while she lay asleep in bed.
‘They just gave me a number – a crime number, I think they called it – and told me they’d let me know if they recovered any of the stolen property,’ Alice wailed over a cup of tea, her many chins shaking with a combination of indignation and distress. ‘As if I’m worried about that. It’s the invasion of my home I’m worried about. I can’t bear to think of someone creeping about, rifling through my things, while I’m tucked up in my bed. I haven’t slept a wink since.’
Poor Alice. She had not been in the village very long and her husband of thirty-six years had recently left her for his PA. I did my best to reassure her, stayed with her while a locksmith changed the locks and put her in touch with the Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator. Apart from that, there was little, it appeared, anyone could do.
I reached Chapelfield’s car park and reversed into a parking space. The dim, artificial lighting, the rumble of car engines and echoey thumps and rattles did little to soothe my frayed nerves. My mind might insist I was over-reacting but my body still quaked with pent-up fear. As I walked away from my Fiesta, I glanced nervously over my shoulder. The incident had shaken me, no question about it. A flash of blue in my peripheral vision made my heart lurch and muscles tense in anticipation. He was still following me; I hadn’t got away! I slipped through the glass doors and up the staircase leading to House of Fraser before I risked another look behind. No need to panic – it wasn’t him after all, not even a Peugeot.
‘Pull yourself together, Anna!’
An elderly woman walking towards me, laden with bags marked ‘Sale’ in big, red letters, gave me an odd look and I realised I’d uttered the words aloud.
‘Are you alright, love?’ she asked kindly. ‘You look very pale.’
‘I’m fine, thanks.’ I hurried on.
Why would someone be following me? Was he watching for a regular pattern, planning his move, deciding when best to pounce? If so, he’d soon discover I didn’t have a set routine. Most of my time was spent at home writing. I also did occasional, part-time work as a Girl Friday which meant I travelled when and wherever I was needed. These were usually one-off jobs; my writing schedule made me reluctant to commit to anything more regular. Today though, I wasn’t working. I’d driven the twenty-five-mile trip into Norwich for a shopping day with Madison, a close friend from university. A glance at my watch showed I was running late and I quickened my step.
Madison was waiting by the entrance to the café, her stocky frame leaning against the wall in an attitude of resignation. She was dressed casually in jeans and peering at something on her phone. With her shaggy, auburn curls, soulful, brown eyes and bouncy exuberance, she always reminded me of a spaniel puppy and the sight of her brought a smile to my face.
‘At last!’ she exclaimed as she greeted me with a hug. ‘I was wondering if you’d forgotten.’
‘Sorry.’ I clung to her a fraction too long. ‘Let’s get coffee. I’m buying.’
‘Is everything OK?’ Madison’s eyes narrowed as she stepped back. ‘You’re trembling!’
‘I’m fine.’ I flashed another smile, meant to reassure.
Her lips tightened as she watched me fumbling for my purse. Clearly, she wasn’t fooled but she waited until we were sitting at a corner table before interrogating me further.
‘OK,’ she said firmly as I clattered the tray onto the table. ‘What’s happened?’
She frowned, her raised eyebrows indicating disbelief.
‘Honestly, it really is nothing. I’ve probably just over-reacted to something, that’s all.’ As usual, I was reluctant to discuss my fears. I’d had a lot of practice at hiding things. My issues were a weakness I preferred to keep secret.
‘Anna, I’m sorry but I don’t believe you. Tell me what’s happened.’
I gave in. ‘You’re going to think I’m daft … the whole thing seems surreal now. Maybe I was just imagining it.’ I told her of my encounters with the blue Peugeot, concluding with today’s drama.
‘It could just be coincidence,’ Madison said slowly. ‘Have you told the police?’
‘No. It was only today I actually felt like I was being followed. Do you think I should?’
‘Maybe. It’s difficult when you have no evidence …’ She paused. ‘If you see that car parked anywhere near your house, you should definitely ring them … and you need to get the number plate.’
‘No kidding, Sherlock!’
‘Sorry!’ She gave me a rueful look. ‘If someone is following you, do you have any thoughts who it may be? I was listening to a programme on the radio the other week and they were talking about stalkers. Apparently, the majority are known to the victims, often ex-partners. Have you been out with any weirdos recently – anyone you haven’t told me about?’ She looked at me thoughtfully. ‘I know what you’re like. Men always make a beeline for you and you never have the heart to tell them to get lost.’
That was true. I’d even invented an imaginary boyfriend to put them off. Not all took rejection well.
‘You’ve been leading me on all night,’ one lad had sneered just a few weeks ago, slamming his beer glass down on the bar and pushing past me as he shuffled off. ‘Bitch!’
Disquiet at that latest incident came flooding back. What was his name? I couldn’t remember. Dave? That didn’t sound right but it was something like that. I was at a bar in Norwich with a group of friends from my spinning class. One of the girls, Fran, was celebrating her thirtieth birthday. The guy, whoever he was, had spent the evening telling me about his dad who had just been diagnosed with cancer. I’d tried to get away a few times but each time he’d forestalled me.
‘Just hang out with me for a bit longer, babe,’ he pleaded. ‘I don’t have anyone else to talk to and you’re a good listener.’
When he insisted on buying me another drink, I resigned myself to being a sympathetic ear for a little while longer. However, when he snaked his arm around my waist, I pulled away. That’s when I told him about Jeff, my boyfriend in the Marines whom I’d fabricated for just such occasions.
‘Is he here tonight?’ the guy asked belligerently. ‘If not, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ He reached for me again and I spun away, irritated.
‘Sorry. Look, I’m here with friends,’ I said firmly. ‘I really must get back to them.’ He stalked off with a few more choice epithets. Could he have followed me home that night and been doing so ever since? The thought chilled my bones. It was terrifying to think someone I’d met might wish me harm.
‘What about that guy you went out with a while ago? You know, the gorgeous, dark one who was a bit off the rails. What was his name?’ Madison’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
‘Ewan Jacobs.’ I knew who she meant. He was good-looking and definitely wild. Our relationship was erratic, to say the least, and ended when I suspected he was taking drugs. He wasn’t one of my better choices. Now, I put it down to my rebellious phase.
‘Yeah, Ewan. I reckon he’d be the type to hold a grudge. He always acted like the world was against him. Had a bit of temper too … and you did finish with him, not the other way around.’
I filtered through the possibility. ‘No,’ I said, ‘I can’t see it. That was all done and dusted ages ago and I haven’t seen him since we broke up. Anyway,’ I smiled as something occurred to me, ‘it definitely couldn’t be him. You know what he was like. He wouldn’t have been seen dead driving an old, blue Peugeot!’
‘Good point. Well, I suppose it could be some random weirdo.’
‘Cheers for that happy thought.’
‘Sorry.’ She pushed back her chair. ‘Look, let’s go and hit the sales. A bargain will help you forget your troubles.’
My heart wasn’t really in it but I made an effort for Madison’s sake and relaxed as the day wore on. Initially, I found myself scanning fellow shoppers for anyone who might be paying me undue attention but soon wearied of the task. I’d never make a detective, I thought, trudging back to my car, laden with purchases, at the end of the day. Madison insisted on accompanying me to the car park and together we scoured the ranks of cars on the same level of the multi-storey. To my relief, there was no blue Peugeot with a dented bumper.
‘Right,’ said Madison, giving me a farewell hug. ‘If you see that car following you on the way home, I want you to turn around and come straight back to mine. Then we’ll phone the police together.’ She paused and gave me a stern look. ‘And make sure you’re extra vigilant at home too.’
‘Yes Mum.’ I tried for a confident smile but it fell a little short. In truth, my nerves had started jangling as the return journey loomed closer. I threw the bags onto the back seat of the car and slid behind the wheel. ‘I’ll phone when I get home.’
‘Make sure you do.’
Madison watched as her friend folded her tall, curvy frame into the driver’s seat and pushed her long, blonde hair behind her ears. With a final wave, Anna turned the key in the ignition and steered towards the exit.
‘Safe journey home,’ Madison called as the black Fiesta disappeared from view.
Balancing her many shopping bags on one arm, she reached for her phone from the capacious depths of her brown, leather handbag. As usual, prickles of guilt fluttered in her chest as she scrolled through her contacts.
‘Sorry Anna,’ she murmured while she waited for her call to be answered, ‘but it’s for your own good.’
Attending a party at your former lover's house... what's the worst that could happen?
Note: While this standalone book tells a complete story, it is novella-length meaning it is shorter by design. If you prefer your stories longer, I'd highly recommend checking out another Alexandra Warren project. :)
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“Everything in this world is for sale to the people who can afford it…”
Joella Mason knows the difference between what she needs and what she wants. But when the line between the two becomes especially thin, she finds herself on a quest for something missing, not expecting that to come in the package of a sexy stranger with an even sexier proposition.
They share a night. Desires are fulfilled. But at what price?
Find out in, Love Unsolicited.
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The magic of Potter Lake strikes again when Evonne Girard— cosmetologist and obsessed podcast fan meets Taj Wright— Registered Nurse and musician following a nasty fall in the parking lot at the Curl & Dye. There are jokes, there is flirting, lingering stares abound… but neither thinks they’ll see the other again any time soon.
When Evonne takes a step toward adulting and moves out of her parent’s home, she discovers that the cute house she’s renting belongs to the handsome, sexy nurse with the eyes she can’t forget. But she’s not in Potter Lake to meet a man. She’s on a mission to prove to her parents that she isn’t the failure that showed up on their doorstep ten years ago.
Taj is delighted to rent his guest house to the pretty, snappy former patient he can’t stop thinking about. Potter Lake was a place to run when his dream died, a haven to start over and give back what was given to him. When the opportunity to live that dream again rolls around, Taj isn’t sure that he wants it to come true.
Evonne and Taj are forced to live in close quarters during a severe storm and quickly become more than landlord and tenant. When the same storm drives them from Potter Lake to a beachside retreat, worlds collide.
One shared secret could change the trajectory of something beautiful. On a rainy night in Georgia, two hearts meet. They’re never the same again.
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Ebony followed closely behind me in the rental truck
while I drove the rest of my belongings in my car. I pulled
into the driveway and she parked behind me, then hopped
right out with her mouth wide open. I could understand her
reaction— the house was a beautiful stone stucco with huge
windows facing the street.
“This is what we’re doing now, Vonnie? This is how we
livin’? Started in the basement, now we here?”
“The owner said he left the key in the mailbox. Let’s grab
them and I’ll give you a tour.”
“Oh, he’s a he, is he?” Ebony followed. “He’s probably
rich, too with this big ass house. Living here all by his lonesome.
Have you met him?”
“Not yet. He’s a doctor or something so I’ll probably
never see him.”
I reached into the mailbox and felt hard metal. I pulled
out a set of keys and shook them in Ebony’s face. She
frowned and swatted them away.
“A doctor? If you don’t
snatch him up, I will.”
“The lease said the house was owned by some holding
company, so I don’t know his name.”
“I hope he’s nice. You know, not one of those thinks he’s
“Me too, considering he lives so close. As long as he stays
on his side of the property, we’ll be good.”
“Unless he’s cute, then he can be on all of the property, if
you know what I’m saying.”
I took the path along the outside of the house, toward
the front door. It was standard white metal, but it felt like
the entrance to freedom to me. I inserted the key in the
deadbolt and then the knob lock and swung the door open.
A scent hit my nose, something light and clean. After
walking around for a few minutes, I found the source: air
freshener plug-ins, the Clean Linen scent. A small bouquet
of bright yellow and white daisies sat on the kitchen counter
along with a brief note: Welcome Home. We’ll meet
I loved the friendly gesture. My landlord and I were
going to get along fine.
I set the note down and turned a full revolution, taking it
all in. Ebony walked through the place, swooning at everything
from the picture windows to the view of the backyard.
“Ooh, Vonnie! You can do your videos here!” She dipped
into an alcove space off of the kitchen. It was almost a room,
the perfect amount of space.
“Yeah, I thought that would be a good spot. I’m going
to get something to dress up the back wall. I’ll do those
open bookcases for products and display stands for my
wigs. I can mount the ring light on this wall,” I tapped the
wall nearest me. “And I’ll set up a shelf for the camera to
sit. I can edit the videos anywhere, so I’ll probably do
A rich tenor that I hoped wasn’t attached to someone
standing inside my place called into the house. I glanced at
Ebony, eyes wide. She bounded out of the alcove.
“Eb! Wait—” I wanted to grab her, in case it was a serial
killer who haunted small towns and kidnapped cute black
“Hey. We’re back here.” Brilliant, Eb. Tell him exactly
where to find us, chop us up and bury us in the backyard. “Who’s
Footsteps sounded on the tile just inside the door. “Hi.
I’m here for Evonne.”
I followed her around the corner. “Way to tell a stranger
exactly where we are, Ebony. You know that’s how that girl
got murdered on last week’s episode of The Butler Did It.”
My eyes sought out anything I could use for a weapon, if
I needed it. But then I realized that I wouldn’t. Need a
weapon, that was.
Because I knew the man standing in my kitchen. I could
never forget his soulful eyes, gorgeous dark skin, full lips…
and the blue scrubs that seemed cut to fit him specifically,
the way they stretched across his chest and cradled his arms
in such a nice way.
“Nurse Dude,” I finally said, when I could find my voice.
He was such a pleasant sight, considering that he was probably
not a serial killer.
“Nurse Dude? Miss Girard?” Ebony repeated, swiveling
her head from me to him and back. “You know him?”
“I-I-I…how... what...” I stuttered, then shook my head to
arrange my thoughts and cajole my mouth into forming a
complete sentence. “This is my new place. Do you live
“Yes, I’d say I live close.” He laughed, showing all of his
teeth. “I own the place. I left you the flowers and the note…
I snapped my fingers and pointed. “TW! Taj Wright,
“The one and the same,” he said, with a modest nod. “I
intended to be here when you pulled up. I don’t normally
work day shift, but I switched so I could be here. We had a
last minute walk-in and—”
He waved a hand, then tugged at the hem of his scrubs.
“So, welcome. Let me know if you have any questions. And
you’ll want to pull the moving truck into the driveway. It
sticks out into the street and the neighbors...”
He hummed, wagging his head side to side while rolling
his eyes. “I’m not leaving again tonight, so use my space.”
“Ebony?” I hinted, since she had the key to the truck, but
she stood there, her hands propped on her hips and her
chest pushed up and out. “Ebony! Go move the truck!”
“Oh, right!” She pulled the key from her pocket and
teetered out on her stilettos. “Be right back!”
I moved into the kitchen and leaned against the counter
in front of the dishwasher. The scent of the air freshener hit
me again and I realized that he had been inside my home. It
didn’t feel like a violation, considering the house belonged
to him. It was weird though, knowing that he had set things
up for me, bought flowers, wrote a note.
“So...” He mimicked, moving around the outside of the
kitchen, leaning a set of meaty forearms onto the counter,
muscular without hulking out like an NFL fullback.
Whew. I was going to be living mere feet from him? Look
“So...” I repeated, wishing I had a bottle of water because
my survey of him had me parched. “You didn't think you
should let me know that you, in fact, are TWM, LLC, the
holding company referenced on the lease? And that you
own this house and would be renting to me? And that it was
the same you that treated me at the clinic?”
He shrugged strong shoulders and smirked. “I put the
house under my LLC for tax and privacy purposes. And
there’s no law that says a nurse can’t rent a house to a former
patient. Speaking of—”
He straightened, stretching out his arm. “Let me
examine that cut. You didn’t come back to the clinic and let
me check it out.”
“Oh…” I clutched my still-tender hand to my chest. “No
need. It’s fine.”
“Then let me see it.”
“It’s okay. You did a fine job.”
“Then let me see it. Did it not heal okay?”
“Is this what it’s going to be like? You coming down here
to randomly check me for a fever?”
He laughed, dropping his hand. “Not at all. I take that
very seriously. I only came in tonight because the door was
open and someone was here to tell me to come in.”
“In the future, don’t do anything Ebony tells you to do.
She has ulterior motives. She plans to kidnap you and make
you her sex slave or Sugar Daddy.”
“Wait until you find out I’m only halfway kidding.”
He laughed again, so hard this time that the corners of
his eyes crinkled up. “So… well, I’ll let you unpack and get
settled. I came down to tell you about the truck. Would be a
terrible way to meet the neighborhood busy bodies.” He
moved toward the door, talking as he walked. “Let me know
if you have any questions. My cell phone number is on the
lease, so call any time.”
But suddenly I wasn’t ready for him to leave. “Hey, if you
want to check this,” I offered, waiving my injured hand in
the air. “For checking’s sake. It does still hurt.”
His brow furrowed. He came around the counter toward
me and immediately cupped my hand in his. He was warm
and his skin was soft. He’d been wearing gloves when he
“Any sharp pain? Like a stabbing feeling or throbbing?”
“More tender, not constant throbbing pain. But if I press
on it—” I did so, then flinched, sucking in air through my
“Well, then don’t do that.”
He peeled back the bandage and inspected the progress.
“Hmmm. It shouldn’t be this red, but it could be irritated by
using the hand a lot. Try to give it a rest tonight and leave
the bandage off. Let it breathe. Let’s see how it looks tomorrow.
It seems to have closed up fine.”
“You think I’ll have a scar?”
He peered closer, tipping his head one way and then the
other. “Hard to tell. Why?”
“They’re often on camera, so—”
“Camera?” His eyes rolled up, meeting mine. “Will you
be shooting any low budget films?”
I laughed, yanking my hand back from his grasp. Then
regretted doing so, not from the twinge of pain but because
he was so warm. “I have a web channel. Hair by E. I do
beauty and hair reviews and stuff. Aside from that, I need to
be able to use both of my hands at the salon.”
“You should be fine, Miss Girard. But let me know if you
need a referral to a plastic surgeon.” A beautiful brown,
lushly lashed eye winked at me.
“See, there you go. Giving me shit.”
He laughed. “You make it so easy.”
“If y'all are done flirting,” Ebony interrupted, a large box
labeled WIGS, 1 of 4 in her arms. She didn’t seem amused at
how close Taj stood to me or how friendly we seemed to be
toward each other. “We need to unload that truck so I can
return it tonight. I’m not letting my car sit at the rental place
“I’ll let you get to it. Holler if you need anything.” Taj
sauntered out of the kitchen and out of the front door,
pulling it closed behind him.
I made a half turn, trying to decide where to start. “That
box is wigs, so let’s start a stack along that wall.” I pointed
toward the hallway leading to the alcove. Ebony smirked,
slowly sauntered past me and set the box down, then
pushed it against the wall.
Then she turned to me, a hand propped on one hip.
“Don’t start, Eb. I’m going to grab some boxes. Did
Daddy put his dolly in the truck?”
“Nuh uh, Vonnie.” Stubborn, she folded her arms across
her chest and planted her stance, her head tipped to the
side. “You weren’t going to tell me about the super cute
chocolate nurse with the face and the arms and the chest
and the eyes and shit? And how he lives next door?”
“He was my nurse at the clinic the night I fell, Ebony. He
bandaged my cut, that’s all.”
“Had to be more than that. Y’all got nicknames for each
other. Miss Girard.”
I rolled my eyes to the ceiling, noting the beautiful, hand
cut wooden fan for the first time. The design details in the
house were impressive. “I flipped him shit. He flipped it
back. He happens to own this house, which I told you I
didn’t know when I rented it. Can we unload this truck
“Fine. But expect me to be out here visiting a lot. I might
need a lot of personal health care from your landlord.”
"I've always trusted you with the ball in your hands. But can I do the same with my heart?"
As a professional basketball player, Selena "Sharpshooter" Samuels seemingly has everything going in her favor. Playing for her hometown, playoff-bound team, the Nashville Nymphs. Playing under a knowledgeable coach who she adores. Playing for a franchise that's well respected and family-owned. But the potential dynasty she's trying to build comes under threat when a new assistant coach is hired; an assistant coach who she may or may not have had a huge crush on growing up.
DeAndre "Dre" Leonard hasn't had it easy. After being banned from the league as a player for violating the drug policy, his world came crashing down. But now he's back and ready to rebuild his reputation, starting with a coaching opportunity with the sister team of his beloved Trojans that includes one of the best women's players in the game; and arguably the finest woman he's ever seen.
Selena and Dre both want the same thing; to have a successful season. But as they spend more time together chasing a championship, that shared goal slowly begins to change from a title... to each other.
Set in "The Athens of the South" Nashville, Tennessee, The "Nymphs & Trojans" series is a sports romance collaboration by Nicole Falls and Alexandra Warren that follows two fictional professional basketball franchises - the Nashville Nymphs Women's Team and the Tennessee Trojans Men's Team.
Book 1 - Shots Not Taken
Book 2 - One Last Shot
*Note: These are standalone books that can be read in any order.
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Between her job at the firm and her husband's suspicious infidelities, Rashawn decided to listen to the advice of her close friends and set up online account. Inside the private world of Ultimate Pleasure adult club, you can chat and then meet up at a secret location.
Peppermint Candi, as Rashawn soon calls herself decided it's time for them to meet in person, but in this twisted story, Dark Chocolate isn't whom she expected.
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As I began to walk down the hallway toward the conference room, someone grabbed me from behind by my arm, force me into a dim-lighted room and locked the door. I wanted to scream, but couldn't and didn't.
I couldn't see his face because he quickly turned me around and had me bento over with my hands on the desk.
"Relax, I'm here to satisfied you." He whispered into my ear.
"Dark Chocolate!" I was shock. "How did you know where I work?"
At first his touch startled me, but the more he rubbed me the more I began to enjoy the feel of his warm, strong muscular hand on my skin.
One scandal. Two broken hearts. A decade apart.
Lady Elise knows all too well the risks of falling in love. Her heart was broken by a rake. Instead of hunting for a husband, she helps other ladies escape the nefarious plans of unscrupulous gentlemen.
After a scandal costs Lord Thornston Elise’s hand and heart, he has lived on the fringes of the beau monde. But when his best friend, the Duke of Fairmont, requests his assistance, Thornston is torn. Helping Fairmont means facing the woman who holds his heart and soul.
Succumbing to temptation, Thornston re-enters Society to find Elise still unwed. But as he seeks to reignite her desire for him and earn back her trust, he becomes entwined in one of her investigations. When events take a dangerous turn, he might lose the woman he loves before he can win her back.
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I need another drink.
Harold Greenfield, the Earl of Thornston, tried to curtail his frustration. He had been enjoying a whiskey at his club when the Duke of Fairmont dared to disturb his peace.
Peering down his ducal nose, Fairmont declared, “It is time you returned to the fold.” Fairmont settled into the closest wingback chair and stretched out his long legs.
The fiery liquid that was about to go down Harold’s gullet spewed from his mouth. “Why would I do that?”
“I need your assistance.”
Squeezing the bridge of his nose, Harold considered the duke’s request. In the twenty years they had known each other, this was the first time Fairmont had come to him for help. It was an odd reversal of roles. This past decade, Fairmont had remained his only contact with polite society. Harold remained silent and consumed another drink or three. The man couldn’t be serious. Could he?
Fairmont rose to leave, and Harold uttered a sigh. The man was his best friend, after all. Following the duke out of the club, he stepped up into the lavish ducal coach.
Seated on the rear-facing bench, Harold glared at Fairmont. “There is no good reason for me to place myself at the mercy of marriage-minded mamas and the empty-headed young chits.”
“All you have to do is accompany me to a few engagements and assist me in choosing the next Duchess of Fairmont.” A smirk appeared on Fairmont’s features. “What do you know of Miss Glenda Heart?”
“Why do you subject me to this torture?” Harold stretched out a leg and kicked the duke in the ankle. “Why don’t you have one of your sisters help you?”
“Are you serious? Lily is lying in, and Elise is… well, she is Elise.”
Harold asked, “Wait, Lily got married? How was it you allowed her to marry before Elise?”
How long had he been away from the ton?
Initially, Harold had enjoyed his freedom on the outskirts of the beau monde. But recently he had grown bored. Perhaps it was time he too considered the idea of marriage. A shiver ran down his spine. No, he still had a while yet; he had only just turned thirty.
Fairmont looked out the carriage window. “Lily endured three Seasons before she threatened a scandal if I didn’t give my permission for Lord Crossworth to marry her. They were married two years past; you were invited.”
“But what about Elise? How is it she is not yet married?”
“She swears she is content.” Fairmont slapped his gloves against his thigh. “I’ve tripled her dowry, but no one worthy has offered for her.”
Unbelievable. Elise was a beauty. Maybe a little quiet, but she had inherited her mother’s kind and patient demeanor. How could it be that no one had offered for her?
“Elise must be… what… six and twenty now?” Harold, for one, didn’t believe it. “What do you mean, no one worthy?”
Fairmont turned to face him directly. Harold could feel the man’s eyes bore into him in the dimly lit carriage. “Oh, she has attracted every scoundrel, rake, and fortune hunter, but they all offered for her dowry. None of them knew one thing about Elise.”
Harold shook his head; he shouldn’t have had that last whiskey before venturing out with Fairmont. “What are you blithering on about? What would you have a blighter know before you deem him worthy of your sister?”
Fairmont cocked an eyebrow. “Lord Crossworth was able to answer all the questions on my test without any issue when he asked for Lily’s hand.”
“Test! What test?”
Fairmont shrugged. “It’s a list of questions I ask every suitor.”
Only Fairmont would come up with such an idiotic scheme. Harold had to ask, although he was certain he already knew the answer. “Do you have a test for the position of duchess?”
Blithely, Fairmont replied, “Of course.”
Harold blinked to clear his vision, who was the man sitting across from him and where were they headed? “What wretched event are you dragging me to this eve?”
“I was informed both the lovely Lady Beatrice and Miss Glenda Heart are to be at the Riverington Ball.”
“Are you mad?” The Riverington Ball. The exact location of his downfall a decade ago.
“I’m of sound mind.” Fairmont employed his ducal stare. “And you are going to assist me in obtaining the answers I seek.”
The coach finally rolled to a stop. What questions could Fairmont have on his blasted lists? How had none of the gentlemen come up to snuff, allowing Lady Elise to remain unwed? Had the years been kind to her? For the first time in ages, Harold found himself in front of one of the ton’s dwellings. Would Lady Elise recognize him?
Making his entrance with Fairmont would be a bad idea. His friend might be in the market for a wife, but Harold was not ready to give up his freedom or his mistress. Confirming his misgivings, every head in the room turned their way as they were announced. The ton appeared to have remained unchanged. Lords and ladies scrutinized his appearance and quickly dismissed him. Damn them all to hell. Harold no longer cared for their opinion, nor did he seek out their acceptance.
“Will Elise be in attendance tonight?”
Fairmont narrowed his gaze. “Why?”
Harold tempered his reply. “I haven’t seen her in years. I’d like to become reacquainted.”
Gone was the relaxed Duke of Fairmont. The man had turned into his childhood friend, Benedict Brownstone, the older protective brother. “Stay away from her. She doesn’t need your sort hanging about her. It will only encourage the other rakes of our set to take notice of her.”
Fairmont’s warning cut. What exactly did he mean by his sort? “What? Am I not good enough for your sister?”
Harold might not have exactly lived the life of a saint, but neither had Fairmont. He was honest, never cheated at cards. He was not a pauper. His estates generated a sufficient—others might say lucrative—income, and while he might not have the wealth of a duke, he could easily support a wife. He wasn’t a dullard, despite only completing one year at Oxford. If he hadn’t been seduced by a professor’s wife and expelled, perhaps he might have graduated. In his defense, he hadn’t any idea who the woman was until it was too late.
When Fairmont failed to reply, Harold put it to him again. “Are you saying I’m not worthy of Elise’s hand?”
“Thornston, you are my best friend, and I know you better than anyone. Stay away from my sister. Find some other lady to pant after tonight.”
The warning sounded more like a challenge. Harold stood ruminating as couples whirled past him. He scanned the ballroom, looking for Elise. His curiosity demanded to find out why she had remained unwed.
Fairmont gave him a look that suggested he considered the matter concluded. He then shifted his attention to a dark-haired beauty who came into view across the room. “I’m off to claim my dance with Lady Beatrice. Try not to cause a scandal while I’m away.”
Scandal. Harold had learned his lesson a decade ago. Never follow a lady anywhere. They were all conniving harlots at the ready to trap a man into marriage. He wasn’t interested in following any of the ladies this evening. All he wanted to do was to locate Elise. Was she aware of her brother’s requirements? How would Harold fare should he attempt the answers?
Hidden behind the pillar, he searched the dance floor for familiar faces—one in particular. Surely, Elise would make an appearance. She had always enjoyed dancing. When he and Fairmont were learning the steps to the various sets, Elise often assisted by partnering with them. She never once complained when he had trod upon her delicate toes.
Bored at having spent most of the night avoiding the gazes of debutantes and their mamas, Harold made his way to the card room. He spotted Lord Kilman, one of the few he would consider a friend, engaged in a game with a lady. Interesting. Lord Kilman was a skilled card player who was known to lose rarely. His lordship’s features were relaxed, but Harold caught the telltale tic in his jaw, which indicated only one thing: Lord Kilman was about to be defeated.
Who was the woman? Her hair shone like silk, a string of pearls expertly woven through her dark brown curls.
* * *
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