Tuesday Teaser

Teaser Tuesday – Entice by CA Harms


 ★ TEASER TUESDAY ★

𝗘𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗲 (𝗕𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗹𝗲𝘁 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗺𝘀) by C.A. Harms is releasing October 13th#PreOrder → https://mybook.to/EnticeCAHarms𝗜 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝘂𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗿𝗶𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲. 𝗜 𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗵𝗲𝘀, 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝗺𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗺𝘆 𝗮𝘀𝘀.𝗜’𝗱 𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝘂𝗽, 𝗱𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝘆𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳 𝗼𝗳𝗳, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁.On the outside, I was nothing more than the fun-loving guy that made everyone laugh.But on the inside, there was more hate than I knew how to control.No one knew the life I’d led; I hid my demons well.In all that anger and pain, there is one spark of sweetness.She is younger than me, so innocent, and worst of all, my best friend’s little sister.Grace is off limits.Wanting her could lead to the possibility of losing the only true family I have left. I shouldn’t want her; I have to keep a safe distance. But watching her change from a sweet girl into a woman with desires does something to me. It’s shifting something inside me, and that something is impossible to control.𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗜 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗝𝗮𝗰𝗸𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗺𝗲, 𝘁𝗼𝗼 𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲? 𝗛𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗜 𝗺𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗲𝗱 𝗺𝘆 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗯𝘆 𝗱𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗺𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿?Add to your #TBR list today → https://bit.ly/EnticeCAHarmsTBR★ IN THE SERIES – KINDLE UNLIMITED ★𝗔𝗹𝗹𝘂𝗿𝗲 (𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝟭) → https://amzn.to/3DrZ0z5𝗖𝗮𝗽𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗲 (𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝟮) → https://amzn.to/3DsThcs𝗚𝗿𝗮𝘃𝗶𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲 (𝗕𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝟯) → https://amzn.to/3S6B4pa#EnticeCAHarms #EnticeTeaserTuesday #TeaserTuesday #BrookletDreams #Standalone #CAHarmsAuthor #ContemporaryRomance #Amazon #KindleUnlimited #EnticingJourneyHosted by Enticing Journey Book Promotions
Tuesday Teaser

Chase Teaser Tuesday

 

Bones MC


Motorcycle Club Romance, Suspense, Action & Adventure

Date Published: 09/30/2022

 

Cotton: When I avenged my sister’s murder, I knew the consequences. I didn’t expect anything less than prison. I got it. In spades. I survived ten years of hell. I was just fifteen when I was sent away but I never regretted taking the law into my own hands. But the father of the man I killed is now a judge, and the ten years I gave the state might not be enough.

I thought I could disappear into the little Kentucky town and keep my head down and keep my nose clean. What could be so hard about that? But I’m on parole and everything is stacked against me. When the only place that will hire me happens to be a biker bar, staying out of trouble might be too much for me to manage. Then Chase steamrolls into my life and I know I have much more than my freedom to lose. This man has the power to tear out my heart.

Chase: I’ve spent the better part of my life in the shadows. Before Bones MC, my team worked for some shady people — as assassins. I thought I was sacrificing for the greater good. Turns out I was just one more bad guy working for more bad guys. I can’t seem to atone for the sins of my past. No matter what I do, those demons still haunt me.

The second I spot Cotton, everything changes. Everything about the girl screams “battered woman,” but she’s more than that. There is death in her eyes. She’s killed, but she’s not a killer. No matter what, no matter who comes after her, I will protect her till my last breath. Because she is my only salvation. She’s my woman.



EXCERPT


All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2022 Marteeka Karland


“Let me go. Now.” That was another thing I’d learned in prison. You put up or shut up. Once I’d set a boundary, I had to follow through or this would never end. And this guy would get what he wanted.

He squeezed my arm harder, this time standing and pulling me against him. “You’ll get under that fuckin’ table and suck my fuckin’ dick like the good little whore you are, or I’ll carry you outa here and we’ll all have a fuckin’ go.”

His buddies laughed and clinked beer bottles like it was one big party. There was no way I could keep these guys from doing whatever they wanted unless someone came to my rescue. Which this guy had obviously planned for. It was a dark corner fairly close to the door. All he had to do was get me outside before anyone noticed. Assuming anyone cared. But I had the feeling the guys from Bones might take exception to anyone outside their territory taking an employee out of their bar. That’s the way it was in prison. Bones may not claim me as one of their own, but they would absolutely not allow another gang to disrupt their business or mess with their employees. At least, that’s what I was counting on.

The second the words were out of his mouth, my hand shot between his legs and grabbed his crotch. I squeezed his balls as hard as I could, thankful he’d grabbed my left arm and not my right. He gave a strangled cry and doubled over, letting go of my arm, trying to pry my fingers loose but unable to do more than weakly tug at my wrist. I squeezed just that little bit tighter, putting every ounce of strength I had into hanging on and tugging with a sharp jerk. The big guy fell to his knees and I let go, stepping back quickly. I gripped my heavy serving tray in both hands, bringing it back like I was readying myself to hit him with it even as I continued to back away.

I bumped into someone and a big palm landed on my shoulder. I thought I was in big trouble, but the hand pulled me back gently, and a huge guy stepped in front of me, putting himself between me and the three men at the table.

“There a problem here?”

“Yeah, there’s a fuckin’ problem! Bitch threw herself at me then tried to back out. Tried to crush my fuckin’ balls for no fuckin’ reason!”

“In my experience, women like Cotton don’t put their hands on men like you willingly.” Oh, my God! Could this night get any worse? The man who’d come to my rescue was Chase Dutton. I knew he was a member of Bones, but I tried to stay away from him as much as I could. It was no secret his brother was a police officer and the last thing I wanted was to have another set of eyes on me. I had no idea why Pops and Cain had hired me, but I didn’t want any complications in case they changed their mind.

“Why, you son of a bitch!”

The big guy lunged at Chase, but Chase simply caught him by the throat, pulling a gun and bringing it to the man’s temple in one smooth move. The second the barrel touched his head, Chase cocked it.

“No one touches the servers. Especially when they don’t want it.”

“But she –” He was cut off when Chase brought the butt of the gun down on his head once before putting the barrel back to his temple. The guy’s knees threatened to buckle, but he kept his footing. Barely.

“Don’t matter if she did. When you touched her, she changed her mind. That’s all that counts. So you and your buddies here are all gonna fuckin’ leave the bar. Now. Don’t come back.”

“You can’t throw us out!” One of his buddies had stood but made no move to get help. In fact, he had his hands up and backed up a couple steps, belying his statement.

“He can,” Pops said, coming up behind me. Again, he moved me gently out of the way, putting himself between me and the three men. “So can I. We both say to get the fuck out.”

The bar had quietened near us, but the other side seemed oblivious. I looked around to see a couple at my tables raising nearly empty glasses or bottles wanting refills. I desperately wanted to duck my head and just go on about my job, but I had no idea what was expected of me.

“You good, Cotton?” Chase asked, not looking back at me but still eyeing the men who’d yet to leave.

“Yes,” I said softly. Automatically. My arm hurt, but I wasn’t about to draw more attention to myself. “May I go back to work?”

He glanced at me then and I quickly looked away. Chase Dutton was the sexiest man I’d ever seen. And a man I had no business even looking at. He also seemed to hate me on sight. Cain and Pops both assured me they would keep my incarceration to themselves, and I didn’t want to take a chance on anyone else finding out. Which Chase likely had. Things always changed when anyone found out. People I thought were friends suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. I couldn’t really blame them, but it hurt that no one thought me important enough to find out my side of the story. I’d kind of been crushing on Chase from a distance, and to have him affirm that I wasn’t worth befriending — even though I already knew that’s what he thought — would hurt worse than when it had happened before. Because I was stupid to let my emotions get the better of me like this.

“What?” Chase glanced back at me, then snapped, “No you can’t go back to work! Get your ass to the office! I’ll talk to you after I’ve taken out the trash over here.”

 


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Tuesday Teaser

Grimm Teaser Tuesday


(Dixie Reapers MC)


Motorcycle Club Romance, Suspense, Action & Adventure

Date Published: 9/23/2022

 

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Oksana – Growing up in the Bratva wasn’t easy, especially for a woman. At twenty, I thought I’d get married soon. Start my own family. All approved by my family, of course. It never occurred to me, my father would implicate me in his shady dealings, or that I’d be punished in the most severe way. So I run, with the help of a friend, and go straight to the Dixie Reapers. I don’t know what I expected. Certainly not for a sexy man to make my heart flutter, or make me wish for things I shouldn’t. I’m pretty sure I’m falling for him. Grimm will do his best to keep me safe, but who’s going to protect my heart?

Grimm –The Bratva is in my rearview, where I want them to stay. I haven’t heard from my last remaining relative in a long, long time. So when Nikolai sends Oksana to me, it’s a bit of a shock, to say the least. But the more I get to know her, the more protective I feel. In my gut, I know she’s mine. The Bratva can try to take her if they want… anyone who comes for my woman better have their affairs in order. I’ll put every last one of them in the ground.


WARNING: Grimm is part of the Dixie Reapers MC series and is intended for readers 18+ due to adult situations and bad language. Sensitive readers should proceed with caution. No cliffhanger, no cheating, and a guaranteed HEA.



EXCERPT


All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2022 Harley Wylde


Oksana

No matter how scared I felt, I couldn’t show it. Growing up in the Bratva, I’d learned early these men fed on fear. The more terrified you were, the more empowered they became. I’d stand here, listen to everything they said, then once I was alone again, I’d throw up and bawl my eyes out.

Nikolai did his best to shield me, but it wasn’t enough. Not this time. Feliks may have softened since marrying Raina, but to the rest of us, he remained a monster. And now, he held my life in his hands. Why? Because my father decided to gamble with the Bratva and lost in a big way. Not only had he lost his ranking and had his wealth stripped, but he’d forfeited his family as well.

My sixteen-year-old sister couldn’t contain her tears. They ran freely down her cheeks as she sobbed and wrapped her arms around her waist. Feliks seemed unmoved, flipping through the papers on his desk. What would become of us? I’d already heard what happened to our mother. Would our fate be the same?

“Yulia Romanov, you will study at the prestigious girls’ academy downtown until your eighteenth birthday, at which time, the Vor will select a husband for you.” Feliks didn’t look up as my sister cried even harder. “You will leave immediately, and we will provide clothing.”

I straightened my spine and waited. At twenty, my options were limited. If he didn’t marry me off to someone, then I’d most likely be put to work in the brothels. Neither fate seemed like something I’d survive.

“Oksana Romanov.” Feliks lifted his gaze and leaned back in his chair. I flinched slightly, and he smiled. The bastard. “Your father speaks highly of you. According to him, he could have never accomplished so much without the help of his beloved Oksana.”

My eyes went wide. What the hell was he saying? I’d never helped my dad!

“Many people were hurt due to your father’s actions. He’s paid the price for his crimes. Now it’s your turn.” Feliks motioned to someone behind me. I didn’t get a chance to turn around before my wrists were bound at my back. My heart slammed against my ribs, and I fought to stay upright. Black dots swam across my vision, and I sucked in a deep breath. What was going on? “Oksana Romanov, you will be beaten, sold, and used until the day you die. It’s no less than you deserve, considering what happened to the women you lured into your father’s trap.”

No. I hadn’t! I’d have never done such a thing. I knew my pleas would fall on deaf ears. Protesting wouldn’t do me any good. He’d never believe I was innocent of the crimes he said I’d committed. Yulia started to scream as they dragged me from the room. The men guided me to a car and shoved me into the backseat. The sound of the door slamming shut felt like the end of my short life.

Did Nikolai know what they planned to do? Had he tried to stop them?

The buildings passed in a blur until we reached the warehouse district. The men pulled me from the vehicle and shoved me inside. The air smelled dank and musty. The vast space held only a table, chair, and a ratty-looking mattress. One of the men lifted a hunk of my hair and sniffed it, a lecherous smile curving his lips.

“Are you a virgin, little one?”

I swallowed hard and nodded. Lying wouldn’t get me anywhere. But maybe if they knew, they wouldn’t rape me. I’d earn a high price if they sold me instead. It didn’t mean I’d get away from the beating Feliks said I’d receive.

The second man smacked the other one in the chest. “You know we can’t ruin her. Not like that. She’s too valuable.”

“Only if she retains her teeth and we don’t leave many scars.”

The man yanked my head back, craning my neck. “There’s much we can do and still fetch a decent price for her. Shall we begin?”

I refused to cry. I wouldn’t beg. No, I’d remain silent and take whatever they dished out. I’d survive as long as I could. The moment Yulia heard of my death, she’d give up. I couldn’t allow that to happen. No matter what it took, I’d keep living. Even when I didn’t want to anymore.

The man licked my face, and I inwardly cringed. My outward appearance didn’t change. Not so much as a single shift in expression. I’d learned well, and I’d use every skill I had to keep them from knowing how scared I was right now.

“We may not be able to pop your cherry, but we can do anything else,” the man said, his voice a low growl in my ear. “Ride your ass. Fuck your throat. By the time we’re finished, you’ll be broken.”

The other man reached for me, gripping the top of my dress, and ripping it down the middle. I’d never been very big up top and hadn’t worn a bra. My breasts spilled out, and the bastards groped me, hard enough I knew they’d leave bruises. I bit my tongue until I tasted blood. Whatever they did to me, I’d take it. What other choice did I have?

The lights flickered, then went out. The men started cursing and stumbled around. I heard one of them crash into something, possibly the table. It got quiet. Too quiet. Was it a trap? Or they were really gone? Without either of them holding me, I could flee… if I had any idea of where to go. I couldn’t see even an inch in front of my face.

Hands grabbed hold of me, and I tensed until I heard a voice whisper in my ear.

“Follow me, Oksana.”

Nikolai! I staggered as he led me through the warehouse. The cool air hit me when we stepped outside. I didn’t have the time to be embarrassed over the fact Nikolai would see me half-naked. He cursed when he saw that they’d done and slipped out of his jacket. He untied my wrists and helped me cover myself.

“I’m sorry I was late. Come on. You need to leave town.”

“Where will I go?”

“South. Alabama.” Nikolai opened a car door, and I got in. He didn’t speak again until we’d left the city limits. After another two towns, he pulled over and shut off the engine. “I have a vehicle ready for you. It’s nothing fancy, but it will get you where you need to go.”

“What’s in Alabama?” I asked.

“The Dixie Reapers. More importantly, my cousin is there. Ivan Volkov, but he goes by Grimm.”

“You’re sending me to your family?”

“You’ll be safe, Oksana. He won’t let anyone hurt you. I’m going to give you a note. When you see him, make sure he reads it.”

 


 

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Mise en Place—Memoir of a Girl Chef

 

Memoir

Date Published: August 16, 2022

Publisher: River Grove Books


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Marisa’s comfort zone is deep inside the restaurant kitchen alongside its dysfunctional characters and the abundance of booze and drugs.

But in the nineteen-seventies, girls baked or made salads. The heat and machismo of the hot line was not a place for a girl with a passion for food and the drive to be the best.

From Hawaii, to Portland and New Orleans, she struggles  with her own shyness and the limited expectations for the only female in the kitchen. She finally becomes Chef, successfully managing high-volume restaurants at three World’s Fairs, but something is missing.

Still searching, as a burnt-out chef, she embarks on another male-dominated career.


Mise en Place —Memoir of a Girl Chef is a story about the determination to succeed in the face of personal handicaps and cultural norms.


“Mangani charts a deep dive through the roots of our modern American food obsession with a highly personal tale of memory, character, flavor, and place.” —Ian McNulty, Food Writer, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

 


Excerpt

I don’t know if, all these years later, anyone remembers me at Arnaud’s, but I do have some fame to claim, and I’m going to claim this historical tidbit right here in this book: I was the first female line cook at the restaurant, ever—since its beginning in 1918 when there was a fully operating bordello upstairs. Sixty-three years of an all-male crew preceded me, and there I was, one Sunday morning brunch, called upon by Chef Claude after he fired culinary school grad Chris for “finishing” an omelet in the salamander broiler. “Motherfucker-la!” Chef yelled. “Get offa da line! Out of my kitchen-la! Out-la!” Anger and hate sharpened his voice to violence. Waitresses scattered like mice. Chef may as well have been chasing Chris out of the kitchen while wielding a butcher knife.

I heard the commotion over at my station—I was deboning roasted ducks for the dinner shift—when Chris, head down, scurried past me and out the back door.

 “Madeesa! Madeesa! I need you on de line! Egg station-la!”

Adrenaline rocketed me over to the line, where I cranked down flames under empty sauté pans, made a quick mental picture of the mise en place in the salad-top refrigerator, and looked for orders on the ticket rail. Only there were no orders; Chef had them all on the front of the counter, where he was expediting, yelling, “Order this” and “Pick up that” with his heavy French accent, and I couldn’t recognize a thing that might have eggs in it.

Robert, the Chalmette cook, flipping steaks next to me at the grill, translated for me: “Omelet ‘fines herbs,’ pick up. The herbs are there, yes. Ordering: smoked salmon on toast—salmon’s under da line; ordering: wild mushroom omelet; pickup: smoked salmon on toast.”

With jerky moves, I said, “Okay, got it, got it,” each time Robert told me how much egg, how many mushrooms, and when to put the food up. Of course, I knew how to make the omelets and that, obviously, was the most important thing.

It was drinks at the Chartroom over on Iberville and Chartres afterward with Robert and Steve and Sous Chef Gary because we were all wound up, especially me. Brunch had topped 350 guests, a very busy day. I basked in my fame. The boys were noticeably impressed, with Gary telling me there’d never been a girl line cook at Arnaud’s. But then, on our second round of drinks at our communal chef’s table facing the sidewalk, Robert said, “That was great how you pulled that off, but you know, Marisa, a guy will always be a better line cook than a girl.”

 “N-no way! Why? T-timing and skill is t-timing and skill; how can sex matter? W-what does a dick have to do with cooking? Sh-shorter pee breaks?” I was so outraged that my stutter returned in full force. I looked at Steve and he laughed at my joke. But admittedly, I was insulted. I had a long way to go in this town.


About the Author

MARISA MANGANI was born and raised in Hawaii and cooked her way to Portland, New Orleans Vancouver and Australia. She now resides in Florida where she runs her own commercial kitchen design company, Mise en Place Design. She is one of the eight featured chefs in Thrillist’s “Why 8 Top Chefs Quit the Kitchen.”


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Tuesday Teaser

Styx

 

Salvation’s Bane MC


Motorcycle Club Romance, Age Gap, Suspense

To Be Released: August 5 2022

Publisher: Changeling Press


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Jolene: I’ve lived my entire life in the shadow of a feud that ended over a hundred years ago. But try telling that to my family. To them, the Hatfields and McCoys were never met to mix. Or be in the same town really. So when I gave my virginity to a Hatfield, my McCoy family disowned me entirely. And that Hatfield I trusted? He set me up to be raped by his kin. So yeah, my life’s a shit show. Then another Hatfield picked me up out of a ditch and saved me. I thought he’d hurt me, too, but he turned out to be the kindest man I’ve ever met. Now I need to shake him long enough to get the revenge I need from those who hurt me. I just hope when I’m done, he’ll take me back.

Styx: I just came for the car — a rare Mercedes Maybach the club intends to sell for a good chunk of change. I long ago left any family I had in this little hick town in West Virginia and only came back because I knew the area, and the man who had the car was my family’s rival, Marshall McCoy. So when I found his daughter in a ditch on the side of the road, beaten and bloody, my first instinct — and that of my MC brothers – was set up. But I can’t leave her to the mercy of her family. I know there will be hell to pay. I just didn’t count on my sweet little hillbilly being hellbent on revenge. As I fall deeper and deeper under her spell, I find I can’t deny her anything. Even if what she wants might break her.


Warning: Styx includes scenes of sexual abuse and vigilante justice that may be triggers for some readers. Guaranteed HEA.


EXCERPT


All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2022 Marteeka Karland


Styx

How could one place be so God-awful redneck? Always had been. Every fucking neighborhood in town had at least one car up on concrete blocks and numerous pink flamingos in the front fucking yard. Nothing had fucking changed since I was a teenager.

Red had a tip on a Mercedes Maybach that was supposedly being held in storage until the right buyer came along. In this fucking hick town. I had my doubts, but Red said it had been confirmed by our intel guy, Ripper. If Ripper said that’s the way it was? Well. I’d gotten on a plane to fucking West Virginia, hadn’t I?

My job was to scout. Using the little gizmos Red’s woman, Rosanna, had developed, I had no doubt I could steal the car. The problem was getting it out of storage and into the enclosed trailer. Again, Ripper was on the issue.

Poison and Lock pulled up to the designated area about half a mile from where the car was being stored. They’d driven a nondescript Ford with a beat-up-looking trailer, and another, smaller car to act as lookout for the payload on the way home. Smokey and the Bandit style. The car was rough looking, but souped up under the hood. Hopefully, the extra horsepower wouldn’t be needed, but better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Neither looked new, nor did they appear in disrepair. The vehicles were designed to blend in. To not stand out anywhere they went.

The plan was to load the car and get out of this place as quickly as possible. Use the app to give the thing a new VIN number and program our own FOB. Lose ourselves on the interstate, then the lesser traveled highways off the interstates on a roundabout route back to Salvation’s Bane and Red’s underground garage. Once that was done, we’d ditch the truck and trailer and begin the rest of the cleaning process on the car. Which was the easy part.

I studied the area around the storage building from the remote screen provided by a drone. It wasn’t more than a barn on the outside, but the reality was, inside the barn was a climate controlled warehouse with state-of-the-art security. I knew the place well because it was owned by Marshal McCoy. I’d been poking my nose in the business of the McCoys since I was a kid.

McCoy was well off, having a legitimate business of some sort in the community. But his real money came from smuggling. This barn and a couple others like it were the reason for that success. From the outside, it looked like a big tobacco barn. Inside, the place was locked down tighter than a snare drum. Which was the beauty of it, I supposed.

Security outside the building was just as tedious. There were cameras all over the place. And traps. Thankfully, McCoy believed in electronics. Heavily. Always had. All the scouting we’d done had turned up a few rudimentary things, but nearly every single safeguard relied on electricity and electronics. Ripper had scoffed and told us it was too good to be true, that we needed to really recon the hell outta the place. We’d found a few pits and spikes and other simple shit that looked like it hadn’t been well maintained. We’d left that part until the evening we’d planned to do the job. Just in case someone did a manual security sweep.

Our planning was meticulous. Starting two months before we were ready to make our move, Ripper had messed with security at the same time he kept anyone interested in the car off the scent. If McCoy was going to upgrade things or do an extensive check, we’d know it well in advance. Ripper had the guy’s entire place bugged. House, office and every car they owned. McCoy thought he was the smartest man in the room, but the fact was, he was on the verge of losing everything to a rival. Montgomery Hatfield.

Made me snicker to think about it. Generations of Hatfields and McCoys. They’d officially ended the feud in the eighteen nineties, symbolically in the early two thousands. But here in Appalachia, it was alive and going strong. Just… more civilized. At least on the surface.

Which was why we were here. Montgomery Hatfield was a half brother to my father, the bastard. While I didn’t associate with that side of the family — other than my half brother in Black Reign, Shotgun — I did enjoy taking them down a peg or two. If I could take down Marshall McCoy while I was doing it? So much the better. Call it a character flaw.

“How’s it going, Ripper?” I’d been touching base with the tech guy regularly. If there was a problem, we needed to identify it before we backed the trailer in.

“All’s quiet. Same as always. They raised a fuss the first few times I blacked them out, but once they got used to their network coming back up, they quit worrying about it. Made a couple calls to the company, who charged them a bunch of money to go to each site and check on things. After that, they sent one of old man McCoy’s boys out, and he’s not the most thorough tool in the box. Last three times it’s gone out, no one bothered to check.”

“Good. Where is everyone now.”

“Far enough away you’ll have at least an hour before anyone could possibly show up.” The man snorted. “Bit of a ruckus goin’ on with one of his girls. Not sure what, but it’s keeping everybody busy.”

“So, we ready?” I was anxious to get moving. While I had confidence in the operation, something else was bothering me.

“Get into position. Once you’re ten minutes out, I’ll throw the switch.” Ripper had everything bugged at Salvation’s Bane, including all our vehicles. He said it let him know when one of us was in trouble. I figured he was just a control freak.

“Guess we’re good to go then.” I signaled to Poison and Lock. “Move it out.” My two MC brothers were in the truck pulling the trailer while I was in a separate truck we’d had waiting when we started scouting two months ago. Last thing we wanted was for the two vehicles to be seen together before the heist.

It was just past four in the morning. The darkest part of the night. The moon was covered by clouds. The night was still. Even the nocturnal creatures were settling down for the day to come.

There were two routes into the place where we were going. Poison and Lock had taken a different route than me. Mine took me past the McCoy family home. Remembering that place from my early childhood made me want to fire my gun at the windows as I passed. I hated that fucking place. Old man McCoy was a fucking bastard. Always was. Being a Hatfield, I’d never actually been in the house, but I knew some of his kids. The boys were all bullies. Some of the girls, too. His wife had died a few years back, I’d heard. And now he was starting a whole new brood of kids to mold in his image. That massive house represented everything in Williamson I hated.

I’d gotten about six miles away from the house when something caught my attention. A small form huddled on the side of the road. I almost missed it. Looked like a boy or a small woman wearing a backpack. The figure was in an orange jumpsuit, which was the only reason I’d seen it.

I started to just go on. We didn’t have a lot of time here. But, Goddammit, I couldn’t just pass this person by.

“Guys, I’ve got a problem. Keep to schedule. If you don’t hear from me in five minutes, abort.”

“What’s going on?” That was Ripper’s voice. Of course he was monitoring.

“Not sure. Switching on my body cam so you can see what I’m seeing. Get an ID on the guy.”

“Guy? What guy?”

“There’s someone on the side of the road. Could be someone in trouble,” I said.

“Could be a fuckin’ trap. What the fuck, Styx?” Ripper didn’t get upset too often, but when he did, he tended to go nuclear.

“Just keep an eye out. Give me five minutes. I’ll either leave him or load him in the truck.”

“Fuck!”

“Don’t give yourself a nosebleed, Ripper. If it’s a trap, I’ll fucking kill the bastard.”

“Take an earwig. I want to stay in communication every fuckin’ second, Styx.”

“Roger that,” I said, putting the truck in park and stepping out. Though the truck’s headlights shone brightly, I snagged a flashlight along with the gun at my hip. If this was an ambush, I wasn’t getting caught with my fucking pants down.

The figure held up a trembling hand, blocking the light of the vehicle from her face. And I could tell by the small, delicate hand it was a female. I shined my light around the area but didn’t see anything. Just to be safe, I turned my body, letting Ripper get a good look around in case I missed something. With his computer enhancement shit, he’d see danger long before I did.

“Don’t see nothin’,” Ripper murmured. I could hear him typing and flipping switches. “Can’t say a hundred percent, but I think you’re alone.”

I eased toward the figure huddling in the ditch. “Hey, there,” I called. “You good?” No response. “Girl?” Still nothing. The hand blocking her face from the light still fluttered violently. That’s when I noticed the blood on her fingers and streaking her hand. “You OK?” The hand dropped, and there was a slight whimper as she lay still once more.

“Ripper?” I had a sinking feeling this girl was in a world of trouble. There was no way I could leave her. At this point, I was praying for an ambush, because I absolutely could not afford to be held up by someone in real distress. And I was certain that, if this woman was as hurt as I thought she was, she’d need medical attention.

“You’ve got four minutes. Get her in the truck.”

 

 

About the Author

Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.


Author Contact Links

Instagram & Twitter: @marteekakarland


Publisher’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @changelingpress


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Tuesday Teaser

Savior

 

(Dixie Reapers MC)

 

Motorcycle Club Romance

Date Published: July 22, 2022


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 Dessa — I’ve always known Sonja, my foster sister, thrives on chaos. It never occurred to me she’d go so far as to buy children, then use them as leverage against a club of bikers. When armed men burst through the door, I’m terrified — not only of them, but of losing little Junie and Judd. Those kids mean everything to me, but they’re not really mine. I know I can’t keep them. And when the bikers walk out with the children, I don’t even try to stop them. Without Sonja and the kids, I’m alone. The darkness I’ve held at bay starts to close in on me, and I have to wonder… how much longer before I join my family on the other side?

Savior — I only wanted my daughter. When I find her, I didn’t count on a sweet angel keeping watch. I should walk away. But Dessa loves my little girl as if she were her own. I feel like a monster taking Junie away from her. There’s a sadness in her eyes. It tugs at me, makes me want to protect her. So I give in to my instincts, and I take Dessa with me. I didn’t count on falling under her spell. She’s wrapped me around her finger, and I’m not sure I really mind.


WARNING: Savior is part of the Dixie Reapers MC series and contains graphic language, adult situations, and violence. It’s intended for adult readers age 18+.

 

 

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2022 Harley Wylde

 


Dessa

I didn’t know where my sister had found the children, but little Junie and Judd were the sweetest kids. They weren’t hers. No matter what she implied, I knew she’d never been pregnant. Not to mention, she didn’t have a maternal bone in her body. Of course, I’d seen plenty of parents who didn’t have what it took to take care of children. Which was why I’d ended up in foster care, along with Sonja.

It bothered me, not knowing where the children came from. Did they have parents searching for them? Had Sonja stolen them to try and give them a better life? I had too many questions, and she never offered any answers. Not that I’d seen her lately. She usually stopped by every other week with some cash and would buy groceries. Until the day she’d walked out and not returned. Had she grown bored with the kids? It wouldn’t have surprised me.

I rolled my chair forward and scooped Junie onto my lap. She giggled and clapped her hands, always enjoying a ride. To her, it was a game. For me… Well, it was a reminder of the life I’d never get to have. Jeremy had made it clear no one would want a woman like me for a wife. The accident hadn’t been my fault. He’d walked away, and I hadn’t. Thanks to the drunk driver, and nerve damage, I’d never walk again.

I could have wallowed in self-pity, or let depression drag me down. It had been close for a while. Once Jeremy dumped me, I’d spiraled. I’d barely been existing when Sonja found me. She’d asked for my help, even though she hadn’t explained what she needed. I’d agreed, as long as it wasn’t illegal. She’d smirked and said I’d be fine. Then she’d vanished again, only to show up about five months ago with two kids in tow.

The first two months after the accident had been rough. Adjusting to life in a wheelchair hadn’t been easy. Hell, most days I still struggled. I wondered if I always would.

“How’s my sweet girl today?” I asked, kissing her cheek.

I glanced at the kitchen and knew I’d have to order supplies soon. The money Sonja had left was long gone. She should have returned months ago. Part of me worried she’d forgotten about us. Or worse, she’d gotten into trouble. Being unable to drive made life a little difficult at times. Even if I’d had a car, I wasn’t sure how I’d manage. I hadn’t had insurance when the accident happened. If the drunk driver hadn’t covered my medical expenses, I’d have never gotten my wheelchair. The damn things cost entirely too much.

Thankfully, there were apps for nearly everything these days. I could have groceries delivered, as long as I had money. Maybe someday I could afford a car and figure out how to drive without the use of my legs. It just wouldn’t happen anytime soon.

Chasing the little ones didn’t give me much time for work, and my job barely covered our expenses. If Sonja didn’t return soon, we’d be in trouble. I had enough for some groceries, as long as I bought cheap things like macaroni or spaghetti. I knew the kids needed healthier options, but it was better to feed them than to make them starve.

Judd held his arms up, and I lifted him onto my lap as well. They both curled against me, and I knew they were ready for a nap. Wheeling us into the living room, I picked up their favorite book off the coffee table. We’d read Goodnight Moon so many times, I had it memorized. And yet, the kids wanted to listen to it every day. Sometimes more than once.

We were on page four when someone pounded on the door. I clutched the children to me and stared, too scared to open it. It rattled on the hinges, and I knew it had to be a man on the other side. I’d never met a woman with that much force behind their fist. Didn’t mean there weren’t any. I’d just never known any.

“Who’s there?” I called out.

“You have to the count of three to open this damn door or I’m breaking it down,” a deep voice said from the other side.

My heart leaped into my throat, and I started backing my chair toward the hall. I knew if they really wanted in, there wasn’t any way I could stop them. The way he beat on the door made me fear not only for my life, but the lives of the children. When he made it into the house, we’d be helpless.

I whispered to the kids, hoping they’d listen. “I need you both to go hide. Don’t come out unless I call you. Understand?”

Junie blinked at me and didn’t say anything. Judd stared and refused to move. I whimpered, not wanting anything bad to happen to them. Stuck in my chair, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight off whoever was trying to break in.

“Lady, you let me in or I swear to Christ it won’t be pretty when I get my hands on you.”

I backed up even more. The door nearly exploded off the hinges as a group of large men came barreling into the house. I screamed, and the children started crying. I held them tight, hoping to soothe them, but I was just as terrified. What did these men want?

“Please, we don’t have anything valuable. Take whatever you want. Just don’t hurt us,” I begged. More men came into the house, and the breath in my lungs froze when I recognized one of them. “Johnny?”

He blinked, and his eyebrows lifted. “Dessa?”

“What’s going on?” Some of my tension eased. It had been a long time since I’d last seen him, but unless he’d drastically changed, I knew he wouldn’t hurt us. Hopefully, that meant the other men wouldn’t either.

“I go by Saint now,” he said, coming farther into the house. “I think the better question is why are you here and with those two kids?”

 

 

About the Author

Harley Wylde is the International Bestselling Author of the Dixie Reapers MC, Devil’s Boneyard MC, and Hades Abyss MC series.

When Harley’s writing, her motto is the hotter the better — off-the-charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place. She doesn’t shy away from the dangers and nastiness in the world, bringing those realities to the pages of her books, but always gives her characters a happily-ever-after and makes sure the bad guys get what they deserve.

The times Harley isn’t writing, she’s thinking up naughty things to do to her husband, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks, and reading. She loves to read and devours a book a day, sometimes more. She’s also fond of TV shows and movies from the 1980s, as well as paranormal shows from the 1990s to today, even though she’d much rather be reading or writing. You can find out more about Harley or enter her monthly giveaway on her website. Be sure to join her newsletter while you’re there to learn more about discounts, signing events, and other goodies!


Contact Links

Facebook/Instagram/TikTok: @harleywylde

Twitter: @HarleyW_Writer

 

Publisher’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @changelingpress

 

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Tuesday Teaser

Bee and Harp

 

Paranormal Romance, LGBTQ

Date Published: July 15, 2022

Publisher: Changeling Press


Dublin Museum Curator Bee McBride’s research tour is interrupted by a shady stranger with a broken harp — and a broken heart.

When Bee, the stranger, and the harp are kidnapped by art thieves, Bee discovers the dusty instrument is the legendary magic harp of the ancient Celtic god Dagda.

Can her buzzing fervor find a way to unlock the harp’s music and the stranger’s ardor before Midsummer Night?

 



EXCERPT

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2022 Siondalin O’Craig

 

July 1

Kevin O’Donnell called the place where he’d been resting his head these last couple of years the Marble Arches, after the caves in Fermanagh. These caves under FDR Drive weren’t etched into limestone, however; their side walls were crumbling concrete from an early era of Manhattan development. Bits of shell and round stone sloughed off onto the floor each time he brushed by it. The supporting pillars were concrete of a more modern vintage, but in the same rotted condition, stained by runoff from the road above, broken flakes exposing lines of rusted rebar.

The back wall was raw Manhattan bedrock, and in this heat it had the advantage of staying cool, and while the drought was doing murderous damage elsewhere, it meant the floor of the Marble Arches stayed blessedly dry for the moment. Sitting with his back against the bedrock, Kevin could look out across the docks and over the East River to Brooklyn, watching the yachts, the tour boats, and the giant freighters that taunted him with their ability to leave this place and bring their sailors back to homes and families far away.

* * *

For ten days, Kevin had been trying to coax sound from the harp. He sat with its base tucked between his legs, cushioned by the neatly folded wrap of linen, its soundboard held tight to his chest in a lover’s embrace. Sometimes his fingers floated silently over the strings. Other times he just held it close, feeling energy flowing from it into his body.

Kevin cleaned the wood slowly, carefully, using a bandanna he found in the gutter, and the water from a dozen half-full plastic water bottles he pulled from garbage cans. Rich carving emerged from the grime. Clasped in the dragon’s claws were two large roses, so lifelike that it appeared fresh drops of dew spangled their petals. The roses were bundled with oak leaves, and acorns tumbled down the pillar.

“Daur da Bláo,” Kevin whispered. The Oak of Two Blossoms.

He had stopped in at the sailor’s mission on the Bowery and begged a pair of nail clippers. He clipped his ragged nails straight across, slightly longer than the tips of his fingers. Plucking the strings of an ancient wire frame harp was done with the fingernails.

He found enough change on the street to buy a cup of tea at the coffee shop across from the Strand bookshop and used the foaming pink soap in their restroom to scrub the layers of grime from his hands. He pumped more soap into his empty paper teacup and took it back to the Marble Arches. He bathed the wire strings in the soap and let them soak, then poured clean water over them and rubbed them down with the bandana.

He’d been right. The corr, or pinboard, was brass, embossed with four-stranded knotwork. The tuning pins were also brass, burnished to a sheen, their leaf-shaped heads inset with silver triskeles. But the strings themselves were pure gold. The harp of legends, he thought. This can’t be real.

His perch under the roadway suddenly felt confining, stifling. He wrapped the harp and walked out onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The sun was burning hot and blindingly white, but the air over the East River was stirring. The tourist crowd was subdued in the heat, and the joggers who usually occupied a steady lane of the walkway were completely absent.

He found an unoccupied bench in the shadow of the bridge’s dark limestone towers. He wrapped his arms around the harp. A breeze wove between the strings, and he thought he heard a faint, high-pitched hum. He pressed his ear to the frame and listened. Yes, there. So fragile. So distant. But the harp did have a voice, inside the soundbox. The harp was alive.

He put his fingers to the strings, his left hand reaching out to the high strings nestled in the point of the frame, his right hand over his thighs, spread over the bass strings. The hand position was the opposite of that on modern harps, but this was the way frame harp playing was depicted in the ancient carvings and medieval manuscripts, and so it was how frame harps continue to be played by the small handful of people in the world who had any familiarity with them.

He bent his head as if in prayer, pressed close against the soundboard. He plucked a string with the middle finger of his right hand, then with the ring finger, silently playing the pick-up notes to Pretty Maid Milking a Cow. The lyrics had emerged in the nineteenth century, but the origins of the hauntingly poignant harp tune underneath the ballad was lost in antiquity.

His hands bloomed into motion, the ghost of the soundless tune echoing in his mind. A living vine of energy began to grow between his body and the ancient harp, its gold strings glittering.

The notes in his mind tangled with the breeze rising from the water, and swirled into visual images. A woman’s hands, her wrists, her forearms bare, in dim light, glistening with water. Her shoulders, rising from a dark lake. A curve of hip, strong legs, bare feet on a stony shore. Drying her auburn hair. Looking at him with soft brown eyes. Eyes that were full of warmth. Eyes that were full of love. Full of desire.

He stopped and straightened his spine, hands reaching to damp the strings by habit, though they had yet to make a noise. He felt a current coursing through his body, from his fingertips up through the long disused muscles of his forearms, muscles that used to pop with sinewy definition when he played ten hours a day. The power ran down his spine and through the long lean muscles of his legs, taut from walking countless miles of lonely sidewalks.

Kevin realized, as if he were watching himself from a distance, that his cock was pressed rigidly against the harp. He froze, motionless, as if his erection were a wild bird that he did not want to frighten. He took his hands away from the harp, resting them on his thighs. His body came back to the bench on the Brooklyn Bridge, but something inside of him had changed.

I am Kevin O’Donnell, he thought. Kevin O’Donnell, the harper.



About the Author

Siondalin O’Craig writes romance with the slow burn of a peat fire on an autumn night deep in the woodland hills. Sip a glass of Irish whiskey, turn the page, and let the magic overtake you. Siondalin lives in the mountains of New England where she walks under the trees celebrating the wheel of the year, grows a luscious garden full of magical herbs, and plays a wicked Irish fiddle. Follow her on Facebook and email her at siondalinocraig@gmail.com to sign up for her newsletter.


Contact Link

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Publisher’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @changelingpress

 

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Tuesday Teaser

Firestorm

 

Paranormal Romance, First Responders

Date Published: June 24, 2022

Publisher: Changeling Press

 

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Firestorm: A collection of short Paranormal Erotic Adventures from the Changeling Press family of authors. Royalties donated to Changeling’s Save the Quiet Kitty Fund  in memory of Camille Anthony.


If You Can’t Stand the Heat — Camille Anthony: In human shape or his natural prairie dog form, Edison was normally the most laid-back of males, except when his mate, Reba, crossed the line…

Catan’s Fire — Jade Buchanan: Asad needs to teach his mate what happens to submissive Felidae who disobey orders…

Brimstone by Mistake — Alice Gaines: Heaven’s made a mistake. What will Lucifer do when the Man Upstairs wants Sally back?

Shifting Priorities — Anne Kane: When the sexy hunk Jexx picks up in the station bar turns out to be more than human, she has more to worry about than her profit margin.

Burning Down the House — Isabella Jordan: Will Katurah use her powers now to end it all — or will she give in to a fiery lover?

Stockings — Jade Buchanan: A gorgeous female cat shifter, an enticing pair of stockings, and a very interested lady wolf produce enough heat to burn down the house…

Britta’s Beast — Kate Hill: When Max and Britta met at a convention for members of magical law enforcement, they seemed like a perfect fit…


EXCERPT

Copyright ©2022 Changeling Authors

If You Can’t Stand the Heat by Camille Anthony


He stood in the doorway of the Bakery’s kitchen, belt dangling from his hand, watching his mate of forty years bustle about preparing refreshments for the library shindig about later that evening. As always, the sight of her had his heart doing that funny leap in his chest, his cock echoing the movement behind the zipper of his jeans. After all this time, it still only took a look, a whiff of his female’s scent to have him hard as a cactus spike.

Along with his surging lust came a powerful burst of love and he knew if prairie dogs didn’t mate for life, he’d still never let this woman go. He’d die without her. However, that didn’t mean he was blind to her faults.

His Reba was an incorrigible busybody, continually putting her finger in other folk’s pies. He understood her interfering tendencies were part of her caring nature and that would have been fine as long as she contained her meddling within the family.

She didn’t.

He wasn’t mad at her. Edison’s smile was full of masculine anticipation. The punishment of her infraction was going to be intensely pleasurable for both of them.

* * *

Heat from the tray of kitchen-sink cookies radiated through her oven mitts as Reba pushed the door of the oven closed with a bump of her plump behind. Humming, she carried her burden to the cooling racks and began sliding this last batch off the pan onto the wire trays. Inhaling deeply, loving the smells of fresh baking that meant home to her, the buxom baker couldn’t help smiling. She loved the holidays. All of them, but this season, Reba had plenty to celebrate.

For the first time in years, all her children would be coming home to Barkus. Even better, Puppy — the younger brother who was like another son since she’d raised him from the time their parents died in a car accident — would be introducing his new mate to the family. Reba sighed happily, making a mental note to look up information on the Kwanzaa rituals as Carly was Afro-American. She didn’t want the newest member of the pack to feel slighted.

“Reba!”

Startled, Reba jumped, the last cookie flying off her spatula to explode into warm gooey crumbs on the stainless steel counter. She turned toward the door and her mate, ready to blast him for sneaking up on her, only to jerk to a halt, heart skidding around inside her chest until it came to rest in the pit of her belly at the sight of her broad shouldered mate — brown eyes alight with mayhem — brandishing his wide leather belt.

Hot damn, I’m about to get spanked.

“Edison, what are you doing here in the middle of the afternoon? I thought you were at the bar, hanging with all your old coots.” She was proud her voice didn’t shake.

“I was. Spoke to Bucky. He was a mite upset.”

She knew exactly what that old dawg was upset about and she wasn’t a bit ashamed of what she’d done. Huffing, she folded her arms over her full chest. Her tone was belligerent. “Served him right. He had no business trying to back out of his promise to Carly.”

Edison sighed. “And you had no business sharing something I told you in confidence.”

“He asked for it.”

The glint in his eyes belied the sorrowful expression on his face and Reba shivered, knowing what was coming before Edison got the words out his mouth. “Well, you’ve asked for this.” He gestured toward the door leading to the next room. “March yourself into the pantry while I go flip the open sign and lock the door.” He headed out the kitchen but paused to turn and spear her with a warning glare. “If you’re not ready when I get back, I’ll be adding to your punishment.”

Yippee!

 


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Tuesday Teaser

Bentley


Paranormal Romance, New Adult

Date Published: June 17, 2022


I call on the fates to bring my love to me. As I will it, so mote it be…

Natalie Harvey wants a guy who not only understands baseball, but supports her love of the game. When she meets bad-boy first baseman for the Cougars, Bentley Turner, she can’t help but fall for him. He’s sexy, strong, athletic and irresistible. He’s her perfect man, but what if he’s not interested? The spark is there, and she decides to invoke the spell. Why not?

She’s ready to summon her very own bad boy and try her luck with love.

 



EXCERPT

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2022 Megan Slayer


“I’d like someone to take me to the ballpark and not expect me to pay to get them in or get them up close to the team. Just to watch a game with me,” Natalie Harvey said. “I thought I’d find someone by now.” She glared at her friend Sarah. Sarah could be loyal and sweet, unless Sarah wanted something.

“I can’t help it that you’re hard to please.” Sarah fiddled with her watch. “You’re too picky.”

“I am?” She scoffed. “I don’t want to be used.”

“Well… don’t have a job that entitles you to special treatment and think men won’t try to get in on said special treatment,” Sarah said. “And I don’t want to go to yet another baseball game. I mean, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But right now, I’m testing something.”

“You’re…” Sometimes she wondered why she even tried. Sarah could be rather self-centered at times. “I happen to like baseball.” She liked all different sports.

“You’re the only one.”

“I doubt that.” The minor-league games attracted quite a few fans, because the games were just as exciting as the major league ones. Every player was hungry to show his skills, and every play mattered because it could prove the player’s worth to the next level teams. If the front offices or coaches saw potential, the player would ascend to the next level. Plus, the games were entertaining. Spectators were close to the field, the food was inexpensive as were the tickets, and the food was better than some restaurants.

“You have to pay attention to the various scores, players, transitions and all that for your work. Why would you want to go to a baseball game on your day off?” Sarah asked

“You mean transactions,” Natalie said. “Because I like baseball.” Yes, she worked weekends on the sports team for Channel 7, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t like sports outside of work. She’d scored tickets to the game and should be pumped to go — except she didn’t want to go alone.

“Transactions, transitions… they’re moving back and forth.” Sarah waved her hand. “You knew what I meant.”

“I did.” She watched Sarah tap her phone. “By the way, what are you testing? The spell? It works. Karey got it to work and so did Mandy. It’s not a fluke.” Why didn’t Sarah see that?

“We haven’t gotten it to work in three months,” Sarah snapped. “There’s something wrong.”

“Yeah. Us.” She hated to be blunt, but Sarah needed the truth. “We keep picking up guys we know are shit. I didn’t try too hard with Dwayne and ta-da! He didn’t work. Nikki didn’t really like Callum, and that’s why that didn’t pan out. We’ve simply tried to keep you happy and have used the spell, but we’re not exactly finding our Prince Charmings because we’re not looking hard enough.”

Sarah’s glare could’ve cut through Natalie. “Excuse me?”

She’d gone this far and might as well finish. Sarah wouldn’t get the hint until someone spoke straight with her. “You’re so busy trying to get us hooked up, but you’re ignoring the choice for you. Why can’t we let this happen more organically?” Natalie asked. “Or give us the time and freedom to find our guy?”

“We have had success and will again, but I’m concerned it’s taking too long,” Sarah said and shook her head. “But there is no good choice for me.”

“No?” Natalie could think of at least one good guy. “Kurt means nothing to you? He’d give his right arm, leg and nutsack for you.”

“Right,” Sarah said. “He’s an annoyance, and he’s not that invested.”

“I suppose you’re right. He does have a girlfriend now,” Natalie said, intentionally annoying Sarah. “I saw them together two nights ago.” He’d been out with his sister, but Natalie wasn’t about to tell Sarah that.

“What?” Sarah paled. After a moment, she regained her color and smiled. “Good. He should move on.”

“Uh-huh.” Sarah still loved him, but her pride prevented her from giving him another chance. One day Natalie would ask what Kurt had done to make Sarah turn on him, but that day wasn’t today.

“This isn’t about me. It’s about you and Nikki. How about instead of going to the game, you come to the bar with us?” Sarah asked.

“I already have tickets, and I’m not wasting them.” At least not wasting one of them.

Sarah rolled her eyes. “You get tickets for free because of your job.”

“So?” That didn’t mean she should waste the chance to go. “I do have to keep tabs on the players.”

“Would you happen to be looking to hook up with one of those players?” Sarah folded her arms. “Some of those soccer players are pretty hot.”

“Baseball players are, too.” She shouldn’t have said that. “But they’re like other guys. They find out I’m a sportscaster and want things from me that I can’t give them. I don’t seem to find any decent guys. I meet athletes who want to get noticed and drunks who spill things and also want to get noticed.” She’d been kissed three times because she’d been caught on the kiss camera. Why did the person running the camera insist on putting her on the spot? The guys who’d kissed her weren’t attractive and none had her permission.

“I need to find someone for you for the spell,” Sarah said. “There has to be someone.”

She hadn’t heard a word Natalie had said.

“I need to go. Nikki’s waiting on me.” Sarah left the table and strode away.

“Thanks.” Natalie sighed. She’d been left at the table and with the bill… again. Next time, she’d tell Sarah to shove it instead of meeting her for lunch.

Natalie waved down the waiter who returned a moment later with the bill. She paid, then finished her tea. Fine. She’d go to the game by herself. It wasn’t like she’d never done it before. Most of the time, she tried to get in on the spectator play afterward. She’d played softball, soccer, basketball and run track in high school, then run track and played softball in college. She knew what she was doing on the sports field.

She walked out of the bistro, and her thoughts turned to Sarah’s dismissal. The spell. Sarah swore she’d hook up every member of their friend circle with their perfect guy because of the magic. The spell worked for two of the women, but they weren’t going to find high-class men by hanging out at a bar.

She shook her head as she started her car then drove across town to the baseball stadium. Of the many things she liked about having a minor league team so close was the ample parking. She never had to walk more than a few hundred yards, and the lot was well-lit. She locked her car and hustled up to the ticket window. Once she showed her credentials and ticket, she gained entrance to the facility.

Natalie strode over to the first-base side and located her seat. When she was on the clock, she liked to sit right at the edge of the field to better take in the action. Since she wasn’t working, she’d sit four rows up and simply enjoy the game.

She loved the atmosphere of a ballgame. The sounds of the crowd, the smell of the food, the excitement in the air. The Cougars scored quickly in the second inning, and she made a few notes on her phone. The sensation at second base, Dalton Cohn, had made three great catches and even managed two double plays with the first baseman, Bentley Turner.

Natalie watched Bentley Turner in action and couldn’t help but sigh. He had a temper at times, looked like he’d stepped out of a bar, and could swear a blue streak, but he moved with grace and had skills on the field. If he hadn’t injured his shoulder defending first base last season, he’d still be in the majors and probably racking up good stats. Instead, he’d been relegated to the minor leagues to rehab. She’d spoken to him a few times and loved the deep blue of his eyes and his easy smile. He could be cocky and pushy. Rumor had it he’d bedded women in every city and left a string of broken hearts in his wake. It could all be rumors, but…

 

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