Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review of SEASIDE HEARTS (Seaside Summers #2) by Melissa Foster

"I realized how much you meant to me and how stupid I'd been. Then we kissed, and holy hell, Jenna. There was no turning back. At least not for me." - Pete Lacroux

Seaside Hearts
Series: Seaside Summers # 2
Author: Melissa Foster
Publisher: World Literary Press
Release Date: October, 2014
Source: Author for Review

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Jenna Ward is vivacious, spontaneous, and confident—except when she’s around the man who stole her heart years earlier, strikingly handsome, quiet, and reliable Pete Lacroux. After years of trying to get his attention and overwhelmed from dealing with her mother’s new cougar lifestyle, Jenna’s giving up on Peter—and is ready to explore other men.

As the eldest of five siblings, with an alcoholic father to care for, boat craftsman Pete Lacroux always does the right thing and has no time for a real relationship. He’s looking forward to seeing his friend Jenna, a welcome distraction who’s so damn sexy and so painfully shy that she equally entertains and confuses him.

When Jenna picks up a hard-bodied construction worker, jealousy ignites Pete’s true feelings, and he’s powerless to ignore the desires for Jenna he never realized he had. But Pete’s not the quiet guy he appears to be, and his life is anything but conducive to a relationship. Can Jenna handle the real Pete Lacroux—the sexiest, most passionate alpha male she’s ever seen—or will she crack under pressure? And can Pete reclaim the life he once had without tearing apart his family?

I always find myself at a loss for words when it comes to a Melissa Foster book. What can I say that I haven't said before? I love her books, plain and simple. Her characters are amazing. They are loving, strong, and intelligent. Some are oblivious to love. Some fall head first without looking back. Some are stubborn, while others are hard headed. Above all, every single one of them put their friends and family first. With all of the couples Melissa has matched up thus far, I'd have to say that Pete and Jenna are one of my favorites. I adored them. Jenna is like my sister from another mister, with bigger boobs. We're both incredibly shy with the finest specimens of the other sex. It seems as if both of our brains and mouths misfire. We'll either say nothing or, even worse, say something embarrassing. Its sad, really. Needless to say, I related to Jenna right away. Jenna wants love. She wants what two of her best friends have - a man that is over the moon in love and earth shattering sex. She wants that with Pete... Pete is so damn swoon-worthy. He's good with his hands, he's incredible with his family, and he's just as in love with Jenna as she is with him. His problem is that he doesn't think Jenna is interested in him. We've watched Jenna and Pete dance around each other for a couple books and now, it is finally time for them to open their eyes to what is right in front of them. And I think their friends would agree with me when I say... It's about damn time!

Thank you, Melissa, for a romance that was amazingly sweet and sizzling hot. What I loved the most about Seaside Hearts is that we got to watch the romance between Jenna and Pete grow over the course of two books. We first meet them in Kurt and Leanna's book, then we see more of their shyness towards each other in the first book in Melissa's Seaside Summers series. I loved that there were no obstacles that stood in their way. Once Pete and Jenna were together, they were able to conquer anything, including Pete's dad and Jenna's mom. I am so looking forward to Tony and Amy's romance, another one that we watch develop over the course of this series. I can only imagine what Bella and the girls have planned to help push these two lovebirds together. In the meantime, I'm over the moon that there are more Bradens and Jamie's story to keep me company. Happy reading for me...

"Melissa Foster is a wonderful connector of readers and books, a friend of authors, and a tireless advocate for women. She is the real deal"-- Bestselling Author Jennie Shortridge

"What sets Melissa Foster apart are her compelling characters who you care about... desperately. This  is psychological suspense at its most chilling. I dare you to read the first chapter and not be hooked."  International bestseller, M.J. Rose

Melissa Foster is an award-winning, International bestselling author. Her books have been recommended by USA Today's book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, the World Literary Café. When she's not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on  Fostering Success. Melissa is also a community builder for the Alliance for Independent Authors. She has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine.

Twitter: @Melissa_Foster 
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Facebook Melissa Foster:  (Fanpage)  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A visit with C.J. Kyle, author of Silent Night

Today I am so excited to welcome author C.J. Kyle to talk about her top five reasons why she writes romantic suspense. C.J. is celebrating the upcoming release of her new book, Silent Night, on October 28th. As a big fan of romantic suspense, I can't wait to pick it up.

Take it away, C.J.!

5 Reasons to Write Romantic Suspense by CJ Kyle

Spending time in any genre you love has to be the best reason in the world to write it. But, considering the topic of five reasons, let’s find a few more—off the wall, but still really great reasons—to write Romantic Suspense.

5. You get to kill people. No really, the old saying about watching what you do or you could end up in my next book, has never been truer than with a Romantic Suspense author. A person can be killed very quickly (usually this means they’ve just peeved you off) or the death can spread out over hours, or days, or, if they’ve really danced all over all your buttons, weeks! And there’s no fear of the police showing up at your door demanding alibis. Okay, there was that one time… but it was a complete misunderstanding that I’ll get to a little later in the list.

4. All the great series and television shows you get to watch in the name of research. There’s a lot of ‘dead’ TV out there—Forensic Files, Dr. G. Medical Examiner, Cold Case Files, not to mention Criminal Minds and Stalker just to name a few. And because it’s research, your family feels guilty when they try to take the remote from you. Oh, and then there’s the book money you get to spend guiltlessly on in order to see how your favorite author handled pacing or plotting.

3. You can delve into the minds of serial killers. What these people have done is horrible and will give you nightmares, however, if it scares the bejesus out of you then it’s almost a certainty that when you build these traits into your killer, you are going to do the same thing for your readers.

2. Awesome, talented, smart, and all around sexy heroes and heroines. If you’re going to have an all-out bad guy running through the pages of your book, then you’re going to need someone with the right skills to catch them. This almost always ends up as an irresistibly sexy, and flawed, cast of characters.

1. And finally, that all important reason to write Romantic Suspense: You get to talk to some really great people who are almost always willing to go that extra step to make sure your details are accurate and descriptive enough. Which brings me to that embarrassing moment I promised to tell you about in number five. Always, always, always explain to the person you’re calling that you’re a writer and doing research on your latest novel. This is for everyone you talk to. Just because you told the nice person at the police department who answered the phone who you were and why you needed this information does not mean she’ll pass on that detail to the nice detective who answers the phone.

By the time you realize he has no idea that you’re researching for a scene in your book, you’ve given him enough time to figure out who you are and where you’re calling from. A well-check call to your husband at nine-thirty at night, no matter how nice the hubby and officer are, makes you want to hide in the closet for the rest of the night.

So there you have it. My top five reasons for writing (and reading and watching) Romantic Suspense. What would make it on your list of all time reasons to write your favorite genre?

Silent Night 
By: C.J. Kyle 
October 28th, 2014 

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - iTunes - Kobo
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Christmas, Tennessee, is a town where no one locks their doors and the worst crime is a stolen bicycle. Until the night blood is found…but there’s no body.

Police Chief Tucker Ambrose hopes it’s just a prank, but his years as a cop in Chicago tell him different. Then a body is discovered in the middle of the woods, staged with a bible, a crucifix, and a rosary… and Tucker knows something dark and sinister has arrived in his town.

Miranda Harley knows exactly what’s going on. In fact, she’s been tracking this serial killer, hoping to gather enough evidence to convict him. Trouble is, no one will believe her, not even the sexy police chief whose heated gazes promise nights of sin. But when Miranda falls into the crosshairs of a psychopath, Tucker must put aside his doubts and race to stop the killer from striking again.

C.J. Kyle lives in Florida, where the weather is as bipolar as her characters sometimes turn out to be. Besides partaking in all things Jeep-related, she is an avid reader of most genres, loves cooking, watching sports, and thrives on being a wife and mother. She also classifies herself as a geek and nerd, enjoying gaming while thinking about the next scene she has to write. She loves to hear from her readers and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review of COVERING KENDALL (Love and Football #4) by Julie Brannagh

"One night, and we'll both go back to our lives. It'll be our little secret." - Kendall

Covering Kendall
Series: Love and Football # 4
Author: Julie Brannagh
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Source: Publisher (via Edelweiss)

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Kendall Tracy, General Manager of the San Francisco Miners, is not one for rash decisions or one-night stands. But when she finds herself alone in a hotel room with a heart-stoppingly gorgeous man-who looks oddly familiar-Kendall throws her own rules out the window…and they blow right back into her face.

Drew McCoy should look familiar, he’s a star player for her team’s archrival the Seattle Sharks. Which would basically make Drew and Kendall the Romeo and Juliet of professional football…well, without all the dying. Not that it’s an issue. They agree to pretend their encounter never happened. Nothing good can come from it anyway, right? Drew’s not so sure.

Kendall may be all wrong, but he can’t stop thinking about her and he finds that some risks are worth taking. Because the stakes are always highest when you’re playing for keeps.

Julie Brannagh brings us back to Seattle for the fourth book in her Love and Football series. In Covering Kendall we meet new friends and catch up with a handful of our old pals. Kendall Tracy has gone where no woman has gone before - GM of a pro football team. Although she loves her career, she is under a lot of pressure from men waiting for her to fail. In order to be successful, she has strict rules... Rules that don't include sexy Drew McCoy. Rules that are quickly broken as they risk both of their careers in hopes that their secret romance will turn into forever.

I am having a lot of fun immersing myself in Julie's football lovin' world. Her characters are always romantic and lovable. And of course, it is a sports themed series, which is a theme that I'll devour. Covering Kendall was the perfect addition to a series that is already a favorite of mine. I loved the whole Romeo and Juliet vibe from Drew and Kendall. They found a way to fall in love and I don't think they would have let anything stand in their way. As strong and intelligent  individuals, they were that much stronger as a couple.  Kendall kicked ass and took names, while Drew crunched bones on the field. Then, of course, we have the many secondary characters that just made the book charming. Noah broke my heart. Call me crazy, but I'd love to see his mom matched up with a player. Hint, Julie... *wink* Of course, there is also Derrick and Seth. Both men sent me swooning numerous times during the story. Yum...

Covering Kendall sucked me in from the first page and wouldn't let me go until I finished. And now I'll try to wait patiently to see what Julie has in store for her favorite Sharks. Key work: try... I can't make any promises...

Julie Brannagh has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She lives in a small town near Seattle, where she once served as a city council member and owned a yarn shop. She shares her home with a wonderful husband, two uncivilized Maine Coons and a rambunctious chocolate Lab. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, or armchair-quarterbacking her favorite NFL team from the comfort of the family room couch. Julie is a Golden Heart finalist and the author of contemporary sports romances.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Spotlight & Excerpt from TEMPTING THE GOVERNESS by Vivienne Westlake

 Tempting the Governess 
Vivienne Westlake 
Self Published 
October 9th, 2014 
Historical Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - iBooks
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Never fall in love with your employer. Any respectable governess knew the cardinal rule. Christine Aubrey prided herself on her devotion to her charges, never suspecting that one day a former pupil would tempt her to break every rule in the book.

Theodore Blake was a “good boy” who grew up into a responsible man. Shouldering the burden of raising his sister’s children and managing his older brother’s affairs, Teddy has always done the right thing. But when his former governess returns to Birchwood, all he can think about is how good it would be to be bad.

Tempting the Governess
© 2014 Vivienne Westlake

As Charles scribbled on his parchment, she carried the babe over to the window. Dulcie put her small, chubby hand on the paned glass window and smiled. Christine glanced down below to see two men out on the expanse of grass, circling one another, clad in nothing but their breeches. 

That wasn’t…no, was that Teddy? Where on earth were his clothes? What gentleman went about in such a state? She had taught him to comport himself with grace and refinement.

Christine pressed her face to the glass to get a closer look. One of the men was stocky, with bulging arms and legs and the other man, tall and lean with dark hair, edged away from him. They danced around one another for a moment when suddenly the man with the bulky frame aimed a punch at the one who looked like Teddy.

Her heart dropped within her breast. When Teddy rubbed his cheek and the other man paused to demonstrate a particular movement, she exhaled. It was merely a practice match with his trainer. 

She knew that many men favored the sport of Boxing, but she’d never had occasion to see it in practice. 

“Miss Aubrey!” Charles called. “I have the answer.”

Tearing her gaze away from the window, Christine turned toward the boy, and bounced the baby on her arm. Though she wanted to steal another glance at Teddy and his trainer, she did not want to draw attention to the fact that she was watching them.

Vivienne Westlake has been reading and writing romance since the age of fifteen. What makes her stories unique is her love of a sassy heroine who keeps the hero on his toes. Though she has a fondness for redeemable rakes, Vivienne’s favorite Jane Austen/Regency hero is Captain Wentworth. 

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review of CRAVE (Bonds #1) by Sierra Cartwright

"If you're still in this room in sixty seconds, you'll get everything you're asking for." - Reece

Series: Bonds #1
Author: Sierra Cartwright
Publisher: Totally Bound
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Source: Publisher for Review

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She still craved him… The sight of a collar in her boyfriend’s drawer had stunned Sarah. Panicking, she had fled. But no other man has ever been his equal.

Two years ago, the woman he’d hoped to collar and marry disappeared. So Reece McRae is stunned to find his former girlfriend on her knees, behaving as the submissive he’d always wanted.

Is it too late? He should refuse her, but an undeniable sexual attraction consumes him.

Sarah had been under Reece’s spell from the moment she met him. When she found a steel collar in his drawer, she panicked. The idea of a lifetime of his relentless demands, sensual and otherwise, suffocated her.

In the years they’ve been apart, she hasn’t met his equal. Now, convinced one last night will vanquish his memory, she sets out to seduce him.

The Reece she returns to is even more determined to have his way. Is she now strong enough, brave enough, to surrender to his love?

Reader Advisory: This book contains sensual torment, flogging, anal sex and sex in public.

In the two years since Sarah walked out of Reece's life, she spent every day regretting her decision. She was scared. Not of Reece, but of the level of commitment he wanted with her. She's been with other men, but none of them make her feel the way she felt when she was with Reece. Determined to get Reece out of her system, she is on a mission to seduce him. Reece, on the other hand, is stunned to see her kneeling in front of him. He refuses to let her back into his life and into his heart, but he can't say no to one more weekend with Sarah. Will the weekend be enough? Or will they want something more?

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with Crave. Not only was it my first book from Sierra Cartwright, it was also my first book to read from the publisher Totally Bound. I knew that they were known for their erotic romance books, but Crave was not what I thought it would be. Sure, it had a lot of amazingly hot scenes, but the element that I loved the most about the book was the characters. I loved all of them. First there was Sarah's tenacity. The girl knew what she wanted and damn it, she was going to get him. Then we have Reece and his three friends. Holy cow, can I have one of each? Their friendship was freaking fantastic. The banter between them was hysterical. I admired how they stood up for each other, especially after Sarah broke Reece's heart. They were skeptical about her and she had to win their trust just as much as Reece's. Above all, I really enjoyed Sierra's writing style. Crave was a mix of fun and sassy with a lot of sizzle. I loved the balance of the light moments and the strong BDSM moments between Reece and Sarah. They joke and tease just as much as they turn each other on. As the first book in the Bonds series, I thought Crave did an excellent job introducing the four friends. I knew it was a series, but wasn't sure whose book would be next. For the record, Kennedy is next and his book sounds even sexier. Yay!

Born in Manchester, England and raised in the US, Sierra Cartwright is the acclaimed author of more than twenty erotic romances.

She was previously published with Harlequin/Silhouette under a different pseudonym, and won numerous awards as well as a coveted spot on the USA Today bestseller list.

Last year, she was delighted to be among the launch authors for the exciting Clandestine Classics imprint from Total-E-Bound. The project generated international interest, and her contribution, the expanded Jane Eyre, was featured in segments on such shows as Jimmy Kimmell and Anderson Cooper Live. Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and numerous other online sites also wrote features about the provocative new book.

Cartwright has been interviewed by USA Today, and she did a segment for the Orlando Fox affiliate with Chase Cain.

She’s a multiple CAPA nominated author who is delighted by the success of With This Collar, the first book in a six-book series “Mastered” from Total-E-Bound.

With This Collar has reached #1 on the Amazon UK Kindle Erotica chart, and #3 in the US Amazon Kindle bestseller list.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Spotlight & Excerpt from KEEP ME SAFE (Slow Burn #1) by Maya Banks

Keep Me Safe
Slow Burn # 1
Maya Banks
October 7th, 2014

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - iTunes - Kobo
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A sizzling story of a woman who risks her life and her heart to find a wealthy man’s missing sister—the first novel in a sexy new romantic suspense series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks.

When Caleb Devereaux's younger sister is kidnapped, this scion of a powerful and wealthy family turns to an unlikely source for help: a beautiful and sensitive woman with a gift for finding answers others cannot.

While Ramie can connect to victims and locate them by feeling their pain, her ability comes with a price. Every time she uses it, it costs her a piece of herself. Helping the infuriatingly attractive and impatient Caleb successfully find his sister nearly destroys her. Even though his sexual intensity draws her like a magnet, she needs to get as far away from him as she can.

Deeply remorseful for the pain he’s caused, Caleb is determined to make things right. But just when he thinks Ramie's vanished forever, she reappears. She’s in trouble and she needs his help. Now, Caleb will risk everything to protect her—including his heart. . . .

Keep Me Safe
© 2014 Maya Banks

Caleb Devereaux turned out of the sharp switchback and onto the driveway leading up to the tiny mountain cabin, swearing when he hit pothole after pothole. Fury and impatience simmered in his blood but the anticipation of having finally found Ramie St. Claire after an exhaustive search kept his mood from being completely black.

Ramie was his sister, Tori’s, only hope.

The moment Tori was kidnapped, Caleb had begun his search for Ramie St. Claire. She certainly wasn’t the first person on most people’s go-to list when looking for a loved one. Ramie was psychic and had been helpful in locating victims in the past. While many would be skeptical, Caleb absolutely believed in Ramie’s abilities.

His own sister had psychic abilities.

He and his brothers, Beau and Quinn, had always been extremely overprotective of their baby sister. With good reason. Caleb was the head of a veritable empire. Security was always top priority. They’d always feared kidnapping for ransom, but in their worst nightmares they’d never imagined that Tori would simply disappear and be at the mercy of a madman.

There’d been no ransom demand. Simply a video of Tori bound hand and foot and the maniacal laughter of her captor as he told Caleb to kiss his sister goodbye.

He just prayed he wasn’t too late. God, don’t let it be too late for Tori.

It infuriated him that Ramie St. Claire had simply dropped off the map three months ago. No trace of her, no forwarding address. No evidence that she even existed. How could she simply disappear when she was such an invaluable aid in finding kidnap victims and missing persons? How selfish of her to simply refuse, by her actions, to help anyone?

He’d worked himself into a rage by the time he finally pulled up to the small cabin that looked as though it wouldn’t weather the upcoming winter at all. He wasn’t even certain there would be electricity. Only a person determined not to be found would live in a place like this.

He got out and strode to the ramshackle front door, his fist up and pounding. The door shook and rattled under the force of his knock. Only silence greeted him and it sent his blood pressure soaring.

“Miss St. Claire!” he roared. “Answer the goddamn door!”

He beat on the door again, shouting again for her to answer. He likely looked and sounded like the madman holding his sister, but at this point he didn’t care. He was beyond desperation. It had taken every resource available to him to finally track Ramie down. No way in hell he was leaving until he’d gotten the information he’d come for.

Then the door swung open and he was greeted by the sight of a petite woman with wary, gray eyes. He was momentarily taken aback, going silent as he stared at Ramie St. Claire for the first time in person.

The photos he’d seen of her didn’t do her justice. There was a delicate air to her as though she were recovering from an illness, but it in no way detracted from her beauty. She looked…fragile. He felt a brief moment of guilt for what he was about to ask her to do, but he brushed it away. There was no price too high to pay for his sister’s life.

“I can’t help you.”

Her softly spoken words slid like velvet over his ears, a direct contrast from the anger her refusal caused. He hadn’t even made his request yet and she was already giving him the brush-off.

“You don’t even know what it is I want,” he said in an icy tone that would wither most people.

“It’s rather obvious,” she said wearily, fatigue drooping her eyelids. “Why else would you come all this way? I don’t even want to know how you found me. It’s obvious I did a piss poor job of covering my tracks if you managed to find me here.”

Caleb frowned. Had she been ill? Was that why she’d dropped out of sight so she could recover? It didn’t matter why now that he’d found her. He didn’t care what her reasons were.

“With your abilities why would you purposely make yourself difficult to find?” he demanded. “My sister’s life is at stake here, Miss St. Claire. I’m not merely asking you to help me. I’m not leaving until you do.”

She shook her head adamantly, fear chasing the lethargy from her eyes. “I can’t.”

There was quiet desperation to her words that told him there was more to her refusal than what appeared on the surface. Something was wrong and yet he couldn’t summon any regret for forcing her compliance. Not when Tori’s life hung in the balance.

He reached inside his jacket and pulled out Tori’s scarf. The one item they’d found at the sight where she must have been taken. In the parking lot of a grocery store beside the open door of her car. He should have never let her go alone. He’d failed her. Failed to protect her. Failed to ensure proper security.

Ramie immediately backed away, a desperate cry on her lips. He shoved forward, forcing the scarf into her hands and holding her and the scarf so there was no escape. She emitted a broken sob and she looked up at him, stricken, her face going unnaturally pale. Her pupils flared and then clouded, pain and devastation clearly outlined on her features.

“No,” she whispered. “Not again. Oh God, not again. I won’t survive it.”

Maya Banks is a #1 USA Today and New York Times bestselling author whose chart toppers have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, Scottish historical romances. She is the author of the Breathless Trilogy, the KGI novels, the Sweet series, and the Colters Legacy novels.

She lives in the South with her husband and three children and other assorted babies, such as her two Bengal kitties and a Calico who’s been with her as long as her youngest child. She’s an avid reader of romance and loves to dish books with her fans and anyone else who’ll listen! She very much enjoys interacting with her readers on Facebook and Twitter as well as in her Yahoo! Group.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spotlight & Excerpt from ONCE PERFECT (Shattered Past #1) by Cecy Robson

Once Perfect
Shattered Past # 1
Cecy Robson
October 7th, 2014
Loveswept: Flirt

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - iTunes - Kobo
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His life was never easy. Hers wasn’t supposed to be this hard. They come from different worlds, but fate lures them together in a way neither expected in Cecy Robson’s raw, steamy series debut—perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and J. Lynn.

Evelyn Preston’s future once looked perfect—until her wealthy father was caught in an embezzlement scandal and took his own life. Alone and struggling to pay her college tuition and bills, Evelyn finds a job as a waitress at the ultra-hip nightclub Excess, where she used to have more in common with the privileged private-school clientele than her fellow staff members. But something attracts her to the sexy six-foot-four bouncer and underground MMA fighter Mateo Tres Santos. Although they’ve led different lives, their troubled pasts bonds them in both survival and love.

Mateo is ex-army who wound up in prison for assaulting the man who harmed his sister. Now he’s feeling the same protective impulse for this petite blond waitress. When Evelyn experiences a panic attack at the club, Mateo comes to her rescue. And when Mateo is wounded shielding her from a brawl, Evelyn returns the favor and comes to his aid.

As their attraction intensifies, Mateo is determined to find out what nightmares are lurking in Evelyn’s past—even if that means tackling his own to save her.

Once Perfect
© 2014 Cecy Robson

“Malibu Barbie. We need more cocktail napkins!”

I stopped wiping the bar booth, torn between throwing my bucket at Sam or at the cluster of bouncers chuckling at his Barbie dig. I still had two more booths to clean before the doors to the Main Line’s infamous Club Excess opened and the real work began. A crowd of spoiled brats"offspring of Philly’s wealthiest families"with too much money and too much attitude already crowded the doors. I should know. I used to be one of them. Except they still had the money.

I had a screaming boss.


“Jesus, Sam, I’m going.” I tossed my towel on the table and stomped across the dance floor in my black, thigh-high boots. If it weren’t for the crazy tips the drunk idiots dropped like bowling balls, no way would I work at a place where I had to accessorize tiny black shorts and a skimpy tank with these hooker boots. The white dress shirt tied at my belly was Sam’s way of compromising when me and a few of the other waitresses complained about our new “uniforms.” The more desperate among us tied it closer to their cleavage. I didn’t. Even if it meant less money, I wanted to hang on to what little pride I had left.

My steps slowed as I neared the group of bouncers huddled around Mateo. He was young, younger than at least half of them, and still they looked up to him. ’’Considering Mateo was an ex-con who fought in fight clubs, you’d think the staff would avoid him’’. I sure did. Hell, I’d barely spoken to him in the six months I’d worked at Excess, using any excuse to keep my distance. That said, there was something about him that made people take notice. His burly arms crossed his chest. Power was inked on one forearm in bold Gothic lettering, Wrath on the other, and black flames crawled up both, disappearing beneath the sleeves of his tight black Tshirt.

My puny shoulders tensed as I drew closer. Mateo had served time for beating some poor guy so brutally the guy had spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from the bashes to his face and body. I watched Mateo, a lot. Every now and then, I’d catch him glancing my way, too. He’d offer me a brief nod or a small smile, but I never offered anything in return. His size, the depth of his voice, and his aptitude for violence scared me, despite his captivating looks. He moved like a panther staking out his turf, ready for anything, his steely hazel eyes taking everything in.

He spoke low and rough as the last of his crew arrived. “Listen up. Keep the drugs and the dealers out. They come in with that shit, you see anyone selling"send their asses out the door. Sam doesn’t want another OD in his place. If those rich pricks want to die, they can do it somewhere else.”

The others answered Mateo with stiff nods, except for Dale, who whistled as I walked by. “Nice ass, Evelyn . . .”

His voice trailed off. I turned to shoot him a dirty look over my shoulder only to catch the death glare Mateo was firing his way. “Leave Evie the fuck alone and pay attention, Dale,” Mateo told him. Dale immediately dropped his gaze, allowing Mateo to return his attention to the rest of the group. “With the first week of classes over, these fools are looking to party hard, and the dealers are ready to assist. ““Don’t go it alone. Call for backup if you need it, when you need it. I’ll take point near the bar. Ant’s my second. He’ll take point left of the floor. If I’m mixed up in some other shit, you call him. Got me?”

The bouncers collectively muttered in agreement. Even Dale.

My heart was thumping against my sternum and I lost my footing. I reached for my ponytail and tightened it fast, trying to pretend that was the reason I’d tripped and not, absolutely not, because ’Mateo had stuck up for me and shut Dale up on my behalf. Or because he’d called me “Evie.” Again. No one else had ever called me that.

Cecy Robson is the New Adult author of Once Perfect, Once Loved, and Once Pure and the award-winning author of the Weird Girls urban fantasy romance series. A selfproclaimed professional napper, Cecy counts among her talents a jaw-dropping knowledge of useless trivia, the ability to make her hair big, and a knack for breaking into song despite her family’s vehement protests. A full-time writer, registered nurse, wife, and mother living in the Great Northwest, Cecy enjoys spending time with her family and silencing the yappy characters in her head by telling their stories.

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