BLOG TOUR – REVIEW w/ EXCERPT: Rough Ride by Kristen Ashley

Chaos Book #4.5

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♦BLURB♦

Rosalie Holloway put it all on the line for the Chaos Motorcycle Club.

Informing to Chaos on their rival club—her man’s club, Bounty—Rosalie knows the stakes. And she pays them when her man, who she was hoping to scare straight, finds out she’s betrayed him and he delivers her to his brothers to mete out their form of justice.

But really, Rosie has long been denying that, as she drifted away from her Bounty, she’s been falling in love with Everett “Snapper” Kavanagh, a Chaos brother. Snap is the biker-boy-next door with the snowy blue eyes, quiet confidence and sweet disposition who was supposed to keep her safe…and fell down on that job.

For Snapper, it’s always been Rosalie, from the first time he saw her at the Chaos Compound. He’s just been waiting for a clear shot. But he didn’t want to get it after his Rosie was left bleeding, beat down and broken by Bounty on a cement warehouse floor.

With Rosalie a casualty of an ongoing war, Snapper has to guide her to trust him, take a shot with him, build a them…

And fold his woman firmly in the family that is Chaos.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Rough Ride is Chaos in a wonderfully gritty bite-sized serving. With a heroine so reminiscent of Sadie (Rock Chick Regret) and a fight so deeply ingrained within her, it was within the first page that I felt the draw to echoing her pain, her heartbreak, and her final straw bending. Although it is a short story, and the jump into their courtship falls at the halfway point, it does nothing to lessen or diminish the impact of a soul-deep claiming these two are circling around from the get-go.

Having seen Rosie play a few minor parts in prior Chaos novels, I adored getting to finally find her true story among the club and its men. She wasn’t fully formed prior, but it truly didn’t matter. The overall sense of who she is was gleaned back then and expounded upon efficiently and quickly in this fast-paced and incredibly touching love story. The sheer force of connection between Snapper and Rosie was vivid and palpable; his effect on her transferred to me, twisting my chest into knots and filling my belly with butterflies as he allowed his presence and the club’s presence to speak his words for him. And it was beautiful how it translated on to the page and in healing their broken divide.

And though every great story is never long enough, as is the case with Rough Ride, I cannot help but always marvel at how easily Ashley can engross a reader into characters and an entire series’ world in such a short amount of time, an instant, really–novella or not. Ashley’s storytelling powers are magnetic and they pull on you until your gut and your heart and your chest trill with instinctual responses. The direction this series is headed, informed by this story and the preview at the end of it, is going to allow this author to display what she is amazing at: visceral reactions and one hell of a juicily twisty story. This story was a necessary stepping stone, a piece to complete the pathway, to so much more, and I am equally nervous and thrilled to see what Ashley has under her powerful sleeves next for Chaos.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“We got it now. You’re good. Gonna take care of you.”

No they weren’t.

He wasn’t.

No one was going to take care of me.

But me.

Not anymore.

They were supposed to do that before.

And now I was on a cement floor, beat to hell.

But I was going to be.

Good that was.

Yes, I was going to be.

Finally.

And it was going to be me that made me that too.

I turned my face into Snap’s cut as an indication he shouldn’t stroke my hair anymore, as a way to tell him to get the heck away from me, to leave me to the ambulance, to leave me alone, to get out of my hair, out of there, out of my life.

But the fabric snagged my swollen nose and a whimper slid from me.

“Baby,” he whispered, feeling close, seemingly all around me, “just hang tight. Don’t move. Help will be here soon.”

Help would be there soon.

I’d be in an ambulance.

Then I’d be in a hospital.

While there, I’d talk to the police.

Eventually, I’d go home and live in fear of what my boyfriend’s motorcycle club would do to me after I pressed charges against them for beating the crap out of me.

What could be worse than this?

I didn’t know.

♦SERIES♦

Own The Wind #1

Chaos Book One

Purchase:  Kindle | Paperback

Fire Inside #2

Chaos Book Two

Purchase:  Kindle | Paperback

Ride Steady #3

Chaos Book Three

Purchase:  Kindle | Paperback | My Review

27 - Walk Through Fire

Chaos Book Four

Purchase:  Kindle | Paperback | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | My Review

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

kristen-ashley-headshot

Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake.

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up.

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

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BLOG TOUR w/ REVIEW: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

Heartbreaker Bay Book Five; Interconnected Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

When love drives you crazy . . .

When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she needs a favor, and it’s a doozy. Something precious to her has been stolen and there’s only one person with unique finder-and-fixer skills that can help—Joe. It means swallowing her pride and somehow trying to avoid the temptation to throttle him—or seduce him.

the best thing to do . . .

No, Joe didn’t call after the kiss. He’s the fun time guy, not the forever guy. And Kylie, after all she’s been through, deserves a good man who will stay. But everything about Kylie makes it damned hard to focus, and though his brain knows what he has to do, his heart isn’t getting the memo.

… is enjoy the ride.

As Kylie and Joe go on the scavenger hunt of their lives, they discover surprising things about each other. Now, the best way for them to get over “that kiss” might just be to replace it with a hundred more.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

About That Kiss was a sweet, sultry romance with a love story between an unlikely couple. As my first Jill Shalvis book, I enjoyed the balance between character and relationship buildup, and how there was just the right amount of tension in both as the story progressed. Shalvis captured Kylie’s personality well and brought her out of the shell she’d been in, and made her strong for doing it not just for love but for her own self. Anyone who is an old soul like her will find a sense of belonging with that character, and it was something that was palpably felt. Her connection with Joe felt untouched and pivotal, something that built wonderfully as they spent more time together.

With the perfect amount of fun mixed in, About That Kiss was an enjoyable novel from beginning to end. Shalvis’ writing was easy to get into and effective in bringing the reader into the story of not just these two characters but past and future characters from the series, too. Even though I started the series with this book, I never felt like something was missing or that it wasn’t possible to jump in at any point. With low angst and the perfect amount of butterflies given, anyone who opens this book will fall for it from the first page.

As a side note: There’s a line in the book about ‘PTSD-proofing’ a house. I understand wanting to make your characters’ issues seem real, but this line was offensive and a bit ignorant. You can’t proof a house from a disorder, any disorder (and for that matter, you can’t proof a house from getting PTSD). You can safe-proof a house from someone who has self-harming tendencies, but that is in no way ‘PTSD-proofing.’ I’m sure the author didn’t mean any offense, but as someone with that disorder, I would recommend being a bit more careful in how something is worded. 

 

♦EXCERPT♦

Joe studied her. “I asked you once before, but now I’m going to ask you again. Is there something going on between you two?”

She tossed up her hands. “Why do you both keep asking me that about each other?”

His eyes narrowed. “I thought nothing was going on.”

“And before today, I could’ve passed a lie detector test on that,” she said.

“What happened today?”

She paused. Not because she had anything to be ashamed of, but because she wasn’t quite sure what had happened.

“Kylie.”

She sighed. “It’s nothing.”

“Try again,” Joe said and gave her the very male universal go on gesture.

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. He . . . finally made a move on me.”

Joe didn’t budge. Not a blink, not a muscle twitch, nothing, but she could’ve popped corn off the electric tension coming off him.

“Describe ‘made a move,’ ” he finally said.

She crossed her arms. “And again, how is this relevant to my case?”

He just gave her that careful stare again and she thought wow, those eyes of his should be registered as a lethal weapon, because she found herself opening her mouth and spilling her guts. “He kissed me.”

“He kissed you.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Do you know that you often repeat what I say?”

“What kind of a kiss?” he asked.

She was momentarily bewildered. “I don’t know. It was a kiss. A normal kiss. A nice kiss.” She cocked her head at him. “How many kinds of kisses are there?”

He just looked at her for a long moment before coming toward her. He backed her to the wall and pressed his big hands on either side of her head.

“There are many kinds of kisses,” he said.

Her breath had backed up in her throat, where her heart had lodged, pounding wildly. “S-s-such as?”

“Such as this one.” And then he leaned in and covered her mouth with his.

At the touch of Joe’s mouth, Kylie’s brain stopped being capable of rational thought. His tongue gave a knee-weakening stroke against hers and she let out a shockingly needy moan as she clutched at him, fisting her hands in the material of his shirt at his chest. Only when he’d thoroughly plundered and pillaged and left her boneless did he lift his head and look into her eyes.

“Wow,” she whispered, fully aware she was still holding on to him like he was a lifeline, but the bones in her legs had liquefied. “I mean . . .” She shook her head. “Wow.”

He nodded. “Yeah. So to be clear, that wasn’t ‘a normal kiss’ or even ‘a nice kiss.’ It was a ‘wow’ kiss. Any questions?”

“Just one,” she said softly. “Can I have another?”

Joe didn’t have to be asked twice. His mouth immediately descended again, his fingers sliding into her hair to change the angle of the kiss to suit him. It was a controlled, alpha thing to do, but she had only one thought—nothing about the usually carefully, purposely leashed Joe was in control at the moment.

And she liked it.

She had no idea how long they went at it because she was in absolute heaven. Who knew that the man could use his preferred silent mode to communicate in a way that she finally approved of?

Only when she was completely breathless and about to strip him down to his birthday suit did she manage to pull back.

“Any more questions?” he asked, also a little bit breathless, which was more than slightly gratifying. Dumbly, she shook her head. His eyes softened and he gently he stroked his thumb over her bottom lip. “And FYI? Gib’s an idiot.”

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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REVIEW: Follow Me Back by A.L. Jackson

Fight For Me Book Two; Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

The next seductive, unforgettable stand-alone romance in the FIGHT FOR ME series from NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author A.L. Jackson . . .

Kale Bryant. Arrogant. Gorgeous. Commanding.

This ER doctor is married to his job. His only vice is one-night stands and short-lived flings. He learned a long time ago loving someone isn’t worth the risk.

Harley Hope Masterson. Beautiful. Brave. Sweet.

The owner of a small coffee shop knows what it’s like to struggle. Embroiled in a bitter divorce, she’s threatened with losing everything.

When Kale accepts a new position down the street from Hope’s shop, he begins to question every wall he’s built around his heart.

He wants her in a way he hasn’t wanted anyone.

One touch is fire.

One kiss, and he’s spinning out of control.

But taking her won’t come without consequences.

Hope is in for the fight of her life. One neither of them saw coming.

Now Kale must decide if loving her is worth risking it all.

She will fight with everything she has.

But sometimes even hope needs a hero . . .

 

♦3.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Follow Me Back was an emotional story that brought two heartbroken people together after they had long given up hope for their happy ending. Jackson’s prose was poetic and heartfelt, easily bringing readers into the setting of a fantastical love story. Both characters were emotionally drained from devastating situations in their past, and I loved that they were still so vibrant and willing to see what each other had to offer. And I enjoyed seeing a playboy find something of value worth having in life.

Sadly, though, I had difficulty connecting to this story in the same way that I’ve connected to every other Jackson book. There was something missing, for me, and it created this mental block where I couldn’t enjoy the connection they formed. In all honesty, I’ve been wondering if the issue lay with Kale since I couldn’t get a good sense of him and his choices/actions. This isn’t to say that the story was bad or that I didn’t enjoy it, it just didn’t strike me or fill my heart up–rather it was just shallow reading. This isn’t normal, as I’ve said, for how her books usually effect me–stomach flutters, ache in the chest, emotional responses–so it either simply wasn’t a book for me or I was in a weird place mentally that prevented my connection when I read it. I know many others are raving about it, so give it a try because Follow Me Back had so much potential to hit all of the emotional buttons a good story hits, and it may just do that for you.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“Kale.” It was a murmur.

Praise.

A spark.

Because his mouth crashed against mine.

His arms wound around my waist, and he pulled me into his apartment.

He kicked the door shut behind us without breaking the kiss.

Hot hands explored. Gliding down my back. Palming my bottom. Roaming up my sides.

A moan rippled up my throat, and his tongue swept into my mouth, tangling with mine.

Needy and desperate.

Overpowering.

Overwhelming.

My head spun, and I was suddenly in his arms.

My legs wrapped around his narrow waist.

Second nature.

Exactly where I belonged.

“Hope,” he mumbled at my mouth as he carried me through his massive, open loft.

The floors echoed with his heavy footsteps as they thudded across the worn, dark planks and toward the massive leather couch set up in the middle of the living space.

Pure masculine style and impeccable taste with the need for comfort at the root of it all.

Just like the man.

Setting me down on the dark cushions, he dropped to his knees on the plush white rug.

Expression predatory.

No doubt, he was preparing to devour and destroy.

He palmed my knees. The simple contact made me arch and gasp.

“It’s getting harder and harder to resist you,” he murmured, voice scrapping and raw.

“Then why are you trying?”

 

♦SERIES♦

A Fight for Me Novella (#0.5); Standalone

Previously published in the Glamour Anthology as Red Hot Pursuit

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Fight For Me Book One; Standalone

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, as well as the newest BLEEDING STARS novels. Watch for the next installment STAND, coming Spring 2017.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson or text “aljackson” to 24587 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

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REVIEW & EXCERPT w/ GIVEAWAY: Runaway Groom by Lauren Layne

I Do, I Don’t Book Two; Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

For one charming playboy, getting cast on a Bachelor-esque reality TV show is the shock of a lifetime—until he finds love where he least expects it. And now the chase is on!

Gage Barrett’s reputation as a ladies’ man has been greatly exaggerated, but none of that matters after a drunken bet lands him on Jilted, a reality TV show that matches runaway grooms with wannabe brides. Now he’s stuck at a Hawaiian resort with nineteen women competing to drag him back to the altar—and one contestant who’s even more miserable than he is. Gage has no idea how feisty, independent Ellie Wright wound up in the cast, but it’s obvious she hates his guts. And if there’s one thing Gage likes, it’s a challenge. . . .

Ellie can’t believe she let her best friend talk her into exchanging her dignity for a glorified bikini contest. Still, she could use the exposure—her business is struggling—and she’ll probably be one of the first to get eliminated anyway. But Gage isn’t the shallow jerk Ellie anticipated—and he’s in no rush to send her home. As stolen kisses turn into secret trysts, she finds herself losing track of what’s real and what’s for the camera. With the wedding finale looming, this runaway groom is tempting Ellie to start believing in storybook endings.

 

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Runaway Groom was a charmingly fun romance centered around a Bachelor-esque reality show, and underneath the backdrop of this show was a wildly hot and explosive love affair steeped with interesting characters and Layne’s signature wit. In what initially started as a love-hate relationship soon bloomed into a rare commonality of being in this thing together against all others, and from tentative friends came so much more.

What was most enjoyable about this novel was the progression of Ellie and Gage’s contemptuous feelings for one another and how it slowly and organically morphed into an odd state of mutual trust. But most of all, it was fully believable–both the actions of the other contestants and the show itself, along with the progression of their romance. And while it had delicious angst and build-up, there was an abundance of humor mixed in to keep it light. There was the potential to make Gage like other playboy-like characters, but Layne put a spin to how he was portrayed and made him incredibly likable and swoon-worthy with very little effort from the reader to fall for him. I imagine that Ellie fell for him in the same manner as I did, thus bringing her character into reality.

One of the reasons I adore this series is because each novel has felt so different while all being very much tied together, completely standing on their own but bringing the gist of the series into each one. Runaway Groom is the kind of novel you inhale and immerse yourself into, spending one sitting becoming a part of these characters and their world because it’s impossible not to.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

Ellie

I’m not going to see Gage tonight.

It’s been my mantra all day. All throughout the booze cruise, where I watched him make out with just about everyone with breasts.

All through the ride home, while I had to stare at the back of his head and listen to him laugh what I now know is his fake laugh.

All through dinner, where I did my best to ignore him. And all through the invitation ceremony, where we’d made eye contact only once, and it was rife with meaning.

What meaning?

I don’t know.

I feel my phone buzz under my pillow again, but refuse to look at it, because I’m pretty sure it’s him. I told everyone in my personal life that I wouldn’t have access to my phone for the month-long duration of the show, and most of them took it to heart. Other than a few thinking of you messages from my mom and Marjorie, my phone’s been quiet besides the texts from Gage.

Eden and Paisley both passed out almost immediately following one too many drinks on the boat, and then more drinking at dinner, then champagne at the pool. I’d cried headache and kept it mostly sober, although I’m not sure that was the best idea. The only thing my sobriety is earning me is crystal clear images of Gage and Cora, Gage and Hannah, Gage and Aurora . . .

My phone buzzes again, and I reach beneath the pillow and hit the power button without looking at the messages, then roll onto my back, flinging both arms over my head.

What is wrong with me?

Surely I’m not turning into a Gage Barrett groupie. I’m better than that. I’m not looking for a relationship, and when I do get around to that, it’s not going to be with the hottest thing in Hollywood with a reputation for leaving women at the altar.

I hang over the side of the bunk to look at the clock. Twelve-thirty.

He’s probably not even there anymore. Gage doesn’t strike me as the type of man to wait more than five minutes for a woman. Not when there are dozens of others to take her place.

I wonder what would happen if I left. If I made him eliminate me. Would he find another “spy”?

Even more heartbreaking to think about – who would he propose to? Paisley would be a solid choice, but she’s too good for him. He’d probably choose someone like Brooklyn. Someone who’s sweet and gorgeous but who will never challenge him.

The kicker is, I actually do have an idea about who he should send home next. He’s not doing well on his own. I mean, Hannah went home tonight, and that was a solid choice—girl was mean. But last night he sent home Skylar. After I specifically told him to trust his gut and pick someone he wanted to see gone. And of all the contestants—the aggressive Cora, the mean Brittany B., the full-on-crazy Eden—he gets rid of Skylar? She was sweet and harmless. Not the love of his life, perhaps, but better than most of the remaining women.

He got rid for her for me. So he and I could keep meeting. Even though I told him I want to go home.

I fling the covers back, quietly climb down from the top bunk, and slip on my flip-flops. He’s probably not still there, but if he is, I’ve got things to say to him.

I’m still fuming by the time I make it to the closet, and I tell myself that my heart is pounding with anger and not anticipation because I see the faintest light coming from beneath the door.

When I open it, Gage is sitting on the love seat, leaning forward, his shoulders slumped, his head down as he stares at his hands.

His head snaps up, his eyes finding mine a split second before a smile spreads across his face as though he’s glad to see me.

I start to smile back before I remember that I’m mad at him, and I step into the room, shutting the door behind me.

“You’re late.”

“I wasn’t going to come at all,” I say, dropping unceremoniously onto the love seat beside him.

He nods toward the table, where he’s got the usual bottle of wine and two glasses. “Your head still hurt, or you want a glass?”

How’d he know I was telling people I had a headache? The man’s more observant than I give him credit for.

“No thanks on the wine,” I say. Not because my head hurts, but because I need to keep it clear. “So, Hannah.”

He lifts a shoulder and pivots to face me. “My spy disappeared on me—didn’t give me any tips on who to send home.”

“Why her?”

He opens his mouth as though he wants to respond, but then gives me an indifferent shrug. “Why not?”

I narrow my eyes, because that’s an evasion if I’ve ever heard one. “And Skylar? She was sweet.”

“Are you here to lecture me about the women I’ve already sent me home, or to tell me who I should send home tomorrow?”

I chew my lip for a second. “Fine. Naomi.”

A line appears between his eyebrows. “Why? She seems cool.”

“Cool? Or a good kisser?”

It’s not even a good jab—Naomi wasn’t one of the ones who kissed him on the boat. But who knows what he’s been up to when I haven’t been around?

His head snaps back slightly, and I want to punch myself in the face, because that is so not what I meant to say. The words came out petty and, well . . . jealous.

“Ellie—”

I hold up a hand. “Forget it, totally not my business, I know. But anyway, Naomi . . . yeah, she is cool. She’s also married.”

“What?”

“She and Sidney are tight and she confided in her friend, only Sidney had way too much to drink and blurted it out to Brittany B., who promptly told the rest of us after dinner tonight.”

“What the hell is she doing on the show? Where’s her husband?”

“Apparently she signed a prenup, and if she leaves him, she doesn’t get a penny.”

“Yeah, well, pretty sure she’s not going to get a dime once the hubby learns about this.”

I shrug. “I dunno. Maybe she’s trying to get him to leave her. I don’t know the details, or what’s going on there. Just that legally she’s married, which would make you marrying her illegal at worst, a hot mess at best.”

Gage groans and drags his hands over his face. “What is wrong with these people?”

I give his knee a friendly pat and stand. “You’re surviving just fine.”

He drops his hands. “Where are you going?”

“Back to my room. I did my girl spy part.”

Gage reaches out and grabs my hand, pulling me back down to the love seat.

I resist the pull, I really do, but it’s no contest. I collapse with a quiet “oof,” my chin awkwardly knocking his shoulder. Irritated, I punch the same shoulder. “Damn it, Gage. Let me go.”

He’s still holding my hand, his face just a few inches from mine. “What was the deal with you today?”

“What do you mean?” I avoid his eyes.

“You were acting weird. You ignored my texts. You wouldn’t even look at me on the boat. Or at dinner.”

“I never look at you. Your ego shines so brightly, it hurts my eyes.”

Instead of letting me escape with the joke, Gage snags my chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting my face to his as he searches my expression. “Talk to me.”

He’s so close. My eyes drop to his mouth for a split second, and I have the insane urge to press my lips to his.

But then I remember that’d make me the fourth woman he’s kissed today, and I pull back. “I need to get to bed. You should too. We both have another stressful day in paradise tomorrow looking at waterfalls on the road to Hana.”

Gage groans, and I smile a little as I climb to my feet once again. “You don’t like waterfalls?”

“I like looking at waterfalls just fine.” He rests his head against the back of the love seat, closing his eyes, and looking so exhausted and miserable that my heart lurches. “I just don’t love the fact that I’ve got to entertain thirteen women at the same time.”

“Twelve women,” I correct, stepping backward toward the door. “You won’t have to entertain me.”

His eyes open, and he pins me with a green stare. “Of course not. Ellie Wright’s too good for the rest of us.”

I pause, a little stung by the sharpness of his tone. “I don’t think that.”

“No?” he asks, climbing to his feet.

You’re the one who asked me to be your eyes and ears with the other women,” I remind him, punching a finger into his chest. “You’re the one who bugged me to come here tonight.”

“And yet you agreed to my terms, and you came tonight,” Gage retorts. “Your choice, Ellie. So you don’t get to be pissy.”

“I’m not!” My finger pushes his chest again.

“You are.” His hand lifts, wraps around my hand, crushing my fingers lightly. “You’re mad at me, and you won’t tell me why. I’m not even sure you’ll tell yourself why.”

I keep my eyes locked on his Adam’s apple. “I’m not mad. I just want to go home.”

“Two nights ago, you were fine staying. You were good with it. Something changed.”

“Nothing changed.”

“Yeah? Look me in the eyes and say it.”

“You’re just hoping I’ll compare your eyes to guacamole again.”

He laughs, causing his chest to lift and fall beneath my hand. I try to tug it free, but he holds me still.

“Ellie.”

“What?”

“Ellie.”

My eyes close a second, then I take a deep breath, force myself to quit being a ninny chicken, and lift my gaze to his.

“Yup, avocado,” I say with a smile.

He doesn’t smile back. “About the boat today . . . the women I kissed . . .”

“I get it,” I say on a rush. “You told me the other day that the producers were complaining because you hadn’t kissed anyone yet, so you did that and one better, kissing multiple women. They must have been thrilled.”

“They were,” he says quietly.

It’s not what I want to hear, not at all, and I yank my hand away and spin back toward the door. “Congratulations.”

I open the door, and he shuts it again. “Would you just fucking admit it?”

“Admit what?” I tug on the doorknob, but he leans a shoulder against the door, holding it closed with his weight.

“You were jealous.”

I scoff. “No.”

“No?” He touches my ear gently, and it shouldn’t be sexy, because it’s an ear, but his fingers are warm, his touch gentle, and my eyes close. “They kissed me.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t exactly see you shoving them away,” I say on a whisper.

“I’m an actor, Ellie. Kissing for the camera is part of my job. It’ll always be part of my job.”

“I know that!” I practically shout, turning toward him and batting his hand away. “I get that. What I don’t get is why we’re talking about it! I didn’t ask you not to kiss them. I didn’t even bring it up, you did! You can kiss whoever you want. You should kiss the women. If you’re going to freaking marry one of them, you should kiss all of them, you should—”

Gage captures my face with both of his hands, derailing the rest of my rant with a kiss so unexpected and demanding that I gasp against his lips.

My hands lift, my fingers wrapping around his wrists as I open my mouth to his.

The second I do, Gage groans and deepens the kiss, his tongue sliding against mine. His fingers tunnel into my hair, and my hands slide from his wrists and up his arms until I can wrap my arms around him, pulling him closer.

I’ve had my fair share of kisses in my life, with a lot of decent ones, I’d thought at the time, but kissing Gage is on a whole other level. The man knows what he’s doing, because I feel like the only woman in the world—the only woman in his world.

One of his arms drops around my waist, pulling me against his hard body, his other hand cupping the back of my head as he takes the kiss from deep and sensual to light and teasing and back again.

It’s the perfect kiss, as though he were made for me, and I for him, except . . . I open my eyes.

Except we aren’t made for each other.

He’s good kisser not because of some magical chemistry between us but because he’s had so much practice.

I can’t do this.

I’m not the kind of girl Gage Barrett wants, and I don’t say that in a self-disparaging way so much as . . . well, he’s the Sexiest Man Alive, and I sell T-shirts. He lives in a mansion, I live in a studio apartment. He’s gorgeous, I’m . . . regular.

But none of that’s even the agonizing part.

It’s that I could lose myself in him, which is dangerous. He’s the type of guy who can and will walk away without a backward glance, and I’d be left to pick up the pieces.

Somehow I think it’d be so much harder with him than it was with Sean.

I wrench away from him with a gasp, and both of his hands tighten reflexively, as if he’s reluctant to let me go. But when I squirm again, he releases me.

We stare at each other, breathing hard, and I lift a shaky hand to my mouth. “Well. I guess I did tell you to kiss all the women.”

He frowns in confusion, then glares in anger when he puts the pieces together. “That’s not why—”

“Yeah, it is,” I say, reaching for the doorknob and jerking the door open before he can keep me here and convince me to do something stupid. “You said it yourself—you kiss women for a living, Gage. Just do me a favor and keep me out of it. When I kiss guys, I like it to be for real.”

I slip into the hallway before he can reply, but I have to walk away now. Before I can dwell on the fact that pain flashed across his face at my words.

For the second time today, my eyes sting with the threat of tears—for myself, yes, but also because I’ve been so damn worried about not letting him hurt me that I haven’t really realized . . . what if I hurt him?

And why does that bother me so much?

 

♦SERIES♦

I Do, I Don’t Book One; Standalone; My Review

Purchase: Kindle | B&N | Google | iBooks | Kobo

I Do, I Don’t Book Three

Release Date: March 20, 2018

PreOrder: Kindle | More

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

LaurenLayne-Headshot-Official

Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels.

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to Manhattan to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals.

Lauren currently lives in Chicago with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you’ll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).

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