Book 3 – Love, Montana
HER REBEL TO KISS
A masked ball. Two star-crossed lovers. A New Year’s Eve kiss at midnight. Who says Fate doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Excerpt HER REBEL TO KISS © Tule Publishing:
“It’s that time, my friends. Grab a glass of champagne and that special person. Here we go. Ten…nine…”
Bailey’s voice got drowned out by the crowd.
He closed his arms around Nicole to keep her safe as more people flooded onto the dance floor.
“Six,” she said, looking directly into his eyes. The lights had come up so he could study the subtle hues mixed in the blue of her irises.
Beautiful eyes.Familiar, somehow.
“Five,” a voice boomed to his left.
Tucker, who was holding Amanda the same way Justin held Nicole, gave Justin a guy-nod that seemed to say, “Way to go, bro!”
Justin liked to think he didn’t need his friends’ validation to feel good about his choices, but this time he was navigating new waters. Dangerous waters. This woman was about to become his boss. That couldn’t be good.
But Nicole didn’t feel dangerous or threatening.
She felt as though she’d been made to dance with him. They fit together perfectly. He liked every thing about her, except her job.
“Three…” If he and Nicole were going to do this, he had to make sure they had an end game in place.
New Year’s Eve. Maybe the weekend. They’d play that part by ear, but after Monday nothing could happen between them.
“Two,” he said softly.
“One,” she whispered, looking into his eyes with a question he was ready to answer.
“Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year,” he said before lowering his head to press his lips to hers.
He expected the usual few minutes of testing the waters, feeling each other out, but that didn’t happen. From the moment their lips met, he felt as if he’d crossed the Rubicon. This wasn’t a one-time deal. They’d done this a million times. Together. Theirs was a reunion of souls kissing across eons, remembering.
Her lips parted, her tongue seeking his without hesitation. He hadn’t expected such frankness, but her greedy pleasure made him need more, too.
He closed his eyes and immersed himself in her sweetness, a combination of honey and spice. He would have gone on exploring this newfound fascination forever if not for the sensation of something touching his head. He pulled back and look around.
“The balloons,” Nicole cried, letting go of him to tap at the large white, gold and silver balloons cascading around them.
Confetti shot from somewhere nearby added to the glitter and excitement. Nicole was pulled from his arms to exchange air kisses and hugs with perfect strangers. Justin found himself in a bear hug, too.
“Helluva thing, huh? Beats the crap out of last year,” Tucker said.
Justin clapped Tucker on the back. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I mean starting the year off with someone you care about. There’s a first time for everything, Ona always says.”
Ona, Tucker’s Cajun grandmother, was a font of truisms. Justin had met her twice and loved the dear woman as the grandmother he’d never had. I wonder what Ona would say about me kissing my future boss? Probably something arcane about not defecating where you eat, damn it.
He caught up with Nicole before anyone else could dance her away. He grabbed her hand and spun her slightly off-balance back into his arms. “Unfinished business,” he mumbled against her lips.
She may have started to protest but her reaction changed the minute she realized this kiss meant business. His tongue wasn’t polite or inquisitive. Justin knew what he wanted, and it started now. They were both breathless when he broke off the kiss before embarrassing himself too badly. His body reacted to her in a way he didn’t remember happening with any of his previous lovers.
“You’re coming with me, right?”
“That depends on which of our rooms is closer.”
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Happy reading, my friends!
It’s October, Book Girls. We all know what that means:
Breast Cancer Awareness!
I’ve only written one book with a breast cancer surviver heroine, but Mia Zabrinski is one of my favorites. Heroic, stoic, determined to do the right for her children and herself–alone, if she must. And she certainly doesn’t expect to find someone who thinks she’s perfect. But a real hero loves with his whole heart–even if it’s battered and bruised from losses of his own.
EXCERPT ©DEBRA SALONEN:
He handed her one of the paper cups. “These should be cooled just enough. I come here once a week with my cocoa.”
She snapped off the lid and lifted the rim to her lips. The lush warm smell made her taste buds gush. Her hand trembled a bit. Cocoa was made with sugar. Sugar fed cancer cells… Stop, a voice in her mind ordered. Her mother’s voice. Just enjoy for once.
She took a sip. “Mmm,” she murmured, the cup’s rim still touching her bottom lip.
She closed her eyes and drank more–a long, satisfying gulp of warm joy.
She heard a clicking sound and looked at Ryker, who had his camera to his eye. “Sorry,” he said, still clicking. “The purity of satisfaction on your face was too perfect to pass up. Sage would pay me big bucks to let her use this image in her advertising.”
His grin was so self-satisfied and unapologetic she wanted to yank the camera out of his hands, but in a way he reminded her of Hunter, who used to be that confident of his gifts, that happy when something he drew or made from a tub of Legos turned out. That was before he escaped into video games to avoid having to deal with his imploding family. She missed that look so much she could cry.
Ryker distracted her, though, with a throaty, masculine chortle. “I almost forgot your test.”
“What kind of test?”
“You’ll see.” He stretched out his arms, fingers linked, like some kind of warm-up. The sunlight created something freakishly like glitter highlights in his mop of curls. The guy was handsome enough to be in a freakin’ TV commercial, she thought. He had the kind of face you couldn’t help liking and trusting. Hello, Ma’am. Might I interest you in something delicious but so bad for your body you may as well just throw in the towel? Trust me, you’ll love it.
He set his camera aside and scooted forward. His butt must barely be touching the iron rail, she thought, resisting the urge to look. She hadn’t had sex–or even thought about sex–for so long she’d begun to wonder if her surgeon removed her libido along with all her other body parts. Most days she felt like a neutered cat, but, suddenly, seeing a handsome younger man balancing on the balls of his feet in a full squat while tempting her with some special, sinful treat, resonated with her inner cougar.
He unrolled the crimped bag, then reached inside with his long, beautiful fingers.
Who notices a man’s fingers, for God’s sake? she thought.
Horny, hormonal women with no social life.
“Close your eyes.”
“Again? I don’t think so. Standing on Main Street with people around was one thing, but you could have an ax in your backpack for all I know.”
His roar of laughter triggered a funny lightening inside her. She hadn’t laughed in too long. At what point had she turned hard and dry and humorless? No wonder her kids hated her.
Tears pricked behind her lids. She set her cup on one of the rails and leaned forward, too. Motioning for him to get on with what he had planned. “Just do it.”
He didn’t respond right away.
Nervous, she licked her lips. “Come on. I don’t have all day.”
She swallowed first, the noise loud in her ears. Could he read her nervousness? She felt a blush creep into her cheeks.
Something small and soft was deposited carefully on her tongue. She closed her mouth and tasted. Flavors exploded so vividly she couldn’t quite register every aspect. The contrast of savory and sweet, smooth and chunky confused her brain’s identification centers. “Am I supposed to tell you what this is?” she said as well as she could manage without her saliva glands tripping her up.
She kept her eyes closed so she could concentrate. “Caramel.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Dark chocolate. My favorite.”
For some reason, he groaned and muttered, “Really?”
“I’m pretty sure the tiny bit of crunch was sea salt.”
“Correct.” His tone was that of a teacher who expected her to fail.
Mia Zabrinski didn’t fail. She’d passed every test she’d ever taken…except for one–a mammogram.
She swished her tongue around, testing for the missing flavor. “Chili. Habanero, to be exact.”
She opened her eyes and looked at him. His wicked grin told her she’d gotten it wrong. “Close. Well, technically, I’d have given it to you if you’d left it at pepper. But Sage calls these Kick Starters. She’s been beta testing them for a week and finally settled on chipotle.”
The instant he said the word she tasted the lingering hint of smoke that had been masked by the rich warmth of the chocolate.
“Damn. You’re right.”
Their gazes met and held.
His eyes intrigued her, challenged her to go deeper and find out more about him. A foolish waste of time. The guy lived in a stupid tent. Winter was coming. He wouldn’t be sticking around for long. He was leaving. Not soon enough for her to get her basement dug, but soon.
A fact, which, a voice in her head reasoned, made him perfect for a rebound fling.
Once the word “fling” lodged in her brain she couldn’t unthink it. She’d been with two men in her life. First, her high school boyfriend who moved away their senior year and lasted about three letters and half a dozen phone calls before he broke up with her, and then she’d made the mistake of falling head over heels for her twin brother’s college roommate and best friend, Edward. Her college lover. Her husband. The narcissistic dilettante who abandoned her when she needed him most.
Mia didn’t like it when people–especially strangers–invaded her space. Ryker’s face was closer than she normally tolerated, but she didn’t pull back. She couldn’t. His gaze seemed to look past the superficial aspects of her hair, her face, her features, to see into the depths of her soul to the damaged, brittle woman terrified to re-engage with life.
The last thing she needed was a man. A man who wanted something from her.
He wants my land, the lawyer in her thought.
He wants my body, the woman in her thought.
No. He only thinks he does.
“I have–had–.” She never knew how to put it. “Um…breast cancer.”
“That must have sucked.”
“It wasn’t the high point of my life. But I’m on the road to recovery. All my tests have come back clear. I caught it early and wiped it out at the source.”
She shifted her shoulders unconsciously feeling the dull reminder of the implants.
“You’ll feel more like yourself if you don’t have to lug around prosthetics,” Mom had coaxed.
“I don’t plan to wear falsies, Mom. I’ll be flat chested for the rest of my life. Lots of women are.”
“You won’t be happy with that, Mia,” Doctor Sharsmith had insisted. “Your clothes won’t fit right. Your femininity will take a serious hit. I’ve had patients who chose that route, but within six months they changed their minds. Breasts are a part of your body image, Mia. Let me give you back your natural curves.”
So, she’d agreed to more surgeries. More risks. More fear that she might not wake up from the anesthesia, and her poor children would be left in the care of their irresponsible and morally challenged father.
Now, she was outwardly normal–or some vague semblance of normal. She was skinny. Weak. Vulnerable to germs. Terrified of carcinogens, sugar, processed foods, and artificial dyes. She hated looking at herself in the mirror, and the question had crossed her mind lately whether or not any man would ever desire her?
If she wasn’t totally mistaken, this man found her attractive. Or thought he did.
Maybe this is a distraction to game me into giving up my land.
Like that would happen.
Members of the Big Sky Mavericks never gave up.
Suddenly feeling more like her old self than she had in months, she leaned in and kissed him. Three…four…seconds of heart-stopping strangeness. His lips solidly touching hers. No tongue or heavy breathing, just a tingling caused no doubt by the “mones,” as her future sister-in-law called the little buggers.
Bailey. Cake tasting.
She jerked back. “Cake.”
“No, thanks. But I wouldn’t mind another kiss.”
Mia’s a fighter, a survivor and a mom. If you need a bit of inspiration before you head to your annual mammogram…
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PS: you can get more insights into this couple’s HEA in MONTANA MAVERICK and MONTANA MIRACLE
SOME GIRLS DO
“So what’s a guy like you doing in a place like this?” she asked.
He raised his gaze to her face and laughed. “I think that’s my line.”
Lacey shrugged. “Told you I was forward. And besides, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re kind of sucking at the pick-up lines.”
“You want a line?” His mouth quirked up at one side. “How about this? You have impressive ball skills.”
Lacey hadn’t been expecting something so blatant and she was stunned for a moment before she laughed. “Play your cards right and I’ll give you a personal demonstration.”
He laughed too and it vibrated through her belly with all the subtlety, finesse and potency of a jackhammer. Lacey squirmed against the stool as heat flooded her abdomen.
She’d never been this hot for a guy.
“Seriously,” he said, sobering and his intense blue gaze caught and held hers. “Where’d you learn to shoot a combo?”
The laughter from earlier dried up from the inside out. She shrugged. “A girl with brothers learns a lot of useless things. How to hook a worm and gut a fish … how to make cricket stumps out of just about anything … how to skip stones … light a fire …”
How to never ever cry lest they get that stricken helpless look and send you away.
“I imagine a girl with brothers would also learn not to let some guy pick her up in a bar,” he murmured.
Hell yeah, she’d learned that one too. It’d been drummed into her — by Ethan particularly — just before he’d driven her two hundred kilometres from the only home she’d ever known to the college they’d insisted she still attend, despite her overwhelming grief.
But they couldn’t have it both ways. They couldn’t send her away and expect her to still live by their rules.
“Hey,” he said as he pushed a stray lock of hair off her forehead with his index finger. “Where’d you go?”
Lacey blinked as his blue eyes searched hers, frightened he could see everything — her hurt, her pain, the nagging homesickness that never seemed to go away.
No. She would not think about home tonight.
Quickly, she tipped her head back and drained her beer in three swallows. “You want to get out of here?”
Lacey could tell Coop was deciding whether or not to push her further on the subject. When he, too, drained his beer she almost sagged in relief. “My place is three blocks away.”
She smiled at him. “Perfect.”
He was ushering her through the entrance doors to his apartment complex ten minutes later. Lacey had no recollection of the trip. Not with his hand in the small of her back, his thumb stroking a lazy pattern through her shirt and streaking heat like a fork of lightning up her spine.
He pushed the lift button and Lacey glanced at him. The urge to kiss him pulsed inside her.
“If you keep looking at me like that,” he said, his voice full of gravel, his gaze firmly fixed on her mouth, “we’re not going to make to the apartment.”
Lacey’s gut clenched as the rumble in his tone abraded the hairs at the back of her neck, rubbed like sandpaper against her nipples and tingled between her thighs. It was only the ding of the lift that saved them from making out on the parquetry floor.
But the second the doors closed and they were alone, he was pushing her against the wall and she was grabbing his shirt and nothing could have stopped her from accepting the full-frontal assault of his mouth as it slammed hot and hard onto hers.
Lacey moaned as his fingers tangled in her hair and his tongue tangoed with hers. He groaned against her mouth and her belly tightened.
Crap. If the man screwed like he kissed she was a goner.
The lift dinged again and Lacey whimpered as Coop dragged his lips away and pressed his forehead to hers. Their heavy breathing filled the lift as the door slid open. “Don’t plan on getting any sleep tonight.”
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Amy Andrews is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling Aussie author who has written over fifty steamy contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets. She loves good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together. She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.
Happy reading, my friends,