Title: The Perfect Hero (The Themis Series, Book 1)
Author: Anna Bishop Barker
Genre: Romantic Suspense/Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 29, 2021 Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.
Themis, the Titan goddess of justice. The purveyor of divine law and order.
The men and women of The Themis Group have a singular cause - to bring justice and closure to those who have lost hope.
But while they are united in mission, they all have their reasons for being with the mysterious private investigation firm that straddles the converging lines of crime scene science, traditional investigation, and mainstream law enforcement. Some do it for the thrill. Some do it for the satisfaction. Some do it because they are compelled.
But each member of the team is looking for something they will never find in the work they have chosen.
The Perfect Hero – Book 1 of The Themis Series
Hired to follow a trail of blood, bodies, and madness, Logan Pressley and the Themis Group are looking for a killer. Not just a killer—The Slayer.
He is not looking for a woman. At 45 years old, he has had enough of humanity, and wants no part of the myth that people call love.
Starting a new life, Maggie Robertson is not looking for a hero. Hell, she’s not even looking for a watered-down version of one. Romance, she has found, is a wasted phenomenon for the young, and the days for being swept off her feet are long past.
Then there was that one-night stand. The night Logan and Maggie lost themselves in each other. In that single night, all the carefully laid rules were broken.
I was born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, so I am a southerner through and through. Since I was old enough to pick up a book, I have been a voracious reader. I wrote the usual poetry and short stories in high school, and I kept the dream of writing in the back of my heart until opportunity and encouragement helped me to realize that dream. I live in Tampa with my kids, grandkids, dogs, various other livestock, and way more books than is strictly healthy. Hot Romance. Suspense. Humor & heart. Grown up stories for grown up people. This is what I write. There's also food, music, dogs, the occasional geek reference, and quite possibly an inappropriate joke. There will likely be dead bodies as well. Three random facts about me:1. I was bitten by a shark when I was 14.2. I have read War and Peace. (When I get to the afterlife, I am demanding that week of my life back. Sorry, Tolstoy.)3. It is my sincere belief that any situation can be improved by eating some cheese. My life philosophy is guard your inner peace and read dirty kissing books.
Today we are celebrating the release of OLIVIER by Brenda Rothert. This is a contemporary romance, and it is the eighth, standalone title in the Chicago Blaze hockey romance series.
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Olivier by Brenda Rothert
Available Now | Chicago Blaze, #9
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I knew who I was before Olivier Durand came along. Despite growing up among the privileged elite, I never cared about corporate ladders or dream weddings. I proudly wear the label of social justice warrior. Until a car accident changes everything overnight. A video goes viral: Chicago’s Hottest Bachelor, billionaire Olivier Durand pulling me from my burning car. When he sets his sights on me, the whole world is watching. He can chase after me all he wants, but my answer will be the same: I loathe the ultra-wealthy. Even when they’re handsome, persuasive and...I have to admit, charming. It’s a hell no from me, though. Until suddenly, I’m not sure I’m the woman I thought I was.
Now I know how the players on the NHL team I own must feel. Relentlessly hounded. Once the video of me pulling a woman from her burning car goes viral, privacy becomes a thing of the past. For whatever reason, Twitter has collectively decided this woman and I should become a romantic thing. A hashtag combining my name with hers is trending daily. Absolute nonsense. But then I meet her, and realize Twitter got it right. Daphne Barrington is beautiful, funny, brilliant and sweet. Now I just have to convince her to date me. Easier said than done. She’s maddeningly stubborn, and my deep desire to be with her soon has me writing massive checks. Not for jewelry or cars, but to charities. Winning Daphne’s heart is going to cost me, and I’m not sure even I have enough money to do it.
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I shake my head as the Chicago Blaze Public Relations Manager, Dana Malone, updates me on today’s social media frenzy.
“Olidaph was the top trending hashtag on Twitter yesterday.” There’s a note of satisfaction in her tone.
“No.” I groan and bury my head in my hands. “We’re not happy about this, Dana. I feel like a celebrity being stalked by the paparazzi. I need this to end.”
Dana shrugs. “I don’t know what more we can do, Mr. Durand. You and your daughter have laid as low as possible, and Daphne Barrington has, too. Honestly, I think the air of mystery is only adding to the fervor.”
Since the accident, my offices in Chicago and New York have been hounded with phone calls day and night, not just from reporters but from average people who want to encourage me to become romantically involved with Daphne.
A video taken by an onlooker at the accident scene went viral on Twitter about twenty-four hours later. After I spent three nights in the hospital for second-degree burns to my forearm and a lot of bumps and bruises, I had to sneak out of the hospital in an ambulance to avoid the crowd of reporters and photographers waiting for me.
The man who helped me into Daphne Barrington’s car that day caught her when I pushed her out of the car and rushed her to safety. Two paramedics caught me and followed. Not even thirty seconds later, Daphne’s car exploded. It’s a sobering video; I was only able to watch it one time. The rest of the world, though, can’t seem to get enough. And they’ve apparently decided that since both Daphne and I are single, we should be a couple now.
“I know you’re opposed to it, but I think you need to consider doing an interview,” Dana says. “Tell them you wish Miss Barrington well but have no interest in a romantic relationship. Once the question is answered, the attention will die down quickly.”
I stand up from the chair behind my desk and walk over to the other side of my office, where my collection of prized hockey memorabilia is displayed.
“Senator Barrington’s press conference wasn’t enough?” I ask Dana.
“No. People don’t want to see him—they either want to see his daughter or you.”
Groaning, I walk back over to my desk. I’m considering Dana’s idea of doing an interview when my assistant Hassan walks into my office, his cell phone in hand.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just got a Google alert and I thought you’d want to know. Senator Barrington’s office just released a video statement from Daphne Barrington.”
I sit down at my desk and slide my reading glasses on, then Google the video statement. Dana and Hassan come around to watch the video with me.
A beautiful woman with blond wavy hair that falls just past her shoulders comes onto the screen. She’s wearing a white T-shirt with the word “Equality” on it.
“Hi guys,” she says, smiling softly. “I’m Daphne Barrington. I just wanted to say thank you so much for all your prayers and well wishes after my accident. I know there’s been a lot of news coverage about it, and my father’s office is getting inundated with calls about me, so I decided to do this video to update everyone.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out. “I’m doing okay. I have a broken ankle and I have to wear a special boot for now. There’s a burn on my arm that’s healing well. Other than that, I was extra tired for the first week after the accident, but I’m good now. I’ve been staying at my parents’ house not only so I can heal, but because there are people staked out at my apartment and at my place of work. I appreciate your interest in my story, truly, but I just want to get back to my everyday life. Olivier Durand is a hero—he’s my hero, absolutely—but I imagine he also wants to go back to everyday life. I’m sure he’s a very nice man, and I hope to thank him in person one day for what he did for me, but there’s no romantic involvement between us. That’s all I wanted to say, and…while I have your attention, please consider a donation to Safe Harbor, the homeless advocacy organization I work for. It’s tax-deductible. My dad’s video people are going to put the web address at the end of this video.
As soon as the Safe Harbor web address pops onto the screen, it’s all I can do not to reach for my keyboard and restart the video so I can see Daphne’s face again.
She’s stunning. It’s not just her beauty, but the sound of her voice, the way she speaks, and her obvious reluctance to be in the spotlight. I’d seen still photos of her that her father’s office released after the accident, but they must have been old pictures.
I hardly gave the smiling young blond in those photos a second glance. But now, she has a different presence. A certainty.
PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES
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Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.
"Locke is back and at her best with another heartwarming Mason brother to fall in love with." -- K. Bromberg New York Times bestselling author
Reckless, an all-new swoon-worthy standalone romance in the Mason Family series from USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke is available now!
“How did you get in here?”
That’s not what you want to hear when you’re staring into the sea-green eyes of the hottest man you’ve ever seen. Yet I suppose it’s a fair question, considering I’m an uninvited stranger standing in Boone Mason’s kitchen.
If you think that’s bad—just wait. It gets worse.
This charming and wealthy playboy, who can’t pay his bills on time or find his way to the grocery store (but we all have flaws, right?), is sweet. Confident. Playful. He’s almost perfect. And, to make matters worse …
He’s smitten with me.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re rolling your eyes. You’re assuming this is some opposites attract situation—or that maybe we can be friends who turn into something more.
How can this be a bad thing?
Well, it’s simple. I’m not the kind of girl you fall in love with. Just to be sure, the universe reminds me of that in an unforgettable, in-your-face kind of way.
I might have broken into Boone’s house, but I won’t let him break my heart. I won’t break his either. There’s too much on the line to be that reckless.
4 Heart Review by Ashley
The Boone swoon is real and I am feeling it...hard!
But more than that I adored Jaxi. This woman had lived a hard life (which isn't something I've seen too much from Adriana Locke and I appreciated it). She may have been down on her luck but she never counted herself out. She knew she could rely on herself to figure it out, she always had. But that was before she accidentally climbed into Boone's life.
The attraction was there from the start but life and circumstances kept them from acting on it. I loved that for as hard as Boone pushed, Jaxi pulled back. And good thing because it let them really get to know one another. Dream and hope for something they had never dared to before. Happiness. Love. Family.
Oh my heart- the longing, the anticipation (that was well worth the wait). The hard decisions that had to be made, freaking WADE! All of it kept me absolutely glued to my kindle. Jaxi and Boone's slow-burning, not quite friends to lovers romance was everything I needed, everything I wanted, everything that's good and heartwarming about small-town romance.
About Adriana Locke
USA Today, Washington Post, and Amazon Charts Bestselling author Adriana Locke lives and breathes books. After years of slightly obsessive relationships with the flawed bad boys created by other authors, Adriana has created her own.
She resides in the Midwest with her husband, four sons, and two dogs. She spends a large amount of time playing with her kids, drinking coffee, and cooking. You can find her outside if the weather's nice and there's always a piece of candy in her pocket.
Connect with Adriana
Author: Cora Brent
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 22, 2021
It’s not that I’m hiding out in this hard luck little town.
But I’m twenty-six years old, I’ve had one boyfriend, and he ditched me for my sister.
So I might be a little cynical.
Then again, perhaps a high school math teacher shouldn’t expect romance.
I’d be better off sticking to the good things in life, such as my job at Emblem High, my amazing circle of friends, and my vintage record collection.
I shouldn’t waste time beating myself up over past choices or crying over the people who betrayed me.
And I definitely shouldn’t obsess over the washboard abs belonging to the guy who just moved in down the hall.
There’s no denying Landon Gentry is hot.
He is also crude, sarcastic, messy and downright exasperating.
And he used to be my student.
Yeah, my new roommate might be the last guy I should be thinking about.
If only he didn’t turn out to be so much more than I ever imagined...
The football scholarship was my ticket out of town and I never planned to come back.
However, blowing out my knee in the last game of the season spelled the end of my college days.
Still, I wouldn’t have returned if not for my little brother.
He’s lost his way since I left.
And I’m the only one who cares enough to help him find it again.
Between working two jobs and trying to steer my brother back in line I’ve got enough to focus on.
I don’t need to get distracted by a quirky schoolteacher with a great body.
But Autumn’s more than just some sexy girl who rents a house with me.
She’s gorgeous and brilliant and clueless about the fact that she’s been my fantasy for years.
Seeing her right in front of me every day is just too tempting to pass up.
Even if giving in might mean disaster for us both...
$2.99 for a limited time!
“So….” she says and then lets the word just kind of hang there.
I’m not sure how to respond so I just wait for her to continue. There’s a plain black and white wall clock above the couch and the secondhand ticks loudly.
This is officially awkward.
“So…what?” I ask her.
She can’t decide what to do with her hands. They now move behind her back. She breathes in. She breathes out. “Now that you’re here, Landon, I think it’s time we had a talk.”
I haven’t a clue which direction she’s going with this. Maybe Nesto was right and this is about to veer someplace exciting. “What do you want to talk about, Autumn?”
She appears startled by the fact that I’m using her name. I don’t know why. She’s the one who told me to stop calling her Ms. Katsaros.
She takes a breath and clears her throat. She fidgets. My eyes wander. Thanks to those shorts I can see more of her legs than I’m used to seeing. They are way above average, her legs. And they’d look pretty fucking fantastic wrapped around my waist. It wouldn’t take much for me to forget my promise to maintain a sex free environment. I’m already hard.
Autumn bites her lip. “I just feel like we should clear the air about that incident on your last day at Emblem High.”
“That’s what you want to talk about?”
“Yes. I know it was over two years ago but I just want you to know that I’ve never mentioned it to anyone and now that we’re roommates I wouldn’t want you to feel embarrassed.”
“You mean because you saw my dick?”
She blinks. “That’s one way of putting it.”
“How else would you put it?”
“That I mistakenly walked in on you having a, well, a private moment.”
“Okay.” I shrug my shoulders. “I forgive you.”
Annoyance flashes in her eyes. “I wasn’t apologizing, Landon. You were in a place you shouldn’t have been and doing something you shouldn’t have been doing.”
At this point I don’t know what she wants to hear. “In that case, I’m sorry you saw my dick.”
“Just so we’re clear, I didn’t want to see your dick.
“Well, I didn’t intend to show you my dick.”
“Okay, well, that’s good. We’re on the same page. This is not an issue and we don’t need to talk about it.”
“Then why did you bring it up?”
“I just…never mind. It’s not a thing and it’s over and it’s in the past and it doesn’t need to become a thing.”
I’m honestly confused. “What’s not a thing? My dick?”
“Yes. No!” She’s flustered and has to breathe in and out again before continuing. “Look, the dynamic between us is very different now. I am not your teacher. You are not my student. What’s done is done. I don’t feel uncomfortable and you don’t either. So we can just move forward and have a pleasant association from now on.”
Her face has become all red. During her speech she started pacing around like she does when she’s lecturing in her classroom. She also talked very fast, as if she’s rehearsed what to say.
“Are you always like this?” I ask her.
She frowns. “Like what?”
“Like all jumpy and half hysterical over nothing.”
“I’m not hysterical. I am simply attempting to engage in some open and honest dialogue.”
“Seems like a waste of time to me.”
“That’s an immature attitude.”
“If you say so.”
She’s getting flustered again. “You’ll change your mind when you’ve lived a few more years.”
I laugh. “Yeah, you’re practically ready for retirement. What are you, twenty five?”
Her chin tilts up. “I’ll be twenty seven next month.”
I let out a low whistle. “Old enough to be my mother.”
She narrows her eyes. “Look, just clean up after yourself and don’t eat my cookie dough ice cream and we’ll get along great. Can you do that?”
“I think so.”
“Wonderful. I’ll leave you alone to get unpacked. Kitchen is that way. Washer and dryer are in that closet behind you. I’m sure you can figure the rest out yourself.”
She turns, marches to the opposite side of the living room and disappears down a hallway. A second later I hear a door shut.
Cora Brent was born in a cold climate and escaped as soon as it was legally possible. Now, she lives in the desert with her husband, two kids and a prickly pear cactus she has affectionately named ‘Spot’. Cora’s closet is filled with boxes of unfinished stories that date back her 1980’s childhood and all her life she has dreamed of being an author. Amazingly, she is now a New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer of contemporary romance and begs not to be awakened from this dream.
Title: Harm’s Way
Series: A Riot MC Biloxi Novel
Author: Karen Renee
Release: April 13, 2021
Genre: MC Romance
The sexy, action-packed first book in the Riot MC Biloxi series from Karen Renee.
If it weren't for bad luck, Stephanie Combes would have no luck at all.
On top of stealing her identity and ruining her credit, Stephie’s ex-boyfriend has shamed her in the most unexpected way. As a card dealer, she’s determined to make a fresh start in Biloxi where the tips are better and she can climb out from under her shame and debt. Running into her long-lost stepbrother and his sexy-as-sin best friend wasn’t in the cards, but that was her bum-luck rearing its ugly head. The last thing she wants is another man in her life.
When it rains it pours, but lucky for Stephie, Har is there to save the day during the deluge. Staying with Har temporarily should be no problem, but they can’t deny their lust. The more Stephie distances herself, the more Har fights to keep her around. And he fights dirty.
Michael “Har” Walcott’s motorcycle club is in turmoil. As president of the Riot MC Biloxi chapter, he’s determined to get his club out of the drug trade, but his brothers are resistant. The last thing he needs is a woman dividing his focus from his brothers and his club… which is precisely when he meets a spunky and seemingly familiar brunette.
She’s familiar because Stephanie was once a stepsister to Har’s best friend Brute. Allowing her to distract him isn’t an option. But after her roof collapses, Har steps in to save the day. The more he learns about Stephie, the more he wants her to stay.
He fights his attraction, but he can’t control his impulses.
He hasn’t felt anything like this for a woman in years. It’ll be a cold day in hell before he lets it slip through his fingers again.
Karen Renee is the author of the Riot Motorcycle Club, Beta, and O-Town series of books. She once crunched Nielsen ratings data but these days she brings her imagination to life by writing books. She has wanted to be a writer since she was very young, but it's taken the last twenty plus years for her to amass enough courage and overall life experience to bring that dream to life. Some of those life experiences came from the wonderful world of advertising, banking, and local television media research. She is a proud wife and mother, and a Jacksonville native. When she's not at the soccer field or cooking, you can find her at her local library, the grocery store, in her car jamming out to some tunes, or hibernating while she writes and/or reads books.
A woman’s suspicions about her ex-boyfriend become a dangerous obsession in a twisting novel of psychological suspense by Washington Post and Wall Street Journalbestselling author Minka Kent.
Eight years ago, Grace McMullen broke Sutton Whitlock’s heart when she walked away. But it was only to save him from the baggage of her own troubled past. Now all she wants is to make sure he’s okay.
Only everything she learns about him online says otherwise. According to his social media accounts, he placed roots in her hometown, married a look-alike, and even named his daughter Grace. He clearly hasn’t moved on. In fact, it’s creepy. So Grace does what any concerned ex-girlfriend would do: she moves home…and watches him.
But when Grace crosses paths with Sutton’s wife, Campbell, an unexpected friendship develops. Campbell has no idea whom she’s inviting into her life. As the women grow closer, it becomes clear to Grace that Sutton is not the sentimental man she once knew. He seems controlling, unstable, and threatening. And what a broken man like Sutton is capable of, Grace can only imagine. It’s up to her to save Campbell and her baby now—but while she’s been watching them, who’s been watching her?
“So . . . what brings you back?” My father’s tone is pleasant, but his eyes squint as he studies me in the blue-green twilight of early evening.
The truth is complicated.
“Been gone long enough,” I say on a long exhale. “Thought maybe it was time to come home.”
I use the word for his sake. It makes him smile.
While I resided at 372 Magnolia Drive the first ten years of my life, calling it “home” would be a stretch at this point.
His dark eyes turn glassy, and his fingertips twitch at his sides. He wants to hug me, I’m sure, but he knows me too well. At least that part of me.
“Your room’s exactly how you left it,” he says instead of asking more questions. I imagine he’ll space them out, fishing casually for tidbits until he has the whole picture. An investigational paint-by-numbers. “Good to have you back, Grace. I mean that. Stay as long as you need. We’ll catch up whenever you’re ready.”
I thank him before grabbing my roller bag and climbing the winding staircase in the sweeping foyer. Every step rustles an unsettled sensation in my center, but I force it down with tight swallows.
I’m here on a mission, and as soon as it’s over, I’m leaving again.
Stopping at the top of the stairs, I’m greeted by an outdated family portrait—the original McMullens dressed in coordinating navy-blue outfits, the children hand in hand, grinning against the autumnal backdrop of some local state park.
There we are.
Frozen in time.
Blissfully unaware of fate’s cruel plans for us.
We were beautiful together—enviably happy from the outside.
My attention homes in on my parents, the way my mother gazes up into my father’s handsome face, her golden hair shining in the early evening sunset, his hand cupping the side of her cheek. If I didn’t know better, I’d think their love for one another was equal and balanced.
I trace my fingertips against the burnished-gold frame before pressing it just enough that it tilts, off-center. Noticeable only if you stare too long.
I have no desire to rewrite history, and I have little patience for those who feel the need to do so.
When I reach my old room, I flick on the light and plant myself in the doorway.
My father’s right. It’s exactly how I left it: Dark furniture. Blue walls. Pile of stuffed animals in the corner. Perfectly made bed complete with an ironed coverlet and a million pillows.
Aside from the fresh vacuum tracks in the carpet, no one’s set foot in this room since the last time I was home my senior year of college.
I lock the door and collapse on the bed, digging my phone from my bag and pulling up the Instaface account for my ex from college and staring at his profile picture for the tenth time today—the hundredth time this week. Same coffee-brown hair trimmed neatly into a timeless crew cut. Same hooded, almond-shaped eyes the earthy color of New England in autumn. Same dimples flanking his boyish smile like parentheses. He’s exactly how I remember him, only with a decade of life tacked onto his face. Shallow creases spread across his forehead. A deep line separates his eyebrows. Maybe there’s a little more hollowing beneath his jovial gaze. But other than that, he’s the same as I remember.
I could describe Sutton Whitlock fifty thousand ways, but at the end of the day, I can sum him up in five words: he was a good man.
Eight years ago, I broke his heart—and not because I wanted to.
I had to save him from a lifetime of disappointment.
I had to save him from me.
But a handful of things have come up online recently—things that indicate he’s not okay.
I need to rectify what I’ve done. I need to apologize for hurting him. Explain my reasons. Give him permission to move on, to be happy.
And then I’ll disappear . . . again.
Minka Kent has been crafting stories since before she could scribble her name. With a love of the literary dark and twisted, Minka cut her teeth on Goosebumps and Fear Street, graduated to Stephen King as a teenager, and now counts Gillian Flynn, Chevy Stevens, and Caroline Kepnes amongst her favorite authors and biggest influences. Minka has always been curious about good people who do bad things and loves to explore what happens when larger-than-life characters are placed in fascinating situations.
In her non-writing life, Minka is a thirty-something wife and mother who equally enjoys sunny and rainy days, loves freshly cut hydrangeas, hides behind oversized sunglasses, travels to warmer climates every chance she gets, and bakes sweet treats when the mood strikes (spoiler alert: it’s often).
Want to hear about sales and new releases? Sign up for her non-spammy newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/cwOMSD
Title: Her Name Was Annie
Author: Beth Rinyu
Genre: Women's Fiction/
Second Chance Romance
Release Date: April 28, 2021
When Stephanie McGuire witnesses a mysterious stranger plunge into the unforgiving ocean on a stormy afternoon, never to emerge again, her life will change forever. That stranger in the water may have been more acquainted with her than she could’ve ever imagined. As she tries to put together the pieces of the mystery that surrounds him, she also begins to put back together the pieces of her broken heart. While learning of a past she never knew existed, she manages to face the one she was fully aware of and had been avoiding for far too long.
One man she never knew will lead her down an unknown road to her past and onto a path of new beginnings.
Free in Kindle Unlimited
“Jack,” I whispered once he reached the front door. He paused with his hand on the doorknob as I took a few steps toward him until we were only inches apart. “Please don’t shut me out. I really enjoyed getting to know you again over this past month. Now that the circumstances have changed, I feel like maybe we’re headed back to being strangers again. I forgot how much I enjoyed your company, and I was hoping maybe we could have that again—a friendship, like when we first met.”
He removed his hand from the doorknob and placed it on my cheek. “That was a long time ago. Before life changed us into who we are now. I wish I could go back and be that goofy boy you first met. The one who made you happy. The one who made you laugh all the time, but I can’t. I’ll always be here for you, no matter what you need.” He closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. “But I don’t think I could honestly ever be just your friend again because I know I’ll always want so much more from us, something that we once had and still could’ve had.” He dropped his gaze to the ground and shook his head. “If things didn’t happen the way they did.”
I was speechless, not knowing how to reply or if I even should. The whole situation was so complicated and all the memories that had been conjured up from years ago were just adding to the mix. I always knew, even through the worst of times, that I still loved Jack. It wasn’t until recently that I was finally able to admit that I had never stopped being in love with him. That was my ten seconds—Do I tell him the truth and go down that rabbit hole with him once again, or do I let him walk away, parting civilly as two people who were mere acquaintances, sharing a mutual love in our daughter?
Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed Creative Writing. There was always something about being able to travel to a different place or become a different person with just the stroke of a pen - or in today's world a touch of the keyboard. I love creating deep characters who you will love or love to hate. Writing is a form of therapy for me, and I’m happiest when a new story starts to take on a life of its own.
My life is not nearly as interesting as my books or the characters in them. I love spending time with my dogs: Bogie, a sweet old Border Collie and Georgie, a scrappy Chihuahua/German Shepherd (yes, you read that right). My happy place is a seat by the ocean with my feet in the sand or on the busy streets of New York City. You will more than likely find one of these places as the setting for most of my books.
Once we were alone, I clinked glasses with her as she grew quiet. “Now, it’s your turn. What happened?”
She sipped her wine and closed her eyes. The lines on her face grew deeper, and my heart sped up. I wished I had the power to erase whatever pain she had.
Then she met my gaze. “Two days ago, I hit the road. My husband has a new girlfriend and a new victim of his anger. I want a divorce and to not have to run.” She brushed her cheek, and I peered closer. Under her makeup, there was a trace of a bruise. “And I have no place to live, no job. I used my last few pennies to get here, and I’m probably dreaming that all will somehow be okay.”
My heart ached for her. Her pain was palpable. I brushed against her hand. “I’d like to help.”
She finished her glass and shook her head. “No. I have my mother. I don’t need a handout.”
Pride often stopped people. I poured her the second glass and changed tactics. “Look, I need an assistant who can handle my never-ending schedule and help me coordinate events.”
The food came, and she waited till we were alone and then asked, “So you’re offering me a job?”
I would do anything to keep her smiling and happy. And I’d never had an assistant stick around for too long. I didn’t trust the ones I hired enough to train them fully, and the better ones all ended up quitting on me. Maddie was perfect. I’d always trusted her.
I cut my food. “I’d need you to take my calls, arrange my schedule, run events—which is your specialty—and ensure that everything I need to do in a day is organized. I’m hard to please, my HR manager said, but I pay well.”
She stared at her plate like it was a lifeline. I didn’t want to cause her pain, so I waited. Then she asked, “You’re serious?”
I sipped my wine to clear my palate. “Fuck yeah. You’re not scared to talk to me, which already gives you an advantage over the last few assistants, who couldn’t handle the job.”
She cut her burger in half and grinned like she’d just found a present from Santa. “So, you’re a demanding boss.”
Maybe not entirely with you. She’d accepted my help, and this way, we would stay in touch. And when she was ready, she would tell me more.
I tasted my food, which was perfectly cooked. “The job would come with a place to stay that’s close to me and in the right school zones.”
The second I said that, I felt my face heat. I hadn’t meant to push. The information had slipped out. We ate in silence. But my shoulders felt stronger, like I could handle whatever problems she threw at me.
As we finished, she sipped her wine and then said, “Maybe I should say no to the job. I don’t want to take your charity.”
Right. I said too much. The truth was, I was drawn to her. “It’s not charity. I’ll take a lot of your time, so the place is a perk of the job. The markets in other countries means I need you at strange hours. And you’ll be able to save some of your paycheck if you’re good at budgeting.”
She twisted her glass, then she sipped her wine and took a deep breath. “Let me think about it. I didn’t meet you tonight so you could give me a job. I haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet or even slept really. I just thought it would be nice to catch up.”
At work, I was the boss and solved all problems. I was sure I could figure out her problems, too, but I would need her permission and her trust. So I changed directions. Since we’d talked about my family, I asked about hers. Her father had died two years before, and she hadn’t come home. I’d looked for her when I was on the island the weekend of her father’s funeral.
I sipped my wine. “Your dad wouldn’t want you working for me.”
“That doesn’t matter.” She sat straighter. “He died two years ago.”
My family was my support system. I put my glass down. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost mine.”
She wiped her face and said simply, “Yeah, well, your family is not a lot like mine.”
That was true, but she was all I’d wanted at one point. I whispered like we were sharing a secret no one else should hear, “No, but when we were kids, I wanted us to find a way to work out. I missed you that summer when I was eighteen and alone here.”
“With your family, you were never alone.” She held up her glass. I did the same, and we clinked them. “If I’d been here, maybe my life would have been very different, but let’s just be thankful we had this evening.”
“Fair enough. I’m with the only woman who ever dared to tell me no.”
Her eyes widened, but she finished her sip. “That can’t be true.”
Actually, it was. I handed my platinum card to the server, who then left. “It is. Money usually makes people agree to anything.”
She tilted her head like she agreed and finished her glass. “We all need it.”
The last thing she needed to do was lie to herself. I finished my own glass and shook my head. “No, we don’t. It’s a tool, but it’s not the reason to do anything.”
“Tool, right.” She threw her head back and laughed. “You sound like a rich boy. Thank you for meeting me tonight, but I should get home.”
And once again, she hadn’t given me permission to fix her life. The waitress returned with my card. I signed and then walked out with Maddie. “I’ll pop over tomorrow, and we’ll talk about the job again. You can read over the contract via email.”
She sucked in her lips, but then she texted me her email and headed toward the black truck that her mother usually drove to the garden. She turned and waved. “Good night.”
Most women I had drinks with offered to warm my bed, but that wasn’t Maddie. She was a lady. I had no idea what I needed to do to get her to trust me, but I had to figure out how to prove myself to her. For some reason, she made the world nicer to live in when I was around her. And I knew it was wrong, as she was married, but I wanted to find out if she still tasted like she had when I was a boy.