Cover reveal, First Chapter, Teaser Excerpts

Cover Reveal and Chapter Reveal for Sweet Disaster (Stupid Awesome Love #1) by Ceri Grenelle! @givemebooksblog @cerigauthor

 

 

Title: Sweet Disaster
Series: Stupid Awesome Love #1
Author: Ceri Grenelle
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Sofie Hartley, Hart & Bailey Design Co.
Release Date: June 7, 2018

 

Blurb
Sophie…has stupid awesome sex with a stranger.
 
New York City summers are hot and sticky, which only makes what I’m feeling for the asshole in my new building even messier. Usually, I quietly reserve my opinions for my
news articles, but when Tony argues with me, he tempts me to give in to my crazy. I yell back. He smiles. Something in me melts.
 
It was only supposed to be one time, but we can’t get enough.
 
With Tony I’m a new person, brave and unashamed. But anything between us can only be a fling. He’s offered a job in Rome. That’s good, right? With a long history of unreliable relationships, messy emotions are a complication I don’t need.
Tony…has a sexy new neighbor.
 
I’ve worked my ass off to climb the ladder at my company, even threw away my passion to prove I’m worth something. When they offer me a high position, I should be focused on my work. But no one’s ever spoken to me the way Sophie does. She pushes buttons I don’t know I have. Forces me to confront a dream I gave up long ago.


In two months, we go our separate ways. No hurt feelings. No misunderstandings. That’s the deal. She doesn’t need to know I’ll be playing for keeps.

 

 

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AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

 

Excerpt
Chapter One
Sophie moves into a new building. There are sexy assholes.
The first time we argue, I feel alive. I’m sweating, my blood’s pumping, and my hair is sticking to my face in the stinking New York City humidity. I don’t know what life really is until some asshole starts screaming at me to move my van from his spot, because it feels so damn good to yell right back at him.
 “Get your U-Haul out of my parking spot!”
This guy’s hollering at me from across the street.
“Excuse me?” I call back, convinced he isn’t speaking to me. No one ever yells at me. I’m unassuming and introverted. I’m a wallpaper ninja, blending so well people can’t even find me to yell at me. But the guy across the street sees me, clear as day.
“Are you deaf?” he yells with slow and exaggerated articulation. “Get your damn moving van out of my spot.”
I’m not the type of person to engage in a verbal fight. I’m quiet-even when someone pisses me off. I roll with the chaotic nature of my beautifully harsh city: a strand of seaweed in the ocean, riding the tides. But after surviving the day from hell, only to be accosted by this bear of a man? I fight back, like I never have before. 
 “Last time I checked there are no spots assigned to people on this block, or anywhere else in Brooklyn.”
“It’s an unwritten rule.”
I mimic his earlier tone, hitting every consonant and unleashing my New York accent to embellish the attitude. “If you couldn’t tell, I’m moving into the building and there’s an actual written rule that if I double-park the U-Haul, I’ll get a ticket.”
“That’s not my problem, baby.” He steps into the street, waiting for a break in traffic to cross. “Find a new spot.”
I nearly drop the moving box in outrage before remembering it has wine glasses mom sent from Napa. Breaking them would be a crime. I’ll need them before this shit day
is over, especially after getting a look at the man charging at me like a bull chasing red. 
As he crosses the street I expect to see a guido with a beer gut, and while I imagine he’s got a decent percentage of Italian heritage, there sure as hell ain’t no beer gut.  Instead I’m greeted by a fit and trim physique, tanned skin, and biceps I could drool over. The muscles in his arms tense and roll with every word, every wild gesticulation. He levels with me on the sidewalk and removes his sunglasses, revealing dark eyes flecked with gold. He’s shockingly handsome—like runway model handsome— combined with the grittiness of a rock star and the best parts of a native New Yorker. I’m wearing the tank top I slept in last night, a ratty old sports bra, and shorts I haven’t washed for two weeks.
This day is the pits.
“Because of your stupid van, I had to circle the surrounding blocks for twenty minutes to find a spot for my pickup truck. A paid, limited-parking, spot.”
“How is your poor car choice my fault? Who in their right mind has a pickup truck and lives in Brooklyn? You’re just asking for endless nights searching for parking. What do you do when it snows?”
The challenge in his eyes is like a book I have to devour. One flexed bicep, an arched eyebrow, and I’m hooked.
He shoots a disparaging glance at my van before asking, “You’re moving into this building?”

He points at my new place. 
I’ve propped the outer foyer door open and there are boxes preloaded onto a dolly at the top of the stoop.
“No.” I lay the sarcasm on thick. “I’ve come here to unload this van with the sole purpose of pissing you off. I thought, ‘who in all of New York can I make the most miserable today?’ ” I raise one arm in a fist pump. “I won!”
His eyes widen like he can’t believe I’m not backing down, and I might be hallucinating from the heat, but I swear I catch a smile before he starts laying into me again, our voices getting louder and louder.
“I don’t care what you’re doing; I need this spot for my truck, and you need to move.”
“I will move my truck when I’m good and ready.”
“You’ll move now.”
“No.”
“No? That’s it?”
“That’s it?” I repeat, dumbfounded. As if the world revolves around this asshole’s giant ego. “I’ll tell you what’s it. It’s ninety-eight degrees outside. I had to take a day off work to move because the management company of this stupid new building insists I move one week after signing the lease, much to the dismay of my boss, who was kinda pissed I didn’t come in today.”
He opens his mouth to speak and I cover it with my hand, unwilling to break my stride. I haven’t unloaded like this in years.
“And then the rental company loses my reservation for the van, and proceeds to send me to two consecutive branches ’till I found one that has the size I reserved. Two branches.
His eyes narrow as he crosses his arms, but he doesn’t stop me. I’m on a damn roll, releasing pressure built by an awful day, and years of containing my opinion to the written word. I keep my hand on his lips, not because it feels nice or anything, but because I need to get this off my chest and he’s the unlucky bastard who’s gonna hear it. Not even an introvert of my level can keep it cool after the shit storm of my day.
“The Task Rabbit guys I hired to load the truck were an hour late and on the drive over no less than three cabbies-three-cut me off on the bridge, and I’m pretty sure I heard one of my boxes fall over and break as I swerved to get out of the way. And now, to put the icing on a great big turd of a cake, a loudmouth jackass is ordering me to move my van after getting a spot directly in front of my new building. He wants to shit on the one good thing that’s happened to me today. You want to know what’s it?” I’m panting it’s so hard to get the last words out.
“That’s fucking it.”
I’ve lived in various spots around New York City my entire life but until this moment I’ve never adhered to the loud-mouthed-I-don’t-need-a-filter culture. With this guy
and his amber-streaked hair and gold cross around his neck-
I let go of all my insecurities and worry over what people will think and just let it fly. Over a parking spot, of all things.
A freakin’ parking spot.
When he takes my hand away from his mouth, cradling my wrist with an almost shocking tenderness, making my skin itch, I ask, “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
My yelling draws the attention of passing pedestrians. I think I see a smartphone or two recording us. He sees them too, a frown pulling his features into severity. It transforms his smooth edges into a creature of rougher origins, a true piece of him I find both unnerving and intriguing.
 “I think I’m the guy who needs you to move your van, so I can park my pickup truck here, in the only spot on this block that fits it.” His voice is low, but there’s a definite heat behind it. Whether it’s the same annoyed tone from before or something new I can’t tell, and after the scene I just made, I don’t think I want to know. He’s still holding my hand, swiping his thumb back and forth across my wrist.
“Do you verbally attack every unsuspecting person who parks in your spot, or am I just lucky?”
“Baby, you don’t know what lucky is, but I’d be more than happy to show you.”
That might be a warning or a come on…or both. I advance on him, my bravado knowing no ends today. “Don’t call me baby, asshole.”
He matches me step for step. “Till you move out of my spot, I’ll call you what I want, baby.” 
I want to kick him, but the way he says baby flashes through my body like a heat wave. A deliciously sexy heat wave. Actually, I should kick myself to get my good sense back. His hand is still holding my wrist. I’m starting to think I don’t want him to let go.
 “Why don’t you go cool off with a walk around the block, go pump some iron, take some steroids, or do whatever it is you guido types do.”
“You say guido like it’s a bad thing. Where are you from that you can cast aspersions on my character?” He laughs when my eyebrows shoot up, casually leaning toward me
as if I didn’t just spit my entire day up on him.
He finally lets go of my wrist, and I feel the loss of his heat, even in the humid air.
 “Guidos know big words too, baby.”
God, why does fighting with him feel so good? I should want to smack him, and I do, but having his lips so close to mine makes me want different things. Sinful, sexy, and dirty things.
“You perpetuate that stereotype yourself. You’re doing it now, yelling at me like an Italian thug.”
His hand clutches his heart. “You wound me, baby. I should take you inside, throw you over my knee and teach you a lesson.”
His immodest threat makes me blush, but not because I’m scandalized, but because now I know I kinda want it. And God, he sees it. He sees the shift from anger to lust. He sees my skin flush in color from something other than fury, and he grabs hold.
 “You can’t tell me to move the van,” I say before he can interject with another baby.
“I can tell you whatever I want; it’s up to you to behave and actually do it.”
“Who says I need to behave?”
“The laws of decency.”
“You’re screaming at an innocent woman like a madman, and you have the balls to call me indecent?”
“I have balls for many different scenarios. I keep them in a velvet-lined drawer and take them out when such occasions arise.”
Don’t laugh. Don’t fucking laugh. I open my mouth to start another round, but before I can get a word in His Almighty Dickishness turns on a dime and flashes a roguish grin, the asshole gone in a flash. The result is devastating. His body is all fully-grown man, but his smile is whimsical and childlike, more open than what I’m prepared for. I was
raised on cynicism and sarcasm. Pure honesty is alarming.
“Listen, the longer we stand here, the hotter and crankier I get. I’m gonna speed this up for us. What floor you movin’ into?”
“Why?”
He runs his hands through his hair, seeking an outlet. I know the feeling; I’m as jittery as kid with A.D.D. “I’m gonna help you move so you can get your ugly van out of
my way.”
His offer, combined with the sudden change in his demeanor, throws me so far off balance I answer without thinking, “Third floor.”
“What a coincidence. I’m on the fourth. Welcome to the building. C’mon, baby, show me what you need moved.”
“You live here?”
“Yes.” He peers into the van, seeing all the boxes and furniture pieces I could cram into it. “Were you gonna move that loveseat by yourself?”
“You live here.” I point at my new address, making it obviously clear which building I mean because I need to know absolutely, without any doubt, that the man I’ve just screamed at, like a an unashamed weirdo, like I’m never gonna see him again, lives one floor above me. “At this building.”
 “Yes. This building.” He grins, his teeth accompanied by a sparkle. It is singularly unfair that a man so annoying can be so profoundly attractive. He’s checking all my boxes. Which only makes me angrier.
“I don’t need your help.” What I don’t need is this big gulp of man in my apartment.

“I’m stronger than I look.”
He sighs, leans against the hated van with his arms in his pockets. Unassuming. Harmless.

Ha!
“I’m sorry I yelled at you earlier.” I dip my chin and stare at him with an eyebrow arched in sarcastic doubt.
“Okay, I am sorry I made your day harder. Let me make it up to you. Let me help you move in.”
He doesn’t wait for me to accept, of course, just turns back to the open van, eyeing it like a mountain to be climbed.
“What do you want moved first?”
He’s genuine. He’s actually offering to help me, after spending a good twenty minutes making an ass of himself by demanding I move for his benefit. And all of sudden he’s helping me, like this is who he was all along. Like I’m not the only one who’s had a shit day.
“How about the ones labeled kitchen? That’s the best room in my apartment.” he chuckles to himself. I figure it must be an inside joke until he proves he’s gotta have the
single most massive ego in all of Brooklyn. “It’s only the best due to my superb cooking. Do you like linguine?”
“Yes,” I mumble automatically, unable to deal with the shift in his demeanor. I’m practically out of breath from hollering at him, and my body is on a knife’s edge, tempted by this hunk of man, and he’s talking about fucking linguine.
“Baby.”
 There’s that word again. “You haven’t had linguine till you’ve had my
linguine.”
 h, I want his linguine. Without another word he gathers two boxes, one on each shoulder. He looks like a textbook illustration of an ancient Roman hauling cement blocks to build a great structure. He catches me staring and winks. I will not let Lord Linguine show me up. I will prove I can do this by myself, and maybe that will make him go away. I grab a box, then another, and another, balancing them and forcing myself to smile. These boxes weigh nothing. I’m not killing myself in the heat to prove anything. I perform heavy lifting on a regular basis.
“You got-
“I’m fine,”
I grunt, hobbling up the steps to the building, the weight of the boxes turning me slower than molasses. The elevator is out of order-don’t cry, don’t cryso it’s pointless to use the dolly. We’re forced to take the stairs.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
“Stop asking me,” I grunt.
Christ, this hurts so much. I’m going to die. My knees will break, and I’ll crumble in on myself, forced to listen to Lord Linguine laugh as he steps over me. My foot catches on the top step, and the boxes start to tumble. Before I can even cry out, he’s there, deftly placing his boxes down to help me, making sure I don’t fall. One hand on my waist, the other supporting the three boxes.
“Thanks.”
The adrenaline from the near fall pulses through my veins as I look up at him. We’re close, barely a breath apart, and I can’t catch my breath. I can’t stop looking into his eyes. Is it possible for a man’s gaze to smolder and shine at the same time?
“You’re welcome.”
He sounds normal, no longer filled with false bravado, almost kind. 
“What would my Ma say if I let you land ass up?”
There’s the idiot I’ve come to know. We make it to the third floor, and I almost collapse when we reach my door.
“Is it unlocked?” Linguine asks, shuffling in front of me.
“Yes.”
He slides the door open, sets the boxes in the kitchen where I direct him to, as if they’re light as a feather, then comes over and takes all three of my boxes away. He doesn’t so much as grimace from the weight, and I hate him more than ever.
“Let’s take a break-
“Shut up, there’s still more.”
I ignore his deep chuckles as we go back to the van.  I don’t repeat my earlier folly, but I make him carry the heavier stuff to pay him back for being so smug. He doesn’t complain, just lugs another two boxes onto his shoulders and places them where I tell him. I trail behind him each time we go back down the stairs to the first floor. His back muscles flex with every step, on display through the thin, white tank top. It’s a nice view, and I don’t stop myself from raking my gaze down his waist to what
I can only describe as the most delicious bubble butt ensconced in pants tailor-made for his ass. 
He faces me once he hits the sidewalk, a self-satisfied smirk highlighting a mouth and cheekbones I’m slowly starting to obsess over in my head, and I think he knows I’ve been looking. I don’t care. I’m taking full advantage of the view while I can, except when he calls me on it.
“You looking at my ass, baby?”
“No,” I say too quickly, cursing my lack of finesse.
“I can feel your eyes on me.”
“You’re hallucinating.” We get to the van, and I’m surprised by how little is left to move.
“Don’t worry, I’ve been looking at yours too.”
“You son of a-
“I’ve got time for one more trip,” he says, his arm brushing mine as he reaches for more boxes. Electricity shoots through my body. Our eyes meet. He licks his lips. I can’t have him in my apartment anymore, filling it up with his raw energy and body so beautiful I’ve come to appreciate it for the work of art it is.
“You can stop right now, I didn’t need your help when I started, and I don’t need it now.”
He ignores me, grabbing another two boxes.
“I said I don’t need your-” He grabs two more boxes and runs up to the building, like a puppy stealing a shoe, trying to instigate a play session. Except this is a grown man who I can barely look at without thinking dirty thoughts. “-what a freaking asshole…
We’re in my apartment again, the space getting smaller and smaller with every second I’m near him. We’re so close to each other, yet a million miles away. He sets the boxes by the entrance and runs his fingers through his hair as he straightens from a crouch, his slacks stretched taut over muscular thighs. His hair looks soft. Does he highlight it to get that color? Beautiful amber streaks piercing through pitch black. I push my hands through my curly, pixie-length haircut, mussing it up to distract myself.
I gnaw at my bottom lip and press down till I feel a pinch, a reminder not to stare at him. It’s just so damn hard.
He catches me looking again, and I glance away, coming down from the high of strong emotions and physical exertion. But it’s not enough. I feel anxious and incomplete, like I’m missing something. Like whatever is passing between us isn’t over.
“I’d say thank you, but I don’t think you helping me makes up for your dickishness earlier.” I shrug, unrepentant.
He doesn’t move, just keeps looking at me as his hands slowly lower. No other response. My heart beats a little faster when he licks his lips, and wet heat that has nothing to do with summer humidity blooms between my legs.
 “You can go now.” I don’t really want him to go. I want him to stand in the middle of my apartment, so I can stare at him a while longer. The last time I was near a man so beautiful was for an article I wrote on the trials of the male model life. Those guys are paid to be gorgeous, but they’ve got nothing on Lord Linguine.
He nods, as though he hears and understands, but makes no moves to leave. He just keeps looking at me, and now he’s touching his bottom lip with his thumb. Dear Lord,
his mouth is sumptuous. No, not just sumptuous. It’s fat and thick, made more tantalizing by the way it plumps whenever he bites down.
Who is this guy? He’s been carrying my heaviest boxes up and down the stairs without a drop of perspiration, like some Greek god. I’m sweating worse than a roasted pig and am most likely still flushed and red after our argument-thanks, Irish coloring. My clothes are wrinkled and gross, and I can’t recall if I brushed my teeth this morning. But I know the look he’s giving me, like there’s nothing in the world he wants more. It should scare me. I don’t know him at all, and yet…and yet…that itch in my skin is all from
him. One argumentative word from my new neighbor and I’ve unleashed more personality on the world than in the past five years. 
Male desire emanates from his gaze like the sun at high noon; no doubt I’ll get burned if I don’t protect myself. I would usually feel uncomfortable, wary even, if someone I don’t know keeps staring at me like he does, but after spending the last hour with him—feeling his hand on my back when I nearly missed a step on one of our ascents, staring at his ass, watching his muscles tense and roll with every step, watching his lips like my favorite TV show—all I feel is an intense need. The realization slaps me in the face so hard I nearly take a step back.
I want Lord Linguine. I want his beautiful body covering mine. I want his lips on places that haven’t felt the touch of a man in longer than I care to admit. I want him inside me. I want him to use my body till I’m wrung out and this awful day is erased.               
But all I say is, “See you around the building.” 
Again, no response, just staring, with the occasional lip licks or flickers of his gaze. He’s looking at my body the same way I’m looking at his. Seeing him want me only makes me want him more. Proof of his humanity shows as moisture drips down the side of his tanned face, tripping over a thin layer of manicured stubble. Shit, he’s beautiful, in a brutal, New York City way. And considering the way he shifts, his tight-fitting trousers stretching taut, a long hard line now highlighted at the front of his pants, I’m pretty sure he’s thinking the same thing about me. I bite my bottom lip deliberately to see what he does. He watches the move then finally speaks. His voice is as far from the riotous nature of our initial encounter as it can get.
“I could stay, help you unpack some stuff.”
I nearly prevaricate, but decide to stick to honesty. We both know what’s happening here.
“That’s not what would happen if you stayed.”
“It’s your choice. If you don’t want me to stay, I’ll leave. We’ll nod at each other as we pass in the hallway, like this was an unremarkable encounter. We’ll go back to being strangers. I don’t want that, but I promise I’ll leave if you do.”
“Oh, now you care what I think?” Stalling. Stalling, I am so stalling.  
“I’ve been hanging on your every word for the past hour, and in no world would I ever want to make a woman uncomfortable, so yeah, I care a whole fucking lot.” His body is tense, practically vibrating, yet he stays put. Waiting for me.
 “Tell me what you want, baby.”
Do I want what he’s offering?
“I’ll make you feel so good.”
Uninhibited sex between strangers?
After the day I’ve had?
He takes a step forward. We’re nearly on top of each other now. My hands itch to touch him. “Say yes.”
Fuck yes, I do.
“Yes.”
Author Bio
Ceri is the author of quirky and sexy contemporary romance novels. She has a major weakness for sappy cuddle moments as much as hot and steamy sex scenes, and a penchant for writing snappy and sarcastic dialogue. She loves romance that isn’t afraid to be awkward and uncouth, and thrives on flawed characters with big hearts.
A New York native, Ceri now lives in California with her two cats, Mercy and Eugene Fitzherbert, who should be very thankful she didn’t name him frying pan. She is a proud functioning introvert and lover of all things geeky. You can find her haunting the Twitter machine or posting pictures of her ridiculous cats on Instagram.
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Book Trailer, Excerpt, First Chapter, Giveaways, Playlists

Chapter Reveal, Playlist & Book Trailer for Dirt (Evergreen Series #1) by Cassia Leo w/a rafflecopter giveaway! @CassiaLeo @cassialeo @inkslingerpr

Today we have the chapter reveal for DIRT by Cassia Leo! Check them out and pre-order your copy today!

 

Title: DIRT
Author: Cassia Leo
Series: Evergreen Series
Release: January 12, 2018

 

About Dirt

A hard-hitting, emotional new series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

Jack and I had everything. Then, in one brutal instant, the universe tilted on its side, discarding us into black nothingness.

Now, I have a cocky a**hole for a husband.

The only way we communicate anymore is when we’re fighting or f**king.

With nothing left to lose, I write Jack a goodbye letter and head for Portland, where I quickly meet a neighbor who helps me find a job.

My new neighbor—broody, tattooed ex-soldier Isaac Evans—is complicated. Nevertheless, we form a fast friendship, bonding over our mutual desire to create something beautiful from the wreckage of our lives.

But despite the distance between us, Jack and I are still trying to make things work—fighting and f**king dirtier than ever. And he doesn’t appreciate my new friendship with Isaac. Not one f**king bit.

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Chapter Reveal

Chapter 1

Laurel

I hugged Jack Jr. tightly against my breast, and he molded his soft, warm body to mine. His eyes remained closed as his tiny fingers curled around the fabric of my blouse, his rosy lips puckering as he geared up for more food.

“You sucked me dry, little fella,” I whispered, leaning in to press my nose against the downy-soft, golden hair on the top of his head. I inhaled his scent and my muscles unspooled. “But I’ll be back to feed you soon. I promise.”

Why do babies smell so damn good?

Before I got pregnant with Junior, my favorite smell was orange blossoms. As a teenager, I often got scolded by my mom for picking the flowers off the orange tree in our backyard in Portland. I’d rub the creamy petals between my fingers, bruise them with my fingernails, then sniff my hand for hours until the scent wore off.

When I was pregnant with Junior, my favorite scent became the rich aroma of the forbidden coffee I could no longer drink.

After Junior was born, and my decaf days came to a glorious end, I realized how wrong I’d been. There was absolutely no scent as sweet and soul-quieting as the smell of the top of a baby’s head. Bonus points if the baby was lying peacefully on your chest sound asleep.

“Are you ever going to put him down?”

I flicked my head sideways, startled by Jack’s clear, baritone voice.

He stood in the doorway of Junior’s nursery, the silhouette of his six-foot-three athletic body framed by the warm light in the hallway. His head was tilted to the side. He’d probably been standing there admiring us for a while. After six years together, I knew Jack’s body language and facial expressions better than I knew my own face.

I stood from the rocking chair and stole one more sniff of Junior’s head before I placed him gently on his back in the center of the crib. I adjusted the left sleeve of his pajamas, pulling it down to make sure it covered his entire chubby arm. I didn’t want to imagine him waking up cold and alone in here.

Jack appeared at my side as I switched on the video baby monitor. “He’s going to be fine,” he murmured, reaching down to stroke the soft patch of hair on Junior’s head. “In fact, he’ll probably enjoy some time alone. After all, he is just like his daddy; sometimes, we need a break from the constant attention from the ladies.”

I rolled my eyes and headed for the door. “Making jokes only makes leaving him slightly less scary, you know,” I said as we stepped into the hallway of our five-bedroom dream home in Hood River, Oregon. I couldn’t wait to fill up every one of these bedrooms with brothers and sisters for Jack Jr.

Jack chuckled as he followed closely behind me. “Less scary is an improvement,” he replied, grabbing my hand to stop me in the middle of the corridor. “You promised Junior you’d be back soon. Can you also make me a promise?”

The hallway lights made his dark hair look glaringly shiny, but I couldn’t help but notice how weary his blue eyes looked tonight. Since Junior arrived three months ago, I’d been so focused on my baby boy’s vulnerability, his scent, his beauty, I hadn’t slowed down enough to appreciate how those were the same qualities that made me fall in love with Jack.

Suddenly, my worries about leaving Junior with my mother for the evening evaporated. All I wanted to do was kiss Jack, grab hold of that dark hair and make love to him for hours. I wanted to replace the weariness in his eyes with dark hunger, or maybe a glint of mischief.

I squeezed his hand and smiled at the thought of possibly having sex with him in public tonight. We hadn’t done that in a while.

“What kind of promise?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nope, you’re not allowed to ask. Just promise me you’ll say yes.”

My stomach vaulted at the sound of those words. They were the same words Jack spoke when he asked me to marry him. I wondered what he would ask this time.

The phrase “just promise me you’ll say yes” had become like an inside joke, our own private, unspoken promise to each other that we would always do whatever it took to stay together. The last time he had uttered this phrase, he asked me to stop taking my birth control pills. With Junior here, it was easy to trust that whatever Jack asked me for this time would turn out to be exactly what I needed.

I tilted my head back so I could look up and into his crystal-blue eyes. “Yes, I can make you a promise.”

His expression became sober. “Promise me you’ll be present tonight.” He fixed me with a piercing gaze as his large hand cupped my face. “It’s just you and me for the next three hours. Promise me.”

I smiled. “I promise. Just you and me. And I’ll even put my cell phone on vibrate.” As I said the words, a sharp finger of fear prodded my subconscious, telling me it was a bad idea to risk missing a phone call tonight.

The exhaustion in Jack’s eyes melted away as he smiled. “I can deal with that, but you have to promise me one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

His smile turned almost menacing as he looped his arm around my waist and drew me close. “Promise me you’ll lemme smash that blonde bombshell booty,” he said, landing a light swat on my ass.

I shook my head as I recalled how we often had sex in public during our first year together, in our senior year at Oregon State University, Cascades. For some reason, once we graduated and moved in together, having sex in public seemed like something we couldn’t get away with so easily. We decided public sex-hibitions — or throw downs, as we more commonly referred to them — would be reserved for special occasions like anniversaries or vacations.

Truthfully, Jack and I kicked off our relationship by having sex on the first date. He was always a very difficult man to resist. When he showed up at my apartment to pick me up that night, I couldn’t resist his suggestion that we should stay in and make paper masks of ourselves, then put them on and ask each other first date questions as if we were the other person. I had never laughed so much on any date. Ever. But when he asked — while pretending to be me — if I’d ever had sex with someone on the first date, I couldn’t help but respond with, “I’m Jack-fucking-Stratton. I’ve fucked a lot of girls on the first date. But none as gorgeous as you.”

Jack always knew how to keep things fresh and alarmingly sexy. Six years in and my body still craved him almost every second of every day.

Today was our three-year wedding anniversary. We’d only had sex twice since I gave birth to Junior three months ago, and both of those times were truly awkward.

The first time was painful. My C-section incision hadn’t fully healed yet, and even trying to have sex with him behind me was uncomfortable. The second time we tried, Jack was so afraid of hurting me, he stopped midway through. There’d been a lot of oral sex happening in this house since then.

Luckily, a few weeks had passed since our last attempt, and I had repeatedly assured him I was fully healed up now. I was certain that even if the sex did hurt a little, it would still be worth it. I couldn’t understand couples that didn’t consider sex an important part of a relationship. I never felt more complete, more present, more alive than when my body and mind were entwined with Jack’s.

I smiled as I wrapped my arms around his waist. “I think I know just the place for a proper throw down.”

He wiggled his eyebrows. “Ooh. Tell me more.”

As he leaned in to kiss me, my mother’s voice interrupted us.

“Are you two making out again?” she said, standing at the top of the stairs with her hands on her hips as she gawped at us. “Well, don’t let me stop you.”

Jack laughed and I shook my head as we moved toward her.

“We’re just trying to keep you entertained while you’re on vacation, Beth,” Jack said.

My mother cocked an eyebrow. “If I wanted to watch porn, I’d open up your laptop and have a look at your internet history.”

“Mom, don’t be gross,” I protested, trying not to laugh.

Jack smiled as he held out his elbow for my mom to grab hold as they descended the stairs in front of me. “I made a special collection of links for you. They’re in a folder labeled Tantric Geriatric. You’ll love it.”

I rolled my eyes. Jack and my mother exchanged jabs like this all day.

My mother was staying with us for a few days, so Jack and I could have some time to ourselves and get some much-needed uninterrupted sleep. She was leaving tomorrow to go back to the house where I grew up in Portland. Though she pretended as if she was desperate to get home to her Craftsman cottage in the city, and I even teased her about how she was dying to get back so she could see the handsome new neighbor she’d been going on about, I knew she was going to miss Jack’s pretend insults as much as she would miss Junior and me.

My mother practically shoved me toward the front door. “I order you to go have fun,” she said, smiling as Jack opened the door and stepped outside. “And don’t come home until you’re too drunk to walk.”

I shook my head. “Thanks, Mom. Please call if you need anything. And don’t answer the door for anyone. There’s a house that got broken into a few streets away.”

She waved off my paranoia. “Stop worrying so much. We’ll be fine. See you later, babe.”

I blew her a kiss, then I closed the door behind me.

* * *

“I have to admit, having sex on the waterfront was one of my favorite public throw downs ever,” Jack said, pulling his Tesla into the long driveway of our four-acre estate. “But do we really have to wait until our fourth anniversary to do it again?”

I tugged the silky fabric of my skirt straight as I pressed my thighs together. Though my body was still raw with the evidence of the dirty deed we’d just committed, I couldn’t wait to get Jack inside and pounce on him again. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the sensation of him moving inside me, and how good he was at making me feel beautiful.

“We can do that anytime we can snag a babysitter,” I replied as he turned the car off.

He made no move to exit the Tesla. “Well, babycakes, you’d better get ready to interview a fuck-ton of babysitters.”

I laughed. “Babycakes? That’s a new one.”

Jack rarely used the same term of endearment twice in a row. He liked to keep me guessing.

He scrunched up his nose. “Yeah, that one was kind of creepy. Now that I’ve tried it out, I think I can bury that one in the nickname graveyard.”

“Try the incinerator,” I said, reaching for the door handle.

“Duly noted,” he replied, exiting the vehicle.

Jack and I glided unhurriedly along the flagstone walkway, which was lined with sparkling pathway lights. As we made our way toward the steps leading up to the covered porch, I stopped in the middle of the path and closed my eyes as I inhaled the sweet scent of the lavender and honeysuckle I’d planted with my mom’s help.

That was when I made a wish, a corny wish, but I didn’t care.

I wished that every person could find someone they loved as much as I loved Jack. I wished every child could feel as loved as Junior was. And I wished every anniversary could be as perfect as this one.

“No… No, no, no!” Jack’s voice grew louder with each no.

They say mother’s intuition is scientifically proven to exist. I knew by the tone of Jack’s voice, without even opening my eyes, that my world would never be the same. I knew in that instant, I would regret leaving Jack Jr. tonight for the rest of my life.

Though I knew something was wrong, I wasn’t prepared for what we found.

At some point, while we were lost in our blissful celebration, the front door of our home had been forced open. This discovery was what had made Jack cry out in disbelief. Father’s intuition must also be a thing, because he told me later that, even though the door was still closed, the moment he saw the gouges in the wood near the handle, he had felt that same sense of dread. That feeling that the universe had suddenly tilted on its side, discarding us into black nothingness.

The house was ransacked.

Furniture upended, paintings and flatscreen televisions torn off the walls, shards of shattered vases littered the floors. Complete and utter chaos.

The master bathroom doorknob looked as if it had been shot off. We found my mother’s lifeless form huddled against the bathtub, my baby boy’s dead body clutched tightly in her arms.

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About Cassia Leo

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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#CuddleWithTuttleWednesday and Chapter Reveal for More than Friends @MsMonicaMurphy

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Find out why everyone is falling in love with Jordan Tuttle from Monica Murphy’s More than Friends!! Releasing Nov. 14th.

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More than Friends ~ Monica Murphy

Chapter 1 reveal

Chapter One

Amanda

 

I’m cruising on my bike, contemplating everything Livvy just told me. How her mom was so mad when she discovered Livvy had spent the night at Ryan’s house, she grounded her and took away her phone. Livvy is seriously going to lose her mind being grounded for so long, unable to see Ryan unless we’re at school. That won’t be enough for her. When it comes to Ryan, it feels like nothing is ever enough for her.

At least I’m not in trouble like she is.

Liv’s going to stress out over Ryan, though. Over those hours when she’s not with him and he could possibly be up to no good. She worries about him all the time. I get it—sort of. He seems to play games, and that must get exhausting.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t put up with that crap. But I’m not Livvy.

Thank goodness.

The wind blows through my hair as I make a right into my neighborhood, turning the wild strands into a tangled mess. Not that I care. There’s no one I’m hoping to impress. It’ll just be Sunday night dinner with the family, as usual. I’m not even sure if they’re home yet. Dad mentioned something about going to Home Depot to pick out fall flowers for the yard, and Mom said something about shower curtains and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Bleh. I’m glad I made my escape when I did.

My house slowly comes into view and I smile to myself. I might not live in a giant mansion in a fancy neighborhood like my new so-called friends, but our house is nice. Small and on the older side, but it’s cute, with a pretty front yard and a big porch with a white swing…

Oh. Crap. There’s someone sitting on the swing. His arms are spread out along the back of the wooden frame, his gaze locked directly on me, like he knew I was going to appear at any second.

It’s Jordan Tuttle.

My heart is racing as I press gently on the brakes, taking him in, my gaze roving over every single tiny feature that makes him Jordan. I want to slow down the moment, revel in the anticipation of finding him waiting for me. He rises to his feet, runs a hand over his thick, perfect hair almost nervously, and a shuddery breath leaves me.

The memory hits me, socks me in the stomach and leaves me aching. I remember what it felt like, having those hands on me just last night. His mouth on mine, the words he whispered in my ear. It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t something I made up inside my head, because seriously, I was starting to wonder if I really was losing my mind when it came to Jordan Tuttle.

But no. Jordan is real. He’s in my life because he wants to be here for some crazy reason. And now he’s waiting for me, his hands on his hips, the faintest smile on his face as he continues to watch me.

“What are you doing here?” I ask as I make my approach, hopping off my bike so I can roll it up the front walkway.

We meet in the middle, Jordan stopping just in front of me. “Nice way to greet me.”

I frown, worried I was doing everything wrong. He had a way of making me feel like that. “How should I greet you?”

“Like this.” His hand is suddenly curled around my nape when he pulls me in for a too-quick yet somehow lingering kiss. My lips tingle when he pulls away, and by the smug expression on his face, I know he knows the effect he has on me.

“Jordan,” I chastise, stepping away from him and nearly tripping over my stupid bike. Luckily enough, he catches me by the elbow, steadying me before I fall over like an idiot. “What if my parents are inside?”

“They’re not.” He grabs the bike from me, nudges the kickstand down and sets it in place on the sidewalk a few feet away from us. “Where’ve you been?”

His confidence makes me crazy. He’s so sure of himself, and I wish I had even an ounce of his self-assuredness.

I don’t. Not even close. He lives in another realm. I’m just a lowly peon compared to His Majesty, Lord Jordan Tuttle.

“I went over to Livvy’s,” I tell him when I realize he’s waiting for my answer. As usual, my mind wanders when I’m in his presence. “I wanted to make sure she’s okay.”

Jordan frowns. “She is, right?”

“Oh yeah, her mom just grounded her for life.” When he sends me a come on face, I readjust. “Fine, she’s grounded for a couple weeks. No phone. No Ryan.”

“It might do her some good, the no Ryan thing,” he mutters.

I say nothing. I don’t understand the relationship he has with Ryan. They’re friends. Then they’re not. They’re teammates always, and that’s something Jordan has to deal with no matter what.

“What are you up to right now?” I ask, hoping to change the subject.

He smiles. Reaches out to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind my ear. I feel that innocent touch all the way down to my toes, which are currently curling in my battered white Converse. “I want to take you out.”

My mouth drops open. “In public?”

The frown is back. It’s not fair, how attractive he still is despite the scowl he’s currently wearing. “Of course in public. What the hell, Mandy.”

I shrug, my cheeks burning with embarrassment. “We haven’t actually been seen together.”

He grabs my hand and pulls me in close. My body immediately goes hot and I wonder if he has some sort of powerful force field I can’t resist. “I want to change that.”

My gaze meets his and I can’t look away. He’s so sincere. So serious. “What happened between us last night was…”

“Real.” He kisses me again. Another brief brush of lips on lips, yet I’m decimated. Shaky all over when he pulls away. When my ex Thad kissed me, I never felt like this. Ever.

Never.

Ever.

Never.

“Maybe we were just caught up in a moment?” I ask tentatively. It’s like I’m always waiting for the bomb to drop. For the joke to be on me. No one in a million years would ever match me with Jordan Tuttle. Not even me. So what’s his deal? Why is he so persistent? I don’t get it.

I like it, but he also scares me. I don’t want to get hurt.

I don’t want my heart to be broken.

“Every time I’m near you, I get caught up in a moment.” One side of his perfect mouth tips up in this semi-smile that is absolutely adorable. I wish I had my phone out so I could snap a pic of him. “Maybe we need to give this a try and see if all we ever experience together is one giant moment.”

“That’s impossible.” The words are out before I can stop them and I slap my hand over my mouth, my eyes wide as I stare up at him.

Jordan actually laughs, shaking his head. It’s a rare sound, but wow, is it amazing. “Nothing’s impossible if you want it bad enough.”

I drop my hand, gaping up at him. “So are you saying that you want—me?

“Yes.” He dips his head, his mouth hovering above mine. “I do.”