Excerpt, Giveaways, Reviews

#Review of For the Brave (the Gentrys of Paradise #2) by Holly Bush w/a rafflecopter giveaway! #historicalromance @hollybushbooks

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Holly Bush will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

1869 – Matthew Gentry joined the Confederate Army at eighteen years of age after an argument with his father, leaving Paradise, his Virginia home and famed horse breeding stables, for the fields of Gettysburg. Having survived the War Between the States, Gentry is haunted by the violence and inhumanity of the war. He continues to roam the country long after the conflict is over, finding solace in the arms of soiled doves and at the bottom of whiskey bottles. Finally traveling home after learning of a family tragedy, he nearly loses his life in a spring-flooded riverbed.

Annie Campbell, lone survivor of her family, lives at a remote farm near the North River, raising pigs and trying to grow enough to feed herself, and to stay out of the crosshairs of the Thurmans, violent men who run the town of Bridgewater. Annie’s secrets threaten her safety, even as she rescues and nurses Matthew Gentry.

Matthew knows he must return to Paradise, to grieve with his family. Will his heart lead him back to Bridgewater and Annie Campbell?

Read an Excerpt:

He watched as she sharpened his blade on a worn leather strop and ran a brush around a tin cup, making lather with the soap on the bottom. She walked up to him, close enough that he could feel her body heat up and down his right side, and he smelled hay and horse, and some faint note of wintergreen or peppermint. Her shirt gapped when she leaned around him to scrape his other cheek and he was pleased to note that he was interested in seeing the top of her breast, as at some point in the last few days he’d convinced himself that there were parts of him that might never recover.

“Almost done,” she said. “Tilt your head back and let me get your neck.”

He did as he was told and let the sun beat down on his face. Her fingers were strong, moving his chin one way or another or dabbing soap from around his ears and wiping his face clean with a piece of towel she’d dunked in a pan of water. The warm towel wiping his face felt better than anything he’d felt for a long while, and he relaxed his shoulders and let her wipe away two weeks’ worth of sweat and grit. His eyes closed and he let run her comb through his long, filthy hair.

“I need to bathe. I can smell my own stink.”

“I’m going to cut your hair while we’re out here. The weather’s temperate, so we could wash it without heating water.”

“I don’t care if the water’s cold. I’m tired of pulling it back with a string. Cut it. Cut it all off.”

What can I say?  I love Ms. Bush.  Especially the Gentry’s.  I will admit, however, that I read this one after Olivia’s.  Matt’s book is actually the second one in the series.  Don’t worry.  You don’t need to read them in order.  You will not be confused at all.  In fact, I’m glad that I read them out of order.  It made Matt and Annie’s story that much sweeter for me.  How I loved this story.  In fact, this might be my favorite historical romance read of this year.

Why is that Harlie?  Matt, hands down.  I just fell in love from the first page.  Considering that I had already read a little bit about him in Olivia’s, Ms. Bush really hit it out of the park with this one.  There is a bit of suspense, romance, humor, and just had the feel of the movie Open Range, starring Kevin Costner (*swoon*).  And yes, I pictured him as Matt.  But I digress.  Matt is the hero that I’m drawn to.  Wounded, a heart of gold, loyal, but doesn’t feel like he deserves to be happy by his past actions.  Trust me, he does.  He gives as good as he gets and is first and foremost a gentleman.  I loved how he treated Annie throughout the book.  He never talked down to her but consider her an equal.  He tried to go all Alpha but Annie just put him in his place.  I knew right there that he and Annie were destined.

Annie, regardless of all the horrible things that had happened to her and her family, she never gave up hope.  In fact, I think it made her stronger.  I never felt bad for her but I could never figure out some things until Ms. Bush let me in on the secrets.  Dang…they were some doozies.  But Ms. Bush writes them in a way that you really hate the villains and cheer for Annie.  And yes, there are plenty of villains in this book.  Picture the standoff in the movie Silverado at the end.  The ending scenes with the villains…it was like the scene in Silverado.  You will stand up and cheer for Adam, Matt, Annie, and Gilly.

Overall, this book is definitely a keeper.  If you are looking for an exceptional western historical romance, look no further than Ms. Bush.  She owns the genre and has my heart.

About the Author:

Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England, and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

http://www.hollybushbooks.com
http://www.twitter.com/hollybushbooks
Facebook
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/holly-bush
https://www.amazon.com/Holly-Bush/e/B006ZDTQ1A/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Buy Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y1PNDTC/ref=sr_1_23
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/for-the-brave-holly-bush/1126163737
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/for-the-brave/id1222434376?mt=11
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/for-the-brave
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New Release, Release Day, Reviews, Teaser Excerpts

Happy, Happy Release Day to Loyal Subjects (the New American Royals #5) by Eva Charles! @givemebooksblog @evacharles37 #contemporaryromance #newrelease

Title: Loyal Subjects
Series: The New American Royals #5
Author: Eva Charles
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 14, 2018
Blurb
Allegiance, faithfulness, honor…Loyalty goes by many names.
Emmie Landon is off-limits. She has a young son, works with my brother Jake, and lugs around enough baggage to fill an entire football stadium. But I can’t resist her long, shapely legs and thick, soft curls, begging to be wrapped around my hands. 
Mark Harrington is too-everything. Too good looking, too funny, too charming, too brutally honest, too impulsive. He’s accustomed to getting his way, and never afraid to throw down the gauntlet. So what if I can’t stop thinking about his devilish blue eyes and his lip-smacking happy trail?
He needs someone to love.
She needs someone to love her. 
Two seemingly incompatible lives…
Two hearts capable of total devotion. 
**Despite being volume five in The New American Royals Series, Loyal Subjects may be read and enjoyed as a standalone contemporary romance.** 
This book.  All the feels and just what I needed to read right now.  If you have been following me for awhile then you know that I have read every book in this series.  You don’t need to read them order at all.  That said, why wouldn’t you?  Now, I have talked to Ms. Charles and she assured me that I might actually fall harder for Mark than Cole.  Some readers did, but I’m sorry, Cole still has my heart.  Ever more so because of Mark.  Cole’s the oldest and Mark has always been the somewhat troublemaker but Cole and Mark have a great relationship even as adults.
Mark is just that boy that just hasn’t fully find himself but on the other hand, knows what he wants in life.  As the middle child in a house full of boys, his greatest love was his mom and the relationship that she had with his dad.  He still holds them up as the model couple and wants what they had.  Mark fell for Emmie early in the book and it’s to see why.  She’s smart, sexy, a great mother to Teddy but still has the ghost of her dead husband over her.  I really felt for Mark when he was trying to convince her to take off the ring so that someone else could love her.  *sniffs*  Great line in the book.  The best thing about Mark was that he never backed down with Emmie.  He put the mirror up to her face and made her think.  He was never cruel but he needed to do that with her at times.
Emmie, my Emmie.  I really don’t know how to sum her up.  Horrible, wretched childhood.  A vile, uncompromising mother in law didn’t help matters at all.  A shrine?  I loved how Mark finally set her straight and I’m not going to tell you the most awful thing that she did.  OMG!!!  I’m still shaking my head but I understood the “why” she did it.  I know, weird huh?  Emmie’s reaction in her kitchen after her encounter with Mark broke my heart.  I honestly didn’t think that it work.  Too many roadblocks brought up from her.  I understood why Emmie acted the way she did at times.  It was great that she had a friend in Alexa.  Alexa is the bomb.  And good lord, Ella needs a filter.  Actually, she doesn’t.  I love her too much.  I can’t wait for her story.  Its gonna be hysterical.
There are so many scenes in the book that brought a smile to my face.  One, in particular, was with Teddy.  Being an only child, he didn’t have any brothers to bring to school for a presentation.  Of course, in Mark fashion, he decides that all of his brothers will stand up with Teddy.  OMG, Drew, Luke, Will, Cole, Jake and himself showed up.  Classic Harrington.  Plus, they put a little bully in his place without saying a word.  Another scene is when Ella shows up at Emmie’s house and soothes the beast (Emmie’s mother in law).  I laughed out loud.  Finally, the epilogue.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  Beautifully written, funny, sad but in the end very uplifting.
I know, Ms. Charles, I should have loved Mark as much as Cole and in some ways I did.  Cole owns my heart.  With Mark, I will love him to the end.  He takes no prisoners, stands up and takes control but also apologizes when he is an *ss.  That’s what makes him Mark.  *swoon*
Purchase Links
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
Available at iBooks soon
Also Available
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU
B&N / KOBO / iBOOKS

 

Author Bio
After being a confirmed city-girl for more than thirty-five years, Eva moved to beautiful Western Massachusetts in 2014. There, she found herself living in the woods with no job, no friends (unless you count the turkey, deer, and coyote roaming the backyard), and no children underfoot, wondering what on earth she’d been thinking. But as it turned out, it was the perfect setting to take all those yarns spinning in her head and weave them into romantic tales.


When she’s not writing, trying to squeeze information out of her tight-lipped sons, or playing with the two cutest dogs you’ve ever seen, Eva’s creating chapters in her own love story.
Author Links
Excerpt, Giveaways, New Release, Release Week, Reviews, Teaser Excerpts

Release Boost & #Review of Sweet Disaster (Stupid Awesome Love #1) by Ceri Grenelle w/a rafflecopter giveaway! @givemebooksblog @cerigauthor

 

Title: Sweet Disaster
Series: Stupid Awesome Love #1
Author: Ceri Grenelle
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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.

I know, another review this week.   I will have to admit that this one was tough to finish at times.  I’ve never truly DNF’d a book but this one almost became one.  Let me tell you why…Sophie.  I never felt a connection with her until maybe halfway through the book.  Honestly, she acted like a shrew and while the fighting with Tony is supposed to be foreplay for them, I just couldn’t find it funny after awhile.  In fact, at times, I skipped the smexy parts because of it.  Shut up.  I did.

That said, I LOVED Tony.  Just loved him.  I couldn’t find anything wrong with him, even though Sophie could throughout the whole book.  I really felt for him in terms of his really wanting a true relationship with Sophie but she wouldn’t have anything to do with that.  I did, however, understand why Sophie acting the way she did but after some time, I got bored.  There is only so much fighting/dirty sex that I can take.

Of course, you are probably thinking that I hated the book.  I didn’t.  Not.at.all.  In fact, once, Sophie FINALLY decided to open herself to the possibility of a real relationship (meeting the rents) that I fell in love with her.  Did she do some things after that, that I shook my head at?  You bet but I finally got her.  Tony got her.  I loved that line in the book.  “I got you”.  *swoon*  What made me fall in love with Tony from the beginning is that even though Sophie held back, he never did.  He was upfront and honest with her.  Okay, his ma kinda lied but when the tough got going, he was always there for her.

Gemma…Sophie’s sister.  OMG!!!!  I MUST read her story.  Sadly, I have to wait until September but she was a terrific secondary character for BOTH Sophie and Tony.  Tony’s brothers, Nick and Santi.  Same.  The batting cage scenes were hilarious and it truly resounded with me the importance of family…no matter who is in the family.

I will not tell you how it ends because I honestly thought it was hopeless.  That said, I really fell in love with the book.   Just keep in mind that this book is dirty, sexy, funny, your heart with bleed out in some spots but overall, a book and a series that I have on my keeper shelf.

 

Purchase Links
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.”
Oh, 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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