Coming February 20th
Amnesia, a Psychological Thriller
Dr. Jaxon Ray has only ever wanted one woman. He's loved her from afar since their Junior School days, worshiping the ground she walks on, intent on having her for his own when the time is right.
Amber St. George isn't interested in the trappings that come with her family's wealth. A simple life as a teacher at an underprivileged school, a comfortable home with her lover, and good friends; that's all she desires.
Once Jax decides it's time to take what's his, Amber finds herself at the mercy of a madman. A sociopath with access to the latest neurological advancements, who possesses the ability to use her own mind to keep her captive. Programmed to forget. Reprogrammed as her captor's perfect partner. Amber's left with medically-induced amnesia and no idea that she's in for the fight of her life.
When the people who know you're missing aren't on your side, and the love of your life has been led to believe that you've turned your back on him, is rescue possible? When you can't remember the real you, is escape even on the cards?
DISCLAIMER: This story contains triggering content and is not suitable for all readers, especially those under eighteen years of age.
On shaking legs, I make my way down the ornate staircase. Ever since I woke up in Jax’s bedroom, my mind has been racing a million miles an hour. What am I doing here?
A hell that I swore I’d never return to.
I press my palm against my forehead and squint my eyes, trying to get some answers out of my almost empty head. I know enough to recognise who I am and my current location. Apart from that, my mind feels like a dense cloud of nothingness.
As I descend further, voices become clearer. My father. My mother. Jax. His father. Sebastian. Oh my God, Seb is here. Without thought, or care for my protesting body, I run down the remainder of the steps and straight into Seb’s arms. His familiar embrace engulfs me, my entire weight falling against him as relief that I have one ally in this room hits me.
“Amby Pamby,” Seb rests his chin on the top of my head as he addresses me by the ridiculous nickname he gave me when we were kids. “It’s damn good to see you again.”
“Same.” The word leaves me in a rush, confusion wrapping around my answer with an urgent intensity.
Seb grabs me by the top of my arms and pulls me from his chest. He looks down at me with serious eyes that reside in a face that’s identical to his big brother’s, except for one glaring difference. His face is full of warmth and kindness, something that can never be said for Jax.
“What’s wrong?” He lets go of me with one hand and gestures around the room. “Apart from the obvious. What the hell are you doing here? You made your feelings about my brother very clear the day you disappeared from our lives like you’d never existed.”
My shoulders nearly touch my ear lobes when I shrug. “I don’t know. My memory’s gone.”
Jax clears his throat, stepping into my space and laying an arm across my shoulders. With obvious intent, he steers me away from Seb until I standing between him and my father. I send a searching look in Dad’s direction. He surprises me by meeting my silent questioning with a smile and an approving nod. I might not be able to remember much, but I know that this isn’t usual.
As I open my mouth to greet my parents, the last sentence that Seb said sinks in. I whirl around to face him. “What do you mean I disappeared from your lives?”
Jax cuts in before his brother can speak. “He’s talking out of his ass, like usual.”
He takes hold of my upper arms with a gentleness that isn’t mirrored in his tense expression. “Baby, you know what Seb’s like. He’s been enjoying himself immensely, using your amnesia to take liberties with our history.”
His fingers tighten around my biceps and he pulls me into his chest, tucking me under his chin and wrapping strong arms around me. “Why, just yesterday, he had you believing that you had run away from me to study abroad.”
The chuckle that rumbles in his chest sounds sincere and nobody in the foyer speaks up to deny what Jax has said. However, I can feel increased tension pervading the atmosphere when he addresses his brother. “Isn’t that right, Seb? You’re toying with my poor fiancée.”
I attempt to turn in Jax’s arms so I can see Seb’s face. The arms that hold me turn from strong and comforting to constricting in an instant. I’m effectively pinned against my fiancé’s chest, and left to rely on my hearing to determine the sincerity in his brother’s answer.
“Yeah.” A dry laugh fills the foyer. “I’m just messing with you.”
Warm breath blows over the top of my head as Jax lets out the breath that I realise he was holding. He releases his hold on me, just before Seb pats my shoulder. I turn to my childhood friend—and apparent brother-in-law-to-be—and poke him in the stomach.
“You’re so mean.” My tone is deliberately light, although my gaze is serious when I meet his eyes. “Maybe, you can tell me the truth instead? Fill in the blanks.”
Seb’s eyes widen. He looks at the floor and shuffles his feet. “I don’t know if that’s possible. Memories are subjective. Depends who’s telling the story, doesn’t it?”
He doesn’t wait for my answer to his cryptic response. Pushing past Jax, he throws an arm over my shoulder and stokes my hair before laying a kiss on the top of my head. Then, he glares at his big brother and strides toward the front door. As the butler closes it behind his retreating figure, a sense of familiarity tugs at the edges of my mind and a recollection breaks free.
I’m lying on my bathroom floor, naked and crying, when a teenage Seb pushes the door open and rushes into the vast, tiled room. He drops to his knees next to me, pulling an extra towel from the rail above us, and draping it over my shoulders. With a strength that he shouldn’t possess at his young age, he picks me up and sits me in his lap.
“I hate him.”
A shaky hand strokes the back of my head, fingers tangling lightly in my knotted hair, and he whispers, “I know, Amby Pamby. He’s evil. But, I don’t know how to stop him. Maybe if you try to forget what he’s done, you won’t feel so bad. Grandpa always says that memories are subjective because it depends on who’s telling the story. I guess that means that we can get rid of the bad ones if we try hard enough to forget. After all, our life is our story.”
The words from my memory are so similar to the one’s that Seb just said, that a sense of déjà vu grips me, and I slap my hand over my mouth. Jax returns his attention to me. I stare at him through disbelieving eyes and try to really take him in.
On the surface, he looks stressed and concerned. Like a worried fiancé should. Except, the anxiety doesn’t seem to come from true concern, it’s an act. As if, he knows it’s expected of him, so he’s providing it.
Seb’s strange departure—and the memory it shook free—has a million questions running around my head, rattling against my skull, demanding answers. Self-preservation screams louder than my confusion. It drowns out my need for an explanation; instead, cautioning me that the people in this room aren’t trustworthy.
With this warning at the forefront of my thoughts, I let Jax take my arm in his, and lead me to toward the formal lounge. My acquiescence has the tension in his athletic frame lessening with each step until the smile that I send his way has it disappearing completely. We settle next to each other onto one of the ornate love seats. My parents sit directly across from us, and Henry, Jax and Seb’s dad, sits on the single seat next to me. A hushed reverence fills the room, making me forget my immediate problems. It feels like someone has died.
“Amber-Rose,” my father addresses me by my full name. It sends shivers down my spine, the prickling sensation growing into apprehension. Jax takes my closest hand and places it in his lap. He runs warm fingers across the pulse point in my wrist. It calms me; removing my doubts about him, and replacing them with a sensual lick of desire that has me trying my hardest not to press my thighs together and squirm in front of my parents.
If it didn’t feel so delicious, it would be humiliating in its intensity.
A smirk lifts the corner of Jax’s full lips, signalling that he knows what he’s doing to me. I try to tug my hand from his grip, stopping when his tightened hold tells me that he’s not going to let me go. A devious glint can be seen in his expression, moments before he increases the pace of his soft ministrations. The answering ripple of desire that runs through my body almost drowns out the words that leave my father’s mouth next.
“After we attend Charles’ funeral this afternoon, we need to sit down and hammer out the fine details of your prenup. You’ve had enough time to get on board with this. It’s time to seal the deal and join our families.” My mind sticks on the first part of Dad’s declaration, not comprehending the enormity of his final sentence.
Charles’ funeral? The only Charles I can remember is my Uncle Charlie. My dad’s younger brother. I look at my mother for the first time, noticing the strain around her eyes and the tight line of her lips. She doesn’t even attempt to smile at me, the sorrow that’s painted on her face all the confirmation I need.
“Uncle Charlie’s dead?”
“Yesterday,” Jax answers without pausing. “He was shot in front of you. Don’t you remember?”
Grief is causing my heart to pound in my ears. It’s almost deafening; yet, it doesn’t drown out the mocking in Jax’s voice. My shoulder hits his when I swing around to face him. The devious desire that filled his expression moments ago has been replaced by a challenge.
Why he’s looking at me like that, I don’t know. But, it’s not right.
My eyesight fades, darkness taking hold as what Jax said circles my addled brain.
He was shot in front of you.
Don’t you remember?
Voices fill my head, competing for dominance with the wild rush of remembrance that’s flooding me.
Jax. Uncle Charlie. Xander.
He’s my fiancé. My real fiancé.
No, he’s not. Jax is.
No Xander, my fiancé was there.
To save me.
There’s an argument. Uncle Charlie yells at Jax.
A loud bang. Jax shoots my uncle in front of me.
Don’t you remember?
“I remember.” The words leave my lips before I can stop them. My ever-present self-preservation stops me from verbalising exactly what it is that I remember. Jax nods, taking my hands in his, squeezing them painfully.
“That’s good, baby.” He murmurs this against my hair, then stands and lifts me into the air. “That means you know what I’m capable of and you’re scared. I like that. Except if you remember, then you know what I did to you, and that’s not good.”
My body sways when Jax starts walking. My hands push against his chest in a ridiculous protest. I don’t have any allies here so escape is futile. My body recognises this, a leaden feeling of surrender overcoming me. The fight leaves me. My head dropping against Jax’s shoulder.
“Amber needs another dose,” he announces to the room just before we cross the threshold into the foyer and head for the stairs.
“Whatever it takes to keep her under control,” my dad answers.
“The finishing line is too close for this fall apart now.” Henry sounds stern when he comments. “If it does, we’re all ruined.”
His strange choice of words piques my curiosity and I try to force my mind to provide the answer to my newest question.
How do I make this fall apart so I can ruin them all?
Wife to a Harley riding, boating and fishing, four-wheel driving, quintessential Aussie bloke.
Mum to two crazy, adorable, and creative kids.
Crohn's Disease sufferer and awareness campaigner.
She’s also an avid tea drinker, a connoisseur of 80's/90's rock music, and is known for lacing everything she says with sarcasm and inappropriate innuendo.
Formerly working in finance, she was forced to reevaluate her plans for her life when severe Crohn's Disease brought her corporate career to a screeching halt. Restarting her childhood hobbies of writing and reading to alleviate the monotony of being sick and housebound, she found her calling and is enjoying life to the max. A typical day is spent in the "real" world where she hangs out with her awesome family and "book" world where she gets to chill with her fictional characters.
Kylie writes the books she wants to read. A lover of strong men who aren't perfect and aren't afraid to admit it, straight talking women who embrace their vulnerabilities, and real life gritty stories, she hopes these themes shine through her writing. An avid reader of all genres, Kylie hopes to release books that keep the reader on the edge of their seat- be it with suspense, heart-stopping thrills, or laughter.
I remained still, my arms wrapped around my knees, my jean shorts digging into the space where thigh met crotch as my red hair was whipped around my face by a passing breeze. I breathed in and out, counting backward from a hundred. Taking deep breaths and closing my eyes, I allowed positive energy to burn through me and eat away at the bad.
Giggles wafted from the benches below, near the fountain, and then drifted off as the other girls made their way out of the sports complex. Reality returned. It was present day, not back then when I was helpless.
Today I was in control.
Only after the others left—not that it mattered, I was invisible to them—did the coach nod in my direction and motion for me to come down.
That simple gesture felt like something more. Like I meant more to him than was appropriate for a coach and his student. His head tilted to the side for a beat too long, his gaze rested on me more thoughtfully than it had on the others, and he squinted at me in a way I liked very, very much.
“Think you can keep up with them?” He jerked his head back toward the gymnasium, a smirk twisting his mouth.
I zoned in on his lips and became a sailboat slicing through the sea, jumping into the blue ocean that was his eyes as I made my way down the stairs.
That’s your coach, Juliette. Let it be.
“I play singles, so I’m pretty sure I’ll hold my own with or without them,” I said from the bottom step, allowing my natural confidence to make an appearance. Hello, ego, my good friend.
“Yeah, I know. I meant, think you can hold your own with that crowd? In general?”
“I’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to it,” I lied. I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with them. Not today. Not tomorrow.
Though, now that I was in the presence of Coach King—up close and personal, outside, shouting, coaching, wearing shorts—I was more excited than before. His forearms fascinated me all over again. They rippled with strength when he moved, making me wonder what they would look like braced over me.
I pulled my hair back into a messy knot at my nape, allowing the breeze to hit my heated neck. “Thanks for asking me to come and watch.”
It’s reckless and hot until one of them taps out.
Break Point by Rachel Blaufeld releases January 9th!!!
Pre-order EXCLUSIVELY on iBooks: http://apple.co/2feY5UQ
Add to your TBR:http://bit.ly/2fkvKPD
Juliette Smith, star tennis player, is starting over at a new university. Traumatized by hazing at her last school, all she wants is to attend classes, win tennis matches, and be left the hell alone.
She should have known her coach, Drew King, would be a problem from the moment he flexed his sexy-as-hell forearms.
What happens when you mix a pissed-off woman with a bunch of snooty teammates and a hot coach?
A heated match, complete with team politics and a forbidden game of singles with the coach.
It’s reckless and hot until one of them taps out.
Unable to admit she may be better off as a double, Jules is convinced she needs to play the game of life alone. Then life throws her a lob and she runs smack into her past.
Coach King is back, and he wants to take control of the game. But she’s not certain she wants his advice when it comes to the life she’s built.
The power struggle is on, but this time off the court.
The Boys of Verite make an appearance in Break Point.
Grab this stand alone sports romance HERE!
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1SGDN61
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1O9CKGj
iBooks: http://apple.co/2geWr9R (CURRENTLY FREE)
MEET THE AUTHOR
Rachel Blaufeld is a bestselling author of Romantic Suspense, New Adult, Coming-of-Age Romance, and Sports Romance. A recent poll of her readers described her as insightful, generous, articulate, and spunky. Originally a social worker, Rachel creates broken yet redeeming characters. She’s been known to turn up the angst like cranking up the heat in the dead of winter.
A devout coffee drinker and doughnut eater, Rachel spends way too many hours in local coffee shops, downing the aforementioned goodies while she plots her ideas. Her tales may all come with a side of angst and naughtiness, but end as lusciously as her treats.
When she isn’t writing, she can be found courtside, tweeting about hoops as her son plays, or walking around the house wearing earplugs while her other son, the drummer, bangs away.
To connect with Rachel, she’s most active in her private reading group, The Electric Readers, where she shares insider information and intimate conversation with her readers.
The Electric Readers
As well as:
Website ♥ Twitter ♥ Facebook ♥ Newsletter
To most people, princes, princesses, counts and dukes are found only in the pages of the most famous of fairytales. Crowns, priceless jewels and gilded thrones belong only in childhood dreams.
But for some, these frivolous fancies are truth.
For some, they are real life.
On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, people have always treated me as someone special. All because of my ancestral name and legacy. All because of a connection I share to our home country’s most important family of all.
I am Caresa Acardi, the Duchessa di Parma. A blue blood of Italy. I was born to marry well. And now the marriage date is set.
I am to marry into House Savona. The family that would have been the royals had Italy not abolished the monarchy in 1946. But to the aristocrats of my home, the abolition means nothing at all.
The Savonas still hold power where it counts most.
In our tight-knit world of money, status and masked balls, they are everything and more.
And I am soon to become one of them.
I am soon to become Prince Zeno Savona’s wife…
… or at least I was, until I met Achille.
And everything changed.
I closed my eyes as the music pounded through my body. The air was sticky from the mass of bodies on the dance floor. My body swayed to the beat, my feet ached from the five-inch Louboutin heels I was wearing, and my skin was flushed from the copious amounts of 1990 Dom Pérignon I had consumed.
“Caresa!” My name split through the harsh sound of drums and synthesized piano notes. I rolled my eyes open and looked across our cornered-off section of the club at my best friend.
Marietta was sitting on an oversized plush couch, waving a new bottle of champagne in my direction. Laughing, I followed my throbbing feet to where she sat and slumped down beside her. In seconds, a champagne flute was in my hand and the bubbly was flowing once more.
Marietta sat forward, swishing her long blond hair over her shoulder. She raised her glass as though she was going to make a toast. But instead, her bottom lip jutted out into a pathetic pout.
I tipped my head to one side, silently asking her what was wrong.
“I was going to make a toast to the Duchessa di Parma, my very best friend,” she shouted over a new but similar-to-the-last song. “To my best friend leaving me here in dull old New York to go marry a real-life godforsaken prince in Italy.” Marietta sighed and her shoulders slumped. “But I don’t want to. Because that would mean this night is almost over, and tomorrow I lose my partner-in-crime.” A sudden sadness bloomed in my chest at her words. Then, when her eyes filled with tears, those words became a punch in the gut.
Placing my glass on the table before us, I moved forward and put my hand on her arm. “Marietta, don’t get upset.”
She put down her own drink and grabbed my hand. “I just don’t want to lose you.”
My stomach rolled. “I know,” I said. Then I didn’t say anything else, but I could see Marietta register my unspoken words. I don’t want to go either.
Keeping my hand in hers, I slumped back against the couch and let my eyes drift over the busy dance floor below. I watched the throng of Upper East Siders losing themselves in the music. A pang of fear swept through me.
This really would be my last night in New York. In the morning, I would fly to Italy, where I would live from that day on.
Marietta shuffled closer to me and cast me a watery smile. “How are you doing?” she asked as she squeezed my hand.
“I’m okay. Just nervous, I guess.”
Marietta nodded her head. “And your papa?”
I sighed. “Ecstatic. Overjoyed that his precious daughter will be marrying the prince he chose for me as a child.” I felt a pang of guilt for speaking about him so negatively. “That was uncalled for,” I said. “You know as well as I do, Baroness von Todesco” —Marietta scowled playfully at my use of her title— “that we don’t really get a choice in whom we marry.” I leaned forward and picked up my champagne. I took a long swig, enjoying the feel of the bubbles traveling down my throat. I handed Marietta her glass and raised mine in the air. “To arranged marriages and duty over love!”
Marietta laughed and clinked her glass with mine. “But seriously,” Marietta said, “are you okay? Truly okay?”
I shrugged. “I honestly don’t know how to answer that, Etta. Am I okay with the arranged marriage? I suppose so. Am I okay with moving to Italy permanently? Not really. I love Italy—it’s my home, I was born there—but it’s not New York. Everyone I know is here in America.” Marietta’s eyes softened with sympathy. “And am I okay with marrying Zeno Savona? The infamous Playboy Prince of Toscana?” I took a deep breath. “I have no idea. I guess that will become apparent in the next three months.”
“In your ‘courting period,’” Marietta said using air quotes, and snorted with laughter. “What a joke. What twenty-three-year-old woman and twenty-six-year-old man need a courting period?”
I laughed at her sassy tone, but then soberly replied, “Ones who don’t know each other at all? Ones who have to see if they can stand each other’s company before sealing their marital fates forever?”
Marietta shuffled closer. “You know as well as I do that you could hate this so-called prince, detest everything he is—and he you—and I’d still be your maid of honor at your wedding on New Year’s Eve.” She sputtered a laugh. “The very fact that the date has been set says it all. This marriage is happening.” Marietta held up her glass, got to her feet and, with arms spread wide, shouted, “Welcome to the life of the European blue bloods of the Upper East Side! Drowning in Prada and Gucci, dripping in diamonds, but having no free will to call our own!”
I laughed, pulling her back down. She broke into hysterics as her ass hit the couch, spilling champagne all over the expensive upholstery. But our laughter waned as the house lights came on one by one. The last of the dance music drifted into silence, and the rich patrons of Manhattan’s most exclusive nightclub began making their way to their limos and town cars. It was three o’clock in the morning, and I had six hours left in the city I loved beyond measure.
Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.
After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.
Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.
Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.
When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.
At a boxing gym in Chicago, Mary Monahan accidentally knocks out the most handsome man she’s ever met. After she wakes him up with a few slaps and some smelling salts, the very first thing he does is ask her out for ribs and beer. His name is Jimmy. He looks like a Gillette model. And he’s just too hunky to resist.
Jimmy “The Falcon” Falconi is mystified that Mary has absolutely no idea who he is. Mystified and refreshed. He is, after all, not your everyday NFL quarterback. He shops at Costco, has a soft spot for Pinterest, and is in the midst of an epic losing streak.
Jimmy falls for Mary fast and hard, the way he does everything—balls out and like it’s fourth and long. And he realizes he’s finally met his match. That stamina he’s so proud of? Doesn’t stand a chance against her Kegels.
But what they don’t know is she’s also his new physical therapist, recently hired by the Bears to work on his rotator cuff…and groin injury. If she can’t help him, he’ll be traded faster than they can say “offensive penetration.”
In spite of the thousands of internet memes featuring Jimmy’s face with captions like: “HEY GIRL, WANT TO TOUCH MY BALLS?” Mary finds herself falling for him and his unrelenting desire to make her his.
Until a toddler shows up at Jimmy’s door.
And throws their lives into total chaos.
To the reader: Contents includes love, sweetness, naughtiness, honey, champagne, and an HEA. Safe.
Joe Namath said it: “When you win, nothing hurts.”
And I might be flat on my back with a headache like I just sucked down a smoothie too fast, but I’m fucking winning. Because look at that goddamned face. Fucking gorgeous. Freckles, those lips. Everything. Her body is hella hot, but that face. That face seals it.
Also, those tits. I groan and pretend I’m rubbing my temples. Actually, I’m looking at the curve of her stomach—the crease across her belly button. The edge of the tattoo just wraps around her side, accentuating the line of her waist. God, yes.
“I’m so sorry,” she says. “I’m not allowed to fight my own weight class anymore, but I thought you’d be able to take it.”
“Oh no.” She puts her hand to her mouth. “I mean…sorry. Just…I’m really sorry.”
I know she’s lying. She’s probably left a trail of unconscious guys from here to wherever she came from, but I’m not proud. I’ll be the next man in line. I sure fucking will. “What do you weigh? A buck fifty? And you knocked me out like that?”
“One fifty-seven!” The way she says it, she’s proud of it, and I love that. A buck fifty-seven. Sold.
“You can hit.” I explore the damage with my tongue. The hot, metallic taste of blood fills my mouth, and my saliva stings the cut on my bottom lip.
I glance around. Nobody’s paying any attention at all. Further proof that she’s done this before.
“Sorry. I wasn’t even thinking. Let me…” She dabs at my lip with a washcloth. I can smell the sweat, the salt, the heat. The sharp lingering smell of ammonia in my nostrils. A drop of her sweat runs down off her neck and lands on my chest with a plop.
She takes my face in her wrapped hands, looking from eye to eye. “I don’t think you’re concussed.”
Okay, so I know I’m not—I don’t know much, but I do know a concussion when I get one—but I’m going to go along with it because I need her to stay exactly like that. “Might be.” I follow her eyes with mine. “Head trauma can be very complicated.”
Slowly, a smile creeps up across her face, and a little dimple crimps her cheek. But she bites it back. “Your pupils look normal.”
Coconut. I can smell it. Definitely coconut. Good thing I’m already flat on my back. She holds up one finger and moves it to and fro in front of my eyes. I don’t follow it. I leave my eyes right there, on this fleck of brown in her left iris.
“If you can’t follow my finger, I think we have to call 911…”
I sniff, the ammonia still stinging my sinuses. “If I let you knock me out again, can I get you to keep doing this all night?”
She pouts and makes a fist of her wrapped hand. “Let me? Let me knock you out?”
“Oh yeah. Let you.”
She cocks her head, her eyes saying, Bullshit!
“Fuck, yes, I took the fall. Sometimes you got to throw the fight to get what you want.”
She lets go of my face, and my head lands in her lap. The curve of her thigh supports my neck. She gives me that look again, the one she gave me right before the lights went out. “Yeah? And what do you want?”
“I think you know.” I let my stare fall to her cleavage.
She presses her lips together, like she cannot believe I just said that.
Booyah. Now who’s on her heels?
I rip off the Velcro cuff from the glove on my right hand and shake it off. “I’m Jimmy.” I hold out my hand to her. She shakes it softly, and then her grip tightens and she pulls me up to a sitting position in the middle of the ring. She keeps her right hand knitted in mine, thumb over thumb, and gently supports my back with the other. “I really am sorry about that.”
“I’ll deny it forever.”
“There were witnesses.” She glances over her shoulder at the assorted groups of guys around the gym.
“Are you familiar with the down-low?”
“They took pictures. For the Knockout Wall,” she says, grinning.
Fuckers. Great. Just great. JIMMY FALCONI KNOCKED OUT BY GIRL IN PINK GLOVES. I can see it on Bleacherreport.com right now. “Polaroids burn super easy.”
Now she’s really smiling, and fuck is she pretty. Like, drop-dead gorgeous. The knockout with the knockout punch. “I’m glad you’re okay. If you never woke up, that would have been a lot of paperwork.”
I grunt-laugh, which also hurts because of that one-two-three combination to my spleen earlier. I grab my stomach and flop back down on the mat.
“Let me die with dignity.”
She gets stern. “Ten-four. We’ll remember you fondly.” And then she salutes me.
All this and she’s funny?
Alright, Falconi. Time to head for the end zone. Time to bring the Super Bowl ring home. “Fine. I’ll give you the win if you let me buy you dinner.”
Her eyes move over my face. “Dinner? There’s a blizzard coming. Also, you might need a stitch for that lip.”
“No way. I’ll get some superglue. Fuck the blizzard. Come out with me.”
I study that hollow at the base of her throat and then meet her eyes to hold her stare. “Dinner and drinks.”
She stands and offers me a wrapped hand. Toe to toe, she sizes me up like we’re locked in some full-body arm-wrestling match. Christ.
But she still hasn’t said, “Don’t you play for the…” like everybody else always does. So I ask, “You like any other sports besides knocking totally unsuspecting strangers unconscious? Like maybe…football?”
I hold the ropes open for her and she steps through. Goddamn, those hips. That skin. The curve of her waist. The petals of the lace that barely touch her spine. And my mind kind of unravels in imagining where that tattoo goes and how sexy that ink must be on the skin of her ass.
“Nope. Is that a problem?” she asks. “That I wouldn’t know my touchdown from my…whatever? Going to put a cramp in our conversation, champ?”
“No problem at all.” Doesn’t matter if she knows me or not, because pretty quick here, I’m planning to have her saying my name. Over and over again.
Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
After We Fall by Melanie Harlow Publication Date: November 28th, 2016 Genre: Contemporary Romance
Jack Valentini isn’t my type.
Sexy, brooding cowboys are fine in the movies, but in real life, I prefer a suit and tie. Proper manners. A close shave.
Jack might be gorgeous, but he’s also scruffy, rugged, and rude. He wants nothing to do with a “rich city girl” like me, and he isn’t afraid to say so.
But I’ve got a PR job to do for his family’s farm, so he’s stuck with me for ten days, and I’m stuck with him. His glares. His moods. His tight jeans. His muscles.
His huge, hard muscles.
Pretty soon there’s a whole different kind of tension between us, the kind that has me misbehaving in barns, trees, and pickup trucks. I’ve never done anything so out of character—but it feels too good to stop.
And the more I learn about the grieving ex-Army sergeant, the better I understand him. Losing his wife three years ago left him broken and bitter and blaming himself. He doesn’t think he deserves a second chance at happiness.
But he’s wrong.
I don’t need to be his first love. If only he’d let me be his last.
“Second chances are not given to make things right, but are given to prove that we could be even better after we fall.” —Unknown
“Wow,” she said, shutting the screen door behind her. “That was close. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome.” I crossed my arms, wishing I’d thought to grab a shirt. “Want to tell me what you were doing out there?”
Her cheeks colored. “Um, I was taking a run.”
“Up a tree?”
She laughed nervously. “No. Well, I didn’t start out in a tree. That happened later.”
I cocked my head, unable to resist giving her a hard time. Not so sure of yourself now, are you, Barbie? “Oh yeah?”
“Yes. See, I left the cottage I’m renting without using the bathroom by mistake,” she began, twisting her fingers together, “and I was planning on running a loop around the farm, but it’s bigger than I thought.”
“Ah. So you were looking for a bathroom in the woods?”
“Well, yes.” She swallowed. “Sort of. But then I heard a splash and saw you…” Her cheeks were practically purple now.
I played dumb. “Saw me what?”
“Saw you naked, OK?” she blurted, throwing her hands up. “I admit it—I saw you naked.”
I had no hangups about nudity, but I was damn serious about my privacy, and about people sneaking up on me. But her embarrassment was funny. The two times I’d seen her before, she’d been so polished and poised. It felt good to put her in her place a little. “So you climbed a tree for a better view, is that it?”
Bowing her head, she dragged the toe of one shoe across the wood planks of the porch floor. “Something like that.” Then she looked up at me. Took a breath. “I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I was—I mean, I got—I couldn’t—” She sighed, briefly closing her eyes. “I have no excuse. Will you accept my apology?”
She was prettier without makeup, I decided. And the way she wore her hair off her face emphasized the wideness of her eyes, the angle of her cheekbones, the arch of her brows. Her lips didn’t need all that glossy crap, either. They were a perfect rosy pink, and I wondered if they’d feel as soft as they looked.
Fuck. I hadn’t kissed anyone in three years.
Clearing my throat, I took a step back. “Yeah. It’s fine.” Now get out of here.
She didn’t move. “So you’re not going to fire me?”
“I never hired you.”
“I know. But I really want this job. I think I can help, Jack. I know I can.”
“Suit yourself. I want nothing to do with it.” My name on her lips was trouble. Needing some distance from her, I started walking toward the dock to get my shoes and socks, but she followed me. God, she was a pest. It reminded me of the way Steph used to tag along after the boys when we were kids, wanting to get in our games.
“Are you going to be like this the entire time I’m here?” she asked.
“Moody and uncooperative?”
“Why? Do you hate me that much?”
“I don’t hate anybody. I just don’t see why we should pay some city girl who’s never set foot on a farm to advise us.” We reached the dock, and I leaned down to get my stuff.
“I’m not even asking to be paid, so piss off!” she shouted, her voice carrying on the water.
I straightened. “Oh, you’re working for free?”
“Then you’re an idiot. Or so rich you don’t need the money.”
“I’m not an idiot,” she said through clenched teeth.
“So you’re rich, then.” I don’t know why I was being such an asshole. But for some reason, I did not want to let her see another side of me, or see another side to her. “I should have guessed.”
She crossed her arms. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you look like you’ve led a charmed life. Like you’ve had everything you’ve ever wanted handed to you. Like you’ve never gotten your hands dirty.”
“So get them dirty.”
I almost fell off the dock. “What?”
“Get them dirty. Teach me about working this farm. I want to learn.”
Was she serious? The last thing I needed was to drag her ass around all day, explaining things. Or stare at her ass all day, imagining things. But one look at her defiant face and I shook my head. “Why do I feel like if I say no, you’ll just keep bothering me?”
She smiled and clasped her hands behind her back, rocking forward on her toes. “Because I will. I don’t like being told no.”
“Of course you don’t.” Jesus, she was trouble. A bad apple—smooth and shiny on the outside, spoiled rotten on the inside. But for no good reason, I found myself giving in. “Fine. Go change your clothes.”
About the Author:
Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she's not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.
Melanie is the author of the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.
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