Category: Chapter Reveal


Seven years ago, she was sheltered. In need of guidance. I was a newly-ordained priest with a vow of celibacy. Our love affair was torrid, and wrong, and ended in heartbreak.
We broke it off and went our separate ways.
I left the priesthood. She left her home.
Seven years later, she’s stranded in my NYC Club while a blizzard rages outside, and she wants a taste of dominance.
I won’t let another man lay eyes on her, much less touch her.
She’s still my everything. My salvation.
And there’s no way I’m letting her go.


I shiver when I enter the club, and I’m not sure if it’s the biting cold or fear that makes me tremble.
I shouldn’t be here. I don’t belong.
I considered some type of disguise coming here, but then I realized that anyone who would recognize me would be just as guilty as I am.
There’s a bouncer at the door, and a particularly strong gust of wind picks up just as he lets me in. I brace against the blast of cold, and he reaches for me, shielding me against the bitter blast of air and shutting the large black door behind me. It bangs with an audible click that makes me jump. Already, I’m out of my element. Men don’t touch me without permission.
But this is a BDSM club, and apparently no one plays by my rulebook. The one I was raised with. If I didn’t want someone to touch me, I wouldn’t be here.
“Name?” The man asks. He’s wearing a black t-shirt stretched tight over his muscled chest, stands well over six feet, and looks severe with a neatly-trimmed goatee and shaved head. He’s staring at a huge clipboard in his hand.
I blink and stare at him. Shit. I didn’t know I was supposed to give my name.
He looks up at me and raises a brow when a beat passes. I’m frozen. I can’t tell him who I am. And where the hell is Marla? My strategy to meet up with her definitely could’ve been improved.
But then again, she doesn’t know I don’t want anyone to know who I am.
“Chandra,” I whisper, hoping that’s enough. Does he need my last name, too? Because then I’m screwed. But he gives me a curious look, glances back down at his clipboard, and nods.
“Marla’s guest?” he asks.
At that moment, I hear a familiar squeal. “Chandra! You did it, girl! Come on in!”
Marla makes her way to me and the bouncer. “Master Geoffrey, this is my new employee. Her name is Chandra.” I smile at him and he shakes my hand, but then the door opens again, and two more people come in behind us. Marla grabs my hand and pulls me past the entryway door. There’s an office and what looks like a sitting room of sorts.
“If you come here with your dom, you can discuss your limits and things like that in this room,” Marla says.
My dom? I don’t have a dom.
“We have contracts and stuff like that. Over there is Master Tobias’ office.” She waves across the room to an open doorway, where a man sits at a desk typing on a computer. “He’s awesome, and you’ll love his wife Diana. In fact, you’re gonna love a lot of the people here,” she says with warmth. “I do.”
I nod dumbly when a couple walks through the door that leads to the club. I expected all leather and latex, but they’re dressed pretty normally. When they open a door from the room I’m in now, I hear music and voices, and I freeze. Once I step foot in there, there’s no going back. This is it.
But I can’t turn back now. I’ve been living and breathing everything I could get my hands on about the BDSM lifestyle for a full year, and I’m so ready to see what this is like.
“Let’s go,” Marla says, taking me by the hand and giving me a tug. She’s the least bashful person I know, and right now, I’m so grateful for that.
“There’s a bar,” she says. “Drinks are limited for safety reasons, but we can get you a good, stiff drink to start.”
I don’t tell her that I have literally never in my life touched alcohol. But tonight is a night of firsts.
“Sure,” I say quietly. She leads me to the bar. I’m trying to take in all the details, but it’s a little overwhelming, and I’m starting to feel that my too-tight black dress that I was so proud of for hitting my badass radar is really way too tame for a place like this. A woman walks past me wearing what looks like a purple leotard, complete with a tail and kitty ears. I must look wide-eyed and shocked, because Marla laughs and hands me a pretty pink drink. I take a sip. It’s delicious.
“Drink, honey,” she says. “You’ll be fine.”
“Got a friend with you tonight, Marla?” asks the man at the bar. He’s got a southern drawl and looks like he’s about my age, with sandy-brown hair and light brown eyes. He’s attractive, and seems sweet, so I take his hand and shake it.
“Chandra,” I tell him.
He smiles, revealing dimples on either side of his mouth. “Travis. Pleased to meet you, Chandra.” I say something barely coherent, but fortunately he’s already moving on to the the next person waiting for a drink. My mind is racing. This man’s a dom? Is he a sadist, too? Does he like to tie people up? Inflict pain? Does he have rules? I take another long pull from my drink.
I haven’t eaten all day, I’ve been so nervous about coming here tonight, and I’m not so sure it’s a smart idea having my first-ever alcoholic drink on an empty stomach. The room feels hot and stuffy, and my head is a little wobbly. I watch Travis fill other girls’ drinks and feel disappointed. He looked easy to talk to. And men are rarely easy to talk to.
Marla’s perched up on the stool next to me, sipping her drink. “So over there we’ve got pool tables for everyone to just mingle. This is sort of the meet-and-greet area.”
“Mhm.” I take another gulp of my drink.
“And beyond that area…” her voice trails off. I watch as couples and single people make their way to a hallway. Someone screams, and I nearly drop my glass. I look with wide eyes at Marla. She smiles and nods.
“The dungeon, honey. That’s where the real action takes place.”
“It’s not in a basement?” I ask curiously. I had visions of the dungeon being built with bricks, complete with metal handcuffs and no lighting whatsoever.
Marla smiles. “Not in this club, no. It’s just what we call it.”
I finish my drink, plunk it on the counter, and turn to her. Liquid courage, they say. Already, I know why. “Take me?”
She finishes her drink, too, and places it on the bar. “Absolutely.”
The room spins, and my head feels light. But I like this. I feel braver. Maybe even more powerful. I’ve gotten brave enough to come to my first BDSM club, and I’m not just here to mingle. Tonight, I want to see what this is like.
A couple jostles past me, and I lose my footing, but Marla quickly rights me. Still, it makes me feel like I’m on a merry-go-round. I’m definitely woozy, and not sure I like this feeling very much. Why do people do this on a regular basis? I like being in control of myself, and this is stupid.
I follow her past the crowd to the dungeon, excitement building.
“Down here are the private rooms for long-term members,” she says. “They’re color-coordinated, and long-term members keep their things here. It’s like a second home.”
“Do you have one?” I ask, shouting to be heard above the noise of the crowd.
“I could,” she says thoughtfully, and her eyes grow a little pained. “I don’t have a need for one, though.”
Marla’s single. I nod. But it’s at that very moment, just before I step into the dungeon, that I hear a voice that makes my whole body seize. I know that voice.
“Not here,” he says. “Take that somewhere else.” It’s calm but stern and brooks no argument. I look around me to see where the voice is coming from, but there are too many people here.
It’s got to be in my head. Some people sound like others, and I’ve just had a drink. Plus, I’m all keyed up. There’s no way that’s his voice.
But I’d know that voice anywhere. It’s the voice I conjure up when I go to sleep at night, to chase my demons away so I can rest. The voice branded into my memory like names carved in stone, lasting and irrevocable. In my mind, I tell myself it can’t be him. There’s no way. But in that moment, I’m no longer an anonymous woman who’s having a little fun at a BDSM club. I’m the girl who made terrible decisions she lived to regret. All of it comes rushing back to me in a flood of memories I can’t ignore, and I try to push it all away, but I’m frozen in place.
“Chandra?” Marla’s looking at me with concern, her head tipped to the side. She reaches a hand to my elbow. “Honey, if this is too much, that’s okay. We don’t have to go in here tonight.”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. I need to exorcise my past from my memory and know I came here and didn’t cave. I swallow hard and take a deep, cleansing breath. “Let’s go.”
She nods, and her eyes sparkle at me. “Let’s go.”
When I step foot in the dungeon, I feel something in me shift. I expected to be shocked. And maybe a part of me is, a little. There are some couples wearing outfits that range from outlandish to scandalous, men and women and people wearing masks for anonymity. There are all sorts of activities going on, but it doesn’t shock me. Maybe it’s the drink or maybe it’s because I was so freaked out by hearing the voice that yanked me back to my youth, but I’m excited. My whole body thrums with nervous, eager anticipation.
“Over there is the Saint Andrew’s Cross,” Marla says, pointing to crossed beams against a wall. No one’s on there yet, but I have read enough to know how that works. “We have spanking benches and horses,” she says, gesturing to a setup of sturdy-looking equipment. “We have some implements couples can use over clothing, but private implements only for bare skin.”
I shiver. I want someone to use an implement on my bare skin.
There are couples sitting on loveseats. I blink at first in surprise, and it takes me a minute to realize that some of them are actually doing sexual things. Right here. In front of everyone. One man’s feeling a girl up, tweaking her bare nipples right over the edge of a too-short top. Her head’s thrown back, lips parted. I watch as he bends his head down and flicks his tongue over a nipple. My own body heats with arousal. Oh my God.
“I thought you said there were private rooms,” I say to Marla in a choked voice.
She grins. “For long-term members only,” she says. “And also? Not everyone’s here for private play.”
I look back at the couple. He’s rubbing between her legs while he suckles at her breasts. She’s writhing against his hand. I watch in rapt fascination. She’s going to climax. Right here. Clothed, and in front of everyone in this room. My own body heats as he moves faster and faster. Is it possible to climax without even being touched? Because this man must be a magician. I’m ready to fly.
I tear my eyes away.
I hear someone speaking right near me.
“That’s enough, little one.” I look to see where this voice comes from. There’s an older man with dark hair and eyes crossing his arms on his chest. He’s looking reproachfully at a small blonde woman wearing kitty ears. “Behave yourself,” he says.
What happens if she doesn’t? My pulse thunders. I’ve read enough books to know exactly what happens in the world of fiction. What happens here? I watch as she shakes her head with a pout befitting a little girl.
Oh my God. She told him no?
He shakes his head with regret and takes her by the arm. “I warned you,” he says. He’s marching her over to one of the spanking benches but there’s a gleam in his eyes like he hoped she’d disobey. On the way, he grabs the varnished wooden handle of a paddle. I can’t breathe or speak, but only watch. He’s going to punish her.
I catch a glimpse of her face. She’s grinning.
I’d be beet red. But at the same time… I want to know what it feels like.
He bends her over the bench, expertly fastens her restraints, then stands behind her wielding the paddle. Placing one hand on her lower back, he lifts his right hand and brings it slamming down on the woman’s clothed ass. She squeals, and he says something in her ear, then brings the paddle down again and again. Every time the wood strikes, blood thunders in my ears. My pussy clenches. I’m so wet, my panties feel damp.
I’m so primed for this.
“Chandra?” Marla’s next to me. She’s been talking to me, but I’ve been too busy getting turned on watching the girl get paddled.
“Yes?” I croak.
“This is my friend Viktor,” she says. He’s shorter than the guy at the door but broad and stern-looking the way I imagined a dom would be, and I’m a little intimidated.
“Hi,” I say. I swallow and must look like a total idiot, because I let my eyes go all wide so he doesn’t know I’m aroused by the scene in front of me. It must be a funny thing being introduced to a man when you’re aroused, and I wonder if it affects my vision, because this man is beautiful and the whole tall, dark, and handsome thing isn’t normally my thing.
Then I notice the way he’s looking at Marla. He stands just a little too close and his eyes warm when she introduces us.
“Pleased to meet you,” he says. He’s got a barely-detectable accent that makes him seem even sterner. God, I need another drink.
“Join me tonight?” he says to Marla. She blinks at him and her cheeks pink.
“Well,” she says. “I actually need to stay with Chandra. It’s her first time here, and I don’t want to leave her.”
He nods. “Fair enough.”
But I see the way he looks at her, and I know how desperate Marla’s been for someone to pay attention to her. She’s been a member here since they opened, and the other guys that she knows are all friends. They think of her as a sister, not a potential sub, and though she loves the camaraderie and occasional scene, it isn’t what she wants. I’d be a crappy friend to hold her back.
“Go,” I tell her. “I’m actually just going to get another drink and then just come back and watch. You know. Like a fly on the wall. A voyeur?” I chatter on like someone’s wound my tongue up and let it go. “A fly voyeur on the wall.” Dear God, someone stopper my mouth.
She blinks. “You sure you need another drink?”
“Oh, so very, very sure.”
Viktor chuckles, but takes Marla by the hand. “Be my sub tonight?” he asks.
She looks at me and blinks, then looks back to him.
“Do it,” I tell her.
“Wait for me in the foyer,” Viktor says in his heavily accented voice. “If we’re scening tonight, we’ll have ground rules. I have a quick phone call to make, then we talk.”
My heartbeat accelerates. This is it! This is what she wanted, and I’m simultaneously consumed with jealousy and excitement for my friend.
“Have fun, you two,” I say, turning away from her and heading back to the bar.
“Text me,” she says, raising her voice. “If anything goes wrong at all, and you need to—”
But her voice fades as Viktor gives her a playful slap on the bottom. She faces him, he whispers something in her ear, and she nods, then goes beet red
I look away. My heart twists and my throat burns. There’s a little tingle in my nose. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m not sad that she’s with him. I’m just… jealous?
As I walk alone to the bar, I know, I wouldn’t have made a different choice. I don’t need a babysitter here. I’m only here to observe, and there is no way I’m participating in anything tonight. Like, at all. But this is hard for me. I grew up in a home where I wasn’t even allowed to date. My parents arranged my marriage like their parents did, and even though I bailed on that, a part of me still fears disapproval. If they knew I was here tonight, they’d disown me.
If they knew a lot of things, they’d disown me.
I make my way to the bar. I need a drink stat.
“Hey,” Travis says. He’s a friendly guy, and really kinda cute, though he looks pretty young, and that feels more like he’s my brother than a potential… well, anything. Dom. Boyfriend. Guy I kiss who buys me a drink. I’ve never been one who’s attracted to men my age, and I’m not now.
“Marla took off?” he asks. He wipes his hands on a towel. I can’t help but glance at his ring finger. He doesn’t wear a ring, but he’s got to be in his early twenties or so, and bartenders flirt even if they’re dating someone. He’s kind, though, and that’s always been my weakness.
“Well, she’s spending the night with a guy,” I say, and then realize that sounds like my friend is whoring herself out. “I mean—well. Okay, so I don’t really know how it works here?” I grimace. God, I should just shut up right now. “But there’s a guy named Viktor and he wanted to, um… what’s the word… scene with her. So they’re going to go… I don’t know, write up a contract or something?” I’ve been into this for how long and now I sound like a total newbie? God!
His eyes crinkle around the edges and he smiles at me. “Is that right? Seems like Marla’s in need of scenin’ good and hard.”
“Most of us are in need of scening good and hard,” I say before I can stop myself. My hand flies to my mouth and I look at him with wide eyes.
And just like that, the insane arousal that started when I saw the scene in the dungeon ignites. Travis grins.
“Is that right?” he asks in his panty-melting drawl.
Hell. Maybe he is cute.
I shouldn’t have come here. I’m way too sex-deprived and needy. I need to get out of here.
“That’s right,” I squeak. I grab a handful of the nuts in the little bowl on the counter, and pop some in my mouth so I don’t say anything stupid. My mind starts playing tricks on me. Travis bending me over the bar and showing me exactly what “scenin’ good and hard” looks like. I imagine he reaches for his belt buckle, those golden-brown eyes growing stern and corrective.
Someone lifts their hand across the bar and Travis shoots me a parting wink, then goes to fill the order. I barely restrain myself from burying my head in my hands.
“Buy you a drink?” someone to my right asks.
I look over and there are three men sitting there that look like they could be brothers with Viktor. Maybe they are. Or cousins or something.
“Sorry?” I ask.
“You look like you need a drink,” the younger one says. “First time here?”
I nod dumbly. He waves down Travis. “What’s your drink?” he asks me.
I shrug like a dumbass.
“Whiskey sour’s what Marla gave you.” Travis looks disapprovingly at me, and gives me the drink, but shoots the guys next to me a warning look. Is it my imagination? Is he jealous?
I hear someone laughing so loudly behind me, it catches my attention, and I quickly turn and look. There’s a crowd of people dressed up in all black, over by the pool tables. I can’t quite tell what they’re doing, but they’re having so much fun. I’m a little jealous, and I know then that I want to be a part of this place. I want to fit in. Have friends that know me and welcome me when I come. And hell, I want to scene.
“What brings you here?” the man next to me asks. He’s got a similar accent to Viktor. Russian? He pushes my drink to me, and I take it gratefully.
“Thank you,” I say. I gulp it like I’m dying of thirst. The voice I heard plays in my mind, and I need to get it to stop. I’m not that girl anymore, and I don’t act like her.
“Whoa, now,” the man says, holding his hand palm down. “Take it easy there. Travis is known for his good, strong drinks.”
My head is feeling woozy again and my mouth a little thick. “Is he known for good, strong anything else?” I ask.
Oh my God. Did I just say that out loud? The men just laugh, though. I drink until ice hits my lips. Marla’s with her man. After tonight, I may never be brave enough to return. Tonight, I’m living it up.

USA Today Bestselling author Jane has been writing since her early teens, dabbling in short stories and poetry. When she married and began having children, her pen was laid to rest for several years, until the National Novel Writing Challenge (NaNoWriMo) in 2010 awakened in her the desire to write again. That year, she wrote her first novel, and has been writing ever since. With a houseful of children, she finds time to write in the early hours of the morning, squirreled away with a laptop, blanket, and cup of hot coffee. Years ago, she heard the wise advice, “Write the book you want to read,” and has taken it to heart. She sincerely hopes you also enjoy the books she likes to read.

Beau, Mavericks of Montana CreekBeau, Mavericks of Montana Creek

Available via Kindle Unlimited

Beau Maverick has a great life-a close family, a thriving veterinary practice, and the privilege of being a Maverick in Great Falls, Montana. Despite all that, he fights a feeling of hollowness. After the death of his beloved mother, he throws himself into her role of charitable and philanthropic duties in the community. He was least interested in being on the chair of the local symphony, but when the feisty new director comes to town, he finds the challenge brings with it a spark of life.

Grace Sutherland is devastated at the news that the Manchester Philharmonic in her hometown in New Hampshire has voted to relocate her to assist one of their lesser known symphonies in a small town in Montana. Her unconventional methods, while effective, were at odds with their traditions. However, she accepts the challenge and is determined to regain her standing and get out of Montana as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for her, the chair of her new board might make that difficult.



“You can’t be serious,” I said.
“I’m afraid I am, Grace.”
I shot out of my chair and began pacing.
“Please sit down,” my grandmother said, her voice as cool and emotionless as ever. I ignored her.
“How can they do this to me after everything I’ve done for them?”
“They’re doing this because of everything you’ve done for them,” she replied, droll.
I stopped in my tracks. “Someone has to make the difficult decisions around here. Heaven knows none of them are capable.” I began pacing again.
“No one is saying you’re ineffective. They’ve just decided they need someone more…” She waved her hand in a circular motion as she chose her words. “Tactful.”
I snorted. “You mean a pushover. They want a politician, not a director.”
I was aware the board of the Manchester Philharmonic in New Hampshire had given me this chance not because of my accomplishments, but because my father and grandmother were not only two of the longest standing members of the orchestra, but also amongst their biggest donors. I’d grown up in this world. I loved the orchestra more than anything, and my drive was born from that passion. At twenty-six, I was the youngest ever director and had made some unconventional and unpopular decisions in my time in this role, but I stood by them. If this organization wanted to remain relevant, then we needed to embrace change.
“Granted, our board of directors is more conservative than others in the area, but you knew that when you took the job. I warned you to take it slow.”
I stopped long enough to put my hands on my hips and level her with a glare. She had the audacity to laugh.
“I know. You’ve never done anything slowly. But unfortunately, in this case, the board feels your differences are just too great.”
“So that’s it? I’m out? Fired?” I could barely say the word without the all-too-familiar feeling of anxiety associated with the thought of failure. As a perfectionist born into a family of overachievers, it was something I’d struggled with my entire life. I tried to swallow the rising panic.
“Not fired, dear. Reallocated.”
“Reallocated?” I screeched. “Like I’m nothing more to them than a surplus of office supplies?”
“The board feels as though your particular talents would be put to better use elsewhere.”
My eyes narrowed as realization dawned. “The Foundation.”
She inclined her head but said nothing. Her silence was my answer. My hands found the back of a chair, and my chin fell to my chest. The Philharmonic is the administrator of a charitable foundation that funds symphonies in, ahem, less cultured areas. They’d been known to send misfit employees to remote locations to “develop leadership skills,” but usually the outcasts gave up and quit before they were invited to come back.
I squared my shoulders. That wouldn’t be me. I would go to whatever godforsaken orchestra they’d found, whip it into shape, and prove that I was worthy of this position. “Challenge accepted.”
Her lips ticked slightly upward, the closest she ever came to smiling. “Atta girl.”
So, she still had my back. I felt strangely encouraged and vindicated holding that knowledge. “So how bad is it?”
She plucked a piece of paper from the neat stack in front of her and offered it to me.
Please don’t be Kansas… Please don’t be Kansas…
I looked at the sheet of paper in my hand and blinked. It was even worse than I’d imagined.
“The Great Falls Symphony,” she said.
“Montana has a symphony?” My mind reeled. “Montana has… anything?”
She lifted a trim shoulder. “Evidently.”
“That’s it?” I asked incredulously. “You’re willing to send your only granddaughter off to some godforsaken wilderness you know nothing about?”
“You know nothing about it either, dear. How do you know God has forsaken it?”
In a rush, the fight drained from my body, and I collapsed into a chair. “They really want to be rid of me that badly?”
My grandmother rose from her seat and rounded her desk to stand in front of me. Her tiny stature didn’t require her to bend to grasp my chin in her hands and force my eyes to hers. “This is simply a test, Grace, and I know it’s one you can pass. Take this assignment, kick its ass, rub their faces in it. If you prove you can handle yourself in a situation such as this, they’ll have no ammunition left against you. Sure, your methods may be unconventional, but if you can show them they work, they’ll reinstate you. I know it.”
“How can you be so sure?” I asked.
She straightened. “They think you’ll give up and quit, but I know better.”
I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Her steely gray eyes sparkled. “Atta girl.”

Somer Hayes is an avid reader and writer of stories, hailing from the Midwest.

The Ocean Between Us by Michelle Heard




Model Credit: Drew Truckle.

Photographer Credit: Eric David Battershell.

Cover Artist: Sybil, PopKitty Design.





Dying to experience life, I cross an ocean to get away from my fears. I find my safe haven in the form of Detective Aiden Holden. He shows me what love is, but then our lives collide. Our little world shatters, and I’m caught in the crossfire.

I’m forced to return home, to let go of the only person who has made me feel like I could be more.

How do you return to a cage once you’ve tasted freedom?

My only hope is that Aiden will cross an ocean for me.




The last three days have been exhausting. Sneaking away from the house in the middle of the night like some criminal was the most daring thing I’ve ever done. While sitting at the airport, I chewed my nails to the nerve out of fear that I’d be caught and dragged back to that hellish prison.
I unlock the door to the flat which will be my new home for the next six months. Not knowing whether my roommate is home, I slowly walk inside.
Closing the door behind me, I leave my bags at the entrance. “Hello, is anyone here?”
Silence greets me, and I let out a sigh of relief. It will give me time to get settled before whoever I’m sharing the flat with gets back.
Crap, I should’ve asked Miss Jessie, the landlord, about my roommate. For a moment I contemplate going back to her but decide to put it off until I go out to explore a little of the town.
Opening the door to the first bedroom, and glancing inside, I see a pair of men’s sneakers beside the bed. It’s clear I’ll be sharing with a guy unless the girl has big feet, which I doubt.
Actually, I hope it’s a guy. I don’t think I can handle living with another woman so soon after all I’ve been through with my mother.
The second door opens to a bathroom, and I’m glad to see that it has a shower.
Grabbing my luggage, I walk to the last room, which I assume will be mine. Pushing the door open, my eyes greedily take in all the space.
There’s a closet against the wall, and a big bed stands opposite it. I’ve never slept in such a massive bed. I just want to face-plant onto it and sleep all my worries away.
“Wow,” I whisper. “This flat is amazing.”
Even though my parents live in a mansion in Clifton, one of Cape Town’s wealthiest neighborhoods, my bedroom at the back of the house was small and only held a bed. There wasn’t even space for a dresser, and I had to keep my clothes in the closet of one of the guest bedrooms. It was just another way for my mother to make me feel like an unwanted burden.
For the first time since I left home, a smile forms around my lips and excitement starts to bloom in my chest.
I hate my parents for doing this to me, for making me run to North Carolina, the other side of the bloody world. But I’ve had enough. A person can only take so much abuse.
I have to prove to myself that I can survive without them. The trust fund isn’t huge, and with the exchange rate being so bad, it doesn’t leave me with much of a monthly allowance once it’s converted to dollars. I’ll only have enough for rent, one meal a day, and paying for my studies.
Even though my finances aren’t the best, I feel hopeful, and for the first time, I don’t dread what tomorrow might bring.
Lifting my bag onto the bed, I start to unpack. It only takes a minute to transfer my clothes over to the spacious closet. The few items look lost in all the space, but still, a warm feeling settles in my heart.
I might not have much, but I have my freedom.
“You’ve done it, Emma,” I whisper. I grab clean clothes and the only towel I have, then walk back to the bathroom so I can shower. “You have six months to find a way so you can stay here.”
After I’ve taken a quick shower, I get dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
Back in my room, I place the dirty clothes in my backpack. I’ll have to find a laundromat where I can wash them.
I turn on my phone, and immediately it starts to vibrate with messages and missed calls. I choose to ignore them for now and search for Chloe’s number.
Holding the phone to my ear, a smile spreads across my face the second I hear her voice.
“I’ve been going insane! Did you land in one piece? Is the place you’re staying at nice? What is your roommate like? Have your parents cont –”
“Chloe, slow down. One question at a time,” I stop her interrogation with a burst of laughter. “I’m safely here. The flat is very nice. It’s a two bedroom, and it has an open plan kitchen and small lounge. The bedroom is huge, Chloe. It has so much closet space, and the window looks out over a beautiful courtyard. It’s nothing like the room at home. It’s easily twice as big. Don’t even get me started on how comfy the bed looks.”
A sense of freedom washes over me as I take in my new home.
I’m really free.
“I’m so happy you like it, Em. You sound better too. You did the right thing by leaving. Have you met your roommate?”
“I haven’t met the person I’m sharing the flat with. I’m a little nervous about that. I saw a pair of men’s sneakers, so I’m sure it’s a guy. Miss Jessie, the owner, let me in. She seems nice, but she was surprised to see me. My application got mixed up with some other guy’s. After explaining that I can’t afford to live on my own and how important it is that I share a flat, she relented and gave me the keys.”
“Oh hell. I’m just glad you got it all sorted. Anyway, I’m glad you’ve settled in. After everything we had to go through to get you there,” she sighs. “Just don’t answer your phone if that bitch tries to call you. Don’t reply to her texts. Don’t let her intimidate you. Remember, she’s on the other side of the world now. You’re safe in America.”
“Thank you for helping me,” I say, thanking my lucky stars again that I have such an incredible friend.
“You know I’d ride a porcupine butt naked for you,” she laughs. I don’t know where she heard that, but since she did, she hasn’t stopped saying it.
“You’re the best,” I whisper. It’s the best I can do to tell Chloe that I care about her.
I can’t say the words I love you. My mother has made them lose all meaning, and now they’re just empty words I hear after a beating.
“Now, go on! Go out and have some fun,” she says, her voice laced with excitement for me.
“I’m a little scared, to be honest, but I’m not going to let it hold me back,” I admit.
“Yes, don’t hide in your room. Go out and experience new things. You’ll see not everyone is as evil as that insane mother of yours.”
I want to experience everything this world has to offer. I’ve never gone out before and have no idea how to socialize. Being out and between people is the only way I’m going to learn.
“Take your phone with you and call if you need me. Or text me. I’m on standby,” Chloe says, offering her support like she always does.
“You’re the best. You know that, right?” I say again.
“No, you’re the best,” she laughs.
“I’ll let you know how it goes.”
My phone beeps just as I cut the call. One glance tells me I can’t run from the inevitable. Chloe would kill me if she knew I was answering them, but I can’t just ignore my parents. They are my family, after all. I’ll just let them know I’m safe.
Dad: Where are you? We can’t reach you. Your mother’s worried.
Me: I’m taking a break from it all. I’m safe.
I bite my bottom lip as I watch the message go through. Even though an ocean separates me from them, I can’t help but feel scared.
My heartbeat starts to speed up as a panic attack threatens to engulf me.
Closing my eyes, I picture an eagle taking flight, and I let all my feelings soar away with it. It’s something I started doing two years ago after I saw an eagle soaring above our house. I had just finished gathering all the dead leaves from the swimming pool when I heard the sharp cry. I must’ve watched it for an hour before it flew away. What I remember most from that day was the peaceful feeling which filled my heart.
Sucking in a deep breath, I slowly open my eyes. “You’re going to be fine, Emma. You can do this.”




Michelle Heard is a Bestselling Romance Author who likes her books hot, dirty, and with a touch of darkness. She loves an alpha hero who is not scared to fight for his woman.

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The Wilderness

Chapter Reveal, The Wilderness, Lavender Shores Book 8 by Rosalind Abel


Fall in love with the next book in the Lavender Shores Series.

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Will Epstein had it all—playboy good looks, wealth and prestige, and a gorgeous fiancé to costar with him on a reality television show. But that was years ago, before he was abandoned at the altar on national television. In the aftermath, Will’s world completely crumbled, leaving him humiliated, alone and lost.

Andre Rivera married his first love and lived a dream life until tragedy stepped in. His wife’s sudden death left him devastated and struggling to build a life for his young daughter. Being a pilot offers Andre a sense of freedom from Lavender Shores, but he feels trapped in his grief and unable to move forward.

A shared sense of loss fosters a surprising friendship between Will and Andre, giving them both the salvation they need. But when feelings cross the lines of friendship and secrets are revealed, Will and Andre have to confront their own fears.

Amid the gold of a Lavender Shores autumn, Will and Andre must grasp their chance at love… before it slips away.

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Rosalind Abel grew up tending chickens alongside her sweet and faithful Chow, Lord Elgin. While her fantasy of writing novels was born during her teen years, she never would have dreamed she’d one day publish steamy romances about gorgeous men. However, sometimes life turns out better than planned.

In between crafting scorching sex scenes and helping her men find their soul mates, Rosalind enjoys cooking, collecting toys, and making the best damn scrapbooks in the world (this claim hasn’t been proven, but she’s willing to put good money on it).

She adores MM Romance, the power it has to sweep the reader away into worlds filled with passion, steam, and love. Rosalind also enjoys her collection of plot bunnies and welcomes new fuzzy ones into her home all the time, so feel free to send any adorable ones her way.

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Wilde About Carson(The Brothers Wilde Series, #3) by Cate Faircloth







We have always just been friends.

Emily Rhey has been my best friend since tin-can lunches in the first grade. We have seen each other through everything; the ‘firsts’, the ‘seconds, the ‘always,’ but most importantly when everyone left, she was still there.

She’s smart, beautiful, witty–the perfect woman for any man.

Even someone like me; heir to my father’s empire, as handsome as I am rich.

Over the years, plenty have questioned us–my brothers, even my mother; but we have never crossed that line.

I never thought about it, and as far as I’m concerned, neither has she.

When grief draws us together, very close together, it changes everything…

I tell myself we are only friends…until I can decide if it is still true.



“I bet you a hundred bucks, you’re going to break your neck.”
“Only a hundred? Come on, is my life not worth more than that?”
“Less… I bet ten.” Dylan. Such a prick. Always has been. Always will be.
“No one is going to die. It’s only a ten-foot drop. Easy,” Fletcher adds in.
“Yeah, but add that with the icy cold water and the angle—”
“Shut up, doc,” Grayson snipes at Jeffrey, who makes a face but accepts that we are the last people to accept his MD.
“Just get down from there, Carson,” Holden adds his pseudo patriarch voice to the conversation.
I turn to him and laugh, shaking my head at him. The motion makes me a little wobbly on the edge of the boat. I slip and catch myself with my bare feet, my jeans are the only thing protecting my body from the cold wharf air. I mock exactly what Holden says, and he makes a face, holding his hands up, one with beer and the other empty.
“Do you really want to die the night of my wedding?” Brant finally chimes in.
He has been quiet and brooding the whole time, and we haven’t even left the dock yet. All of us flocked here for his wedding this weekend to the super-hot lawyer he met only seven months ago. They swear it isn’t only for the kid she is about to have, I believe him—but I’m not a fan of insta-love. Or love in general.
“That question begs the fact that I might die, but I won’t. Are your video cameras out?” I stare down at the water calmly thrashing against the edge of the boat.
I guess I shouldn’t call a hundred-foot yacht a boat. It’s more of a small house, our own little city. It has been in the family since I was little and looked at it like a small city. Now it’s yet another thing I have grown used to in this fine life we live. Thanks for all the hard work, Dad.
“Open the bay back doors for when I get back.” I shout to my brothers. All here except Isaac, maybe I am jumping toward him. Or is that way too touchy?
I’d like to think it is, but we are all thinking the same thing. There is a reason why we drink so much when we all get together. But I haven’t had enough to make me wobbly, or regret jumping out into the water, adding a flip. The water hits me cold, and I surface back up to find my brothers looking on.
All with video cameras.
* * *
“I look like a pompous ass.” Fletcher keeps picking at his suit like it was put on unwillingly. Maybe it was.
We are all laughing at him eyeing himself in the wide mirror like he doesn’t know who he is. I get it, big football guy wearing a suit. Not comfortable.
“You look like the rest of us.” Dylan stands behind him to fix his tie. At least Cora only wanted a simple wedding. But telling my mom she can go ahead and plan everything? None of them are prepared for what she did to the house for this party.
“Yeah, unfortunately we share genes. Alec on the other hand…”
“Fuck off,” Alec chimes in from his spot in the corner of the room. He is already dressed, the calmest of us all. Not just because he has always been a silent brooder, but because he has done this before and has a first-class ticket to chill out.
“You only have to wear it for the ceremony. And nine thousand pictures,” Grayson says. He looks older every time I see him, but he is only twenty-one. It’s probably from being away at the war and all. Or are we actually fighting?
“Right. Where is Brant?” Fletcher asks.
We all laugh.
Brant never freaks out about anything. He is always cool and chill. I crack the jokes to make the awkward moments go away.
“Not like he has anything to worry about.” I tilt my neck up to fix my tie. “Rich, famous, already knocked her up. She isn’t going anywhere.”
Holden highly disagrees with a scoff. “Yeah right, have you met Cora? She wouldn’t think twice about it if she had to. That chick is the definition of spitfire.”
“She reminds you of Elizabeth?” I ask Holden. He gives me a hard glare that still gets even me to shut up. I’m not allowed to talk about the woman he makes eyes with at work. But oh, he can bother me about any and every woman I hook up with. Just because he is older, he takes the hierarchy thing too seriously.
“Look, we all need to hurry up and get to Brant’s room.” Jeffrey brings us all back to the present.
We have turned the media room into our hangout spot while chaos ensues in the rest of the house—caterers, planners, whoever it is that brings the flowers and chairs. We don’t keep many friends. Just family friends, and actual family. Mom has a bunch of siblings, nieces and nephews—our cousins. But we didn’t make nice with each and every person we came in contact with because most of the time they only wanted something from us. Wanted in on the most successful family the tri-state area has ever seen.
But I’m not butt hurt about it or anything. I have friends, my brothers and—
“Where is Emily?” Evan asks.
I make a face at him as I walk over to the wet bar for a bottle of water. Fletcher makes a signal he wants one, so I toss it to him.
“Uh, out with Mom helping set up, I think.”
“Mom really likes her. More than Mia,” Alec says.
“Not possible, Mom loves Mia. And Emily has been in the family for a long time…” I guzzle down the water suddenly thirsty as hell.
“I know.” Alec chuckles. “But is she?”
“Like family?”
My brothers all stop what they’re doing to make the room comically silent and stare me down until I answer. I hate them all. Of course, not literally. But every chance they get, they want to irritate me about this whole ‘best friend’ thing. Guys can have female best friends, and it doesn’t mean anything other than having a person, someone besides my idiot brothers.
I smile and laugh without humor.
“Don’t we have a wedding to get to?”
With more protests and denials, we pile out to find Brant in the pool house where he is supposed to be. He looks good, his bridal suit kind of matches ours, made more fancy by the tail end. I honestly never took him for the marriage type—maybe it is the rock-star thing. But now that I see it, I don’t question it, not since I saw him with Cora for the first time. It was the same with Alec and Mia, something about them is different…
“Imagining it’s you up there?”
I turn to Emily. She has her sneaky smile on. She’s got many smiles. I guess I would know since she is my best friend. What I didn’t know is how well she could clean up. Maybe it’s just been a while, but… she does look amazing.
“Hell no,” I whisper back.
She giggles softly and leans away from my ear. I would be up there with all my other brothers, but just like last time, we can’t all fit. Besides, Brant already decided on it. He doesn’t want anyone messing up the photo so it’s just him and his best man, good ol’ Holden.
“She is so pretty.” Emily sighs and leans her head on my shoulder.
The minister hasn’t been going that long, but I can tell it might get wordy. Brant likes that kind of stuff, and Cora humors him after she argues enough. It’s their thing.
“And she doesn’t even look pregnant. Well, that’s how I look after a meal of spaghetti.”
I chuckle softly at her, no one notices we are entertaining ourselves.
“You look great,” I whisper back. I feel her shrug like ‘okay.’
But I mean it. She has this tan dress on, side straps and a V-neckline low enough to remind me how sexy she really is. Sometimes I forget, especially when we spent our teen years together and saw each other through acne and braces. It’s long, I don’t see her legs crossed under the layered fabric of it. I know that’s how she sits though, always has.
“You look dapper.”
“You see me wear a suit every day.” I smirk down at her.
We work together at my dad’s company. I still call it that even though it has been almost a year since his passing, and Holden is well past running it on his own. Emily is an executive associate in international relations which just means she is one step away from running the whole team. Me, I’m COO because I know how to keep things in check—also studied business management at Yale with Emily. I went to college as a showpiece because I hated it, and when Dad passed, I officially took over as COO, and Evan moved to CTO so he wouldn’t have to manage both roles himself. We’re better at each position, respectively.
“Not like this.”
“You have the hots for me?” I lean down to whisper in her ear. Then she flashes me her goofy smile that I return.
“Shut up. Watch your brother get married.”
“It’s no different from the last time,” I murmur.
But I get my camera out when they start to exchange rings. I have an obligation to keep everyone updated.
“No way,” I say to myself when Brant starts crying at the end.
I look at Fletcher, and he frowns because he owes me some money since we bet on it. I bet he would cry, he said no way. How about that?
The lot of us hound Brant at the end. We are all super happy for him and Cora. Plus, the little one on the way. Alec has had his own share of it too, with Mia about the same amount of time along with their kid. Cora’s brother, Damien, is quite the socialite, talking up a few of our younger cousins. I guess they’re around his age. It’s nice to know that all facets of our family easily mesh together.
All but two now. Dad would be proud, and I don’t know if Isaac could care less.
“Let’s dance.” Emily stands and tugs me with her.
“I would rather eat these samplers.” I pick at one of my quiches.
But then she makes her face—the ‘please’ face. That face made me take a Pilates class with her, and I still have a wedgie.
“Ugh, fine. None of the Milly Rock stuff, though.” I follow her out to the designated dance area.
“Just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean you can knock it.” She laughs.
Most of the kids have found their own corner, the adults in another. Mom is sitting with Mia who is nursing her small belly. Mom is ecstatic about all the grandkids coming along. I’m sure she has plans in her head already.
The music is too slow for anything but goofy swaying. Our hands interlocked, moving back and forth while Emily laughs. She loves laughing at everything, and it is just part of who she is. Happy, loving, carefree, my twelfth favorite person in the entire world—right after my brothers and Mom.
“You learned new moves,” I shout to her.
Brant has taken the night off—no singing from him. But he did mention something about serenading Cora, and that would be the only singing he does over his honeymoon. Nothing like the heart-tugging first dance between them.
“I club a lot.” She giggles.
I shake my head at her and wrestle her into a dramatic dip. Her laugh shoots through my ears and makes me follow suit.
“How many more can you take?” I ask her as she doesn’t let me leave once again.
“What? You tired?” She comes closer and grabs my arms trying to make me hit the whip.
I smile down at her taking in the light of her dark green eyes and glowing sheen all over her dancing body. Was she always this pretty? I guess that isn’t the question at hand. Emily has a senseless beauty that grew like a flower, morphed with her soul in a fast, blinding moment. The soft roundness of her eyes frames her face over her button nose and small, set lips, her rounded face matches the rest of her sinuous body. I blink, she asked me something…
“Hell yeah, I’m tired.”
“Keep up with me, and I’ll buy you a milkshake after.”
“Can’t we ditch the wedding now?” I whine.
“We haven’t had cake yet. I never leave without cake.”




I have been a romantic all my life; in books, movies, television, and anything that brings happiness into the world. Though I love reading and avoiding daily responsibilities, I am also an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, a flag ship university for writing and creative freedom. I love connecting with all my readers, and sharing the stories that dance around in my head.



Jacked Up by Jane Henry




I’ll show her who her daddy is.

When daddy’s little girl comes into my repair shop begging for help, I agree.

With conditions.

I don’t want her money.
I want her.
The pretty little girl will pay off her debts… but she’ll have to get her hands a little dirty.

A standalone novel in the Hard n’ Dirty series



I pull out my compact mirror and purse my lips, checking my makeup. Hair is in place, too-short dress wrinkle-free, just enough cleavage showing.
Eyes ready to go all puppy dog when the time is right.
I’ve spent two sleepless nights perusing the web, trying to find a classic car repair shop that could do what I need them to. This place, thank God only a short drive from my home in Manhattan, fits the bill. Reviewers say it’s excellent, and they turn out top-quality work. The only bad reviews mention the repair shop owner and the shop itself. They say he’s grumpy and irritable, and other reviews say the shop needs a good, thorough clean. So I’ve prepared myself: bottle of instant hand sanitizer in my purse, check. Black dress that won’t show any stains if I come into contact with anything in the shop, check. Perfect smile in place so I can charm the grumpy owner, check.
My hands are sweaty, my stomach in knots. I’ve never done anything like this in my life. Hell, I hardly even know how to park. I’m used to valets and escorts and rarely have to do something so… normal… as driving to a repair shop and parking my car. Yeah, maybe I’ve been a little sheltered.
It isn’t the newness of the experience that makes me nervous, but how desperate I am for them to say yes, they’ll help me.
I inhale deeply. Stand up tall. Exude confidence and aplomb, my mom told me. Appearances are everything. As soon as I could walk on two legs, she began teaching me how to walk with my shoulders pulled back, my spine straightened, like we were in some sort of marching band. I learned, though. How to walk with dignity, dress with pride, and present myself as Tanya Hayes, Daughter of Raymond and Sasha Hayes. Heiress to the Hayes Family Automotives Legacy.
I was kept out of the public eye as a child, hidden from the publicity and attention my father and mother received . The little princess. So fortunately, when I go about my business, people rarely know who I am. I’m not easily recognizable.
I’m hoping that’s the case today. Hell, everything’s sort of banking on it.
I grit my teeth as I walk on these killer heels to my destination. I see the shop from a distance, and recognize it immediately from the pictures I saw online. Gleaming chrome accents the window frames, enormous picture windows displaying a beautiful car in candy-apple red. It’s all a little like I’ve stepped back in time, to a simpler place, like if I push open the doors to that shop I’ll be able to sit on a stool and order a drink from an old-fashioned soda fountain.
The cars are all lined up, and these are not the little beaters and rusty, ancient things I saw at some other shops. These are the real deals. Mint condition. Exclusive. Gorgeous.
I have no idea what most of the names for the cars are. I don’t care what the names are. All I care about is finding someone who can help me.
I push open the door and enter, forgetting my plan on being all put-together and professional. I can’t help but wrinkle up my nose when the pungent scent of oil and grease fills my senses. It’s pretty from the outside, but the reviews were right. The inside of this place needs some serious attention.
It’s vacant in here, and I look around for some sort of bell or something I can ring to get someone’s attention, but there’s nothing. Against one wall is a glass display of books that catches my attention. Curious, I walk over and look at the titles. They’re vintage covers featuring classic cars, but half of them look like pin-up posters with half-naked women gracing the cover. Interesting.
Another display case to the left houses miniature replicas of classic cars. I have to admit, they’re beautiful. Canary yellow, robin’s egg blue, and cherry red, black and silver with gleaming windshields. And the attention to detail astounds me. They’re not behind the glass like the books, so I reach out and run a finger along one edge. As soon as my finger glides along the edge of a pretty black racecar, a door jangles open and I nearly jump out of my skin. I feel like a kid caught red-handed with her hand in the cookie jar. Something tells me I’m not supposed to touch these little cars. I swivel around and put my hands behind my back like I’m totally innocent. I’m not expecting what I see.
Behind me is a guy wiping his hands on a dirty rag. He stands behind the desk, but he’s so tall and broad I can see him clearly. He’s got dark brown, longish hair slicked back, and a thick, dark beard. He’s wearing a short-sleeved black t-shirt that stretches tight against his chest, revealing muscled arms completely covered in tattoos. I don’t want to stare, so I only look quickly. There are skulls and flowers, the flowers being the only color in a sea of black. His eyes pierce me in place with a stern but curious look, and an instant throb pulses low in my belly.
My pulse quickens. He’s got an immediate vibe of danger. My breath catches.
He’s not my type. He’s so not my type.
Then why do I feel all nervous and lightheaded? Why are my palms sweaty? My heart tip-taps a crazy beat.
“Hi,” I say as cheerfully as I can, swallowing hard. “I’m looking for the owner of this shop.” This has to be one of the guys who works for him. This man doesn’t look like the crotchety owner described in those reviews online. The owner has to be old and gray and grumpy.
Hellllo, stranger.
The man finishes wiping his hands and places the rag on the top. “Alright,” he says. His voice is deep and growly like he gargles with whiskey and cigarettes, but his eyes twinkle a little. “When I fetch him, who do I say’s askin’ for him?”
“I—please tell him—Felicia is here,” I stammer, totally unprepared for this. My voice sounds weirdly high-pitched and squeaky because I’m a terrible liar, but he can’t know my real name. He cocks a brow at me that’s more than curious. There’s an undercurrent of correction in it that makes my throat tighten. He knows. God, I’m awful at lying.
“Got it,” he says, his eyes shuttering. I must’ve imagined a spark of friendliness there. His jaw clenches and his lip thin as he pushes the rag on the counter and goes into the shop. I gasp for a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. The door jangles with a bell and shuts behind him with an ominous click.
The minutes tick by. Where the hell is he? I glance nervously at my phone, but it doesn’t give me any answers. Did I make a mistake coming here? God. I straighten out my skirt and look longingly at the line-up of the replicas. I want to touch them again.
Seconds turn into minutes. Easily ten minutes later, the door to the shop opens, and the same guy walks in. I look at him quizzically. Where’s the owner? I’m growing impatient now. I have things to do, and this is a waste of my time. He walks over to me and extends his hand. What the hell? I stare and finally take his hand. It’s rough, large, and warm. I swallow hard.
“Nice to meet you, Felicia,” he says, though his voice is rough and tight. He’s anything but pleased to meet me, and that gets my hackles up. Has he already judged me?
“What brings you here?” he asks.
“I was hoping to meet the owner,” I say through tight lips. “I need to speak to him regarding a very important matter. Crucial, really, and extremely time-sensitive.”
He releases my hand to cross his arms on his chest, making his biceps bulge. I swear to God the skull tattoo is glaring right at me, like some sort of omen. Is that why he has it? I blink and try to keep calm.
“Name’s Levi DeRocco,” he says, his voice rough like sandpaper. “I’m the shop owner. Now I’m going to ask you one final time, what brings you here?” I quake at the tone of his voice, my errand making me nervous as hell. One final time?
God I should’ve known he was the owner. Then why did the reviews online mention years of experience?
“I… I need some work done on a car,” I stammer. “It’s…very important I get this work done, discreetly and promptly.”
He quirks a brow, frowning.
“Discreetly?” he barks out.
I jump, then nod dumbly.
I squirm uncomfortably under his glare. I’m not used to being scrutinized like this, and I want to leave. It was a mistake giving him a fake name. He saw right through me.
“Your car?” he asks.
Shit. I need to get this over with and get the hell out of here. “No, actually,” I say. “My…father’s.” I’m stammering like a bumbling teenager. “I was out with my…boyfriend, um, ex-boyfriend,” I amend, because I so dumped his ass, “and we had a bit of an accident. The car is in a garage and needs to be towed.
“Let me get this straight,” he says, in a voice that’s almost like some kind of animalistic growl. If lions talked, they would sound like this. God, I was stupid. This guy definitely was the grumpy owner all the reviews talk about, and here I was thinking he maybe was friendly. “It’s your father’s car. Your boyfriend totaled it. And you’re in here…why?”
“To have it fixed before my father gets back,” I explain. It’s a lot to explain, and do I even need to? “Listen,” I say, my temper rising. “Can you just tell me already if you can fix it? I don’t want to get into a lot of explanations and stuff. If you can’t do the job, I need to find someone else.”
A corner of his lips tips up. “Someone else? What kinda car is it?”
My stomach clenches. I practically whisper, “It’s a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible.”
He swears. “An L88?”
I whimper. “Yes.”
“Honey,” he says with a patronizing smile, “the next mechanic that knows the ins and outs of a 67 Chevy Corvette is 300 miles from here and booked solid until January. That car’s worth a cool two mil. You know that?”
My heart sinks. Is he joking? But no. Reviews online say this shop is worth dealing with the owner, because he knows his shit and he’s literally the only one around here who does. I take in a deep breath and let it out again. “So you’ll do it?”
The smile leaves his eyes. “I didn’t say that.” He leans over the counter. “First, tell me what the damage is.”
With trembling hands, I take out my phone and pull up the pictures. He lets out a low whistle that tatters my already-frayed nerves. I want to cry. Instead, I stifle a whimper.
The rearview mirror is smashed, the windshield cracked right down the center, and the passenger door is bent beyond recognition. The bumper dangles crazily like a maniacal loose tooth.
He runs rough fingers over his beard and pulls, then his glacial stare swings back to me. “How the fuck did you do this to such a beautiful car?”
“I didn’t do it,” I snap. Didn’t he listen at all? “My stupid boyfriend— ex boyfriend did it.”
He shakes his head. “You were with him, you let him use the car, this is on you, babe.” I blink. He might be the one with the power here, and I’m definitely screwed, but is it cool to call a potential customer babe?
He carries on. “And where’s this ex now?” he asks. “Hope you dumped his ass. Jesus Christ, only dumb fuckin’ morons damage a beauty like that.”
I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t even like my ex anymore, but this guy’s swift, and very clearly crass judgment, sets me off. No one talks to me this way. Hell, even my tutors and nannies have treated me with respect. Who the hell is this guy?
In my world, a bit of temper often gets you your way, so I haven’t even tried to quell it. And I can’t always help my temper. It might be a stupid move I’ll regret, but it’s too late.
I slam my hand down on the counter. “I’m not here to talk about my boy — argh, ex-boyfriend! I want to know, can you fix this car, how long it will take, and what you’ll charge? Please.”
He places my phone down on the counter with slow, deliberate patience, his eyes on mine, and crosses those huge, scary arms over his muscled chest, fixing me with a stern glare that is completely unfamiliar to me. No one looks at Tanya Hayes that way. I swallow and take an involuntary step back from him.
He turns away from the desk and without a word, walks over to the shop door and flips a deadbolt into place.
Still without speaking, he goes to the front door and flips a second deadbolt.
Then he takes the Open sign and switches it around to show Closed.
Oh God. What’s he going to do? Is he going to hurt me? Who the hell is he? I reach for my cell phone and don’t know I’m going to do with it, but my hands are trembling so it clatters to the floor. I cringe, bend down to get it, but Levi gets it before I do. Our hands touch, and a zing of electricity skirts up my arm. I blink in surprise, and for a moment I wonder if he’s pocketing my phone so I can’t call for help before he abducts me or something, but he gives me the phone and I stagger backward.
Scowling, he stalks over to the leather loveseat that sits against one wall with a stack of magazines featuring classic cars on the coffee table in front, and crooks a finger at me. I blink. Without a word, he points to the seat next to him.
What choice do I have?
Groaning inwardly and shaking like a goddamned leaf, I go to him.



USA Today Bestselling author Jane has been writing since her early teens, dabbling in short stories and poetry. When she married and began having children, her pen was laid to rest for several years, until the National Novel Writing Challenge (NaNoWriMo) in 2010 awakened in her the desire to write again. That year, she wrote her first novel, and has been writing ever since. With a houseful of children, she finds time to write in the early hours of the morning, squirreled away with a laptop, blanket, and cup of hot coffee. Years ago, she heard the wise advice, “Write the book you want to read,” and has taken it to heart. She sincerely hopes you also enjoy the books she likes to read.



KNAVE (Masters of Manhattan Book 1) by Jane Henry






Sabrina: Good guys save the day and criminals go to jail. It’s not rocket science, people.

But then my father’s killed, I’m rescued by a thief, and my worldview is shattered. He takes me to his penthouse. His bed. I don’t have to like it but I can’t help it. His touch is everything a good girl like me shouldn’t want.

Anson: Good and bad mean nothing to a master thief. I take what I want, and what I want is vengeance. No more, no less.

Maybe the girl can help, so I’ll hide her. Protect her. And if I have to manhandle her to keep her quiet, she’ll deal. Hell, she might even like it. But she’ll learn fast that I make the rules.



“3, 2, 1… And, security systems are down,” Walker said, his voice with its lilting accent magnified over the tiny communication device in my ear, so that it sounded like he was sitting right next to me. “Daly, you’re up.”
No shit. I rolled my eyes as I employed the tiny laser cutting tool to make a hole in the glass window just large enough for me to slip through. Dangling from a cable four stories above the ground in the middle of a bright, moonlit night was not the best time to start contemplating your life choices, but it seemed to happen every time I worked with these guys; which was to say, twenty-four-seven for the past six months.
“I’m in,” I whispered, pushing the suction holder I’d clamped to the freshly-cut glass disk and reaching my arm into the cooler, drier air of the office. With practiced ease, I levered myself headfirst through the hole, twisting to land lightly on my feet. I set the now useless glass gently on the floor, removed the rappelling cable that tethered me to the roof, and stood silently in the empty office, taking a second to get my bearings, to let my eyes adjust to the relative darkness, and to let my body, sweating from the humid night outside, cool for a second.
“Daly, report.” As always, Xavier’s cool, imperious voice drove me bonkers.
“Report,” I muttered. “Because I’m your freakin’ minion, X.” The comm device, created by Walker to detect the slightest sound, obviously caught my words, but other than Caelan’s reproachful sigh, nobody replied.
Six months, the five of us had been living and working together, and I couldn’t say it had made much difference in my attitude. I still preferred to work alone, and it still bugged the crap out of me that I had four other voices in my head while I was on a job, but I had no one to blame for the situation but myself. I’d answered the invitation that January night, after all, and I’d agreed to stay even after Eugenia Carmichael’s videotaped last will and testament had thrown my life into a tailspin.
“Office is empty,” I said, after a beat or two of silence where I glanced around the empty surfaces of the desk and bookcase behind me. “Doesn’t look like anyone’s been working here. I was able to cut the window in a low visibility location. No direct views from inside or outside, thanks to the Rosenberg building next door being under renovation. Ethan’s intel was good.”
This would buy us crucial time before the office staff of Stuart Fowler Real Estate, LLC, caught on to the fact that they’d been the victims of a break-in.
“Of course it’s good,” Ethan huffed. “I didn’t spend two whole days in that place as the world’s most overqualified temp just to provide you bad information.”
I had to smirk at his little snit, mostly because nobody could see me. Ethan was every bit as good at his job—a cross between reconnaissance and high-key scamming—as I was at mine, but where my role in our little gang involved dressing in black gear and a full-coverage face mask like the one I wore tonight, Ethan’s usually involved wearing an expensive suit and an overly-friendly smile.
“Still wish it didn’t have to happen when the moon was this high,” I grumbled to no one in particular, repeating an argument I’d already made earlier in the week. “Moonlit night in July makes people want to take a walk and look around.”
“And like I told you, the phases of the moon refuse to change no matter how much I try to persuade them to,” Ethan said with an affected sigh. “But if we don’t get the information from the safe tonight, it’s gonna be too late. Now that Fowler’s dead, his attorney’s going to be cleaning out his office and opening the safe to disburse his assets, likely as soon as tomorrow.”
I knew Ethan was right, but I’d be damned before I’d admit it.
“I’m heading to the outer office,” I said instead, moving toward the door. “We’re sure internal door alarms are off?” I was already betting my life on Walker knowing his shit, a pretty safe bet considering he was probably the best hacker on the planet, but old habits died hard, and I really didn’t like relying on anyone but myself.
“I already told you I own the system. You doubting my prowess with the keyboard?” Walker grumbled, his accent thickening when he was put out. “It hurts, man. Just for that, I’m disabling the WiFi in your room and cutting your free premium cable channels.”
“Jesus,” I muttered, placing my hand on the door handle and turning it. Like I gave the first shit about getting free premium cable and WiFi. Thanks to Eugenia Carmichael and her billions, all five of us were now the joint owners of Manhattan’s swankiest penthouse and financially set for life… just as long as we managed to complete the task she’d left us. A task which seemed more and more like the labors of Hercules as the months passed.
I silently eased the door open a crack and stood still again, taking the measure of the room. I didn’t just listen for sounds or heavy breathing, despite the wisecracks Ethan and Walker liked to make, but tried to sense disturbances, picking up on the vibrations that people (and even unforeseen security measures) sometimes gave off. It was a crucial task for any thief who planned to spend his golden years anywhere but a six-by-eight cell.
The room smelled like strawberry candies, and cheap cologne so strong I almost sneezed.
“Daly, you’re on a clock here,” Xavier reminded me needlessly, and my nostrils instinctively flared as I fought the urge to tell him exactly where he could shove his clock. Walker’s jokes were annoying, Ethan’s overly-perceptive friendliness grated, and Caelan’s silent watchfulness made me uncomfortable, but all of them had earned my loyalty over the past six months. The only person in our quintet that I hadn’t warmed to even a fraction was Xavier Malone, heir apparent of the Madison Avenue Malones and douchebag extraordinaire. Walker, Ethan, and Caelan—a former MMA fighter and personal security guard—had all proved their usefulness to our team, as had I, but somehow Xavier’s useless ass had appointed himself our leader.
I wasn’t sure why nobody else minded this as much as I did.
“Shut the fuck up and let me do my job, X,” I retorted.
“X-av-ier. Three syllables, Daly,” he corrected in the fake-bored voice he used when he was all pissed off, and I smiled in satisfaction before I stopped myself.
Legit, was this my life, where calling a high-profile venture capitalist by a hated nickname was how I got my kicks in the middle of a job that could land me in prison?
But even so, I couldn’t resist adding in a whisper, “Did I hurt your feels, honey?”
“I’m gonna hurt both of you if you don’t shut the fuck up and get this done,” Caelan interjected, silencing both of us immediately. Caelan, despite all his bulk and some formidable fighting skills I’d seen in action, had the longest fuse of anyone I’d ever met. When he was finally pushed to the breaking point, it was as effective as an ice bath.
“Reception area is clear,” I said, stepping forward. “I’m going down the hall to Fowler’s office.”
“Remember, code for the office door is 0-0-7-0-1. The safe is on the wall behind the God-awful nude,” Ethan said. “You’re gonna have to use the digital code device…”
“Walker prepped me on the device,” I interrupted, my voice a bare breath of sound as I tread noiselessly down the hall. And I hadn’t needed much of a tutorial to begin with. My memory was nearly photographic, and I’d used similar devices a number of times in the past, for God’s –
“What’s that?” I asked, though I wasn’t sure the sound was audible to anyone else. For a split second, my pulse pounded, and I froze in place, worried there was someone moving in Fowler’s office at the end of the corridor, but then the HVAC system hummed to life, blanketing the room with recycled air. I took a deep breath.
“Daly, report,” Xavier demanded, and for once I wasn’t pissed off about it.
“False alarm, just the A/C kicking in,” I whispered, pressing a hand to my chest.
“Caelan, you’ve got the van in place?” Xavier asked. His voice sounded strained, and for just one second, I let myself wonder what it must be like to feel like you were in charge of a job and know that there was almost nothing you could do to control the outcome, once the game was in play. Huh. For a control freak like Xavier, that had to be a bitch.
“Yep. Got the van parked in the loading zone with a cold lemonade once Daly’s got the documents,” Caelan replied. “Gotta get this beast in for service,” he said fondly, and I could almost hear him petting the steering wheel as he spoke.
The surveillance van was Caelan’s baby, one of the first things he’d purchased on behalf of Masters’ Security Systems, Inc., the security company Xavier had ‘founded’ as a handy cover for our after-hours jobs, and he refused to let any of us even sit behind the wheel.
In some ways, that van and the company it represented were like the sixth member of our band—the one that gave us the respectable façade necessary to hack systems, break and enter locked buildings, and indulge in a little espionage. People actually paid us to test their security systems—both physical and technological—for weaknesses. We were officially known as white-hat thieves and hackers, and our company had quickly earned a reputation for providing the best personal and corporate security money could buy.
No one seemed to suspect that we spent our free time in similar, unsanctioned pursuits.
I crept down the hallway, listening outside each office as I passed, but all was silent. I took a second to curse the air conditioner, which blew strong enough to rustle papers on desks, and was totally throwing me off my game.
Not that any of this was a game—not since Eugenia Carmichael, widow of Federal Judge Trevor Carmichael, stared down at us from that television screen and calmly discussed her own impending murder.
“I’m about to die, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it, gentlemen. The people who’ll kill me don’t care that I’m old or rich. They don’t care that I haven’t long to live in any case, or that the only reason I’ve hung on this long is to get justice for my sweet husband. They’ll make my death seem like the simplest accident or the most natural death imaginable, just like they did for my Trevor. Just like they did for your mother, Anson Daly. Your brother, Ethan Warner. Your fiancée, Caelan Jamison. Your best friend, Walker Smith. And your sister, Xavier Malone.
“They’re soulless bastards, and their greedy tentacles reach into every branch of law enforcement, every institution meant to protect the population from evil men. But when the good folks can’t be trusted, what’s a woman like me to do? I’ll tell you, gents. You gather together a team of criminals. A cat burglar, a computer expert, a bodyguard who’s not afraid to fight, a con-artist… and the greatest criminal of all, a Wall Street investor to lead them.”
I shook my head as I checked the last office on the right and wished I could have known Eugenia Carmichael. Rich as fuck, batty as hell, and the kind of person I’d have liked to have on my team.
“All the other offices are empty,” I whispered. “Entering Fowler’s office.”
I stared down at the keypad and blinked. “Uh, Ethan, what’s it mean if the door is open?” I demanded.
“Impossible. Security system won’t set unless his door is closed,” Ethan said confidently. “Had to stick my tongue down Becca the receptionist’s throat and practically propose marriage to learn that little tidbit, but you know me. Anything for the Masters.”
“Didn’t ask if it was possible,” I retorted, backing away from the door. “Asked what it meant if the impossible was already happening.”
“What? No,” Ethan said, sounding truly concerned. “I don’t know how… Walker, the systems were booted before you shut them down?”
“Definitely,” Walker said. I could hear keys clacking frantically in the background as he no doubt pored over information on the many screens he had set up all over the office we’d created on the second floor of what used to be the Carmichaels’ penthouse. “External system was shut down by me, and the internal system was… Oh.”
“Oh?” I demanded. “What, oh?”
“Well, Jesus, it looks like the internal security wasn’t reset the last time the external security was engaged.”
“In English, geek. My ass is in the wind here!” I fumed, pressing my back into an alcove in the hall.
“Means that someone shut off the security after the building manager closed up. Probably somebody forgot something and had to come back. When they left, they only set the external security, none of the motion sensors inside.”
His voice was apologetic, and honestly, it was something even I wouldn’t have thought to check for, but it was still my ass on the line. “Probably? What’s probably mean, Walker? Like I’ll probably get twenty to life?”
“I’m pulling up the camera feeds now,” he said, the clicking of his fingers on the keyboard sounding like buzzing wasps in my ear.
“Daly, it’s your call,” X said. “If you haven’t seen anyone, Walker’s probably right. System confirms that the external security was restarted an hour ago and wasn’t shut down again until Walker shut it down. Either someone’s been sitting there silently for an hour, or the person who reset the system did a shit job. You know we need those papers, you know the stakes, but it’s your call,” he repeated.
Shit shit shit. I smoothed my hand down the mask that covered my face. My call, but not really.
Last week, the program Walker had set up to cross reference the names of our dead loved ones against the parties involved in cases Eugenia’s dead husband, Judge Trevor Carmichael, had presided over had finally found a match. A year or so ago, Judge Carmichael had ruled on a racketeering case against mid-level real estate owner Stuart Fowler. It just so happened that Stuart Fowler handled the business dealings for Silver, a seedy bar in Vinegar Hill, and the last place my mom had worked before the overdose that killed her. We needed to find out more about who Fowler was working with, who he was working for, and who was behind the dummy corporation Fowler had set up as the owner of Silver, if we wanted to figure out how and why my mother had died.
But clearly we weren’t the only ones who’d cottoned on to this idea, since Fowler, who’d been offered a plea deal in exchange for a reduced sentence, had been killed in prison before he could decide to start naming names.
Chalk another body up to the bad guys.
“Fine. I’m going in,” I told Xavier, pushing the door open with my heart in my throat.
The scent of cologne I’d smelled in the reception area was even more powerful here, and I froze again, listening for any sound, but the room seemed to be holding its breath.
I threw the door wide, making sure no one was hiding behind it, before cautiously creeping forward. Nothing seemed out of place, and the humming of the HVAC was the only sound.
“Clear,” I breathed, stepping forward to finish my mission.
Any thief who claimed he wasn’t superstitious was a liar. Every thief had a tell—a lucky pair of socks, a nervous tic—and I was no different. I cracked the knuckles of my right hand, and then my left, clenching and unclenching my hands exactly twelve times as I walked over to the desk, my eyes fixed on the ugliest nude I’d ever seen. Jesus, her breasts looked like purple apples. I shook my head in disgust as I opened the painting, handily attached to the wall by a hinge, and put my hand in my pocket to extract the digital code device.
“Christ on a cracker,” I breathed, letting the device fall back into my pocket. I wouldn’t need it now. “Someone got here before us. Safe is empty.”
A chorus of curses echoed through my ear.
“What do we do now?” I demanded, taking a step back and pulling the mask up off my face. “This shit show can’t get much worse.”
My heel hit something on the floor with a dull thud, something I couldn’t see from the thin shafts of moonlight coming through the tinted windows. I crouched down to examine it more closely.
“Oh, my God,” I breathed. “I lied. It’s worse. Dead body. Mother fucker, there’s a dead body in here.” I stood up abruptly.
“Who is it?” Xavier demanded, ever practical.
“He’s not exactly introducing himself, X!” I said. I could hear the panic in my own voice, but dead bodies and I did not get along. “I’m outta here.”
“Check his wallet,” Caelan argued.
“No way! You come do it!”
“You said yourself, it can’t get worse. Just keep your head and check the wallet. We need to know who we’re dealing with here!” Caelan soothed.
And that’s how I found myself, against my better judgment, touching the corpse on the floor of Stuart Fowler’s office, and rolling him over to pick his pocket. Yes, this was really my life.
“Got the wallet,” I said, pocketing the thing and letting the body fall back down.
“You sure he’s dead?” Ethan wanted to know.
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Before Caelan could get all reasonable or X could get all imperious, I held my breath, stripped my glove, and put my fingers to the guy’s throat. He was still warm, but there was no pulse. I leaned closer in case I could hear a breath.
I jumped three feet. My instincts had saved my life more times than I could count, and for just one second, I swear I thought the man on the floor, the body on the floor, had sneezed, but then I realized where the sound had come from.
“What the hell is that?” Xavier demanded.
“A sneeze,” I said, standing up and getting my wits about me once more. I crept along the floor towards a small coat closet next to the office door, and threw the door open wide.
“Guys?” I said, as I looked down at the small, wide-eyed redhead huddled there. “Things got worse again.”




Jane Henry


Jane has been writing since her early teens, dabbling in short stories and poetry. When she married and began having children, her pen was laid to rest for several years, until the National Novel Writing Challenge (NaNoWriMo) in 2010 awakened in her the desire to write again. That year, she wrote her first novel, and has been writing ever since. With a houseful of children, she finds time to write in the early hours of the morning, squirreled away with a laptop, blanket, and cup of hot coffee. Years ago, she heard the wise advice, “Write the book you want to read,” and has taken it to heart. She sincerely hopes you also enjoy the books she likes to read.


Maisy Archer



Maisy is an unabashed book nerd who has been in love with romance since reading her first Julie Garwood novel at the tender age of 12. After a decade as a technical writer, she finally made the leap into writing fiction several years ago and has never looked back. Like her other great loves – coffee, caramel, beach vacations, yoga pants, and her amazing family – her love of words has only continued to grow… in a manner inversely proportional to her love of exercise, house cleaning, and large social gatherings. She loves to hear from fellow romance lovers, and is always on the hunt for her next great read.




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