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Summary:

From #1 bestselling author Lora Leigh comes Collision Point, part of the thrilling Brute Force series—packed with powerful men, steely women, and explosive passion.

SHE’S NOTHING BUT TROUBLE

Riordan Malone is more than a bodyguard. As an Elite Ops agent, he’s ripped, raged, and ready to rumble—a true warrior, inside and out. But no war zone can compare to the battle in Rory’s heart when he lays eyes on the only woman he’s ever loved—and thought he had lost forever. . .

HE’S EVERYTHING SHE NEEDS

As the daughter of a crime lord, Amara Resnova has endured the cruelty of her father’s enemies—and has tried to escape that world ever since. Now, she must reach out to the one man who saved her life, even if she’s never forgiven him for breaking her heart. But Amara is tougher today than she was then. She’s also more desirable to Rory—and dangerous to love. Can he protect her from her father’s enemies without surrendering to his own passions…or will love seal their fate for good?

Author Bio:

#1 New York Times bestseller Lora Leigh is the author of the Navy SEALS, the Breeds, the Elite Ops, the Callahans, the Bound Hearts, and the Nauti series.

Lora Leigh

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Twitter– @LoraLeigh_1

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EXCERPT: Entire first chapter for your reading pleasure….tempting, tantalizing, enticing and seductive!!!!!

Six months later

She’d been told that West Texas in the spring wasn’t much different from West Texas in the fall, but as Amara Resnova pulled in the driveway of the small house outside Alpin, she felt she had to disagree with that summation.

Stretched out in front of the house with its wraparound porch was a lush green valley fed by a lazily running stream winding through it. Sunlight speared from the cloudless blue sky, bright and warm, spreading its heat in a comforting embrace.

And the charming little house sat just beneath the warming sunlight. Spreading out in front of it was the picturesque valley; behind it, the normal West Texas part-grass, part-scrub, potential-desert landscape that never failed to amaze her.

On a rising knoll stood a lone tree, thickly branched and heavily leafed, shading what appeared to be a small cemetery. Rather than looking desolate and lonely, that little plot of land with its surrounding black iron fence, appeared instead to keep watch over the land below it. As though those buried there kept a gentle eye on those who came after them.

As isolated as the property was, it should have appeared stark. Instead, an air of contentment and peace lay over it. As though the land, the house, the vibrant green of the valley, and the cemetery that overlooked it all, knew all there was about life and love and had locked all those secrets within it to sustain it.

Drawing in a deep breath to steady herself against the fears she hadn’t been able to push behind her even in such a lovely setting, Amara turned off the engine, forced her hands not to shake, and opened the door before stepping into the warmth that filled the valley.

It wasn’t a blazing heat, but rather a gentle wave that filled the air and wafted around her. And in it there was a strange sense of familiarity. A “been there before” feeling that had her heart racing, her mouth drying as she stared around and drew in the sights and whispered sounds of a land as yet untouched by civilized life.

Here, a person could see the stars at night rather than the city lights. The sound of the lonely coyote rather than the rush of traffic. Peace rather than a hectic race.

Here, perhaps, she could find some answers. And maybe there was a chance to find everything she’d lost.

Tugging the hem of her tank, she straightened it over the band of her jeans beneath the light denim jacket she wore as she walked slowly from the car to the stone path that led to the porch. The thick carpet of grass stretched from the valley to surround the house, but she’d noticed as she parked that it became sparser at the back. As though that carpet of green with its lazy stream could only struggle so far to embrace the weathered home.

The dark blue pickup parked at the side of the house attested that someone lived there. And she knew the vehicle belonged to the man those in town called Grandpops Malone.

Riordan Malone Sr. was grandfather to Riordan Malone the younger, she’d been told, when she stopped at the gas station and auto repair garage outside town that bore the name MALONE AND BLAKE—SERVICE AND REPAIR. There, she’d learned Riordan the younger was part owner but currently out at his “grandpops’” place.

Riordan.

That name haunted her dreams, her fantasies. Though the man in those dreams wasn’t an old man. The one who came to her in those nightly images was tall, strong, impossibly sexy.

As Amara forced herself to walk to the porch, she looked around, searching for the face, listening for the voice of a man she knew only in those dreams. The man she’d escaped her father’s protection to go search for.

Was he friend or foe?

Even she couldn’t answer that question, not fully. But for some reason, she couldn’t seem to help the need to learn which he would be.

As her foot lifted to the first step, the front door creaked, causing her to pause, to wait with bated breath as it slowly opened to reveal an aged, gray-haired gentleman she suspected was Riordan Sr., Grandpops.

In his worn loose jeans, well-washed white shirt with sleeves folded neatly back below his elbows, scuffed leather boots, and with that serene expression, the man looked as old and wise as the mountains themselves. And there was no doubt he was just as damn stubborn.

“Well, hello there.” The smile that lifted the corners of his mouth was reflected in his dark blue eyes. “Can I help ya, young lady?”

There was a whisper of a lyrical accent. Irish. Just a whisper though, not the full, male lilt she sometimes heard in memories that never fully revealed themselves.

“I’m looking…” She swallowed nervously. “I’m looking for Riordan Malone.”

His head tilted to the side, his thick graying hair neatly trimmed but giving a hint of the rogue he must have been in his youth.

“I’d say you’re looking for my grandson rather than myself,” he said gently. “He should be along in a bit. His da just called to say he’s done stole that wild pony again and headed this way.” A chuckle filled the air. “Come along up to the porch and sit with me till he arrives. That wild beast always gives a show when he comes barreling through the valley.”

Moving gingerly up the steps to the porch, she followed him to the comfortable-looking cushioned rockers that faced the valley.

“Does he steal ponies often?” She frowned as she sat down, feeling more off balance than she’d felt in her life—which was saying something considering the past six months.

“Just that wild-assed black son of a satan that took a liking to him.” He grinned back at her, his gnarled hands gripping the arms of the rocker loosely. “His da threatens to kill the beast every time Riordan takes it out. He swears it’s gonna kill the boy.”

Boy.

That didn’t sound like the man she was searching for. But, everything she learned assured her this was the one place she was certain to find him.

“Ahh, here he comes now.” Fondness filled the old man’s tone as he motioned to the valley.

He appeared at first as no more than a storm of dust rising beyond the verdant green of the valley.

Amara watched, her heart racing as that trail of dust grew steadily closer.

It was an imposing sight, she had to admit.

A sensual, exhilarating sight.

The horse, black as midnight, neck extended, flying across the deserted landscape, was enough to hold the eye. But the sight of the man, bent low to the horse’s neck, black hair flying back from his face, riding without a saddle, was a bit more than simply imposing.

It was exhilarating.

Imposing and savage and wildly erotic.

Amara could feel her body responding to the sight, weakening, filling with a sensual lassitude she couldn’t combat.

“Be watching this now. That horse loves ta take him on a wild ride he does,” Grandpops said softly.

The horse flew over a gully as though he had wings, before jumping the stream, neck and legs extended as it went airborne for precious seconds. The animal then took a series of fences as though they were nothing, and as she stared, she felt she knew how those women felt from centuries past as they watched a conquering warrior bearing down on them.

When the horse flew over the fence that enclosed the house yard, Amara was certain there was no way it could pull up before slamming headfirst into the porch itself.

With no more than a few yards to spare, the beast came up on his hind legs, a triumphant equine scream filling the air before landing again and prancing about with pure high-spirited joy before finally settling.

And Riordan sat firm on the animal’s back the whole time, holding onto the horse’s mane rather than a bridle, thighs gripping the animal’s heaving sides as he stared at her with blazing, furious blue eyes before turning them on his grandfather.

The younger Riordan dismounted smoothly, the soles of his moccasined feet hitting the ground as he slapped the beast on the rump. It came up on its hind legs once more in another display of savage beauty as it reared up, pawed the air, then shot off back the way it came the second it landed.

Flying like the wind, strong legs launching it over the fence, the gully, then the stream before a trail of dust followed it around the bend of the mountain.

So much beauty, she thought. A display of savage male temper and strength, and no less showed in Riordan’s expression as he propped his hands on his lean waist and glared up at her where she sat next to his grandfather on the porch.

Well-worn denim encased his hips and legs, and the moccasins that covered his feet weren’t fringed or fancy, just well made. A black T-shirt stretched across a broad chest, emphasizing his muscular abs and making her fingers itch to remove it.

Yes, this was him. The savage who invaded her dreams, the fury who slashed at her nightmares. Vivid sapphire eyes, daunting features, proud, imposing. A man who knew his own demons as well as those that inhabited other men. Or women.

She rose slowly to her feet, aware of Riordan’s “grandpops” as he sat comfortably in his rocker, watching in interest.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” the words that passed from his lips caused her to flinch; their icy tone caused her heart to sink.

The tender tone, the edge of lust and hunger she’d dreamed of, was nowhere in sight.

His gaze raked over her and there was none of the sensual promise she’s seen in his eyes when he’d invaded her dreams, none of the dominant sensualist who tormented her with his touch in her fantasies.

She hadn’t expected this. This wild fury and enraged demand. He didn’t seem the least bit glad to see her, she had to admit. What made her think he would be? she wondered.

Was she wrong? Did she not know him?

She was certain she had to have known him, certain that somehow, someway, they must have meant something to each other. Could she have been so wrong?

“Riordan!” Grandpops’ surprised tone had a grimace contorting Riordan’s face.

Evidently the grandfather thought little of the grandson’s language.

“Grandpops, perhaps you should go back to Grant’s.” He turned to his grandfather, his voice firm. “Noah, Sabella, and the babies will be there in a bit.”

Grandpops continued to glower at him.

“I’m certain I can handle whatever language he wants to use, Mr. Malone,” she assured the older man. “I’m not exactly a stranger to it these days.”

Her father cursed more often, brooded more often, and Amara knew the situation she’d found herself in was weighing on him. If she didn’t do something, didn’t fix things, then she was terrified of what may happen. Of what her father would do to fix things himself.

“But can his grandmother?” The old man sounded disappointed rather than angry. “Remember whose home your using that language in, boy.”

Rising from his chair, Grandpops moved to the steps stiffly and made his way down, casting his grandson yet another warning glare.

“Drive carefully, Grandpops. No more racing with those Brickford boys,” Riordan stated as his grandfather passed by.

And Amara could have sworn she saw a gleeful grin tease at the older man’s lips. But he merely grunted as he passed.

A few moments later the truck started, and they watched Grandpops ease around the circular drive and onto the road that led to the small valley.

The silence that stretched between them was heavy—with his anger and her uncertainty.

As the truck took the curve around the rising hill, she turned back to Riordan and tucked her hands into the pockets of her light jacket, her fingers curling into fists.

She’d faked the last six months with friends and most of her family. Taking cues from her father and his assistant Nikolai, she’d smiled and faked her way through every damn meeting and gathering she’d been forced to attend until she slipped silently from her father’s estate the week before and, in essence, ran away from home.

Not that he was letting her run without giving chase. He and his men weren’t far behind her and she knew it. They’d almost caught up with her the night before, outside Houston. If she didn’t do something, if she didn’t find a way to eliminate the threat shadowing her, then her poppa could do something she may not be able to live with. And it was that decision that sent her running to Alpine and the man who shadowed her dreams.

She was here now. She’d found the man she’d gone searching for, and she knew the days of lying and pretending to be who she’d been six months before were over.

She lifted her head, straightened her shoulders, and stared up at him in determination.

“Whatever I did to you, I’m sorry,” she told him, miserably aware that if she’d offended him in the past, angered him, then there was the possibility it couldn’t be fixed with an apology. She hadn’t been the nicest person she could have been in the past.

His eyes narrowed on her before once again moving to sweep over the landscape. There was a tension that surrounded him, a steady watchfulness she’d noticed her father and Ilya always carried as well. That prepared and ready-for-action thing strong men always seemed to carry with them.

“Go home, Amara,” he told her when those brilliant eyes turned back to her. “Go back to daddy. This is no place for you.”

He knew her. He was angry, but for a second, she swore she saw something more in that flash of heat in his expression.

“No. Riordan, please.” He couldn’t make her leave. Not yet, not until he knew what was coming, because what was coming didn’t affect just her. She could sense it, her dreams assured her of it.

Turning, Riordan dismissed her just that easily and strode up the steps to the porch, leaving her to stand alone as the storm door slammed behind his retreating back.

Alone.

Strange, but this feeling of “alone” didn’t seem nearly as unfamiliar as it should have.

Inhaling deeply, she followed him rather than doing as ordered. Not that she often did as she was ordered. That was probably how she found herself where she was now. Opening the door quietly, she stepped into the house, her gaze taking in the homey atmosphere of the large living area.

A comfortable leather couch, recliner, and matching chairs were grouped around a cold fireplace. The mantle held a variety of family pictures that she would have loved to have time to check out. The wood floor was smooth, aged with a sheen of time and caring.

There were more family pictures in frames on the wall, many appeared old and passed down through the years, the frames lovingly polished, the photos a bit faded from time.

As she stepped into the room, Riordan watched her silently, leaning against the wide doorframe into the kitchen, his arms crossed over his broad chest as he simply stared at her, his expression still and remote.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked, that rumble of his deep voice sending a stroke of sensation up her spine.

What was she doing here?

Trying to survive, to live.

“I need your help.” She had to force herself to say the words, and still they came out as barely more than a whisper. “Please, Riordan. I need your help.”

* * *

Six months.

For six bloody months this damn woman had tormented his dreams while asleep and his thoughts while awake. He’d given his life for her on a dark, blood-filled night, then again on an operating table, only to be told she never wanted to see him again when he’d been released. And now, two months after he’d returned to Texas, here she was.

Son of a bitch. Just when he thought he could get through a night without being tormented by her, she just showed up out of the blue. And it was all he could do not to touch her, to jerk her to him and show her exactly what she was dealing with in coming to him.

But, she’d been his weakness from the moment he’d met her, hadn’t she? From the second his gaze touched hers, she’d been the one woman he couldn’t get out his head. And God knew he’d fought it.

Tiny and delicate, she made a man want to wrap her in cotton and hide her away from the world. Resilient, stubborn, and independent, she made a man realize fast that she wouldn’t allow him to do so.

Her once-long, straight silky black hair was shorter now, courtesy of her abductors. At first jagged and close to her scalp, it had grown a good six inches or so and feathered around her delicate face becomingly. Piercing gray-blue eyes stared back at him, somberly.

Frightened.

Riordan straightened from the doorframe, his eyes narrowing on her. That was fear in her eyes, along with the uncertainty and the heat he always saw there.

“You need my help?” he couldn’t help the mockery that tinged his voice simply because it flooded every corner of his mind. “Strange, two months ago you never wanted to see my damn lying ass again. What changed?”

What had changed? For a moment, that question had her pausing.

God, if only she could tell him. She was damned if she knew herself what had changed. All she knew was that now, six months after she’d awakened, she was unable to remember what had happened or who had abducted her or what they had wanted. The nightmares had grown worse, the sense of imminent danger and panic that fueled them had become overwhelming. In each one, this man stood with his hand outstretched, his voice whispering to her, urging her to find him. To come to him.

She swallowed tightly, uncertain what to say, how to explain. She didn’t trust him, not by any means. But she didn’t trust anyone now. She didn’t know who to trust.

“I’m sorry.” But she was damned if she could remember telling him he wasn’t wanted.

No doubt she’d had a good reason. Savagely hewn, rough and sexy, and a cowboy to boot. No doubt he had a wandering eye and hands that had no idea how to be faithful. The one type of man she despised. But personal fidelity and the ability to protect weren’t always intimately acquainted, she’d since learned. The man who cheated on his wife and walked away from his children could also be the very man willing to give his life for that same woman, or those children.

Men had never made sense to her, even from an early age. But she didn’t need him to make sense to her, she needed him to fulfill the promise he made in her dreams and help her figure out who was determined to see her dead and why she was so certain it was someone she knew and loved.

“You’re sorry?” he snorted, flashing her a look filled with disgust. “Fine, go home and be sorry there. I don’t have time for it here.”

The panic was beginning to build inside her chest. It thundered through her veins and raced to her heart. If he made her leave, if he threw her out and forced her to run again, she was going to die, and she knew it.

“You promised you’d help me,” she snapped, her tone more demanding than she would like despite her uncertainty and the fact that the words tore from her almost involuntarily. “You swore it. You can’t renege now.”

Had he really promised, or had she just dreamed it? Was the memory of that dark little hole and the pain that filled her just another nightmare? Had he really been there, swearing he’d always save her, or had she just imagined it?

“Did I now?” Softly voiced, the question held that bit of Irish sexy, lyrical sound that she often heard in those fantasy dreams filled with pleasure rather than pain. “And when did that happen?”

She shook her head. Memory or nightmare?

“You swore you’d always be there if I needed you.” She fought to believe it was memory. “All I had to do was reach out to you. Well, dammit, I’m reaching out. Do you want me to beg too?”

She could see his hand outstretched, his expression somber, demanding. He wouldn’t come to her, she had to go to him.

Riordan felt as though his world had narrowed, that nothing existed but this moment, this woman, and the dreams that had haunted him. Dreams of her cries, her pleas that he come to her. And no matter how desperately he tried to reach her, she was always but a touch away. No matter how often he’d urged her to take his hand, to come to him, just reach out to him, she never did.

The dreams had become so insistent over the months, he’d actually contacted his former security team members who still worked for her father to check up on her.

All was well, he’d been told. Princess Resnova was still the princess, and the czar still protected her like the cherished daughter she would always be. And still, he dreamed, reached out to her, and urged her to take his hand.

I’ll always be here for you. Just reach out to me.

He hadn’t told her that, he’d whispered those words in a dream.

And son of a bitch if that wasn’t enough to make a man force himself not to shake in his boots.

“Why?” he demanded. “Why the hell do you need me when your father has over fifty protection agents, and every damn one of them is on call in case they’re needed to protect you? What the fuck do you need with me?”

Damn her. She’d waited six months to come to him. She’d let him lie in a hospital out of the country, half alive for weeks, and hadn’t once called or reached out him. Why the hell was she short circuiting his brain now?

“I need you to help me,” she whispered again. “I need someone I can trust with my life, Riordan, before I die because I don’t know anymore who’s a friend and who’s the enemy. But you might know. I need someone I can trust to watch my back while I figure out who the hell is trying to kill me and why.”

Kill her?

According to every source he had in her father’s organization, she was safe. The men at the farmhouse where they’d found her were all killed. The bodyguard they’d identified as being behind the abduction and her beating was dead as well.

“Your father’s men can protect you.” God help him. If he even tried, he’d get them both killed—because he wouldn’t be able to stay out of her bed.

She was shaking her head even as he spoke. “I don’t trust them. I don’t trust anyone.” Desperation filled her expression now. “You don’t understand, Riordan. All I have are these crazy dreams of you. Every nightmare I have you’re at my back, protecting me. That’s all I have because I don’t remember what happened before my abduction or the abduction itself. I’ve lost a year of my life and I don’t know why and I damn sure can’t force those memories back,” she cried out, fury filling her tone. “All I have are the nightmares and dreams, and the only person I can see, the only person I can trust in them is you. And by God, I want to know why.”

She faced him, fists clenched, anger flushing her face, but that was heat in her eyes. It wasn’t just nightmares she had, it wasn’t simply dreams.

It was this bond he could sense between them even as she stared back at him, furious, frightened.

And he’d waited long enough.

Taking the steps that separated them, he jerked her into his arms, his lips stilling her cries, his arms tightening around her, holding her to him.

Her lips parted in shock, and he took full advantage of it. He tasted her. Lips and tongue possessed her kiss, and he let his senses grow drunk on her.

Because somehow, someway, she’d shared not just her dreams with him, but those incredibly erotic fantasies that filled his head as well.

And now, he wanted a taste of all that passion, that feminine hunger and need he hadn’t nearly had enough of before her abduction.

Then they could discuss the rest.

Copyright © 2018 by Lora Leigh in Collision Point and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

SUMMARY:

Spring has come to Eternity Springs in “The First Kiss of Spring”, the newest installment in this New York Times bestselling series by Emily March.

FirstKissofSpring,The_FBCover_presale (1) (1)

Life could be a dream…

Goal-oriented and gorgeous, Caitlin Timberlake‘s dreams took her to the top of the corporate ladder in New York City. Now years later, her goals have changed. She wants to come home to Eternity Springs and build a business and a family of her own—with the new man in town. So what if sexy mechanic Josh Tarkington wants nothing more than a fling? Caitlin is a patient woman who knows how to work hard and strategize to win what she desires. She desires Josh. Unfortunately, he has other plans.

If only things were different…

Josh craves Caitlin and all she has to offer. However, he is a man with secrets. He has worked hard to overcome his tragic past, but he’s afraid to risk having a future because he knows trouble is never very far away. When a selfless act brings that trouble to his door, he stands to lose everything he cares about—including Caitlin. Will her love and the healing magic of Eternity Springs be enough to save him?

Buy Links:

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Amazon

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AUTHOR BIO:

Emily March

Emily March is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a “master of delightful banter,” and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

Social Links:

Emily March Website

Twitter: @EmilyMarchBooks

Facebook: Emily March

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EXCERPT: CHAPTER 1 FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE!

Home.

Caitlin Timberlake exited the Telluride Regional Airport terminal and turned in a slow circle as she feasted on the scene. Colorado’s Western Slope was a world of jagged, rocky mountain peaks, of icy-cold streams that burbled and frothed and grew silvery fish that tasted like heaven when cooked over a campfire for breakfast. The San Juan Mountains in summertime presented a banquet of color—hills of green and gold; red rocks and alpine meadows blanketed in wildflowers of pink, blue, purple, and yellow, all presenting majestically beneath an azure sky.

Home.

She filled her lungs with clean mountain air, smelling pine and fir and forest, and tension melted from her bones like snowfall in spring.

Home.

For the better part of eight years, she’d lived in New York City, hustling and bustling and busting her butt as a textile designer, trying to build a life for herself. She specialized in fabric design for bedding and while she liked the creative aspects of the job, work fulfillment remained elusive. After all, pretty bedspreads would never change the world, and Caitlin wanted her work to matter. She wanted her life to matter.

Caitlin’s discontent had been born in the moment when she’d learned that her brother Chase had gone missing in a war-torn part of the world, and it had grown in the weeks that followed. His safe return home hadn’t squelched the emotion. She’d discovered too much about herself and her wishes and desires during that troubling time.

Primarily, she’d recognized that she’d spent too much time living thousands of miles away from those she loved. It had taken her some time to figure out what she wanted to do about it and even more time to make the decision to act. A few significant hurdles remained in her way, but she was closer than ever before to becoming her own fairy godmother and making some of her wishes come true.

She exhaled loudly, grinned, and announced, “Hello, Colorado. I’ve missed you.”

She’d have sworn she heard the wind whisper back, Welcome home, Caitlin.

“I’m doing the right thing,” she told herself. Now if she could only convince her mother of that fact.

Well, that was a battle for another day, one after she’d cleared her hurdles and had her fairy wand in hand. Today it was time to shift into bridesmaid mode.

Caitlin had flown to Denver yesterday after work and spent the night in an airport hotel. This morning’s flight into Telluride had landed right on time, and the hotel shuttle was waiting for her. After wrestling with her purse, her tote, her computer case, and two suitcases stuffed to overflowing with necessities for her role as bridesmaid, she wanted to kiss the friendly van driver who introduced himself as he took the burdens off her hands.

The fact that Will Gustophsen was cute and about her age didn’t hurt, either.

A year ago when her college friend, Stephanie Kingston, asked her to be a bridesmaid at her destination wedding, Caitlin hadn’t hesitated to say yes. She just wished she’d known sooner about all the stuff Steph needed her to bring with her and she’d have shipped it ahead.

“You here for an extended stay?” Will asked as he lifted a suitcase into the back of the van.

“Because I have so much luggage?” Caitlin smiled ruefully and explained, “I’m here for a wedding.”

“Ahh. In that case, you travel light.”

With the luggage loaded, she climbed into the shuttle and, as the only passenger, had her pick of seats. She buckled her seat belt, then settled back for what should be a short drive to her hotel.

As the driver turned onto Last Dollar Road and headed down the big hill he asked, “Where are you from?”

“Here. Well, not Telluride. I grew up in Denver. But I went to college in Tennessee and moved to New York City after graduation.”

“Should I offer my congratulations or condolences?”

Caitlin laughed. “I’m glad I had the experience. I’m ready to come home, though.”

“Back to Denver?”

“No.” Her gaze focused on the small town nestled into the valley below. “I’ve developed a fondness for mountain towns.”

Will Gustophsen glanced into the rearview mirror and wagged his brows flirtatiously. “Please tell me you’re moving to Telluride.”

His obvious interest soothed the spot on her heart still achy from a breakup last Christmas. Doug Wilkerson hadn’t broken her heart when he dumped her, but he had bruised it. “I doubt it. This place is a little too pricy for me. Besides, I have family in Eternity Springs.”

“That’s a nice little town, but then so is this. It’s possible to live here without breaking the bank. You just need to be smart about it.” He launched into a Telluride pitch that sounded as if it had been written by the Chamber of Commerce.

Caitlin couldn’t argue with him. The scenery was spectacular and the activities he rattled off sounded inviting. As they approached her hotel in Mountain Village, the pedestrian-friendly, European-style planned resort community built above Telluride and connected to the historic mining town by a gondola lift system, she was anxious to get out and explore. She’d been a kid the last time she’d visited this part of Colorado, and she was sure the place had changed. She had a few hours to kill before meeting Stephanie for a drink, so this was her time to play tourist.

“I get off work at six,” Gustophsen said. “I’d love to show you around. Buy you dinner.”

“Thank you,” she responded, meaning it. Having a cute guy hit on her was nice. “But I’m afraid I already have plans this evening. The bride arrives this afternoon and the weekend is jam-packed from there.”

He gave an exaggerated sigh. “Always my luck.”

The friendly chatter continued until they arrived at the hotel. After he wrestled her luggage from the van and gave her his number in case her plans changed, she gave him a large tip and thanked him for the hospitable welcome.

Caitlin checked into her room and spent some time answering a few of the unending stream of work-related e-mails. She would miss a few things about her job. The mountain of e-mails that required her constant attention wouldn’t be one of them.

With her professional fires put out, she shut her laptop with a satisfied thump, grabbed a hat and sunscreen, and left the hotel. She walked around Mountain Village a bit and was suitably impressed with the style and elegance of the resort town. However, she didn’t feel quite at home until she took the gondola down into Telluride and wandered up and down the streets, reading historical markers and inspecting the shops, comparing them to those in another small, historic mining town near and dear to her heart.

Eternity Springs might not have a gondola and ski runs, but the bakery, handmade soap shop, and Christmas store could definitely hold their own against these. People came from all over the country to shop at Vista’s art gallery and Whimsies glass studio, and her mother’s Yellow Kitchen was the best five-star restaurant in Colorado.

She couldn’t wait to be there.

She ate lunch at the Thai spot that her driver had recommended, then indulged in a chocolate ice cream cone for dessert. Taking a seat on a park bench near the gondola station, she savored her treat and people-watched.

The town was bustling this August weekend with tourists and locals alike out enjoying the afternoon sunshine. She grinned as a pair of preteen boys whipped past her on mountain bikes, their mud-caked clothing providing as much evidence of a fun-filled, reckless ride down the mountain as did the joy in their smiles.

Too bad her weekend was packed with wedding activities. She wouldn’t mind giving that a try herself. She was impressed by the way the ski resorts had found ways to attract vacationers, athletes, and daredevil fourteen-year-old boys during the off season. Such was the way little mountain towns became tourist destinations and supported thriving economies throughout the year.

She knew that such success didn’t happen on its own. She’d had a front-row seat during the revitalization of Eternity Springs and saw how people had worked together to make it happen.

Eternity Springs. It’s funny how the little town called to her. It wasn’t even home. Not the home of her childhood, anyway. She’d never even visited Eternity Springs until her parents lost their minds and separated after she went off to college at Vanderbilt and her mother ran away from home.

The ringing of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts. She dug the phone from her backpack and checked the number and the time. Stephanie. They were due to meet up in Mountain Village in half an hour. “Hello, bride.”

“Hey, Cait. You won’t believe what happened. Our plane out of Logan was late and we missed our connection. We won’t get to Telluride until late tonight.”

“Oh no.” Potential ramifications of such a delay flittered through Caitlin’s mind. “What did you have scheduled for today? What can I do to help?”

“It’s all covered. I built extra time into the schedule, thank goodness. I’m just really disappointed that you and I won’t have our girl-time this afternoon to catch up, and of course, missing dinner with George and Nathan. Nathan was really looking forward to spending some time with you before we dive into wedding business. Tomorrow will be jam-packed.”

Stephanie had been trying to set Caitlin up with her work friend ever since Doug dumped her. However, the guy’s Instagram was a total turnoff and Caitlin simply wasn’t interested. Unfortunately, Stephanie was a terrier when she set her mind to something, and she’d decided Caitlin and Nathan were made for each other—despite the little issue that she lived in NYC and he in Miami.

This plane delay might be a blessing, Caitlin decided.”Don’t worry about it, Steph. You and I will both be at Marsha’s wedding in October. We can have a nice long visit then.”

“That’s true. And maybe you and Nathan can find time to grab a drink together tomorrow. It might fit after our spa appointments and the guys’ round of golf. I don’t want you to miss the opportunity to meet him. Telluride is such a romantic place.”

Caitlin closed her eyes and worked to keep the sigh out of her voice as she said, “Telluride is beautiful, Steph. It’s a gorgeous place to have your wedding. And the weather for Saturday is supposed to be spectacular.”

They discussed arrangements for meeting the following day. Before ending the call, Stephanie said, “If you happen to meet a tall, dark, and handsome stranger tonight, feel free to invite him to the wedding. I had six last-minute cancellations, and I’ve already paid for the meals.”

“I thought you have your heart set on me and Nathan.”

“I do, but it never hurts for a guy to have a little competition.”

Thinking about her lack of a love life put a damper on Caitlin’s day. Maybe she should have taken the shuttle driver up on his offer, after all. As luck would have it, as soon as she slipped her phone into her backpack, her gaze landed on a couple about her age, holding hands and stealing kisses as they walked along the sidewalk. This time, she couldn’t hold back her sigh.

She was alone. Again. Still. How was it that she could live and work in a city of more than eight million people and always feel alone? Even when she was dating someone? But she did feel alone and she was tired of pretending otherwise. Tired of pretending, period. Hadn’t she been partially relieved when after eight months of dating, Doug sat her down and gave her the “just friends” talk?

Thinking about relationships while sitting in a mountain town caused her thoughts to drift back toward her parents. In hindsight Caitlin could see that she shouldn’t have been so hard on her mom when Ali ran off to Eternity Springs. If Ali Timberlake’s feelings back then had been anything like those Caitlin experienced now, then Cait could better understand her mom’s actions. Ali had tried to explain, using terms like “lack of fulfillment,” “yearning for more,” and “unwillingness to settle.” Caitlin hadn’t wanted to hear what her mother had been trying to say. For a while, neither had her father.

But Ali hadn’t let anyone stop her, had she? She’d left Mac, left Denver, and eventually opened a restaurant in Eternity Springs. She’d made new friends and a place for herself in the community. In proving to herself that she could live without Mac, Ali had realized that was the last thing she wanted to do. Living alone in Denver, Mac had come to a similar conclusion.

“And all was well that ended well,” Caitlin murmured, tearing her eyes away from the lovers. Guess her parents hadn’t lost their minds when they separated, after all.

Caitlin polished off her ice cream, licked her sticky fingers, and decided she’d had enough sightseeing. She’d go back to the hotel, maybe change into her swimsuit and do a few laps in the indoor pool. Shoot, maybe she’d change her clothes and rent a bike and act like a fourteen-year-old boy.

Making her way to the gondola entrance, she took a place at the end of the line. A group of college-age tourists fell in behind her, laughing, talking loudly, smelling strongly of weed.

Caitlin stepped forward and as the gondola attendant opened the cabin door for her to climb inside, the constant stream of foul language coming from two girls behind her put her off. She stepped aside. “I’ll let them go first.”

They giggled and stumbled and f-bombed their way into the cabin. The attendant met Caitlin’s eyes and rolled his, then shut the door.

As she watched the next cabin approach, a male voice spoke behind her. “This is one of the pet-friendly cabins. I hope you don’t mind sharing with my dog?”

Caitlin glanced over her shoulder and saw a tall man with sun-streaked dark hair and striking high, defined cheekbones. But it was his eyes that demanded a woman’s attention. Framed by long, thick lashes, they were the color of a stormy spring sky, and they were mesmerizing. She stared into them just a little bit too long.

What had he said? His dog. “I love dogs.”

Embarrassed, she finally jerked her gaze away from those fabulous eyes and toward his dog. Because he’d asked if she minded sharing, she expected to see a big, hairy, scary-looking dog. Instead, she saw a pretty miniature long-haired red dachshund with her hind legs propped up by a doggie wheelchair.

* * *

The hot blonde went gooey. They always did. It was one of the few perks Josh Tarkington had found of being the owner of a dog with a broken back.

“Oh no.” Her moss green eyes softened, her bee-stung mouth rounded. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Her,” Josh corrected as the cabin arrived and the attendant opened the door for them. “She’s a girl. She jumped down from a sofa and hit wrong. She’s paralyzed from the middle of her spine down.”

“That’s so sad,” the blonde said, stepping into the cabin and taking a seat.

“She’s actually a happy girl.” Josh scooped up the dog and wheelchair and set her on the seat opposite the woman. He shrugged out of his backpack, sat beside his dog, and smiled at his gondola companion. “The woman who owned her at the time of the accident said Penny was depressed for about three days, but after that she recovered her usual sunny disposition.”

A large group of children and adults asked to wait for the next cabin since they traveled together, so the attendant shut the door with Josh and the blonde as the only passengers.

“Her name is Penny?” she asked.

He nodded, and when the woman extended her hand to let the dachshund sniff her, Josh noticed she wore no ring on her left hand. “Copper Penny. I’m Josh, by the way.”

She lifted her gaze from the dog and smiled at Josh brightly. “Nice to meet you, Josh. My name is Caitlin.”

“Are you a local, Caitlin, or are you visiting?”

“I’m here for a college friend’s wedding. I live in New York. How about you?”

“I’m playing tourist here this weekend. This is my first trip to Telluride.”

“It’s the first time I’ve been in years. It’s gorgeous here, isn’t it?”

“Definitely.” Josh said it without looking away from her.

Judging by the flutter of her smile and sudden shift of her gaze, his subtle flirtation did not go unnoticed. Caitlin returned her attention to the dog and asked, “So, how long have you had this precious Copper Penny?”

“Not quite a month. Her owner had to move into an assisted living center that doesn’t allow dogs, so she asked our local vet to find Penny a home. I’d gone to the adoption center to get an appropriately manly dog. I’m still not sure how I walked out with a crippled doxie.”

“Obviously, you needed a little good luck.”

Josh needed a couple of seconds to make the connection. “Ah, as in ‘See a penny, pick it up?’”

“And all the day you’ll have good luck,” Caitlin finished.

“It must be working. I get to share the gondola with a beautiful woman instead of the campers standing behind me in line. They obviously don’t have showers at their campsite.”

“I’m flattered.” After a brief pause, she added, “I think.”

The gondola exited the station and started up the hill.

Josh leaned forward and spoke earnestly. “I’m shooting for flattery. I’m not always very good at it, I’m afraid. I have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth whenever I attempt to flirt.”

A smile played at her lips. “Is this an attempt at flirtation?”

“I’m bad at it. I know.” He gave her his go-to sheepish grin. Her eyes went gooey again. Damn, I’m good.

But after only a moment of goo, Caitlin’s eyes narrowed. “Actually, I think you’re probably very good at it.”

Busted.

“In fact…” She folded her arms and studied him. “I have two older brothers. I know how these things work. Is the dog even yours?”

Josh sat up straight and added an offended note to his tone. “Are you insinuating that I use Penny’s handicap to help me pick up women?”

Her eyes glittered with amusement. “Before they met their wives, my brothers would have done it in a heartbeat. Stephen borrowed a puppy one time to attract a girl’s attention.”

Josh laughed. “Okay, so maybe it hasn’t escaped my notice that Penny is a bit of an icebreaker, but she is my dog. A high-maintenance one at that.”

Then he rolled out the winner. He had yet to meet a dog-loving woman who wasn’t impressed by the fact that keeping Penny healthy and happy meant he had to manually express her bladder three times a day.

“Okay, I never would have thought of that,” Caitlin said. “That’s dedication.”

Josh decided to save the daily dog-laundry ammo for later. “She’s worth it. She really is a sweet dog. So do you have a pet?”

“No. My apartment doesn’t allow anything bigger than fish, and besides, I travel too much with my job.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a textile designer.” She named the famous fashion design house she worked for and explained a little about her work.

He was impressed. “So, you’re an artist. I’m always intrigued by creative people. Do you work on a sketch pad or at a computer?”

“Both. I usually begin with sketches, but most of the designing is done on the computer.”

“I think it must be very rewarding to create something out of nothing. Bet it’s neat to see your work in a department store.”

Caitlin offered him a brilliant smile. “It is. I was so excited the first time it happened. I knew the date the line was due to be released. My mother flew in and we went to Macy’s together.” She laughed softly and added, “She bought one of everything and then we went and drank champagne. I think she was even more thrilled than I was. But enough about me. How about you? What work do you do?”

“I’m an engine mechanic. I work for myself. Opened my own shop earlier this year.”

“Now that is awesome. I dream of working for myself.”

“Being your own boss is rewarding, but it’s also the hardest work you’ll ever—” Josh broke off abruptly when Penny’s ears perked and her head came up.

The gondola cabin shuddered, jerked, and stopped its forward movement.

“What happened?” Caitlin asked, alarm in her voice.

Josh looked up and down the line. He saw no sign of trouble, but plenty of evidence of panic. Behind them, children cried. Ahead of them, one of the female partiers screamed.

I am so glad that wasn’t a pet friendly cabin.

“We seem to be stable,” he said. “I think…”

Static emerged from a speaker above them, then a male voice said, “Attention passengers. Please remain calm. There is no cause for alarm. I repeat. There is no cause for alarm. Your safety is not at risk. Due to a mechanical issue, the main line from Telluride to Station St. Sophia has been halted. We are working to get it back up and running as soon as possible. We ask for your continued patience.”

In the wake of the announcement, Caitlin shrugged. “It could be worse. We could be in the cabin with the potheads.”

“Or the crying kids.”

“I’m not on a schedule. Are you?”

He’d planned to drive toward Delores and find a place to camp, but he could adjust. “Not at all. If you are here for a wedding, I’m surprised you don’t have every minute booked.”

She explained about the bride’s plane delay and confessed to relief about it, considering the woman’s matchmaking ideas. It provided a natural segue into the question he very much wanted to ask. “So, you’re not with anyone back home?”

“No. I’m single.” She reached across the aisle, scratched Penny behind her ears, and casually asked, “How about you?”

“I’m single, too. I live alone now, well except for Penny. This time last summer I lived with a whole gaggle of women, but they wouldn’t quit feeding me and I was getting fat, so I moved into a house by myself.”

At Caitlin’s owl-eyed blink of shock, he laughed aloud. “The look on your face is priceless. Before I decided to open the shop, I lived and worked in an RV park. The average age of the ladies was around sixty, and they liked to bake.”

“So you’re one of those,” Caitlin observed with a roll of her eyes.

“Those?”

“You like to tease.”

He had the sudden vision of curvaceous Caitlin lying on his bed, naked and shivering as he teased the tip of her breast to a point with his tongue. “Oh yeah.”

“Just like my brothers,” she said with a sigh.

That comment managed to pour icy water on his fantasies.

Reminded of thirst, he started to reach into his backpack for his water bottle when the speaker sounded again. “Attention, passengers. Stoppage is due to a mechanical malfunction that does not affect your safety. I repeat. Safety is not affected. The line from Station St. Sophia to Mountain Village will be restarted. That from Telluride to Station St. Sophia will be evacuated by our highly trained team. Again, we ask for your patience.”

“Evacuated?” Caitlin asked. “We’re a hundred feet off the ground! How will they evacuate us?”

Josh peered through the window, looking straight down. “No more than eighty feet. I’ve suspect they’ll use a rope system. They’ll buckle you into a harness and lower you to the ground.”

“Oh.”

She didn’t sound the least bit enthusiastic at the prospect. “Are you afraid of heights?”

“No. Not really.” She showed him an embarrassed smile. “When I was in college I went climbing with my brother and one of his friends. To call him a daredevil doesn’t begin to describe him. Anyway, his friend missed a handhold and slid into me and knocked me off the mountain. I dangled at the end of my safety rope for the longest, loneliest five minutes of my life before my brother managed me pull me up. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience.”

“I wouldn’t think so.”

“How long do you suppose it will take them to get us down?”

“Depends on how big their team is and where they begin. We’re about halfway in between the town and Station St. Sophia.”

“So we probably won’t be the first they get to.”

“Probably not.”

She pursed her lips and thought about it, then nodded. “I’m okay with that. Will Penny be okay?”

Josh tore his gaze away from Caitlin and glanced down at his dog. “She’ll be fine. She’s had about all the exercise she can handle today.”

Though she could probably use the water he’d been about to pour for her a few minutes ago. He reached into his backpack for his water bottle but his fingers found the Corkcicle bottle he’d filled that morning instead.

“Since it looks like we’re going to be here for a while,” he said, wrapping his fingers around the bottle’s neck and pulling it from the pack. “Care to join me? I have blood orange kombucha.”

“I’d love some. Thank you.”

He reached back into his pack for the water and collapsible dog bowl, filled it halfway, then set it down for Penny. Next he pulled out the nesting wine glass and the collapsible water cup he carried.

He handed her the wine glass and she assembled it. “Don’t tell me. You were a Boy Scout.”

“Always prepared,” he quipped. That much was true. Sometimes in certain company, it was easier to drink his own “wine” than explain why he wasn’t drinking.

As he filled her glass, she observed, “You’re the first guy I’ve met who drinks kombucha. Are you into the natural health scene?”

He eyed her speculatively. “See, I don’t know you well enough yet to know how to answer that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve lived in California and Oklahoma. If I told you I eat tofu and bean sprouts and you’re a California girl, chances are you’d be impressed. However, an Oklahoma girl possibly would dismiss me as a weak little weirdo.”

Caitlin gave him a fast once-over. Dryly, she said, “You’re obviously not weak or little. I don’t know you well enough to judge the weirdo part. Personally, I won’t go near tofu, but I don’t hold tofu against someone. Do you eat red meat?”

Solemnly, he nodded. “Every chance I get. Do you eat junk food?”

“I order Cheetos by the caseload.”

“That’s it, then. We’re meant to be. Will you have my baby?”

She almost choked on her kombucha. “Weirdo.”

He laughed aloud and they shared a grin, then the conversation settled into more first-date type of questions. She asked where was his favorite place in the world. He asked her who influenced her most in life. She asked him what made him laugh. As always, Josh deflected questions about his childhood and steered the conversation away from family. They talked quite a bit about dogs.

More than an hour passed before they saw any sign of rescue. Josh didn’t mind the delay. He hadn’t flirted with a woman in a long time and he enjoyed himself. She was witty and intelligent and so very fine on the eyes. Caitlin didn’t appear to mind the delay, either. She flirted right back.

He decided to ask her to dinner. He’d take her to one of the fancy restaurants in Mountain Village. He actually had a suit in the trailer because he’d attended a funeral for the elderly mother of the mayor of Eternity Springs the morning before he headed out on this trip.

While he waited for the right moment to pose that question, he continued the small talk by asking, “So, did you always want to be a textile designer and live in New York?”

She hesitated, a shadow crossing her face. “Not exactly. I’ve been living my mother’s dream.”

“That’s an intriguing statement.”

“She was a stay-at-home mom who wanted to be a career woman. She—whoa!” The gondola cabin swayed as a loud thump sounded above them. “What’s that?”

“I think we’re being rescued.”

“Oh.”

She sounded almost as bummed about it as he felt.

A moment later, the cabin door opened and a man loaded down with equipment swung inside. “Everybody okay in here?”

“We’re good,” Josh responded.

“So we have two adults and a dog to go down? Is the dog paralyzed?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve seen those wheelchairs on Animal Planet. Cool contraption. I have a pet harness. Any reason she shouldn’t go down that way?”

“Not that I know of. She’s a calm dog. She should be fine. It is better to send her down alone than with me holding her?”

“Yes sir. It’s safer for her to go alone. She’ll be completely secured.”

“If that’s best, then let’s do it.”

“Good. We’ll send her down first.”

While the rescuer deployed the rope system, Josh devoted his attention to Penny. He wasn’t worried about sending her down by herself. She’d already proved herself to be a scrapper. So far, he hadn’t found anything that phased her. He dug a dog treat out of his backpack and fed it to her while the rescuer strapped her into the pet harness.

Following a short discussion with Josh, the rescue worker attached the three-pound wheelchair to the rope, too.

Caitlin scratched the dachshund behind her ears and made kissy noises. Josh told Penny to behave, sneaked her one more treat, then watched her ride the rope down. The rescue team on the ground greeted the dog enthusiastically.

“Nothing pulls the heartstrings like a crippled dog,” Josh observed, turning toward Caitlin with a grin that quickly faded. The woman had gone green around the gills. “Caitlin? Are you okay?”

“I shouldn’t have watched that,” she said. “I’m not a cowardly person. I ski black diamond trails. I’ve ridden Class V rapids. But I really, really don’t want to leave this cabin by rope.”

The rescuer frowned at her. “Ma’am, you don’t exactly have a choice.”

“I know. I’ll handle it.” She smiled weakly and added, “I’m sorry. I have this … thing.”

“You’ll be perfectly safe. Even if the worst case happened and something failed, there’s a backup safety system.”

Josh eyed the harness and asked, “Do you have a tandem harness?”

“We have one we use for children, but adults—”

“She doesn’t weigh a hundred pounds. We can go down together.”

“One-oh-five,” Caitlin corrected, turning a hopeful gaze toward the rescuer.

Josh didn’t know how any red-blooded man could resist that look, so he wasn’t surprised when the rescuer reached for his radio and spoke to his partners on the ground. A few minutes later after the deploying the rope system, a different harness arrived from the team on the ground. The rescuer secured Josh first, then assisted Caitlin. Her cheeks turned bright red when he told her to wrap her arms and legs around Josh and hold on tight.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

“Says the stranger with his hands on my ass,” she murmured.

He was laughing when he gave the rescuer a thumbs up and they swung out into the air.

Although they descended the eighty feet slowly, it went by much too quickly for Josh. Caitlin kept her eyes closed and her head buried his against his chest, but her mouth ran the entire time.

“I wish I’d had a glass of wine instead of kombucha. Two glasses of wine. One wouldn’t be enough. It’s humiliating to be so afraid. I’m gonna kill my brother—it’s all his fault. I’m shaking like a baby.”

And I’m hard as the granite on Mt. Wilson.

She was soft and warm and she used coconut-scented shampoo. Josh didn’t care for the taste of coconut, but he loved the scent. To distract them both, he said, “So you’re a Denver girl. Someone told me that Mt. Wilson is the mountain depicted on the Coors beer logo. Is that true?”

“What? Oh. The logo. Yes. I think that’s true. The logo depicts the Wilson Group. Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak, Gladstone, and El Diente.”

“The tooth,” Josh translated. “It does look like a tooth, don’t you think?”

Caitlin lifted her head and looked toward the mountains. “How beautiful,” she said, her head swiveling. “Oh wow. What a view this is.”

When the smile slowly spread across her face, a captivated Josh couldn’t help himself.

He kissed her.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily March in The First Kiss of Spring and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

 

With This Christmas Ring By Manda Collins

With This Christmas Ring_Cover

Jacket Summary:

A wallflower determined to fulfill a dying promise, the rogue she jilted years ago, and an orphaned baby are all brought together amidst the magic of Christmas in this new novella from Manda Collins.

Miss Merry Parks makes a deathbed promise to a schoolfriend that her infant daughter will be taken to her absent father. There’s only one problem—to find the baby’s father, she’ll have to consult his cousin, Viscount Wrotham, the man she jilted five years ago. The man she couldn’t forget.

Alex Ponsonby, Viscount Wrotham, is stunned to find Merry Parks—looking more lovely than ever–on his doorstep with an infant in her arms. His shock soon turns to dismay when he learns his own cousin William is the man who abandoned his wife and child. As head of the family he’s duty bound to see right is done. But he can’t let this opportunity pass. He’ll take Merry and the baby to his cousin, but he’ll woo her back in the process.

Merry agrees to travel with Alex and the baby to Wrotham Castle, where the entire Ponsonby family has gathered for Christmas, but her plans to see the baby settled then leave are ruined by a snowstorm. After five years apart, Alex and Merry will spend the week getting reacquainted. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the holiday, or the magic of the season, but there could be something else in the air this Yuletide…A Christmas Reunion. 

 

Author Bio:

Manda Collins

Manda Collins is the author of the Studies in Scandal series, The Lords of Anarchy series, The Ugly Duckling series and the Wicked Widows series as well as several other Regency-set romances. She spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. When she’s not writing, she’s helping other people use books, as an academic librarian.

Buy Link: http://smpromance.com/historical/with-this-christmas-ring/

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The Christmas Cowboy Hero By Donna Grant

The Christmas Cowboy Hero_Cover

Jacket Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant returns to Texas, where a small-town legend just might find the greatest gift of all. . .

’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays—even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything. 

Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped raise since she was a teenager. Keeping them in line is no small task while she’s also working toward her college degree. And now that one of her brothers has been arrested for stealing cattle at the East Ranch, Abby is at her wits’ end. But there is a silver lining: Clayton East. He believes in second chances, and is willing to give one to her brother this Christmas. Letting beautiful Abby—and the inescapable longing in his heart—off the hook, however, is a whole ’nother story. Could it be that the woman of this local hero’s dreams has been back at home all along?

Author Bio:

DGrant1

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her “totally addictive” and “unique and sensual” stories. She’s written more than thirty novels spanning multiple genres of romance including the bestselling Dark King stories, Dark Craving, Night’s Awakening, and Dawn’s Desire. Her acclaimed series, Dark Warriors, feature a thrilling combination of Druids, primeval gods, and immortal Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children, a dog, and four cats in Texas.

Buy Link:

http://smpromance.com/contemporary/the-christmas-cowboy-hero/

Social Links:

Text →  text DRAGONKING to 24587
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FB Group→  http://bit.ly/DGGroupies
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Spotify Playlists→ http://bit.ly/donnagrant_author

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Hope At Christmas By Nancy Naigle

Hope at Christmas_Cover

Jacket Summary:

Sydney Ragsdale is divorced, but her husband is still calling the shots. In an attempt to shake free from his hold, she and her daughter, RayAnne, head for tiny Hopewell, North Carolina to the only asset her ex has no control over – a decaying farmhouse that once belonged to her grandparents. She finds solace at The Book Bea, the bookstore she’d loved as a child during her summer stays.

Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local high school history teacher and baseball coach. Father of a twelve-year- old son, he’s Hopewell, North Carolina’s most sought after bachelor. His young bride abandoned him and his son just before Christmas and has never come back. It has left his son bitter about Christmas which is hard for Mac who loves the magic of the season. He’s been the Santa here in Hopewell since the year Seth was born.  When a catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news, her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that sends Ray Anne running away. As Sydney tries to figure out what her next steps are she discovers all of the answers are right here in Hopewell.

Author Bio:

USA Today bestselling author NANCY NAIGLE whips up small-town love stories with a dash of suspense and a whole lot of heart. Now happily retired, she devotes her time to writing, antiquing, and the occasional spa day with friends. A native of Virginia Beach, she currently calls North Carolina home. Nancy is the author of Christmas Joy.

Buy Link:
http://smpromance.com/contemporary/hope-at- christmas/

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Deck The Halls By Donna Alward

Deck the Halls_Cover

Jacket Summary:

With shades of It’s a Wonderful Life, one man must face his past to find his future this Christmas. In the last year, George's life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he is still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in- arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.

Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother's death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected. With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?
Author Bio:

Donna Alward_Marti Corn Photography

A busy wife and mother of three (two daughters plus the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at- home mom and romance novelist. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her romance career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She is the author of Somebody Like You, Somebody’s Baby, and Someone to Love.

Buy link:
http://smpromance.com/contemporary/deck-the- halls/

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Christmas In Kilts by Terri Brisbain, Lecia Cornwall, Brownwen Evans, Lavinia Kent, May McGoldrick

Christmas in Kilts_Cover

Jacket Summary:

Tis the season to fall in love! These five bestselling authors bring you great tiding of
highlanders and romances this holiday season!

A HIGHLANDER’S HOPE by Terri Brisbin
A village harlot who would never dream she could have a different life meets a Highlander who visits for the holidays and brings with him an offer and hope.

A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS WAGER by Lecia Cornwall
When a snowstorm forces a charming lass hiding a broken heart to take shelter in a castle with three fine Highland lairds just days before Christmas, there’s a game afoot—who will be the first to win a kiss and maybe her heart.

A SCOT FOR CHRISTMAS by Bronwen Evans
She’s ready to embrace her life and future as a spinster, he’s trying to have one last hurrah before he gives into his family’s wishes and proposes marriage to his neighbor, but fate has other ideas when the lady and the Scot meet at a holiday house party in the wilds of Scotland.

LEFTOVER MISTLETOE by Lavinia Kent
What happens when a highlander finds himself stranded, maybe kidnapped, with an English lady around Christmas… maybe the mistletoe will help answer that question.

SWEET HOME HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS by May McGoldrick
An encounter between an English officer and a desperate aunt trying to keep custody of her young niece leads to a little magic during the holidays.

Buy Link:
http://smpromance.com/historical/christmas-in- kilts/

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Christmas At Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

Christmas at Two Love Lane_Cover

Jacket Summary:

The best gift of all is the one you share with someone else. . .From the moment he strode through the iron gate and into the offices of Two Love Lane on a crisp December day, it was obvious that Deacon Banks was something different. He wasn’t a Charleston native, not with that adorable Yankee accent. And unlike the usual client at the elegant matchmaking agency, he had no interest in finding a woman to marry—just a few no-strings dates while he was in town.

Macy Frost takes her professional services very seriously—how could she not, when she’s rumored to be a direct descendant of Cupid? Tech entrepreneur Deacon says he’s just trying to make his social-climbing aunt happy by being seen out and about with a few prominent beauties, but Macy insists she can make her client fall in love…for real. And Deacon can’t help but think she might be right. As charming as the palmetto trees and magnificent harbor may be, it’s the beautiful, breath-of-fresh- air Macy who’s become Deacon’s favorite part of the scenery. But can the hopelessly romantic Southern belle stop trying to fix him up and just let Cupid do his work on her own heart?

Author Bio:

Kieran Kramer

Kieran Kramer, author of the Impossible Bachelors series, was born in Washington, D.C. to an Air Force pilot father and actress/singer mother. She grew up mainly on Johns Island, a rural sea island near Charleston, South Carolina, where she helped build her family’s log home. Having worked for the CIA and as journalist for The Charlotte Observer, Kieran is now a stay-at- home mom. She once won $34,000 on Wheel of Fortune, and also won on Family Feud. She’s been married to her naval officer husband, Chuck, for twenty-one years, and they have three children.

Buy Link:
http://smpromance.com/contemporary/christmas-at- two-love- lane/

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A Season Of You by Emma Douglas

A Season of You_Cover Image

Jacket Summary:

It’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season…Will has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . .

Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas—and forever—is Will?

Author Bio:

Emma Douglas

Emma Douglas would love to live in a world where professional napping was a thing. But until then, she thinks writing books is a pretty awesome alternative. When not writing about imaginary people, she can be found reading, doing something crafty, binge-watching TV, playing her latest song crush on repeat, or singing badly in her car. She lives in Melbourne, Australia in a tiny house stuffed full of books, too many craft supplies and two cats who take up more space than you would expect. Find out more about Emma at http://www.emmadouglasbooks.com.

Buy Link:
http://smpromance.com/contemporary/a-season- of-you/

 

He’s a womanizer. He’s cocky. He’s not exactly a prince. Only he technically is. Meet your new royal obsession in this addictive novel from New York Times bestselling author Tracy Wolff.
Royal Pain
Being rich opens a lot of doors. When you’re rich and royal, those doors lead to a new bedroom every night. I should know. The tabloids call me His Royal Hotness, Prince Kian of Wildemar. Women across the world see me as a naughty fairy tale, an image I’m happy to indulge. As the spare to the heir, I’m the prince with none of the power . . . and all of the perks.

Then my twin brother is kidnapped, and suddenly I’m the one who could be king. The crown chasers start circling—and yet it’s a luscious waitress who catches my eye. With a smart mouth and the curves to back it up, Savannah Breslin is as brazen as I’d expect an American commoner to be.

But Savvy’s not interested in playing Cinderella. As sexy as she is, she’s no stranger to heartbreak. Besides, a nice guy wouldn’t drag her into all the drama that comes along with royalty. Lucky I’m not a nice guy. And, as it turns out, I might not even be her first prince. . . .

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2xyif94

B&N: http://bit.ly/2f1CmRC

iTunes: http://apple.co/2fd3MHX

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2h8AJlK

AUTHOR BIO:

tracy-wolff

Tracy Wolff collects books, English degrees and lipsticks and has been known to forget where—and sometimes who—she is when immersed in a great novel. At six she wrote her first short story—something with a rainbow and a prince—and at seven she forayed into the wonderful world of girls lit with her first Judy Blume novel. By ten she’d read everything in the young adult and classics sections of her local bookstore, so in desperation her mom started her on romance novels. And from the first page of the first book, Tracy knew she’d found her life-long love. Now an English professor at her local community college, she writes romances that run the gamut from contemporary to paranormal to erotic suspense.

And for all of those who want the unedited version:
Tracy Wolff lives with four men, teaches writing to local college students and spends as much time as she can manage immersed in worlds of her own creation. Married to the alpha hero of her dreams for twelve years, she is the mother of three young sons who spend most of their time trying to make her as crazy as possible.
Website: http://www.tracywolffbooks.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TracyWolff

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

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/TracyWolffBooks

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EXCERPT:

“What if I promise to stay in view of the windows the whole time?” I tell them. “I’ll park myself right there in front of that one and you can make sure I’m safe.”

Lucas looks like he wants to argue, but I cut him off before he can even start. “Come on, man. You’ve got to give me something. I like this woman.”

He sighs, but in the end—above the very vocal protests of the very serious Avery—he nods. “In sight the whole time,” he orders and for a moment I feel like a junior high kid on his first date.

But beggars can’t be choosers and I know, better than most, what a disaster it would be if something happened to the spare three months after the heir disappeared. Wildemar would be in absolute chaos. There’s no way I’d put my country through that, girl or no girl.

“I promise. And if I disappear from sight for more than five seconds, you have my permission to come crashing in after me.”

Royal Pain Teaser 4

“I think you’re forgetting,” Niall says with a narrow-eyed look, “we don’t need your permission.”

“Geez. Way to be a killjoy.”

“Yeah, well, someone in this relationship has to be.”

“Aww, Niall.” I slap his ass with my free hand on my way by. “Don’t you know it’s more fun when everyone’s having a good time?”

Lucas snorts and Avery sounds like he’s strangling on his own tongue. I can’t help grinning as I make my way to Savvy’s front door. Maybe it won’t take as long to break in my new bodyguard as I was afraid of.

I can hear music through the open windows, Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” and I can’t help thinking about the way Savvy’s hips looked in her black work pants. Can’t help wondering about what she’s wearing now—and whether or not she’ll let me get another good look at her luscious, heart-shaped ass.

At least she’s home, I tell myself as I knock. While I knew she wasn’t scheduled to work, I was afraid she might be running errands or something.

She’s at the front door in seconds, her big brown eyes wide and inquiring . . . at least until her gaze meets mine. “What are you doing here?” she demands.

“Wow, way to make a guy feel welcome.” I hold the flowers out to her. “These are for you.”

“Thanks, but I’m allergic.” She starts to close the door in my face, but I get a foot wedged in before she can shut it completely.

“Are you seriously allergic?” I ask, still holding out the flowers. What I really want to ask is Are you seriously going to slam the door in my face?

“No.” She studies the blooms for a couple of seconds before snatching them out of my hand. Then she really does close the door and I’m so surprised I don’t do anything to stop her.

Behind me Lucas, Niall and even Avery are full-on laughing now. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only thing keeping them from absolutely annihilating me is the fact that I am still their prince. That somehow only makes it worse.

Gritting my teeth, I ignore them (and try not to remember the good old days when I could have had them banished to the dungeon) as I lift my hand to knock again. But before my knuckles can even meet the wood, the door flies open again and Savvy is standing there, smiling hugely at me.

“I’m just messing with you,” she says as she pulls me inside. “But I have to say, your expression was priceless. Is that the first time a woman’s ever shut the door in your face?”

I think about. “I’m pretty sure it is.”

“I figured. But hey, now you can cross it off your bucket list. Every guy needs to have the experience at least once, don’t you think?”

“I think I was good without it ever happening, actually. Definitely didn’t feel like I was missing anything.”

“Maybe not,” she concedes. But then she grins and it’s so wicked, so wild, that I can feel it all the way to my bones. “You’ve got to admit it was funny, though. God, if you could have seen your face.”

“I’d rather look at yours.” The cheesy line pops out of nowhere and I’m not sure which one of us is more shocked. Shit. What the hell is happening to me? Savvy throws me off balance just by breathing, and I don’t have a clue what I’m supposed to do to stop it.

Royal Pain Teaser 2

Or even if I want to stop it. God knows, every time she opens her mouth—or closes a door in my face or spills a glass of champagne on me—it only makes me hotter. Only makes me want her more. There’s something about how she’s always doing the unexpected, always surprising me, always challenging me, that turns me on in a big fucking way.

The little white shorts and tiny red camisole don’t hurt, either.

And I know I’m not the only one, know the heat isn’t only on my side. I’ve been with enough women in my life to know when one’s attracted to me, and Savvy is, even if she doesn’t want to be.

Half of me wants to push on that a little bit, wants to see where it’ll take me if I get in her space right now. But the other half doesn’t want to risk it, not yet. Not with this woman who is a lot of things, but definitely not predictable.

Besides, I’m pretty sure my time allotment is reaching its upper limits, and I don’t doubt that Avery will come crashing through the front door in about thirty seconds if I don’t get where he can see me.

“Do you want some lemonade?” Savvy asks as she starts walking toward the kitchen.

“I’d love some. But do you mind if I hang out here while you get it?” I take a few steps to the left, making sure to line myself up directly in front of the window.

She turns to me, eyebrows raised, and I figure I might as well own up to the problem. “My babysitters like to keep an eye on me at all times,” I tell her as I point out the window.

She glances from me to where Niall, Lucas and Avery are standing on the sidewalk in their suits, eyes trained on me—and her.

I expect her to be a little annoyed—most women who aren’t crown chasers usually are—but Savvy just laughs and waves. “I’ll pour five glasses of lemonade,” she tosses over her shoulder as she makes her way to the kitchen. “Get comfortable and I’ll be right back.”

From another woman, the invitation to get comfortable would mean she’s down to fuck, but I’m pretty sure Savvy just wants me to take a seat. More’s the pity.

Description

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cathryn Fox comes the first in the hot new Blue Bay Crew series that follows the sexy, blue collar Owens men who take over their family’s construction business in the small town of Blue Bay, CT.

Summer Wheeler is on the run. Hiding from the men who killed her father, Summer is on her way to her childhood cottage in Blue Bay when she runs into Sean Owens, the forbidden bad boy from her past. After giving him a fake name, she gives in to one steamy night with him, never expecting to see him again.

Sean isn’t sure why Summer is pretending to be someone she’s not, but he’ll play her game if that means he can indulge in one of his oldest fantasies – a night with Summer. He’s shocked to see her when he returns to Blue Bay, and even more surprised when Summer offers him a job renovating her old family cottage. Hot workdays turn into hotter nights, but when Summer’s secret catches up with her, she’ll have to decide if she can trust Sean with her heart—and her life.

Demolished nails the perfect combination of emotion, scorching intensity, and a touch of suspense that will draw readers to this fantastic new series!

Fox_Demolished

DEMOLISHED by Cathryn Fox

SMP Swerve

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN: 9781250152954; Price: $3.99

Author Bio

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cathryn Fox is a wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend. She loves dogs, sunny weather, anything chocolate (she never says no to a brownie), pizza, and red wine. Cathryn has two teenagers who keep her busy and a husband who is convinced he can turn her into a mixed martial arts fan. When not writing, Cathryn can be found laughing over lunch with friends, hanging out with her kids, or watching a big action flick with her husband.

Author Links

Website: www.cathrynfox.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writercatfox

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071743C81

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/demolished-cathryn-fox/1126437549

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781250152954

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/demolished-1

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=pK0kDwAAQBAJ

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Excerpt: 

Summer Wheeler.

All grown up.

I can hardly believe I’m walking out of a Dick’s Inn and Diner—and hopefully into one of its rooms—with sweet Summer Wheeler, the girl I’ve always crushed on but couldn’t do anything about. Christ, back in the day two years might as well have been a chasm, but today, not so much.

Jesus, she’s gorgeous. Has lush curves that every guy’s dreams are made of. Her once blond hair is now as dark as the night sky, rich, luxurious, citrus scented, and damned if I can’t wait to see those curls spill across my pillow. She still has that sprinkling of freckles on her nose that make her look young and adorable, and those lips . . . Goddammit, never have I seen lips that were so plush, so damn kissable. A bolt of lust hits like a sucker punch, and my body trembles, anxious to taste her heat, to discover what she’s wearing under her professional clothes. Fuck, it’s all I can do not to back her up against that big truck of hers and take her right outside in the parking lot.

Yeah, sure, I’m supposed to be getting my shit together, turning over a new leaf, becoming a productive, upstanding citizen of Blue Bay and every other stupid fucking idiomatic expression that meant I needed to do better for my family. But I’m not in Blue Bay yet, headed back to a place where everyone knows my name—and the cops don’t like me—to take over my dad’s construction business. Yup, I get it, it’s time to step into the role I’d been groomed for since I could hold a hammer, and spend less time on the road satisfying my own selfish urges. When I get home I’ll be on the straight and narrow: no women, no distractions, and no trouble with the law. Until then, however . . .

I put my hand on the small of her back and the heat that fires between us is almost catastrophic. Jesus. Who’d have thought that after all these years there’d still be such a powerful pull? I shake my head. Chemistry like this doesn’t come along every day.

The warm night air falls over us as I push the lounge door open and guide her into the night. I pause and glance up and down the long strip of black street. I’d been in this Podunk town in the past, circling through as I went from one sponsored motocross event to the next. Hell, all I need is a place to lay my head, but seriously what is Summer really doing in a shit place like this? Designer clothes. Expensive truck. She is so out of her element. Where exactly is she headed, and who is this friend she’s visiting? More importantly, why is she pretending she doesn’t know me?

I’m pretty good at reading people and I spotted the recognition flashing in her whiskey-colored eyes the second I met them. Then again, maybe she doesn’t want to acknowledge me because . . . well . . . because for her, this is just a quick hot affair as she passes through town. Fine, if she wants to play it that way, I can, too. No names. Anonymous sex. This isn’t my first rodeo and all cards on the table, it’s for the best. I don’t have time for more.

“This town doesn’t have much, but there’s a pizza joint two blocks down. It’s decent.” Her dark lashes flash over darker eyes, meeting my gaze straight on. She doesn’t even look like she’s breathing, which gives me the distinct impression that this isn’t something she does on a regular basis. I brush my knuckles along her arm, and she shivers. “Unless you’d prefer to just—”

“I’d prefer,” she whispers.

My cock throbs. Apparently little Sean prefers that, too. I pull a key card from my back pocket, and the letter stuffed inside nearly falls out. I shove it back, not wanting to think about the stabbing pain behind each written—and unwritten—word. Later I’ll wallow in my own misery, kick my stupid fucked-up ass, and condemn myself for my selfish ways. Christ knows there’ll be plenty of time for that in the coming months.

“My room or yours?” I ask.

She grins at the cheesy comment, the tension easing a bit from her body. “Yours.”

 

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