Category Archives: Suspense

#WOTR21 #ContemporaryRomance #MilitaryRomance #RomanticSuspense – HOLDING HADLEIGH, Raptor Book #2 by PJ Fiala

Holding Hadleigh: A Protector Romance (RAPTOR, #2)

A RAPTOR operative on a mission.
A social worker with unfaltering compassion.
And the competition that sparks desire…..

Former Army Ranger Donovan Keach can’t stand the scum that threatens children. Determined to take down an online pedophile, he’ll stop at nothing until the criminal is locked up for good. But when he encounters a sexy, but nosy social worker, he suspects foul play.

Hadleigh Watterson will do anything to protect innocent children. While gathering evidence during a case study, Donovan sidetracks her plan. She’s ready to barrel in and take down the vermin muddying the innocent. Donovan has other plans. With an intense attraction building between them, teaming up is their only option. Can Donovan uncover the criminal while holding on to Hadleigh for good?

Goodreads

I was born in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri named Bridgeton. During my time in Missouri, I explored the Ozarks, swam in the Mississippi River, played kickball and endless games of hide and seek with the neighborhood kids. Spending summers in Kentucky with my Grandmother, Ruth, are the fondest childhood memories for me.

At the age of thirteen, my family moved to Wisconsin to learn to farm. Yes, learn to farm! That was interesting. Taking city kids and throwing them on a farm with twenty-eight cows purchased from the Humane Society because they had been abused, was interesting. I learned to milk cows, the ins and outs of a breeding schedule, feeding schedule and the never ending haying in the summer and trying to stay warm in the winter. Our first winter in Wisconsin, we had thirty-six inches of snow in one storm and were snowed in our house for three days! Needless to say, I wasn’t loving Wisconsin.

I am now married with four children and three grandchildren. I have learned to love Wisconsin, though I still hate snow. Wisconsin and the United States are beautiful and my husband and I travel around by motorcycle seeing new sites and meeting new people. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are interested in where we are going and what we have seen along the way. At every gas station, restaurant and hotel, we have people come up to us and ask us about what we are doing and offering advice on which roads in the area are better than others and great rides others have been on if we are interested.

I come from a family of veterans. My grandfather, father, brother and two of my sons and one daughter-in-law are all veterans. Needless to say, I am proud. Proud to be an American and proud of the service my amazing family has given.

#ReleaseDay – Sainted, The Invisibles #8 by Heather Slade

Sainted

He’s a playboy M16 agent trying to change his ways.
She’s straight-shooter working for the CIA.
Together, they’re INVINCIBLE.

SAINT
I’ve got a reputation to mend—a lifestyle to correct. Hell, I’m no saint; I like my women. But I want this job more than anything. Walking the straight and narrow is going to be hard, but being an INVINCIBLE is even harder. And the hardest job of all: keeping my hands off of the sexy CIA assistant who has me praying for mercy.

HARPER
With a cheating ex and a new job on the horizon, I just need to blow off some steam. Sleeping with a rugged and hot stranger does the trick—right up until my first day of work when I’m face-to-face with my one-night stand. Now, we’re working together, and things are heating up. Whoever said that the sinners are much more fun have never met SAINT.

Goodreads

Heather Slade gave herself the gift of writing a book for her own birthday one year. Thirty-plus books later (and counting), she’s hit a couple of best-seller lists and has had the time of her life. For Slade, the joy is in the writing, but nothing makes her happier than hearing from a reader who tells her that she’s made her laugh or cry or gasp or hold her breath or stay up all night because she can’t put one of her books down.

The women she writes are self-confident, strong, with wills of their own, and hearts as big as the Colorado sky. The men are sublimely sexy, seductive alphas who rise to the challenge of capturing the sweet soul of a woman whose heart they’ll hold in the palm of their hand forever. Add in a couple of neck-snapping twists and turns, a page-turning mystery, and a swoon-worthy HEA, and you’ll be holding one of Slade’s books in your hands.

Find me here:
Amazon: https://geni.us/hslade_amazon
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Learn more about my series here:
Butler Ranch: https://geni.us/butlerranch_gr
K19 Security Solutions: https://geni.us/k19_gr
Military Intelligence Section 6: https://geni.us/mi6_gr
The Invincibles: https://geni.us/theinvincibles_gr_a
Cowboys of Crested Butte: https://geni.us/cab_gr

#WOTR21 – #Review – Outbreak: A Zombie Novel by L.C. Mortimer aka Sophie Stern

Outbreak: A Zombie Novel

Emily thought she could survive the apocalypse and save her sister from hordes of undead. She was wrong. By the time she found her sister, it was too late. All hope was shattered. Heartbroken and disillusioned, Emily returns home. There’s just one problem: her haven is no longer empty. Someone has moved in.

Neil was a leader long enough to know when to cut his losses. Surviving in the city was one major loss. He gathered his friends and hoofed it to the forest. He knew there would be abandoned farmhouses and plenty of land. The fewer inhabitants before the apocalypse struck, the fewer zombies to deal with after.

The house they find is incredible. It’s isolated, well stocked with food, and Neil even finds a few loaded guns. Soon it becomes obvious that the home isn’t as empty as they originally thought, however. When the owner returns, she demands that Neil and his friends move out. She seems to have no problem with the idea of tossing them out on their asses, but there’s a major problem.

A storm is coming, and it carries with it a greater threat than just zombies.

Goodreads

Review by Twinsie Kelly

I received this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Zombies! Need I say more? This is a standalone novel that gives you a bit of everything. There are so many emotions that are part of this journey, and everyone has their own story with their own demons to fight. This story brought a rag tag group of travelers together and they almost made it work. You know that saying “When it rains, it pours”? Well, just when this group seems to catch a break, the sh!! hits the fan. The characters are very relatable. They are regular people like you and me who were trying to figure life out. Then, BAM! They are forced to survive. Each character’s back story will humble you. It’ll really make you wonder what would really happen and how would you handle it. Each had their vices and crazy as it may seem, they even had some happy times during the Z apocalypse. This story will make you laugh, will give you the warm and fuzzies, and some of it can be a bit gory. Best of all, you will NOT see what is coming and are definitely not ready for the end. I swear that when I finished this book, I had one of these moments that just made me sit there, like wow, that happened. I had a book hangover! I am still going over this in my head going, how could that have happened? Seriously, you need to read this!

L. C. Mortimer

L.C. Mortimer likes zombies, shifters, and things that go bump in the night. When she’s not busy dreaming up her next story, Mortimer can be found dancing, traveling, or curled up with a cozy mystery.

#NewRelease #Mafia – Glitter & Greed (Brooklyn Brothers, #4) by Melanie Munton

Glitter & Greed (Brooklyn Brothers #4)

We are the Rossetti’s.
The exiled “sixth family” of the New York mafia. We’re the good guys.
People don’t fear us…much. They respect us.
The five of us? We’re the Brooklyn Brothers.
And we protect what’s ours.

Don’t ask me what made this girl different, what made her stand out. I’m not proud of it, but it wasn’t exactly my first ever lap dance. The last thing I expect is for the same woman I’ve been obsessing over for two months to waltz right into my gym.

Catalina “Cat” Vasquez is the most alluring, sensual woman I’ve ever met. She has secrets, and I want all of them. It’s the only way I can protect her. Because it seems I’m not the only one who’s been looking for her.

Just my luck that I would fall for a woman who has connections with the Mexican cartel. Who would have thought her stalker would be the same man who’s about to wage an all-out war on my turf?

I’m a fighter by nature.
I fight for what’s mine.
And I’m not about to lose to someone who wants to steal Cat away from me.
If he thinks his guns will save him from my fists, he came to the wrong city.

Goodreads

Melanie grew up in the Midwest, but she loves living in the Southeast (where the beaches are!) now with her husband and daughter.
Melanie’s other passion is traveling and seeing the world. With anthropology degrees under their belts, she and her husband have made it their goal in life to see as many archaeological sites around the world as possible.

She has a horrible food addiction to pasta and candy (not together…ew). And she gets sad when her wine rack is empty.

At the end of the day, she is a true romantic at heart. She loves writing the cheesy and corny of romantic comedies, and the sassy and sexy of suspense. She aims to make her readers swoon, laugh out loud, maybe sweat a little, and above all, fall in love.

Go visit Melanie’s website and sign up for her newsletter to stay updated on release dates, teasers, and other details for all of her projects!
http://www.melaniemunton.com/

You can also follow Melanie on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

#Review – Finally Us (Next Generation Book 5) by J.M. Walker

Finally Us (Next Generation, #5)

-Vince-
She was perfect.
Her heart.
Her soul.
Everything.
I had been in love with Gigi Rodriguez for as long as I could remember. I had never been shy about my feelings toward her. Everyone knew how I felt. Except for the person who mattered most.
I needed her like I needed my next breath. Our souls called out to each other, entwining together to form a bond I had never felt with another person.
She was passionate.
Strong.
Mine.
Just when I thought I had her in my arms for good, an unknown force threatened to take away the only thing I had ever wanted…

-Gigi-
He was stubborn.
Obsessed.
Dominating.
Vincent Stone Junior was the very reason I danced. Every time I moved, I moved for him. He just didn’t know it yet.
It all started the night of his eighteenth birthday, but school got in the way and I didn’t see much of him for the next three years.
When he came home for good, I knew that he had one mission: To crack down the walls I had built.
I didn’t want to love him.
I didn’t want to need him.
But losing a piece of myself made me realize that I did in fact want those things. He taught me to love myself first and that he would be there, ready and waiting…
For me.

Goodreads

Review by Twinsie Kelly

There are some books that just stay with you. Vince and Gigi’s story is one of those. They are childhood friends but with a little age gap. Vince was basically everyone’s little brother. Both have “secretly” had the hots for each other, but as they have become adults, Vince knows that he must make Gigi his. And boy does he! Funny part to this is that everyone knows that these two need to be together.   Now, if you have read any of JM Walker’s books, you know that she can weave a very heart wrenching and extremely hawt tale. Well, let me tell ya, Finally Us is deeply passionate and full of emotion…like I said earlier, this one will stay with you. Vince and Gigi are completely relatable characters, almost as if they are real people that you actually know. You will feel for both of them and root for them right to the very end. It is a slow burn at first, but the wait is totally worth it because when they collide…whew! They truly ignite!

J.M. Walker

J.M. Walker is an Amazon bestselling author who hit USA Today with Wanted: An Outlaw Anthology. She loves all things books, pigs and lip gloss. She is happily married to the man who inspires all of her Heroes and continues to make her weak in the knees every single day.

“Above all, be the HEROINE of your own life…” ~ Nora Ephron

Find me: https://linktr.ee/authorjmwalker

#WOTR21 – #Review – #NewRelease – Amara Acquired by Michel Prince

Amara Acquired

In 2002 four planes disappeared over Western Wisconsin, thirteen years later one has requested landing privileges.

Jocelyn ‘Joss’ Randall is on a time crunch. A business trip to Detroit already had her plane bumped an hour and for some reason the plane is taxiing on the runway forever when they finally land in Minneapolis. Her seatmate is annoying her with fears of missing her connection and all Joss wants is to see her baby Molly and get to a birthday party for her niece. The last thing she expected was a week in Detroit would feel like a decade.

Carlton Randall is finally to the point of moving on with his life. His teenage daughter Molly is yearning for independence and his long distance girlfriend Carrie has been transferred to Minneapolis. Things are falling into place for his grief to end. The
loss of his wife, with no remains to claim left him questioning for years. Accepting the mysterious loss only to have the woman appear. Young, unchanged and with no understanding how her one-year-old is now fourteen.

Distance between Joss and Carlton isn’t a new thing, but when he refuses to touch her, looks a decade older and refers to her as an it, not a his wife, the divide is growing. Strange language, lost thoughts and dreams in the form of memories haunting Joss does not help the situation.

Is the man haunting her dreams truth or fiction? Has she learned a language never heard before by anyone on Earth? And if this dream world is real, is that where more than her heart lies?

Goodreads

Review by Twinsie Kelly

I received this ARC from Booksprout in exchange for an honest review.

What a whirlwind! With Fate at its finest and glitches in the system, this is an insane story that is gripping with so many twists. You will remain completely engaged from beginning to end. One night Joss’ plane disappears without a trace along with 3 others. 13 years later she reappears completely unchanged, and the details of the other planes keep changing. She finds that she is haunted by a strange man from a strange place, and she keeps speaking crazy weird words in a language that no one knows. She feels like she is going crazy. Her husband, Carl, had finally come to terms with Joss being gone, he is raising a teenage daughter that reminds him everyday of Joss, and has a new love in his life that he truly feels at peace with. Now Joss and Carl are all over the place with their emotions. They both know that they were drifting apart before Joss left but what now? How do you move on from this? Move forward? Their story completely pulls at your heartstrings. They both truly found themselves when they were apart, and the hard part is what do they do now? What about their teenage daughter, Molly? There are a million questions, incredible emotions, a great cast of diverse characters, with crazy incredible settings. Oh, I didn’t mention the ending….one helluva ending! Wowza! I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Michel Prince

USA Today Bestselling author, Michel Prince, graduated with a bachelor degree in History and Political Science. Michel writes new adult and adult paranormal romance as well as contemporary romance.

“Ms Prince writing is like summer breeze caressing your body, slow and sultry.”-Amazon review of First and Ten.

“Michel Prince is a wonderful author with a real talent for writing.”-Amazon Review of Triple B Baking Co.

“Prince explores in her novels is interracial romance and friendships. Prince pokes fun at stereotypes, but never allows stereotypes to guide her plot. The focus is on creating two strong, independent characters who can stand on their own, but complement each other as a couple.”- Amazon Review of Silly Girl

“One Last Sunset is a well written story by the awesome Michel Prince that left me wanting to learn more about the rest of the Long family.”- Amazon Review for One Last Sunset.

“I could not put it down, and will definitely be looking for more from this Author.”-Amazon Review of Silly Girl.

With characters yelling “It’s my turn damn it!!!” She tries to explain to them that alas, she can only type a hundred and twenty words a minute and they will have wait their turn. She knows eventually they find their way out of her head and to her fingertips and she looks forward to sharing them with you.

When Michel can suppress the voices in her head she can be found at a scouting event or cheering for her son in a variety of sports. She would like to thank her family for always being in her corner and especially her husband for supporting her every dream and never letting her give up.

Michel has been awarded Elite Status with Rebel Ink Press in 2013, the service award for her local RWA chapter Midwest Fiction Writers 2013, 2014, won 2015 Sweetest Romance from IREA for Chrysalis and is a PAN member of RWA. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, son, and new puppy.

#wotr #attendingauthor #seriessstarter Appointed by Fate (The Mobsters Files 1) by Skye McNeil

One of Iowa’s most prominent criminal attorneys, Joci Dorous is ruthless and devoid of emotion in the courtroom. It’s what makes her the best. Her most recent client allegedly committed murder and, despite a rocky start, Joci is determined to win Cameron Shearer’s case.

Since this is her first homicide, she has the support of a second-chair attorney—her ex who wants her back. To make things more complicated, her hunky cop of a booty call, Cameron’s arresting officer, isn’t quite ready to let her go either. Who knew being surrounded by three hot guys could be so deliciously exhausting?

As the mystery of the case unravels, she soon discovers the true reason behind Cameron’s impromptu visit to Iowa. It’s this knowledge that endangers all those she holds dear. Caught up in confusion, chaos, and criminal law, how will her heart survive the final verdict?

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36002336-appointed-by-fate

Amazon  https://amzn.to/3hRQUoL

Review by Twinsie Dee

I bought this book and this my honest opinion

Wow wow wow, this book left me on my toes. Joci has her amazing career as a lawyer and quite the reputation of never losing. Well she also has herself a triangle of sexy men all wanting her attention. First is the hawt as hell Quinn who is a police officer, then is her ex husband and sometimes partner in crime on a case Adrian, finally is her childhood crush turned ex criminal Cameron all wanting her but only one has her wanting him more then just a fling between the sheets. Cameron is up for murder and she and Adrian have to try and prove he was set up, but with the mob involved it easier said then done. This is roller coaster of a story that will have you hanging on til the very in with so many twist and turn you will never see coming.

Award-winning author Skye McNeil began writing at the age of seventeen and has been lost in a love affair ever since. During the day, she moonlights as a paralegal at a law firm favoring criminal law.

Skye enjoys writing contemporary and suspense romance novels that leave readers craving more and falling in love over and over. She writes contemporary and historical novels ranging from sweet and sassy to steamy and sultry.

Her constant writing companions two cuddly Australian Shepherds, a purring cat, and her daughter. When she’s not writing, Skye enjoys spending time with family, photography, volleyball, traveling, and curling up with a cup of coffee and reading.

#WOTR21 #Military #MititaryRomance #Military Fiction #RomanticSuspense #ContemporaryRomance #Disability #Verterans #Audio #Review – Embattled Hearts (Military Romantic Suspense) (Lost and Found Book 1) by J.M. Madden Narration by Eric G. Dove

Book Cover

John Palmer hasn’t felt like a real man since he was injured during combat in Iraq. Though not content with his new life, he is mostly adapting, just like the other vets at the Lost ‘N’ Found Investigative Service. When Shannon Murphy is hired on as the new office manager, life suddenly gets a lot more interesting. Before long, John finds himself wondering if he could ever be the kind of man Shannon needs.

Shannon Murphy wasn’t really looking for love when she hired on at LNF, but finds herself hopelessly attracted to the sex-on-wheels former Marine, John Palmer. The man is grumpy and nearly impossible to work with, but his brand of masculinity appeals to her on a basic level. Soon Shannon is wondering just what it would take for John to want her the way she wants him.

When an old enemy tries to settle a vendetta against Shannon, John insists on protecting her. He moves into her house, fanning the spark of attraction into a blaze. But the danger continues to escalate. Will the connection that they’ve found survive when they’re thrust into a fight for their lives?

Goodreads

Review by Twinsie Angie

I purchased the ebook and audio deal on Amazon.

The narration is very different from any I have listened to before.  I didn’t dislike nor love the narrator, Eric G. Dove. At times I felt it was a little stiff and more essay style reading, but it could be because the story was in 3rd person.  So continuously hearing someone say/read the main characters names during the story pulled me out at times.  He did a good job changing up the different voices in the story for the multiple characters though.

The story is about a disabled military veteran who has not felt any love or inklings for attraction since he became “less than” as he feels.  When the new secretary starts work, he starts to feel more but knows an attractive woman like her would have no interest in a man like him.

Shannon has a long history and has had her fair share of bad boyfriends so when she starts to have a growing affection for her boss, John, she is afraid she will lose her job or have her feelings rebuffed.

When Shannon’s past “boyfriend” resurfaces, John is there to help her and soon their mutual attraction is undeniable for them much like everyone around them.  I enjoyed the cast of characters and their history together.  I loved the banter the guy had and gave each other.  I really enjoyed how John and his partner went above and beyond to help fellow military vets with anything they can.  Sometimes serving up truth about their mental wellbeing even when they do not want to hear it.

The twist of the who and why of Shannon’s story line was unexpected and I was shocked at everything as it unfolded as I did not see it coming.  But lets be honest I never figure out who the bad guys are EVER! LOL.

NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author J.M. Madden writes compelling romances between ‘combat modified’ military men and the women who love them. J.M. Madden loves any and all good love stories, most particularly her own. She has two beautiful children and a husband who always keeps her on her toes.

J.M. was a Deputy Sheriff in Ohio for nine years, until hubby moved the clan to Kentucky. When not chasing the family around, she’s at the computer, reading and writing, perfecting her craft. She occasionally takes breaks to feed her animal horde and is trying to control her office-supply addiction, but both tasks are uphill battles. Happily, she is writing full-time and always has several projects in the works. She also dearly loves to hear from readers! So, drop her a line. She’ll respond.

#Review – Hunting Jessica: Into the Shadows by Elizabeth St. John

Hunting Jessica: Into the Shadows (The Hunting Series #1)

Book 1- The Hunting Series

Hunting Jessica is a heart-pounding, suspenseful, face-fanning paranormal romance that will lead you into a world you never thought could exist. Follow Jessica into the shadows and discover an ancient secret which could alter even your reality.

Goodreads

Review by Twinsie Kelly

As a fan of the paranormal, this definitely was intriguing. This is a fantastical tale of hellhounds and vampires all intricately woven into many twisting paths full of deceit and lies. Don’t worry, there is a love story too. It took me a little bit to get into the story. However, I think this happens a lot with the first book in a series because we are just getting to know characters and the world building is needed. Jessica is a vampire hunter and works for Jay. She wasn’t always a believer of the paranormal but was attacked once and Jay helped her. When she lets one of the men, Gage, who is also a love interest, move into her house, she gets a lot more than she bargained for. Once the secrets are let out she is brought into their world of hellhounds. There is a delicate balance within the hellhound packs and this is one very big part of the web of crazy that this story is. Rayce is another, hawt as a hellhound, man that is the new and current love interest. He is amazing but these two have a lot to overcome if they are going to make it. We find out so much about the insanity within the hellhound packs and the stories go sideways so quick. I never want to give spoilers, and I am trying my hardest not to, but there is so much going on in this book that it is easier for me to just tell you to read it. Naturally, there is always a character that we have beef with, right? I mean, there were times when I wanted to shake Jessica for just being that naive when she is a super strong woman. And there were times that I wanted to shake Jay and Rayce for not doing something to stop the madness that was going on. Overall, I think this was a good read and if you are looking for a new twist on the paranormal, you should give the hellhounds a try.

Elizabeth   St.John

If you’re an Adult Paranormal Romance Reader and you’re currently on the hunt for your next favorite book, you are in the right place.

Even as a young child she was always conjuring up stories and filling them with colorful characters, sharing them with anyone and everyone who would listen. She’s progressed quite a bit since then, formulating longer and more complex stories and sharing them with much larger audiences.

As a passionate storyteller, she’s adept at using her imaginative thinking and creative flair to write fantastic books that entertain and engage with her audience.

This author began writing her first Adult Paranormal Romance in 2011. With self-publishing available through Amazon, she was able to hit publish on her first story in February 2013.

Elizabeth continues to create fantastic worlds for her readers, such as The Hunting Series, The Alpha’s Dove, Animal Attraction, and many more are on her list of creations. Over time, readers have described her style as intriguing, suspenseful, and captivating.

www.elizabethstjohnauthor.com

#WOTR21 #NewRelease #excerpt – IT TAKES A THIEF by Sloane Steele

Sloane Steele is the pen name for Shannyn Schroeder.

Today we are celebrating the release of IT TAKES A THIEF by Sloane Steele. This is a romantic suspense title, and it is the first book in the Counterfeit Capers series.

Add it to your TBR Pile.

Purchase IT TAKES A THIEF

 Here:

Amazon | Nook | Kobo | Apple | GooglePlay

—————-

When catching a thief requires becoming one. Jared Towers has skills. One of them is being able to talk his way out of—or into—anything. Audrey Abbott has skills, too. Need something hacked and only the best will do? She’s your girl. He’s charming. She’s reclusive. They have absolutely nothing in common—except for a driving desire to take care of those who need it the most. For Jared, that means assembling a team of thieves to steal back what rightfully belongs to the victims of a crime perpetrated by his own father. For Audrey, it means doing whatever she can to make sure her grandma never has to worry again. And now they have something else in common: the art heist of the century. It was supposed to be all business. Get in and get out, then move on to the next target. But when Jared finds himself falling for Audrey, artwork isn’t the only thing at risk of being stolen… Counterfeit Capers Book 1: It Takes a Thief Book 2: Between Two Thieves

At noon, Mia entered the apartment carrying bags of food for lunch. His cousin might not like the people he’d hired, but she was always the consummate host. She glanced around as if to take note of the lack of Data’s presence. Before she could comment, the bell rang.

He met Data at the door. He didn’t want another scene between Data and Mia. For some inexplicable reason, he was protective of Data. “I’ve sent five grand to your usual account. You need to quit the job.”

“I need that job.”

“No, you don’t. You’ll make plenty from us. You at least have to take a leave of absence while we’re doing this. It’s not negotiable.” He couldn’t understand why she was working a menial job that didn’t even utilize her skills, but now was not the time to ask.

“Is this her doing?”

“It’s an expectation we have of all of you. We’re under a tight deadline. We need your undivided attention.” He looked closely at her face. She looked even more exhausted than she had yesterday. “What time did you start today?”

“Four a.m.”

“Are you going to be able to focus?”

She crossed her arms. “What time did you get up for your day of world domination?”

“Four thirty, but I’m not the one walking around with dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep.”

“I’m fine. I’ll make sure to apply some makeup tomorrow to look more presentable.”

He sighed and shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. I don’t have a problem with the way you look.” Just the opposite. I want to spend far too much time looking at you. “I’m concerned that you’re not taking care of yourself.”

“I’m good. I take care of myself just fine.” She pointed to the apartment behind him. “Let’s do this.”

Great. Now he’d pissed her off. He needed to take a page from his own book and relax when it came to these players. They’d chosen people who work alone and now they were expecting an instantaneous team, but it would take a little time. Hopefully not too much. He’d have to put his attraction aside because Data no longer seemed all that interested.

In the kitchen, Mia had a full spread of food. Three kinds of salad, cold cuts, cheeses, a dessert tray. “Help yourself,” she said as she walked to the couch carrying a cup of coffee.

While Mia might see it as a sign of weakness to eat in front of Data and Nikki, he dove in. As usual, Nikki piled a plate high with food. He had no idea how she managed to eat so much. Data made a simple sandwich and wrapped it in a napkin.

Sitting on the floor with her legs crossed, Nikki took a bite of sandwich and said, “Shoot. Give us the deets.”

Mia inhaled slowly. “As you know, we’ve hired you to steal a painting. Data, your job will be to bypass the security system to get Nikki in and out.”

“That’s it? All the buildup for that?” Nikki sounded disappointed.

“What were you hoping for?” Mia asked.

“I don’t know. Something more spectacular than steal a painting.”

*

Jay brushed his hands together and then tapped on the keyboard. Audrey watched his fingers fly over the keys. She knew it was weird, but she always found it sexy when a man could type without chicken pecking. Admittedly, her standards were pretty low.

Focus. He’s the boss. Plus, he just got done telling me that I look like ass. She pushed down her obnoxious inner voice and forced her attention to the TV.

“It is a little more than that,” he said. On the screen, an image of a huge house—a mansion really. “This is the house. Not only will you steal a painting, but you’ll replace it with a forgery.”

Nikki sat up straighter. “Well, that’s a little more interesting. Why?”

“So the owner doesn’t realize he’s been robbed.”

Nikki’s whole face frowned. “Where’s the fun in that? When I get one over on someone, I want him to know. I want to push his nose in my superiority.”

“This isn’t about proving your superiority,” Ms. Green said.

And she would know all about a superiority complex.

“Then what?” Nikki continued.

“Money. Pure and simple.”

Audrey listened to what the woman said, but she wasn’t buying it. The Greens were not like her and Nikki. They didn’t need money. They looked like they stepped off the set of a nighttime soap opera. There was more to the situation than they were letting on.

“Who’s doing the forgery?” Nikki asked.

Audrey didn’t much care. She knew next to nothing about art. She wouldn’t be able to tell a fake from the original.

“Not your concern,” Mia said. “We’ll be providing that.”

“And we’re supposed to trust that this forger is good enough that no one will be able to tell?”

“I’ll make sure of it,” Mia said confidently.

The woman was so confident that Audrey wondered if she was the forger.

“Not to sound like a bitch, or anything, but I’ve stolen plenty of things in my life. Why do I need you?”

“We have access to clientele who are interested in this particular painting.” Jay rose with a smile and crossed the room.

Audrey could imagine him in a boardroom owning everything. He commanded attention. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. He wasn’t a huge guy, maybe five-ten and fit, but not physically imposing. It was the way he carried himself, as if he could do whatever he wanted and no one would question him. And if they did, he wouldn’t care.

He continued, “Masterpieces are rarely stolen. When they are, they’re usually found and returned quickly. Part of the reason is that it’s hard to fence a priceless work of art.”

“Or you could just ransom it instead of fencing it.”

“Ransom?” Audrey asked.

“You steal a painting and as soon as they discover it’s missing you call and demand a ransom for the safe return.” Nikki chuckled. “I’ve done it with the same Dali three times.”

Dali? So much for masterpieces not being stolen. Audrey had no reason to doubt Nikki. She’d come across the woman’s name in passing, although they didn’t travel or work in the same circles. Where Audrey flew under the radar, Nikki liked to let everyone know how fabulous she was.

“What makes this different? As far as fencing it,” Audrey asked.

“Me. I have access to the right people,” Jay said.

When his dark eyes met hers, she saw a spark of excitement.

“People who won’t care that it’s stolen,” Nikki said. “You sound like you have a plan, but we get paid up front.” She flipped a thumb toward Audrey.

Audrey felt an odd kinship with Nikki, like they were in this together. Which in a way they were, separate from the Greens.

————–

  Sloane Steele is the pen name for Shannyn Schroeder. Shannyn is a part-time English teacher, part-time curriculum editor, and full-time mom, even though her kids are pretty self-sufficient teens. In her down time, she bakes cookies, reads romance, and watches far too much TV. For more information about Sloane’s and Shanyn’s books, visit her main website: https://ShannynSchroeder.com

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