Read 1st Chapter of GOOD GIRL (a novel novella), out now!

What the heck do I mean by a novel novella? Welp, it’s simple. I had meant to write a novella–you know, just a fun little tale around 30K words. Instead, I wrote a 50K word full-length novel in less than three months, with lots of depth and secondary characters that made me grin.

Oopsie. 😉

But don’t worry! I’m still selling GOOD GIRL at a novella price of $2.99. Maybe that’ll make up for the fact that this book came out a month late! 

Now, enough chitchat. Let’s get to that yummy 1st chapter of GOOD GIRL!

Chapter One

“Guess what? Mr. Moneybags is back.”

Serena Daniels looked up from securing her work locker’s padlock to find her friend and fellow pediatric nurse, Hannah Saito, heading her way. “Who?”

“Serena, come on.” Hannah spared her a chiding glance before opening her own locker a few doors down. “You know who I’m talking about.”

“I really don’t.” Liar. “By the way, your new scrubs are beyond cute, with all those Archie comic book characters,” she added, trying desperately to change the subject. “I used to love reading those comics when I was a kid, though I hated it whenever Archie went all gooey for Veronica. I’m a total Betty stan.”

“Ugh, you and me both. Unfortunately men seem to go for the mean girls, including Archie.” Hannah shot a pleased glance at her colorful new scrubs before she waved an impatient hand. “And speaking of mean, you totally know the guy I’m talking about. Remember that tall, dark and pushy guy who looks like a Greek god and supposedly owns the building? He came in with his super-bitey demon spawn last month around Christmas. Salvador or Salvatore. Something like that.”

“Salvatore.” At the name, Serena’s blood pressure put on a jetpack and shot straight up. The one person she’d be happy to never hear from again was Lorenzo Salvatore. “Did you say he’s back?”

“Yup.” Hannah nodded and pulled a hairband from her glossy black hair. “You know what they say about bad pennies—they always turn up when you least expect it. Though that dude is so hot I might be able to overlook that whole bad penny issue.”

Wasn’t that the truth. “His kid didn’t try to take his skateboard off the roof again, did he?”

“Thankfully I didn’t see his spawn’s name on the white board. I just caught a glimpse of the man hanging around with Heidi King. I wonder why we never see a Mrs. Moneybags? The kid’s got to have a mother.”

“Divorced.” When Hannah shot her a searching glance, Serena aimed for a casual shrug. “The kid mentioned it when he was here. He also told me that if his mom ever showed up, he’d throw himself out the window rather than see her.”

Hannah winced. “Yeesh. That doesn’t sound good.”

Her sentiments exactly. “She must have gotten that message, because I never saw her around here, did you?”

Hannah shook her head. “The kid’s yummy-looking father was the only parent I ever saw. Then again he was kind of hard to miss. Talk about a helicopter parent. You’d think his kid was dying, instead of in with a busted arm.”

“Maybe she doesn’t live anywhere close by.”

“Maybe,” came the absent reply as Hannah rooted through her locker. “Question is, what’s Mr. Moneybags doing back here now?”

“Beats me.”

“What if he’s here for some sort of I-own-this-place meeting that changes our lives around here forever? Guys like that love to throw their weight around. They never give a damn about how they upend everyone’s lives just because they want to run the show their way.”

“I’ve been thinking about all those rumors swirling around that guy.” Serena zipped up her insulated jacket and pulled out the red knit beret and mittens she’d stuffed into the jacket’s pockets when her shift started twelve long hours ago. She gave a ridiculous amount of attention to putting them on, because she didn’t want to admit she’d actually been thinking about Lorenzo the man, rather than the rumors about him. “This is Cook County’s brand-new Pediatric and Women’s Health Center, right?”

“Last time I checked.”

“Doesn’t that mean Cook County owns the hospital? There are all these rumors about Lorenzo Salvatore owning this place, but I’m not buying it. It doesn’t seem plausible that one dude could own a whole frigging hospital.”

“Somebody’s got to own it. Why not tall, dark and insanely pushy while still being a total sex bomb?”

“I don’t know.” Trying not to freak that Lorenzo Salvatore might actually be in the same building as her, Serena again tried for an air of nonchalance. “Maybe he just decided to float that rumor around when his kid was here.”

Hannah stared at her. “Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he thought sounding like some big shot would get his kid preferential treatment. Maybe he’s got inferiority issues and overcompensates by pumping himself up to godlike levels. Maybe he’s a pathological liar and a total epic dick.” And maybe she needed Lorenzo Salvatore to be as bad as could be, so she could convince herself she’d dodged a bullet when it came to having him in her life. “Remember that one lady who claimed she was the concubine of Justin Trudeau, and her child was—oh, how did she put it?—the fruit of their union?”

“Yeah, but that lady wound up in the psychiatric ward because the only thing wrong with her poor child was her,” Hannah drawled. “That’s life in the world of pediatric medicine.”

“Exactly. Which means I’m not going to believe anything I hear through the grapevine until I see his name on the deed to this lovely piece of real estate.”

Not that she cared enough to look into who exactly owned the hospital where she worked, Serena thought, digging for her car keys as she headed out of the locker room. Lozo’s signature wasn’t on her paycheck, so she’d be smart to not give him another thought.

Lozo.

An instinctive wince scrunched her nose before she could corral it. Grimly she pushed the wayward thought away and headed down a quiet back hallway lined with closed administration office doors, heading for the employees’ exit. Lozo was what Lorenzo Salvatore’s friends called him, or so he’d claimed on the one and only date she’d ever gone on with him. At the time she’d had the weirdest flutter when he’d insisted she call him that. Like he’d wanted her to think she was special. A friend. Maybe even on her way to being something more.

Ha.

What a gullible rube she was.

She should have realized a jerk like Lorenzo Salvatore couldn’t possibly have any friends who called him anything, much less Lozo.

An office door belonging to her supervisor, Heidi King, opened up moments after she passed by. Hastily Serena quickened her pace and didn’t look back. No way was she going to get caught up in idle chitchat when all that mattered now was getting off of feet that felt every single one of the fourteen-thousand steps she’d already taken today—

“Ah, speak of the devil, there she is. Serena, do you have a minute?’

Grrrrrrr. “No, I don’t, Heidi. I’m sorry, but I’m already off the clock and I’ve got…” She made the unforgivable mistake of looking back, and her gaze ran slam-bang into Lorenzo Salvatore’s.

What.

The.

Hell.

 “Uh.” Furiously she tried to remember what she’d been saying, only to almost lose the thread all over again when Lorenzo’s sculpted face lit up with a crooked, predatory smile. Eek. “I’ve got two hard-earned days off, so guess what that means? So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.”

“This won’t take but a minute, I swear.” Heidi, middle-aged, the mother of five and married since the dawn of time, seemed to be in a hormonal tailspin in the presence of such absurd levels of drool-worthy testosterone. As Serena watched, the other woman sent a fluttery gesture toward Lorenzo, and the glance she sent his way was downright coquettish. “Serena Daniels, pediatric RN, this is Lorenzo Salvatore, one of this hospital’s biggest benefactors.”

“I believe we’ve met.” Serena kept her voice neutral through sheer force of will. Oh, yes. She and Lorenzo Salvatore had definitely met. When his son, Matthew, had come in with a broken arm that needed to be surgically repaired, Lorenzo had demanded a nurse be in his son’s room every minute of the day. Never mind that there were other, far sicker children who needed that kind of attention. That didn’t matter to the great Lorenzo Salvatore. Oh, no. What had mattered was that his beloved son—who’d screamed and cursed at the hospital staff, bit Hannah, then went on a hunger strike because he wasn’t getting his way—was in pain.

Ultimately she’d had a showdown with the overbearing helicopter father. After he’d complained one time too many that she wasn’t giving his kid enough attention, she’d literally dragged him to the window of an isolation room occupied by a child who’d fallen through thin ice and had been underwater for several minutes. Then she’d told him in no uncertain terms that he should thank whatever pantheon of gods he believed in that his kid was destined to walk out of there with him someday, happy and whole. Some parents weren’t so lucky.

At the time she’d had no idea if she’d gotten through to him. Mainly because he was a frantic parent, and frantic parents were understandably not too big on calm and logic. But also because he’d accused her of not being able to comprehend what it was to have family, and to love them more than anything.

That was the exact moment she’d lost her mind.

Because that was the moment when she’d rashly invited him to a family dinner at her sister Mads’s house.

No one could have been more surprised than Serena when Lorenzo Salvatore actually said yes.

She honestly hadn’t liked Lorenzo when she’d accidentally invited him to dinner. Sure, he was gorgeous, with thick black hair that had a tendency to curl, scruff that was almost a beard, and onyx eyes so mesmerizing it was all she could do to stop herself from falling into them. But those hot Italian good looks were nothing when they were wedded to a self-absorbed personality. All she’d cared about in that moment was proving a point.

But then Lorenzo had shown up to that family dinner, complete with wine and flowers, and acted like a totally charming human being. As the night had progressed, she’d found herself staring at him time and again, amazed at how the rumble of his rare laughter moved through her like wine, and thrilling over how he’d insisted she call him Lozo.

Ugh.

She’d been stupid enough to think that dinner date might have been the start of something special. Vital, even. That was why she’d invited Lorenzo to a Christmas Eve art auction at her sister’s work, the famous tattoo studio, House Of Payne. She’d even worn her sexiest dress, strapped her hard-working feet into killer heels and dreamed of fenagling Lorenzo under the nearest mistletoe to see what that crooked mouth of his knew about kissing.

And then…

The bastard stood her up.

Which was fine, she’d told herself firmly. Totally. Utterly. Fine. Considering how they’d started out, she was obviously better off without having a pain in the ass like him around. The night he’d stood her up was the night she’d decided to forget he existed. In her opinion, it was the best damn Christmas present she’d ever given herself.

Yet now, here he was.

Again.

Damn it.

Fighting the desire to stomp her foot, Serena barely flicked a glance his way before pinning her attention on her supervisor. “I was on duty when his son, Matthew, was brought in for surgery for a badly broken arm. If his son is back, Darius Johns is the duty nurse now. As for me, I’m out, Heidi.”

“Mattie’s fine.” Lozo—no, Lorenzo Salvatore, she corrected herself fiercely—spoke for the first time. Grudgingly she turned her attention his way, only to find his gaze focused on her like a lion that had locked on to a wounded gazelle. “I’m not here because of my kid, Nurse Meanie. I’m here because of you.”

Nurse Meanie. Just one of the names his hunger-striking brat of a kid had come up with for her. Then the rest of his words sank in. “Wait, what? Because of me?” What the hell had she done now?

“That’s right.” Clearly delighted by this unexpected turn of events, Heidi clapped her hands together. “In the wake of the excellent care young Matthew received here, Mr. Salvatore has decided to fund a new activity center here on the pediatric floor, and guess what? You were the one who inspired this amazing generosity.”

“Oh. Really. Huh.” Well aware that nothing she’d done for Matthew had been good enough for either of the Salvatores, Heidi’s comment hit her like a joke, and she was the punch line. “Funny, I find that hard to believe.”

“What’s hard to believe? That you did a good job?” Much to her alarm, Lorenzo wandered closer, hands in his pockets. With a casual pose like that he should have looked harmless, but harmless was the one thing he’d never be. “You don’t strike me as the kind of person who doubts her abilities.”

“Oh, it’s not myself I’m doubting in this particular equation. I’m a freaking goddess, pal.” When Heidi gave her a vaguely horrified look, Serena looked to the ceiling and struggled for a more professional tone. “Whatever motivated you, I’m thrilled to hear there’s going to be a dedicated space for our recovering young patients to have some fun and normalcy brought into their lives.” With a smile that felt as fake as a three-dollar bill, she backed down the hall toward the exit. “Thanks for letting me know. Have a good weekend. Toodles.”

Thankfully Heidi was too aghast to say a word, so Serena took advantage by booking it as fast as she could to the stairwell door. She was just about convinced she’d made her escape when a large hand came from behind to clamp down on the door’s metal push-handle.

Dang it.

“I wasn’t finished. Which means you’re not finished, either… Nurse Meanie.”

Her stomach sank at Lorenzo’s gravelly baritone next to her ear, and the sudden heat radiating off his body told her just how much her personal space had been invaded. Instinctively she half-hopped sideways, not even caring how silly that probably looked, before she turned the full force of her glare on the man who clearly was intent on ruining her weekend.

On the surface, Lorenzo Salvatore was just about every woman’s lust-fueled dream. Even though she hated him, her hands still itched to smooth his curling black hair that always looked like he’d just gotten out of bed, and his liquid black eyes were so dark she couldn’t even see his pupils. The first time she’d locked gazes with him, she’d imagined that the devil himself had eyes like that—full of scorn and sin and the hottest black fire. His aggressively square jaw seemed to be perpetually covered in a five o’clock shadow, the scruff that much darker in the twin dimpled grooves on either side of his crooked mouth.

It was the tilt of that mouth that irked her. Even when she hadn’t known his name, she’d had that agitated reaction at the mere sight of it. It had a twist to one side, a perpetual, sardonic smirk that made him seem like he was scoffing at everything in general, and her in particular whenever he chose to focus on her.

And to think she’d been brainless enough to invite this smirking, black-eyed devil out on a date on Christmas Eve. What a moronic move that had been.

Good thing he’d ghosted her.

Jerk.

“Wow, look at you, thinking you can actually tell me when I’m done.” She sent him a scorching look. “Know your place.”

“Damn.” Far from being slapped back like she’d hoped, Lorenzo grinned as if delighted. “I knew you were pissed at me for not showing for our date, but I think I underestimated the level of pissiness you’ve got going on. You mad, Serena?”

The taunting tone—when he was the one who’d stood her up, goddamn it—told her that he didn’t like it when people called him out on his bad behavior. That was just the kind of person she didn’t need in her life. “I cannot stress this enough, so listen closely when I say it. Ready? Here it is. Fuck off.” With that, she shouldered his arm out of the way and pushed through the door leading to the stairwell.

There. Mission accomplished.

Except…

She could hear his steps on the stairs right behind her.

Maybe he was leaving too, she thought nervously, fighting the nearly crushing urge to look over her shoulder. Maybe he had somehow parked in the gated and guarded Employees Only parking lot, and this was the fastest way out to his car.

Yeah.

Right.

“I’m not saying I don’t deserve you being pissed off at me.” He dropped into step beside her the moment she pushed through the heavy metal exit door and into the twilight-shrouded, freshly plowed parking lot. “But it’s only fair you give me a chance to make up for it.”

She snorted and hit her car’s key fob. “Dude, you stood me up, then didn’t get in touch with me for literally weeks. Barring an excuse that involves a zombie apocalypse or a death in the family, everyone knows that the stand-uppee doesn’t have to give the stand-upper the sweat off her brow. Go away.”

“I had a Christmas Eve emergency. Shit like that happens when you have kids.”  

That sounded somewhat plausible, but… “Have you looked at the calendar lately? It’s mid-January. Here’s a pro tip for you in case you ever plan on hooking up with someone after you stand them up. Letting weeks go by after you ghost a woman isn’t the way to win her over.”

“The emergency I had to take care of… it’s taken a while to clean that shit up. But now that I’ve got everything locked down tight and I know my kid’s okay with how things are, we’re good to go. By the way, that’s probably the most important thing you should know about me—Mattie always comes first. I’m not even going to apologize for it. That’s just how I parent.”

What the hell did he mean, they were good to go? “Good for you.”

“The only reason I’m telling you this is because you need to know that’s the only thing that has more priority than you when we’re together.”

She stopped by her car and grimaced at all the snow that had accumulated on it during her twelve-hour shift. “One, Mr. Salvatore, we are not together—”

“Lozo. I told you, my friends call me Lozo.”

Which meant she’d bite her tongue out before ever using that name. “Two, I don’t know you. You don’t know me. We’re strangers, and we’re going to keep it that way.” Hauling her car door open, she sat behind the wheel just long enough to start it up and get the defrosters going full blast, before snagging up her trusty ice scraper. “And three, we are not going to be together. Why? Because you didn’t even call to let me know you had a so-called emergency.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You called the place we were supposed to meet, three hours after our date was supposed to start. So if you think I’m kidding when I say fuck off and go away, I’m not. From the bottom of my little black heart, I seriously mean it.”

“I didn’t call you personally because my phone took a swim in the toilet. And I did try calling House Of Payne several times that evening to let you know what was going on, but I wasn’t able to get through.”

She didn’t bother to roll her eyes as she stood on her tiptoes and tried to sweep all the snow off the windshield in one go. “You have an answer for everything, don’t you? You should’ve gone into politics.”

He took the scraper from her before she could dodge him. “You’re a nurse,” he muttered, using those long, well-muscled arms of his to efficiently wipe the snow off her car. “Aren’t you supposed to have a sweetly giving and understanding nature?”

“Haven’t you heard? I’m Nurse Meanie.” Apparently.

“Mattie won’t call you that anymore,” he said, surprising her. “I’ve told him that you’re Nurse Serena from now on, or else.”

“And as for my nature,” she went on as if he hadn’t spoken, because she doubted very much that she’d ever see his food tray-throwing son ever again, “I’m very sweet and understanding when it comes to my patients. If you want to become a patient, I’m sure I can make that happen.”

The look he shot her as he moved to the back window could have melted all the snow in Chicago. “Feisty, aren’t you?”

“What I am is tired. This was a hell of a long shift after a hell of a long week, and my feet hurt all the way to my knees. So, if you’ve got something to say, just say it, because all I can think about now is going home, curling up on the couch next to a cozy fire, and conking out for the next forty-eight hours.”

“That’s a waste of a perfectly good weekend.”

“Any nurse coming off their shift would beg to differ.”

“You have to eat some time.” With one last swipe at the side windows, he returned to her and handed her the ice scraper. “Might as well eat with me.”

The fact that she hesitated only underscored just how exhausted she was. “I’m literally too tired to be hungry.” Yeah, she thought as she absently tossed the scraper back into her car. She had to be loopy if she felt even a teensy bit tempted to let her guard down and give him another chance. “I’m standing here now, and I can’t even remember what hunger feels like.”

Again, her exhaustion got the better of her, because it had her imagining a hint of concern flashing across those devil-black eyes. “You work too hard.”

“It’s the true plague of any medical professional—workaholism. We all have it.” When he continued to gaze down at her as if she were the most interesting thing he’d seen all year—though, admittedly it was a brand-new year, so that didn’t mean much—she cleared her throat and moved toward her car. “Well, um… thanks again for funding the new activity room. Getting children involved in interactive events like arts and crafts or music or gaming, is as important as any medicine we can give them when they’re healing.”

“I remember you had your sister do Mattie’s portrait when he was throwing his food trays against the wall and refusing to eat. He still talks about you,” he added when she slid into the driver’s seat and would have closed the door on him. “I’ve heard the story of how you finally got him to eat, by the way.”

“Oh, yeah? He told on me, did he?”

The crooked mouth of his smirked all the harder. “At first, that’s pretty much what it was—tattling on Nurse Meanie who wouldn’t take his shit.”

“That’s me, all right.”

“He described in great detail how you went into his room to eat your dinner right in front of him—the biggest, juiciest cheeseburger he’d ever seen in his life, according to him.” The other side of his mouth curled, and he graced her with one of those rare, out-of-this-world smiles. “Now he laughs about it. He calls that move your ultimate cheeseburger gambit.”

“I shared with him. Eventually.” She couldn’t help but smile as she thought of his nine-year-old kid, a sullen little replica of his father if there ever was one. “But I made him work for it.”

“Yeah, you did.”

“What can I say, he was being a stubborn jerk. The only thing left to do was give him exactly what he said he wanted—no food—until he couldn’t stand it. You would’ve done the same thing in my position.”

“Hell, I’ve been in your position. Babying him only feeds the troll.”

She scoffed. “Baby him? No way was I about to baby him when he was clearly furious with everyone who was trying to help him. I make it a rule to never reward bad behavior.”

His eyes narrowed. “Is that why you’re making me think you don’t want anything to do with me now? You’re punishing me for my bad behavior?”

The way he put it made her blink her bleary eyes. “Wait, what? Why I’m making you think… what now?”

“Because if that’s the case,” he went on, ignoring her, “that actually means you’re holding out in order to get me to do what you want.”

“Huh? Wait, no—”

“In the case of my son, you told him you didn’t care if he was a bonehead who starved himself to death. Then you proceeded to eat right in front of him until he caved and demanded half your cheeseburger. Now you’re doing it again, only this time you’re doing it with me.”

She gaped at him. Maybe his demon kid had driven him insane. “I’m doing what again?”

“Reverse psychology.”

“Really, I’m not.”

He shook his head, his dark eyes alight. “That’s exactly what you’re doing, but it’s cool, Serena. I see you.”

Holy shit. “And what do you see me doing, exactly?”

“You’re still interested in me.” That flabbergasting announcement came with a smile that was so arrogant it made her want to get back up on her aching feet, grab her trusty snow scraper, and bonk him repeatedly over the head with it. “That’s why you’re showing me the door so hard. With you pushing on me like that, you’ve got to know there’s no way I’m going to walk through it.”

“But I am showing you the door,” she said so loudly it was almost a shout. “In fact, if a magic door suddenly popped up in this parking lot, I’d shove you through it so hard you’d land in the factory where Sully and Mike Wazowski work.”

“It’s good that you like kid’s movies,” he remarked on a chuckle, and that weird warmth filled her yet again, like she’d drunk too much wine. “Monsters, Inc. is one of Mattie’s favorites. We should all watch it some time. You like family movie nights, yeah?”

What the hell. “Um, yeah. With family.”

“Mattie and I are a family. That’ll be good enough for you. Drive safely, you hear me?” he added, backing away, and his tone shifted to one of great seriousness. “I know your ass is dragging, so don’t you dare fall asleep behind that wheel.”

More unnerved than she wanted to admit, Serena reached for her seatbelt. “I won’t.”

“And give me a call when you get home so I know you made it there in one piece.”

“I don’t have your phone number anymore,” she told him with no small amount of relish. “Rude people who stand me up get deleted.”

He pulled out his phone. “Give me your number again. I lost it when my phone went for a swim.”

“I can’t remember it,” she lied, then shut the car door before he could say another word.


Sound intriguing? Click on the links below, and start reading my novel novella, GOOD GIRL, today!

Amazon: http://ow.ly/ZluA50EbScj

B&N: http://ow.ly/VMRw50EbSIG

iBooks: http://ow.ly/Z29x50EbSIF

Kobo: http://ow.ly/QXn050EbSIH

HOUSE OF PAYNE: STYX Cover Reveal, Blurb and Release Date!

I’m so excited to finally share the cover and blurb for HOUSE OF PAYNE: STYX!

Fun fact: the cover I’m about to reveal is actually the second cover created for this project. The first one didn’t have the visual impact that I was going for, so I took another stab at it.

Gotta say, I’m pleased with how STYX turned out.

Very pleased. 🙂

HOUSE OF PAYNE: STYX

Sydney used to make plans. All her life she’d trained to be a ballerina, but that “plan” had turned out to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Reality now consisted of hunting down petty thieves and refusing to make any more pie-in-the-sky plans for her life. That’s why she never approaches the sexiest man she’s ever laid eyes on. Never again would she be crushed by pointless dreams.

Fate, however, had plans for her.

Styx Hardwick isn’t big on plans. As a tattooist at House Of Payne, he’s the black sheep in a family full of pragmatic cops. Now that his twin brother’s getting hitched, all eyes turn to him, the last of the single Hardwick siblings. Getting through his twin’s wedding is gonna be hell.

Or so he thinks.

When a pocket-sized goddess crashes into him with terror in her eyes, Styx’s world turns upside-down. Even scared out of her mind, Sydney is still the hottest thing to have ever graced his life. He offers her a deal—pretend to be his girlfriend until the wedding, while he does his damnedest to protect her from the danger closing in.

As a plan, it’s almost foolproof.

Almost.

92,000 words


***This standalone contemporary romance contains mild violence, a dash of instalove, and multiple sex scenes in lots of fun and possibly gravity-defying positions. No cheating, no love triangles, no cliffhangers. HEA guaranteed. Due to adult language and sexual content, this book is not intended for people under the age of eighteen***

The release date for HOUSE OF PAYNE: STYX is September 19th, 2019. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram (my favorite, heh) and Facebook for updates! ❤

BRUISED, the 3rd book in the Brody Brothers series, is LIVE!

Happy book birthday to Killian and Dallas, two of my all-time favorite characters!

To celebrate, I’m doing a little giveaway this Memorial Weekend–three $10 Amazon Gift Cards–so make sure to look at the entry at the bottom of this post. Winners will be randomly chosen by Rafflecopter. Good luck! 🙂

BLURB for BRUISED:

“You’re coming with me.”

When Killian Brody showed up at Dallas Faircloth’s work with news that her half-brother might die without her help, she never expected the oldest and sexiest Brody to freaking kidnap her to seal the deal on her cooperation. 

The scandalous affair between Dallas’s mother and Killian’s father made everything inside Dallas revolt at the Brody name. It was because of a Brody that her world had been left in ruins at the age of eight, and she’d had to rebuild all on her own. She hated the Brodys. Which was too bad, really. Killian Brody was take-charge, arrogant and so damn sexy she would have climbed that rugged cowboy like a tree if it weren’t for that last name of his. 

Her mother had proven that the men in the Brody family were as dangerously addictive as any drug, and Dallas didn’t want to get hooked. But when Killian turns his sights on her and makes her believe she’s the one he can’t live without, she has a choice—play it safe, or dive in headfirst and risk falling in love with a Brody man.

85,000 words

***This standalone contemporary romance contains multiple sex scenes. Also contains an Alpha with serious impulse issues, a spicy heroine, a felonious kidnapping that may or may not count, and one teeny little spanking. No cheating, no love triangles, no cliffhangers. HEA guaranteed. Due to adult language and sexual content, this book is not intended for people under the age of eighteen***

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

And if that doesn’t work, click here:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d4e352429/?

BRUISED COVER, BLURB and FIRST CHAPTER!

Guess what? BRUISED, the third book in the Brody Brothers series, releases Thursday, May 23rd!!! *throws confetti*

I think it’s time to share the blurb, don’t you?

BLURB:

“You’re coming with me.”

When Killian Brody showed up at Dallas Faircloth’s work with news that her half-brother might die without her help, she never expected the oldest and sexiest Brody to freaking kidnap her to seal the deal on her cooperation.

The scandalous affair between Dallas’s mother and Killian’s father made everything inside Dallas revolt at the Brody name. It was because of a Brody her world had been left in ruins at the age of eight, and she’d had to rebuild all on her own. She hated the Brodys. Which was too bad, really. Killian Brody was take-charge, arrogant and so damn sexy she would have climbed that rugged cowboy like a tree if it weren’t for that last name of his.

Her mother had proven the men in the Brody family were as dangerously addictive as any drug, and Dallas didn’t want to get hooked. But when Killian turns his sights on her and makes her believe she’s the one he can’t live without, she has a choice—play it safe, or dive in headfirst and risk falling in love with a Brody man.

85,000 words

***This standalone contemporary romance contains multiple sex scenes. Also contains an Alpha with serious impulse issues, a spicy heroine, a felonious kidnapping that may or may not count, and one teeny little spanking. No cheating, no love triangles, no cliffhangers. HEA guaranteed. Due to adult language and sexual content, this book is not intended for people under the age of eighteen***

But wait! There’s more! I’m sharing the first chapter as well! Feel free to read on…

Chapter One

“Two orders for a shot and a beer chaser, and one Bud Light in the bottle, uncapped, for the table by the jukebox.” Dallas Faircloth set her tray on the bar that ran most of the length of The Dive, and gave the pockmarked man behind it a spectacular side-eye. “By the way, the assholes over at the snooker table will be filing a complaint with the management, or so I’m told.”

Manny Espadero, owner of The Dive, crossed himself. “Fuck me, D, what’d you do now?”

What’d you do now was probably going to be engraved on her headstone, but whatever. “I should be praised for what I didn’t do. I didn’t dislocate the thumb of the hand that groped my ass. I came close, but I didn’t. You’re welcome.”

“Yolanda never had this kind of trouble.”

“According to you, my predecessor had to retire because her varicose veins and arthritic hips made it impossible for her to do this job without the use of her scooter.”

“Look around. Do I got room for a scooter?”

Annnnd, there went the point, flying right over Manny’s balding head. It was a wonder he hadn’t felt the breeze. “No one’s going to grope the ass of someone who just became a great grandmother. Or if they do, they’re total sickos,” she thought it prudent to add. “You don’t want sickos in here, do you, Manny? What kind of place are you running here, anyway?”

“Every conversation I start with you, I somehow wind up being the bad guy and feel like I have to apologize for shit I didn’t do. Order’s up,” he added, slamming the drinks on her tray and shooing a hand at her. “Get outta my hair before I lose any more of it.”

“You got it, boss.” Checking her tray, Dallas scanned the bar with a critical eye. The Dive wasn’t the worst place she’d ever worked, but it wasn’t winning any awards, either. Dark and moody with reddish lighting that tended to make everything look like it belonged in hell, there were exactly fourteen tables crammed into a space that had once been a carriage house, then a three-car garage-slash-workshop. Manny had bought the building a decade ago, got himself a liquor license and hung out a sign.

Since that sign read “The Dive,” Manny obviously hadn’t been aiming for any Michelin stars.

But it wasn’t horrible. Manny was a twenty-year Army vet, and that weird meticulousness the military instilled in its soldiers had stuck. Everything in the bar was old and worn, but absolutely spotless. Arguably the only piece of junk to be found was a stand-up piano crammed in next to the snooker table. Every time she saw it, her fingers itched to play. She’d played it only once, but the poor thing was so out of tune it instantly sent her in search of a tuning wrench and hammer. When Manny demanded to know what she was up to—and she’d explained she’d once apprenticed at a piano-making workshop—he’d rolled his eyes and called her a bullshit artist.

She’d cop to being a bullshit artist. It was one of her many, many talents.

But she still knew how to tune a damn piano.

There were other attractions besides the piano. A flatscreen TV—not high-def—was placed over the bar and tuned into whatever boxing matches or baseball games Manny could find. The snooker table was set up in what had once been some sort of machine shop, and the faint scent of oil still hung in the air. The ‘50s-style jukebox by the door had an amazing collection of records, from the 90s dating all the way back to the days of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.

Dallas adored it.

At the moment, The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” was warbling out as she counted heads. Several stools at the bar were occupied by The Dive’s regulars. Imogene, who was clearly sweet on Manny, nursed her one light beer. Then there was the trio of ranch hands who usually came in smelling like they’d mucked out every stall in Texas. Then there was the grocery store manager from Abel’s Market, the hardware store guy who learned not to make a pass at her early on, and Bitterthorn’s high school principal. She wasn’t sure what the school board would do if they knew the principal of their one and only high school got semi-shitfaced every night at The Dive, but she wasn’t about to tell anyone about it.

Why would she?

It’s not like she lived in Bitterthorn.

Besides which, the customers at the bar weren’t her problem. They belonged to Manny. She had the table section, which was awesome tip-wise, considering The Dive had good crowds just about every night. There was just one downside to her current part-time job—all the touchy-feely jerks who thought she was there to serve them something else besides drinks. Thankfully, they were learning. After a month of serving drinks at The Dive, just about every guy who walked into the joint knew that while she might be the daughter of Delphine Faircloth, she wasn’t the freaky, home-wrecking woman her mother was.

Pfft. Like that kind of crap was genetic.

Mr. Grabby-Hands had taken his wounded thumb over to a corner table, looking sullen as he muttered to his snickering, bearded friend. In the far corner her official babysitter, Gus Anders, kept his nose in his book—a Larry McMurtry novel, by the look of it—and pretended he wasn’t even there. It didn’t surprise her in the least that good ol’ Gus hadn’t lifted a finger when Mr. Grabby-Hands did his thing. Watching over her to make sure she didn’t run was one thing. Helping her was another.

Not that she needed help.

And she had no intention of running. She was exactly where she wanted to be—Bitterthorn, Texas, her birthplace, and the backdrop of all her crazy, wake-up-screaming nightmares.

Her attention slid back to Grabby-Hands and his buddy. Their glasses were empty, which meant one thing—fate hated her, because life was nothing more than a never-ending string of shit she didn’t want to go through, but had no other option.

So what else was new.

Gritting her teeth, Dallas held her tray in front of her like a shield, glanced at Gus—who slumped even further behind his book—and headed in their direction just as the door squeaked open. When the general volume suddenly fell so that only the TV and jukebox could be heard, Dallas’s stomach clenched. Not now, she silently prayed while continuing toward Mr. Grabby-Hands. I don’t need this hassle now.

“The fuck do you want?” Grabby-Hands looked up from his sullen examination of his thumb, which Dallas had pushed back sharply against its socket the moment the perv had made contact with her ass. She hadn’t applied enough pressure to pop it out of joint, but he was acting like he’d been crippled, the pussy.

“I see your glasses are empty.” Gamely trying for a neutral tone, Dallas was still smart enough to stay out of reach. “Need a refill?”

“Fuck you,” Grabby-Hands rejoined. Clearly, being captain of the debating team wasn’t something that was going to be found on his résumé.

“Uh-huh. How ‘bout you?” Turning to his bearded friend, Dallas raised her brows. “Want a refill?”

“Um, yeah, I guess. I’ll have—”

“Fuck, no, he don’t want nothing from you, bitch. We’re ordering nothing until you give me a fucking apology.”

Forget the debating team. It was a wonder this dude could tie his shoes. “If you’re not going to order anything, hit the bricks, pal. The sign on the door of this fine establishment says No Loitering. If you’re not drinking, you’re leaving.”

Grabby-Hands made a weird choking sound. She’d bet her tip money that he’d just stopped himself from asking what the word loitering meant. “We’ll order something when you apologize.”

“Apologize for what?”

“For almost breaking my thumb, you dumb cunt.”

What a baby. “It wouldn’t have happened if you’d kept your damn hands out of dangerous places, fool. So I guess I’m sorry you’re so stupid you didn’t expect any consequences when you shoved your hand up my skirt and groped me. How’s that for an apology?”

“You fucking whore.” He shot out of his chair like he worked on a spring, and Dallas braced herself, flipping her tray, edge-out, so that she could smash it against his Adam’s apple. But before he reached her, a huge, muscle-padded arm shot out from behind her, and an equally huge hand planted itself in the middle of Grabby-Hands’s chest in a textbook stiff-arm.

What…?

Grabby-Hands bounced back like he’d hit a wall made of rubber. He flew—holy crap, flew!—back into his chair, sitting back in it so hard it would have tipped over backwards if it hadn’t been braced up against the wall.

“You keep your ass glued to that fucking chair, you little weed, or I swear to Christ I’m gonna see how far I can shove your beer mug up your ass,” came the feral baritone voice Dallas had been hoping against hope she wouldn’t hear. But when had she ever been cut a break? Long ago, some unseen jerk in charge of her fate had decided she was going to be the butt of every joke in the universe. Big laughs for everyone.

Except her.

“What the…” Grabby-Hands flailed like a muppet in the nearly tipped-over chair, before grabbing the edge of the table to stabilize himself. “Who the fuck you think you are?”

“Killian Brody.” One stride of those long legs brought him into the space of Grabby-Hands, a man who Dallas suspected might be the stupidest human being on earth. “Any other brilliant questions, asshole?”

If it had been quiet in The Dive before, that name dropped it into mausoleum-like stillness. Even Dallas found herself holding her breath, and she again glanced at Gus, only to find the older, bowlegged man beating a hasty retreat out the nearest exit. No surprise there. She didn’t remember much about her birthplace of Bitterthorn, Texas, but even she knew not to mess with a Brody. Worse yet, Killian wasn’t just any Brody. He was the Brody. The biggest. The oldest. The smartest. And, oh yeah, the baddest of all the infamous Brody brothers. He was the visionary who’d rocketed the family from millionaires to billionaires in less than a decade. Crossing him was akin to shoving one’s head into the mouth of a hungry lion. Depending on his mood, he was a benevolent god among men or the Devil himself, bent on ruining lives without even trying.

And, of course, he was her kidnapper.

Grabby-Hands’s eyes widened to the point where she half-feared they’d pop out of their sockets. “K-Kill…”

“My bothers call me Kill. You’re not my brother.” He leaned down to semi-whisper the words to Grabby-Hands, and Dallas was sure she wasn’t the only one who shivered at the lethal sound. “You’re nothing, weed. Nothing but a piss-poor excuse of a man who has to bully women just to feel even a little bit superior, so don’t think a piss-poor weed like you gets to say my name.”

“Bully?” The idiot shook his head in protest, clearly oblivious to the fact that keeping his mouth shut was his safest bet. “Y-you got it all wrong, man. That crazy redheaded bitch attacked me outta nowhere. Suddenly grabbing my thumb and, like, shoving it so hard I thought she was gonna break it—”

Killian stilled. “Did you say… thumb?”

Oh, boy.

“You idiot,” she sighed, and actually felt the faintest hint of pity for Grabby-Hands. “Now you’ve done it.”

“Yeah, see, me and my friend were just minding our own business, not bothering no one. Then without any warning, that fucking ginger cunt comes up to where we were playing some snooker and she, uh… Um, she somehow gets a hold of my thumb, right? And then she—”

The tall tale Grabby-Hands was spinning didn’t get a chance to go any further. With a muted roar, Killian grabbed him by his shirt front—and a fair amount of skin as well, if the way Grabby-Hands screeched was any indication—picked him up like a wrestler readying a body slam, and headed for the door. One kick had it almost flying off its hinges before Killian tossed the man through it and out into the parking lot.

“You’d better go, too,” Dallas drawled to Grabby-Hands’s friend, who was sitting so still it was like Elsa had come along and frozen him to his chair. “Unless you want to be airmailed out of here like your pal.”

She got out of the way as the man did an impressive dash straight from his seated position.

Wow. Not bad.

If sprinting out of a chair ever became a thing, that dude would definitely win a medal.

“It’s called a finger-lock or a thumb-hold in self-defense, you fucking weed,” she heard Killian bellow at the man whom she assumed was now splattered all over The Dive’s parking lot. “The only reason she would’ve gotten a hold of your thumb was if you put it on her—exactly where the fuck it doesn’t belong. You took your dirty fucking hands and you put them on her. That means you need to get the fuck out of Bitterthorn and never come back, weed, because I will never let you rest here. If I ever see your sorry ass again, I’ll bury your piece-of-shit body where no one can fucking find it.”

“Nice,” Dallas muttered, shaking her head before wandering back to the bar to slap her tray down in front of Manny. “Death threats where everyone and their dog can hear them. A real brain trust, that one.”

“Fuckin’ Brodys don’t care, D. They’re like kings of the world, but like any patriotic American, I hate the idea of kings.” Manny sent a surly look at his poor, abused front door even as Killian headed back through it. “You’re paying to have my door fixed.”

Killian’s black glare put Manny’s to shame. “I paid for the table I broke last week, didn’t I? I’m good for it.”

That clearly was not the best thing to say to pacify Manny. “You keep comin’ in here breakin’ my shit, Brody. I know my dinky little bar ain’t nothing to the likes of you, with your fancy mansions and your airplanes and your fuckin’ jillion-dollar parties. But this dinky little bar is where I rule, you got that? When you show up, people leave and I lose money—and usually some furniture. You’re bad for business, and I’m tired of it.”

“I’m not the one who’s bad for your business, Espadero.” Still wearing an expression that suggested murder was his favorite hobby, Killian slid onto a barstool. Immediately the people already sitting at the bar vanished like Houdini impersonators. “Do yourself a favor and fire Dallas Faircloth. I promise you’ll never see me again.”

“Just like a man,” Dallas gritted out, pumping up the fury so the despair that had been threatening to devour her for weeks now didn’t sink its dark, paralyzing teeth into her heart. “Blame me for your bad behavior, just like Grabby-Hands did. Come to think of it, the resemblance between you and that loser is striking. Are you guys related?”

That swung his ominous attention her way, and she had to lock her spine in place not to cower. At first glance, Killian Brody was every woman’s dream. With his curling black hair waving almost to his massive shoulders, both ears pierced with green-colored studs, and another green-studded barbell piercing in his left brow right through a wicked looking scar, he was certainly the type of man she would have gone for. Several inches over six feet, built like Superman on his best day, a close-cropped beard that framed perfect lips, and eyes that matched the dark green of the body jewelry he preferred, he was just about perfect to look at. When he’d walked into the Sugar Land music store where she’d been working as assistant manager, she’d taken one look at him and wondered how she could talk him into the storage room without getting fired.

Then he’d introduced himself, a frigging Brody, and it was all she could do to keep from throwing up on his highly polished custom-made boots.

From there, things had gone downhill. Fast.

“You’d better explain yourself, woman,” Killian said in that almost-whisper that made her think all he wanted to do was scream like a demon. “What makes you think I’m anything like that fucking little weed?”

“First of all,” she said, leaning against the bar to look him right in the eye, when all she really wanted to do was flee in terror when he spoke in that scary-soft tone, “the weed blamed me for not enjoying the oh-so manly way he slimed his disgusting hand up my skirt to pinch my ass so hard I’m going to be wearing his filthy mark on my skin for at least a couple days. And just now, when your shitty behavior was pointed out to you—”

Ay, Dios mio, don’t make it worse, D,” Manny groaned.

“—instead of manning up and proving you’ve got some kind of spine, your automatic default response was to blame me. For what, by the way? For being here at The Dive? For existing? And secondly… How’s your thumb, Brody?”

The massage Killian had absently been giving the joint at the base of his thumb came to an abrupt halt. “My point—you wouldn’t get touched by unworthy slimeballs like that if you weren’t working here.”

“There you go, blaming me for existing again.”

“Damn it, that’s the last thing I’m saying,” he muttered, shaking his head. “You’ve got the whole victim thing down pat, don’t you?”

God, the arrogance… “What I’ve got down pat is the truth. Do you even know what that truth is?”

“That your idiotic life choices have led you to work in this shithole?”

“Fuck you,” Manny snarled.

“The truth,” Dallas pushed on, refusing to rise to the bait, “is that I wouldn’t have gotten touched if I were still in Sugar Land working my job in the music store where you found me, and not in fucking Bitterthorn. That’s the truth.”

Abruptly he shot to his feet, causing her to jump back and out of harm’s way. His eyes narrowed at her, as if her involuntary movement somehow offended him, before he dug into his back pocket for his wallet. “You’re here in town until you’re no longer needed. End of discussion. For the door,” he added to Manny and tossed some bills onto the bar. It didn’t surprise her one bit to discover he walked around with hundred-dollar bills the same way she walked around with quarters and dimes. “Is she working tomorrow?”

She can answer for herself,” Dallas snapped while Manny scooped up the cash.

“Yeah, she is,” Manny said, shoving the money into his pocket without ever taking his eyes off Killian. “And the next night, and the night after that. You might chase away all my customers, but the moment you’re gone they come back, better than ever. Your family isn’t as popular around here as you think, Brody.”

“That so?” Killian sent a glance around the room. The few patrons who had remained avoided making eye contact, but the hostility in the room was palpable. “It’s funny how you think any Brody man would ever give a shit about that, Espadero. See you tomorrow night.”

***

Ta-da! Talk about a rocky start! How will Dallas and Killian get themselves onto a smoother path? Is it even possible? Find out in just THREE DAYS, when BRUISED releases Thursday, May 23rd! *happy dance*

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