ARC Reviews


Affairs of the Heart, 15 Novels from you Favourite Authors. Blog Hop Tour + Excerpts.

Each day a group of blogs will present special excerpts from some of the books...look below for the blog hop schedule.

Name of cover designer: RENE FOLSOM Official genre of box set: ROMANCE Content warning: 18+
Contemporary Romance Box Set — Complete Stories Anthology — Hot New Release — Vacation Reading Package 15 COMPLETE NOVELS AND NOVELLAS FROM YOUR FAVORITE ROMANCE AUTHORS IN ONE PRETTY PACKAGE.
Due to mature content, situations and language, this collection is recommended for audiences 18+. Heat levels range from sensual to scorching. All works in this box set have been professionally proofed by Paper Gold Publishing, unless this service was expressly refused by the author. Some stories are written in American, and some in British English. The authors have chosen to stay true to their heritage. Includes a mix of already released and never-before seen stories, all complete works. Those books which are part of a series can be enjoyed fully without the need to read the complete series (though there is a chance you might develop story-addiction issues—for that, we apologize). Dive into summer in good company. Affairs of the Heart gives you the chance to make 15 new sets of best friends. Just think about it: 15 hot boyfriends and girlfriends you can lust after, laugh with, or shed a tear for. If there is one thing this set is brimming with is intense emotion. We guarantee you won’t be able to simply walk away, stone-cold, from this collection.
Maci strives for one thing in life—anonymity. With her writing career in full bloom, all she wants is to work in peace while concealing her true identity from the public. Though readers love the science fiction worlds she creates, Maci knows that gender stereotypes could damage her career if she is exposed as a woman.
Liam is the envy of all gamers as the lead developer for nZone Studios. Over time, he builds walls around himself, keeping people at arm’s length who only gravitate to him for his material possessions rather than who he is as a person.
With thick barriers around their hearts and their past looming in the shadows, Liam and Maci challenge each other by slowly peeling away their protective layers and seeing each other for who they really are. It doesn’t take long after their chance meeting at a coffee shop for them to become one another’s game changer.
Note: This contemporary romance novel is the first book in the Playing Games series and contains adult situations meant for ages 18+.

“Trust me, he says. You’ll be safe with me, he says.”
Amelie Watts is sick and tired of being treated like a child. She might be willowy and delicate, but she has strength of the kind that doesn’t show on the outside. Plus, she learned all she needed to know so she could cope on her own. Now, if only her big brother would finally release her inheritance! She would fly to the Bahamas and kiss the backwater she grew up in goodbye.
Jason Watts is fed up with picking up the pieces of his little sister’s life. If only she would grow up already and learn to live life without stabilizers! Her latest idea is insane, and bound to be her most enormous failure to date. But how to make her understand?
Enter Rob Tyson, incorrigible bachelor and Jason’s best friend. For a laugh, they make a bet.
Two people, a hastily acquired boat, and a tropical paradise. What could possibly go wrong?

Zaed, Sophie's American-born friend, kneels at a party to retrieve a glittering ring from the floor. Before anyone can comment, Natasha, Sophie's cousin, is shrieking 'yes, yes, I accept' to a bewildered Zaed. It's all a cosmic mistake, but things get out of hand rapidly as Zaed's father, an old friend of Natasha's father, bribes Zaed to accept Natasha's expectations and wed her. But then, Zaed and Sophie fall in love. And the huge, elaborate wedding between Zaed and Natasha, a wedding that will join two powerful families, is next week.
You don't just back out at the altar. Not in Pakistan…

James, a UK based chef, has tried to make a career with EAT-TV, but his womanizing ways aren’t what they’re looking for with their wholesome family style image. However, the producers of a new reality show about single life, The Fixer Upper, think he’s perfect. Against his wishes his agent convinces him to give it a shot. His overpriced bachelor pad is needing a mortgage payment, and he needs a job to support the tween-aged daughter that’s recently been dumped in his lap.
Margaret Dumas is control freak who has micromanaged her marriage to shambles. When she makes a deal with her mother to quit fixing her up if she’ll do this new reality show, she thinks she’s won. No more blind dates, no more friendly advice, no more “chance meetings” with her Mother’s friends’ sons. The only catch is she’s got to go on detestable reality television and expose her dating habits to a total stranger who is supposed to “fix” her and make her a dating machine. As if.
When Margaret meets James, they clash on the surface, but deep down they recognize something in the other that they want. Redemption.

My name is Alix and I am addicted to sex.
Had been for years. I thought I learned how to live a normal life, but that’s the thing about addiction, it creeps back up when you least expect it. There is no one there for me, no one I can turn to for help. Until I’m given a chance to explore a side of myself I’d always kept locked away. I was lost…until him. I can’t tell you who he is, or why he does the things he’s done. All I can say is I hope one day I behave well enough to take off the blindfold and see the man who controls my addiction. My Master.
My name is John and I am addicted to control.
I tried to deny the dominate side of my personality. I didn’t want to admit how much I enjoyed the power, how much I enjoyed causing pain. That is until the woman I’d been secretly been stalking waltzed into a BDSM club right in front of me. All bets are off. She will be mine.
Together our addictions feed off each other, fueling the fire that burns within. Until suddenly the fire is too hot to handle, burning everything in its path. The pain and scars we’d both come into our fragile relationship with are split wide open, exposing more than either of us can handle, possibly leaving nothing behind to salvage from the ashes.
**Warning: Intended for audiences 18+ due to explicit sex & vulgar language, mention of rape/abuse**

She'd been dealt too many blows to count. He'd always lived life on easy street. Are they Yin and Yang or a mistake of epic proportions?
Makeup artist Reggie Reynolds has endured a life as colorful as her ever-changing hair. After a painful childhood and a tragic adolescence, by sheer force of will, she found success – first in Hollywood, then on Broadway. Returning to her hometown offers a chance to help her aging grandfather and realize her dreams, not to mention soothe a broken heart. But even her storied past won't prepare Reggie for what happens in her next chapter.
When reporter Eddie Besson meets Reggie on a flight to New York City, he thinks he's at an all-time high-point in his cushy, perpetual-youth life. Twenty-four hours with Reggie changes Eddie's perspective. Despite the fact she doesn't want anything to do with him when he leaves, Eddie can't stop thinking about the girl from New York City long after he's gone from the Big Apple.
As Eddie's perfectly-orchestrated life falls apart, he has some tough decisions to make, with only one thing certain: there will be consequences to pay for his lackadaisical approach to adulthood. Reggie's own soul-searching reveals some painful truths, including guilt about passing judgment on the guy from Maine. When she runs into Eddie again – this time on his home turf – sparks fly and decisions must be made, choices that aren't universally well-received. Will this unlikely pair go all-in, find a way to balance the scales and live life on their own terms? Or will tragedy tear them apart for good?

What would you do if you had no place to go and no one you could trust?
Jackson Beaumont prides himself on being a nature-loving, guitar-strumming, carefree sort of guy. When the mysterious Lena Benton walks into his bar looking scared and defeated, it's not something he can ignore. He's immediately consumed by concern for her and driven by his desire to help. She's just so beautiful. So wounded.
After being shuffled from one foster home to another growing up, Lena Benton dreamt of finding her prince charming. When the captivating Troy Harington sweeps her off her feet shortly after high school graduation, she's certain she's found her happiness. Unfortunately, Troy's true colors surface shortly after their marriage and things turn ugly. Lena only has one choice. She has to leave him. She has to run...
Lena's escape has brought her to Jackson, and he clearly wants to be there for her, but can she trust anyone again after what she's gone through? And will Jackson be able to help her heal without losing his heart?

Mangled Hearts become Entangled Souls
Cade is on the road to recovery with Francesca’s love and support guiding him. His life is changing drastically, from attempting to mend the rift between he and his father, to trying to have a normal relationship with his now fiancé. Most of all, Cade must find a way to control his urges so he can be completely released from rehabilitation.
Francesca is building her law firm with the help of those she loves most, but when a close friend reveals her true feelings about Francesca's engagement, it sends her emotions into a tailspin. Through all of this, she is forced to put her feelings on the back burner for everyone else, until the anniversary of Josie’s accident rolls around. Francesca must learn to put herself first before she falls apart.
In this novella, join Cade and Francesca as they explore their relationship and begin their lives together.

Thank you for picking up this Crimson & Clover short story, SURRENDER. If you've read THE STORM AND THE DARKNESS, you will recognize pieces of this from Ana's flashback to her prom night. SURRENDER is an expanded version of that scene, painting her teenage courtship with Oz with color and context.
Having read other books in the series will provide deeper insight, but they are not required to enjoy this story. SURRENDER is the first of many Crimson & Clover Lagniappes (or, bonus stories). You can pick it up anywhere in your series journey.
I hope you enjoy this quick, lighthearted read about the joyful innocence that accompanies first love.

Andi has always been anxious about her weight and like many women, thinks that unless she is thin, she has no value.
Follow her 'misadventures' and see if this is true or will she find there are more important things that makes a person who and what they are?

Jack Austin had it all – a great home, career, and the girl of his dreams. Then one night he lost them all, thanks to his father. Now he has seventy-two hours to find a way to get back his ranch, and win the heart of the only girl he ever loved.
Katrina Mitchell was a small-town girl who had big dreams. She was the first in her family to graduate high school, and was determined to go to college. Then she met Jack and found out love did not have to come with a price. They made plans for their future, but it all came crashing down around them.
She lost more than she could ever tell anyone that night. Now Jack needs her help. Can she help him without giving away a secret she had fought so long to hide?

Leaving the Marines and returning to the Tormented Souls clubhouse to live with my brother, the president, wasn't as easy as I thought it'd be. I have too many secrets, too many scars to hide from the world. I thought the years away would've dulled the crush I've had on Ellis since I was a child. They didn't.
He's got his eye on me and nothing I say will change his mind. Not even when my boyfriend shows up and he finds out the darkest, most embarrassing secret I have. He thinks it's the only one I have, little does he know, I have a bigger, scarier one that I absolutely refuse to share.
**WARNING: CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT - Also, please don't bother reading if you think being in the Marines leaves you unfeeling and cold without the need for comfort when far away from home. Don't read this if you have problems with LOTS of sexy scenes or sex. There is vulgar language used so if that bothers you, probably best to skip this book**

A day of errands and fate were responsible for Nadia and Dillon’s paths crossing.
He asked her out, then found himself begging her to keep their first date, the date she had wanted to cancel. Five minutes of her time was all he asked for. He just wanted to see her again. They married and had a perfect storybook love.
But, when Dillon gets in a terrible car accident one morning on his way to work, Nadia’s world crumbles. Life as she knew it changed – perhaps for good.
From amnesia to a lengthy hospital stay to months of physical therapy. The stress of recovery has them questioning the state of their future together.
Will they find their happily ever after?

Joshua Elijah Griffin, IV is on his last chance. A stint in rehab and a transfer to a new school has scared him into putting his life on track. He’s determined to live up to his family’s expectations, but on the first day of class, Josh meets a girl, and he knows his father won’t approve, but in Carrington, he sees a kindred spirit. He's willing to give up everything to be with her.
Carrington Olivia Butler is ready to shine. Always in the shadows of her siblings, she goes away to college to break out of her shell. All Carrington wants is to feel special. Josh's attention is exactly what she craves, but their intense and sometimes volatile relationship is more than what she bargained for.
Josh’s demons return, and Carrington’s feelings fade, but both aren’t ready to give up hope. They give their love one last shot to survive, but hope, may not be enough.
**This book contains adult subject matter. Not intended for young readers**

When Isla Holmes’ life as a child is turned upside down and she is ripped away from her soul mate, she is forced to live a life with evil.
When Isla and her soul mate cross paths, will they find a happy ever after or will evil intervene?
ADDICT — Rachael Orman
My name is Alix and I am addicted to sex… "They say it's like going into a cloud. Floating and calm." 
Chapter One 
Four nights a week, I sat at my desk off the lobby of the five-star hotel I worked at, waiting for him. It never failed; he always showed up. 
Flipping my wrist over, I checked my watch. Almost show time. Sitting alone at my desk, I separated my legs, forcing my skirt to climb higher up my thighs. The sensation of the satin lining sliding over my nylon thigh-highs had me biting my lower lip. Excitement pulsed through me, growing with each second that passed. I was ready for him. Just like every night I knew he came in, I had slipped my panties into my purse so I was bare under my skirt. 
While I couldn’t see the front door from my office window, I didn’t need to. Every female head snapped toward the door when he arrived. He simply owned the room from the moment he appeared. From the swagger in his step to the way his observant eyes scanned the area his every gesture showed he was all he appeared to be and more. His broad shoulders, thick arms and sexy smile only added to his appeal. 
As he stepped into my view, I slid my hand under my skirt. Skimming my fingers against my bare, damp flesh, I watched as he approached the front desk. The girl behind the counter jumped to help him, flashing him a smile when he leaned his elbows against the counter. The back of his finely tailored suit stretched over his flexing muscles while he talked to her. 
From my viewpoint I could only see part of his face, but I had watched him enough to have every detail of his face memorized. The crinkle of his cheeks meant he was smiling at her. My teeth dug into my bottom lip as I remembered the times I’d been lucky enough to get a full view of that smile. My fingers dipped between my swollen, needy lips to find the hard, nerve-filled nub nestled there. 
As he shifted his feet, his slacks tightened against one thigh and his ass giving me the exact material I needed. My fingers circled and teased my clit. My eyes zeroed in on his well-manicured hands, which were resting on the counter. They were too far away to get a good look at, but it was easy to imagine it was one of those hands between my thighs. Licking my lips, I fought to keep my face passive in case anyone else happened to glance in my direction. 
His fingers were long, sensual and always well kept. Most men didn’t care about hands, but he did — I did. As he picked up the key card from the counter between two fingers and nodded at the girl behind the desk, I pushed two of my own fingers deep into my pussy. It clenched tightly around my digits as I drank in the sight of him walking. 
The top two buttons of his dress shirt were undone, with no tie, no chest hair peeking out — just smooth, muscular skin to feast upon. He strode toward the elevators - toward me. 
Thrusting my fingers, I couldn’t help but focus on the movement of his hips. Each step only accentuated the slight bounce of his cock behind his dress slacks. Not that his short, light brown hair, brilliant blue eyes or kissable lips took away from my fantasy, but it was the way even his stride was sexy — the way every single thing about him controlled the very air I breathed. 
He was my addiction. A man I’d never even spoken to. A man whose name I didn’t know. I didn’t need to know more about him. I was already in deeper than I wanted to admit. Even after three years of not giving into the urges of my addiction to sex and masturbation, there was no thought of not touching myself when I laid eyes on him. Not that he knew who I was or what I did while watching him. That was okay, though. I didn’t need to lose my job. 
When he stopped to wait for an elevator, I sped up my thrusting, brushing my thumb against my clit as I moved. Biting down on my bottom lip, I held back the moan that threatened to burst from my lips as my release grew close. Just as the orgasm crashed over me, the man lifted his head and locked eyes with me. Unable to stop my fingers, I eased the rest of my release while his eyes burned into mine. 
There was no way he could have known what I was doing, but the quirk of one eyebrow made me think differently. I had been careful, but somehow he’d caught me. 
His eyes dared me to look away, but I couldn’t. Not even when his tongue dragged over his bottom lip, heat flashing in his eyes. 
A ding signaled the elevator’s arrival and broke our semi-intimate moment. 
Turning, he stepped into the elevator, only to turn back around to watch me as the doors closed. The movement of his large hand drew my attention to the front of his slacks as he adjusted his very noticeable, hard cock. My eyes snapped back up to his to find a sexy half-smile on his face. He had done it on purpose. He wanted me to see that he was turned on, that he knew what I had done. Closing my eyes, I withdrew my hand from my skirt and took a deep, calming breath, my heart racing for an entirely different reason than it had been. When I opened my eyes, the doors were closed and the elevator had whisked away the man I dreamt about. 
Even before I could come down from the high I got from getting off, I felt shamed. It was wrong. I knew it was. I didn’t even know the man. Sure, this time had been different than the many times in the past. He’d noticed me, but I was still at work. I shouldn’t even think about sex at work, but I couldn’t stop myself. I knew as soon as I got home I would have to do it again. That’s if I could wait that long. I might take a break before I was done at work and get off in the bathroom. 
It was a compulsion. It was an addiction. The path wasn’t new to me. I’d already been through the program. I’d been ‘sober’ or ‘on the mend’ or whatever you wanted to call it for three and a half years. During that time, I had only had sex with one man. Not even masturbating during that time had been a challenge, but I’d done it. 
Everything changed when I first saw him, right after my three-year anniversary. It had started as just staring at him from across the room while thinking every naughty thing I wanted to do to a man like him. Slowly, it had progressed into what it was— out of control compulsions. At least five times a day, I got off while thinking of one person, one man. I didn’t want anyone else. No one else even made me think of sex. 
Why him? I’d thought about it many times, but in the end it didn’t matter. My body wanted his in a way that I’d never encountered in almost thirty years of my life. No matter how I tried to fight it, I gave in before I even realized it. 
Running my opposite hand through the wavy brown hair that fell to the middle of my back, I knew I needed to get my mind off him and back on work, or I would be fingering myself in the bathroom before long. The only time I ever did it at my desk was when I knew he would be around. Even though I had memorized everything about him, my orgasm was always better when I could see him. 
It had been hard not to make a sound when I’d come, his eyes taking it all in —especially knowing he’d been hard. I’m sure he knew what was I was doing — at least had some idea — or why else would he have had a hard-on? Fuck, thinking about how large his dick looked even across the room, hiding behind slacks, made my mouth water and my pussy clench. As much as women liked to think there were men walking around packing serious heat, most weren’t. Most were just average, despite what they tried to claim — I would know, from the sheer number of men I’d been with — but I knew his had definitely been big. 
Someone clearing their throat had me crossing my legs and turning my chair. In the doorway stood a man and a woman in evening wear. I waved them in to the two vacant seats on the opposite side of my desk. 
How silly of me to forget where I was, or the fact that I had an appointment due to show up. Being an event coordinator for the hotel kept me busy most days. There was always something or another that needed to be followed up with, an event to get set up, people to meet with. Thankfully, I didn’t do the weddings. I had a single staff member that worked under me and that was all she did. Weddings were dreadfully boring and I was happy to avoid having to see stupidly happy couples together when more than half of them would end up divorced and hating each other in a few years. However, during the busy season, I would have to help her out because it became more than she could handle. 
The appointment didn’t take long. We only had to go over a few final details for a birthday party being thrown for the couple’s oldest child. A huge twenty-first birthday party for a bunch of spoiled brats. I had never been so lucky to get anything half as extravagant as what they had planned for the kid and his friends, but then again, my parents didn’t have the money that these parents obviously did. 
I was almost thirty. It’d been a long time since I’d lived at home. In fact, my twenty-first had probably been the last birthday I actually celebrated. I didn’t have friends to throw me a party, which was okay since I didn’t want one anyway. Who wants to celebrate getting old? I was single, no kids, and running out of my so called ‘prime’ years. I didn’t really mind though. What would change in another ten years? Nothing. I’d probably still be at the same job and still single. People like me just didn’t get married. Sex addicts never fully recovered. It would always be something I struggled with. 
Not to mention that even imagining the fun conversation that would have to take place with a man had me groaning. Seriously, who wants to say, “I might start compulsively wanting to have sex with you or myself”? Nope, not me. It was embarrassing enough to have to deal with it on my own. The only reason I had even realized that I had an issue in the first place had been because I’d gotten fired for masturbating repeatedly at work and watching porn. Not that it had changed anything. I’d crashed after that. Completely hit rock bottom. I spent hours alone playing with myself or finding men to sleep with. That was, until my landlord threatened to evict me if I didn’t start paying rent. Sounds crazy, but addiction is addiction is addiction. I lost sight of the real world and what was considered “okay” and “normal”. Orgasms had become all that was important to me. There was no one around to help me see what my life had become, not when addiction had first taken over. There still wasn’t anyone who cared or would even notice in my life. 
I had a mother, a father and a brother around somewhere. We weren’t close. I’d go months without hearing from any of them and that was fine by me. We didn’t even get along enough to pretend to care about each other. 
The only person I had to rely on was myself, and that was how I wanted it. I didn’t get lonely. I always had something to do, somewhere to be. Mostly I worked long hours, slept a lot and vegged at home, but it wasn’t hard to find something to do on the rare occasion that I wanted to get out for a bit. It was, after all, my job to know what was happening around town so I could plan other events around and between. I didn’t care to go out and party. It was easier to stay away from temptation when I was by myself, away from sexy people and sexy thoughts — except the one person who came to me when I was at work. That was one I had a hard time escaping. Maybe that’s why I had such a hard time fighting it. 
The ding of the elevator brought me back to where I was after yet again getting lost in my thoughts. I looked up. It was the suit man, only he wasn’t in a suit. He was in a pair of sexy jeans and a tight-fitting t-shirt. Another standard for him. He always arrived in a suit, but left in a different suit or jeans a few hours later. I had no idea where he was getting clothes from, since he never had a bag of any sort with him when he arrived or left. He never had company with him either, not men nor women. 
I had closely watched him trying to figure out what his story was, but he never gave anything away. Never talked to anyone in the lobby. Never met anyone outside. It was the strangest thing. He’d come in, stay for a couple of hours, then leave in a different set of clothes, only to arrive the next night in a suit again. At some point he had to come back when I wasn’t there. I didn’t work all night. It was the only solution I could come up with, anyway. 
Many times I had debated about clocking out and staying after just to see if he came back. I had even done it one night, but after working a ten-hour shift, I only lasted two hours before I couldn’t wait any longer and had abandoned the idea. I knew it was wrong, yet the desire to know more about him was so strong, I would most likely do it. That is, if I didn’t finally get in touch with my doctor and admit that I had relapsed. I didn’t want to call him. I didn’t want to have to admit it. I knew part of his solution would be to get a different job, one where I wouldn’t have to see the man who drove me crazy. That was something I wasn’t ready to do. Seeing him was what made my mundane life a tiny bit exciting, gave me something to look forward to. 
When I looked at my life in that light, it made me realize that I really needed to get out more, needed to find something to help keep my mind occupied and away from that man. Jennifer at the front desk would probably want to go out sometime. Plus she could tell me more about the mystery man, since she was the one who always checked him in and talked to him. 
Or maybe spending time with her wouldn’t be such a good idea. Every day when I watched him, I felt myself get more drawn under his spell. It wasn’t healthy, but still I couldn’t stop myself from yearning to get closer. Knowing more. Like what his voice sounded like, what he smelled like, what the brush of his hands would feel like, the rush of his breath against my neck. I wanted it all.

She'd been dealt too many blows to count. He'd always lived life on easy street. Are they Yin and Yang or a mistake of epic proportions? “Guys are pretty stupid like that, huh? It takes us a while to get it right.” ~
Chapter One
St. Roy, Maine, twenty-two years ago...
The lunch bell rang and Mrs. Dewey told them to line up for recess. This school was very different from his old school in Seattle. At the age of six, he didn't have much experience, but he knew this wasn't the same as the Montessori school he and his older sister, Kay, had attended the last couple years. When he'd asked his mom why they weren't going to another Montessori school, she'd basically ignored him. In mom-speak, that meant it was none of his business. So far, it was only the second day of school, but Eddie hadn't made a single friend. It sucked to be the new kid. They were supposed to move at the beginning of the summer, but they had arrived the day before school started, so his mom had driven him and Kay to and from school yesterday, and then dropped them off again today. He hadn't even been on the bus yet. You'll make lots of friends, you'll see. We grew up in St. Roy and you were born there, remember? Don't worry, Mom said. Yeah. Sure. Like he had yesterday, Eddie wandered over to the balance beam and sat on the end of it. He sighed as he rested his chin on his hands, elbows on knees. Soccer practice started tonight, and that weighed on his mind. He really wanted to play soccer, but what if no one talked to him? A tiny voice said, “Excuse me. Can I get by?” Eddie looked up to see a girl with long, skinny legs, straight brown hair that skimmed her shoulders, and very pretty blue eyes. She wore a pink skirt with huge white polka dots on it. Her tank top was probably supposed to be plain pink, but it had splashes of blue and green paint on it. “Um, sure,” he replied. As he stood, she walked skillfully on the beam and turned on her toes to make the return trip. Eddie watched as she made her way back and forth. He was entranced and didn't even notice the bigger boys until one of them shoved him into the dirt. Stunned, he leaped to his feet and backed away. The boy who had shoved him must be a fourth or fifth grader, at least. He was tall with shaggy, brown hair and blue eyes. The kid looked mean even without a scowl on his face. Add a scary grimace directed at you, and the kid was terrifying. “Stay away from our sister,” he said. Eddie looked at him, confused. “Who is your sister?” “The little girl you're staring at, asshole.” “What girl?” he asked, still perplexed. “That girl,” another boy said. This one was smaller, but you could tell they were related. The kid pointed at the girl on the balance beam. “I wasn't staring at her,” Eddie said. “To hell you weren't. Watch yourself, kid,” said the big one, shoving Eddie again. “You don't want to mess with us.” “Us? Who's us?” This was Maine. They didn't have gangs in small-town Maine, did they? “You're an idiot,” replied the small one as he, too, pushed Eddie's shoulder. The kids packed a wallop and it actually hurt. “Leave him alone,” another voice said. Eddie whirled around to see a boy as big as the older kid, but this one had blond hair. He looked nothing like the other boys, so Eddie could only assume if he was related, it wasn't closely. “Stay out of it, Ricker,” Small Fry said. Eddie realized that the younger one was smaller than himself. “What are you going to do about it?” the new boy asked. “Why the hell are you defending him, anyway?” Big Boy asked, looking annoyed. “Because he's my friend,” New Boy said. Friend? Eddie didn't even know this kid. Don't admit that. Big Boy said, “You better watch your little friend, Ricker. If we see him bothering Jill or Maggie in any way, he'll pay for it.” “Yeah, yeah. You talk a big game, Pete. We both know I can flatten you in two seconds. Leave Eddie alone and I won't make you sorry you bothered him.” Big Boy grumbled, but he didn't say anything else. Clearly, this kid Ricker could beat up the older kids, because they seemed a little afraid of him. The two boys walked away. “Thanks,” Eddie said when they were out of ear shot. “How did you know my name?” “'Cause we live next door to each other and our moms are friends. You don't remember meeting me before, do you?” “Um, no.” “That's okay. I'm Josh. My mom told me you were moving next door to us. We were smaller the last time I saw you at Old Orchard Beach two summers ago. I remember you got coffee ice cream when we were at the place near the beach. I wanted to try it, and my mom said no. You gobbled it up before the rest of us had even licked half our cones.” “Oh, yeah. That was you? You're a lot bigger now. You were my size then.” “Mom says I had a growth spurt.” “Lucky me. Those bigger kids are afraid of you.” “That's 'cause I beat up their brother this summer when he said something about my sister.” “Was he our age?” “No. He's twelve, same age as your sister, Kay.” “You know Kay?” “Well, duh. I met her when I met you.” “Right. So, why were those kids being jerks to me?” “They think they're protecting Jill.” “Their sister?” “Yeah. She was sick when she was really little and almost died. Her brothers all keep a close eye on her. So do her cousins.” “How many of them are there?” “Nine that live in St. Roy. Jill has four brothers. Her cousin has five. She and Maggie are the only girls. All the boys protect them both.” “Were they serious? I didn't even do anything.” “Yep. They'll beat you up if they think you're mean to Jill or Maggie.” “All I did was stand up when she asked me to move and then I watched her walking on the beam because she was good at it.” “Rule number one, never look like you're staring at a Daigle girl unless you want a Daigle boy to kick your butt.” “Any other rules I should know here?” “Stick with me and you'll be okay.” “You're not going to beat me up, too?” The kid laughed. “Nope. I don't really like fighting. It's not any fun. I'd rather go fishing. Least then when I get dirty I don't get in trouble for it.” “You like to fish? Me, too!” “We're going up to camp this weekend. You should come.” “Do you think I could? That sounds like fun. I don't even know what camp is, but it sounds better than my boring life.” “Camp is awesome. I'm sure our parents won't mind.” “That would be cool. Hey, thanks,” Eddie said as the school bell rang to signal the end of recess. “For what?” “Trying to be my friend. I was pretty lonely.” Josh smiled and nodded. “You going to play football?” “Uh, I was going to play soccer.” “Oh. Cool. I'm playing flag football. You should try it.” “I'll talk to my mom. It might be at the same time as soccer.” “Want to sit with me on the bus?” Right. We live next door to each other. “Sure.” “Awesome! See you after school!” With that, Josh stepped into the line for his classroom and Eddie stood at the back of Mrs. Dewey's line. He didn't have any friends in his class, but at least he had one new friend at school. When he sat at his table, he turned and saw Jill sitting at the table behind him. He hadn't even noticed her before. She smiled. “I'm Jill,” she said. “Eddie.” “I know. Don't worry about my brothers. I love them, but they can be jerks.” Eddie smiled. “Thanks. You seem really nice.” “So do you,” she said and then she blushed. Mrs. Dewey quieted the class and began the afternoon lesson. Huh. Make that two friends. Maybe this place isn't so bad.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, twenty-two years ago Reggie woke with the sensation of being lifted and her sleepy eyes cracked open. Mommy's hair tickled her nose. “Mommy? Where are we going?” “Brooklyn, baby.” “Are we going to Nona and Gramp's?” “That's right.” “For Christmas?” “Something like that. Go back to sleep, okay? I'll wake you when we get there.” Reggie settled into the back seat of the car. Mommy buckled her seat belt and handed her a pillow. Leaning against the window, she watched as the old Dodge Omni rolled down their street. They passed Mrs. Moretti's house, halfway to the stop sign, and Reggie's eyes drifted closed. A yawn came first, then her eyes blinked open. Instead of the street where she lived with her mother, she saw 93rd Street, the Bay Ridge neighborhood in which her grandparents had lived their whole lives. As the Omni stopped in front of her mother's two-story, childhood home, Reggie grinned. “We're here!” she said. Her mother startled. “Jesus, Reg, I didn't realize you were awake. You scared me.” “Sorry Mommy. Look! There's Nona!” Her grandmother – called Nona because she had emigrated with her Italian family after World War II and insisted that she be allowed to retain some of her heritage – pushed open the door on the front porch. Reggie's mother opened the back door of the car. “Why don't you go in the house. I need to talk to Grammy in private, okay?” “Okay. Hi, Nona! Is Gramp inside?” “Si, Regina. He's waiting for you. Breakfast is on the table.” Reggie loved her Nona's Italian accent and she giggled. She also loved her grandfather, who made the best pancakes ever. If he was home, it must be very early. Winter mornings were so dark, it was hard to tell the time. “Caterina,” she heard Nona say as she went inside. From the kitchen, Gramp yelled, “In here, pumpkin. Got your favorites.” She kicked off her shoes by the door and ran into the kitchen, excited because when Gramp made her favorite, that meant he'd cooked chocolate chip pancakes. Sure enough, the scent of chocolate invaded her nose as soon as she neared the kitchen. Just before she stepped across the threshold, she heard her mother shouting at Nona. Her grandmother didn't shout back, but it was clear from the tone of her raised voice that the two of them were arguing. “Don't worry about them,” Gramp said, startling Reggie. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed tightly, lifting her off the ground. “How's my favorite granddaughter?” Reggie giggled. “I'm your only granddaughter, Gramp!” “Oh. So you are. Well, how's my pumpkin, then?” “Hungry,” she admitted as her tummy grumbled. “Then I guess it's a good thing I made enough pancakes for both of us, huh?” She nodded. “Did you make sausage? It smells like sausage in here, too.” “That I did, my love.” Reggie adored her grandparents. They would always call her by so many affectionate pet names. Mom never did that. “Is it a special occasion? It's not Christmas yet.” “You're here. That's a special occasion, don't you think?” he replied with a wink. She giggled again. “I love you, Gramp. You're the best.” The door of the house opened then. A few seconds later, Nona entered the kitchen, washed her hands and went back to the stove, adding more sausage to the pan before she cleaned her hands again. She pulled Reggie in for a big hug. “How's my bella?” “Hungry. I could eat a horse!” Nona laughed. “Then let's feed you.” Reggie didn't ask where her mother was. This was a ritual – each time they visited Nona's and Gramp's house, her mother left for a few hours as soon as they had arrived. She'd spend the entire trip with tense shoulders after that, and wouldn't relax until the car was leaving Brooklyn. Nona set a plate in front of her with steaming pancakes and sausage, then said, “So, tell us about school.” Ever since she'd started school, this had been how her arrival went. They talked about school and what they would do on this vacation. Gramp promised he'd take her into Rockefeller Center for ice skating and to see the tree, which thrilled Reggie. It didn't feel like Christmas if she couldn't see the giant tree and skate. An hour later, Gramp kissed Nona and Reggie goodbye, then left for his job as a construction foreman. While Nona washed the dishes, Reggie wiped them dry. After a few minutes of silence, it was hard to keep quiet. “Nona, when is Mommy coming back?” Reggie asked. She hoped it would be soon, because Gramp had said they could go see the tree tonight, and she really wanted to do that with her mom this year. Every year, her mom would either not come back in time or else she'd tell them to go without her. “She's not, Regina.” Reggie whipped her head around to look at her grandmother. “What?” “I said she is not coming back, Regina.” “Why?” Reggie asked. Her voice suddenly felt very small. “Someday, you will hear the whole story. For now, I will say that it is because you will be happier here.” “No, I won't!” Reggie screamed. “I want my mommy! You tell her to come back right now!” “She's gone, Regina. I'm so sorry, bella, but she will not be back. And don't think you can run home to Philadelphia. Caterina made it very clear that she would not be returning there.” “But my stuff is all there. Buggy and JuJu,” she began, tears rolling down her cheeks as her heart broke into a million pieces. Not only was she losing her mother, but she was losing all her cherished friends. They'd moved so many times that Reggie really hadn't made a lot of friends, and her toys comforted her each day after school and each night when she fell asleep. “Hush, now. She didn't leave your things behind. That was why we argued before she left, bella. We fought about who would bring your things into the house. Caterina packed while you were sleeping and brought them all with you. They are in your room.” Reggie's room when she came to visit had always been the one on the right side of the hallway. It had been her mother's childhood bedroom, but her mother always slept on the couch. “Is it my room now?” Reggie asked. She often had to share with her mother because they lived in apartments with friends. Or sometimes, her mom would have a boyfriend and Reggie might get her own room for a little while. “Si, Regina. For as long as you want, that will be your room. I know this is hard for you to understand. One day, we'll sit down and talk about it when you're older, I promise.” Nona's arms wrapped around Reggie and enveloped her in a cinnamon-and-vanilla-scented-hug. They sat like that for a long time, and Reggie knew then that this was her life from here out. If she was in pain, it would be Nona's arms she'd seek. At least now Reggie wouldn't be disappointed when her mom wasn't there for her in the way that she needed. There had to be at least one good thing, right?
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Rene Folsom, author of contemporary and paranormal, lives in Florida with her husband and three kids. She has officially diagnosed herself with creative ADD and often has a million and one writing projects going at once. In addition to writing, she is also a graphic artist who enjoys creating custom book covers for indie authors. She is definitely an artist at heart and would love nothing more than to be elbow deep in clay during her waking hours.
Rene believes that all fiction is based on some form of reality—otherwise we would never have the inspiration or knowledge to dream up the realistic situations we portray with our words. She is proud to say that her personal experiences have been inspirational, though perhaps not always identical to that of her fictional characters. Where reality and fantasy diverge, however, must remain her little secret…

Ella Medler is a U.K. author and free-lance editor. She writes fiction in more than one genre, in a seemingly vain attempt to slow down her overactive brain enough to write non-fiction on subjects she knows a thing or two about. She also does not believe in the starchy use of English, and ignores the type of rule that doesn’t allow for a sentence to be finished in a preposition. Her books are action-driven, and well-developed characters are her forte. Loves: freedom. Hates: her inner censor.

HA Kay I was in grade 7, and bunking PE when I read Tolkien’s Two Towers from the LOTR trilogy.
I know what you’re thinking. Certified nerd! I remember what I was thinking. Where had this book been all my life?!
I loved it. I can’t recall the scenes I’d read then but I remember how transfixing Tolkien's Middle Earth was. I instantly wanted to write something like it.
But such dreams are easily forgotten in the wake of building a real career.
I went ahead and enrolled in a business college and did my MBA with tinselly rainbow colors, making a tiara out of my nerd cap. It was a good day. And it was a good year at the bank. But the best time was when I landed at an ad agency’s creative department to write jingles and slogans and slaughter both my languages (Urdu and English) in the process. I learned a lot there. I wrote a lot there. And I became apt in the art of killing my own brainchildren a.k.a. self-editing.
Then, I got married. Moved to the United States and started a family.
For two years I was a good stay-at-home mom. Then, I thought I could be good at something else too. I couldn’t decide on what exactly till I stumbled upon my old diary – a leftover from my baby and teen years. I read all the poems and stories I’d written therein, ranging from an ode to Mom to a soul-searching monologue. I realized I wasn’t bad. If I worked on my talent I could turn it into a skill. And perhaps be able to write like the numerous authors who’d inspired me for years. A lost afternoon in the school library from so long ago made its way into my present and I remembered the perfect Legolas. I remembered the imperfect Quasimodo, the roguish Rhett Butler and the ruthless Rory Frost too.
Suddenly, I wanted to create such characters and write their stories instilled with M. M. Kaye-like descriptions and Crichton-like research and Grisham-like authenticity, all tied together with intense moods borrowed from Victoria Holt. Tolkien’s magic dust and King’s dark secrets would just be the cherry and powdered sugar on top.
I enrolled in a writing program immediately and earned my diploma. Next I wrote and edited for a newbie magazine. I wrote two children’s books (5 Kids and 5 Snowmen and Boondon Ka Khel: The Playful Game of the Tiny Water Droplets), and co-authored a trilogy under the title Aoife and Demon.
Now, it’s Love Me Do.
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Anne Conley has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She's been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing three romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God's four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. In Pierce Securities, she gives us Ryan, Evan, Miriam, Zack, Quinten, and Simon. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this story, sign up for my newsletter to receive news on new releases, extras, and random stuff!

Rachael Orman Mother by day. Writer by night. I spend a majority of my day with my children and reading while my nights are filled with the sound of the keyboard as I work on my next work.
I have written in nearly every LBGT category as well as the traditional erotic romance category.
I love to try new things and learn from every piece of work I write. I'll write just about anything once to learn from it. I've even ventured out of my normal erotica genre into Monster Erotica. Doubt you'll find me writing anything not erotic as you can barely get me to even read something out of that category, but then again, you never know what I might try next.
Never stop learning. Try everything at least once.

Lucy Gage started her writing career under another name, but the same vivid imagination and love of books still fuels her daily life. When she's not writing, you can find her spending time with her family in her home state of Maine, experiencing a life that helps shape her writing.
Look for her website in 2015. Book six in the Ward Sisters Series will arrive in 2015 and book 1 in the Vega Brothers Series – a Ward Sisters spinoff – launches later in the year.

Susan Griscom I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, spending most of my time daydreaming or playing around in the mud. I grew out of the mud play, well, most of the time, a good soak in the mud is always fun. I still daydream often and sometimes my daydreams interrupt my daydreams. So I write to remember them. If I didn't write, I think my mind would explode from an overload of fantasy and weirdness. To the annoyance of my friends and family, my characters sometimes become a part of my world. During my childhood, I would frequently get in trouble in school for daydreaming. Eventually, my vivid imagination paid off and I had the privilege of writing and co-directing my sixth-grade class play--a dreadful disaster, though not from my writing, of course. I'm pretty sure it was the acting.
I enjoy writing about characters living in small quaint towns and tend to lean toward the unusual and edgy.
My paranormal playing field delves into a different milieu, abandoning vampires and werewolves, but not discounting them. Someday I might like to write a novel about vamps and those furry creatures. But for now I like the bizarre mixed with romance. A strong hero or heroine confronted with extraordinary forces of nature, powers and capabilities gets my blood running hot, as does a steamy contemporary romantic suspense.

Felicia Tatum was born and raised in Tennessee. She always loved reading, and at the age of twelve began writing. Her passion for creating stories grew and in May 2012, she finally wrote her first novel, The White Aura.
She still lives in Tennessee with her daughter and her kitty. She loves cooking, books, and animals are some of her best friends. She watches a lot of Disney channel and often dreams up new book ideas. She's currently working on various projects. She's the author of the White Aura series, Scarred Hearts series, and Intoxicating Passion series.

Sarah M. Cradit is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Paranormal Southern Gothic series, The House of Crimson & Clover, born of her combined passion for New Orleans, and the mysterious complexity of human nature. Her work has been described as rich, emotive, and highly dimensional.
An unabashed geek, Sarah enjoys studying obscure subjects like the Plantagenet and Ptolemaic dynasties, and settling debates on provocative Tolkien topics such as why the Great Eagles are not Gandalf's personal taxi service. Passionate about travel, Sarah has visited over twenty countries collecting sparks of inspiration (though New Orleans is where her heart rests). She's a self-professed expert at crafting original songs to sing to her very patient pets, and a seasoned professional at finding ways to humiliate herself (bonus points if it happens in public). When at home in Oregon, her husband and best friend, James, is very kind about indulging her love of fast German cars and expensive lattes.

Julie Elizabeth Powell I cannot ignore my dreams, so many of them, with names and places and ideas that spark my imagination and compel me to write; to create stories, whether fantasy or horror, or mystery or psychological thriller or murder or even humour and adventure. So, my garden is sown, flourishing, with all manner of growth, and still the dreams come.
Julie Elizabeth Powell, my soul lingering within my imagination; maybe you’ll join me?

Lynda Kaye Frazier I’m an avid reader of romantic suspense and started writing after a vivid dream. I know, sounds cliché, but that’s how it started. I work full time at a Cardiology clinic, then at night you will find me in front of my computer, writing. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but now live in Arkansas, surrounded by the Ozark Mountains where I get to enjoy the four seasons without a long, cold winter. Other than spending time with my wonderful family, my favorite things to do are writing, reading and listening to music, but my most favorite is going to the beach. Surf, sand and a good book, my stress relief.

Desiree A. Cox was born and raised in Iowa. She married her high school sweetheart and moved to the Philadelphia area after high school and has been happily married for over twenty-five years. She’s the mother of two sons and a daughter.
Writing has always been a part of her life. It started as a way to cope with her childhood shyness, allowing her to communicate without talking. Now she talks and writes … and talks. Desiree also enjoys traveling and spending time at the beach.
Over the past two plus years, she’s been working to get her thoughts in print. She is finally writing what she wants to write. Twisted by Desire, her debut novel, was published in December 2014. In March 2015, the sequel in the Lust, Desire, and Love Trilogy, Jaded by Desire, released. She also has a short story, Fantasy Come True, in the Wickedly Exotic Spring Erotic Wonderland box set that benefits the National Autism Association with 100% of the proceeds.
Look for Reclaimed by Desire, Book 3 and the final installment in the Lust, Desire, and Love Trilogy, later this summer.

Sydney Aaliyah Michelle is an Adult Contemporary Romance writer, a voracious reader, and movie fanatic who hails from Texas.
After surviving 5 1/2 years living in China, she had the courage to finally pursue her passion and become a writer.
Sydney has been blogging at for three years, where she interviews people about their tattoos, discusses her favorite movie quotes, reviews books (New Adult & only the ones she loves) and journals about her writing and editing process.
An active tweeterer, she is also a JuNoWriMo (3x) and NaNoWriMo (2x) winner who notes the sci-fi action flick “The Matrix” as the best representation of her life in the past. She is blessed to be awake now and doing what she loves.
She can recite the entire script for the 80’s teen comedy/drama The Breakfast Club and loves any and everything associated with the Avengers movie, especially Tony Stark.
When it comes to books, Sydney reads many different genres, but some of her favorite writers are Stephen King, Cora Carmack, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Cassie Mae, & Emily Bronte. The Great Gatsby, Under the Dome, Losing It, CassaStorm, Switched, & Wuthering Heights are her favorite books.

Elaine May is my Author name. I live in the West Country of England with my two beautiful daughters and yummy hubby. I love reading dark and twisted tales that mess with your head. I love to travel and spending time with my family. My dream is for people to like what I've written and hopefully get to go to a book signing event as an author.

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