Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Looking for an excerpt of your next hot summer read?


I’ve been dying to tell everyone Brett Baker’s story. He’s our CEO in the After Office Hours series. I fell in love with him the moment he appeared in Desire Actually. And he only got sexier in Love Affair to Remember. So at last, he demanded his own story in Pretty in Pink Slip, After Office Hours, Book 3. I just knew he’d have to have Ivy Elliot. And she had to have him.


Anything can happen After Office Hours…

She's a single mother. He's a brilliant CEO. And she's got something he wants. Badly.

Ivy Elliot dreams of being a stay-at-home mom, but in a career-oriented world, she's reluctant to admit it. Besides, she's a single mother and quitting work to homeschool her daughter just isn't an option. Asking for a raise, however, is an alternative. But when she works up the nerve, disaster strikes. Instead of a raise, Ivy gets the dreaded pink slip.

But Ivy is also handed the key to making her dream come true. If she sues the company for the terrible names her boss Rhonda called her when she asked for a raise... she might very well get millions.

Brett Baker has worked his whole life to be able to take a company of his own into the Fortune 500, and he's sitting on the cusp of his dream. Until Ivy could potentially ruin all his plans by suing the company for discrimination and harassment. He's got to use every weapon in his arsenal to make sure she doesn't do that.

Even if it means falling in love with her.

She gave her heart and soul to the wrong man once. Can she ever trust enough to give it all again?


A little advertising before I get to the excerpt: Let’s talk about joining my newsletter! You’ll get 3 free books just for signing up! So expect a couple of welcome letters to start giving you all the details. Here’s where you can join and start getting free books! http://bit.ly/SkullyNews. Oh, and of course you’ll learn about contests, new releases, and all that cool stuff as well! I’d also love it if you followed me on Bookbub for Jennifer for Jasmine. You can also follow me on Amazon for Jasmine and Jennifer.

And now onto the excerpt! By the way, newsletter subscribers get an exclusive excerpt, so another reason to join!




After Office Hours, Book 3

© 2017 Jennifer Skully

Chapter One

Brett Baker’s smile was like something straight off a movie screen. It always made Ivy weak in the knees. Which was why she never failed to ask him if he had any new baby pictures of his granddaughter.

“Are you kidding?” Brett reached for the smart phone he kept in his suit pocket, dazzling Ivy with that gorgeous smile.

He was the sexiest grandfather she’d ever seen, obviously working out daily, his shoulders broad and his chest muscular beneath his white dress shirt. Sure she was partial to older men, but she liked his sense of humor, too. The entire company had celebrated his October birthday a couple of weeks ago in the cafeteria, and he’d enjoyed the joke as much as anyone when the fifty-two candles on the birthday cake set off the smoke alarm.

He leaned close over the sill of her office cubicle so he could show Ivy the picture and look at it himself, too. His aftershave was something subtle and tempting. Or maybe that was just his fresh morning-shower smell.  “Will you look at that cutie?” He beamed at the picture. “She already knows how to smile.”

The baby looked more like she was passing wind, but Ivy smiled and agreed right along with him. “So how old is she now?” Of course, she knew, but she liked to keep him talking.

He grinned, flipping to another picture. “My darling little Valerie was born on September twenty-third, so she’s six weeks and six days old.” He laughed, and Ivy felt the delicious vibration of it in the pit of her stomach. “My daughter’s a math teacher,” he explained, “and she actually adds in the hours and minutes, too. But I’ll spare you that.”

“Thank you so much.”

She’d always thought of him as a workaholic because he was here before she arrived at eight and his car was still in the parking lot when she left at five. But though he was divorced, where his daughter and granddaughter were concerned, family was first. He’d even left a conference right in the middle when Megan went into labor. Sure he’d had two of his best executives, Parker Hunt and Gloria King, to take over for him, but his rush to his daughter’s side had endeared him to Ivy. Made him more than just a CEO.

Of course, he wouldn’t even know who she was if she didn’t sit right between Grady’s and Rhonda’s offices.

The light on her console went out. “Grady’s off the phone now.”

“You can just wait,” Brett called out to Grady. “We’re looking at baby pictures.”

She was pretty sure Grady did an eye roll. Since falling for Ivy’s friend, Jordana Davis, Grady Masterson was a new man. He’d always been a great boss, but now he laughed more, smiled more.

“All right,” Brett said to her softly. “Duty calls. And I know you’re bored with all the pictures.”

“I most definitely am not.” Nothing about Brett Baker could ever bore her. “Please, drop by any time to show me more.”

He laughed, turned the phone dark, and strolled into Grady’s office.

Her pulse was racing. She’d actually sounded forward, even flirty. He was the CEO. She was just a lowly admin. He’d never notice her. Even if he did, it wasn’t like anything would ever happen. And she didn’t want it either. She’d gotten herself into one dicey relationship, and once was way more than enough. The only reason she didn’t regret it was her six-year-old daughter Joy. She could never regret having Joy.

“Ivy.”

Rhonda Clark’s voice snapped through the open door of her office. Speaking of bosses…

Ivy had more than one, since Jordana had been promoted from Human Resources Admin to HR Manager. Now Ivy was admin for both Grady and Rhonda. But working for Rhonda wasn’t supposed to take up more than half her time.

It should have been easy, and Ivy had wanted the additional duties for the extra money. But the raise she’d been hoping for hadn’t materialized. Rhonda said she was still in training, and since she didn’t have a college degree… Rhonda always punctuated that with a shrug of her shoulders.

Not finishing her degree was the biggest regret of Ivy’s life.

“I want that report on my desk first thing in the morning, Ivy.” Rhonda stood in her open office door.

Rhonda always wanted things first thing in the morning. “I’ll have it done,” Ivy told her. Although it wasn’t past ten in the morning, she already knew she’d have to work on the report tonight. Since she had to pick up Joy at five thirty, she’d never been able to stay late—which Rhonda knew—and she finished a lot of work after Joy went to bed. Of course, then, because she couldn’t prove she’d been working, she didn’t get paid for the overtime. In Rhonda’s mind, she should be able to finish all these projects and reports before she left for the day.

“You’d get more work done if you did less fraternizing.” Rhonda kept her voice low so it didn’t carry into Grady’s office.

“It wasn’t fraternizing. It was just baby pictures.” And it was Brett. How was Ivy supposed to say no to the CEO?

Because of her daughter, Ivy didn’t date. She didn’t want Joy to get attached only to have the guy leave. So Ivy’s few relationships were conducted clandestinely, away from home. God, they weren’t even relationships. They were more like… well, not relationships. And she hadn’t had a non-relationship in over six months.

Therefore she deserved the few minutes she got up close and personal with Brett Baker and his baby pictures. The few heady minutes next to his body heat, with the smell of his aftershave swirling around her. She deserved them because she knew nothing would ever come of them.

“Well, I don’t expect to see any overtime on this,” Rhonda sniped at her. “You should be able to finish it before you leave.”

Rhonda had no clue how long things took. She underestimated the effort required, usually by half.

Maybe it was time for a new job. Except that Ivy loved working for Grady. She’d even followed him here from his last position since they worked so well together. Plus she’d made good friends, especially Jordana and Gloria. She didn’t want to leave. She didn’t want to start over somewhere else with all the upheaval and uncertainty of a new job.

But whatever she did, she was not giving up any so-called fraternization with Brett Baker and his granddaughter’s pictures.

* * *
 “West Coast manufactures thin film,” Grady was saying. “It would be perfect for our application. See here?”

Grady had a schematic up on his computer screen, but Brett wasn’t concentrating. Standing next to the desk, looking over Grady’s shoulder, Brett could see right into Ivy Elliot’s cubicle between the two offices.

She typed away, then stopped, biting her lip, thinking as she pushed a silky lock of short dark hair behind her ear.

“Yeah. Let’s bring their sales people in, see what they can offer,” he told Grady. “And send me the website link, too.”

But his gaze was on Ivy. He’d taken stock of her skirmish with Rhonda, though he hadn’t been able to hear what it was about. Rhonda was both his blessing and his curse. Her knowledge in the Human Relations field was invaluable, often averting disasters before they happened, and her instincts about new hires were spot on. But she had favorites, and just as quickly held grudges.

He had a feeling she’d taken a dislike to Ivy Elliot.

That situation—and Ivy, especially Ivy—would bear watching.

* * *

“She’s driving me crazy,” Ivy told Jordana and Gloria over a small bowl of chili for lunch. She was on a budget and brown-bagged it most days, but once a week they all went out, usually on Friday. Despite the fact that it was only Thursday, after the morning she’d had with Rhonda, she’d needed a good talk with friends who understood.

Both Jordana and Gloria had their run-ins with Rhonda. And those battles seemed to be increasing to outright warfare.

“You can’t let her walk all over you,” Jordana said. They’d chosen a diner for lunch, and Jordana had ordered the grilled ham and cheese while Gloria had the Chinese chicken salad.

Ivy’s mouth watered for a taste of both. And some French Fries. Maybe she’d make Joy grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Comfort food.

Gloria snorted. “No one can stop Rhonda walking all over them, Jordana, and you know it.”

Jordana hung her head, wagging it sadly, her long brunette hair barely missing the blotch of ketchup on her plate. “Yes, I know. But I’ve got Grady to stick up for me, and you’ve got Parker. Poor Ivy doesn’t have anyone.”

Poor Ivy. Neither of them needed someone else to fight their battles. They both handled their clashes with Rhonda so much better than Ivy did. She didn’t seem to have what it took to stand up to Rhonda the way she knew she should.

Not that she was going to admit that to her friends.

“Girls, girls,” she jumped in. “I can totally handle it. But only because I’ve got you guys to whine to.”

“We need a better strategy.” Gloria speared a mandarin and chewed thoughtfully. She was beautiful—and Ivy would not add for her age to that. At forty-eight—she’d had a birthday just a few weeks ago but her candles hadn’t set off the smoke alarm—Gloria was the kind of sophisticated, elegant woman Ivy strove to be: self-controlled, smart, confident, articulate. Which were all the reasons Parker Hunt had fallen for her.

Ivy equally admired Jordana, who was only thirty. Yes, she was four years younger than Ivy, but she was already a manager, a position for which she’d had to go up against Rhonda. And she’d won. She was totally together. Plus she’d completely wowed Grady.

Ivy suddenly wondered if she were jealous. Jordana had Grady. And though Gloria and Parker had been together officially for only a month, they were meant for each other. For her friends, it was more than just having someone to back them against Rhonda. It was having someone to share everything else with. A man to go home to.

But Ivy had Joy. That was more than enough for her.

Except sometimes, late at night, alone in her bed. But really, been there done that, got the T-shirt and the heartache to prove it. If she could find the perfect man, maybe. But after Parker and Grady, how many more perfect men could there be?

An image of Brett Baker, gorgeous smile and toned body, jumped into her mind.

No. No, no, no. He wasn’t even a fantasy. He was the CEO.

“Earth to Ivy.” Jordana nudged her. “We need a strategy.”

Ivy smiled big. “I totally love that you guys use the royal we.”

“The three musketeers,” Gloria said sweetly and honestly, tucking her blond hair behind her ear. “We’re going to do everything we can for you.”

Ivy let her spoon plop into her chili. “You’re right. I am letting her walk all over me.”

Her mother had called her a doormat. Joy’s father had left Ivy high and dry when he found out she was pregnant. After treating her like a doormat for years. He hadn’t married her, and he’d even claimed Joy wasn’t his child.

So Ivy had to admit she had a history of allowing people to take advantage. If she thought about it too much, she felt like a failure. Especially since she hadn’t finished her college degree either.

“I didn’t mean anything negative,” Jordana said. “Just that—”

Ivy flapped her hand. “I know what you meant. You guys have been telling me all along. And I keep telling you I can handle it, but I don’t. Honestly, I know you want to just step in and do something,” she stressed. “But really, we’re all waiting for me to do something.” Why couldn’t she be as strong as Jordana or Gloria?

“You work for Grady, too, you know. Rhonda’s monopolizing your time.”

“Actually, she’s not. I take it home with me.”

Jordana shook her finger at her. “But you don’t get paid for it. That’s just wrong. And it’s illegal. You can’t expect hourly employees to work off the clock and not pay them.”

Ivy tipped her head. “Do you believe I’m inefficient?” She stopped Gloria when she opened her mouth to protest. “I’m serious. Rhonda claims I work hard, but I don’t work smart.”

“She’s crazy,” Jordana retorted, her teeth grinding.

“How did she ever get into Human Resources when she actually hates people?” Gloria asked. It was rhetorical because no one had answers about Rhonda.

But maybe Rhonda had a point. Ivy had worked hard in college. But she’d never graduated. Instead, she’d fallen in love with her professor. Who had eventually become Joy’s father. And he’d left her.

She wasn’t doing something right. Except for raising Joy. Her daughter was her only success. What Ivy really wanted was to stay home with Joy, homeschool her, help her get the absolute best start in life. Instead, Joy went to a decent school in a decent neighborhood because that’s all Ivy could afford. She wanted more than decent for Joy. She wanted exceptional.

But now, even when they were together, she was giving her daughter short shrift because she worked in the evenings. And didn’t get paid for it.

“No,” she said, as if the girls had said something. “I’m doing a good job.”

“A great job. Grady certainly knows it,” Jordana reinforced.

Ivy continued to bolster herself. “If the work can’t get done during office hours, then the expectations are way too high.”

“Of course they are.” Gloria leaned forward in earnest agreement. “You’re right, we do want to step in and make it all better for you. Strangling Rhonda would be the best idea.”

“But you might get arrested,” Jordana observed with total solemnity.

Gloria grinned evilly. “Not if you both cover for me.”

Just like Grady, after Parker had come back into her life, Gloria had started smiling more, laughing more. Making more jokes. But Ivy was deadly serious right now. “I really appreciate the support—” Jordana and Gloria had become her rocks over the past couple of months. “—but I’m not a little girl with a booboo you can fix. I can’t go to the HR Manager and say my boss is mistreating me. I can’t go to my other boss and say that either. This problem is mine to solve.”

She had to tackle Rhonda, to prove to herself that she was strong enough. She would force Rhonda to acknowledge that there needed to be compensation for the constant underestimating of her time. “If she can’t assess the job properly, I’ll just have to make her pay for my overtime.”

Both Gloria and Jordana raised their hands. “You go, girl.”

They all high-fived in the center of the table.

“But let me ask you this,” Gloria said, her head tipped to the side. “What do you really want to do? What I mean is that you’re sort of falling into Human Resources.”

“Or,” Jordana added, “we’re pushing you into it.”

The chili suddenly seemed way too spicy and Ivy’s cheeks heated. She wasn’t sure she wanted to answer these questions. “Of course you’re not pushing. I want to move up. I need the money for Joy.”

“Yes, but,” Gloria persisted, “sometimes we get locked into jobs we don’t really like. Especially if it’s just about the money.”

Ivy’s chili was definitely too hot, burning her throat a little. It wasn’t about the questions. It was about her failures. About the dreams she would never realize. And about wanting to do something that would be frowned on in a career-oriented world.

“Come on, spill,” Jordana urged. “I can see it written all over you.”

“It’s really not possible,” she said softly.

“Everything’s possible.” Gloria’s voice was just as soft, encouraging Ivy’s confidences.

For Gloria, everything was possible because she was at the top of her field. She hadn’t dropped out of college. She hadn’t had a baby she couldn’t afford to raise. She’d made good choices.

“We’d really love to know.”

Ivy didn’t have friends. At least not until these two women had taken her under their wings. She hadn’t confided things in years, except to her mother, who’d never been the most sympathetic ear. She’d even forgotten what it was like to have someone to share your feelings with. To talk with about your dreams, as silly as they might seem. “It sounds dumb, but what I’d like to do more than anything is homeschool Joy.” She’d even love to have more children, homeschool them all, be a full-time mom. But then she’d need a husband.

“Wow,” Jordana said. “That’s amazing. I could never do that, but it sounds fabulous.”

“That’s perfect,” Gloria said, setting down her fork, her eyes narrowed. “Maybe you could make a business out of it by starting a day care.”

Ivy groaned. “Yeah, but then I’d have to deal with other people’s issues all the time. And believe me, I see how badly some of those moms can behave.”

Jordana licked crumbs off her finger and thumb. “Don’t kids who get homeschooled become sort of isolated and maybe even antisocial? Because they’re never around other kids?”

“It’s not like that at all. There are online communities of homeschoolers. The kids get together for outings and projects, sports, all sorts of activities.”

Jordana blinked, then smiled. “Learn something new every day.”

“It sounds like you’ve really looked into this.” Gloria gave her a thoughtful, considering gaze.

“It’s just a pipedream. And really, after the women’s movement, aren’t we all supposed to be out there earning more money and making our way in a man’s world?” Right, which was why she was still a secretary. And embarrassed about a silly dream, especially with two friends who were climbing the corporate ladder.

“The essence of feminism,” Gloria said, “is the freedom to do what you want, whether it’s being President of the United States or a stay-at-home mom.”

“That’s beautiful,” Jordana said, awe in her voice.

Ivy felt the same awe. But there was also reality. “You still have to support your kid. And without a partner to help…” She shrugged with the impossibility of it.

“But maybe you could think of a way to have both,” Gloria suggested, staring across the room, as if she were already devising a plan. “Some way of making a career out of homeschooling.”

“Like homeschooling other people’s kids?” Jordana asked.

Gloria shrugged and nodded. “Maybe.”

“Or,” Ivy said, pausing, thinking, “doing something with outside programs and activities for homeschoolers.” It was just an idea, encouraged by friends who thought outside the box. It would probably never come to anything. And yet it was nice to dream.

Before considering anything else, however, she needed to tackle Rhonda.

Ivy could never be strong enough to create her own specialized business if she couldn’t even handle a difficult boss.

~~

And everything went to hell from there! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt of Pretty in Pink Slip. Buy it here: Kindle  Kindle UK  Kindle CA  Kindle AU  iBooks  iBooks AU  iBooks UK  iBooks CA  Kobo  Nook

Check out all our current Freebies available everywhere!

She’s Gotta Be Mine is FREE! Try Book 1 of the Cottonmouth Series.





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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Are you dying for Evan’s story in Irresistible in Love?


First, we need to pause for a commercial break where I tell you about what you're going to get for joining my newsletter! 3 free books just for signing up! So expect a couple of welcome letters to start giving you all the details. Here’s where you can join and start getting those free books! http://bit.ly/SkullyNews. Oh, and of course you’ll learn about contests, new releases, and all that cool stuff as well! And I’ll also be asking my readers to join my review team!

And now Irresistible in Love, the story you’ve all been waiting for! Evan and the woman of his dreams. The woman who has been his sister-in-law for the last 8 years...and now he wants her to be more. Irresistible in Love, Maverick Billionaires Book 4, is available now! Read down and I’ve got an excerpt of Chapter one for you.

Bella and I have been dying to write this story. We felt Evan’s pain through three books and Iouldn’t wait for things to explode. Because inevitably they had to! Evan couldn’t just keep on taking the crap his wife Whitney kept dealing out. So now you have it, what really happened! And you’re going to be totally surprised when the truth about Whitney finally comes out! Even our editor was taken by surprise.

The blurb…

Evan Collins is the man with the Midas touch. Having left his hard childhood behind him, the tech genius vowed to one day have everything. But when he discovers his marriage is built on lies, the only people he can trust now are the Mavericks—and the woman who has always been there for him: Paige, the sister of his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Paige Ryan has always loved Evan Collins, a secret she’s hugged close to her heart for nine long years. But when her sister's devastating betrayal is revealed, Paige can’t keep her feelings hidden any longer.

Paige is a beacon of light for Evan. Despite believing he needs to keep the walls around his heart stronger than ever, he's irresistibly drawn to her sweet, pure heart—and the undeniable sparks flaring between them. She's the only one he trusts to help him face the darkness of his past head-on before it destroys him. But will their forbidden romance end up destroying them both?

Purchase Irresistible in Love here: Kindle  Kindle UK  Kindle CA  Kindle AU  iBooks  iBooks UK  iBooks AU  iBooks CA  Nook  Google Play  Kobo  Paperback



Now, before I give you an excerpt, let me tell you about another new release by a good friend of mine. This is quite a bit different than the books I write, but I think you’re going to love it. Melissa Storm’s Love’s Promise is a sweet Christian romance, but it also tackles issues about body image and how we never feel like we’re good enough.

She's waiting for her prince to come but was he right beside her all the time?

Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairytales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she's willing to do whatever it takes to embrace lifeand loveto the fullest.

Jeffrey Berkley can't bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his ownand letting down his family’s legacy in the process.

Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord's feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?

Don't miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypassget your copy of Love's Promise today! Now pop over to Melissa Storm’s website to watch a fabulous trailer for Love's Promise.


And now, an excerpt of Irresistible in Love!

Irresistible in Love

Maverick Billionaires, Book 4

© 2016 Jennifer Skully & Bella Andre

Chapter One

It had all been lies.

From the moment Evan Collins met Whitney Ryan to the day their marriage ended a month ago, right after Thanksgiving. But that was all over now. He was setting his world to rights, reclaiming his life, moving on.

And he was home again.

Evan stood in the arched living room doorway of Susan and Bob Spencer’s Chicago home. Their house was fragrant with Christmas pine, mulled wine, and joy. The decorations still hung, stockings along the fireplace and brilliant poinsettias brightening the corners of the room, which was big enough to handle all of Harper Newman and Will Franconi’s wedding guests tomorrow.

When the money had started to flow for the Mavericks, the first thing the five friends had done was move the Spencers into a good neighborhood. At the time, this home was a palace compared to the apartment in the dreary, backwater neighborhood they’d grown up in. Now that millions had turned to billions, the Mavericks wanted to buy them a better and bigger house. But Susan and Bob insisted this was their dream home.

Now it would be the dream setting for Harper and Will’s wedding.

No one had noticed Evan’s arrival yet as he hung back, watching his foster family. For the past twenty-five years, they’d been a tight unit, going back to when they were kids out in the schoolyard. None of their childhoods had been innocent, and they’d each had their fair share of scars—both physical and emotional—by the time they left Susan and Bob’s home and headed out to conquer the world.

But only Evan had made the mistake of marrying the wrong woman.

Damn it, he’d already lost enough time over her—including the month he’d just spent in isolation in Europe beating himself up over his mistakes. It was long past time to move forward.

God, he’d missed his family and friends. All the people who were closer to him than blood. Closer than the wife he’d thought loved him.

Harper and Will would be married tomorrow, on New Year’s Eve, and tonight was the cusp of a new life for them. No matter how badly his life had imploded, he would never miss their wedding.

Harper was radiant in a burgundy dress that made everything about her shine—Will’s eyes certainly followed her everywhere she moved. He lit up with each of her smiles, every time she laughed. Harper’s brother, Jeremy, circled like a satellite, his usual enthusiastic, joyful self.

Sebastian Montgomery and his fiancĂ©e, Charlie Ballard, flanked her mother, Francine, who was perched in a wing chair. Francine’s lined face beamed with happiness—she and Charlie were a perfect addition to the Mavericks. Sebastian’s hand stroked over Charlie’s red hair, and she leaned into his touch.

Matt Tremont sat beside them, one hand on his son’s back, the other around the waist of his girlfriend, Ari Jones. Evan’s chest tightened at the sight of little Noah, who was almost six now, in Ari’s arms. Evan had planned to have his own kids by now, his hope growing with every passing year for the miracle of a healthy baby. Only to finally discover the horrible truth, a month ago, about why that had never come to be…

He put the brakes on the runaway locomotive of his thoughts. He’d deliberately left his raw, battered emotions behind after his European travels. From here on out, he was moving full steam ahead into a new world unmarked by his past.

Evan Collins had started over more than once in his life.

This time he vowed to get it right.

Thankfully, his friends had already gotten it completely right. Will had found his perfect match in Harper. Evan felt Sebastian’s joy in being with Charlie and was ecstatic that Noah now had a brand-new mother in Ari. Not for one minute would Evan let his own loss tarnish this celebration.

There had been so many moments during the last month when he’d wanted to punch in Will’s number, or Susan’s, or Matt’s, or God help him, call all his friends at once. To bare his soul. To tell them everything. And yet, in answer to all their queries after telling them a month ago that he was divorcing Whitney, the most he’d managed was a single curt text saying he was doing fine.

At least he’d sent them a response. Whitney’s sister, Paige, had reached out to him too.

Whitney just told me everything. I know you must be in shock right now. Call me as soon as you’re up to it.

But he hadn’t gotten to that point, not knowing what to say or how to say it. So he hadn’t replied at all, ignoring not only her texts, but her emails and phone calls as well.

Evan’s gut clenched as he realized Paige was nowhere to be seen tonight, as though she no longer felt welcome now that Evan and her sister had split up. As if she actually believed she was the “hanger-on” Whitney had always called her. He’d never felt that way about Paige. No one had.

At the very least, thank God Whitney hadn’t shown up. She’d been on the invitation they’d received before their marriage imploded, and he knew all too well how much she would relish causing her own special brand of trouble at the wedding.

At last, Daniel turned and spotted him. Evan could easily read the emotions on his friend’s face—shock, concern, maybe even a little anger. In a split second, however, it all disappeared beneath Daniel’s smile of welcome.

The Mavericks always accepted each other unconditionally. They didn’t take crap, but at the same time, they understood when a guy had to work things out on his own. And Evan swore that he had worked out all his emotions about Whitney. Even if it had taken a brutally lonely month spent halfway around the globe.

Separating from the group laughing at one of Bob’s hilarious stories, Daniel headed his way. “Glad you made it for the wedding.” He gave Evan a quick, hard hug.

Despite owning a home improvement retail conglomerate and hosting a DIY TV show, Daniel Spencer was the most muscular of the bunch. Making boatloads of money had never gotten in the way of his outdoor activities, which included personally building a cabin in Lake Tahoe.

“Glad to be here.” Evan glanced at Harper and Will. “I wouldn’t miss the wedding.”

“Some of us had our doubts. But we all know it’s been a rough month.”

Rough was an understatement. Evan’s mission in Europe had been about more than visiting his subsidiaries in London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, and Stockholm. The arms of The Collins Group, his investment corporation, reached out globally, and he believed in hiring local expertise. After all, they knew the markets, the economies, the politics, all of which affected investment decisions, and those people were the best at keeping him fully informed. He’d been determined to work himself out of the dark pit he’d fallen into when he’d learned the truth about the full extent of Whitney’s betrayal. At first, he’d fermented in that dark place, hating Whitney, hating himself for not seeing the truth. But now he refused to keep handing her that power over him, not when he’d just come home to his family again.

“It’s over now,” Evan said. “I’m moving on.”

Daniel smiled wide. “Sure you are.” But his next words belied the easy smile. “Need to talk? One on one?”

Evan drank in the laughter in the room before answering. “No.” He didn’t want to destroy the homecoming. Didn’t want to plunge back into darkness either. “I’m fine.”

Daniel nodded, and for a moment, Evan thought his friend might let it go at that. Until he added, “We’re here if you change your mind.”

Thank God for friends. They had always been there, since he was a skinny ten-year-old. They stood up for each other then and now. He knew they all thought he was better off without Whitney, that none of his friends ever really liked her. Evan was the one who’d made excuses for her behavior, who’d told himself that the Mavericks didn’t really know her.

Only to find out that he was the one who hadn’t known his wife.

Not at all.

Across the room, Susan laughed delightedly as Bob gave the punch line to his joke. They always laughed together—not at each other, but with each other. Over Bob’s shoulder, Susan finally saw Evan, her features freezing for a moment with deep motherly concern.

She whispered something to Bob, and he immediately pivoted. As if their moves were a signal to the rest of the group, the conversation fell silent.

Susan was soon enveloping Evan in a hug. He was transported back to childhood, to the heat of Susan and Bob’s kitchen, to the warmth generated by the unconditional love she and Bob showered on all the Mavericks. The Spencers had taken them in, fostered them, treated them like their own sons, giving them the same love they’d given to Daniel and his sister, Lyssa. In Susan and Bob’s house, there was always more than enough love to go around.

“I missed you, honey.”

“Missed you too,” he answered as he hugged her back, not wanting to let her go.

Bob knuckled his head, and Sebastian punched his arm lightly. “Dude, I knew you wouldn’t miss the food.”

Evan clapped his friend on the back. “It’s Matt who’s all about the food.”

Matt snorted. “Give me a break. Daniel’s the free-food king.”

As they all laughed, Evan’s heart clenched tight again. Only, this time it wasn’t out of pain—it was because he no longer had a doubt in his head or his heart or his gut that he’d been right to come home.

Noah squirmed out of Ari’s grip and launched himself at Evan. He scooped up Matt’s son, burying his face in Noah’s blond curls as the boy chattered excitedly. “I swam the pool end to end five times without stopping. It must be a whole mile.”

“You’re a superstar,” he said, giving Noah a high five before putting him back down on the floor so he could run off to play with Jeremy.

Turning to Ari, Evan asked, “Where’s your brother?” Evan had met Gideon only once, at Thanksgiving. The guy was enigmatic, having recently come back into Ari’s life after spending seven years in the military, and another nine years working construction all over the country. Evan wasn’t sure he trusted him, and he worried about Ari because of it.

“Gideon was so grateful for Harper and Will’s invitation to the wedding,” Ari replied, “but he wasn’t able to get out of work to come.” Evan knew that Daniel would have given him the time off, but he didn’t refute her.

The front door opened, and seconds later, a snow-dusted woman threw herself at him. Lyssa, Daniel’s sister, had always been a handful. She was the kid sister he’d never had, a toddler when he’d moved in with Susan and Bob a couple of years after his mother ran off. All the Mavericks felt like they’d raised her—and they would go to any length to protect her.

“You big lug. Where have you been this past month?” She smacked a hand on his chest. “I desperately needed to talk to you because—” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial murmur. “—I hate to admit it, but I detest my job. You’re my financial wizard, so I know you’ll give me good advice.”

“I’ll help you out any way I can,” he promised.

“Thank you,” she said, giving him one of her sunny smiles as she let him go. “I definitely need a sage old man’s advice.”

Lyssa loved to needle him about their ten-year age difference. And the truth was that he did feel incredibly old. The last month had aged him. Hell, the last couple of years had.

Working to keep the bleak thoughts from his face—and wipe them from his mind—he turned to Will next and pumped his friend’s hand, then pulled Harper into a hug. “You’re radiant, Harper. The perfect bride-to-be.”

She smiled, her cheeks pinkening. “Thank you, Evan.” Concern flashed in her eyes, just as it had in Susan’s, but thankfully, before she could press him on how he was doing, Susan guided him into the living room.

“Have you eaten? Do you need something to drink?”

“I’m fine,” he said, his constant refrain. “And I need to say hello to this lovely lady.” He hunkered down by Francine Ballard’s chair to give her a hug and let her know how happy he was to see her again.

Charlie’s mother’s fingers were gnarled with arthritis, her legs shackled in braces, and getting up and down quickly was hard work. But she still walked a mile a day.

If she could keep going, keep moving forward, so could he.

Evan’s family was full of smiles. Hugs. Unconditional love. But he could see that they were also walking on glass, with no one pushing. No one prodding. No one demanding to know how he could have left for a month with nothing more than a text to Susan, Bob, and the other Mavericks.

Getting divorced. I’m heading out to visit my European offices. I’ll be back for the wedding.

He’d answered their shocked and concerned texts with his new stock phrase, I’m fine. And then he’d gone dark.

“Honey, you must be starved after your long trip here.” Susan signaled him with a wave into the dining room. The sideboard was set with a spread of appetizers, casseroles, and salads. “Let me get you something to eat.” She loaded up a plate with his favorite dishes, then sat beside him at the dining room table. “Will insisted I use a caterer for the rehearsal dinner. And the wedding too. He said he didn’t want me exhausting myself with all the cooking. I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, but the food is good, don’t you think?”

“This curry rice is mouthwatering.” He wasn’t hungry, but he ate for Susan.

“You’ve lost weight.” She frowned in concern again. “How are you really doing, honey? We’ve all been so worried.” The Maverick chatter carried through the living room archway, with everyone careful not to intrude on their private moment.

“I’ve moved on. I’m not dwelling on the past. It’s over. I just needed a few weeks to figure things out, that’s all.”

She locked eyes with him for a long moment. One in which he tried not to squirm like a little kid under his mother’s all-seeing gaze. “We understand why you needed time to process what happened.” She put her hand over his, sorrow and fury mixing together on her face as she said, “Paige told us what happened. About the things Whitney did.”

He should have known Paige would spill the whole sordid tale to Susan and Bob, to the Mavericks. After all these years, she was family too—and family turned to one another when they needed help dealing with difficult issues. He should have done that too, but the deep shame of having been blind for so long to Whitney’s true nature had held him back…

He squeezed her hand. “You didn’t need to worry. You and Bob taught me to deal with the tough knocks and keep on going.”

“I have to admit you look better than I thought you would.” She shook a finger at him. “Except that you’re too skinny.”

He laughed for her, because she needed it and he wanted to make up for the worry he’d caused her. Then he made himself pick up his fork and eat a few more bites as Susan told him all about the wedding preparations. But he wasn’t really there with her.

Because no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop himself from rewinding back four weeks, far away from this warm and loving family home…


More in the series…
Breathless in Love (Will and Harper)
Reckless in Love (Sebastian and Charlie)
Fearless in Love  (Matt and Ari)
Irresistible in Love  (Evan and Paige)
Wild in Love (Daniel and… Let’s keep you guessing!) coming 2018


Check out all our current Freebies available everywhere!

She’s Gotta Be Mine is FREE! Try Book 1 of the Cottonmouth Series.





Dead to the Max, Max Starr Series, Book 1 is free!





Try Invitation to Seduction, the first book in the Open Invitation Triology for FREE!




Monday, February 13, 2017

New Release! And a Valentines Contest for you!


Contests!

Happy Valentines!

Have you read my Courtesans Tales? For this week's contest I'm offering up Bad Boy Walker Randall in The Wrong Kind of Man. And I'm teaming up with 60 fantastic authors of bad boy romances to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:  bit.ly/bad-boy-erotic

You can win books from such fabulous authors as Jasinda Wilder and Skye Warren. I absolutely adore their novels. And you might remember I did an anthology with Skye a couple of years ago. There is a host of wonderful authors in this giveaway so sign up today!

The contest opens Feb 13 and ends Feb 20! Good luck and enjoy!

New Releases!

And the next Courtesans Tale is out! The Stand-In, Book 5, is a totally sexy story about illicit desire, office romance style!

Romances to make you blush set in a glitzy, sensual world of powerful people and the courtesans they’ll pay anything to have.

In the high stakes business world, the CEO just doesn’t play around with the CFO. It’s totally unethical. Yet with every breath she takes, CEO Devon Parker wants her CFO Hunter Nash. She’s in danger of acting on her ill-advised desires, until Isabel of Courtesans comes up with the perfect solution: find a lookalike. Devon arranges a hot little interlude after office hours when she’s sure no one else will show up. She even has her courtesan call himself Hunter, and he plays the role to the hilt.

It’s absolutely perfect, satisfaction guaranteed. Except for one small detail. The real Hunter Nash is watching.

When he learns of Devon’s secret fantasy, Hunter devises his own plan to make her ditch the stand-in and take the real thing. And he has a merger of a more permanent nature in mind.

Look for The Stand-In everywhere! Just click on the title to read an excerpt!




More Courtesans Tales




Click on the titles to read excerpts!

Just for fun!

Here’s a couple of cool pictures of Pacific Grove. My mom lives down there, and I like to take a walk in the morning while she goes to the YWCA to swim!


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Try Invitation to Seduction, the first book in the Open Invitation Trilogy for FREE!




 

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