(Magical Romantic Comedies #10)
Publication date: May 12th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Paranormal, Romance
Most days, Anwen regrets working at a funeral home despite the good pay. With the residents no longer inclined to stay in their coffins where they belong, she’s got her hands full making sure everyone follows the rules:
In the funeral home, there is no screaming, no murdering, no mutilation, no possessions, no kidnappings, no resurrections, and no cursing of any type. Be quiet and stay polite.
The day Old Man McGregor decides to take a walk and disturbs her peace, Anwen learns there’s a lot more to the basement in the funeral home than a vampire and a handsome gentleman on ice.
If she’s not careful, she’ll learn first-hand why ‘eternally yours’ is the most potent of threats.
Warning: this novel contains romance, humor, bodies, shenanigans, and mythological puppies. Proceed with caution.
Lemon smelled so much better than rot. As far as the restless dead went, Old Man McGregor hadn’t left me with too much of a mess to clean. He’d stayed mostly intact, limiting his oozing to a spot here and there. It took me twenty minutes to erase the evidence he’d gotten out of his coffin and taken a walk.
Five minutes later, Direct Hammel and his merry band of somberly dressed assistants arrived. Why did Direct Hammel need four men to stand around? Most viewings, even the big ones where the whole town showed up, only needed two attendants. The rest of the time, I could handle the work without any help at all.
While the viewings sometimes had upwards of the town’s full three hundred people, I couldn’t think of a single funeral with more than twenty attendees since I’d started working at the place. The old stayed, the young left, and with a world full of magic to discover, who wanted to stay in Sunset, Alabama? If my college fund hadn’t been bled dry on drugs and hookers, I would’ve been on the first bus out along with the other six seniors in my class.
“Any problems?” the director asked, sniffing the air.
I bet he smelled the lemon and wanted to know why I’d been cleaning. “No problems,” I replied. Any other day, Old Man McGregor rising and coming out of his coffin for a chat would’ve counted as a problem, but I was too worn and tired to care. Like with all things, problems were relative. If the restless dead hiding in his coffin decided to cause a problem, I’d back up and watch the fireworks. “I finished my other work for the morning, so I cleaned to make certain everything was ready for the viewing, sir.”
“Good job. Our clients will arrive soon. We’ll handle the rest from here. Mr. McGregor’s family is rather conservative, so if you could handle inventorying and cleaning the preparation and refrigeration rooms, that would be useful. Otherwise, go home.”
I didn’t need a diploma to read the writing on the wall. If I went home, I wouldn’t be invited back to work, which meant someone hadn’t done their job cleaning the basement.
The funeral home went through inspections once a month to keep its license, and we were due to have a government worker poking around the place. Plastering a smile on my face, I nodded. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me, sir.”
“Good. Call the main line if there are any problems.”
Once again, I read the writing on the wall: if I had any problems during the viewing, I would be in need of a new job.
I struggled to maintain a neutral, professional expression. To keep guests from wandering into the restricted parts of the funeral home, Director Hammel locked the stairwell door and turned off the lift. I’d spend the next six hours in the basement. After the surge of restless dead and corpse possessions, the funeral home boasted reinforced lower level walls and doors, fashioned of a mix of concrete and steel to keep the bodies contained should they decide to get up and take a walk.
Fortunately, excluding Old Man McGregor, we only had two bodies in storage, and John Doe had been in our freezer since before I’d been born. If he decided to get up, they’d hear my screams in the next state. While the rules kept changing, one thing stayed the same: the older the corpse, the stronger the undead it became. I hadn’t seen Mr. Doe, but I sometimes heard Director Hammel talk about him in hushed, fearful tones.
Nothing scared Director Hammel except our John Doe.
The other body we had didn’t worry anyone; the vampire wasn’t going anywhere until someone reattached his limbs and revived him with a lot of blood. I wasn’t sure why we kept the vampire on ice, but someone from the CDC came once a month, along with the funeral home inspector, to make sure he remained as alive as an undead got. I’d gotten to take a look at the vampire, as Director Hammel wanted to make certain I knew to avoid the sleepers in the freezer.
All in all, I didn’t care about either corpse. Unless I put my throat to the vampire’s mouth, he couldn’t hurt me. As for John Doe, I wasn’t sure what I thought about him.
While I wanted to curse over my foul luck, I kept smiling, grabbed my purse and coat, and descended into the basement. I made it all of two steps before the lock clicked behind me.
“Asshole,” I muttered, shaking my head and reaching for switches. I flipped three of the five, bathing the stairwell and landing below in a yellowed light. The stench of embalming fluid burned my nose, and I turned on the ventilation fans so I wouldn’t suffocate before the end of the viewing.
When I found out who had left the basement a reeking hell hole, there’d be a third body in the freezer. In prison, I could study and pretend I had a future, and I’d do so on the government’s dime until they kicked me out and made me finish my term doing community service. Curling my lip in a snarl, I stomped down the steps and aimed for the disposal bin meant for the latex gloves. I caught it with my foot and launched the damned thing through the open doorway.
It crashed onto the metal table bolted to the preparation room floor.
“What’s the fucking point of having a three-inch thick containment door if it’s open all the time? I’m surrounded by brain-dead idiots.”
“Yes, you are,” a husky, deep voice replied. “I was wondering who they’d sacrifice to me first. I knew the scarecrow would hide, but I thought he’d betray the whiner first. How disappointing.”
RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.
In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.
Title: The Cupid Crawl
Series: A Williamsville Inn Story (can be read as a stand alone)
Author: Hank Edwards
Publisher: Startled Monkeys Media
Release Date: 4/20/2020
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Length: 189 pages
Genre: Romance, romantic comedy
What happens when a confirmed hook up app user falls for a man who is his polar opposite?
Carter Walsh will be alone on Valentine’s Day, and his plans include a candy sampler of hook ups.
But after learning about the Cupid Crawl—a bar crawl covering a half dozen bars, gay and straight—he changes his plans.
During the crawl, he runs into:
An ex-co-worker nemesis who resurrects—loudly—an unfortunate nickname she bestowed upon him years before.
Several hot men eager for a quick hook up.
And one man absolutely not Carter’s type, but who manages to pique his interest and, possibly, steal his heart.
The Cupid Crawl is a funny, sweet, and steamy opposites attract, slight age gap story that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world, and features characters from the Christmas stories “Snowflakes and Song Lyrics” by Hank Edwards and “Snowstorms and Second Chances” by Brigham Vaughn.
The organizer, Vic, led the way, squeezing past the men and women standing in the doorway and forging a path for Carter to follow. At first, Carter thought he was way overdressed. The men he slid past were shirtless, some wearing just white loin cloths or even cloth diapers along with feathered wings strapped around their broad chests. These men gave him a brief glance, maybe a quick smile, but were busy talking to each other or women who were also baring a lot of skin. Didn’t these people realize it was February in Boston?
When he reached the bar, Carter was relieved to see people wearing shirts and pants instead of just diapers and short shorts. Vic leaned in over the bar and said to the bartender, “Don, this is my good friend, Carter. Put his first two drinks on my tab.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Carter insisted. “I have money.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Carter,” Vic said. “The first two drinks are on me to help you relax. I’m going to make a round of the bar, but when I return, I hope to find you talking with someone, and not just leaning on the bar all alone.”
“I know how to socialize,” Carter said.
“Oh, I’m sure you do.”
Vic winked again before threading his way through the crowd, greeting people as he slid past them. Carter ordered a beer from Don, and then fished a couple of singles out of his wallet for a tip. He lifted his bottle to salute Don and had just taken a swig when a piercingly high voice shrieked from just behind him. The sound startled him so much he choked on his beer and started to cough. He turned, coughing and sputtering, and squinted through his tears at the woman standing behind him.
Auburn hair done up tall, bright green eyes that could be nothing other than colored contact lenses, a pert, upturned nose, and a broad mouth filled with teeth laser-whitened to solar flare level.
Carter’s heart stuttered with surprise and dread as he struggled to clear his airway.
“I saw you walk in and had to come over and see if it was really you!” she exclaimed.
With a final clearing of his throat, Carter managed a smile and said, “Lizzie. Hello! What a treat to see you.”
Lizzie’s smile widened even further and she crossed her arms. It was then Carter noticed she wore what looked like a sports bra with a pair of white wings strapped to her shoulders, and a sheer white shift around her waist that showed off a pair of black panties trimmed with lace.
“As I live and breathe,” Lizzie said with a shake of her head. “Carter the Farter.”
Hank Edwards (he/him) has been writing gay fiction for more than twenty years. He has published over thirty novels and dozens of short stories. His books fall into many sub-genres, including romance, rom-com, contemporary, paranormal, suspense, mystery, and wacky comedy. He has written a number of series such as the suspenseful Up to Trouble, funny and spooky paranormal out for you gay romance Critter Catchers, Old West historical horror of Venom Valley, the erotic and funny Fluffers, Inc. series, and the funny and thrilling Lacetown Murder Mysteries series co-written with Deanna Wadsworth. No matter what genre he writes, Hank likes to keep things sweet, steamy, and fun. He was born and still lives in a northwest suburb of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, where he shares a home with his partner of over 20 years and their two cats.
Cover Art by Bryan Keller
Maxim, tall, whimsical, and a vampire, wants to hire a curator for his art collection. Robyn, a newly minted art historian looking for a job, loves fine art and old stuff, and Maxim soon realizes she is not just perfect for the job, but also for him.
Robyn never liked prejudices against vampires, werewolves, or Fae, but the moment she starts working for a vampire, things appear less black and white, especially when she begins to fall for her new boss.
Robyn and Maxim’s young love will have to overcome odds and odd vampires who take issue with the fact that Maxim happens to be a vampire hunter who doesn’t shy away from decapitating his own kind.
Get it today at Changeling Press
or preorder for May 15th at retailers
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Alexa Piper
Brian seemed to be slipping. He’d called up to tell Maxim of the interviewee’s arrival only about twenty seconds before the elevator had dinged, which barely gave Maxim the time to refresh his memory in regard to her name.
Heath had left a file on his desk titled Interviews, and Maxim had complained at the sheer lack of imagination that was obvious in that title. Heath had used magic marker to write it, though, and Maxim had wondered, out loud, if Heath had missed the developmental stage crayons were clearly meant for. Upon which Heath had broken into verbiage that came odorously dripping from the verbiage gutter. Heath had informed him that he, Maxim, best not pull any of this bodily refuse with the artsy people. They were, after all, artsy people and not likely to enjoy such shenanigans, at least if Heath’s soliloquy was to be believed. It was a shame the creativity he had displayed in his colorful speech had not translated into the simplistic title of the file that had sparked it.
“Robyn with a y,” Maxim mumbled to himself as he walked toward the elevators. “Y, y, y… Why would whiskey-vending witches want vigor with their witchy wits?” He pushed a strand of his hair back behind his shoulder and put on a smile. He could smell the interviewee even before he saw her, some perfume he didn’t know, light and floral, forgettable as Valentine’s Days spent alone. The scent underneath that was sunshine-warmed skin, a slight note of crushed cardamom pods. A shame to hide that with such perfume.
When Maxim laid eyes on the interviewee, he could feel his pupils spill black, and he immediately understood why Brian had taken so long to pick up the phone. Robyn with a y Somerton was gorgeous, though very much on the skinny side, always something that made Maxim’s memories of hunger float back to the surface of his mind, no matter how long ago that had been. Her hair was dark and wonderful, lush ebony, and her gray eyes and pale skin made her deep purple dress look even better on her. But damn it, he had promised Heath.
“Miss Somerton, thanks for coming in for the interview. My name is Maxim Vallois. I believe you talked to my assistant over the phone?” Now, there’s some perfect manners for you right there, Heath. If only that dhampire brat were here to see it.
The shock on her face at seeing Maxim and realizing what he was would have been amusing, should have been amusing, but for the first time in decades, Maxim felt futile fury at the reaction rise inside of him. She did go a shade paler, though, which was pretty.
“Y-yes. About the curator position?” she said, catching herself rather quickly and reining her expression back into normal. Maxim liked her voice. It was calm, not shrill. Heath sometimes brought home shrill, and that was usually headache inducing, rhetorically speaking. Maxim did not actually get headaches.
“Certainly. Please, come in.” Part of him wondered whether she would run. She was wearing terrible heels for that, and because he cared and paid attention, Maxim was pretty sure she was already headed for at least one blister on her left heel. Maxim had never understood heels, nor foot binding. He had understood what it said about having power over women, but he’d loathed that, loathed that society made it necessary for women to give that power.
Not the time to wax philosophical, Maxim reminded himself. Heath, if he were here and not away doing something that had to do with banks and money, would have been seething in the acid of his own glaring stares already. Stares glare glistening staffs of seeping solace. Not my best one, Maxim thought.
Robyn with a y came forward. Clearly she had decided running would be stupid. Mmh, Heath. Did you get me a final girl? Maxim filed that as a nice line for later. When he would tell Heath he wanted Robyn with a y. He wasn’t even sure why. It sure as bodily refuse wasn’t the cheap perfume, and it wasn’t the mildly scrawny look that Maxim found mildly headache inducing. Perhaps it was that stare of not quite fear but close enough to fear. Or lust at first sight? Who knows. Whatever the why, Maxim wanted her.
Of course Maxim couldn’t just spring this on Y Robyn. It would sound as if he were planning to make her a plaything, something Maxim knew good and well vampires did. He could go off on a whole other tangent about that nasty habit. He had to at least give Y Robyn the impression she had won the job, and of course he needed to be able to tell Heath as well, so he led her to the cluttered table he had lovingly prepared for the magic marker interview.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Y Robyn said when he shook her hand. “You know how fickle the subway can be.”
“I don’t, actually. But it’s no trouble. This way.” He made a mental note of checking out the subway. It might be fun, ethnologically speaking.
When Y Robyn saw his table, she summed it up wonderfully concisely. “Wow,” she said, and Maxim glanced at her saucer wide eyes and at the appealing slackness of her drooping jaw.
About Alexa Piper
Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Her retelling of Dracula, A Tale of Honey and Garnet Wine, might be a cursed manuscript, and every writer should have at least one of those. She also loves writing series, and her Fairview Chronicles follow a ragtag gang of supernaturals who try to make their city safer. Mostly. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter!
Cover Art by Bryan Keller
Kilana knows what her eyes are telling her can’t be true.
There’s a naked man in her bed and he’s glowing. And then there are the solid black eyes, the floating several feet above the bed, and the most damning of all… he has antennas.
The newly divorced Kilana thinks she’s seeing things, but when he opens his mouth and tells her he’s hunting humans and his intentions are to devour her, Kilana knows she has an alien problem.
But who will help her get away from the admittedly sexy creature that wants her pleasured and fattened until her flavor is perfect? Maybe her hair-brained friends Se and Lena can help her avoid the big suppertime cut…
Or maybe she’s on her own with the drooling, leering, orgasm-delivering fiend. And maybe dating an alien won’t turn out to be as big a problem as she thinks.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Stephanie Burke
“You have antennas.” Kilana peered closely at the man who was resting rather comfortably beside her on her bed. Somehow, he made the huge California King feel like a college dorm twin.
“And you do not,” he helpfully pointed out, with a black-lipped grin that made his spiky white teeth look all the more deadly.
And, of all things, his long black hair was tied back into a braid that seemed to snake around his firm, pale body. His eyes were a solid black, too, and she was sure if she weren’t so hung over, she would probably be screaming bloody murder right about now.
And the man was naked.
There was only one explanation for this phenomenon. She was still drunk.
“I’m going to close my eyes and count to ten,” she whispered, her head not willing to take even the shock of her own voice raised to a normal conversational tone. “And when I open them, you are not going to be here. Do you understand?”
He nodded his head sadly, pouting a bit. But she hardened her heart. She didn’t have time for imaginary beings in her bed. She was a newly divorced woman, and she had things to do.
Like maybe wake up sober and get her divorce papers framed and gilded.
She peered at him again and had to blink fast and swallow hard. He had the biggest eyes she had ever seen. Those large, liquid eyes were solid black; there was no white at all.
It appeared that all the white seemed to have leaked out into his pale skin. It was kind of a molten silver, rather uncommon but certainly not too abnormal for a figment.
But his head nodding was making her dizzy.
“Don’t nod.” She swallowed again, holding onto a moan with the persistence of a clinging vine of ivy. “You’re making me seasick. God, you’d think that my own figment wouldn’t be so monochromatic as to cause seasickness. I thought I had more imagination.”
So she closed her eyes, inhaled softly, exhaled long, and started counting.
“One figment two many. Three reasons to never drink again four any reason. Five senses going crazy, and six is the devil’s number to remind me to stick to seven, heaven’s number, unless it is the number of tequila shots. I should not have eight the worm thing last night and nine martinis are more than enough, especially at ten dollars a glass.”
She opened her eyes, but the very pale and very monochromatic creature was still lying next to her in bed.
“You’re still here,” she moaned, dropping her head back onto the pillows.
“Yes, I am,” he replied, before reaching out with one finger — one finger with the longest black fingernail she had ever seen. “And I will be here for a while.”
He tapped her on the nose, and she knew her eyes were crossing as she stared at his finger, but that was one awesomely sharp-looking talon.
“Doing what?” she asked, wondering if it was insanity to talk to an obviously drug-induced creature from her boring imagination.
Maybe someone had slipped her Special K. Ketamine was said to produce very believable hallucinations in users. Maybe someone had slipped her some and had their wicked way with her prone, helpless body.
Then again, maybe not.
She thought about it for a second, and none of her girl parts seemed particularly sore. Her va-jay-jay felt normal and unused as usual. No odd taste in her mouth, other than stale beer and regret —
“I am hunting.”
“Yeah.” She scrunched her nose and thought for a moment. “That makes sense. Hunting, in my bed, while totally naked. Yes, that makes perfect sense.”
He remained silent and smiling, showing off that mouth filled with fangs.
“Okay, no, it doesn’t.” She winced at the lancing pain in her head. “What exactly are you supposed to be hunting in my bed at –” She glanced out the window, noting it was still night. “–o-dark-thirty? Tell me that, Mr. Monochromatic Figment of My Imagination.”
“I am not a figment.” He stopped smiling. “And my coloring is very nice for my people. It is considered very attractive.”
“I’ve hurt my figment’s feelings.” She groaned, rolled over and closed her eyes again in an attempt to make him go away. But when she opened her eyes, he was still there and waiting to speak.
“I don’t have feelings in the way that you mean.” He pouted prettily.
“Of course not,” she allowed, wondering when she had actually slipped around the bend into insanity.
“And I am not a figment. I am a Scrimtat from Veta Belga.”
“Scrimtat, sure,” she spoke around a yawn. “I can tell by your very black lips and your very black hair.”
“My tongue is black, too. See?” And he stuck out the longest black, forked tongue this side of a freak show.
“I can see why I dreamed you up.” Her voice went thready. “Each fork in your tongue operates individually?”
She had to know. There were so many things she could imagine him doing with that…
Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.
From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.
Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.
Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.
The Run Around
Publication date: April 28th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
Arranging a wedding for her brother and a five-time thoroughbride tests Hope’s skills and patience. She’d believed the vows would be the most dangerous part of the ceremony, but a baseball to the head during the photography session proves her wrong and lands her in the sights of her brother’s best friend, Fredrick.
He wants her to plan his wedding.
She wants to be his bride.
Diving into the treacherous world of wedding planning, Hope keeps her word and arranges the vows for the one man she believes she could love. He doesn’t know how much she cherishes him and his friendship.
What she doesn’t know lands her in the heart of a royal mess.
A sensible woman would’ve been delighted to be her future sister-in-law’s maid of honor, as it implied cordial relationships or some sort of bullshit like that. I knew better.
I made an excellent scapegoat.
As the wedding party’s weakest link, everyone expected me to trip on my dress, maybe break an ankle along with my neck, or spill the entire wine fountain onto the floor. My brother claimed he loved me, but I believed he’d been the one to spread the rumor I was the world’s clumsiest woman.
When I secured my revenge, it would be sweet.
But first, I needed to survive my brother’s wedding without being responsible for a single hiccup. Playing to my brother’s misconceptions, I’d spent months tripping over nothing on purpose so I could transform myself into the image of traditional beauty and grace.
I’d even lost twenty pounds so my dress would fit.
The wedding would be a disaster, but I would emerge from the chaos smelling like roses, red wine, and garlic bread. Honestly, I doubted the wedding would make it to the reception.
Some weddings had bridezillas. We had a thoroughbride, and if she got it into her head to run, I wished my brother the best of luck catching her before she fled from the church. My proposal to have the wedding on a yacht, where my brother’s thoroughbride couldn’t escape, hadn’t earned me points with anyone.
The bride hated the ocean.
My brother was smart enough to catch onto my implication.
It wasn’t my fault Amy wasn’t exactly the most reliable woman in the world when it came to marriage. Once was a fluke. Twice was a trend. Five incidents of running from the wedding was evidence the thoroughbride would strike again, and my dear old brother would be saddled with the fifty thousand dollar bill, as he refused to believe Amy would run out on him.
Oh, no. Amy would never run out on him.
Bernadette Franklin is a figment of imagination owned and operated by two cats, a few plants, and a human.
Cover Art by Angela Knight
Nyla is a cat. So is Lucas. Nyla is an Egyptian descendant of Bast. Lucas isn’t.
In fact, he’s so far off the scale of high falutin’ lineages, he’s precariously tipped them. That’s because he’s a tomcat.
Nyla and Lucas have been friends for over a year since they met at a shifters’ meet and greet. Until one day, Nyla smells what Lucas has smelled all along. Her lifemate.
What does any good pair of lifemates do when they have to seal the deal? A little bump and grind, but who knew the bump and grind meant floggers and spankings and a host of kinky stuff Nyla had no clue Lucas liked.
Nyla is vanilla. Lucas is not. Lucas is a Dominant who enjoys just a smidge of rocky road with his bedroom pleasures.
Nyla never considered herself submissive. No one is the boss of her. However, these lifemates are about to embark on a journey that will take them both to places they’d never considered.
Oh, and it never hurts to mention that Nyla’s family is a snobbish, upper crust bunch of shifters who will probably want nothing more than to see to it that Lucas and Nyla’s newly acquired lifemate status is revoked by the lifemate council.
It’s High Society meets the ASPCA with a decided twist…
Publisher’s note: This title is available in print. Visit our Books in Print page for more information.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Dakota Cassidy
“I’m so — so…” Well, she didn’t know what she was. She’d been on a mission to find the scent that made her nose feel like it’d exploded off her face and she was so enamored with the “scent’s” ass she tripped on a stupid toy mouse and fell into him. As opposed to sauntering up to him like she was all va-va-voom or something.
That was how she’d planned it in her mind, anyway. She would follow the smell of this Utopia in a pair of faded jeans and saunter up to him like she was the Queen of Sheba.
Sometimes the road to hell and all that rigmarole…
So instead of sashaying like a supermodel on a runway, Nyla Jane Selim fell into yon hottie with not an ounce of sashay and a whole lot of Pee Wee Herman.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to — I think I tripped –” Her nose was overwhelmed with the masculine scent of him. It made her heart skip and do a running vault over the parallel bars.
Strong arms held her for the briefest of moments before helping her to regain her footing and a deep voice, raspy and reassuring, interrupted her apology. “Tripped on a mouse,” he finished her sentence. “Somebody needs to clean this place up.”
Ohhhhhh, oooh, oh. A shiver of delight rippled along Nyla’s spine and she arched into him, keeping her palms on his muscled forearms for a moment more. What a set of lungs… Nyla didn’t know if she should silently curse or thank Amos personally for not cleaning up the kitty condo aisle. “It’s been a bit crazy here and we’re understaffed,” she offered as she squinted, studying his face, angular and rugged.
Her eyebrows rose. No fucking way! Lucas? How could this be? Lucas never smelled like this before. Nyla struggled to find her glasses in the white coat she wore at the pet store. Slipping them on, she peered into her friend’s face as if she were seeing it for the first time, not the like hundredth in a year.
He held a studded collar in his hand, rhinestones and black leather. It twinkled under the bright fluorescent lights of the store. His thumb ran over the studs, giving Nyla another carnal thought that had absolutely nothing to do with a collar and everything to do with slappin’ this face jock down on the floor and slamming him one for Old Glory. Oh, my God! Had she really just thought that?
“I see that,” Lucas commented, his tone rather blasé as he looked over the top of her head and gave a scathing scan of the store overall. “You talk about this place all the time. I thought I’d come check it out. You definitely could use one or two of those plastic Tupperware bins,” he joked.
Nyla stuck her tongue out at him playfully. Okay, so it wasn’t the most efficiently run place, but it had its advantages and a great volunteer program for adopting a pet, which Nyla ran. “Lucas, what the hell are you doing here? You need help with something in particular?”
His smile was cocky and glib, and his dark green eyes hinted that Nyla, for all of her ineptitude, couldn’t possibly help him. “No. No. I don’t need help at all, Nyla. I just thought I’d stop by and see if you wanted to catch a movie. You know that thing we do every Friday night? Me relegated to your fun date pile and all?”
At this particular nanosecond, despite the sharp stab of her nipples poking at her bra like a Dewalt drill bit, Nyla was tweaked. What the hell was going on? They’d been on two dates before she’d determined that they should just be friends. She and Lucas were so alike, ruining it with sex was something Nyla wasn’t willing to do. Lucas was the only person in the world who understood her right down to her Prada heels, and she wasn’t going to risk becoming his squeeze so he could dump her somewhere down the road. They were friends for life — period.
And so now what? He was all of a sudden hot? She and Lucas had shared more than a dozen movies and he’d never smelled like this before. Fuck him for smelling better than tuna. Gathering her best disinterested attitude around her knees, Nyla gave him a narrowed glance before dismissing her moment of insanity and said, “Yeah, let’s do a movie.” While I’m at it, could I do you too?
Oh! Where had that come from?
“Nyla? You okay?” Lucas looked down at her from what seemed like way far up there all of a sudden… was he always this tall? Tall and luscious to boot?
“Yeah, I’m great. You?”
“I’m fine. So, the movie? Wanna go?”
Nyla’s nose twitched again. Oh, my hell, he smelled soooo good. Nyla involuntarily sniffed his shoulder. “Are you wearing new cologne?”
“That’s all me, baby. Nothing new,” he teased. “You were the one who didn’t want to sample it, remember?”
Oh, she remembered all right. As clearly as she now smelled him in a whole different way. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. We’re friends and I won’t risk having to dump your ass and take all of your toilet paper with me when I do, just so we can have sex. I can have that with anyone, but nobody does a good romantic comedy like you.”
Lucas brushed a kiss over her suddenly heated forehead. “I know, I know. I’m the sexless friend.” As he stood closer to her, Nyla fought the urge to lean into his hard frame and the bonfire that was him.
Lucas stiffened and backed away. “So, a movie? Popcorn, soda and your favorite ‘no sex this lifetime’ buddy — friend.”
Nyla cleared her throat. Yeah, no sex. She’d said that a dozen times or so too… what had she been thinking? Nyla put a hand on Lucas’ chest. A chest that now, all of a sudden, out of the clear blue, felt… good.
With that, Nyla turned on her heel and stalked off toward the back room where she fully intended to cleanse her nostrils with sandpaper.
About Dakota Cassidy
USA Today Bestselling author Dakota Cassidy lives for a good laugh in life and in her writing. In fact, she almost loves a good giggle as much as she loves hair products and that’s saying something.
Her goals in life are simple, (like really simple): banish the color yellow forever, create world peace via hot rollers and Aqua Net; and finally, nab every tiara in the land by competing in the Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World pageants, then sweeping them in a stunning trifecta of much duct tape and Vaseline usage, all in just under one week. Oh, and write really fun books!
Dakota lives in Oregon with her dogs and has a husband who puts the heroes in her books to shame.
Glass Half Full
Publication date: January 8th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
You win some, you lose some.
Back at home with half a college degree after the fiasco of the century sent her packing, it’s safe to say that Renee Nyobé is losing some. She’s a hot mess, and not the cute kind. No, if hot messes had categories, hers would be ‘littering the stairs of the metro station with your sweaty underwear because you were too busy rushing to the job interview you’re already late for to zip up your yoga bag.’
A job—any job—is just what she needs to get her life back on track, and it might as well be at Montreal’s most famous dive bar, Taverne Toulouse.
Dylan Trottard is winning some. As Taverne Toulouse’s new manager, he’s got one rule for himself: don’t screw up. Following that rule gets a lot harder when the woman he’s spent the past three years trying to forget starts working behind the bar.
They were never supposed to want each other, and they sure as hell aren’t supposed to want each other now. She’s the girl that got away before he even had her, and he’s the guy she didn’t think would ever give her a second glance.
Now they can’t keep their eyes off one another, and the stakes are even higher than before. There’s a lot to lose, but as the pull between them gets harder and harder to ignore, Renee and Dylan start asking how much winning is worth.
Glass Half Full is part of the Barflies series, a set of standalone romantic comedies that chronicle the lives and loves of the staff at a Montreal dive bar.
“I always wondered something,” she continues when it’s clear I can’t speak. “That night, did you…Were you…Did you want to kiss me?”
I wanted to do more than kiss her. I wanted to breathe her in. I wanted to inhale her.
“It would have been a bad idea,” I manage to get out through my clenched jaw. She’s staring up at me through those damn eyelashes, and all I can think about is her mouth, her neck, that inch of her gorgeous bare shoulders I can see before they meet with the edge of her coat.
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
Everything grinds to a halt.
Shit, shit, shit.
“I’m glad you didn’t,” she repeats, “because I wasn’t ready for you to kiss me then, not like I am now.”
Katia Rose is not much of a Pina Colada person, but she does like getting caught in the rain. She prefers her romance served steamy with a side of smart, and is a sucker for quirky characters. A habit of jetting off to distant countries means she’s rarely in one place for very long, but she calls the frigid northland that is Canada home.
Mergers & Acquisitions
(Eros & Co. #2)
Publication date: January 3rd 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Paranormal, Romance
A god with a complex. Egotistical Apollo is cursed to chase only one woman—the water nymph Daphne. When she suddenly disappears after three centuries avoiding his unwanted attention as a tree, more than his reputation as Mount Olympus’s revered victor is at stake.
A nymph on the run. Tired of living her best life as a tree, Daphne transforms back into a nymph and makes a break for it. She hides in the last place she thinks the god of every damn thing will look. But after finding herself in the kitchen of down-to-earth mortal Sam Carson, she discovers she might just want to stop running after all.
What on Earth could possibly go wrong? A story of unrequited love, self-discovery, and redemption…This modern-day twist on a centuries-old myth will have you rooting for love from start to finish.
The scorching Oklahoma sun beat down on Daphne. She didn’t mind, though, because she was at what was quickly becoming one of her favorite places in the world. The Caddo County farmer’s market.
“Thanks for the ride, Judy,” she said before proceeding to unload a few dozen baskets of vegetables from the back of the pickup truck. It belonged to Judy Pitkins, one half of the adorable old couple that lived a mile down the road from Sam.
“You bet, Dee.” Judy wiggled her fingers at her before heading to her table to arrange jars of preserves next to the metal tabletop rack adorned with handmade wind chimes and dream catchers.
The brim of her cowboy hat protected Daphne’s face. Her arms, however, got the full brunt of UV rays as she carried the large baskets over to the permanent vegetable stand Sam had built several years ago.
“Remember to drink plenty of water, missy. She’s a hot one today.” Judy called out to Daphne when she walked by with the last bushel of radishes.
Sweat dotted Daphne’s upper lip as she made sure the tape holding the “ART FOR SALE” sign to the front of the table she’d set up next to the vegetable stand was secure. She took off her hat to swipe at her forehead with the back of her hand before using it to fan herself. Hat replaced atop her head, she settled into a folding chair. After hooking the heels of her boots on the support bar, she took a long sip of her vanilla iced latte and leaned over to arrange the small watercolor paintings for optimal viewing.
It was her third time at the market. She’d sold a lot of vegetables, sure, but she’d gotten a lot more than money in return. She’d made friends, and she’d even made sixty dollars of her own so far selling paintings. True, most folks just wanted to look, but if she struck up a conversation, asked them about their lives, they tended to do more than that. Their smiles were all different, crooked ones just as precious at the straight ones. Their bellies jiggled when they chuckled. Their eyes sparkled when giggles turned into laughs, the corners crinkling into beautiful lines, showing signs of good times and bad. And with each person who stopped by her table, she fell a little deeper in love with the human race.
On the other hand, while it felt amazing to get to know them, to hear their stories and grin at their gossip, she’d probably have the money she needed to pay back Sam for the boots sooner rather than later. Once she paid him back, there was really no good reason to stick around.
She was getting too attached to Sam, which was not the plan.
She inhaled a lungful of dusty air, resigned not to think about that just yet, and opened the romance novel Judy had lent her. Absently shaking the ice in her clear plastic cup, she continued to read about rakish dukes falling in love with independent ladies. She bit her bottom lip as her eyes raced across the page, devouring each word and trying not to miss a single one while also trying to get to the good part, the part where they . . .
“I’ve often wondered what radishes tasted like,” a voice interrupted her reading.
It was deep and smooth. Regal in pitch and tone. Familiar.
Daphne bolted upright, heart pounding hard and fast like the hooves of a wild mustang. She wanted to take off like one, too. The book in her hand bounced off her leg before falling to the ground, as a book tends to do when the person holding it loses feeling in their fingers.
“I jest. I prefer Ambrosia.” Apollo peered down at her with those striking blue eyes of his. “Hello, Daphne.”
An alarmed huff rocketed from her throat, followed by a scratchy whisper. “How? How did you find me so fast?”
His gaze dropped to the card table for an instant. “It wasn’t that difficult.”
Daphne’s head throbbed against her temples in time with her frustration. Why? Why? Why? “Why can’t you leave me be?”
“Come now, Daphne.” Apollo tapped his fingers on the table twice, as if he had no time or inclination for ignorance but was trying to remain patient. “We both know the answer to that.”
Her cheeks grew hot, and her lips pressed together. He was being patronizing, and the fists at her sides itched to thank him for it by landing a solid punch.
Apollo took stock of her tightly balled hands, the firm set of her jaw, the daggers shooting from her eyes. “I know you dislike me.” There was an uncharacteristic air of uncertainty in his words. “But I think it’s just because you don’t know me. We’ve never really gotten a chance to get to know one another.”
Daphne launched the daggers at him. Was he serious? She knew exactly who he was, a relentless bastard. What else was there to know?
“The real me,” he finished hastily.
“Is there a real you? The mighty Apol—” She caught herself and stopped. The young woman at the table to the right gazed out over the market, pretending to be oblivious to the commotion, but Daphne knew better. As much as the residents were growing on her, this was a small town, with a close-knit community of folks who made it a point to know every birth and keep track of every death. Who knew who was dating and who’d just broken up. And who was fighting with whom. Caddo County was one giant grapevine.
“Paul,” offered Apollo.
Daphne snorted. “Paul?” Clever, but he was still an asshole. “Worshiped and adored for his brilliance.”
“And strength,” he added, his eyebrows lifting. “You know, because I’ve single-handedly won . . .”
Did he really think she would finally, after all these centuries, be impressed?
“Ugh.” Daphne groaned. She was the furthest thing from it. “My gods, you are the worst.”
“I’m not . . .”
Was that hurt flashing in his sky-blue eyes, darkening to storm cloud gray as he spoke? His golden aura heated, glowing like the sun, and Daphne cringed.
“The worst at anything,” he finished. “Please don’t make this harder than it has to be. I’ve changed—or at least I’m trying. Look, I have a plan. All you have to do is trust me.”
Kerri has always told tall tales. When she was in the third grade, she hid her glasses in the linen closet and told her mother a ghost must have stolen them. As you might imagine, that story didn’t end well.
Today, however, she tells more lighthearted tales, with happier endings. Fond of making people laugh, and forever a fan of folklore and mythology, she blends heart and humor with a dash of magic into her stories.
Kerri lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and cat they lovingly but aptly refer to as The Maleficence, Mel for short.
Bossy Bride: Emma & Jesse
(Bossy Brothers, #4)
Publication date: December 18th 2019
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance
Bossy Bride features Jesse and Emma getting almost-hitched on a roller coaster, tricked into being the stars of a pirate show, jumping out of an airplane, and saying their vows in front of two huge Italian families who don’t speak English. It’s a rompy, whirlwind trip down a rabbit hole of “Fantasy” Vegas weddings planned by a man called “Fingers” and just when you think nothing else could go wrong—a mermaid descends from the ceiling.
Jesse Boston is the man of my dreams. He’s super sexy, super rich, and super funny. He gets all my jokes, he treats me like a princess, and our love life is smokin’ hot.
So I’m gonna marry him. I’m not real picky about how that happens and if my mother wants to have her say, fine. That’s fine. She gave birth to three boys and just one girl. So I get it. She NEEDS a wedding.
But when she invites my childhood nemesis, KAREN, to plan our wedding AND be one of my bride’s maids? Uh—no. It’s not happening. Karen Krakken-Channing will not plan my wedding, will not be at my wedding, and she’s certainly not going to be IN my wedding.
Luckily, my jet-butler, Miles, and my almost-husband get this great idea!
We’re going to elope to Vegas on Christmas Eve eve, get hitched in the most ridiculous way possible, and then fly home in time for Christmas Eve dinner.
We’ve got it all figured out.
Nothing can go wrong.
We will have one simple wedding in like… a drive-through chapel, and call it good.
Take that, KAREN!
My bride is sexy hot.
And no, the man whose arm she’s holding onto as she walks isn’t her father. And none of these people here are our people—but in this moment I do not care.
Emma is the only thing on my mind.
I want this woman by my side right now. I want her next to me for the rest of my life. I want her in sickness and in health. I’ll take all the bad with the good. I want to love and cherish her so hard, she will forget the thirteen years we spent apart and only think of the ones we spent together.
Her veil only covers her eyes. It’s a very tasteful, very understated veil. But the best thing about that veil is that as I watch her walk towards me—as I see her suddenly realize that this is it, we really are gonna make it all the way through this ceremony—I catch her checking me out. I catch her eyes wandering down my body, then back up to meet my gaze again.
She smiles and bites her lip.
And man, that little lip-biting thing? Yeah. I’m gonna picture that every time I make love to her for the rest of my life.
My stomach flips with excitement once they reach the steps and all I want to do is rush down those steps and pull her into my arms.
But I wait.
I force myself to stand still and wait as her fake father pauses to look lovingly at her—nice touch, fake father-in-law—and then she ascends towards me.
Emma’s eyes find mine as she slowly approaches the altar. And then she shrugs up her shoulders as if a tingle went up her body.
God, I love her. I love her so much. And even though I still have regrets about missing out on all those years when we were apart, I know—I just feel it in my heart—that this is just the beginning for us. We have so much to look forward to. And pretty soon none of those missing years will matter anymore. We’ll be too busy making new memories to even think about the ones we never had.
When they reach the top her fake father stops just a step away from me, turns to Emma, and lifts her small veil up and says something low and soft in Italian.
Emma nods her head at him and murmurs, “Thank you.”
Then she turns to me. I reach for her and she takes my hand, stepping forward to stand next to me as we both face each other in front of this chapel filled with people.
It’s only then that we realize… the priest is speaking in Italian.
Both of us giggle. Fuck it, right?
What did we really expect? And surely, this day could not get any weirder.
We hold hands as he speaks, probably saying all the usual things. Marriage is serious. Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Marriage is sacred.
Yes. I agree to all those things.
I hold Emma’s hands in mine as the ceremony proceeds. And I even hear a sniffle or two from our audience. Nice touch, Fingers. Nice touch.
And even though everything here started out fake, suddenly everything feels very, very real.
I am marrying this woman.
The priest pauses, and when we look at him we realize we’re up.
We didn’t discuss this. We have no vows! And even though everyone else is working off a script, we’re just winging it.
Emma looks a little frightened. Her eyes are wide and her pouty lips are making a perfect, round, o shape.
I squeeze her hand. “I got you, babe.” Then I clear my throat and begin.
“Emma Dumas. I first met you thirteen years ago. We were young, and one of us was very stupid.” She smiles wide and sucks in a breath of air. “Me,” I say, looking out at the crowd. And hey, they get it. Because they chuckle a little at my joke. “But I don’t think I ever told you how you grabbed my attention that day. I saw you from across Mallory Square. You were wearing little Daisy Duke cut-offs and a white tank top. And, of course, those now infamous pigtails.”
She squeezes my hands as she shakes her head and looks down for a moment. But she quickly raises her eyes back up to meet mine. Like she refuses to miss a single moment of our big minute.
“And Emma, I thought to myself… ‘Jesse Boston—’” A slight murmur from the crowd makes me pause for a moment. I guess they didn’t know who I was and now they do. Jesse Boston is the same no matter what language you say it in. “I said, ‘Jesse Boston, how in the heck have you been on this island for a week and are just now seeing this girl?’ You see,” I say to the crowd, “I missed her. And I hated that. I really hated that. Because up until that moment when I first saw this vision of a girl, I was doing nothing. I was nothing. I was wasting time, and taking up space, and couldn’t even begin to imagine what the next thirteen minutes would bring, let alone the next thirteen years. So I took my chance.” I turn back to Emma. “I went up to your shaved ice stand and asked you out. It was probably not my best pick-up. But Emma, I just want you to know… it was my most honest one.”
She lowers her eyes again. And when they rise up to meet mine just a moment later, I see the shine of a tear in them.
“It was… honest. Every moment with you that night was honest. And when we reconnected thirteen years later, every moment that came after was honest too. You not only make me want to be a better man, I am a better man with you by my side.” I bring her hand up to my lips and I gently kiss her fingers. “Thank you. Thank you for seeing the better me. Thank you for buying me from a bachelor auction with grand delusions of revenge. Thank you for the one-up dream date. Thank you for sharing your family with me. Thank you for being my knight in shining armor… just…” I shake my head. “Babe? I can’t do this without you.”
She inhales deeply, lets go of one of my hands to swipe a tear off her cheek, and then says, “Jesse Boston. You were my fantasy man when we first met. You were the man who made all the promises. You were a boy so golden I could barely stand to look at you.”
I sigh. Because I didn’t feel good enough for her back then. I was so afraid she’d see through me. So afraid she’d realize what a fraud I was. So afraid that she’d figure me out and sneak away, thankful that she dodged a bullet with a boy called Jesse.
“And when you disappeared, I was lost. I was someone else when you left. Some other girl who no longer understood her place in this world. And for the next thirteen years I would think about you at least once a day. I would think… what could we have been? What life would we have lived if we had stayed together from the start? If we had never gone out and did our thing, by ourselves, on our own?” She squeezes my hands. “And you know what?”
“What?” I whisper, dying to know what she thinks about this.
“We might’ve been that couple.”
I laugh a little. That couple.
“We might have been that couple you described on our second-chance first date last summer. The one who fights hard, and lives fast, and loves each other ferociously.”
“Love is a battlefield, babe. And we’re both just generals.”
JA Huss is the New York Times Bestselling author of 321 and has been on the USA Today Bestseller’s list 21 times in the past five years. She writes characters with heart, plots with twists, and perfect endings.
Her new sexy sci-fi romance and paranormal romance pen name is KC Cross and she writes novels and teleplays collaboratively with actor and screenwriter, Johnathan McClain.
Her books have sold millions of copies all over the world, the audio version of her semi-autobiographical book, Eighteen, was nominated for a Voice Arts Award and an Audie Award in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Her audiobook, Mr. Perfect, was nominated for a Voice Arts Award in 2017. Her audiobook, Taking Turns, was nominated for an Audie Award in 2018. Five of her book were optioned for a TV series by MGM television in 2018. And her book, Total Exposure, was nominated for a RITA Award in 2019.
She lives on a ranch in Central Colorado with her family.