Hello my darlings! You’ll never believe it, but this post was more than a year in the making. And then, in the way things are, it happened last minute. XD [My fault :X] I want to say this is the first time Erin McCarthy has a guest at ALBTALBS, so everyone please give her a warm welcome! Don’t let her regret being here! 😉
So without further ado… our birthday girl! The lovely and talented author Erin! (Which incidentally, is her twitter handle :D)
September 13 is my birthday and while I have that natural reaction of “how in the hell has another year gone by??” I love to celebrate… who doesn’t, right? The timing is such that Shatter, book 4 in my True Believers series just released and the heroine, Kylie, is pregnant on her 21st birthday. True story, I was pregnant on my 21st birthday. While I wasn’t anything like Kylie personality-wise, I was that twenty year old puking my guts up, trying to make it to class, and watching all my friends party while I was preggers. That 21st birthday is such a milestone and I remember thinking what did it matter anyway, as I’d already reached adulthood the minute morning sickness hit and made me aware my entire life was changing. Forever. And ever. And then some.
Funny how that baby of mine is now 21 herself and all those years of birthdays have zipped by, from the time she had a raging fever at 3 and missed the preschool field trip to the pumpkin patch to when I cried at her 16th birthday party when the DJ played “Sixteen Candles.” My birthdays became less important than her birthdays and now as I celebrate my own birthday this year I am reflecting on my empty nest, a life well lived, and how with my baby grown, my books have become my babies of sorts. Well, and my dog. She is stuck to my leg as thoroughly as any self-respecting toddler.
I also have a pregnant heroine in my September 25 release, Let Me In, book three in the Blurred Lines series. I think it’s safe to say I have been thinking a lot about my own experiences at that age and infusing those intense emotions I felt into my New Adult books. So I hope that you’ll enjoy reading them knowing they’re legit and from my own experiences. I’m going to spend my weekend with my man and my cake and candles. All 42 of them. 🙂
Don’t you think I’ve forgotten the book info! 😀 (And yes, I know the post is about Shatter but … I like how Sweet looks, so don’t you think it looks nice up there?) 🙂
Kylie Warner prides herself on being optimistic, but after finding her best friend in bed with her boyfriend and flunking chemistry, her upbeat attitude has taken a dive. Even an impromptu hook-up with her sexy new chemistry tutor only brightens her mood slightly. After all, it’s not like she’ll ever see the tattooed scholar again…
While he’s a whiz at complex equations, Jonathon Kadisch has trouble when it comes to figuring out women. So when Kylie tells him that she’s pregnant after their night of passion, he’s at a complete loss. He’s prepared to be a good father—unlike his own deadbeat dad—but he’s less prepared to fall for the genuine and alluring blonde bearing his child.
With emotions running high, Kylie wonders if Jonathon’s devotion is out of growing love or looming obligation. And when heartbreak threatens to tear them apart, Jonathon will have to fight for the only girl who’s ever made him feel whole…
And remember to wish Erin a very happy birthday! <3 … Also you should be nice to her cuz she very well may be a vampire. <.< 42. Pft. Clearly she is aging in reverse. You could also give Erin the birthday present of ordering her newest book here! 😉
Valerie Bowman‘s birthday is June 28th! YAY BIRTHDAYS! She’s sharing an exclusive excerpt with us today, because it’s JUNE. And that means BIRTHDAY MONTH. Which means Thursdays masquerade as Tuesdays. Because I can.
Anyway, the excerpt.
Miss Frances Birmingham has set her cap for the dashing Mr. Charles Holloway. She and her best friend, Annie, have the most clever idea. They’ve arranged a bachelor auction for charity. The proceeds will go to the Royal Society for the Humane Treatment of Animals and the winners will be escorted to the most talked-about ball of the Season by their bachelor of choice. When Frances makes a bid for Charlie, will one fun night’s amusement turn into a lifetime of love?
Excerpt set up: Through a set of circumstances and hijinks, Frances ends up with the mistaken belief that Charlie is, ahem, light in the instep. When Charlie discovers she believes that about him, he intends to set the record straight but not until Frances (who’s been clued in finally by her best friend Annie) has a bit of fun with him first. (wink)
Charlie spent the entire next day attempting to get Frances alone to explain the truth to her. He had no real idea how he’d broach the topic once he got the chance, but he intended to be blunt and quick about it. The sooner she discovered he did indeed prefer women—her, actually—the better. It was suddenly of utmost importance for her to know.
But every time he so much as broached the topic of speaking with her, she made an excuse about helping Annie and Lily with the wedding preparations and nearly ran from him. He couldn’t blame her. She was obviously still uncomfortable after his deplorable behavior last night. And she was here, staying with Annie, to help her friend. It was exceedingly rude of him to try to take any more of her time. But try he did, in between bouts of drinking to his brother’s impending nuptials in the study. The wedding was in a matter of days, and Charlie intended to stay by his brother’s side through it. As a result, by the end of the evening, Charlie had had a bit too much too drink.
The ladies retired soon after dinner, and it was that bit too much that convinced Charlie it was a good idea to sneak up to Frances’s room and tell her the truth. The ladies would be leaving the day after tomorrow for Ashbourne Manor for the final wedding preparations, and Charlie wouldn’t see Frances again until the wedding.
He downed the last of his brandy, excused himself from the two other men in the study, and took the stairs up to the bedchambers two at a time. He rapped only once upon the door before it swung wide, and he stalked into Frances’s bedchamber.
* * *
Frances and Annie had carefully orchestrated their retirement from the dining room tonight. Claiming exhaustion, both women had gone straight up to bed. Charlie well knew they were leaving for Ashbourne Manor soon. He’d been attempting to get Frances alone all day, and she’d successfully eluded him. She’d been half afraid he’d just out with it in the middle of the drawing room full of mixed company and declare himself partial to women right then and there. Thankfully she’d managed to avoid him, and now she’d left him little choice but to come up to her room and confront her.
Right on time, she thought when the knock sounded on the door.
“Come in,” she called and the door swung wide. Charlie stalked toward her, thrilling her a little.
Indecent to have this man in her bedchamber? Absolutely.
Welcome? Oh, yes.
“Wait. You must listen to me.”
The look of determination in his dark eyes made Frances doubt her course for a moment, but she quickly rallied her confidence. “No. You must listen to me first,” she said with as much conviction as she could muster.
Charlie snapped his mouth shut. He was obviously impatient to speak, but she’d insisted, and he was a gentleman.
“First, be a dear and help me with this.” She turned her back to him and presented the buttons of her gown.
“Wait. What?” His voice shook a bit.
“Unbutton me, please?” She was thankful she was turned away from him so he couldn’t see the look of pure glee that was surely pinned to her face, although she was also a bit disappointed that she couldn’t see the shocked expression on his.
Frances gave a showy sigh and tapped her foot impatiently. “I won’t argue that it’s not exactly proper for you to be in my bedchamber, Charlie, but you’ve come here, and I can’t very well call Mary to help me while you’re here, and my stays are pinching me something awful tonight.”
Charlie’s voice faltered. “But I—”
She still didn’t turn to face him but secretly smiled to herself. “Besides,” she added for good measure, “let’s not pretend. We both know this is hardly tempting to you, is it, Charlie?”
She could nearly hear his brain working. He was thinking, all right. Thinking about his options. He could either tell her immediately what he’d come here to say, in which case undressing her was out of the question, or he could play along with her little game and perhaps get an eyeful. A gentleman would tell the truth immediately. But an aroused, tempted gentleman? What would he do? She smiled to herself. She was about to find out.
Her answer came when Charlie’s warm, deft fingers began unbuttoning the back of her gown.
I wanted to thank Lime for having me on the blog today and give a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout out to her! We share the best birthday, ever, JUNE 28th! I believe Henry VIII shares the day with us as well. Hmm. Not sure what to think about that. This year on my birthday, I will be going to the spa, eating strawberry cupcakes, reading magazines, and generally doing whatever I like. Pure bliss. Lime, I trust you’ll be having similar good times! So, happy birthday to both of us and I hope you all enjoy my teaser post!
Awww, isn’t she sweet? <3 Valerie also sent along an author bio, but you’ve seen it before, as she’s been super cool and visited us at ALBTALBS before. See? So feel free to check her out and her other awesome excerpts and posts!
Valerie is giving away one copy of this e-novella (A Secret Affair). 🙂 So wish this generous girl a happy birthday!
Hello hello hello! It’s Tuesday! And it’s June! When means we have a GA&AG feature! And today I snagged a birthday girl, as you see! Yes! Jill Sorenson is here and she asked for an ALBTALBS author interview. You know the deal.
1. What is one question you always wish as an author people would ask but nobody ever does?
I don’t know! My least favorite question is “Where do you get your ideas?” because it’s hard to explain.
2. What was the first book you remember reading as a kid? What was your favorite childhood book?
I remember reading the Laura Ingalls-Wilder series. Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins was my favorite.
3. If you could switch places with someone for 72 hours, whose life would you want to live?
Another hard one! I don’t want to be anyone else. It would be like cheating.
4. What’s the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you at school? How about at a conference or author/reader event?
I fell down a set of stairs at my community college. Conferences are just one embarrassing moment after another. I once asked a pair of sisters if they were mother & daughter. I also told Sherry Thomas I didn’t know what “Luddite” meant.
5. How do you feel about the dentist? What about clowns?
I hate going to the dentist because I feel trapped in the chair. Clowns don’t bother me.
6. What’s the best admonishment your mom ever gave you, or that you’ve ever given a kid? e.g. if you make that face it’ll freeze like that. or… if you walk from the kitchen to the table w/ a fork in your mouth you’ll stab yourself through the throat and die.
This isn’t an admonishment, but I remember my mom telling me that a man who hits a woman once will do it again.
7. What would you put in your ideal candy bar?
Dark chocolate and toffee.
8. What was your first job? Your most interesting one?
My first job was a feeding assistant at a nursing home when I was 14. I’ve had plenty of interesting jobs… veterinary assistant, sports park supervisor, English language development teacher.
9. What is your [secret] plan for world domination?
Write slow, share unpopular opinions, forget to do promo.
10. What are your five most prized possessions?
I really don’t own anything of great value. I treasure my laptop and I like my kindle.
11. Which would you prefer? Never having to tweeze/brow shape for the rest of your life, or not have to cut your fingernails, or toe nails?
I’d rather give up shaving my legs.
12. Imagine you had to take on a warrior from Deadliest Warrior. Who would you fight, and why?
Is there a dance-off warrior? I’ve got some mean dance moves.
13. What author promo has been the most effective for you? What do you think you’ll try next?
I’ll tell you this much: doing nothing is not effective. I might try creating a parody sock puppet account for J.S. Sockenson, Esquire. Anything that involves goofing off on twitter is my kind of promo. Vagina.
Annnd because it’s my birthday bash month. 😀
14. What is something awesome that has to do with the number 2, or 20s. Either something that happened to you in your 20s, a 20th book milestone, etc.
I have two daughters.
15. What’s the best birthday present you’ve ever received? What about the best birthday present you’ve ever given? How would your ideal birthday go?
I’m terrible with gifts! I once gave my husband a guitar book he really wanted that was out of print. My ideal birthday would include some kind of vacation. I’d rather go somewhere than get something.
So everyone, wish Jill a very happy birthday. She also loves the word “vagina” so my challenge is to involve that somehow. Like, “Jill, I hope you have the most vagical birthday ever!” 😉 And also, feel free to ask her any question. The crazier the better. Let’s get her to spill some secrets. 😀
Remember! There are two copies of this book up for grabs! You definitely want your hands on it – there’s been a lot of positive buzz.
My friends! Guess what?! Today is Tori’s birthday! Yes, @smexys_sidekick herself!) I’m so excited and I love this post! (And it’s also Danielle Kendall and Brianna (TBV)’s birthday too!) However, I only pounced on one of them. For today. 😀 So yes. I put the birthday girl to work. She agreed, ok?!?!
Birthdays, Mrs. Beasley, and Ivory Soap
After I turned 40, I have stopped celebrating birthdays. I like to take the day to something I want to do or rather, what the kid thinks I want to do. When Limecello asked me if I wanted to post on her birthday post I was thrilled. I started thinking about birthdays and I was reminded of a story my mom STILL loves to tell and I enjoy telling.
Growing up, I was a hellion. I didn’t mean to be bad but I had a lot of energy and my mama said I was much too smart for my own good. lol Trouble didn’t find me…I actively looked for it.
For my 4th birthday I decided that I wanted a Mrs. Beasley doll. Nothing else would do.
My birthday dawned bright and beautiful. I’m a summer baby and June in Indiana is about as good as it can get. So excited, I sat down and bounced my way through breakfast. My mom said I talked a mile a minute-all about Mrs. Beasley. After committing some mild misdemeanors (apparently I decided that our goldfish Goldie and Hawn wanted to visit the ocean via the toilet, our basement stairs were perfect for box sledding, and I needed a birthday haircut) it was BIRTHDAY TIME!!!!!
My mom dressed me in my favorite flag overalls and matching striped t shirt. Don’t judge, it was 1974. Newly cut hair was snapped into tiny stubby ponytails, and we gathered around the cake. As everyone began to sing Happy Birthday my mama says I waved my hands around and said, “No, no, no. No cake. I want Mrs. Beasley.” My mama, being the awesomelicious person she is, handed me my fondest dream come true. Mrs. Beasley. I was in HEAVEN. She was beautiful. She talked and her clothes came off. w00T!
Now, my bestest friend in the whole wide world at that time was Jimmy Kowalski. He was 5 and my on and off boyfriend depending on what flavor of ice cream his mom had that week. Jimmy and I shared everything, so I suspect he thought Mrs. Beasley was no different. Poor Jimmy. He learned the hard way about women and sharing that day.
Everyone wanted to play with Mrs. Beasley and we were all happy until mama found out I was charging all the kids a quarter to hold her for 10 minutes (which in 4 yr old time was about 2 seconds). So she sent us outside to play and give her some peace and quiet. Now this part I remember like it was yesterday. We were all playing on the swing set when Jimmy came up and rudely snatched Mrs. Beasley out of my hands. I guess he was cheesed because I wasn’t paying him any never mind. So there he was, running around me in circles, swinging Mrs. Beasley over his head calling me a doll playing poopyhead. The nerve, right? When my mama stuck her head out to see what the fuss was about she heard me say, clear as day, “Give me back Mrs. Beasley you god d*$#m son of a b&^*h.” *thud* You could have heard a pin drop. Now me, not having an ounce of self preservation, repeated word for word what I said when my mama asked me what I had just said. Then I walked over snatched my doll back and socked Jimmy in the nose.
Jimmy squealed and ran home. Of course I got in a load of trouble. My mama didn’t believe in spankings but she believed in the gospel according to Ivory. Ivory soap. To this day I cannot even smell it without my mouth watering and that nasty taste drifting across on my tongue. *shudder* After a good old fashioned mouth scrubbing and lecture, my mama frog marched me to Jimmy’s house to apologise.
Did I apologise?
Yes, I did. I told him I was sorry I punched him in the nose but he was never to touch my god d*$#m doll again. After another communion with Ivory soap, my mama sat me down and asked if I understood WHY I was getting a mouth full of Ivory instead of cake and going to bed early.
I replied, “Yes. Because that son of a b&^*h Jimmy wouldn’t leave my god d*$#m doll alone.”
I don’t think it was long after that before my mama started having little wine “pick me ups” during the day.
Come on – that was hilarious. So wish the birthday girl[s] a very happy, special day, with perhaps less interesting children, and more with the wine, yes? ;D
Oh and specifically – remember to wish Tori a very happy goddamn birthday, okay?!
Hi friends! Today I convinced fabulous author Carolyn Jewel to visit with us on her birthday! I absolutely adore birthdays, so enjoy celebrating them whenever I can, and however I can! She even wrote a post for us!
Today is my birthday. Yay me! There was a long stretch during which I did not want anyone to know when my birthday was. I went to great lengths to avoid telling anyone when my birthday was. I hated the fuss. I did not want the attention. I think my head was not screwed on right. A few years ago I started thinking more deeply about my mother, an extraordinary woman, but also not very happy and why with five grown children, all of whom are college graduates and living happy successful lives, she was unable to accept her role in our life success. I’ll skip over the pop-pyschology and simply say that it occurred to me that I had internalized many of her most frustrating traits.
One of my responses to that was to try to change my outlook where I could, and one of them involves birthdays.
Birthdays are fun. Office-worker sorts love an interruption for cake and maybe even ice cream. If you have family who love you, they, too, like to celebrate with you. There’s cake!!! There’s even maybe presents, and even if there aren’t, there are good wishes, and that is fun. It makes people smile. I realized I enjoy wishing other people a happy birthday. So why, why??!?! would I actively avoid birthday wishes from others?
So, if the subject comes up and someone wants to know about birthdays, I don’t mumble or refuse to answer. I deal with it. I let my friends celebrate with and for me. And among friends and family, let me tell you, there is often cake involved. This is a decided bonus.
Today is my birthday, and I will be smiling from time to time because the alternative to birthdays is …. dim.
I like chocolate cake, but I admit to a decided fondness for a really good yellow cake. With chocolate frosting. What’s your favorite kind of cake?
I’ll send three commenters a copy of my current paranormal release, My Darkest Passion. (Digital, you can tell me what file version you prefer.) There’s no birthday in it, but now I’m thinking there should be one in the next book.
Have you ever read Carolyn Jewel before? Do you prefer historical romances or paranormal romances? Also? REMEMBER TO WISH CAROLYN THE HAPPIEST AND BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! (Yes, allcaps.)
Hello my lovelies! (And Happy [Early] Easter to all of you who celebrate it!) Guess what else? Today is also Priscilla (who for some unknown reason I always want to call “Patricia” :\) Shay’s special day! She’s finally 12, so welcome our little preteen! (I kid, but yeah – I won’t mention her age cuz it might make some of you dislike her. ;))
As you know, I looooooooooooove birthdays! (The highest of ironies since mine is always so awful. But that’s ok – I’m an eternal birthday optimist!) And all the more reason to celebrate everyone else’s! So! Without further ado, a message from the birthday girl! (Yes, I did get Priscilla to come write a post on her day! You’ll see why it’s especially fitting in her case. <3)
Birthdays: Celebrating Others
Hellooo out there!
I want to say today is a very special day…but we (my family and I) have never put any particular emphasis on it. In fact, if someone (or, nowadays, Facebook) doesn’t remind me I usually forget.
What day is it?
Don’t get me wrong. We celebrate birthdays…just not in the conventional sense.
My family has never been big on the *showering-your-kid-with presents for a pretty simple reason: We didn’t have the money.
(*Please note, I have nothing against showering your kids with gifts. If you have it, by all means! I sure intend to do it if I have children someday. Also, I was not devoid of presents as a child; it simply was not the focal point.)
I was born in Guyana (the only English-speaking country in South America) and we emigrated to America when I was five years old. Like every other family just starting out, we didn’t have much. Any and all money that was made paid the bills. They didn’t buy McDonald’s, candy from the supermarket, or a new toy for Christmas. They paid the rent, the electric bill, the phone bill, etc.
The kids at school would show up every day with their new dolls or shoes or backpack. I nodded, smiled, and congratulated them. It will sound odd, but I was genuinely happy for them. I wasn’t secretly jealous or try to steal their things.
Why? Was I a body-switched alien child who didn’t experience basic emotions?
AM I A ROBOT?!
For the five years that I was in Guyana, for every holiday or birthday my mom would cook tons and tons of food, my dad would pack it and us into his little blue car and drive to the local orphanage.
(To the left is a picture of Priscilla’s family… sans Priscilla!) The orphanages in Guyana are a little different. For one, Guyana still has orphanages. America is now on the Foster Care system and orphanages have become obsolete (think Samantha: An American Girl Holiday). Two, the orphanages aren’t only for children who have lost their parents or have no family. Majority of the children in the orphanages (there is a boys orphanage and a girls orphanage) are there because even though their parents are alive, they can’t afford to take care of the children. Rather than abandon to child on the street, they deliver the child to the orphanage where he or she will be taken care of, educated, and given a better chance at life.
Did I understand all of that at three? No.
However, when we arrived with the food, we didn’t just drop it off and leave. My parents would talk to the adults while I played with the kids. We would spend all day there. And this wasn’t a once a year or lifetime thing. Like I said, every birthday or major holiday my mom cooked. LOTS.
(A little secret, I’ve wanted to adopt a child since I was three years old. I guess you can say I’ve wanted to be a mother before I even know how to write.)
In high school, I volunteered at nursing homes and community centers, in college I organized a fundraiser to keep a bookstore open, and last year (into the beginning of this year) Jodi Meadows and I hosted a Knitting for Charity. Looking back, I realize I’ve been involved in a charity of some sort for most of my life and they have been charities I have to be involved in. I haven’t done it because it’s expected of me or because I want to look good for others. It’s just something that’s engrained in me.
Don’t get me wrong, last week I DID ask my mother what she’s getting me for my birthday. (Mommy did not reply.) Whenever people ask me what I want, I have the simplest answers. Since I turned 16, the only thing I’ve asked of my parents is for flowers (a different color each year). Although, this year I stepped it up and want to go to dinner and see the Cherry Blossom Trees in Washington D.C. 😉 This’ll have to wait until next week, however, since I’m working at an Easter Egg Hunt today!
How do you celebrate your birthday? Also, does anyone have any suggestions for this year’s good-will event?
Bio: She is fascinated with all things historical and the only way she can explain it is by claiming she was – clearly – born in the wrong century. (Although, she has been dabbling in the Paranormal and Young Adult.) She holds a B.A. in English: Creative Writing, Honors (with a minor in History) and currently lives in New York pursing a M.A. in History. She is also a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America). When not writing she can be found in a corner crafting, drawing, or baking.
I also asked Priscilla if she wanted to say anything to all of you or make any sort of request. (I think people should get what they want on their birthday, yes?) So this is what she added. 🙂
One thing the orphanage and many people I speak to ask for are more books. If anyone is interested, there is the ProLiteracy Worldwide, an international charity that support programs to help adult learn to read and write. RWA holds a “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing every year at the national conference (this year in Georgia) and has raised over $700,000 for literacy organizations. If you are so inclines, you can donate your time at their local literacy organization (find yours here) or if you’re able to, a financial donation.
YOU! GUYS!!! I don’t know if you know, but I absolutely adore birthdays! As such, I saw that today is Stephanie Tyler‘s birthday so I emailed her a while ago asking her to visit us at ALBTALBS — and she agreed! *Squee!* You don’t really want to hear from me though, so heeeeere’s Stephanie!
Limecello was nice enough to invite me to share a teaser from my upcoming Romantic Suspense called Surrender that comes out April 2nd. It’s the first in my new Section 8 series, and since today’s my birthday, it makes it that much more of a celebration!
Desperate, fearless, and hunted.
For ex-Navy SEAL Dare O’Rourke, Section 8 was legendary. The son of one its missing members, he grew up in the shadow of its secrets. All he knew was that it was a cabal of operatives discharged from branches of the military and reassigned to extremely dangerous, off-the-books international missions. And their handler, who answered only to the president, was as shrouded in mystery as the missions themselves.
Nothing can stop them. Nothing can break them.
Now, the handler of Section 8 has given extreme orders: kill any remaining members, along with their families. It’s then that Dare makes a startling discovery: the existence of a long-lost half sister named Avery he was never meant to meet. Determined to fight for their lives and find their missing father, Dare and Avery bring together the last members of Section 8 for one last mission: to avenge their families, and to survive.
I love starting a new series – they’re all connected, because in my mind all these men especially know one another from the military or black ops world. So Lonely is the Night, which is Shadow Force #5, leads directly into Surrender. Today, I’d love to give you all an opportunity to win an eCopy of Surrender. I’ll pick two winners from the commenters—all you have to do is talk a little bit about whether or not you like love triangles in your books.
Below, I’ve also given you a chapter from Surrender – it’s focused on Avery, who’s Dare’s half sister and Key, who becomes an important part of Section 8. This is an exclusive excerpt, picked specially for Limecello 🙂
Teaser from Chapter 11 of Surrender by Stephanie Tyler
Gunner had more private tattoo appointments coming in, and so he left Avery upstairs, alone and restless. She nursed the beer he’d left for her as she stared out across the small balcony. She’d opened the French doors enough to hear the music floating in, noted the bar across the alleyway and decided that she’d be safe enough there.
It was time to try out her new look anyway. Cops didn’t lay in wait in college bars looking for America’s most wanted, and the assassins themselves wouldn’t make a move in the crowd. If there were more, and if they’d followed her.
She couldn’t handle being a prisoner any longer.
There was the small matter of the alleyway itself, but it appeared to be a nicely crowded pathway to the bar. She climbed down the fire escape easily after pulling on a tank top and sandals and followed the groups of laughing people.
The heat, the bodies, the music—all of it came together in one giant cacophonous swell that carried her into the bar with the rest of the revelers.
She wondered if it was always like this on week- ends or if she’d just gotten lucky. Ordered a drink and swayed a little bit to the music. Turning down an offer to dance was easy enough the first time, but gradually the men began to get more persistent.
“Look, I just want to hang out here,” she told the guy who wouldn’t let go of her wrist. She finally pushed at his shoulder hard enough that he was momentarily stunned.
Defending herself was going to get old. She couldn’t draw so much attention to herself, and she would if she continued to kick this guy’s ass.
As she began to back away again, he lunged. And then he disappeared, replaced by a man who had a golden smile and an easy air, although she suspected there wasn’t anything truly easy about him.
He’d taken the man out without breaking stride. Eventually, the bouncers would pour the pest out onto the sidewalk, but for now, he weaved into the crowd.
“You were doing all right.”
“Then why’d you step in?” she called above the din.
“If you were gonna wrestle, I wanted it to be with me.” His grin disarmed her. The thought of being caught in his stronghold made her blood run warm. Two days in New Orleans and two men had given her this reaction; no one should come to this city without some kind of chaperone or chastity belt. “You okay, chère?”
The man’s dialogue was authentic, came from deep inside, although there was no innocent southern farm-boy thing going on here by any stretch of the imagination.
He was blond, his hair longer than Gunner’s. His face held the scruff of several days’ worth of not shaving, and she rubbed her cheek against it lightly. He laughed, put an easy arm around her waist and bought her another shot. She accepted, told herself firmly that it was the last one. Of course, that didn’t count the famous hurricanes that were designed by their very nature to knock her flat on her ass.
“What’s your name?” she asked him finally.
“Does it really matter?” he murmured. She wanted to think it didn’t, but it did. It always would. She was a damned romantic, like her mom, no matter how she fought it, which was why she didn’t get involved. A few one-night stands were all she’d had over the past two years.
“If I said it did?” she asked, heard the husky want in her own voice.
“It’s Key.” He looked at her. “And you?”
“Glad we got that out of the way.” His mouth came down on hers, and she melted into him. She’d had the perfect amount of alcohol, and the crowd seemed to swell around her like a protective hug. She was anonymous, and for the first time in months, she felt safe.
It felt good.
Key’s tongue teased her, and she wished she could go with him somewhere . . . anywhere, but that would be stupid and she’d already taken a chance tonight.
Key pulled her into a corner, away from the masses, where she could actually hear herself think, and then she looked into his face and realized that thinking was the last think she wanted to do.
Thinking was overrated. Highly so.
As if agreeing, he gave her another slow, sure kiss that tasted like the best of everything rolled into one. His hands held her waist, his stance still somehow protective, even as his body melded to hers in a slow dance of tumbling, riotous passion, as if the two of them were completely alone rather than in this crazy bar.
But that was the beauty of this place—for all intents and purposes, they were alone. And she stopped any last semblance of reason and let insanity win out for the time being.
Of course, it wasn’t long before she realized that Key had a gun and a knife. He could be military or a merc or a bounty hunter. Or a criminal.
None of the options were good. Did he recognize her? Was this all a setup?
She didn’t think that he would need to do this much work to get her in hand. The fact that she’d literally been in his arms and technically still remained a free woman was comforting . . . and still she had to extricate—and fast.
But his touch—he held on to her like a parched man in the desert who’d found the fountain of life and wasn’t prepared to let go. In the private corner that had become theirs she was trapped between his body and the wall in the most delicious way possible. And so she let herself go, wondering if she could orgasm from the kissing and light fondling alone.
She’d been trying for her entire life to figure out Darius’s hold on her mother—why she’d hated and loved this city and that man.
New Orleans and her surroundings were the keys to everything. Avery needed to figure out how to unlock the puzzle, to make sure she never made the same mistakes her mother had made.
New Orleans could be the death of her—its rhythms seemed to be in time with her heartbeat, her soul, and that was seductive and wrong. Wrong, according to her mother, who’d thrown all caution to the wind here.
Avery could love it here, and somehow that was so very wrong. So was flirting, drinking and dancing, but she didn’t care. For the moment, she was normal.
“You’re seeing two of me, aren’t you?” He waggled a finger at her and murmured something in what she assumed to be Cajun French. “See, I don’t know what you’re saying. You might be telling me I’m the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, that’s it, sugar.”
“So . . . what do you do?” she asked, and he held up his bottle of beer and pointed to it, asking her, “What do you do?”
“For tonight, the same thing.”
“And kissing me,” he said seriously.
“Do you live here?”
“In this bar?”
“In New Orleans.”
“Nah. Just passin’ through. On a road trip with my brother.”
“What’s that consist of?”
“Mainly looking for trouble. Tonight, I found her.” He pulled her close, and she looked into those hazel eyes and something tugged at her. He was happy tonight—that wasn’t a lie—but there was a sadness underlying his expression she couldn’t deny.
She guessed everyone had secrets. Sometimes, that was reassuring to know; other times, terrifying.
“What are you thinking about, chère?” The more he drank, the thicker his accent got, but he actually seemed to gain more control with each beer, each shot. In fact, he’d probably pass as sober even if given more than a passing glance, while she felt like she might tip sideways at the slightest push.
He laughed. “Want to know all my secrets?”
“Something like that.”
“I’m an open book. So live a little—come home with me.”
“I can’t,” she told Key.
“Not gonna show me your tits?”
“You don’t have any beads.”
“I have something better than beads,” Key promised, and dammit, she believed him. She wouldn’t bring him back to Gunner’s and she
wasn’t going home with him, no matter how badly her body begged her to. And so after kissing him until she couldn’t breathe, she stroked his cheek and walked away.
“You’re really leaving me like this?” he called.
“Gives you something to look forward to,” she told him over her shoulder as she kept walking.
But Key wasn’t letting that happen. In seconds, he was on her again, kissing the back of her neck, luring her back in, and she knew she couldn’t—didn’t want to—resist. But right now that was all the same thing.
“I’m not letting you run,” he told her.
“Where are you staying?”
“Just around the corner. You’re safe with me.”
“You were in the military, weren’t you?”
Key gave her a small, slightly drunken smile and then placed a renewed interest in making sure she couldn’t resist him. And it took everything she had to do so. Granted, it took quite a while, until she was sure someone was going to tell them to get a room. They did little more than kiss, but every nerve in her body was on fire, the slow burn more arousing than fast sex could ever be.
“Gotta go, Key,” she told him. She was unsteady as she pushed away from him and walked away, out of the bar and his life, no doubt saving her from undeserved heartache.
And he let her.
Twenty minutes later, back at Gunner’s, she’d already showered to get Key’s scent off her. Her now short hair dried fast, and she lay there in the unfamiliar bed, the fan blowing on her, realizing she was still the same exact person after all.
What had she expected to change?
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