Tag Archive: Montlake Romance


About the Book
 
Title: Save Your Breath
Author: Melinda Leigh
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Montlake
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Summary
 

When true-crime writer Olivia Cruz disappears with no signs of foul play, her new boyfriend, Lincoln Sharp, suspects the worst. He knows she didn’t leave willingly and turns to attorney Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger to find her before it’s too late.

As they dig through Olivia’s life, they are shocked to discover a connection between her current book research on two cold murder cases and the suicide of one of Morgan’s prospective clients.

As Morgan and Lance investigate, the number of suspects grows, but time is running out to find Olivia alive. When danger comes knocking at their door, Morgan and Lance realize that they may be the killer’s next targets.

 
Author Biography
MelindaLeigh
 
#1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. A lifelong lover of books, she started writing as a way to preserve her sanity when her youngest child entered first grade. During the next few years, she joined Romance Writers of America, learned a few things about writing a novel, and decided the process was way more fun than analyzing financial statements. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s also garnered Golden Leaf and Silver Falchion Awards, along with two nominations for a RITA and three Daphne du Maurier Awards. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate; teaches women’s self-defense; and lives in a messy house with her husband, two teenagers, a couple of dogs, and two rescue cats.
 
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Author Interview: Melinda Leigh
 

1) Your newest release features two of your most popular characters, attorney Morgan Dane and P.I. Lance Kruger. While this couple has a habit of getting involved in difficult (and dangerous) criminal cases, the mystery in this book is much more personal for them. 

In Save Your Breath, Morgan and Lance aren’t working for a client. They’re looking for Sharp’s girlfriend, Olivia Cruz, who vanished from her home in the middle of the night. After Olivia goes missing, Sharp realizes his feelings for her run much deeper than he’d thought. As the investigation continues, with no trace of Olivia, the usually calm and centered PI begins to unravel. Morgan and Lance had always depended on Sharp for his insight and stability. Save Your Breath reverses these established roles.   

2) How does the personal nature of the crime affect the other characters? 

Morgan and Lance are also thrust into unaccustomed roles. In the previous five books, Sharp has been the source of stability. He is their rock. Now Morgan and Lance have to step up and help him hold it together. The book deliberately challenges the cohesiveness of the team.

3) The story starts with a terrifying scene where Olivia is kidnapped. It is raw and visceral and plays on everyone’s worst fear—being unsafe in our own home. How do you get into the mindset for crafting this kind of scene?

I close my eyes and envision the scene in my mind from beginning to end. Everyone has been woken by a strange noise in the middle of the night. We’ve all stared at the ceiling, listening for the sounds of a stranger moving through the house. Being attacked in our sleep is a basic, primal fear. That’s the vulnerable feeling I wanted to generate in the reader, so I imagined it happening to me. Basically, I’m channeling the overactive imagination that got me into so much trouble as a child. 

4) Morgan and Lance are planning a wedding and solidifying Lance’s place as a step-dad to the Dane girls, all the while dealing with terrible crimes around them. How do they disconnect from the violence around them in order to create a space just for themselves and their family?

The family demands their full attention, and in their world of chaos and crime, their home is what keeps them sane. Both Morgan and Lance operate best when they have the support and love of their family to return to at the end of the day.  

5) Can you give readers any hints of what’s next for Morgan Dane and her crew?

I wrote Save Your Breath as the final book in the Morgan Dane series, but my next project is a spin-off. The Bree Taggert Series will take place in Grey’s Hollow. Morgan and the crew will likely make appearances. 

***

 
Excerpt: 
 

Her weekly dinner with her family had distracted her earlier in the evening. Her mother had served frijoles negros, Olivia’s favorite traditional Cuban dish. Olivia had overindulged, and the minute she’d left her parents’ house in Albany to make the hour drive back to Scarlet Falls, her true crime research had flashed right back into her mind and unsettled her stomach. 

Chewing an antacid, she mulled over her stunning discovery. The implications of what she’d learned further stirred the black beans and rice in her belly. As a journalist, her job was to seek the truth, not play judge or jury. But should she choose to pursue and publish this truth, other people could pay the price for her revelation—possibly with their lives. 

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Her new book proposal was overdue, but Olivia’s predicament felt like a no-win situation. Ignoring the truth went against all her principles. Then again, so did putting other people in danger. 

But how much risk was involved? Could she live with being responsible for even a single innocent person’s death? 

Obsessing about her book research had translated into three consecutive nights of insomnia. Enough was enough. Olivia didn’t need to make this decision alone. What she needed was outside perspective. She brought the antacids with her into the bedroom, picked up her phone from the nightstand, and checked the time. Eleven o’clock. She sent a CALL ME IF UR UP text message to Lincoln Sharp, her . . .

The word boyfriend seemed silly at their ages. She was forty-eight. Lincoln was fifty-three. They’d been dating for several months, and they spent the night together once or twice a week. She assumed their relationship was exclusive, although they hadn’t specifically discussed it. 

Labels weren’t important to either of them, but when she saw him or he called unexpectedly, the stirrings of excitement and joy in her blood made her feel like a teenager. Beyond her attraction to him, she respected him both personally and professionally. 

So why had she been stewing over her decision instead of asking for his opinion? 

Lincoln owned and operated a private investigation firm. As a retired police detective, his practical experience with the legal system—and his knowledge of criminal behavior—exceeded hers. She valued his insight and trusted him to keep her research confidential. If she decided to pursue the story, she would hire his firm to help with the investigative legwork anyway. She may as well bring him on board now. 

She burped. Her indigestion began to burn its way up her esophagus. She chewed a second antacid, the chalky taste coating her mouth. She reached for the glass of water on her nightstand and sipped. 

A few seconds later, her phone rang, and she pressed “Answer.” 

“Is everything OK?” Lincoln asked in a worried tone. Her late-night text was unusual. 

“Yes,” Olivia assured him. 

“I’m sorry I missed dinner with your parents again,” he said. “I wrapped up my case tonight. I should be able to make dinner next week.” 

He didn’t talk much about work, which was fine. She understood his professionalism and appreciated his need to maintain client confidentiality. But he had mentioned the case had involved a great deal of evening surveillance. 

“They understand,” she said. “I called because I’m stuck in my research, and I’d like your opinion. Are you free sometime tomorrow afternoon? I can come to your office.” 

“Sure.” Interest brightened his voice. “How much time do you want me to block out?” 

“An hour should do.” She considered his associates. Lincoln’s business partner, PI Lance Kruger, and Lance’s fiancée, defense attorney Morgan Dane, could also provide useful insight on Olivia’s dilemma. Morgan’s legal advice might be particularly helpful. “I’d like Morgan’s and Lance’s thoughts as well. Could you see if they’re available?” 

“Hold on. Let me check their digital calendars.” The line went quiet for a few breaths. “Lance should be here in the afternoon. Morgan has a client meeting at nine a.m. Her calendar is clear the rest of the day. How about I put you in the one p.m. spot?”

“Perfect.” Olivia lowered the phone and made a note in the calendar app. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” 

“You know, when you texted”—Sharp’s voice deepened—“I had hoped this was a booty call.” 

A little thrill rushed through her, followed by another burp. Olivia rubbed the fire behind her breastbone. “Tonight isn’t a good night. I ate way too much of my mother’s food.” 

He snorted. “That happens. She’s an incredible cook. Get some rest and feel better.” 

“Good night.” Olivia lowered the phone. 

Satisfied he would help her make her decision, she slid into bed and picked up a book. At midnight, she still wasn’t sleepy. She set down the book and redirected her mind. Lincoln was teaching her to meditate. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on her breaths. She conjured a mental image of the beach in her mind and synced her breathing to the ebb and flow of the imaginary waves. At first she had trouble concentrating, but eventually her body felt heavy. 

Olivia jolted, her heartbeat quickening, sweat dampening her T-shirt. 

What was that? 

A glance at the clock on her nightstand told her hours had passed. It felt as if she’d just closed her eyes, but she must have fallen asleep. She scanned the darkness of her bedroom. Her gaze passed over her dresser and chair. Had she heard something real, or had it been a dream? 

She concentrated, listening hard to the sounds of her house, but she heard nothing unusual. A thunk and hum signaled the heater switching on. Hot air blew out of the floor vent and moved the sheers that hung over her windows. 

The alarm hadn’t sounded. She reached for her cell phone. It was far too early to rise for the day. She double-checked the security system app on her phone. The house was secure. She needed to go back to sleep. 

She shifted her legs under the covers, closed her eyes, and tried to get comfortable. 

Something whooshed. Her eyes snapped open. A large shape rushed toward her. A heavy body landed on top of her, pinning her to the mattress. The weight and size of her attacker felt male. She flailed and tried to push him off, but her arms and legs were trapped as he straddled her. She was cocooned in her comforter like a swaddled baby. Her throat constricted. She couldn’t scream. 

Panic sprinted through her bloodstream as she stared up at the dark assailant looming over her. His face seemed distorted, his features brighter and flatter than normal. He was wearing a mask. 

With a bolt of gut-twisting horror, she recognized the character as Michael Myers from the movie Halloween. 

A flash of terror shot up her spine. She inhaled, preparing to force a scream out of her tight throat. 

He slapped her across the face. Pain, bright and sharp, sang through her cheekbone but faded in seconds as her adrenaline surged. The scream died in her chest.


***
 
 

ButterflyInFrost

About the Book

Title: Butterfly in Frost

Author: Sylvia Day

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Summary:

Once, I would never have imagined myself here. But I’m settled now. In a place I love, in a home I renovated, spending time with new friends I adore, and working a job that fulfills me. I am reconciling the past and laying the groundwork for the future.

Then Garrett Frost moves in next door.

He’s obstinate and too bold, a raging force of nature that disrupts the careful order of my life. I recognize the ghosts that haunt him, the torment driving him. Garrett would be risky in any form, but wounded, he’s far more dangerous. I fear I’m too fragile for the storm raging inside him, too delicate to withstand the pain that buffets him. But he’s too determined…and too tempting.

And sometimes hope soars above even the iciest desolation.

Author Biography

Sylvia_Day_AuthorPhoto_credit_Meghan_Poort

Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Sunday Times, #1 Der Spiegel, and #1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels sold in more than forty countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in twenty-eight countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Visit the author at www.sylviaday.com.

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Website: https://www.sylviaday.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSylviaDay

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Instagram: http://instagram.com/sylvia_day

Goodreads: goodreads.com/author/list/19823.Sylvia_Day

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EXCERPT

Roxy bounces on her feet with excitement. “Les and Marge sold their house.”

I blink. “I didn’t know they were selling.” 

She laughs and heads toward the front door. “That’s the thing. They weren’t.”

“Wait, what?” I hurry after her as she steps outside.

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I look to the right at my home, a lovingly restored butterfly-roofed midcentury, then on to the traditional house just beyond it that belongs—belonged—to Les and Marge. Including Roxy’s, all three of our homes have unique lots set between the homes that line the street and the Sound, affording us unhindered views of the water as well as exceptional privacy—all within a twenty-minute drive of the airport. 

Roxy shortens the length of her stride to allow me to catch up, then glances over at me. “The day after you flew to New York, a Range Rover pulled into their driveway, and the guy inside offered them cash to close—and move out—in fourteen days.”

My step falters, and Minnie gets momentarily tangled in her leash. The dog shoots me what I would describe as an irritated look, then keeps trotting forward. “That’s crazy.”

“Isn’t it? Les wouldn’t say how much the offer was, but I’m thinking it was huge.”

We march up the inclined driveway, my head tilted back to take in the houses scaling the hillside. Designed with big windows to maximize the view, the homes have a look of wide-eyed wonder. Our little stretch of the Sound used to be a secret, but with the housing boom taking over Seattle and Tacoma, we’ve been discovered. Many residences are undergoing major renovation to suit the tastes of new owners.

 

Reaching the road, we turn left. To the right is a dead end.

“Well, if they’re happy,” I say, “I’m happy for them.”

“They’re overwhelmed. It was a lot to happen all at once, but I think they’re happy with their decision.” Roxanne stops when Bella does, and we wait as the two dogs mark one of their usual spots on the gravel edging the asphalt. There are no curbs on the streets in our neighborhood and no sidewalks. Just beautiful lawns and a profusion of flowering shrubs.

“We all tried prying information out of them,” she goes on, “but they weren’t sharing anything about the sale.” She gives me a sidelong glance. “But they did share a bit about the buyer.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

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“Because Mike and I both think the buyer is someone famous. A film director maybe. Or an artist. Can you imagine? First Emily, a bestselling author. Then you, a reality-TV surgeon. Now this guy! Maybe we’re sitting on the new Malibu—beachside living without wildfires or state income tax!”

The mention of Roxy’s husband, Mike, coaxes an inner smile. A New York transplant like me, he adds a welcome touch of the life I left behind to the reality I’ve since created for myself—a reality that’s just been rocked by the loss of neighbors I like.

“What are the clues you’re working with?” I ask, deciding to play along. If I’ve learned anything the past year, it’s to accept the things I cannot change. A tough task for a control freak like me.

“Les pointed out to this guy that he hadn’t even seen the inside of the house. The guy said he didn’t need to. He knew already that ‘the light is perfect.’ I mean, who would say that? Gotta be someone who’s in visual arts, right?”

“Maybe,” I agree tentatively, disquieted by the unexpected conversation. The road rises sharply before us, the incline steep enough to put a little burn in my thighs. “Doesn’t mean he’s famous, though.”

“That’s the thing.” Her words carry a note of breathlessness. “Les wouldn’t give numbers, but he did say it was crazy the guy didn’t just buy that huge compound at the end of the street. That house is listed for three and a half million!”

My mind staggers at the thought. Les and Marge have—had—a beautiful home, but it’s not worth anywhere near that much. 

“I think I saw the buyer once through that big arched window in the living room,” Roxy goes on. “The blonde with him was a looker. Supermodel skinny with legs for days.” 

I’m panting when we reach the top; Roxy, who hits a gym most days of the week, is not.

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A quarter mile farther, there’s a street to the right leading to Dash Point. Beyond that and straight ahead, the road slopes back down and around until it’s at water level. Redondo Beach is there, as is Salty’s, a restaurant on stilts in the water with expansive views of Poverty Bay and beyond. I’m about to wax poetic about Salty’s seafood chowder when a runner dashes around the corner at a full sprint. His sudden appearance rattles me. A closer look makes me freeze midstride. My breath locks in my lungs.

There are too many things to register at once, so my mind attempts to absorb the whole man. Dressed only in black shorts and shoes, he is a visual feast of deeply tanned skin, intricate sleeves of tattooed art, and sweat-slicked, flexing musculature.

And his face. Sculpted. Square-jawed. Brutally, breathlessly handsome. 

Roxy, now a few feet in front of me, gives a low whistle. “Hot damn.”

From: Butterfly In Frost By Sylvia Day

 

 

 

CallHerMineGraphic1About The Book

Title: Call Her Mine

Author: Melissa Foster

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Series: Harmony Pointe, #1

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Summary

Ben Dalton has always been honest, except where his heart is concerned. He’s been in love with his best friend—saucy, smart-mouthed Aurelia Stark—forever. But Ben’s a planner, and timing has never been on his side. When he finally decides to make his move, Aurelia beats him to the punch with a move of her own—to a different town.

Aurelia loves her new life in the charming town of Harmony Pointe. She has a great apartment and her very own bookstore, and best of all, the sinfully hot, commitment-phobic friend she’s crushed on for years is no longer just around the corner. Maybe she’ll finally be able to leave her unrequited love behind and move on.

But when a baby is left on Ben’s front porch—a baby that is presumably his—Aurelia is there for him. Neither one knows the first thing about babies, but how hard can it be? Ben and Aurelia are catapulted into a world of love, laughter, and tracking down the baby mama, and it might even add up to a very happily ever after… just not one either of them expects.

Author Biography

MelissaFoster

Melissa Foster is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than eighty books, including The Real Thing and Only for You (from her Sugar Lake series). Melissa and her books have been featured in USA Today, Hagerstown magazine, The Patriot, and more. Her novel River of Love has been optioned for film by Passionflix. Melissa also writes sweet romance under the name Addison Cole. When Melissa isn’t writing up a storm, she’s living her own happily ever after with her husband and a gaggle of grown children. For more news, information about her books, and to chat with her, visit Melissa at www.MelissaFoster.com.

Buy Link

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Social Media Links

Website: https://melissafoster.com/

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3023973.Melissa_Foster

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Melissa Foster Author Interview

1) ”If a woman can’t find love in the quaint town of Harmony Pointe, it’s sure to find them…” —this is the tagline for your newest series Harmony Pointe. Tell us a bit about the town and these women who are finding love.

I love writing about close-knit small towns, where gossip is ripe, and embarrassing tales of youthful rascals abound. Harmony Pointe is nestled between Sweetwater and Port Hudson, New York, not far from the city. It offers grand views of mountains as far as the eye could see. Cobblestone streets, brick-front eclectic shops, and old-fashioned street lights add to the small town’s charm. Readers who are familiar with my Sugar Lake series will recognize Harmony Pointe as Derek Grant’s hometown.

2) What was the idea that sparked the beginning of the series? 

I have been itching to write Ben Dalton and Aurelia Stark’s story since I first read about them in WILD BOYS AFTER DARK: LOGAN and BAD BOYS AFTER DARK: MICK (Billionaires After Dark series) and THE REAL THING (Sugar Lake series). Harmony Pointe is a Sugar Lake spin-off, and in the Sugar Lake series several of Ben’s siblings find love. It was finally Ben’s turn.

3) For longtime fans, can you tell us what this series has in common with your previous books? How is the series different from what you have written before?

Avid readers of my Love in Bloom series will have met Ben and Aurelia in several previous books and series. Their story is filled with humor and sexy times, and this one wallops the reader with an ugly-cry worthy punch. This family is very female centric, which is different than most of my other series. The exception is the Montgomerys, cousins to the Daltons, in which the males are also outnumbered. #GirlPower (Bradens & Mongtomerys series).

4) Why was it important that Ben and Aurelia launched this series in Call Her Mine?

Ben and Aurelia were too loud for me to ignore! They were finally ready to share.

5) There are friends-to-lovers romances and then there is Ben and Aurelia who are closer-than-close. Seriously, these two just about live in each other’s heads. What takes them so long to realize that they belong together?

Have you ever had a friend who you love so much that you can’t imagine life without them? I have. It instills a certain level of fear—what if you risk that friendship, lay your feelings on the line, and the other person doesn’t feel the same? True friends, the ones who “get” you, who accept you at your worst, bitchiest states, and at your best, are hard to come by. Risking the friendship is terrifying. I think this was the case for Ben and Aurelia—Plus there’s Ben and his damn planning…

That man made me crazy.

I love him so hard!

6) When romance finally (finally!) is in the cards for these two, they have one very tiny situation that turns up—Ben’s previously unknown infant daughter. What was it like to create an insta-family for this pair? 

It was so frigging fun I wish I could do it again! I loved every second of writing this book. I was able to strip Ben and Aurelia down to their most raw selves and emotions, and then watch as they found their new footings together. It was glorious.

7) While it is unfair to ask if you have a favorite hero, we’d love to know what makes Ben so special to you. 

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes—arrogant, funny, introverted, brilliant, average, overly serious, etc. Ben is like the guy you see sitting at the end of a bar in a fine suit and think he’s probably taken, or at the least too refined to be fun. And then he opens his mouth and melts you, or makes you laugh, at every turn. He’s protective, but not in a bullying way. Don’t even get me started with that man holding a tiny baby, falling in love with her page after page. I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it. 

Excerpt

“I’ve got to go.” She tried to pull away, but he dug his fingers into her knotted muscles, releasing tension and drawing a moan from her traitorous lungs.

“Don’t run off,” he coaxed. “I wasn’t kidding. You are my best friend. I trust you with my secrets, and I love who you are.”

Hope bubbled up inside her, and she closed her eyes, glad he couldn’t see her face. Had their time finally come? “Really?”

“Of course,” he said, and she heard the smile in his voice.

That made her feel all sorts of good, and the truth came easily. “I love who you are, too.”

He leaned his chin on her shoulder, his hard chest pressing against her back as he said, “I especially love who you are when you’re making me breakfast.” 

“Ugh!” She pushed to her feet, but he snagged her wrist, giving her the puppy-dog eyes she’d never been able to resist. The ones that said, Please don’t leave me. “Ben,” she warned. 

“Relsy,” he pleaded.

“I am not making you breakfast. I have to go.” She yanked her hand away and said, “And I’m busy for the next few weeks. Actually, for a lifetime, so . . .” She shoved her feet into her red Converse sneakers and grabbed her purse. 

“I seriously have to make my own breakfast?” Ben pushed to his feet and stretched, six-plus feet of hotness towering over her five-two frame. “But you make waffles better than I do.” 

“I do a lot of things better than you. Don’t forget to call Aiden back.” Aiden was his business partner. He’d called Ben last night while they were watching a movie and Ben had made her laugh, causing tequila to come out of her nose, which had sent him into hysterics and rendered him unable to answer the call.

“That’s right.” He grabbed his phone from the table. “He was supposed to set up a meeting with our legal team.”

“For the hotel chain you’re buying?” 

“Yeah. Hey, take my sweatshirt. It’s early. You’ll be cold.”

He pulled his sweatshirt over his head and tossed it to her, revealing a dusting of chest hair over muscular pecs and a treasure trail that disappeared beneath the waist of his low-slung jeans. His sweatshirt hit her in the chest and landed at her feet, reminding her she was staring.

Ben laughed. “Nice catch, Rels. Remind me not to pick you for my baseball team.”

“I don’t want to be on your team. You run the bases too slow,” she mumbled as she picked up his sweatshirt and tugged it over her head, inhaling his masculine scent. “I’m out of here.”

“How about cereal?” he asked with a wink. “I’ll make it.”

“Since when did you become so needy?”

A coy grin slid across his face. “I know that once you’re in my kitchen, there’s no holding back. You won’t let me eat crap when you can make something delicious.”

“Yeah, you should see me in the bedroom.” She felt her eyes bug out. She slammed her mouth closed, unable to believe what she’d said. She stormed through the hallway and out the door, followed by Ben’s laughter—and almost tripped over a basket. She leaned back, holding the door open, and hollered, “I think Willow left you muffins. There’s a basket on your porch.”

“Way to go, Willow,” he said as he strode down the hall. “Let’s see the goods.”

She realized she was staring at his bare chest again and snapped, “I’m taking the biggest muffin,” as if it was his fault he had great pecs and abs she wanted to lick, and bite, and –

Down, girl.

He cocked a grin and said, “Take as many as you’d like, but you’ll pay for them later.”

In my dreams.

 

I’m going to miss this series with all my heart!!!! Check out the excerpt and the Rafflecopter for a $25 gift card

 

AMercifulFateGraphic

About the Book

Title: A Merciful Promise

Author: Kendra Elliot

Release Date: June 18, 2019

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Summary

The job: infiltrate a militia amassing illegal firearms in an isolated forest community. FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick is the ideal candidate. She knows Oregon. She’s near the compound. And having been raised among survivalists, Mercy understands the mind-set of fanatics. Lay low, follow rules, do nothing to sound an alarm, and relinquish all contact with the outside world. She’s ready to blend in.

As Mercy disappears into the winter hills, something just as foreboding emerges. Mercy’s fiancé, Eagle’s Nest police chief Truman Daly, is faced with a puzzling series of murders—three men dumped in random locations after execution-style shootings.

Now, for Mercy, trapped in a culture where suspicion is second nature, and betrayal is punishable to the extreme, there is no way out. No way to call for help. And as plans for a catastrophic terrorist event escalate, there may be no way to stop them. Even if Mercy dies trying.

Author Biography

Kendra Elliot

Kendra Elliot has landed on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list multiple times and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series as well as the Mercy Kilpatrick novels. Kendra is a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, an International Thriller Writers finalist, and an RT Award finalist. She has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on classic female heroines such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Laura Ingalls. She was born and raised, and still lives, in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her family, but she looks forward to the day she can live in flip-flops. Visit her at www.kendraelliot.com.

Social Media Links

Website: https://www.kendraelliot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKendraElliot

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KendraElliot

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6150778.Kendra_Elliot

EXCERPT:

“What does Jeff want?” FBI special agent Eddie Peterson asked Mercy as they simultaneously tried to pass through the conference room doorway. Eddie stepped back, a laptop under one arm and two books under the other as he precariously gripped a cup of coffee by its lid.

Mercy darted through before he lost control of the coffee. “I don’t know, but he told me to clear my afternoon.”

Eddie frowned as he set the cup on the conference table. “He didn’t tell me that. I’ve got three meetings.”

Mercy shrugged. It was part of her job to change direction on a dime, and Jeff’s vague message had perked up what had promised to be a dull day of paperwork. Mercy had been a special agent with the FBI’s Bend, Oregon, field office for nearly a year after spending five years at the big Portland office. Including her and Eddie, Bend had five agents, in contrast to the hundred agents in Portland.

But Bend was close to her heart. She’d been raised thirty minutes away in the tiny town of Eagle’s Nest, and until she arrived in Bend on a case last September, she hadn’t visited in fifteen years. After that case she left behind Portland’s hustle and bustle for the stunning vistas of the Cascade mountain range to Bend’s west and the wide-open plains to its east.

Her boss, Jeff Garrison, entered the room with two official-looking strangers close behind him. Instinct told Mercy they weren’t FBI—but something about them felt very governmental, and she noticed instantly they were discreetly armed. The woman was tall, dark, and elegant—she could have been a model twenty years earlier, and her gaze zoomed in on Mercy, studying her from head to toe. After the moment of intense scrutiny, she gave Mercy a warm smile. Whatever evaluation she had performed, Mercy had passed.

The male looked as if he could be Eddie’s brother. Young, hair too long, a bit of scruff. He wore jeans and a light jacket.

Jeff made introductions. Carleen Aguirre was the resident agent in charge from the Portland ATF office, and the man was ATF special agent Neal Gorman. As they took their seats, Neal frowned at Mercy, studying her in the same fashion that Carleen had. Mercy returned his stare as Jeff shut the door.

“Nothing said in here leaves this office,” Jeff announced, looking directly at Eddie and Mercy.

Mercy hid a small spark of irritation; she and Eddie weren’t gossips. She lifted a brow and gave Jeff her best side-eye, wondering if she should be offended or immensely curious. She decided on immensely curious and gave the ATF agents the same deep scrutiny she’d received.

Carleen grinned and leaned forward, resting her arms on the table, her dark gaze holding Mercy’s. “One of our agents is undercover in a militia-slash-conspiracy-theorists-slash-illegal-arms-buying group outside of Ukiah.”

Mercy blinked. “That’s a mouthful.”

“Where’s Ukiah?” asked Eddie.

“About thirty miles south of Pendleton. It’s a tiny town. About two hundred people,” answered Neal.

Mercy followed a road map in her head. “That’s a good four hours northeast from here.”

Neal nodded. “Just west of the Umatilla National Forest. If you’re looking for a good place to escape society, this is it. No one will bug you here.”

“But clearly something about this extensively labeled group bugged you enough to embed an agent,” Eddie stated.

“They call their compound America’s Preserve. The group has approximately forty people living in an abandoned campground,” Carleen told him. “The camp is the type of place churches rent for retreats. It has several cabins with bunk beds and a large hall with a kitchen for meetings, but it hadn’t been used in twenty years until this group took up residence about a year ago. The property is owned by a Ukiah resident who gave them permission to move in.” Carleen grimaced. “The ATF doesn’t want to reveal our interest, so no one has talked to the owner, but the general word in Ukiah is that the group is repairing the buildings in exchange for living there.”

“And you embedded an agent because of the illegal-arms-buying aspect,” said Mercy.

Both agents nodded. And didn’t expand.

Mercy waited, but neither Carleen nor Neal jumped in to fill the silence.

But Eddie did. “What do you need from us?”

Carleen took a deep breath. “We need Mercy. Tomorrow a second agent was to join our undercover agent and pose as his girlfriend, but she came down with shingles.” She turned pleading eyes on Mercy.

Sweat started under her arms, and her pulse pounded in her ears.

They want me undercover in an illegal-arms-buying militia?

Last winter she’d gotten uncomfortably close to a budding militia outside of town and nearly paid for it with her life. It wasn’t something she cared to do again.

Jeff met her gaze. He knew how dangerous her last experience had been. His eyes were sympathetic, but he sat silent, allowing the agents to ask.

“Get someone else,” Mercy forced out. “It doesn’t have to be me.”

***

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Guest Post:

A Mountain Mercenary’s Sneak Attack with Author Susan Stoker

Defending Harlow is book 4 in the Mountain Mercenaries series. Each book features one of the men who were recruited by the mysteries “Rex” to work on his team to help rescue kidnapped women and children. In this book we meet Lowell “Black” Lockard who was a Navy SEAL before he became a Mountain Mercenary. He joined the group because after his stint in the Navy, he realized that he was happiest when he was being useful, helping others. He’d been close to his fellow SEALs when he’d been on active duty, but somehow he was even closer with his fellow Mountain Mercenaries.

DefendingHarlow

They worked together, they played together, and they simply enjoyed spending time with each other both during missions and when they were living their lives in Colorado Springs.

Black loves that his friends have found women that completed them. Gray met Allye when he rescued her from a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and they had to swim for hours to safety. Ro met Chloe when her brother was holding her hostage in his house and was about to pimp her out from his strip club. And Arrow met Morgan when they’d been down in the Dominican Republic to rescue a child who’d been kidnapped by her non custodial father. Turns out, Morgan was one of the most famous missing people the United States had ever had, and she’d been held for over a year before she’d accidentally been found by the Mountain Mercenaries.

He loves that his friends are happy, but realizes that he is…bored. He wants someone to laugh with. To talk to at the end of the day. To break the routine of his life. He envies his friends for having that.

Meeting Harlow is a turning part in Black’s life. She makes him laugh and he’s intrigued more than he’s ever been by a woman before. And realizing they went to the same high school once upon a time makes him even more curious. But there’s a problem…Harlow has had bad date after bad date and she’s sworn off dating forever.

But Black won’t give up. He decides to “trick” her by refusing to call what they’re doing as ‘dates.’ They’re just “hanging out.” And the more he spends time with her, the more he likes her…and vice versa. Harlow will have to decide whether or not to take a chance on Black, and he’ll have to figure out how to neutralize the threat looming over Harlow and the women’s shelter she works at or else the semantics of what they’re doing will be a moot point, because someone might end up dead.

DefendingHarlowGraphic

About the Book

Title: Defending Harlow

Author: Susan Stoker

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Summary

Lowell “Black” Lockard, former Navy SEAL, has watched his fellow Mountain Mercenaries settle down with the women of their dreams, but he’s convinced he doesn’t need love. Then he gets a call from Harlow Reese—a chef at a local women’s shelter—and begins to reconsider his decision.

After being continually harassed by a local band of punks, Harlow asks Lowell to give the women of the shelter lessons in self-defense. She doesn’t expect him to take such a special interest in her safety, but he insists on escorting her to and from work, never taking no for an answer. Not that Harlow minds the personal touch…especially when it’s coming from her former teenage crush.

Despite her long history of bad dating luck, seeing Black again makes Harlow rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Easy on the eyes and hard to forget, the man has morphed into an alpha stud. And Harlow may be exactly the type of woman Black is looking for. Making her feel safe isn’t only a duty; it’s a pleasure. But the threats are escalating. The motives are a mystery. And as the danger burns almost as hot as their passion, there’s much more at risk than their hearts.

Author Biography

Susan Stoker

Susan Stoker is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her series include Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Delta Force Heroes, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired Army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri and California to Colorado and Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, www.stokeraces.com, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorsusanstoker.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.stokeraces.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorsstoker

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Susan_Stoker

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8247140.Susan_Stoker

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*****

 EXCERPT:

Neither said anything for a while as they drove toward downtown.

Finally, Harlow asked, “Where are we going?”

“The Pit.”

“Where?”

Lowell smiled. “Since this isn’t a date, and we’re talking about the shelter, I decided I should take you to the place where me and my team conduct business. The Pit.”

“It sounds scary. Please tell me there aren’t snakes on the floor and Indiana Jones isn’t going to pop up and run pell-mell through the place being chased by members of an ancient civilization because they want their artifact back.”

Harlow stared at Lowell when he threw his head back and laughed loud and long. She couldn’t help but chuckle herself. The man sitting next to her was so different from any man she’d dated in the past—no, wait … this wasn’t a date. Nope. Not even close.

“I can’t wait to tell the others that. No, Harl, The Pit is a combination bar and pool hall. It’s pretty much a hole-in-the-wall kind of place.”

“Why do you do business in a bar?” Harlow asked.

“To be honest, I’m not sure. The Pit is where we were interviewed when we were first asked to join the Mountain Mercenaries … I’m assuming you know about the team?”

She nodded. “A bit. Loretta told me. I’m sorry if she spoke out of turn, but she was trying to reassure me that you knew what you were doing and could help us.”

“I can help you,” Lowell confirmed. “And in a nutshell, me and my teammates are all former Special Forces soldiers, and we work for Rex, getting women and children out of untenable situations.”

“Why mercenaries? I mean, it doesn’t sound like that’s what you guys really are.”

Lowell shook his head, and a small smile formed on his face. “Why do women always concentrate on that word?” he asked, more to himself than her.

Harlow answered him even though he hadn’t really asked. “Because. It’s weird that you call yourselves something that you technically aren’t. I wouldn’t start a catering business and call it Harlow Photography.”

“Point taken. I don’t know why Rex chose that name. Probably because it was catchy and sounded better than Colorado Badasses, or Your Worst Nightmare.”

Harlow couldn’t stop the bark of laughter that escaped. “True.”

“The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what we’re called. We’re six men who go where we’re needed and do what we have to do to rescue those who need a helping hand. I know women are empowered, and there are many who are just as talented at what they do as we are. But the fact remains, there are a lot of men out there who feel the need to subjugate and beat down the women and children in their lives. They take advantage of teenagers who are too young to know better or those who have had horrible lives. They hurt them and force them to do things against their will. It’s not right, or fair, and me and my friends are playing a small part in trying to right those wrongs.”

Harlow wasn’t sure how their light and playful conversation had turned so intense, but she turned slightly in her seat to better look at Lowell. His teeth were clenched, and the hand on the steering wheel was holding on so tightly, she could see his knuckles turning white. He obviously felt deeply about the topic and his job, and Harlow couldn’t be more proud of him.

“I’m proud to know you, Lowell Lockard.”

He looked at her in surprise. “What?”

“The world needs more men like you and your friends. I don’t know why men like the ones harassing the shelter are the way they are. Why they feel the need to exert their power over those they deem weaker than them. But I’m glad you’re there to help tip the scales. Other than the high-speed-chase guy, generally I haven’t been afraid of my bad dates, I’ve just been disgusted by or disappointed in them. But I know there are a lot of women out there who’re in bad marriages and relationships, and it helps knowing there are people who care. People who will put their own lives on the line to help get others out of those situations, if asked.”

Lowell pulled into a parking lot of a dark and seedy-looking building, and Harlow wasn’t surprised to see the neon sign above the door that said The Pit. This was exactly the kind of place where she imagined Lowell and his fellow badasses would meet.

He stopped the engine, brought the hand he was still holding up to his mouth, and kissed the back of it. “Stay put. I’ll come around.”

He went to let go of her, but Harlow held on to his hand. “This isn’t a date,” she said, not sure if she was reminding him or herself. “It’s a work meeting. I let you pick me up, but I should’ve driven myself. And I can open my own door and pay my own way.”

Lowell leaned into her, and Harlow forced herself not to pull back.

“I know this isn’t a date. You don’t date. I heard that loud and clear, Harl. But in my world—and make no mistake; when you’re with me, you’re in my world—a man opens a door for a lady. He walks on the outside of the sidewalk, he picks her up whenever possible, and he pays for drinks and meals. If it makes you feel better, you can think of this as a business expense I can write off on my taxes.”

Harlow stared at him for a beat, then nodded. What else could she do? She didn’t want to like Lowell’s world, but she had to admit it felt good being there. She’d had doors shut in her face when men had entered ahead of her and hadn’t held them open. She’d had to pay for her own meals on dates. And she’d even had an experience when she’d literally almost been run over by a bus in Seattle because she’d been forced to walk on the outside of the sidewalk near the curb.

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay,” Lowell said with a small smile. Then he squeezed her hand once more and climbed out.

“Not a date, not a date,” Harlow chanted to herself quietly as Lowell walked around his car to come to her side. He opened her door and held out a hand. Taking a deep breath, Harlow put her hand back in his and allowed him to help her up and out of the low seat.

He didn’t let go of her hand once she was standing next to him, though. He simply shut the car door with his free hand and led her toward the door of the bar.

Not a date, she told herself once more as Lowell smiled at her and pulled open the heavy wooden door.

***

About the Book

Title: Defending Harlow

Author: Susan Stoker

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Summary

Lowell “Black” Lockard, former Navy SEAL, has watched his fellow Mountain Mercenaries settle down with the women of their dreams, but he’s convinced he doesn’t need love. Then he gets a call from Harlow Reese—a chef at a local women’s shelter—and begins to reconsider his decision.

After being continually harassed by a local band of punks, Harlow asks Lowell to give the women of the shelter lessons in self-defense. She doesn’t expect him to take such a special interest in her safety, but he insists on escorting her to and from work, never taking no for an answer. Not that Harlow minds the personal touch…especially when it’s coming from her former teenage crush.

Despite her long history of bad dating luck, seeing Black again makes Harlow rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Easy on the eyes and hard to forget, the man has morphed into an alpha stud. And Harlow may be exactly the type of woman Black is looking for. Making her feel safe isn’t only a duty; it’s a pleasure. But the threats are escalating. The motives are a mystery. And as the danger burns almost as hot as their passion, there’s much more at risk than their hearts.

Author Biography

Susan Stoker is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her series include Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Delta Force Heroes, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired Army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri and California to Colorado and Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, www.stokeraces.com, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorsusanstoker.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.stokeraces.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorsstoker

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Susan_Stoker

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8247140.Susan_Stoker

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