The Hate You Drink
The wind picked up, howling through the unsheltered channel. It prickled every inch of Myah’s skin, blasting through her damp clothes. A chill raced up her spine when the gust died.
It was not the wind marking her end, but the cries of the wolves.
Myah would die to their song.
“I find you baffling.”
He laughed quietly. “I get that a lot.”
“If you don’t want to blackmail me, then what do you want?” she pushed.
He leaned forward as if to get a better look at her in the moonlight. “To test a theory.”
“And what is your conclusion?” She was curious now, much less afraid, although still untrusting.
Garrett’s breaths were becoming ragged. His blood, warm and hot and sticky, dripped down his chest. He could feel the moisture on his skin. He blocked a swing aiming for his head, and then took a knife to his left side. It was shallow, but his muscles knotted. He stumbled backward, lost his footing as he slipped in the snow, and went down hard on his side.
When he looked up, the man’s arms were raised over his head, the blade angled to drive it through Garrett’s chest. His breath caught.
Brage & Dinah
An arm wrapped around her waist from behind. A new panic washed over her, and she kicked out as her feet left the ground, struggling to get away. She wouldn’t let them kill her.
Her life wasn’t supposed to end this way.
She wanted to leave.
She wanted to go home.
“Calm, babe.” Brage captured her flailing arms with his free one. “Don’t hurt yourself.”
She threw back her head, connecting with Brage’s shoulder. “Let. Me. Go.”
Fighting his hold on her, she screamed, unable to break out of his grasp. Bigger and stronger, he was more determined to keep her.
Her feet left the ground. Afraid he was going to take her back inside the clubhouse and lock her inside again, she writhed in his arms.
Nothing she tried fazed him. He carried her away from the gate and put her feet on the ground and pressed her against the wall of the clubhouse.
She pushed at his chest, trying to shove him out of her way. He never budged.
“You used to like having me press you against the wall, the Jeep, the floor.” His arms kept her in front of him.
She stiffened, shaking with rage that he’d remind her of her mistakes. If she would’ve known he was going to kidnap her, she never would’ve had sex with him or went to the party or agreed to help Tony.
Tears rolled down her cheeks. She was in a hopeless situation.
“Listen to me.” Brage bent his head down to her ear. “I’m not putting you back in the room.”
“Let me go.” She grabbed the front of his vest as she held on to hope. “Please, Brage. I’ll do anything. I just need to get out of here.”
“Can’t do that.”
“I swear, you’ll never see me again. I’ll go far away. I can’t—”
“Do you belong to Moroad Motorcycle Club?” He straightened to his full height.
She tilted her head. “No.”
“Don’t lie to me.” He lowered his voice. “You were with a Moroad member.”
Her heart raced. He was too close. She couldn’t think.
Meet the Author:
Cindi Madsen is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance and young adult novels. She sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children.
About the Book:
Addison Murphy is the funny friend, the girl you grab a beer with—the girl voted most likely to start her own sweatshirt line. And now that one of her best guy friends is getting married, she’ll add “groomsman” to that list, too. She’ll get through this wedding if it’s the last thing she does. Just don’t ask her to dive for any bouquet.
When Tucker Crawford returns to his small hometown, he expects to see the same old people, feel comfort in the same old things. He certainly doesn’t expect to see the nice pair of bare legs sticking out from under the hood of a broken-down car. Certainly doesn’t expect to feel his heart beat faster when he realizes they belong to one of his best friends.
If he convinces Addie to give him a chance, they could be electric…or their break-up could split their tight-knit group in two.
Hiding the way he feels from the guys through bachelor parties, cake tastings, and rehearsals is one thing. But just as Tucker realizes that Addie truly could be the perfect woman for him—he was just too stupid to realize it—now she’s leaving to follow her own dreams. He’s going to need to do a lot of compromising if he’s going to convince her to take a shot at forever with him—on her terms this time.
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Tucker cautiously wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and when she didn’t shove him off, the way she’d done a few times back in the day when he’d dared to console her, he curled her closer. “Don’t worry. I’ll take it to the grave.” “I’m not sure I can chance that. I might have to push you off the back of the boat now.” “Sure. If I didn’t know how to swim, that’d be a fail-safe plan.” “Maybe the gators will get to you first,” she quipped, only then she tucked her feet up, like she’d remembered there might be a few of the toothy beasts slumbering in the water, despite the fact that they rarely saw any on this side of the shore. She swiped a tear off her cheek and sniffed. “I hate feeling weak. Hate feeling like a girl. Even though I’m apparently not one.” “You’re not weak. I’ve seen grown men cry in my office, so I don’t think it’s a girl or guy thing.” “I notice you didn’t admit to crying yourself.” He puffed out his chest. “Well, that’s because I’m far too macho.” The last few times he’d gotten choked up had been over his dog having to be put down, his grandfather passing away, and—even though he’d done his damnedest to hide it—the day he’d said goodbye to his friends before leaving town. The girl at his side was there for all those instances, but his conflicting feelings for her made it hard to admit to ever being anything but strong. Like not saying it aloud would make her forget bike wrecks and scraped knees that’d brought tears, the times in his life he hadn’t stood up for other people when he should’ve, or any other time he’d been less than strong. Just do it, Crawford. Find a way to make her feel better, the way she always did for you. “There were cases, ones where I was fighting for a worthy cause, or for someone who truly deserved a break, and it didn’t matter how much research I put in, or how hard I fought, I’d still lose ’em. That made me feel weak and helpless.” Those “cases were why he’d originally chosen law, but they’d been so few and far between. “So did the cases where we had to defend people knowing full well they were guilty.” He gazed out over the lake, unable to look at her as he admitted the next part. “I missed home and all of you guys, but I quit over more than that, and more than the long hours.” His fingers drifted down her arm, and her face tipped up, but he kept his eyes on the rippling reflection of the moon in the inky black water. “One guy walked on a stupid technicality because of something I’d found in the police report—some procedure the cop didn’t follow. Everyone at the firm was celebrating, and I was sick over it. The guy deserved to go to jail, and no amount of money seemed worth ignoring that fact. It was the final straw.” Addie covered the hand he had on her arm with hers. “Most people wouldn’t have been able to walk away from the money.” “I don’t know about that. Half the time I still think I was an idiot to quit like that with no backup.” “If it makes you feel any better, I’m glad you’re here.” He met her big brown eyes and smiled. “It does.” “I’m sorry you were so unhappy. I should’ve checked in more.” “I should’ve told you that I was struggling with my job. But that’s neither here nor there. Now I’m on a different path, and all’s I’m saying is, it’s not weak to care about things. You’re not a robot.” He renewed the drag of his fingers on her arm, and her chin lifted another inch or so, some of the sorrow fading from her features. He tried not to think about how close her lips were to his, how he felt each one of his heartbeats, and how having her tucked against him made his entire body hum. Despite knowing better, he couldn’t help the words that slipped out, or that his dipped when he said them. “It also hasn’t escaped my notice that you’re a girl.”
Title: Just One Summer
Author: Lynn Stevens
Genre: New Adult Romance
Cover Designer: Ampersand Book Covers
Publication Date: May 21st, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
One summer, no regrets
Carly Reynolds does not want to work at her fatherâs Branson theater over the summer, but she has no choice. After wrecking his prized Mercedes on Prom night, sheâs got to pay him back somehow before she leaves for college. Now sheâs stuck working as the personal assistant to twenty-year-old Gracin Ford, former member of one-hit-wonder boy band Accentuate.
Gracin is demanding, condescending, and an all-around jerk. Carly would rather eat glass than deal with a male diva whoâs more famous for his stint in rehab than his music. Until she realizes that Gracinâs lonely. Once she welcomes him into her life, she starts to let him into her heart. Even though she knows it will end when she leaves for school, Carly doesnât want to look back on her life and wonder what if. Even if it means a broken heart.
Lynn Stevens flunked out of college writing her first novel. Yes, she still has it and no, you can't read it. Surprisingly, she graduated with honors at her third school. A former farm girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite, Lynn lives in the Midwest where she drinks coffee and sips tea when she's out of coffee. Sheâs the author of Full Count and Game On..
Nobody sane should ever be up at eight on a Saturday morning. Especially not when said person stayed up until three a.m. for a horror movie marathon with her best friends Ivy and Nena. So totally worth it though.
What a waste of a Saturday. I could be sleeping, or bungee jumping, or sleeping, or ziplining, or sleeping instead of starting a job I didnât want in the first place.
I bit back a yawn as I smoothed the wrinkled turquoise polo, the required uniform for Mountain View Resort employees. Taking a deep breath to steady the waves in my stomach, I knocked on the door to room four-oh-two three times, as instructed, and squeezed my clipboard against my chest.
What had my father been thinking bringing this guy to Branson? For the last few years, Iâd overheard Dad lamenting to my brother about how the shows didnât make enough money and the profits from the resort disappeared into the theater. If Dad wanted to revive that dump, heâd need someone to sell out every performance. I had serious doubts about his choice. Another reason I was in the doghouse.
I lifted my fist to hammer the door a second time when it flew open.
A wet torso greeted me, and a hint of the hotelâs jasmine soap drifted from the room. My gaze followed water dripping down tanned pecs and over the only real six-pack Iâd ever seen as it disappeared into the thick hotel towel wrapped around his waist. Wow. My face burned hotter than the coffee Iâd slammed earlier, and I forced my head up to meet the gaze of The Gracin Ford, celebrity bad boy and former member of Accentuate, a one-hit wonder boy band.
Gracinâs manscaped eyebrows arched as bright blue eyes took a circuit over my body. My skin tingled all over in response to his gaze.
Sadly, he had to open his mouth. âNot my type, but thanks.â
Then he slammed the door in my face.
What? Thatâ¦ thatâ¦ that son of a bitch! I punched the door three times, fully prepared to give this egotistical asshole a piece of my mind. Meanwhile, my fatherâs lecture from half an hour ago echoed between my ears: âIf you want to go to U of N in the fall, you work for me this summer to pay me back for the damage to the Mercedes. Donât, and you can go to Southern Community like your brother did.â I counted to thirty, trying and failing to calm myself while I waited for his highness.
The door swung in. At least this time, heâd had the decency to put on a pair of khaki shorts and a t-shirt. His gaze shifted over me once more, and I tried not to squirm, but blue eyes gave me the creeps. And brought back memories Iâd rather pretend didnât exist.
âWhat now?â he asked. If he was even slightly miffed, he didnât show it. The cool nonchalance in his voice didnât stop my temper from shooting toward the atmosphere.
I dug my nails into the back of the clipboard and smiled my best smile. âHi, Mr. Ford. Iâm Carly Reynolds, your â¦ personal assistant. Your father provided us with a detailed itinerary of your day-to-dayââ
âLet me see it,â he said, leaning his shoulder against the door jam.
I handed it over, keeping the tremor in my hands at bay. Personal assistant my ass, more like his errand bitch. If he hadnât fired his previous P.A., I could be lounging by the pool as a lifeguard or cleaning rooms or checking guests at the front desk. Instead, I had to spend my summer following every whim of a twenty-year-old has-been. As he took the itinerary, his eyebrows furrowed at something else. Before my hand could drop back to my side, he snatched it and tugged at the tie holding the leather cuff covering my wrist.
His eyebrows lifted again and amusement danced across his full lips. âNice tat. Why hide it?â
âWho says Iâm hiding it?â He let go of my hand, and I quickly retied the cuff over the small trinity knot tattoo on my wrist. It had only been two weeks since Iâd gotten inked, but Mom and Dad hadnât noticed. Yet. I crossed my arms and bit the inside of my upper lip. As much as I didnât want to be here, I also didnât want to go to Southern Community. Keeping my mouth shut was kind of required if I wanted to go to Nashville in the fall.
Gracin nodded and refocused on the itinerary. He flipped the paper, shaking his head. âAccording to this, youâre supposed to take me to breakfast every morning at eight so we can discuss the dayâs schedule.â He handed the clipboard back to me. âIâm assuming thatâs why youâre here now.â
He sighed. âLet me get my shoes. No doubt the big kahuna will be expecting me.â He moved into the room and I reached out to hold the door open. âIâll get a more realistic schedule to you.â
âRealistic?â I asked as he slipped on a pair of boat shoes and a Rolex that could pay for half a semester at U of N or the entire two years at Southern Community.
âYeah, thatâs clearly the schedule Dad wants me to keep. Not even close to reality.â Gracin stepped into the hallway, patting his pocket. He groaned and turned to stop the door from shutting completely, but it was too late. He fell forward, letting his forehead thunk against the thick wood. âYou wouldnât happen to have a key to my room, would you?â
âNo, but we can get one from the front desk after breakfast. Youâre moving into one of the cabins today anyway.â I shrugged because it wasnât that big of a deal. âNo worries.â
Gracin laughed, but there wasnât any humor to it. âDo me a favor. Keep this key thing between us, okay? The last thing I need is to hear how irresponsible I am. Again.â
I held back the scoff and the sarcastic comment that would normally shoot from my mouth in record speed. Especially since Iâd heard the same lecture more times than I could count. âYeah, okay. But we have to go now, or youâre going to have to hear how irresponsible I am.â
âWell, I wonât say anything about the tat in that case.â Gracinâs smile showed his Hollywood white teeth.
We were half way between his room and the elevator when his cell rang. I tried to ignore his half of the conversation, but when youâre alone with someone, itâs hard not to listen.
âHey, babe.â Pause. âYeah, I had a great time too.â
Another pause. Gracin laughed, clutching his hand against his chest.
âProbably best they didnât catch us. Photographic evidence and all.â
Another pause when we got to the elevator. Gracinâs face turned from California tan to the shade of a bruised red pepper.
âYou didnât? Please tell me you didnât.â
I wanted to lean closer to hear what the person on the other end had done. Celebrity drama and all. I didnât seek it out, but that didnât stop me from reading the headlines when they popped up on my computer.
After I pushed the button for the elevator, we stood side by side. Gracinâs fingers tightened around the phone. I could hear a female voice coming from his speaker but not what she said. Gracin slapped the mirrored doors.
Housekeepingâll love that.
The doors dinged open as Gracinâs fist soared toward them, and he threw himself into the elevator. He managed not to fall, but it was so hard not to laugh.
âNext time you talk to that jackass, tell him you were just another one-night stand.â
Wow. Iâd somehow managed to keep my expression neutral when he fell into the elevator, but my mortification couldnât be hidden.
He stared at me in the mirror. âThere goes hiding my lack of responsibility today,â he said in a calm voice that didnât match the fury from a moment ago.
I kept my mouth shut despite the thoughts running through my head and held his mirrored gaze. Both took supreme battles of will. I thought only one thing: U of N. Nothing was going to keep me from going to Nashville.
Gracin tilted his head. His eyebrows sagged as he opened his mouth. A beep sounded from his phone, distracting him from whatever he was about to say. He shook his head at the screen and then handed it to me. âHere. Fair warning before Hurricane Albert leashes his wrath on me.â
I wasnât interested in getting caught up in his drama, but curiosity got the best of me and I glanced at the image on the screen. It wasnât anything major. A beautiful girl with bright brown eyes and obviously dyed red hair kissed a smiling Gracin on the cheek. It was pretty clear they were in a bar when this was taken. Several empty beer bottles sat on the table in front of them.
âA hot chick took a photo of you guys in a bar?â I handed the phone back. âBig deal.â
âThe âdealâ is she sold it to a tabloid.â Gracin shoved the phone into his pocket. He didnât spare me a glimpse, even in the mirror. âI can see the headlines already: âGracin Ford Falls Off the Wagon.â â Finally, he faced me. âExcept I didnât. Iâve been sober for almost a year. None of those empties were mine. Not that anybody will believe me. Especially King Albert.â
I didnât say anything, but the heat burning the tips of my ears was enough.
The elevator opened to the lobby. Gracin motioned me out first and followed me to the private dining room. Dad sat at the head of the table in the middle of the room. My mother sat to his right, and a gray-haired man with a stringy comb-over sat on his left. His extensive lack of hair didnât stop Albert Ford from trying. My older brother, Luke, sat next to three empty seats for me, Gracin, and my little sister, Miranda. Quite the family affair.
âCarly, Iâm glad you made it,â Dad said, adding a fake laugh at the end. To anyone else, it mightâve appeared teasing. I knew better. Dad was not happy we were a minute late. Of course, when it came to me, he wouldnât have been happy had I been two minutes early either. My father was the consummate politician around here. He ruled more like a dictator, but was JFK when guests were around. âI thought you were going to be late.â
âThatâs my fault, Mr. Reynolds,â Gracin said. He threw out a hundred-watt smile.
I fought to roll my eyes. At least heâs taking the hit for me.
âCarly rushed me out the door, then let it close before I remembered to grab my key.â
And under the bus I go. Thanks, asshat.
Dad stared through me with his laser pointer green eyes. âWell, Carly, I suggest you head to the front desk and get another. While youâre there, make sure housekeeping stays out of his room until this evening when the cabin is ready.â
âYes, sir.â I let my head drop in good girl compliance, catching the laughing eyes of my brother. We both inherited Dadâs light brown hair, but Luke lucked out getting Dadâs eyes. Unfortunately, he used them to taunt me at every turn, which only served to remind me who was the chosen one in the Reynolds family. Hint, his name began with an L.
Gracin made his way toward the buffet spread. He piled fresh fruit on his plate, winking at me. I shuddered as I freed myself from the room. Guys who winked were just plain creepy.
Title: Evie (Pendleton Petticoats 10)
Author: Shanna Hatfield
Genre: Sweet, Historical, Western Romance
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2019 Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as âreminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginianâ while her contemporary works have been called âlaugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.â
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen one story at a time. When she isnât writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Romance Writers of America, Sweet Romance Reads, Cowboy Kisses, and Pioneer Hearts.
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cYfAcIIn front of him a woman danced alone in the moonlight. Dark hair spilled around her like a silken cloak while the pale gossamer layers of her gown made him think of a fairyâs wings. Slim arms raised upward, fingers artfully poised. A tall, willowy body slowly spun with fluid grace, as though she balanced on her toes like a ballerina.
Perhaps his imagination had gotten the best of him, but she put him in mind of a woodland sprite come to life. Or maybe she was more like Aphrodite.
From what he could see in the moonlight, the woman was exquisite. The poem heâd recited that afternoon to his rose bushes sprang to mind as he watched her dance, uninhibited, beneath the stars.
Although he hadnât intended to speak aloud, the words whispering through his thoughts spilled out of his mouth. âShe walks in beauty, like the night. Of cloudless climes and starry skiesâ¦ââ He took a quick breath and added, âand moonlight.â
âOh!â The woman stopped dancing and whipped around, gaping at him.
âPlease donât stop on my account,â he said, offering what he hoped was a boyish smile.
Title: Sweet Horizons
Author: Jean C. Gordon
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Naijla Quamber
Publisher: Upstate NY Romance
Editor: Jena O'Connor
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
Thereâs nothing like a wedding to bring people together, but family dynamics can be complicated, especially newly blended ones.
Sonja Cooper is thrilled that her daughter Lauren is marrying Jesse Brewster and giving her a ready-made granddaughter in the irrepressible 3-year old Shelley. The fact that Jesse is also Sonjaâs business partner in the launching of the Morrison Mansion B&B is just a bonus.
Custom bike shop owner Jeff Brewster is also delighted that his son Jesse is marrying Lauren and building a new family. The one awkward aspect is the unexpected attraction he feels towards Sonja. For although Sonja feels the same spark, having been burned in her divorce from Laurenâs father, sheâs determined never to be dependent on a man again.
Then the Indigo Bay Business Association pits Sonja and Jeff against each other by having their businesses compete for the coveted âNew Business of the Year Award.â Allâs fair in love and war, but hearts donât always listen!
This is the 3rd novel in the Indigo Bay Second Chance Romances series, but all books can be read as standalones.
For Amazon Bestselling sweet and inspirational romance author Jean C. Gordon, writing is a natural extension of her love of reading. From that day in first grade when she realized t-h-e was the word âthe,â sheâs been reading everything she can put her hands on. She and her college-sweetheart husband tried the city life in Los Angeles, but quickly returned home to their native small-town Upstate New York, where she sets many of her books.
They share a 175-year-old farmhouse just south of Albany, NY, with their daughter and son-in-law, two grandchildren, and a menagerie of pets. Their son lives nearby. While Jean creates stories, her family grows organic fruits and vegetables and tends the livestock de jour.
A founding member of the Capital Region Romance Writers (Albany, NY), Jean currently serves as membership chair. Sheâs also a member of the Romance Writers of America and its Faith, Hope and Love Chapter, and Novelists, Inc.
Jean is currently working on a Christmas novella for the Small Town Christmas Wishes multi-author series, releasing this fall, and looking forward to writing a second book in the Sweet Promise Press No Brides Club series.
âA mechanic? Seriously, Sonja?â
Jeff Brewster stopped, drinks in hand, several feet away from Sonja Cooper and the man who was questioning her. Sonjaâs ex-husband, he assumed. Although they hadnât been formally introduced, the impeccably dressed man was around the right age and had been seated in the brideâs family pew at the wedding with Sonja, little Shelley, and Sonjaâs cousin.
âI thought the whole purpose behind your ridiculous move to Indigo Bay was to be independent and better your situation.â
The manâs voice should have been dimmed by the hum of voices filling the ballroom of the soon-to-be open Morrison Mansion B&B, owned by Sonja and Jeffâs son Jesse. But it came through to Jeff loud and clear.
The guy continued, âI take time out of my work schedule to fly down here â¦ and this is what I find. You should have remembered that the national sales conference is always around this time and how much work that means for me. I get here and find out she doesnât want me to give her away or even participate in the ceremony.â
As uncomfortable as he felt eavesdropping, Jeff stayed rooted to the spot where heâd stopped. Sonja might need him.
âCan you blame her after the way you left us with no financial support to go start a new family?â Sonja said.
âAnd your solution to your and Laurenâs financial needs was to spend what money you did have to move nearly 900 miles away from everyone you knew and hook up with a guy who fixes motorcycles? â
Sonjaâs back went ramrod straight, and Jeff was surprised that her ex wasnât pushed backward by the anger radiating from her. âThat comment doesnât deserve a response. I have not, nor do I ever plan to, get myself into a relationship where Iâm depending on a man again for anything.â
Jeffâs gut clenched. He and Sonja werenât anything more than in-laws, grandparents who shared his sonâs daughter Shelley, possibly friends. But Sonjaâs lack of words in his defense and her vehemence about not depending on a man laid open buried wounds about failing his deceased wife when sheâd needed him most. Sonjaâs ex was right about him not having anything to offer her. Everything heâd had had gone to his wifeâs medical bills.
Not that he was about to offer Sonja anything but the drink he held. He forced his seemingly weighted feet into action and finished crossing the room to Sonja.
âHereâs that drink you wanted.â
She turned around. Her eyes narrowed.
Jeff halted. Did not depending on men include him delivering the drink heâd offered to get her? He was getting one for himself after all. He hesitated, the drink between them.
In a 180 turnaround, her face came to life, making her look far too young to have a twenty-eight-eight-year-old daughter. âThanks, Jeff.â
He released his held breath and handed her the drink, sizing up the man standing across from Sonja. The guy was shorter than him and the tailored suit he wore didnât quite hide the paunch in what may have once been an athletic physique. Jeff tightened his stomach muscles. One thing he could say about manual labor, it was a great workout.
âI donât think youâve met Tom Cooper, Laurenâs father,â Sonja said.
Laurenâs father, not her ex-husband. Interesting.
âTom, this is Jeff Brewster, Jesseâs father.â
Again with the father stuff. But what did he expect? He was Jesseâs father. And Shelleyâs grandfather. Why did that make him sound so old? Being a grandfather did not change the fact that he was only forty-seven.
Jeff accepted Tomâs offered hand, gripping it a shade too hard for the handshake and noticing the softness despite the guyâs tightening grip. âNice to meet you,â Jeff said, feeling anything but nice. The guyâs soft hands and the casual, comfortable way he wore his suit, shouted money to Jeff. As for himself, it took all of his will power not to run his finger around the constricting collar of his tuxedo shirt when Tom released his hand. In the past when heâd had to dress up, heâd had his deceased wife, Shelley, to gently stop him from fiddling with his tie or collar button. He couldnât expect Sonja to do the same. So why was he searching her face for help?
Sonja broke their eye contact. âI need to go check with the banquet coordinator. Thanks for the drink.â
âAnd I have a plane to catch,â Tom said.
Seriously? The man wasnât even staying for his daughterâs wedding reception?
Sonja headed off in one direction and her ex in another direction, leaving Jeff in the middle of the room taking a swig of his beer and trying to figure out what had just happened.
Sonja slipped into the kitchen adjacent to the ballroom, clenching her hands. She could tell herself that she wasnât running away from Jeff and Tom. But she didnât lie, especially to herself. Not anymore. She should have prepared herself for Tom, known that he would bail on Lauren. He always did. Why would Laurenâs marriage celebration be any different? He hadnât even RSVPed. Even though Lauren had said his presence didnât matter, Sonja had broken down and called him a couple of weeks ago and gotten a noncommittal âIâm trying to work it in.â She had every right to be angry with Tom.
Jeff was another story. His ruggedly handsome face and the perplexed look on it when sheâd made her getaway flashed in her mind. Her anger had spread over to him for no apparent reason except he was a man.
And a friend. Yes, he was a friend who had proven a great help renovating the manor and with baby Shelley. But she couldnât let that friendship get in the way of her self sufficiency, of the success of the B&B. She could too easily see falling into a comfortable routine of relying on him, letting their relationship take over her life. Something that after Tomâs abandonment, sheâd vowed to never get into again.
âMs. Cooper, is something wrong?â the banquet coordinator asked.
Sonja swallowed the distaste in her mouth. She was already doing it, letting a man cloud her mind. âNo, everything is lovely.â She pasted a smile on her face. âI came in to tell you that and ask you to let the DJ know there wonât be a father-daughter dance. Laurenâs father had to leave.â
âHere you are, Mom.â Lauren walked into the kitchen, saving Sonja from any awkwardness about sharing that the father of the bride had left.
âYes,â Sonja said. âYou know how I am about checking all the details. This is my only childâs wedding reception.â She bustled over and adjusted the skirt of Laurenâs dress before the swinging door closed on it.
Her daughterâs eyes twinkled. âAnd the first event at the Morrison Mansion B&B. Itâs okay. Jesse and I have a stake in the success, too.â
Sonja flushed. âRight. End of business talk for the day.â
âExcept for wedding business,â Lauren said, turning to the banquet coordinator. âWeâre ready for dinner to be served any time now.â
âEverythingâs set. Iâll have the servers bring out the salads.â
Sonja held the door for Lauren and then stepped into the ballroom herself.
âI changed the head table seating so that Jeff is beside you, rather than him being on the being on the other side of Jesse,â Lauren said
Sonja released the door and it snapped shut. Sheâd be fine with Jeff on the other side of Jesseâor on the other side of the room, so she wouldnât be tempted by her attraction to him. âThatâs fine.â It wasnât as if she couldnât have a friendly conversation with him.
âAnd I moved Aunt Sari to the head table on your other side, since sheâs the only relative here from our family and doesnât know anyone she was seated with. I figured we didnât need a seat there for Dad, so why not.â
âYou know he left?â
Sonja touched her daughterâs arm. âIâm sorry about that, hon.â
âItâs no more or less than I expected of him, and you have no reason to apologize.â
âYouâre right. Old habits.â And not ones she was about to fall back into.
When they reached the head table, Sonja eyed the three empty seats and the place cards, while her new son-in-law Jesse pulled out Laurenâs chair for her.
Hmm, I could switch my card with Sariâs. Then it would be me, then Sari, then Jeff. Jeff and Sari would get along. And she could avoid any inadvertent physical contact with Jeff during dinner. Staring at the cards, Sonja asked, âWhere is Sari?â
âShe and Dad went to get some hors d'oeuvres,â Jesse answered.
Sonja glanced at the food table and saw Jeff and Sari heading toward her. He solicitously balanced both of their plates in one hand and gripped Sariâs left elbow while Sari maneuvered her cane with her right hand. Sari had commented this morning how glad she was that her progressing MS symptoms had stayed in remission so she only needed her cane to get around. Sonjaâs chest burned and she dropped her head. What was with her? She couldnât be jealous. She and Sari were more like sisters than cousins. Sari deserved to enjoy herself with Jeff or whoever.
Sonja rearranged the cards so that Jeff was seated between her and Sari and moved her chair to put some space between her and Jeff. During dinner, he platonically divided his attention between her and Sari. Sonja relaxed. Sheâd let the confrontation with her ex unsettle her. There was nothing between her and Jeff. Sonjaâs heart swelled as she watched Lauren and Jesse step out onto the dance floor for the first dance. She hugged her granddaughter Shelley on her lap.
âNow, will the brideâs and groomâs parents join them?â
Sonja stiffened. Lauren hadnât instructed the DJ to skip that? Her eyes narrowed at the smile her daughter gave her from the dance floor. Or was Lauren matchmaking?
âThatâs us.â Jeff stood and reached for the back of her chair.
âIâll take Shelley,â Sari said as if sensing her reluctance and the excuse on her lips.
Sonja rose as Jeff pulled her chair out. She placed Shelley in Sariâs outstretched hands. It was only a dance.
âGrammy and Papa are going to dance,â Sari said. âWeâll watch them.â
Sonja waited while Shelley grabbed a chocolate from the dish Jeff had moved out of her reach in front of Sari and settled in with no protest.
âDaddy Jesse and Ren dance,â the three-year-old said, pointing at her father and stepmother.
âYep, weâll watch them, too.â
Warmth poured through Sonja at the childâs solemn nod. The little darling had adapted surprisingly well to her motherâs death and her abrupt transition to the father she hadnât knownâa father who hadnât even known she existed.
Jeff took Sonjaâs hand to lead her onto the dance floor. The corresponding tingle up her arm had nothing to do with his slightly rough working manâs hand wrapped firmly around hers. No, Shelley leaning against her arm must have made it go to sleep.
âHere they are,â the DJ said. âLetâs have a hand for Sonja Cooper and Jeff Brewster.â
Sonja reached up and placed her left hand on Jeffâs shoulder and he folded his left hand around her right. Lauren had set them up. She snuck a glance at Jeff. A half-smile teased his lips. Or maybe they had set her up. She dismissed that thought as quickly as it came. Jeff was just better at going with the flow than she was.
As the clapping died down, the strains of the new song broke through.
âIâll Always Love Youâ by Taylor Dayne. Bet this brings back memories,â the DJ yammered.
It did, and not good ones.
Maybe not good for him, either.
He tightened his hold on her hand and pulled her closer to him. âWe â¦ I danced to this at my wedding.â
His voice was so soft, Sonja wasnât sure whether he was talking to her or his thoughts had simply escaped him.
Jeffâs heart appeared to still belong to his deceased wife. Sonja relaxed and allowed herself to enjoy dancing in the arms of a handsome man. Any attraction sheâd imagined Jeff might have to her was just thatâin her imagination. He circled her around, and she let her head rest for a moment on his warm, solid chest. Knowing that Jeff wasnât looking for anything romantic from her would make it easy for her to keep her distance and quash the silly thoughts and fears sheâd had earlier.
Easy once their dance was over, anyway.
Jeff escorted Sonja back to the table and made a beeline for the bar. What he didnât know about women could fill Indigo Bay. The body-of-water bay. Maybe the Atlantic Ocean. Sweat trickled down his spine as if heâd just finished a marathon, rather than a slow dance. When he reached the bar, he changed directions. Fresh air would do him far more good than the shots of Jameson heâd been contemplating. He ducked out a side door into the summer evening, which wasnât any cooler than the ballroom, but a lot quieter.
He jammed his fingers through his hair. Either he was crazy, or Sonja was sending him mixed signals that were driving him crazy. He had heard her tell her ex that she never wanted to be dependent on a man again, which had sounded like a keep-out sign to any man within hearing distance. A message that she had no interest in a relationship or dating or whatever it was consenting adults did these days. What did he know? He hadnât been with anyone but his wife in thirty years.
But, then, he and Sonja had started dancing. Heâd caught himself getting lost in the song and memories, pulling Sonja closer before heâd come to his senses. Heâd checked himself and started to pull back, only to have her rest her cheek on his chest, lulling him into peaceful enjoyment. When the song had ended, sheâd been out of his arms in a flash and headed back to the table. His first thought for avoiding the turmoil he was in was to keep his distance, avoid her as much as possible. Which as in-laws should be doable. Except he and Sonja were jointly caring for little Shelley while Jesse and Lauren were on their four-week honeymoon cruise.
A bolt of lightning streaked across the dusky sky followed by a clap of thunder. Heâd better get back inside before the sky opened up on his rented tux.
âPapa, cake!â Shelley shouted when he got within sight of the head table.
He must have missed the cake cutting.
âI got you a piece,â Sari said.
âThanks.â He took his seat and Shelley scrambled over from Sonjaâs lap to his, but not before he caught Sonjaâs glare. Was the cake cutting something the groomâs father was supposed to be present for? Or was the glare for Sari making sure he got a slice?
âFrosting.â Shelley dipped her finger in the frosting flower on his cake and stuck it in her mouth.
âYep.â He kissed the top of his granddaughterâs head, while Sonja gently extracted Shelleyâs finger and wiped it and her face with a napkin.
Their gazes connected. He smiled. Sonja frowned. What was a little frosting? Or maybe that wasnât what had earned him the frown. Jeff concentrated on his cake and his granddaughter, glad that he only had one kid. These family weddings were murder on the nerves.
Jesse and Lauren finished making their rounds in preparation for leaving and returned to the head table. Jeff stood, hoisted Shelley to his hip, and placed his other hand on the back of Sonjaâs chair to pull it out for her. Maybe heâd get a point for good manners. The five of them walked out of the ballroom into the hall.
âYou guys are all set?â Jesse asked wrapping his arm around his wifeâs waist.
âYou have our itinerary and how to reach us if you need to?â Lauren asked.
âYes,â Jeff assured them. âItâs not like weâre novices at this.â
âWeâll Skype when we can,â Lauren said.
âWeâll be fine,â Sonja said.
Jeff rubbed noses with Shelley. Finally, something he and Sonja agreed on.
Jesse held his arms out for his daughter. âGive Daddy and Lauren kisses and hugs. Itâs time for us to go on our wedding trip. Remember, youâre going to stay with Grammy and Papa.â
Shelley nodded. âStay with Grammy and Papa. Jesse Daddy and Ren go bye-bye.â
Jesse and Lauren enveloped the little girl in a three-way hug. When they broke apart, Jesse said, âWe could stop by tomorrow morning early, before we have to be at the airport.â
âTwo goodbyes may not be a good idea,â Sonja said, stepping forward to give Lauren a farewell hug while Jesse handed Shelley back to Jeff.
âYouâre probably right,â Jesse said opening his arms to Sonjaâs goodbye hug.
Jeff bounced Shelley and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He wasnât a hugger. Jesse got that from his mother. âYou guys have a great time. Donât worry about anything.â
Jeff and Sonja and Shelley watched, waving until Jesse and Lauren disappeared into the front hall and out the main door.
âMore cake?â Shelley asked pointing over Jeffâs shoulder toward the ballroom.
âSure, we can go see what we can find,â he answered.
Sonja had opened her mouth at the same time as him and snapped it shut.
Jeff knew as well as Sonja did that Shelley didnât need more cake. But the goodbyes had gone so well, he didnât want to upset things over something as small as cake. He and Sonja could have trouble soon enough when Shelley realized that her sleepover with Grammy wasnât the familiar one night. He was sort of prepared for that with a set of twenty-five blocks heâd made that had pictures of the places Jesse and Lauren would be visiting on the cruise. The blocks fit together into a little house. Heâd figured them working on the house every day and talking about what her parents were doing might help and give her a sense of time until they got home.
Sonja had nothing to say on the short walk back to the ballroom, where Jeff wove around the tables with his granddaughter in search of cake, ending at the head table and Sonja
âNo cake.â Shelley lifted her hands palms up and shook her head. âTime for stories.â
âThank you, I see what you were doing now,â Sonja said, her praise warming him more than it should.
âOkay, weâll go upstairs to Grammyâs and get your jammies on for stories.â Sonja held her arms out for Shelley.
Jeff stifled a sigh. He was more than ready to head down to the beach to his place, the mansionâs former caretakerâs cottage, lose the tux and unwind. The three of them retraced their steps to the stairway, where Sonja started up to her third-floor living area and he started toward the door.
âNo, no, no!â Shelley said, straining to reach over the polished oak railing to Jess. âPapa, stories. Papa night-night at Grammyâsâ
His gaze locked with Sonjaâs and the indecision in her eyes matched his. She pressed her lips together and nodded almost unperceptively at the stairs. He took another step.
âPapa!â Shelley screamed, loud enough for the remaining guests to hear her in the ballroom.
With Jesse, he would have continued down the stairs, feeling he shouldnât give in to a childâs demands. But this was his granddaughter, and he hadnât had the greatest relationship with his son until the past few years, after his wife had died. Jeff looked over his shoulder to the little girlâs tear-stained face and Sonjaâs weary looking one. He and Sonja were sharing the responsibility for Shelley. He shouldnât dump it on Sonja and bolt.
âItâs okay, sweetie, Papa is just going downstairs to make sure the front door is locked.â Which heâd do so he wasnât lying to the kid.
Shelley sniffled. âOkay. Then stories.â
âDefinitely.â Jeff caught what he thought was relief in Sonjaâs eyes and bounded to the door.
His ascent after locking the door was slower, his feet weighted by a churning in his gut. It wasnât as if he hadnât been up to Sonjaâs flat on the top floor of the mansion before, just the two of them. Heâd installed her dishwasher, put in the programmable thermostats, and done other home maintenance. Stayed for lunch a couple of times. But overhearing her talking to her ex at the reception had made everything weird, like he was a guest, not a friend, not family.
He could ignore that, read Shelley a couple of stories, and leave. Of course he could.
Under the Scrubs
Title: Sin & Discipline
Author: Lily White
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: April 24, 2019
Cover Designer: Lily White
Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.
Lennon Carter first saw my face with his hand around my throat. Shock widened his eyes, starbursts of anger for what I'd done. That moment should have been the last of us; our beginning and end. Fate, it seems, had other plans. A dedicated musician, Lennon would become my mentor, my shadow, my protector and nightmare. We were two discordant notes that somehow blended with perfect harmony. Challenged to become a pianist as talented as him, I became Lennon's SIN, while he became my DISCIPLINE
Available in Kindle Unlimited
Lily White is a dark writer who likes to dabble on the taboo side of eroticism. She is most known for her Masters Series, Target This, Wishing Well, and Asylum. When she isn't writing as Lily White you can find other books by her under M.S. Willis where she has penned the Control Series, the Estate Series, and Because of Ellison (contemporary romance). Lily enjoys stretching her writing muscles by continuing to challenge herself with each book she publishes.
June's Double Rainbow
by Cheryl Holloway
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When love and monogamy fail…Her fiancé breaks off the engagement.
At first, June is stunned, but then, she is determined to move on to better things…like an unplanned trip to Paris for her job—where she falls deeply in love with a man from another part of the world. He wines and dines June; sweeps her off her feet; and ultimately, wins her heart. Their short romance echoes an endearing love. When she returns to the US, he calls her faithfully every day. Then suddenly, no call…
Can their love survive on different continents?
"An engaging story with beautiful imagery!"
In this heartwarming romance, June learns to embrace each challenge and wait for a transformation in her life.
This beautifully written romance is complete escapism. Each of the characters has been well developed, considering the length of the story, and the dialogue revealed a great deal about their personalities. ~ Lesley Jones for READERS FAVORITE
A Quick Romantic Read…This is a nice story for someone looking for love. Everything happens for a reason. Love comes when you least expect it. ~G. Littlejohn for Philadelphia Publishing House
Readers, this is a quick read; yet, an epic romance. If you’re a fan of Debbie Macomber, you’ll soon be a fan of Cheryl Holloway!
**Get it FREE!!**
The Proposal: A Leap of Faith
by Cheryl Holloway
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cheryl Holloway’s knack of presenting an in-depth love story is remarkable. The detail in each page enabled me to connect with the characters like I was holding Carol’s hand each step of the way. –5 Star Readers’ Favorite
If you love contemporary romance with real-life events…
Carol and Marvin love each other and have dated off and on for over ten years; however…Carol becomes jaded about the relationship when Marvin won’t ask her to marry him. Marvin's commitment to the relationship never waivers despite being afraid to commit to marriage. Finally, he wants to move their relationship to the next level—on Valentine’s Day. After a heartbreaking event and crying for days, Carol is ready and at last she thinks he is, too. Will he ask her to marry him or does he have something else on the agenda? Will commitment-phobic Marvin take the plunge…
Smart and sophisticated, with a plot twist that will give the reader a jolt!
Similar to books written by Shirley Wine and Becky Wade.
Cheryl Holloway’s The Proposal: A Leap of Faith is inspired by a real-life women and real-life events.
The Struggle Book 1
by Cheryl Holloway
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Love makes the ride worthwhile…or does it?
Bob is ready to take the next step in his relationship, and he wants to marry Ava, the woman of his dreams. He’s been secretly saving up money for the “special” ring that she wants. To quicken the process, he gets a part-time job as a Ryde driver, but…Bob stumbles upon Ava’s secret. The struggle begins.
Can their relationship withstand secrets and cheating?
Love’s Ride is a literary roller-coaster ride that will make you happy, scared, excited, angry, hopeful, and more—not necessarily in that order.
Cheryl Holloway is a contemporary romance author, journalist and award-winning editor. She has eBooks, The Cougar Tales Series, Book 1: Father and Son; Book 2: The Italian Basketball Player; Book 3: Jamaican Love; Cougar Tales Box Set (Books 1-3); The Bane Bath Salts, (Teen Drug Prevention); The Proposal: A Leap of Faith; A Sisterhood of Women Living Life: A Short Story Collection Book 1; and June's Double Rainbow available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. Cheryl's blog is where an author writes information about writing, literary events, books, and her writing journey. She pays-it-forward to other authors with Guest Author Interviews. You can visit the blog at: www.CherylHolloway.net/blog
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