Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes, uncertain. People, irrational. But love…well, that makes everything complicated. And when you are caught in a tangled web of secrets, lies, and complex affairs, someone is bound to get burned.
Emily Stevens is a spunky, spirited college girl whose life gets turned upside-down when she realizes she's in love with her best friend of fifteen years, Derek Thorpe. As Emily prepares to confess her feelings to Derek, something happens one night which changes her life forever. Five years later, Emily finds herself in Boston, alone and heartbroken. Will she ever be able to forget the past? And what will she find when she returns home...to the man she left behind?
Veronica Thatcher is an exciting new contemporary romance author. Ever since she was very young, she’s dreamed of becoming a doctor when she grew up. While still forging ahead with that, majoring in pre-med in college, she unwittingly stumbled upon a new dream—becoming a published author. Some may call her an introvert or a wallflower, but she has always found she could express herself better in written, rather than spoken, words. However, never in her wildest dreams had she envisioned she would pursue writing as a prospective career, not just a hobby. Her love for writing goes hand-in-hand with her love for a good romance novel—whether it be a feel-good, sweet romance or a dark, suspenseful one. When she’s not studying, reading, or writing, she is usually found blasting her favourite songs, sometimes singing and dancing along to them. She dabbles in a number of activities, including painting, karate, singing and dancing. She is a huge chocoholic – probably the biggest – and she is an ice-cream junkie too. She considers herself technologically handicapped forever and has no shame in admitting that. She also deems chocolates her boyfriend, Patrick Dempsey the love of her life, and Friends her life!
Her first book, A Way Back Into Love, is slated for release in February 2017, and she hopes readers will enjoy it as much as she enjoyed writing it. You can reach Veronica through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Wattpad and Gmail.
Emily stepped back from him and shook her head. “Oh, you know damn well what I mean. You know what, Derek? I’m done having this conversation with you. I’m so done with this conversation and I’m so done with you,” Emily spat out angrily before brushing past him.
“Emily, wait,” Derek said, catching her by her arm. “Where are you going?”
Emily spun around and gave him a bitter look before looking down at his hand gripping her arm. “Leave my arm,” she said in a low yet threatening voice, “And why do you care where I’m going? It’s none of your business.”
Derek didn’t leave her arm in spite of her warning and said, “Em, you’ve had too many drinks. You can’t drive in this condition. I’ll drop you home.”
Emily jerked her arm free from his grasp and replied in a bitter voice, “Thank you, but no. I’m perfectly capable of getting myself home on my own. I don’t need you to drop me home. Do you get it, Derek Thorpe? I DON’T NEED YOU!” Emily yelled the last words, causing a few people to look their way.
From the author of Ricochet and Backfire comes a dark erotic suspense serial ... Episode Three: In the underbelly, trust is everything, and Dylan will soon discover that Ripley trusts no one. With the return of an old threat, loyalty is on the line, and betrayal could mean the end of everything for both of them.
Series Synopsis: Ripley They call me RIP. I’m a killer. A murderer. A psychopath. In the eyes of the righteous, I’m a monster, born of sin and depravity. I want to protect her, but I’m not a good man. I want to love her, but I no longer feel. She gets under my skin, though, and has awakened something inside of me. Something I’d kill for. I’m not her savior—not even close. In fact, I’m worse than the hell she’s already suffered. I’m her vengeance. Tit for tat, as they say. And if she’s not careful, I’ll be her ruin. Dylan For months, I’ve watched him. I’ve fantasized him as my savior, my lover. My ticket out of the hell I’ve lived in for the last six years. I never dreamed he’d be my nightmare. Had I known what he really is, I’d have never gotten in the car that night, but life is full of cause and effect. And sometimes the choice on offer isn’t a choice at all. It’s the result of something already in motion, and we’re merely left to survive the ripple effect. *This is an erotic suspense/erotic romance not recommended for readers under the age of 18 due to graphic violence and sex
I sit on the edge of the bathtub, breathing through my nose to keep from throwing up whatever’s left in my stomach. An incessant tremble runs beneath my skin, stirring up nausea in my gut. “It just … came out of nowhere. I felt sick.” The glass of water passed to me diverts my attention, and I glance up at Ripley’s massive form looming over me, arms crossed. “That smell. Something about the smell on your hands.” “Bleach.” “Were you cleaning something?” I take a small sip of the water, nervous that I might not be able to keep it from coming back up. “Blood,” is all he says, as if I’m not supposed to ask. To hell with that. I’d rather talk about what he did than focus on my embarrassment, because I have no explanation for why I freaked out. “Your blood?” “No.” “I could really use the distraction right now.” Dropping my shoulders, I sigh. “Humor me?” His jaw shifts, and maybe I wasn’t supposed to ask him about his work. Maybe it’s all classified or the hitman equivalent. Whatever. I know Ripley’s not a good man. That he does bad things. But I’ve come to the understanding that no one in the underbelly is good. So I really don’t give a shit if I’m not supposed to ask. “I killed a man.” His eyes are trained on me—one blue and one hazel, neither of them so much as flinching with his confession. “How?” The line of tension that stiffens his shoulders sags, and he smiles down at me. “Is that where we’re at now, Bandit? You’re so comfortable around me to ask the details of my kills?” “You don’t have to give me details.” I don’t even realize I’m fidgeting until I look down to see the red streak where I’ve scratched my knuckles. “Shot him. Square in the skull.” I keep my gaze glued to my hands, imagining the scenario. Ripley’s big menacing body standing over the man who begs for his life. Horrible. Yet somehow it takes me away from whatever nightmare I suffered moments ago. “Did you burn him with acid?” “No. He was a merciful kill.” “Merciful? Are any of them worth mercy?” The sneer in my voice takes me by surprise and tipping my head back, I just catch the shake of his head. “If you were going to kill me, how would you do it?” Ignoring my question, he jerks his head toward the glass of water in my hand. “Are you feeling better?” My cheeks warm with embarrassment, and I’m glad he doesn’t answer. It was a stupid question. “Yeah. It went away.” “What exactly was it?” The nervous vibration still skitters along my bones, but I shrug. “I wish I knew. Ripley? Are you going to throw me out?” “Why are you asking that?” “Because you’ve … not asked me for anything. Is the deal off?” I lodge my fingers though my hair, gripping tight to my skull. Teetering on the line of sobriety has fucked with my head and I’ve become deathly afraid of what I’d do for those pills outside of these walls. “I know I screwed up with the drugs. And I wasn’t … I didn’t want to steal from you. But I can’t go back on the streets. I can’t. I already know I’ll die out there. I don’t know what was up with the bleach, but it has nothing to do with drugs. I promise.” A good ten seconds of silence follows before he says, “Deal’s not over yet.”
Keri Lake is a married mother of two living in Michigan. By day, she tries to make use of the degrees she's earned in science. By night, she writes dark contemporary, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Though novels tend to be her focus, she also writes short stories and flash fiction on the many occasions distraction sucks her into the Land of Shiny Things. For news, updates and sneak peeks at the sexy cover model candidates for her annual Cover Model Contest, subscribe to her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/HJPHH
"I bet I can untangle you." At an airport baggage claim, Penny Darling looks up from her knotted mess of ear buds to find the sexiest hunk of man she's ever seen. He's got a military haircut, a scar through his eyebrow, and he's rocking a pastel pink dress shirt like only a real man can. But Penny is on a man-free diet so she leaves the airport without succumbing to his delicious double-entendres...or his dreamy dimples. PI Russ Macklin can't take his eyes off Penny. As she sashays out of the airport with hips swaying and curls bouncing, he suspects they may share more than just sweltering chemistry. That suitcase she's rolling along behind her? It looks a lot like his. Because it is. When he tracks her down, he holds her bag hostage in exchange for a date. Their night begins with margaritas and ends in urgent care, and Russ proves that Cosmo's theory about a very particular type of orgasm was oh-so-wrong. In Penny, Russ finds a small-town sweetheart with a very naughty side. For the first time ever, he’s thinking about picket fences. Penny finds in Russ a loving, caring man who understands the power of massaging showerheads. But Russ is only in Port Flamingo for a week. They agree it'll be a fling and nothing more. Because really, they can't fall ass-over-teakettle in love just like that... Can they? 99k words. HEA. Dual POV. No cheating. Featuring a big drooly dog named Guppy.
I step off the escalator, and there she is. She’s looking down, doing something with her phone. Air conditioning blows on her from above, making the hem of her purple dress flutter against her leg. And fuck, look at those legs. Look at that body. Look at that woman. Underneath the dress, instead of a bra she’s wearing the top half of a pink bikini, tied at the nape of her neck in a bow. Welcome to Florida. God bless the Sunshine State. The place is dismal, except for her. On the walls are 1980s tourism posters, rippling with the humidity. All the guys have Magnum, P.I. mustaches, and all the women look like extras from Baywatch. She’s a vision in the middle of all of it, an oasis at the goddamned baggage claim. I circle the clumps of old people bumping into each other with walkers, like slow-motion bumper cars. As I get closer, I see her face. Her freckles, her slightly shiny pink lips. Her breasts, which are fucking beautiful. But her expression, it isn’t beautiful. It’s seriously pissed. Nostrils flared, teeth set, jaw clenched. In her hands is a whole big tangle of ear buds, and maybe a phone charger. A big knot of cords, like a wad of cold pasta. I get closer. Not too close, because I don’t want to be that guy, but close enough to see the small starfish necklace dangling from her neck, and close enough to smell something warm, and sweet. Familiar. Vanilla, maybe. Whatever it is, it’s fucking delicious. On the wall behind her is a big banner. It’s got a faded old cartoon flamingo, flapping his wings and grinning. Underneath is the caption: WELCOME TO PORT FLAMINGO! HOME OF THE FIRST AIR CONDITIONER! No shit. Because it’s hot, and I don’t mean like ordinary summertime hot. I mean hot like the time the sauna malfunctioned at my gym and turned all the drywall in the locker room into oatmeal. She doesn’t look hot at all though. She looks cool, and soft, and beautiful. Just the thing I need. Like a vodka soda after a long fucking day. I set my shoulder bag at my feet and take off my suit jacket. Her braid comes down over one shoulder, the curl at the bottom nestling into her cleavage. I roll up my sleeves. “I bet I can untangle you.” She looks up at me. Her eyes are deep blue and sparkling. A smile starts to pinch her cheeks. The end of the charger swings between us. “I’m okay. Got myself into this mess, got to get myself out of it.” “Sometimes two is better than one.” She smacks her lips at the cords. “Sometimes.” She pulls hard on the plug end, making the wires tighten even more. “You’d think I’d learn to keep that little plastic box that comes with these, but oh no, every—” She tugs. “—single.” Tugs again. “—time.” Granted, she’s not exactly in need of rescue from a burning building, but no way am I going to stand here and watch her struggle, no fucking way. Without another word, I start undoing the end of the tangle that’s nearest me, and I watch that smile of hers get bigger. She doesn’t look at me, but I see a dimple, and she bites her lip. Still focused on the knot, she says, “Let me guess. You’re not from around here, are you?” Can’t imagine what gave me away. Maybe the fact that I’m the only guy in the building wearing slacks and actual shoes. “Here on business.” She looks me up and down. “What kind of business? FBI?” Fuck. Not the first conversation I want to have, definitely not. Also, I don’t know a single fed who wears pants this nice. “Private business.” “Hmmm.” She eyes me more mischievously. “Tall, dark, and a military haircut. Something tells me you’re not here to do some competitive bass fishing. “ Oh man. Cute. Really cute. “No, I’m not.” Slowly, the tangle comes undone, until we’re in the middle together. Reminds me of that scene in Lady and the Tramp. But before I can say anything more—like, for instance, I’m down for 20 questions, as long as it’s over a drink—the buzzer on the carousel roars to life, as loud as a tornado siren. The crush of people starts to tighten around the conveyor. She winds the three sets of ear buds and the cord around her palm. From the pocket of my bag, I take out the plastic case that came with my ear buds and hand it over. “There.” She laughs through her nose. “I’ll be okay.” “I insist.” I press it into her hand, and her eyes meet mine. “I’ll bet you do.” She looks away as a blush covers her cheeks. The bags start to rumble off the conveyor. For one long second, she watches me, smiling. Sizing me up. The little curls around her face tremble in the air conditioning, and I’m about to say You, me, a pitcher of margaritas, tonight when she looks away and hoists her purse up on her shoulder. “That’s my bag,” she says. “I should get going. Thanks for…untangling me.” She steps away and threads her way between a handful of old ladies in walkers. I know I should help her, I know I should grab her bag, but holy fuck look at that body. She grabs her bag herself and flips up the handle. “Give me your number. Let me take you out for dinner.” Her smile dissolves into a scowl. “You married?” I shake my head slowly. “I’m a lot of things, but married definitely isn’t one of them.” “Separated?” Shake my head again. “Nope.” She takes her starfish charm between thumb and forefinger and loops the chain over her lip. “Under any restraining orders? Involved in a complicated love triangle that your Match.com profile describes as an open marriage? Divorced five times and counting? Polyamorous?” Whoa. This girl’s got to find a new dating pool, stat. “Promise. I’m Russ, and what you see is what you get.” Zip-zip-zip goes her necklace. “Just a drink.” I lift my hands out between us, to say C’mon. “Maybe dinner, if I make the cut.” She blinks hard a few times and she drops her necklace charm. “I’m sorry. You’re sweet, but I can’t.” Well, fuck it. The first time I try to get back in the saddle in ages and the goddamn thing slides right down onto the ground again. I respect it though. I don’t want to overdo this, so I give her a final nod and clear my throat. “Had to try.” She swallows hard. “I’m glad you did.” Fuck. And she’s gone. As she goes, her hips sway with her dress. She works that sashay, as my aunt says, like a fucking pro. She looks back over her shoulder, only once, as she walks through the sliding doors. I give her a wink. And she fucking winks back. Jesus Christ. She takes a left out of the door, which means she isn’t gone yet. Not by a long shot. The architecture does me a favor, and I get to watch her sashay right past the floor-to-ceiling windows. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, not even if I wanted to. She smiles at the sidewalk without looking up, and laughs a little. Like she knows I’m watching her and is feeling pretty good about it. God, what a cutie. And what a bummer. She was fucking sexy, she seemed sweet, and there was something about her that was up to no good. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was somewhere between the bikini top and I’m glad you did. But the spark wasn’t all we had in common. I realize, as she finally disappears from view, she also has a bag that looks just like mine. Medium-sized black Samsonite. Sensible, dependable. Number One Amazon Bestseller in Luggage. But that couldn’t be my bag, I think to myself as I turn back toward the conveyor. Couldn’t be. *** It was. Twenty minutes later, I’m the only guy standing by the carousel, and there’s a single black bag going around and around in front of me. It’s exactly the same as mine, except it’s overstuffed and has a pink puff of yarn tied to the handle. Same color as her bikini top and literally hanging by a thread. It slides to a stop, and the yarn ball swings off the side of the carousel. Tick-tock, tick-tock. A rattle from the center of the conveyor sounds promising—I was early connecting through Atlanta, so my bag had to be the first one on—but no dice. What comes off the conveyor isn’t a bag at all, but instead one of the baggage guys in big set of protective earphones and a reflective vest. He crawls up through the flap and pokes his head out. He wipes his forehead on his bare leathery shoulder and then looks from me to the bag and back again. “Nice pom-pom, man,” he says and backtracks down the hole. I glance around for some airport help on this, but all I see is a handwritten sign at the baggage claim desk. Will Return On Monday! It’s Saturday. Christ. As I take hold of the bag, I notice it’s got not one but three “LIFT WITH CAUTION” tags: the first one new, the second one beat up, and the third one halfway shredded, all together the way people keep lift tickets from ski areas. I give it a hoist. The thing is so heavy it makes me grunt like I’m doing a dead lift. With a two-handed lug, I yank it off the conveyor and set it on the ground, wheels down. Squeezing the roller handle, I pull it up…and it snaps off right in my hand. The arms stick up from the suitcase like the tines of a fork. I clench my eyes shut and think back to “the most helpful critical review” from Amazon. “Looks like every other bag on the planet. Sh**ty handle.” Touché. But it is what it is. Which is her bag, hopefully. I wheel it along to a bank of benches, by some old beat-up phone booths, lining the far wall. I open up the ID pouch and read: PENELOPE DARLING 125 E. BEACH POINT DRIVE PORT FLAMINGO, FL 34102 I bite down on my gum and groan. How cute is that name? Jesus Christ, come on. Penny Darling. What’s more, it’s not a business card or typed up like mine, but written by hand. Her writing is sweet, pretty, and feminine, with big plump letters written in bright pink marker that’s bled into the plastic cover, so they’ve got a haze around them like neon lights. And there, at the bottom. Her number. Jackpot. It might not be my smoothest move, but I’ll take it. I pull my phone from my pocket and give her a call. As I wait for the ringtone, I decide to hell with suave and understated. I want her, and I need her to know it. But then in my ear I hear, “Mobile Network Temporarily Unavailable.” Goddamned Verizon, jamming up my plans. So I try to text her instead. This is Russ. From the airport. I've got your bag and I think you’ve got mine. How about that drink? I hit send, and I’m answered immediately with a row of red exclamation points and four repetitions of NOT DELIVERED. What. The. Fuck. Then I noticed my cell service flips over from 1 bar, to Roaming, to Searching for service… I pull my hot pack of gum from my sweaty pocket and take out a second piece. The gum is weirdly melted even before I put it in my mouth. The options now are pretty simple: I could touch base with the guy who hired me to come down here to the land that Verizon forgot or… I think about those tan lines, the curve of her hips. That bikini. The glisten on her rosy lips. The way she wrinkled her nose when she smiled. Why is this even a goddamned question? It’s four o’clock on a Saturday. A beautiful woman is on East Beach Point Drive with all my stuff. And somewhere in this town, I’ll bet there’s a beachside bar with a pitcher of margaritas with our names on it.
Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.