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The Wolf of the Baskervilles
Hiro Loves Kite
Frankie Comes Home…
Paying for a hot dog in pennies and dimes is embarrassing. Being two pennies short and having the hot dog stand guy take pity on us was completely humiliating. We’re skinny. I just hope the Kings haven’t eaten everything we had stored away.
Without Kin and Keeps, there’s been a little more to go around. My shoulders sag. Now there are more mouths to feed. My fingers scrape the insides of my pockets, searching for a coin that maybe got snagged in the seams. If I turn them inside out, I really will look like a street urchin. I’m the pirate who opens the treasure chest, finds he’s been beat, and opens it again just to rub it in. I snort.
We wait for a large crowd to head for the subway and melt in. Frankie’s eyes are as wide as a sliced moon as we weave and duck. Eyes on each other, hands gripped tightly.
Kite pushes Frankie’s head under the turnstile as I pay with our last coin. She presses her back into me. The smell of faint perfume, the last of her old life, and salt, the new, coming from her hair. As I reach around her to push the stile, a two for one, her breath catches. I let my hand rest on her waist for a second. Let myself imagine we’re a couple on our way home from a shopping trip, and then it falls like so many un-granted wishes into a fountain.
Leaning close to her ear so she can hear me, I hold my breath, thinking inhaling any more of her sweetness may actually kill me. “Ready?”
She nods. Her cheek brushing my lips.
We take our route to the secret door. To the home we now share like kids playing house, only far too real.
Frankie, to her credit, rolls with the punches. Punch one: Hot dogs instead of roast beef and gravy for dinner. Punch Two: Cheating our way through the subway. Punch Three… I knock on the King’s door, and Krow answers. He looks us up and down, slick and distrustful for a moment, then breaks into a grin. “Kettle! Kite!” he shouts. “Kettle and Kite are home.” He stares at my hands. When he sees there’s no food—only a suitcase—he quickly looks away. But there’s no hiding his disappointment.
Frankie squeezes her way through the doorway into the vast, abandoned subway tunnel. My home. My refuge. And now hers. Blinking, she stands on her tiptoes. Lip in teeth. “Holy hell!” she shouts, and several Kings look her way.
Kite flushes pink, then taps her sister’s shoulder. “Frankie!” she chastises. “Language.”
We step inside, and Frankie swings her head from side to side. “I mean tank you, holy hell.”
We both chuckle, eyes connecting over the top of her head.
Punch three: “This is where we’re going to be staying for a while,” Kite’s voice chases after a galloping Frankie as she jumps from bed to bed. She is the spokes of a traveling star. She is the light you can’t catch.
Frankie doesn’t hear her, and Kite runs to catch her sister. I drag the case inside, plonk it on Kin’s bed. Now Kite’s to share with her sister.
Finally, Frankie stops running and presses a palm to her chest as she wheezes. Kite rushes to her, and she puts both hands on her sister’s shoulders. “Are you okay?”
Punch four is for me, and I feel it sock me right in the guts. As I watch them, I know. Like really know that I would do anything to help them. They are instantly and permanently part of this family. And it scares me.
“Who knows you’re here?” she asked.
“You mean, specifically here? In Hong Kong?”
“No one. My family and friends think I’m traveling for work.”
“Ah. So if anything happened to you, how do they know where to look?” she asked, her chin resting on the palm of her hand.
“Well, when they find my phone and the one thousand pictures of you, they’ll know,” he said.
She laughed. Rather uncomfortably. This is what having an affair feels like. It’s you and him and no one else.
“Adrian doesn’t know I’m here.” This time he leaned forward, closer to her. “Does Riley know you’re here?”
“She has to. Even if I don’t tell her directly, Jake knows. He’s very protective that way. Needs to know where I go, who I’m with.”
“You seem so attached, the two of you.”
“He’s the only constant in my life.”
He stayed silent. She hadn’t intended to offend him with that comment. But then she decided that it was too soon to even think of his role in her life.
That was the real crux of the matter, and she wanted to keep it top of mind.
What about you, your parents? Do you see them often while you’re home?”
He laughed. “As a matter of fact, I have dinner with them every Sunday. They don’t live far from my old apartment. I’m moving to Chelsea when I get back which is a little further away, but I know my mum will find every excuse to come and visit. I’ll be too close to the shopping area for her to resist. She likes to get out sometimes. Leave the farm.”
“We’re lucky we have family we can count on,” she said.
“But none of them know we’re together,” he said, his tone lowered, quiet.
“Why does anyone need to know? Who cares?” she asked in defiance. She observed the way he picked up another dumpling with his chopsticks and shoved the whole thing in his mouth. “Okay, let me rephrase that,” she said. “In time, they’ll know.”
He smiled. “Better.”
He looked at his watch. She could tell that he wanted to change the subject. And she didn’t have to try. A round of applause filled the room. Tessa and Simon turned to see a man on one knee with his arms in the air, proposing to a very embarrassed woman.
“At a dimsum restaurant?” Simon smirked.
“Hey! You’ll never know! Maybe this is a special place for them,” Tessa said.
“Must be,” he answered, pulling his wallet out at the same time. He motioned for the dimsum man to bring the check over.
The man counted the different colored plates, each with a code for the food they ordered, wrote with lightning speed on a pad of paper, tore it off unevenly and handed it to Simon.
As he examined the bill, Simon said, “I forgot that your Twitter profile says ‘hopeless romantic.’“
“Love makes the world go ‘round!” she said in response, pausing to follow up with an afterthought. “At least in Romance books!”
Title: Art of Survival: Part 1
Series: A Stern Family Saga Book 5
Author: Monique Orgeron
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: August 23, 2018 Cover Design: Serendipity Formats
“This book is so powerful, full of raw emotions, alot of sacrifices and love… This is a 10 Star read.” ~ Amazon Review
“Wow what a amazing story that will have you holding your breath through out this book. This book gives you the story we all have been waiting for.” ~Amazon Review
My life, like I said before, has been written through my sons’ lives.
But not all.
Once, there was a girl, who was left alone in this world to fight and defend herself.
She did exactly that and became,
Becoming someone, I wasn’t, was not easy.
It came with strings that strangled every part of my old self out.
The girl I once was would have to be destroyed and replaced with a woman who would rule.
A woman who was a fighter and a survivor.
The problem is, I’m not sure I have what it takes to fight anymore battles and endure what is to come.
Turning away from the stone, I walk to the door, seeing the rain pouring down. It will wash away all the filth and dirt piled up in my city and make things anew. If only it could wash away my sins too. “There is something that I want to tell you. Since your death, I, not you, grew this family’s power. I made us unstoppable. We are bigger and stronger than you ever could’ve imagined. The little, naïve girl became the fucking Queen and she did it all without the King.” I give my husband’s stone one more look before leaving. “One day my fate will come but it won’t be today. Today, and tomorrow I will live. I will try to be happy. Until I take my last breath William, I won’t think of you again. Until then my love.” With a smile on my face, I run out into the pouring rain and let it wash the day’s events off me. If only it were ever that easy.
Written by Monique Orgeron’s eldest, most beautiful, and intelligent daughter. (My sister is going to hate this part.)
My mom happens to be the most caring, loving, and stubborn person I know, well anyone knows. She gives 100% percent of herself to everyone and has given up so much of herself for my sister and I. For twenty-one years she has poured her heart and soul into making sure we know that we are loved and that we can do anything we put our minds too, but it was about time she figured that out about herself.
Up until this year I hadn’t seen my mom do anything for only her, but this book has allowed her to travel the world through the pages of a book, make new friends, and feel the joy of doing something exciting.
There is a new light behind her eyes and it is just making me feel more joy than she can ever imagine. While she might be annoying most of the time, I am so thrilled that she is finally allowing herself to grow as a person and not spend all of her energy on her family.
It has been a long journey of self-discovery for my mom; she has gone from domestic supermom to domestic goddess throughout the process of writing.
We are so very excited and proud of you! I love you as big as the world.
-Bria and Tony
Hot Honey Kisses (3:AM Kisses 17)
ONCE UPON A BODY
The place to be in Hollow Brook on a hot Friday night—and I mean hot in the most literal sense—is the Black Bear Saloon. Since the weather in Hollow Brook itself has devolved into Satan’s armpit, the Black Bear is about the only place to get decent air conditioning along with your fair share of hard bodies. It’s June. School is out and summer has descended upon us like fire-breathing cats and dogs raining down like a punishment. Everyone under the sweltering sun has arrived at the restaurant-slash-bar for a night of boozy festivities and all of the sleazy events that will ensue thereafter.
Of course, I’m here with my shortest skirt, my tightest tank top, in a quasi-manipulative effort to pull in the big tips. God knows I need them. The bigger, the better. I might have scored a scholarship to Whitney Briggs University, but that free ride sure doesn’t help with the incidentals of life, such as that cute cherry red bikini I’ve had my eye on and the perfect matching shade of fiery red MAC lipstick—all specifically chosen to highlight my auburn hair.
My sister, Lex, and I both have our deadbeat of a mother’s deep red locks. Although, Lex has an ebony undertone and I’m more Little Mermaid. Not that I mind the cartoonish nature of my beastly mane. I’ve come to embrace it. Hell, I’ve come to embrace just about every quirk and jerk about me—and I kind of mean the jerk part literally. In no way do I set out to come across as a jackass. It’s just that the constant stream of sarcasm that spouts from my mouth is often misconstrued as surly and inconsiderate—as detailed to me by my sweet cousin, Sunday.
Sunday has always been as puritanical as her moniker suggests—with the exception of that whole getting knocked up after a one-night stand gone wrong last winter, but I digress. It’s merely the beginning of summer, and the humidity is already creating a sticky situation. The place is pumping, and I’m hopeful that all of these moderately drunk bodies will equal more than enough to buy a string bikini or two once the night is over. Heck, I might even make enough to fill my gas tank and venture down to the beach to show off my new stitches. There is nothing like a North Carolina white sandy beach in the summer.
I’ve just crested the entry of this fine establishment, passing the overstuffed black bear that greets the guests just outside the doors. It’s usually mobbed by freshmen waiting their turn to sneak in the obligatory selfie, and tonight is no different with three prepubescent looking girls trying to dry-hump the poor thing in the process.
I glance to the floor as my fingers work in haste to tie on my apron, only to have a brick wall of a body slam right into me.
Crap. My nose just pushed in like an accordion, and my strawberry lip-gloss just smacked its way onto someone’s salty flesh.
The brick wall moves back a step, only to reveal himself as a tall heap of muscles—my lip print neatly pressed against his neck—greasy blond hair, and a dangerous smile on his equally greasy lips. Yes, he’s handsome, but he’s got a cocky air about him that says I’ve got a power drill in my pants and I’m not afraid to wield my tool belt. But that squirrely look in his wicked eyes spells out insanity more than it ever does the stable committed type, so I attempt to sashay to his left, but he sidesteps right along with me. His brows bounce in amusement, and I can’t help but note he has that perennial bad boy appeal—and not in a good way—I’m talking fresh out of the slammer tattoo factory, body is a coloring book right up to that lip print I gifted his neck, eyes red with rage and quite possibly the aftereffect of a quasi-illegal substance. He’s older than me by a decade at least. My guess is he’s no frat brat, just a roving troublemaker looking to get drunk and sunk between some poor unsuspecting barfly’s thighs. And as long as he’s got at least a ten-dollar bill with my name on it in that dingy pocket of his, I couldn’t care less what illegal substances or raging sluts this greaseball does to fill his downtime.
“Watch where you’re going, kid,” he barks it out like a reprimand while trying once again to charge right through me. Instinctively, I slap my hands over his chest, sending him sailing backward as his phone slips from his pocket along with a tiny white receipt.
His cell makes an awful slapping sound that penetrates the music blasting through the speakers, taking the decibels in this place to jet engine levels. Oh crap. That can’t be good.
“Did you just push me?” he barks once again, his upper lip set in a snarl as if he were a rabid dog—an insult to rabid dogs everywhere.
“You bet your greasy dollars I did.” My voice is a bit snippier than usual, but I can’t help it. This block of less than hygienic flesh has my blood boiling. “I suggest you watch where you’re going and think twice before referring to me in a derogatory manner—likening me to some kid. I’m all woman, moron, and don’t you forget it,” I shout up over the 12 Deadly Sins, the house band happily blaring away while Dirty Boy—and yes, I don’t mind one bit reducing him to the childish moniker—bends over to pick up his cell phone with an alarming lightning-shaped crack running the length of the screen.
Dear God, how I pray it was damaged well before our scuffle because I sure as heck don’t have two nickels to buy him a new one. I’m pretty sure a week’s worth of my measly tips wouldn’t be able to fix a cracked screen either. And a douchebag like Dirty Boy will certainly want to pin the blame on me.
His eyes narrow in on mine, dark and beady. “Honey, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Stay out of my way. And if you’re still around by the end of the night, I’ll gladly take you out back and teach you a lesson or two on how to be a real woman.” He winks while brushing his finger over my cheek, and I gag on a thousand different expletives. Dirty Boy dives to my left and thankfully disappears in a flurry of bodies.
“So help me God, I will kill or maim that jackass before the night is through,” I mutter. And just as I’m about to rush over to clock in, the receipt that fell from his pocket catches my eye and I pick it up myself. “On top of being a sexist idiot, he’s a damn litterbug, too.” I glance at it a moment. It’s just a string of numbers written across the front. I plunge it into my pocket without thinking. It’s probably last night’s bed-hopper’s number. I bet after a few beers he’ll be willing to fork out the big bucks to get this valuable promise of STDs back in his possession.
Cole, the bartender, nods my way as I make my way over to clock in. Holt, one of the owners, is usually working alongside him, but he and his wife, Izzy, just had a sweet baby girl named Paige.
Baby fever seems to have swept through Hollow Brook this last year as evidenced by my sweet and yet not-so-innocent cousin Sunday getting knocked up after a one-night stand that she happened to have with the love of her life, Seth. They’re officially together now—engaged to be exact.
Sunday wants a simple courthouse wedding, but there’s no way in hell I’m letting that legal nightmare ensue—the courthouse, not the wedding. Lex and I are gunning to surprise her with something nice at the overlook come Fourth of July. Seth says he’s fine with it, but if the moment arrives, and Sunday decides it’s not what she wants, we’ve agreed to pull out of the endeavor. Pulling out isn’t something in which Seth is an expert, thus the fact their baby is due in September. But, overall, Seth is a great guy, and I just know they’re a perfect fit.
Seth’s sister, Misty, is married to Sunday’s brother, Nolan, so it’s kind of cozy that they’re keeping things in the family quite literally. Nolan, Sunday, and their brother, Rush, are my first cousins on my aforementioned deadbeat of a mother’s side. Since they lost their own mother more than a decade ago through a tragic accident and I lost mine due to negligence on her part—rumor has it, an old boyfriend and a casino had a starring role in the tragedy—my older sister, Lex, stepped in and played the part of mama bird to us all. It’s ironic, of course, since Lex was the least likely of the bunch with a maternal instinct. She’s sort of an anti-nurturer, but she did her best and we’ve all grown up in appreciation of her efforts.
As much as I love my sister, I’ve tried to keep my distance ever since I set foot at Whitney Briggs. Suddenly, she’s a tad too maternal now that my virginity has a glaring spotlight over it—no thanks to the fact Sunday had a fire sale on her own. Nevertheless, I plan on bumping into more than my fair share of bad boys while I’m at WB—sans Dirty Boy and that greasy grin of his. I’d like to teach him a lesson out back—with the working end of my stiletto.
I clock in before heading straight to my area and cringe at the matrimonial sight before me.
A bride seated at a table set for twenty. A very bedraggled looking, sour-faced, pissed off bride with a dress that looks as if she just yanked it out of the bottom of a trash can, wrinkled, grimy—and is that a tire track across the front? I’m guessing the nuptials didn’t go the way God intended.
“Welcome to the Black Bear Saloon,” I say, hopping next to her while whipping out my notepad. “Can I get something started for you while you await the rest of your party?” Like a good divorce attorney perhaps, I want to add but shockingly don’t. Tonight seems to be taking on a life of its own. It sure doesn’t need me running off my mouth, even though Lex’s husband, Axel, is a perfectly good attorney turned restaurateur—and this poor bedraggled bride looks as if she needs the brightest and the best in the legal department. Axel and a couple of his buddies opened up a similar bar-slash-eatery over on the ritzier, far less studious, side of town called The Sloppy Pelican. Axel’s brother, Shep, is an attorney as well. I make a face without meaning to. It’s sort of my go-to response when that public defending nuisance comes to mind, and I do my best to swat him away like the mental gnat he is.
“She’s younger than me. She’s got big boobs, too.” The bullish and yet somewhat blushing bride smirks up at me.
Whoa. I take a step back in hopes to duck out of the toxic current she’s just emitted. It looks as if she’s coming in hot with a full tank of ethanol judging by that slight slur in her speech coupled with the vodka breeze.
She slaps her left hand on the table, and I can’t help but note there’s nary a sign of any ring or bling. “Hell, he probably calls them tits because men are pigs that way.”
“Uh…right.” No matter how much I agree with her I’m about to steer this conversation in a culinary direction when a mob of women in alarmingly matching, slightly dingy, bedraggled wedding dresses storm in. And sadly, I’m not in the least surprised.
At the moment, I’m talking to who I guess to be the head bitter bride, an older woman with severe bags under her eyes. Her face looks blotchy and bloated, as worn out as that gray dress she’s donned. A ratted veil is staked into her thick blonde hair, and it looks as if she just plucked it off a corpse bride—not that she doesn’t qualify as one herself. I clear my throat. “You know what?” I muse as the bitter bride brigade falls into their seats like a coven of angry witches whose spells have all just backfired. “Why don’t you ladies take your time with the menu? I’ll be back in just a bit to take your order.”
The head bride lets out a mean whoop while waving in another whole legion of runaway brides in this direction. “Oh, honey, this is going to be one hell of a breakup bash. I came within inches of that unholy altar before I saw the light, and believe you me I’m damn thankful. You just keep the margaritas coming. Hell, we can cut out the middleman. Just send the damn bartender this way. We’ll figure out what to do with him.” The entire table breaks out into cackles over that salacious remark.
***PICK UP A COPY TODAY AND FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!***
Title: Perfectly Lonely
Series: Let Me In Series #2
Author: Jessica Marin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 23, 2018 I’ve loved and lost. Now I lose myself in mindless sex, drinking and work, anything to pass the time and fill the void that I feel. Another drink, another guy…until Chase Wilson. He’s not what I expect, turns out he’s also not who I thought. Then again, neither am I. Some might call what I’m doing destructive, I call it survival. When finally putting myself out there backfires, I vow not to let it happen again. I know what my body wants, but it’s not what my heart needs and it’s about time I learn the difference. As life around me moves on, I realize life is worth living and that I’m worth loving. But old habits die hard as I struggle to understand Chase’s motives for trying to save me from myself.
One thing is clear. For the first time, I’m done being perfectly lonely.
Jessica Marin began her love affair with books at a young age from the encouragement of her Grandma Shirley. She has always dreamed of being an author and finally made her dreams of writing happily ever after stories a reality. She currently resides in Tennessee with her husband, children and fur babies. When she is not hanging out with her family, she loves watching a good movie, going dancing with the ladies, sniffing essential oils and daydreaming of warm beaches, winning the lotto and world peace.
Title: Ash: Westside Skulls Motorcycle Club
Series: Westside Skulls MC Romance Book 4
Author: Jessie Cooke
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: August 20, 2018
Ash, an enforcer for the Westside Skulls, returns home to New York for his father's funeral. He hadn't seen him in five years thanks to a combination of events that sent him out to California and a whole new life. Ash...or Asher Bennett IV, as he was known in New York, hailed from an uber-rich family and for a few years after graduating for college, worked on Wall Street...before ending up in California, in a leather kutte on the back of a Harley. Ash just wanted his father's funeral to be over so he could escape his gold-digging stepmother, his snobby teenaged sister and the plastic, fake people of his childhood once more.
The past hurts, and it only gets more painful at the graveside when he comes face to face with his past…Mackenzie, or Mack as he always called her.
Mack was the girl he'd loved since he was thirteen years old, and the woman who had stood him up at the altar five years ago.
Ash's father's death leaves him juggling his life as a Skull, his past with Mack, and the possibility of a future with his teenaged sister who wants nothing more than to escape...the same way he did, and a stepmother who will do anything she can to make his life hell.
Of course, when it rains, it pours and in the course of dealing with club business...tragedy strikes, and Ash has to either learn to reign in his notorious temper...or risk losing everything.
Climb on the Harley with Ash and Mack and take a wild ride that will leave you wondering what's around the next bend in the road...and gasping for breath when you get there.
* * *
Book 4 in the Westside Skulls MC Series.
This is a Standalone Romance Novel but characters from the previous stories in this series appear in this and future books in the series.
HEA and No cliffhanger.
Intended for Mature Readers.
* * *
The Westside Skulls MC Series is about members of the MC club, their friends and associates.
Each story, while focused around one main character, is not necessarily about a Westside Skulls club member, but the story is related to Skulls members and the club.
GirlsGone Wild. Well,that was how I thought of it as we landed in dazzling Las Vegas. I was a little nervous though, because it was one of the first times I’d traveledoutside of the Big Apple. By plane at least. Most other trips had taken place in cars, motorhomes, oh, and once on a motorcycle. That was a day to remember, andat the same time,it was a day I wanted to forget in equal measure. As we waited to get to our destination, Michaela and Donna chatted away like two raving lunatics. Drinking on the plane wasn’t the best thing to do, in my opinion. Going to the bathroom every couple of minutes was bad enough, especially when you got there with your legs crossed and the sign said, “Engaged.”
I was busy thinking of the motorcycle trip. Travis said to hold on tight. That was never something he needed to doubt… because I was absolutely, fully, desperately petrified. He wrongly mistook this as affection, rather than me hanging on from the fear of falling off, and I had quite-literally been terrified about rolling down the street like a tumbleweed in a gale. Even now, I get shivers down my spine when I think about how scary it was.
I looked up and came back into reality. The smiling hostess said we were free to leave the plane. I put my hand on Donna’s shoulder as we exited the busy sea of people. “Have a nice trip and enjoy your stay,” the hostess said as I reached the front door and the tunnel.
How polite and well-dressed they were in their flashy, yellow, safety jackets. I was actually impressed. We walked through the terminal and made our way toward the security desks. There was a bit of a line. However,they couldn’t be too careful with all the terrible things going on in the world. Terrorism had made life hard for every traveler in the sky.
As we walked through the terminal,I looked aboveme. They’ddone a magnificent job of advertising Las Vegas, while not making the airport appear trashy. Above where we walked there was a mural of all things associated with the tinsel town. It looked glorious, fabulous even. I guessed it was based on a nineteen-sixties design and had all the big casino names and stars of that incredibleera. Frank Sinatra, Elvis --I’m all shookup, and the piano god himself, Liberace.
I stood with my toes on the exactedge of the yellow line as the instruction said to do. I always liked rules. You couldn’t go wrong if you knew what was expected of you. I waited patiently as Donna slid her passport to the friendlysecurity man who sat in his small cubicle. Donna leaned on her elbow and twirled her gum around her finger.
My turn. I skipped excitedly to the guard and handed him my identification. I clamped my hands together and smiled. I hoped that traveling nerves didn’traise their suspicion, or they might’ve thought I’d smuggled something.
“Business or pleasure?” he asked as he scanned my face.
“All pleasure. It’s my first big trip out of New York, unless you count the time on a motorcycle, and…” I said, cutting myself short. I realized there was still a line of people also waiting behind the yellow line.
“Come on will you!” Donna yelled.
I smiled at the security guard. “BFF, you know what they’re like. Overexcitedand keen to hit the Strip, as I suppose you call it around here.”
“Have a nice trip.” He looked at my ID. “Sienna,” he replied, sliding my ID back under the glass.
I jogged as quickly as I could with my travel luggage wobbling from one wheel to the next. We stepped on the travellator and made our way to get our luggage.
“What number of roundthing are we at?” Michaela asked.
Donna laughed. “Carousel.”
A flash of color appeared before us as we reached the top of the escalator that led to the baggage claim. It wasn’t understated by a long chalky line. Gold, backlit stars sat on grey metallic paneling that were situated to the sides of a broadyellow Welcome To,and underneath were massivered and yellow letters that only spelled one thing. Allin caps… LAS VEGAS. As if anyone wouldn’t know where they were at this point of their holiday.
Michaela looked at me in a playful, but stern manner. “Okay,Miss Smarty Pants, just cause youse heducatedan’ all that,” she replied, in the worst, possible, fake accent I’d ever heard.
I stood leaning on the handle of the cart. MichaelaandDonna sat waiting for our cases to pop from the big hole in the wall. Donna threw her arms into the air like a soccer player who’d missed an important goal. She hated waiting for anything, even coffee.
As we waited,I looked around and up. The enormousconcrete columns reached high to the roof and must have been (approximately)forty or fifty feet. It was at that point that I stood in awe, with my head craned upward and looking at each of the bluey-white lights that shone around each column. The color scheme all had a tint of blue or gray. Shiny gray tiles (two-tone) with a mottled effect, polished stainless steel, and all the signage which mostly looked like blue neon. One thing stood out from the blue and silver theme. I turned my head and noticed a flash of red and white. Wow!
“Hey girls. Look up!” Donna and Michaela ignored meentirely.
I stood underneath a plane that hung from the ceiling. Typical, it was to advertise. “The Hacienda Hotel.”
“Yes! Here we go,” Donna squealed as our cases magically came one after the other. That was very surprising. I thought we might have had to wait until near the end. That must be so painful, the thought your case might be left back in the city.
As we ambled closer to the luggage desk, I noticed other things that increased in numbers. The airport was home to a seriousamount of slot machines. I wonder how many people have lost big time, without even leaving the airport?
We walked to the Nothing to Declare,green light. I had nothing in my case to actually declare, butI still had that feeling of apprehension. What if someone had tampered and slipped something inside? One of those harmfuldrugs… or something desperately illegal.
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” the luggage checker said as I started walking through the gate.
“Yes!” I squealed ina mouse-likevoice.
“Can I check your bags please?” he said. I gave a nod to signal my permission.
He walked from behind the counter and lifted my case onto the countertop. He asked me for the combination, soI gave it to himwithout attempting to open it myself. I stood watching with clammy hands. He openedthe case and folded back the top half. I watched nervously as he rummaged through my clothes. I closed my eyes.
No! Not my underwear, please.
The guard gave a cough. I sensed that was a signal of some kind, and then he pushed his hand inside my panties pile. Oh boy,that’s a first. Airport security hadtheir hands inside your panties before you left the airport. Weird.
Donna and Michaela stood inside the sliding doors and waited there. Donna looked annoyed, as per usual. I guessed it was rather hot outside. The sun streamed through the doors, and as I got there after my weird search by the bag guy, we all slipped our sunglasses over our eyes.
The doors parted, andit was hot, sweltering hot. “My word, it’s warm,” I said.
Donna huffed as she fought to stand her case on its end. She sat and slumped her shoulders in half-defeat. “You mean it’s freakin’ hot! Just say it, Sienna. Christ, sometimes you can be so naïve.”
“Donna… Donna… Donna. You know we shouldn’t use a wordlike that.”
Donna stood and spread her arms. “Fuck it, woman, we’re in Vegas.”
I looked over my shoulder and bowed my head a little. I was slightly embarrassed at her gung-hoattitude. I’d hoped this trip wasn’t going to be a mistake. First real vacation and my friends ruin it for me. I hoped not. They could be selfish, sometimes. I didn’t really understand why.
Michaela waved a cabbie who pulled up. The cabbie opened the trunk and squeezed our cases into the back. “Where you going?” he asked. I turned to Donna and Michaela. I saw they had no idea what the name of the place was.
I shook my head and tutted under my breath. “The Queen’s Hand.”
“Nice place. It’s not the largest place in the world, but it’s got everything you girls will need,” the cab driver explained, politely.
Donna leaned on the front seat. “Mister, you know if it’s got a pool?” He gave no answer as he sang to a Jamaican-inspired song on the radio. I don’t think he heard her, to be honest.
The cab pulled out from the airport and headed down the Strip. Hechatted with Donna as her lips smacked while she lovingly chewed on her gum. I heard him say the motel had a rooftoppool, which was convenient. One elevator ride from the second floor to the roof, and all that sunbathing. I imagined us all sipping on exotic cocktails while tanning and relaxing.
I leaned my head against the window and looked at all the obscure motels and casinos we passed as we made our way to Fremont Street. I’d done some research, andThe Queen’s Hand was the top end of motelsthat wasn’t on the Las Vegas Strip. If it hadn’t been for the fact we gained a significantdiscount,we might’ve ended up nowhere near the hub of activity at all.
“No more Tanby and Tanby for a while. I can forget all that number crunching,” I said to Michaela.
“Why did you go into accounting in the first place? You gotta admit, it’s not very girly, isit?Look at Donna. She’s the epitome of femininity, and she has the perfect job to show it off.”
I sat with a really puzzled expression on my face when I turned to look at Michaela and answer. “Donna works in a shoe store.”
“What was that?” Donna said, turning her head from chatting with the cabbie.
I smiled at her. “Nothing, we were just commenting on how feminine you are.”
Donna smacked her lips in response and finished by blowing me a kiss. “Yeah-right! I come from the Bronx, you think I’m gonna be ladylike?”
Michaela turned to me and smiled. “What did I tell you? What an absolute lady.”
The cab pulled to the front of The Queen’s Hand. A valet opened the trunk and pulled out the cases and loaded them onto a cart. With a wide smile, he wheeled them through the front door of the motel.
We stood and looked at the frontage. It was very-much understated because it was right onthe corner. The entrance sat under a golden-litcanopy with the words emblazoned like sequins. It looked amazing as each letter twinkled with silver, sparkling lights.
“I have to say. The service is excellent. How helpful theyall are,” I said as we walked toward the foyer.
Immediately, I saw that the inside was a little more glamorous, a blast from the past, in a way. White marble floors that were in layedwith smaller ebony colors at the corner of the floor tiles. The counter appeared to be real cream marble, and it had decorative circles embellished down the full length of it. I then looked up. The ceiling was covered in mirrors and lights.
We checked in and found out that we were, in fact, booked in on the second floor. The valet wheeled the cart to the elevator and smiled politely as he walked us to the room. He slid the key in the lock and pushed open the door.
Donna entered first, as usual, and it made sense because she’d always been the assertive one.Andthen, Michaela and I walked in after her. I was pleasantly surprised how clean and inviting it felt. The room looked lovely. Two, large, double beds (two of us were to share) and funky-colored, striped drapes. Apart from that, the furnishings looked top quality and were dark oak, mostly. Atop the drawers sat a large flat screen for the times when we weren’t lounging around by the pool.
The valet politely coughed. I sensed he was waiting for a tip. I reached intomy bag and pulled out ten dollars and slid it into the palm of his hand. He left.
“You tipped him?” Michaela asked.
“Of course. Statistics say that people in this line of work rely on…” I attempted to say.
“Of course they do,” Donna butted in, as she focused on looking out of the window.
Michaela started to strip. “I’m not sure about you two, but I’m going up to the roof pool to do a little evening swimming.”
Donna yelled with excitement. “I’m coming with you. Sienna, you gonna come, or what?”
“I’ll give it a miss. I’m going to have a walk around downstairs and check out the amenities.”
“Suit yourself, you know where we are.”
The door slammed as the two girls headed upstairs, nearly immediately. I changed into something a little more casual. I shoved twenty dollars into my pocket with the room keys, and then I headed back down to the ground floor.
I looked at the large notice board and read what was on offer. It was easy to see that for the hustle and bustleand free music, we’d definitely chosen the right place. Fremont Street staged the free Downtown Hoedownthis week, which might be fun.
I tilted my head back as I heard screams billowing in shrieks from the gaming room. It sounded as if someone just won a jackpot on one of the slot machines. I was tempted. My pocket had a twenty that itched to be changed and join in the fun. I liked gambling… in moderation.
I left the cashier window with a paper cup full of coins and strolled around the slots. By the time I’d reached halfway down the container,I thoughtI wouldn’t win.
Not the jackpot, although coins streamed out from the machine. I happily filled the cup, and then some. I headed back to the cashier’swindow and converted them all to chips. My twenty had now become fifty.
I walked around the tables. Poker —too hard. Craps —I really had no idea how to play. So, as if by magic, I found myself at the roulette table. I knew this was pretty simple. Pick a number and place your bets as the croupier called out each time he spun the wheel. I stuck to red and black —being an accountant I hedged my bets against losses, and slowly increased my pile of wonderful chips.
Suddenly, I felt that someone was watching me. I looked up and saw a familiar face. I kept my head bowed as I glanced from the corner of my eye. A little older than me, with short, dark hair. Piercing brown eyes. Where did I recognize himfrom?
Think, think. Oh… Shit. He’s coming this way.
The apartment building?
Oh boy! He’s coming to me.
I felt a warmth pursue my face. I kept my head tilted as the croupier slid another few chips in my direction.
Elevator. He’sthe guy who goes past floor two. It’s…it’s…floor four.
I recognized the guy. He lived in the same apartment building as me in New York. I noticed his face in the polished stainless steel of the elevator. He leaned on the rear wall and looked cool, calm and collected.
Tanby and Tanby. He worked at the same firm as me. The guy with the smoldering good looks and rugged, handsome features.
It’s…it’s… that hotshotlawyer. It’s Benjamin Barker. In my motel, in Vegas. At myroulette table. Walking toward me. Oh God!
He sidled up at the side of me.
He must’ve seen that I’d recognized him. Who wouldn’t recognizethe one and only Benjamin Barker? All the girls swooned in the office when he was around.I wondered why he was here. In Vegas, at the same time.
“Benj…” he started to say with a smile. I impolitely butted in. More from nerves than being ignorant.
“Sienna. We live in the same apartment, I’m floor two, and you’re… um,” I said.
I then mentioned we worked at the same firm (Tanby and Tanby) and he asked if I was a guest at the motel. He smelled divine. A mix of peppermint and strawberry that made my nose feel tickly.
He smiled. “Well! Isn’t that a coincidence?” he chortled.
Isn’t it just.
Title: Force of Nature
Author: Melissa Toppen
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 23, 2018
I met Thad Mitchell for the first time when I was just a child. I didn’t remember much about him- except that he pushed me off a swing set when I was four years old and broke my arm. Not the best thing to remember about a person but there it is.
He moved away a couple years later and soon became a distant memory. That is until I walked into my parent’s house after being gone for four years to find him sitting at the kitchen table with my family like he’d been there all along.
The second his blue eyes found mine it was instant- the attraction, the spark, the zing as some people call it. In that moment my entire world shifted. Every second, every minute that followed became a whirlwind.
Thad didn’t just turn my life upside down; he ripped through it-- an unstoppable force of nature that wouldn’t be satisfied until there wasn’t a single facet of my life left unturned. And yet somehow at the end of it all he was still the only thing I wanted.
Haunted by a past he can’t escape- the only question that remains is can I find a way to calm the storm that rages inside of him or will I end up just another causality in his unrelenting path of destruction?
“What a heartfelt story!” - Stacie Christensen
“An ABSOLUTE MUST READ! The push and pull between these two will keep you glued to the pages.” - Goodreads Review
“The chemistry between these two melted the pages and my heart sped up when they finally took the leap.” - Christine Frieseke-Miller
Melissa Toppen is a Reader's Choice Award Winning and Bestselling Author of New Adult and Contemporary Romance. She is a lover of books and enjoys nothing more than losing herself in a good novel. She has a soft spot for Romance and focuses her writing in that direction; writing what she loves to read.
Melissa resides in Cincinnati Ohio with her husband and two children, where she writes full time.
Author: Shaniel Watson
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 9, 2018
Cover Design: Opium House Creative
Three things you absolutely must not do, especially when you're the boss.
One… have an affair with your summer intern.
Two… have an affair with your friends’ daughter.
And three… have an affair with your ex's niece.
It's going to be a brutally hot summer in the city, and someone might just get burned.
Shaniel Watson is the author of the Imperfections Series. Her first book was published in 2015. She writes stories she likes to read, sultry emotional stories with imperfect characters who eventually get their happy ending.
Shaniel lives in New York and is a proud mother.
We are a group of authors,