Monday, November 23, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Cover Reveal for Heather Lyons’ ROYAL MARRIAGE MARKET! Releasing December 15, 2015, ROYAL MARRIAGE MARKET is a brand new standalone contemporary romance by Heather Lyons. Be sure you preorder your copy today!

Royal Marriage Market - cover


iBooks ** Amazon

Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms. 
Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what's best for her country, she isn't about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn't hesitate to tell him there's no way she's marrying him. 
Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can't fall for her, because royal or not, they're not meant for each other. 
Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.    

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“You go by Chris?”
             “It’s an acceptable nickname for Christian.” The owner of the name snatches his glass of champagne back, chugging the rest of the drink. Naturally, this promptly sets off another round of coughing.
            Parker is now the one to smack Christian’s back, and I am grateful because I most certainly do not need to be touching him again, even if in a life-saving gesture.
“Maybe so,” I murmur as Christian, rapidly turning redder from what surely must be embarrassment more than alcohol down the wrong pipe, shoves his friend’s hand away. “But it doesn’t fit.”
“If I might be so bold to ask, Your Highness, how so?” Parker inquires at the same time Christian wheezes, “What does that mean?”
            I side skirt the men to claim a chocolate covered strawberry from the dessert table. “Chris is a boring name.”
            “I believe you’ve just issued an unforgiveable insult to all the Chrises in the world,” Christian says flatly while Parker struggles to hold in his mirth.
            “Of course I haven’t. I simply said Chris is a boring name. Look at Elsa; it is a hopelessly old-fashioned name you find in old women who bake streusel. My parents aged me the moment I came out of the womb.” I point the zebra-striped berry at my sparring partner. “Now that is unforgiveable. You were given a nice name and have elected to make it boring when it doesn’t suit you one bit.”
            Too much silence expands between us; I am tricked into looking up at him once more. One of his dark eyebrows arches upward. “Are you saying you don’t find me boring?”
            Did I? Oh, bollocks. I did, didn’t I? I clear my throat and smile winsomely. “Just because I don’t wish to marry you doesn’t mean I find you boring as a bag of rocks.”
            Both of his eyebrows shoot up, as if I informed him grass is blue and sky is green. As if he doesn’t already know he’s interesting. Please. Must I remind him of all the glossies dedicated to his comings and goings?
“When we were children, His Highness was teased quite a bit about his name,” Parker tells me.
            I toss the strawberry stem back onto the table; it’s whisked up by a passing waiter in less than a second. “What! Why?”
            “I’m named after a religion,” Christian grinds out. “There was Prince Jew. Prince Muslim. Prince Buddhist. Prince Hindu. Prince Zoroastrian. There were lots of choices, you see.”
            Another moment I want nothing more than to just laugh and laugh. “How delightful. Now, those nicknames aren’t boring. Sacrilegious, yes, but definitely not boring.”
            “You have a seed in your front teeth,” is Christian’s response.
            “You are a veritable Prince Charming, publically pointing out women’s flaws. How chivalrous of you.”

It is annoying how much I like that he refuses to appear properly chastised.
Royal Marriage Market - full cover wrap

Author PhotoHeather Lyons writes epic, heartfelt love stories and has always had a thing for words. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. She and her husband and children live in sunny Southern California and are currently working their way through every cupcakery she can find.          

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Friday, November 20, 2015


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We are so excited to bring you the Cover Reveal for Kristen Proby’s LISTEN TO ME. Releasing April 12, 2016, LISTEN TO ME is the first novel in Kristen’s Fusion Series, published by William Morrow. Be sure you preorder this one today!

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  About LISTEN TO ME: In New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby’s brand new series, five best friends open a hot new restaurant, but one of them gets much more than she bargained for when a sexy former rock star walks through the doors—and into her heart. Seduction is quickly becoming the hottest new restaurant in Portland, and Addison Wade is proud to claim 1/5 of the credit. She’s determined to make it a success and can’t think of a better way to bring in new customers than live music. But when former rock star Jake Keller swaggers through the doors to apply for the weekend gig, she knows she’s in trouble. Addie instantly recognizes him—his posters were plastered all over her bedroom walls in high school—he’s all bad boy...exactly her type and exactly what she doesn’t need. Jake Keller walked away from the limelight five years ago and yearns to return to what’s always driven him: the music. If he gets to work for a smart-mouthed, funny-as-hell bombshell, all the better. But talking Addie into giving him the job is far easier than persuading her that he wants more than a romp in her bed. Just when she begins to drop her walls, Jake’s past finally catches up with him. Will Addie be torn apart once again or will Jake be able to convince her to drown out her doubts and listen to her heart?

  Image MapAuthor Pic - Kristen ProbyAbout Kristen Proby: New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Kristen Proby is the author of the popular With Me in Seattle series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong characters who love humor and have a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type—fiercely protective and a bit bossy—and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves. Kristen spends her days with her muse in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys coffee, chocolate, and sunshine. And naps. Visit her at      

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

COVER REVEAL: Runaway Heart by Sonya Loveday & Candace Knoebel


Releases on December 21, 2015
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One Hurricane. Two Strangers. No Rules. 
 Hannah Adamson was immune to relationships. Swearing men off long ago, she buried her painful reasons under her feisty independence and a passion for roller derby. Until she met Ed and was swept away by the tall, witty, sarcastically sexy best man who might just be the one to have the antidote for her runaway heart. 
 Ed Alcott wasn’t looking for love, especially not after a particularly nasty breakup left him with a shattered heart in desperate need of repair. 
 Taking shelter together when a hurricane bears down on Rum Cay, Hannah and Ed find they can't fight their growing attraction. It was supposed to be simple. Easy. A weekend of passion with no strings. But how do you forget the one who stripped away all your layers, and haunts your dreams? 
 Can Hannah keep the scattered pieces of her heart in check, or will the promise of Ed’s love be enough to mend them back together?  

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Sonya Loveday, first and foremost is a reader, an avid one. It is of that love that brought her to purchasing her first laptop in 2009, and publishing her first novel, Casted, in 2013. In early 2014, Sonya expanded Casted and then went on to publish Spelled, the sequel to Casted in March, wrapping up the series, and her stint with Paranormal Romance. For now. Not long after the completion to the Casted Series, Sonya tried her hand at Contemporary Romance. Thusly, The Six Series was born with The Summer I Fell, which released at the end of July 2014. To date, Sonya lives in Central Florida with her husband, and two kids, and is currently working several projects to be announced in the upcoming months. Author Links: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Website: Email: Goodreads:  

  Candace Knoebel is the award-winning author of Born in Flames-book one in a young adult fantasy trilogy. She discovered in 2009 through lunch breaks and late nights after putting her kids to bed, a world where she could escape the ever-pressing days of an eight to five Purgatory. And an outlet for all the voices residing in her head. Published by 48fourteen in 2012, Born in Flames went on to win Turning the Pages Book of the Year award in February of 2013. In January of 2014, the last book in the trilogy, From the Embers, was released, thusly completing the trilogy. She now works on the Night Watchmen Series, while guzzling Red Bulls and pretending to be a ninja on Heelys. Author Links: Website: Blog: Facebook: Twitter: Goodreads:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


IT'S here! MONSTER PRICK releases TODAY and we've got an excerpt, Shell's review for you...

Over my dead body.

That's what I told Gracie when she informed me of her plan to pick some random guy she met online to get rid of her pesky virginity.

If anyone is touching her, it's going to be me.

I shouldn't even be considering it, but I can't get it out of my head: her, under me, begging me.

Arrogant. Cocky. Prick.

Those are the words I’d use to describe my older brother’s dangerously handsome best friend.

When he learned of my plan to kick off my white cotton briefs, ditching my good girl persona once and for all by losing my virginity to the first eligible bachelor I could find, he flipped out. Said over his dead body.

He says if anyone’s going to do it, it’s going to be him.

I hate that I’m even considering his offer.

But I am … I sooo am.

Ever since he suggested it, all I can think about is his cocky smile on those full lips as he’s driving in to me.

But if we cross that line … will I ever be able to go back?

MONSTER PRICK, a sexy romantic comedy, is a spin off novella from SCREWED, but can be read as a standalone, as it features a new couple.

AMAZON ****  iBooks  *** B&N


“What if I could help you?”

I have no idea what the hell I was thinking. The words just leaped out of my mouth. Listening to Gracie talk about kicking off her granny panties and popping her cherry with some random Internet dick...I guess it drove me temporarily insane.

But there's no taking back the idea now. Gracie sucks in her breath, blinking wide-eyed. “What do you mean?” she asks.

What do I mean? Here I am, sitting next to the world's most beautiful girl—drowning in her eyes, her scent, the gentle puff of her breath on my mouth that begs me to close the distance. I know what I want, but I also know what will happen if I take it. My best friend will rip off my balls and feed them to me. And I'll probably deserve every second.

But sweet Jesus, I'm pretty sure Gracie wants this, too, and that's enough to blow my better judgment to pieces. All I care about right now is making her feel better. In as many ways as possible. And if her slightly quickened breathing, blown pupils, and flushed cheeks are anything to go by...

As an experiment, I dart out the tip of my tongue to wet my lips. Her darkened eyes drop like a magnet yanked them. Yeah, bingo. Having a little black book as thick as the dictionary has its advantages. I know damn well how to tell when a woman wants me.

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than 18 titles, Kendall Ryan has sold more than a millionebooks and her books have been translated into several languages in countries around the world. She's a traditionally published author with Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins UK, as well as enjoying success as an independently published author. Since she first began self-publishing in 2012, she's appeared at #1 on Barnes & Noble and iBooks charts around the world. Her books have also appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller list 23 times.

Visit her at: for the latest book news, and fun extras.

I didn't read Screwed and was a little nervous jumping into MONSTER PRICK *blind* but both are meant to be standalones and I had no trouble getting into this smoking hot novella.
The characters are so alive and easy to relate to. Gracie was hilarious and endearing. Hudson??? Well, he was a Prick. Sort of. And damned if he didn't win me over. It's not hard to see why Gracie was/is so obsessed with him. And their chemistry?!?!?! Holy...

Oh, there is much more I want to say but *SPOILERS* are not our friends. So... I'll just add:

MONSTER PRICK was a fun, sassy, sexy, sexy read. Full of mischief and what ifs and 'the walls are burning down'-searing, SCORCHING passion. Is it for real or just a means to an end? Will they burnout as quickly as they ignited? OR is this the love they've both been waiting for?

Grab MONSTER PRICK NOW. Heat up your chilly fall night and then some. You won't be disappointed- but you might need new panties. ;)  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Kissing Her Crush by Ophelia London

We are celebrating the release of KISSING HER CRUSH by Ophelia London! 

Title: KISSING HER CRUSH (Sugar City #2) by Ophelia London
Age group: Adult
Genre: Sweet Romance
Publisher: Entangled Bliss
Scheduled to release: November 9, 2015

He's sweet trouble...
Natalie Holden wants three things: To be the best chocolate chemist in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to prove her chocolate recipe can help teenage depression, and to get over gorgeous Luke Elliott, the guy she's had a crush on since birth. Unfortunately, he's the microbiologist set to debunk her chocolate study. And, of course, he looks more delicious than ever!

Luke Elliott is still bitter over his divorce. Work is his passion now, and landing a huge promotion is just what he needs. What he doesn't need is a crackpot trying to prove that chocolate cures depression. The last thing he expects is for the crackpot to be Natalie Holden--his "what if" girl from high school--or that she'd still tempt the hell out of him.

They may not see eye-to-eye on her project, but they can't deny the explosive chemistry that keeps pulling them together. Even when it risks their jobs and the very different futures they both want...

Book 2 in the Sugar City series (book one is LOVE BITES), but both are stand alone books.

USA Today bestselling author Ophelia London was born and raised among the redwood trees in beautiful northern California. Once she was fully educated, she decided to settle in Florida, but her car broke down in Texas and she’s lived in Dallas ever since. A cupcake and treadmill aficionado (obviously those things are connected), she spends her time watching arthouse movies and impossibly trashy TV, while living vicariously through the characters she writes. Ophelia is the author of KISSING HER CRUSH in the new Sugar City series; AIMEE & THE HEARTTHROB; CHALK LINES & LIPSTICK; DEFINITELY, MAYBE IN LOVE; the Abby Road series; and the Perfect Kisses series. Visit her at But don’t call when The Vampire Diaries (or Dawson’s Creek) is on.

Kissing Her Crush was such a fun romantic read.  AND we are also talking about chocolate here people...LOL!!
But seriously, this book was one of those stories that you fall in to is light-hearted and funny yet when it needs to get serious it does.
So, the guy you have had a crush on for forever suddenly pops back in to your life and of all things is the guy to debunk your study??
I just knew with that part right there this was going to be an awesome read.  Boy was I not wrong.  I flew through this book b/c if I wasn't laughing, I was swooning over the budding romance of these two long lost lovers...LOL!!
But we know it can't always be champagne and caviar...their worlds and demands took them in two different places...trying to make it work was calling on one person to give up their own dreams...
Did it really have to be that way?? Were there secrets that if revealed could actually make their relationship work?
I gotta say...Luke was to die for.  Yeah, he had his faults, I mean, what guy doesn't...but boy did he knock me over..I totally understood why Natalie was so hung up on him..

The chemistry between these two have you rooting for them from the beginning and begging to make sure it all works out..
Beautifully written; a tale that decadently sweet and epically romantic..
A definite must read!!!

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Friday, November 13, 2015

BLOG TOUR: CADENCE by Lisa Swallow

Welcome to our stop on the CADENCE Blog Tour. We've got a GIVEAWAY and Shell's review. Check it all out and more below... 


Tegan Hughes joins Blue Phoenix and Ruby Riot on tour, and drummer Bryn isn’t the only one who notices his little sister isn’t a kid anymore.

Jax Lewis is the guitarist for Ruby Riot and the band are rising to success. He’s hot property and loving every minute of his new found fame. Now, he’s on tour supporting Blue Phoenix and living his rock star life to the full. Until Tegan walks into his world and puts the brakes on.

Tegan Hughes is taking a year out and has her sights set on touring Europe with her big brother’s band. Blue Phoenix drummer, Bryn isn’t happy when his sister arrives unannounced at his hotel in Lisbon, but Tegan isn’t the type of person to take no as an answer.

With her big brother breathing down their necks, Jax and Tegan attempt to keep a handle on their growing attraction but that proves harder than they thought. Jax is used to getting whoever and whatever he wants and after kissing Tegan once, he knows one thing…he wants more.

The problem is, Tegan isn’t rock star girlfriend material. She has ambitions of her own and refuses to let anything stand in the way of her plans. But when Jax and Tegan’s relationship becomes public knowledge life becomes a hell of a lot more complicated.

Cadence is the first standalone book in a new rock romance series, Ruby Riot. The series is a spin-off from the Blue Phoenix books but you do not need to read the Blue Phoenix series first.

Amazon CAN - 

The next book in the series, SHUFFLE, is now available for pre-order! 

Lisa is an Amazon bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. She is originally from the UK and moved to Australia in 2001. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, three children, and Weimaraner, Tilly, who often makes appearances on Lisa’s social media.
Lisa’s first publication was a moving poem about the rain, followed by a suspenseful story about shoes. Following these successes at nine years old there was a long gap in her writing career, until she published her first book in 2013.
In the past, Lisa worked as an English teacher in France, as an advertising copywriter in England, and ran her own business in Australia. Now she spends her days with imaginary rock stars.
She lived in Europe as a child and also travelled when she left university. This has given Lisa stories which would sound far-fetched if she wrote them down, and maybe one day she will. These days, Lisa is happy in her writing cave, under Tilly’s supervision.

Connect with Lisa:

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I love a good rockstar romance and CADENCE really fit the bill. This was my introduction to Lisa Swallow and her incredible crew.
Baby, I am SOLD. Sign me up as a full blown Ruby Riot and Blue Phoenix groupie. Tegan and Jax drove me mad crazy and thrilled me to the core. Theirs was a love story to rival my favorites. Intense, unconventional, and wildly passionate and romantic. Both were sexy as hell. But Jax... wow. He was a trip and I fell for him as hard as Tegan. What it is about the broken bad boys?

Though I'm still basking in the afterglow, I'm ready for the next Ruby Riot installment and I am definitely checking out the Blue Phoenix series. I'm so intrigued by Jem and Ruby and can't wait to learn more of their story. And Tegan's brother, Bryn... I just know he'll win me over. For now, I'm content in the love bubble with Tegan and Jax.

To wrap it up simply, CADENCE was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. I'd jump on and ride all over again. And again. Yep, it was that good.


We're excited to share the release of the next installment in the Hollywood Files: TETHERED BOND.
Check out where to buy and enjoy the excerpt...

 Detective Drake Nash: hot, alpha, bossy, and… mine. Now, if someone could tell his ex that... I don’t care if the summer fayre is coming to Holly Woods and she’s on the planning committee. What I do care about is sugar-filled food, bright lights, late nights… and danger. The type that won’t come in the form of Nonna’s new cantankerous British parrot, Gio. (Please see the damage done to Mom’s new curtains.) Unfortunately, when the danger comes, it comes in the form of something Holly Woods has never seen. The town is rocked to its core, and once again, I’m in danger. Only this time, it isn’t because of my clients—this time, I’m in danger because of who I am… Because of my heritage. And despite the HWPD’s best efforts, the bodies keep on piling up. Drake’s determined to protect me. I’m determined that I can do it myself. Danger. Mystery. Darkness. Malice. It’ll be a miracle if any of us make it out of this with guns unfired, cupcakes still frosted, and hearts intact…  


  AMAZON US *** AMAZON UK *** iBooks *** KOBO  


It’s better for my sanity if I get this conversation with Nonna over and done with.

Oh my fuck. I have to meet the parrot, too. Holy fuckballs. What if the colorful rat sides with her?

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course it’s gonna side with Nonna.

Shit. Clearly, I can be swayed by the desperation of my future sister-in-law. I’ve really gotta get a handle on that crap. This should be Devin having this conversation, not me.

That thought hits right as I pull up behind Mom’s car on the drive. I take a deep breath, apprehension coiling in my lower stomach, and get out of my car. This feeling always hits whenever I get to my parents’ place, but today, it’s particularly strong. I know that Nonna will play the innocent card and make everything a lot harder.

I walk across the front yard, and a loud squawk rings in my ears. My heart stops for a brief second, and I bite my tongue. That thing is loud. How are Mom and Dad coping with that?

I knock on the front door twice before I push it open.

“Ye cruel wench! Ye vile wench! Cazzo! Cazzo!”

Nice to meet you, too, Gio.

“Hello,” I call hesitantly, closing the door behind me.

“Aye! Ye bloody wench!”

“Oh, shut up, you little shit!” Mom yells.

I walk into the front room in time to see her cover the offending bird’s cage with a bedsheet.

“Wench! Wench!” Gio squawks from beneath the black sheet.

Mom smacks the cage. “I’ll wench your beak real soon!”

Oy vey. Things have sure gotten violent in the Bond family home.

Nonna shuffles into the front room and, upon seeing Gio covered, gasps. “Kellie, you-a let-a him go-a!”

Mom snorts. “Believe me, Liliana. If I could imprison the little shit, I would! My curtains are ruined!”

I glance at the window. There’s a giant rip in one of the drapes. The ones she bought two weeks ago.

Nonna gasps and rushes across the room, her cane nothing more than a steadying tool. “Gio!” she exhales, whipping the sheet off. “You-a okay?”

The concern on her face is comical. Oh, Nonna.

“Vile wench! Vile wench!” Gio shrills, violently flapping his bright-green wings. “Kellie, ye vile wench!”

I squint. Doesn’t seem like Gio’s conversational skills are up to much unless he’s going to hop on the Black Pearl.

“Hello?” I try again, stepping fully into the front room.

Nonna is leaning forward, cooing at the parrot, and ignores me. Mom turns, her nostrils flaring.

She’s mad.

“Nonna, do you know you can hear that thing halfway down the street?” I inquire.

“He is-a no thing,” Nonna murmurs. “He is-a Gio!”

Yeah, whatever.

Gio’s wings flap again, and Nonna stands. Two beady, black eyes focus on me, and it’s surprisingly uncomfortable. A high-pitched noise that sounds awfully like a whistle emits from the cage, and I blink harshly.

“Did he just—”

Gio interrupts me with a loud, unmistakable wolf whistle.

Holy shit. The parrot just wolf-whistled at me.

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By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to two beautiful little monsters. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of whatever she fancies - usually wine - and writes books.
Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.
She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015




From the author of the USA Today bestselling A Little Too Far series, the first in an edgy new contemporary romance series that follows a family on the run... As the oldest son of a Chicago crime lord, Robert Delgado always knew how dangerous life could be. With his mother dead and his father in prison, he’s taking charge of his family’s safety—putting himself and his siblings in witness protection to hide out in a backwater Florida town. Fourth grade teacher Adri Wilson is worried about the new boy in her class. Sherm is quiet and evasive, especially when he’s around his even cagier older brother. Adri can’t help her attraction to Rob, or the urge to help them both in whatever way she can. But the Delgados have enemies on two sides of the mob—their father’s former crew and the rival family he helped take down. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds them. And if Rob isn’t careful, Adri could end up in the crossfire...

AMAZON *** iBooks *** B&N     

Chapter 2
“Is this straight?” Dad asks, peering in the mirror across from the front door and messing with the badge on the breast pocket of his blue shirt.
There is almost no crime on our little island because Dad is legendary for taking down drug rings and poachers, but when it comes to the little things, like pinning his badge on straight, he still needs help.
That’s why I’m here.
When Mom died last spring, I came back from Jacksonville so I could live at home and help Dad. He and Mom were high school sweethearts and married not long after graduation.He’s always been taken care of. I don’t want him to be alone.
I move to where he is and turn him, unpinning the badge and straightening it. I smooth his salt and pepper hair off his forehead and stretch up on my toes to kiss the smooth patch of cheek above the line of his beard. “I seriously doubt they’re going to send the Chief of Police home for a dress code infraction.”
“We’ll see,” he chuckles, giving my blond ponytail a gentle tug. “You ready for your first day influencing the youth of Port St. Mary?”
I was over the moon when I got the call three days ago that Mrs. Martin had had surgery and they needed a long-term sub for her class. Not that I’m happy they hacked out her gallbladder or anything, but her loss is my gain, so to speak.
I come from a long line of educators. Mom was my first grade teacher. Both of her sisters, her father, and her grandfather taught as well. You could say it’s in my DNA. I resisted it for a while, thought I wanted to go into finance, but by my junior year at Clemson I had to finally admit to myself teaching was what I really wanted to do. I changed my major to Education and finished my credential just before Mom died.
Since her death, it’s felt even more urgent to me to teach—like maybe following in her footsteps will somehow keep her spirit alive. But Port St. Mary and the surrounding communities are small, and teaching jobs are pretty scarce. I was afraid I was going to have to try elsewhere come fall. This was a prayer answered…which makes me a little afraid I might have had something to do with poor Mrs. Martin’s gallbladder flaring up. And now it’s starting to feel like one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios.
I rub my sweaty palms down my slacks. “What happens if they hate me?”
Dad wraps me in his arms and squeezes me in a bear hug, crushing the air out of my lungs. “They’re going to love you, punkin. Your mom would be so proud of you right now,” he says, a catch in his voice. “I hope you know that.”
I swallow back the lump in my throat and look up at him. I can’t even remember the last time he’s brought her up out of the blue like this. “I know, Dad, but thanks for saying so.” He lets me go and I shoulder my messenger bag. “Time to face the music.”
We step out the back door to where my old electric blue Chevy Lumina is parked in the driveway, next to Dad’s only slightly less conspicuous cruiser. Dad watches as I slide in and turn the key. The engine chugs but doesn’t turn over.
I blow out a breath and pop the hood. By the time I grab the monkey wrench on the floor of the passenger side and get out of the car, Dad already has the hood propped up and is looking over the engine compartment.
“Don’t mess with Frank, Dad.” I point my finger in a circle at the guts of my poor Frankencar. Me and my best friend Chuck rebuilt most of the insides from junkyard parts when we took auto shop our senior year in high school. “It’s a delicate balance.”
He grins and steps back, his hands in the air. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
I will always love Frank—he was my first—but I know I need a new car. Dad’s offered me Mom’s T-Bird, but I’m twenty-three. I’m supposed to be responsible for myself at this point. And besides, I’d rather he sold Mom’s car and put the money towards his retirement. Even though Port St. Mary is pretty sleepy most of the time, everyday he goes to work, I worry.
I reach between the radiator and the engine and give the alternator a sharp rap with the wrench, then slip back into the driver’s seat. When I turn the key, Frank chugs twice, same as always, then rumbles to life.
Dad ducks into the cruiser and gives me a little salute as I pull out.
Port St. Mary Elementary is only about two miles from home. It takes a grand total of eight minutes to drive there. Technically, it’s a one-room schoolhouse. The tiny twelve-space parking lot butts up against an octagonal building, which, in fact, is just one big room inside. In the exact center of the building are the bathrooms and storage closets, and from there, folding accordion partitions section off each wedge of the octagon. Each wedge is a grade level, kinder through sixth, and a multipurpose room. To the right of the parking lot is a doublewide “portable” that houses the school offices and small staff room. Behind that, children are already gathering in the playground, which is really just a weed-infested lot with a slide and jungle gym that has been there since before I started kindergarten here.
When I walk around the octagon to the door marked with a big yellow four and step inside, it’s like deja vu all over again. Mrs. Martin (she told me to call her Pam when we talked on the phone about the lesson plan yesterday, but I can’t bring myself to) has had the same posters on the walls since the dawn of time. The presidential chart ends with Reagan. She had already been teaching fourth grade in this same classroom for, like, twenty years when I had her.
I move to her desk, to the right of the door, and set my bag on it. And that’s when I see the note from Principal Richmond.
A new student.
I brush my palms down my slacks again, a fresh jolt of nerves twisting my insides into knots. I was already going to be way over my head with a classroom full of nine-year-olds fresh off Christmas vacation and all sugared up on candy canes.
I look over the instructions. Sherman William Davidson needs his reading comprehension assessment, writing and grammar evaluation, and his math skills worksheet completed by the end of the week.
I blow a wisp of hair off my forehead and unpack my toothpaste and toothbrush, my journal, and a few of my favorite colored pens into Mrs. Martin’s desk, careful not to displace her things too much. I’m just pulling the assessments for the new kid from the file cabinet when the classroom door opens. I hear Principal Richmond’s gravel voice before I turn around. “…and his classroom is here. We just got word a few days ago that our regular fourth grade teacher is out on medical leave, but Sherman will be in good hands with Ms. Wilson. She’s a very capable substitute.”
I take a deep breath as I turn and hope he’s not lying.
I substituted five times during fall semester. For the most part, everything went great until I subbed for Mrs. Yetz’s eighth grade class the week before winter break. Somehow, what started out as a math lab on probability devolved into a liar’s dice tournament, complete with money changing hands.I wasn’t sure they’d call me back after that.
But when I see Principal Richmond waddle his round frame through the door, I straighten the scarf I tied over my favorite teal sweater and try to look as confident in what he said as he does.
“Ms. Wilson,” he says, waving me over. “This is your new student, Sherman.”
Sherman is a wiry little thing with unruly brown hair and clothes that hang off him a little. He looks as if he’d vanish into himself if given the chance.
“He goes by Sherm,” the man standing next to him says.
I look up into some of the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen. Heavy dark brows curve over irises the color of honey with burgundy flecks through them. Thick brown waves are loose around a strong face with angled cheekbones,and a square jaw covered in two-day stubble. Set in flawless olive skin are lips so firm and redthey make me forget the frown that’s turning them down slightly at the corners.He’s just so…gorgeous, like something out of a magazine or a movie. And he’s tall—well over six feet of broad shoulders tapering to narrow hips under his blue button-down shirt. The tails are loose over pressed jeans that fit him just so. Everything about him is tailored and cultured and nothing like any of the year-rounders who live on this bumpkin island. But it’s not just the way he looks. A blend of confidence and something else I can’t identify but makes him feel a little intimidating wafts off him with the spicy cologne I keep catching hints of. He’s nothing like anyone I’ve ever met, even at Clemson.
I feel my jaw dangling and snap it closed, pulling myself together long enough to extend an arm. “I’m Adri.”
Principal Richmond clears his throat, and when I flick a glance his direction, I know my ogling didn’t go unnoticed. His brow is deeply furrowed and his frown curves so low it makes him look like one of those marionettes, where their chin is a whole different piece of wood than the rest of their face.
My eyes bulge and I shift my outstretched hand to Sherm. “I mean, Miss Wilson. Welcome to Port St. Mary, Sherm.”
The boy just looks at me with sad eyes the color of his…father’s?
My gaze gravitates back to the guy towering over me. Could he be Sherm’s dad? He looks way too young to have a nine-year-old. He also looks all business. There’s nothing soft or nurturing in his cold, sharp gaze as it flicks around the classroom, silently assessing.
“What’s on the other side of those partitions?” he asks Principal Richmond.
“The third and fifth grade classrooms,” he answers.
The guy’s eyes continue to scan the room. “He’ll spend all day in here?”
The principal nods. “Except when he’s on the playground.”
“Is there security on campus?”
Principal Richmond looks momentarily perplexed, rubbing his round stomach as if he’s thinking with it. “Not as such. We have yard monitors during recess and lunch, and the teachers are responsible for the children when they’re here in class.”
“What about lunch?”
“He can bring his own lunch, or buy a bag lunch from Nutritional Services for three dollars. Either way, if it’s nice weather, the children eat outside at the picnic tables. On rainy days, we open the partitions and they eat inside as a group.”
The guy reaches into his pocket, but Principal Richmond holds up his hand to stop him when he comes out with a thick wad of cash. “We don’t allow students to carry money on campus. When we’re done here, I’ll take you to the office and have you purchase a scan card for Nutritional Services.”
The guy nods, then moves to the door and jiggles the knob. “The exterior doors are left unlocked?”
“During school hours, yes.” Principal Richmond answers, moving to my desk and shuffling through the papers I pulled for Sherm.
The guy’s full lips narrow into a tight line and he scowls at the door. He spins and starts toward the door in the back of the room, leaving no stone unturned.
I wipe my hands down my slacks again and decide just to ask. “So, you’re Sherm’s father?”
His feet stall on the chipped linoleum and he seems to finally notice I exist. “Brother,” he answers, and that one word seems to carry the weight of the world with it as it falls from his mouth.
His eyes make a slow sweep of my face, and as they trail down my neck, the front of my sweater, over my hips and down my legs, I’m frozen in place, paralyzed by the intensity of his gaze.
Principal Richmond shoves some papers in my face, breaking the spell. “You still have fifteen minutes until the bell. Maybe you can get Sherman started on these.”
“Um…” I grab the papers out of his hand as Big Brother blinks, some of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen hiding those incredible eyes. “Yeah. We’ll do that...”
Principal Richmond guides Big Brother to the door. “Let’s get out of their way and let them get started. I’m sure Sherman will have a positive experience here. Children his age tend to adjust quickly,” he’s saying as the door swings closed behind them.

   lisaauthorLisa Desrochers is the USA Today bestselling author of A LITTLE TOO FAR, courtesy of HarperCollins. Look for the companions, A LITTLE TOO MUCH (11/12/13), and A LITTLE TOO HOT (1/21/14), and also her Personal Demons trilogy (Macmillan). Lisa lives in northern California with her husband, two very busy daughters, and Shini the tarantula. When she's not writing, she's reading, and she adores stories that take her to new places, and then take her by surprise. Find her online at, on Twitter at @LisaDez, and on Facebook at .